This summer, I was fortunate to be offered an internship with the Growth team at Kayako, a customer service platform. I was really lucky because I could only work for about a month and they still accepted me (Thanks, Kumy and Jamie!).

Despite the short internship, I have learnt many valuable lessons and I would like to share some of them in this blog post. These lessons are mainly for my personal development and do not include more technical stuff such as things I’ve learnt about writing and community building.

Personal Development Lessons

1. Have side projects

Kumy, Growth Lead at Kayako, and I knew each other from Leancamp London 2014 and we have been following each other on Twitter. He knows that I’m interested in marketing. Upon discovering my side project, Be Nice, a weekly newsletter of customer support and experience articles, he realised that I’m interested in the field of customer service and support too.

At that time, his team was not even actively looking for interns as they just started the Growth team and they were unsure if interns could contribute to the team.

However, seeing that I might be a great fit for his team as I am interested in both marketing and customer service, he decided to give it a go and offered me an internship with his team.

I would probably not have gotten the internship without my side project. I realised that having a side project would really benefit me in finding an internship or job as the other party can learn more about me through my project.

2. Onboarding beforehand

As my internship was pretty short, neither the team nor I have much time to spare to onboard me to their working processes.

Fortunately, I had kind of onboarded myself to a large extent before the internship. I’ve read most of the books on their required reading list. I was already involved in Support Driven Chat, a Slack community for customer support pros. I’m familiar with most of the technological tools the team uses such as Slack, Trello, Google Docs and Google Hangouts.

When I joined the team, there was less onboarding required – left mainly their current projects and enterprise software such as HubSpot and Wiki. This allowed me to add value to the team almost immediately.

Several companies write about what they are doing on their blogs. That is a good avenue to gain insights about what the company is doing and how their internal processes are like. An example would be Buffer. They share very transparently about their company on their Open blog and list required readings on their job application pages.

3. Autonomy

Kayako gave me a huge degree of autonomy, despite me being only an intern. In fact, I didn’t feel like an intern at all because they treat me like a fellow full-time colleague. Working hours are quite flexible. Some people prefer to go to the office earlier and leave earlier while others do the opposite. The team is also flexible with people working from home or remotely once in a while.

I learnt that I am more driven when I have the freedom to decide what to do and how to do them. It’s hard to quantify how much more driven or productive I was during the internship. However, the team did mention that they are happy to have me again when I have the time. I will take that as a sign that I’ve added much value to the team 🙂

4. My working style

When I want to focus on a task, such as writing, I prefer to have a certain amount of undisturbed time (2 to 3 hours) by myself. I find that tiny distractions can easily break my train of thought.

This internship has reinforced the fact that I like to work this way. It is nice to be working in an office with the team than to be working alone remotely. However, that also means a higher chance of distraction or interruption from fellow teammates.

Hence, when I was writing, I would usually go to a quiet corner of the office, sit on a beanbag and plug in my ear piece for a few hours. Also, thanks to Slack, communications became slightly less disruptive. Instead of speaking to me directly and interrupting my flow, my teammates would leave me a message on Slack and I would check it when I take my breaks.

5. Give others time to work on my requests

I made this mistake several times during the internship. I asked my teammate about my request a few times within a short period of time, which made her pretty annoyed.

I failed to consider that my teammate might be working on something else at the moment and would work on my request afterwards. By bugging her, I could be interrupting her flow.

I think a better way of communicating a request would be to specify a timeframe so that the teammate knows when he/she has to get back to me and to get an acknowledgement from him/her that she received your request. Also, it would be nice to give it some time (depending on the urgency of the situation) before approaching the teammate again.

6. Communicate transparently with my team lead

In my last post, I mentioned the mismatch between how I thought I should behave as an intern and what my team expected of me.

In the end, this issue was resolved by having a one-on-one chat with my team lead (Kumy). My team lead checked in with me almost every week to ask if I’m learning enough and if there are more things I would like to try.

If I’m not wrong, he brought up the topic and told me not to worry that I should behave in a certain way because I’m an intern and that the team does not have any expectations of me to behave like an intern.

It seems better to clarify any doubts or issues I have with my team lead and teammates than to assume things in my mind, which could be wrong.

All in all, I’m really glad that I was given this opportunity as it has been very enriching experience. If you wish to go through a similar experience, then you are in luck! Kayako is looking for an Inbound Marketing Intern! (This is NOT a sponsored post haha.)

Let me share a story:

I have a friend, Jane (not her real name), who decided to exercise more and eat healthy starting this year. She tries to cut down on her calories intake and planned to go for runs and work out in the gym. To show her determination, she bought our school’s £190 gym membership. It is a way of forcing herself to keep up with her workout routine too because since she has spent so much for the membership, she has to go to the gym often enough to make her money worthwhile.

Knowing about her situation, I recommended Pact to her by sending her the link to their website. Path is a mobile phone app that allows users to make weekly pact to exercise more or eat more healthily. If users do not keep to their pacts, they will pay a certain amount of money determined by themselves to other users. If they keep to their pacts, they will receive cash from those who did not. After reading the website, she thought that the idea is brilliant and downloaded the app to use immediately.

While I was happy to have helped a friend in a way, I realised that this can be applied to how startups go about selling their products or services initially.

Cookie Monsters

In Lean Startup’s terms, my friend would be Pact’s cookie monster. In layman terms, this is probably how she had reacted when she learnt about Pact:

Cookie monster

Pact users set a certain amount of money they have to pay if they do not keep to their pacts. So, there is a monetary pressure to keep to their pacts. Jane signed up for the expensive gym membership so that she feels pressured to workout regularly. Otherwise she will be wasting her money. Her behaviour is similar to the concept of Pact. Therefore, she could relate to it immediately.

