SmoothSpan Blog

For Executives, Entrepreneurs, and other Digerati who need to know about SaaS and Web 2.0.

Immediate Gratification Matters

Posted by Bob Warfield on April 26, 2008

When your users access your service on the web, how fast do you gratify them?  Do you think about response time, or is your view that so long as it gets there before “too long”, it’s not a problem?

Google has made a business case for slamming down latency.  They invest zillions of dollars and IQ points trying to make their service respond faster when you hit the search button.  Why?  Because they’ve found it matters for the user experience.  Here is a graph of their recent experience with latency:

Fred Wilson recently tried Slideshare.  He liked it, but his primary complaint was that it took 12 hours after he uploaded his .ppt file to convert the slideshow to Flash.  As he puts it, “I went to bed before it finished.”  I had the same reaction to Animoto.  Loved the service, but I made one slideshow and then forgot about it.

The debate on whether startups have any business focusing on scalability rages in the blogosphere in the wake of the Twitter shakeup as we speak.  People like Ted Dziuba say essentially, “Scalability is not your problem, getting people to care is.”  The trouble is, as the two examples above show, getting people to care is at least partially a function of delivering immediate gratification from the software.  Scaling does matter for that.

Immediate Gratification matters most of all when selling.  If prospects can try your application out online, make sure it responds blindingly fast so they can get as far as possible in the evaluation while they are in the mood to look.  If a site doesn’t perform well on the trial version, my expectation is that it will perform poorly in production too.  That’s not what you want. 

Process matters too.  How often have you gone to a site, seen a white paper or demo you wanted to get access to, and had to answer 20 questions before you could get in?  Worse, how often did you answer 20 questions and then get told they’d get back to you?

They’re protecting the ability of their sales staff to control the process and making sure they capture your lead info.  But it’s a mistake because it just kills the momentum of an interested viewer.  What kind of customer wants to be kept waiting before they can give you their money?  It’s one thing to be kept waiting because of overwhelming demand for a private beta, that’s exclusivity.  It’s quite another to do one of these hurry up and wait sales wonders.

Gather the least information you can (name, email, and company?) and then give immediate access.  What are you doing otherwise, preventing competition from seeing your app and sales materials?  Balooney.  They’ve already seen it.  Trust me on this one.  Every customer that winds up choosing them instead of you, every friend of a friend employee that moves on, and a hundred other potential sources has eventually given them access to the 411 on exactly what you have.  If your lead is so fragile that the information you give any qualified process can sink your ship in the competition’s hands, you’d better get going on some radical innovation or you’re not going to make it.

I recently came upon Rally Development’s site.  Rally makes a SaaS tool for Agile teams.  I loved the site because of all the Instant Gratification.  In fact, it may be the best non-consumer startup site I’ve seen in a long time.  They touch every base– traditional product + marketing, education/learning, and community/evangelism –with a well-organized low friction and content rich offering that tells me what I need to know.

In an age of real-time scalability with services like, there’s no good technical reason to keep your customers waiting.  At the very least you should run some tests to see if faster response times improve your sales.  Once the scaling and infrastructure side is handled, the rest of it is in your hands in terms of the processes you force your customers to follow.

Immediate gratification matters!

2 Responses to “Immediate Gratification Matters”

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