What I Learned About Product, Growth And Strategy At Turing Fest

What I Learned About Product, Growth And Strategy At Turing Fest

Turing Fest returned to Edinburgh for another year. It’s a multi-track, two-day conference for the tech industry spanning 6 topics—product, engineering, strategy, growth, marketing and culture.

I could only attend the first day as I was in Newcastle for a friend’s wedding on day two. This meant I could choose any of the talks from day one’s three tracks—product, growth and strategy.

When I attend conferences, I want to come away with ideas, inspiration or knowledge I can apply to With Jack. Here’s what I learned.

Roan Lavery | Product | Driving Growth vs. Building Core Value

Roan Lavery

Roan spoke about FreeAgent’s three-step approach to perfect product harmony. This was my favourite talk of the day. It felt the most relevant to what I’m doing at With Jack and was also the most practical talk I attended.

Step One: Articulate Core Value

Roan shared the core value map that’s helped articulate FreeAgent’s vision (making businesses happier by putting them in control of their finances).

I’ve been learning about JTBD recently and exploring what that means for With Jack, so this was timely content. I’ve been shifting my mindset from “we’re an insurance business” to “what are our customers hiring us to do and how do we help them succeed?”.

The core value map helps you make sense of user needs, jobs to be done and features, which is all tied together by vision.

Step Two: Map User Journeys

The idea here is to engage users with your core value early and often. There are various stages to do this—initial onboarding, early usage, established use and even when customers churn.

Roan walked us through FreeAgent’s user journey and the decisions they made to drive growth by engaging users with their core value. Remember, FreeAgent’s core value is to make businesses happier and more successful by putting them in control of their finances.

There were a few points in FreeAgent’s onboarding that frustrated users. By combining or removing steps they were able to improve the customer journey and user happiness. This puts the user closer to being in control of their finances quicker.

Step Three: Create A Balanced Scorecard

Roan introduced us to Google’s HEART framework.

  • HAPPINESS
  • ENGAGEMENT
  • ADOPTION
  • RETENTION
  • TASK SUCCESS

I had never heard of this framework before, but it’s used to measure the quality of user experience. From there you can identify which areas need improved, helping you decide what to prioritise.

I recommend checking out Roan’s slides from his talk Driving Growth vs. Building Core Value.

Gabrielle Bufrem | Product | Bootstrapping User Research: No Budget, No Team, No Buy-in, No Problem

The reason I chose Gabrielle’s talk was because I’m bootstrapping With Jack and user research is a huge part of what I do. I think I’ve got a good handle on conducting user research without a budget, but thought I might pick up a tip or two from Gabrielle.

At the moment I schedule calls with customers and use Iterate to capture feedback from sign-ups and lapsed users. I’ll also meet them in person, if possible.

Some of the talk wasn’t relevant to me, such as how to get your team to buy into user research, because I work alone.

This talk was a welcome reminder to get out from behind your computer screen and speak to real people. That you should be recruiting your customers to be your user research.

With Jack has an engaged customer-base and they’re willing to share feedback, but Gabrielle provided some ideas for getting people to do your user research without a budget. She suggests giving away swag or early access to a beta.

See Gabrielle’s slides from her talk Bootstrapping User Research.

Steli Efti | Growth | The 7 Deadly Startup Sales Sins

Steli Efti

I’m familiar with Steli because of his podcast with Hiten Shah (I was surprised so few people had heard of him). This talk had a lot of swearing. Whilst I’m not offended by swearing, I felt the content of the talk was lost amongst that.

A few of my favourite sales takeaways:

  • Simply ask, “What will it take to make you a customer?”. This is very simple advice yet something I’ve never done! I dance around sales and feel uncomfortable being so direct. I’m going to try this next time someone’s on the fence or weighing us up against a competitor
  • Be confident in your product and don’t offer discounts. Discounting is a race to the bottom. Nobody expects to use their insurance, so it’s no surprise many don’t see the value in it and haggle on price. I rarely give discounts (my profit margin is small enough and I actually want to be in business for many years) and prefer to sell With Jack on having a great product and customer experience. This is something I feel strongly about. I don’t want to be known as the cheapest, I want to be known as the best
  • Follow up more often. Do it until you get a yes or a no. My current approach to following up is lax. I only follow-up twice because I hate the harassing sales culture of insurance. However, a large portion of my sales come from follow-ups so I know it’s effective. It’s difficult balancing respecting people’s time with driving growth

See Steli’s slides from his talk The 7 Deadly Startup Sales Sins.

Des Traynor | What We’ve Learned From Scaling to 0-25k+ Paying Customers

Des Traynor

Des was the keynote speaker and the talk I was anticipating the most. I’ve followed Des on Twitter for several months and enjoy his writing.

This talk didn’t disappoint, but it was typical I had a flurry of sales come through just before it started. This meant I missed the first 5 minutes, then spent much of the rest of Des’ talk processing and sending quotes.

I’m used to this. I’m not complaining. With Jack is growing—what more can I want? But I would love another chance to hear Des speaking and give it 100% of my attention.

The parts of the talk I did catch:

  • Questions to ask yourself before starting a business. Will this problem exist in 10 years? How do people currently solve it?
  • Knowing your competitors. There are direct competitors doing the same job as you in the same way. Secondary competitors doing the same job in a different way and indirect competitors doing a different job with a conflicting outcome (think Weight Watchers and McDonalds). Know your competitors and understand why people should switch to you
  • Understanding how people buy your product. Is it problem based where they’ll search for a description of their problem? (“My client is threatening legal action against me.”) Category based where they’ll search for a solution? (“I need insurance that protects my business”) Competitor based where they’ll search for a better version of what they have? Or brand based where they’re looking for you?

What I Liked And Didn't Like About Turing Fest

Mark Logan

I’ve fallen away from the conference circuit in recent years. It’s because of exactly what happened during Des’ talk—I was preoccupied with running my business. However, it’s not often something like Turing Fest happens on my doorstep.

One thing I felt let down by was that many of the talks weren’t as advertised. The content of them didn’t match my expectations from the titles. I attended many talks only to find the content was different to what I was anticipating. After speaking to others about this I know I wasn’t the only person who felt this way.

What I did like about Turing Fest is the variety of talks. Having 3 to choose from ensures you’re picking what’s most relevant to you at that stage in your business. I also like the shorter format of talks. They’re about half an hour long, which I think is the perfect length for a full-day conference.

I definitely picked up a few tips and ideas for With Jack. Now to get to work implementing them!

Ashley Baxter's Picture

About Ashley Baxter

Ashley is building With Jack, business insurance on a first name basis. She likes video games, photography, and her dog, Indie. Based in Glasgow, Scotland.

Glasgow, Scotland iamashley.co.uk