Over the past few months, I’ve chatted to hundreds of Xero customers and partners all over the world. “Like” didn’t make the top ten list. It wasn’t that they didn’t like Xero, it was that the vast majority LOVE Xero.
That’s the word that was used most frequently in the first sentence. It would go something like this; “I just love Xero – it’s made me sane again”; or, “I love doing invoices right after a job”; or, “I love it – it’s just beautiful”.
Now, I know that’s all a bit rich coming from Xero’s CMO. So here’s the next step in understanding what your customers are saying. Correlate the statement to independent research and behavioral data. A friend forwarded me a piece of research from Ross Cameron, a well-recognised researcher whose latest newsletter contained this gem:
“In our most recent wave of panel interviews we asked business owners to discuss the brands that they admire. Two brands stood out – Xero and Apple. Indeed, quite a few pointed out “Xero is the Apple of accounting software!” The comments on Xero were most striking as the positive commentary bordered on the evangelical…”
Ross reported customers saying (competitor names redacted) things like:
“Xero is clean, competitor Y is messy. It’s like Mac and PC – PC is competitor Y; Mac is Xero. Just everything they do as a brand I like it, it’s clean, simple, easy to use, that’s what you want. So I’m really happy with Xero, it’s simple to use and I wouldn’t go back. Like on my apps – so I log into my app with a four digit pin – I can get in there and do all my bank recs in the morning when I’m sitting in traffic. Just simple things like that, I can check it at night, it’s always live and it’s changed my perspective on the way that apps should be designed.” (Retail, five FTEs)
“Xero are competitor Y, but done right. Their improvement path is better, they’re doing everything really well, they’ve got smarter people working on it, overseas developers, everything. Xero are doing what competitor Y couldn’t – improving it and doing it all web-based and better interfaces and easier for people to use. I can use Xero really quickly, it’s like using my iPhone – there are two-year-olds that can use an iPhone. And Xero is just simple, it’s much simpler accounting software to use… Xero will become the most used accounting software in the world. It might take 5, 10, 15 years, but it will become the number one in the world.” (Software/intranet development, 95 FTEs)
People who love you tend to be evangelical. There is plenty more data to support what we are hearing. For instance, for the first time more people search Xero in Australia than the well-established competitor.
So, how do you build love?
Simply put, build something that people can fall in love with, then never stop building. Over the past year, Xero has released an average of one to two updates per day, and just this week added major new features like inventory, quotes and more.
It is as much about the “how” Xero does it as the “what” Xero does. Competitors have done inventory, for instance, for awhile. But they haven’t done it beautifully. Do it beautifully and people fall in love. Beautiful, we’ve learned has many dimensions – here are just a few:
First, you can’t fake beautiful. We’ve invested millions of hours in getting the total experience right. And we continue to every day. We have more people in product development and design than any other function. This creates a fortress to defend and compete from. It’s not just about looking beautiful; it has to work beautifully in every respect. So when we create a feature like Side-by-Side Files that enables users to compare and reconcile to documents easily, that doesn’t just look beautiful, it boosts productivity by working beautifully as well.
Second, beautiful goes beyond the product. It’s about how you treat customers. When we launched invoicing, quotes and more the price stayed the same. Beautiful isn’t a tax – it’s about creating ever increasing value for customers. Sure, every few years you need to adapt pricing to the economic realities around you. But when you are continuously innovating, that shouldn’t impose on the customer’s wallet. It also is reflected in how you support customers. ‘Xero No Wait’ support enables a customer to get access to local support personnel on their schedule rather than being routed through a web of offshore call centers.
Third, beautiful is about simplifying every task. While traditional accounting products added complexity and cost for the user, Xero eliminated them. Want to connect to your accountant or bookkeeper – easy. Want to connect to your industry-specific software – easy. Want to move data – easy. Want to see your cash flow – super easy. To build beautiful you need to understand the process not just as the customer experiences it now, but how they should in the future.
So, if you want to build love for your brand – love beautiful.