Level 3 Sharpening for Xebel.co

The previous article introduced the idea of these three levels of sharpening your understanding of the buyer:

  1. Not Sharp Enough: Understanding the Role, the Market and The Benefits
  2. Sharp: Understanding the Problem and the Aspiration
  3. Sharpest: Understanding the Situations That Are Ripe for the “Switch”

Let’s apply these to a concrete example. Let’s find out what “Situations that are ripe for the switch” would look like for an existing product.

Xebel is an app by Merott. It helps online course creators make sure fewer students quit their course, that more of them stick through to the end and tell others about it.

Xebel's current home page

Concretely, the app helps course creators keep the conversation going with students who might be struggling. It prompts students with questions about their goals, all via Slack, and lets the student set up a timeframe for another follow-up.

Evidence of Clearing Level 1

We can deduce that Merott has at least a Level 1 understanding, that is, an understanding of “the Role, the Market and The Benefits”:

  • The Role: A course creator
  • The Market: In the online learning space
  • The Benefits: Will benefit from automating follow-ups with students that are logged into their Slack community.

Evidence of Clearing Level 2

Just from the top of the home page, we can tell that Merott also has an understanding of the “Problem and the Aspiration”:

  • The Problem: Students are giving up my course

That’s evident from the first two headings

Don’t let your students give up!
Less churn, more referrals

  • The Aspiration: I want more word-of-mouth promoting my course

Happy students are less likely to churn, and more likely to recommend your courses. Show them how much you care, and they’ll become your fans—customers for life.

This gives us a vector, giving us a crude outline of where the solution has to fit: The problem (cancellations) triggers a quest to something that will also fit the bigger aspiration (getting word-of-mouth).

But the quest won’t automatically end with a “buy” just yet. There will be back and forth happening in the mind of the buyer, up until a point when “enough is enough”. Let’s see what that point looks like.

Getting to Level 3: Understanding the Situations Ripe for the “Switch”

I spoke with Merott about his app. He confirmed that he had a Level 2 understanding, as it’s evident from his website.

What follows is what we came up with for a Level 3 understanding. This wasn’t the result of interviewing some of his first buyers – we’re doing pure conjecture here – but it’s still an example of situations that are ripe for the “switch”.

Situation: There’s a Cancellation. (Not Enough for a Switch.)

Let’s start with the basic situation: there’s a cancellation.

Is that enough for making someone switch away from whatever they’re doing previously, and switch to using a product like Xebel?

Well, probably not. Not a single cancellation. Maybe a few, but even then…

It takes the buyer going through a significant struggle to create enough momentum to clear the orbit of “I’ll just” statements like these:

  • I’ll just check with the student who just cancelled to see why they left.
  • I’ll just offer to help this one student with some goal-setting, offer some one-on-one accountability.

Maybe not all students have this problem. A single one-on-one here and there might be a cost-effective way to prevent some students (not all) to finish the course.

However, cancellations are definitely a trigger for the course creator to start looking. A course creator might even land on the Xebel.co home page, make a mental note for later, and go back to their “I’ll just” statements.

But I bet there’s another situation further down the journey…

Situation: I’m Doing One-on-Ones with Too Many Students. (Enough for a Switch?)

There might come a time when too many students are quitting, and that becomes a tax on the course creator’s time. And maybe by the time those students are quitting, it’s too late, and the course creator knows this.

  • When I’m finding myself having too many one-on-ones with students and that for some it’s too late to prevent them quitting, I want a way to prevent my students from getting this far off course, so I don’t have to do so many manual rescue attempts.

But even at this stage, there might be a good reason for the course creator to do this instead:

  • I’ll just start doing one-on-ones sooner with some students
  • I’ll just keep an eye out for tell-tale signs of people dropping out

Still, this is a close one. At this point, the thought of having to do so many manual one-on-ones might spur the course creator into automating the process. It’ll be tempting, but it might not be a big enough struggle just yet.

Situation: I’m Giving Too Much Attention To Preventing Drop-Outs, Not Enough in Crafting My Courses. (Switch!).

At some point, the course creator will feel the cost of those drop-out preventions: the cost on her attention.

  • When I’m finding I’m centering the bulk of my days on follow-ups and one-on-ones, responding to notifications or just thinking ahead of the next interactions I’m planning, I want a way to automate a lot of the basic follow-up questions, so I can regain working on my courses the majority of the day.

Of course, the course creator might think of hiring an assistant…

  • I’ll just hire an assistant to help with follow-ups

But that caries some additional unknowns, risks and costs.

It’s at this point that we have a situation that’s ripe for a switch. “Enough is enough”. “There must be a way to automate this somehow.” (Search for [automate follow-up with students] or [Slack bot online course communities])

What to Do with This Knowledge?

We could change some things about the marketing website. Since we now know what they’re most likely struggling with, we could make some minimal changes to make them know we understand their struggle. This type of Struggle-First page design will make them shout “I feel seen”. It might even make them tell others about your product. And it won’t hurt that you know what people will be searching in Google to find you, so you can tweak your page title.

We could help folks that aren’t yet ready for the switch and concentrate on educating them, creating trust. We know that before they feel the struggle of coordonating follow-ups, they will be fine doing a lot of it themselves. We’re not going to convince folks buying Xebel if they’re fine putting in some manual effort on their own. So why not help them through that? Why not supply a list of good questions to ask, example one-on-one interactions that work? This will build trust and hoist Xebel as an authority on the subject. The bottom of the home page would be a great place for that kind of secondary-yet-helpful advice.

Knowing For Sure

This exercise is exploratory in nature. But there’s a way to know for sure, and that’s through interviewing recent buyers. What caused them, in truth, to switch away from what they were doing before, and switch toward your product?

You can dig to find those answers by using a particular style of interview questions. You’re trying to map out the key events in the purchase story, find out what’s pushing and pulling in the mind of the buyer, so you can zoom in on those situations that caused a switch.

You’ll be able to sharpen your product to focus precisely on what made the difference for your buyer, communicate it better, smooth out your sales conversations and avoid building features that shouldn’t make the cut.

Stay Sharp!


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