Liam Martin is one of the Cofounders and the Chief Marketing Officer of Time Doctor, a software company that tracks metrics on tasks people do during their work day. The software is comparable to Google analytics, but for people and their productivity. Essentially Time Doctor gives insight into where you and your employees are spending time and how it relates to the productivity of the work day. Time Doctor also makes it possible for businesses to track remote employees for productivity.
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Tim: Is every feature included with your product, getting you results commensurate with the time and money you’re putting into it? Can eliminating certain features reduce financial drain for a piece of your product that your customers don’t really care about? Liam Martin, one of the cofounders of Time Doctor wanted to find out if that was the case. IN conducting some tests that involved making some really important customers angry, he was able to find out which features were critical and which could be axed and save his company six figures plus. Along with that, he’s got a really insider view on what to focus to his company’s effort on to create happier, more engaged customers. Sounds like a win-win.
Now this is a really cool case study and I want to dive into it so let’s go. I’m Tim Page, the conversation educator here at LeadPages and this is ConversionCast.
Hey Liam, welcome to ConversionCast. Thanks for coming on the show.
Liam: Thanks for having me.
Tim: Absolutely. So we have got an interesting case study. There are really three parts to it that we’re going to talk about but one main focus and we’ll get into that in just a minute. Before we dive into the particular, can you share with us a little bit about what Time Doctor is all about and what your role is at the company?
Liam: Sure. So I’m the cofounder and CMO of the company and Time Doctor is basically Google Analytics for your workday. Other people call it people analytics. So we track all of the metrics connected to the work that you do during your workday. So as an example, I am currently tracking the task of podcasting and I’ve been doing that task for 11 minutes and 36 seconds and I know my software will know exactly how much time I’m spending on Skype, how much time I’m spending on google apps, on a particular website. All of these metrics are kind of put together so I know exactly how productive I’m being while I’m completing my workday. We’re really designed for remote teams so if you have a large remote team, we have 52 employees. You can track and figure out who is doing what within the company and just really get a better idea of what your team is doing on a day-to-day basis.
Tim: Awesome. Awesome. I love that and you know, I think normally we kind of do this backwards thing and Tarantino it but I think in this case it will be valuable to talk about what caused you to want to try the things that you tried and then just go ahead and tell us what you did.
Liam: Sure. Well actually, I was at a talk that Eric Reese was giving and I was able to get a couple of minutes with him at the end. Eric Reese is I’m sure that some of your readers probably already know who that is but he built sort of a lean startup movement where he would build very easy, small products what he calls minimum viable products and then you would basically pitch that to customers and find out whether or not they wanted to pay for it.
So one of the features that or one of the components of that is being able to figure out what are the critical features within your software that your customers really love. And sometimes you really can’t just monitor it through metrics alone. You have to try other experiments. Some of them are a little bit more extreme and we actually perform 3Ds someone extreme experiments where we directly pulled features that were out of our application without our customers knowing about beforehand.
So we basically pulled three major features out. We pulled out our project management feature. We shut down our API for a couple of days, and then we also shut down weekly emails that basically provides teams with their weekly productivity metrics. So we actually got very interesting differentiating results based off of those and it’s actually been fantastic for our business.
Tim: Awesome. I love it. That’s what I wanted to talk about this. So I’m excited. I’m in. Let’s hear what the results were. Can you share with us kind of the three pieces and talk about what the results were from each features that you removed?
Liam: Yeah. So the project management feature we basically dropped, well first of all we spent about six months in a very healthy five-figures worth of development time to be able to build out this project management feature and we tried to convince this was actually in the earlier days. WE tried to convince users to use it because we’re looking at our use cases in our analytics and we found that whenever I would call customers up to say hey you know would you like to use this feature, they would say oh I’m using base camp as an example.
And then I would say yeah but this is free and you’re already using Time Doctor and it’s a free feature within time doctor. No, I’m using base camp. I don’t want to use whatever you’re using. But you know would you just like to try it out a little bit? No, I’m using base camp. Like [[0:04:50]] [indiscernible]
That kind of taught us that even though you can come in as a cheaper option, a more affordable option and may be even an option that’s better equipped for your particular user, it’s incredibly difficult to get them out of the current piece of software that they’re using and secondarily we weren’t taking it into consideration the loyalty that people had connected to these project management systems.
And even the cost of moving them over. So we looked at basically we tried the experiment where we just pulled the entire feature set and within a week, we got about half a dozen not very angry emails. [Laughs] People just saying oh where did the project management feature go? I was kind of playing with that. You know, and it in comparison to the API, it was completely different.
So we had shut down the API because we had just started it. We tried a three months experiment. So whether or not users were interested in using it, and when it shut down we had three emails pop up within basically a few hours saying that they were going to immediately move their accounts if this wasn’t reinstated you know, within 24 hours. Those customers were some of our best customers.
So they were the ones basically the lesson that we learned is once you build an API, you can never abandon it. You’re committed to it and you cannot actually like even a feature that’s on the frontend is a very different thing than having a company of let’s say 300 employees and they’ve integrated all of their payment systems inside of time doctor. It’s a critical piece of technology for them that they need every single day and it’s actually now we’ve cordoned our API off to be able to make sure that it is – if everything else falls apart on time doctor, the API will keep running. Because it’s so important for particularly our enterprise level customers.