Applying this idea to startups, the one of the first few things a startup should do is to approach people whose behaviours match the concept of its solution. These people come up with their own methods of solving the problems they face (Jane signing up to an expensive gym membership so she does not skip her workouts). When the concept of a startup’s solution matches their behaviour (pay others if you do not keep to your pact VS waste money if she does not go to the gym), they can relate to the solution immediately. These are the people who are most likely to sign up or make a purchase. More often than not, they feel that the startup’s solution is better than their own solution. Therefore, they are more inclined to adopt the startup’s solution. For the startup, this means increasing the number of people who are signing up to its solution (Activation).

I suggest that this is one of the first few things a startup should do because of 2 reasons. One, this approach is the fastest way to get people who will try its solution because they are the easiest to convince (low hanging fruits) and they belong to the startup’s targeted customer segment. When there are people trying its solution, it can collect feedback from them directly (asking them directly) or indirectly (see how they use the solution) to improve its solution. Only when there are people using its solution, the startup can learn how to make its solution better for its target customers because it knows what areas to work on.

Two, also, only when there are people using its solution (Activation), the startup can work on other aspects of the business such as keeping the customers (Retention), getting its current users to spread the idea (Referral) and earning money (Revenue).  Therefore, one of the first few things a startup should do is to get people to use its solution.

In conclusion, a startup should approach the right people so that it can quickly get people to use its solution. When people are using its solution,

  • it can learn from them and improve its solution, and
  • it is then meaningful to improve other aspects of the business.

If you have heard about Lean Startup, you would definitely have heard of the use of a landing page too. While my team is working on our Minimum Viable Product (MVP), we launched a landing page on LaunchRock. It was an experiment for us to the test the response to our idea and also to collect some leads. It has been a few weeks since we launched it and I would like to share my observations, analysis and what I’ve learnt so far.

What is a landing page?
First, for the benefit of those who do not know or are unclear about what a landing page is, I shall explain it briefly. Essentially, it is:

  •  one page of a website (usually the home page) or a one page website, which
  • contains information about a product or service, and
  • a call to action (buy something, drop an email, request for invite, etc.).

Having a landing page is one of the methods suggested by Lean Startup to test the response to an idea without having to build the actual product. The basic idea is to create a landing page and Get Out Of the Building (GOOB) to approach people. According to Startup Owner’s Manual by Steve Blank and Bob Dorf, “low fidelity MVP [(eg. landing page)] tests whether you’ve accurately identified a problem that customers care about (based on user visits to your site, e-mail received, demos played, etc.)”. So the ideal result is that all or a large percentage of the people that are approached indicate that they care about the problem by showing some form of interest. This means that the problem and customer segment identified is likely to be correct.

For a list of startup landing pages, I recommend you check out BETA LI.ST.

What I’ve learnt

1) Use of “currencies” collected

I always thought that the main purpose of a landing page is to see how many people are interested in my idea so that I can decide whether to pivot or persevere. However, I forgot about how I can use the emails I have collected to follow up with the people who had signed up.

For Cloudlys, our plan is to test our Minimum Viable Product (MVP) with only those who are interested in our idea. Through the sign ups on our landing page, we know who the interested people are and we can contact them directly to test our MVP and collect feedback from them.

2) Approaching target customers and not friends

I think that sharing our landing page on Facebook is a mistake. This is because Facebook is simply filled with my friends but not our target customers (or potential cookie monsters). Hence, the conversion rate of views to sign ups is not meaningful. (By the way, the conversion rate is really poor.)

I remember that Bryan Long, from Lean Startup Machine (LSM) Singapore, once told me that when I Get Out Of the Building (GOOB), where I go to look for cookie monsters is important. This implies that who I approach is important. I have to be asking the correct people, a.k.a. my target customers, for the results to be meaningful. This is because I’m interested to find out if my target customers, not the whole world or my Facebook friends, care about the problem I identified.

So I should be reaching out to people who are concerned about the problem of fragmented product information and reviews online (ie product information and reviews are available online but they are all over the place so it is hard to look through them). Any suggestions where I can possibly find these people?

3) Curious cats

When I looked at the emails of the people who signed up, I saw the following people sign up: my mom, my brother, my uncle and fellow entrepreneurial friends. So I approached my brother and a friend who signed up and asked them what made them sign up. Sadly, it was because they are interested in what I am doing in general and not in my idea specifically. This meant that they will sign up no matter what my idea is. Hence, I conclude that there are many people who sign up at landing pages just to see how a product is going to look like (or what the founder is up to) without being concerned about the idea or problem. Personally, I am one who will sign up at landing pages to see how the actual product will look like even though I know I’m not their target customer. Therefore, the numbers should be taken with some discounts.

4) Numbers do not tell me everything

While statistics can be useful, the numbers do not tell the full story. For instance, if I did not approach some of the people who signed up, I would not have found that they are not interested in the idea/product at all, but are interested to see what I am up to. Assuming that the sign up rate was high because there were lots of curious cats and I simply looked at the numbers and did not approach the people who signed up, I would have been misled into thinking that I have identified right problem and customer segment, when it is not the case!

In summary,

– Emails and contact details collected through landing pages should be used for follow ups and customer development
– Approach cookie monsters and not just friends
– Not all who indicate their interest care about the problem identified
– More learning can be done by talking to people than looking at numbers