The third one was just weekly emails. So we started to experiment with trying to get rid of various weekly emails that customers were getting and some of them were like they’re basic here’s what your team is doing this week type of emails. And we have a pretty good open rate on those. They’re usually between 40% and 70%. A lot of customers are engaging with them but we wanted to see what would happen if we basically pulled one of those emails and we did.
And we found that customers didn’t really send us any hate mail right? They didn’t send us any angry emails. However what was happening is over time we saw the engagement of that customer go down because they weren’t receiving those emails anymore. What we discovered, our theory is that email reports are actually important but’s not something that you actively look for. So it’s something that’s sent to you as opposed to something that you go out to find. So people won’t actually get angry company they won’t remember that they’re getting these weekly emails. Like you probably get – I get a thousand emails a week and I wouldn’t really remember if one particular weekly email wasn’t coming in over another one.
So but what it does do is it starts disengagement with those particular users and for us one of our major metrics is daily active users. And we found that with the cohort that we had actually, you know, shut down these emails for, that cohort was going down in terms of engagement.
Tim: So going forward, now that you’ve done this and you’ve actually you’ve gotten positive results for the most part and you saw, you were able to find out that for example the API you can’t get rid of how does this impact the way that you look at features and in different elements of you product going forward?
Liam: I think one of the most difficult things that you can do within a tech company is not figure out what you should add but what you can actually take away. And once you’re at a perfectly succinct, beautiful piece of software, that’s the point in which you can really figure it out and you know who’s exactly who your customer is. I think it’s actually a lot of people call me industry feature creep, you know, have a lot of these [[0:09:05]] [indiscernible] we’ve added in and to be honest with you do they really actually provide value to your core customer? You have to know who your core customer is. Right? We actually understood that you know, people that use APIs within our business are incredibly important to us because they’re actually some of our biggest customers.
So we wanted to make sure that that API and we’re actually putting more money into building out the API. Whereas in comparison the project management feature there were already great companies doing project management and we’ve actually said instead of building our own project management app, what we’re doing is we’re aligning with project management companies in making our software incredibly easy to use with those types of apps.
So as an experience let’s say you’re using base camp, you can write a task for your employee. It will automatically push directly into Time Doctor. So that’s incredibly useful and actually our base camp customers like the software even more now because they can use it with their particular piece of software which are base camp or whatever they’re using in terms of project management.
So for us it actually just gave us a lot of great insights and I would suggest to anyone else that is building all these particular features without really knowing which direction to take, I would highly suggest that you just don’t be scared just shut down a feature for a couple of days. You can always flip it right back on afterwards and you can say it was a mistake. It’s a very interesting process that you can go through figuring out what your customers absolutely love and what they’re just sort of okay with.
Tim: How did you determine which features that you wanted to test to see what was important? I mean was it based on the things that required a lot of time commitment from your team? Was it the things that may be were resource intensive? How did you figure out what things you wanted to see if they were worth keeping?
Liam: Sure so the project management feature as an example was probably going to be another six figures worth of spend over the next year in terms of development costs.
Liam: So we wanted to know whether or not and if we hadn’t done this, we would have proceeded with building it. And building a feature that to be honest with you we really weren’t ready to build out effectively.
Liam: And I think that it would have been a huge problem for us within the company. The API you know, on the flipside probably would have it’s still requirement the same level of investment however the dividends that we’re getting from that are huge. IT makes the customer a lot more stickier. So if someone has literally integrated time doctor within their company, it’s a lot stickier for the customer and they won’t leave you in the future. So it’s a great thing for us to be able to say hey the API is not a only something that really helps customers but makes us a lot more money long term.
Tim: Yeah and that’s got to instill confidence in terms of what you’re investing both you know, financially and time wise.
Liam: Exactly. I would say for me I don’t know the exact numbers on this but I’m almost positive that the vast majority of customers that have integrated their API into our processes into our company or sorry that have invested basically in integrating our API into their systems, they haven’t left us. They’re committed and long-term customer. So for us it’s very easy to say yeah, you know, we would love to be able to help you build out our API and integrate it into your systems because we know that that’s going to become a long-term customer for us.
Tim: Fantastic. Yeah that’s a really interesting case study. It’s different from you know, focusing on front end conversions but some of these things can make such a big impact on product development going forward and the amount of investment that you have to make and things that you don’t know if they’re going to work. So this is still a really important thing to consider regardless of whether you’re a SAAS company or you have any other kind of products. This can still apply across the board. So Liam thank you so much for sharing this on ConversionCast. We really appreciate it.
Liam: No problem.
Tim: Alright, fellow marketer that’s going to do it for this episode of ConversionCast. Thanks for listening. Now if you want to dive a little bit deeper, and see how you can increase your conversation rate, grow your email list, and generate more revenue for your business than ever before then you can join me for this Thursday’s live LeadPages webinar. All you need to do to register is text LeadPagesLIve to 33444, again take out your phone right now, text LeadPagesLive to 33444. You’ll be able to jump on the webinar. You can register right via your phone. By the way that’s a great LeadPages feature called Lead Digits and you’re going to love it. The webinar is called Four Steps To Quickly Grow Your Email List Without Spending All Your Time On Marketing. Again it’s this Thursday at 3:00 p.m. eastern time. All you have to do to join is text LeadPagesLive to 33444. Oh yeah and if you’re outside the US, don’t worry you can still join me. Just head over to LeadPageswebinar.com, again that’s LeadPageswebinar.com. I’ll see you Thursday at 3 pm and we’ll see you next week on ConversionCast.
Listen To Discover The Shutdown Strategy That Saved Time Doctor 6 Figures Worth