Gonzalo Sanchez

Mentor | The Brandery

Understanding and learning about our users have been a major force behind the marketing decisions we make as a team.

Customer development is probably the single most important activity you can do for your startup, early on and while growing.

Eric Ries, author of “The Lean Startup”, encourages teams to ‘get out of the building’. This means you should get out of your comfort zone and go meet and chat with your users. What you learn from talking to these people will be the driver behind major strategic & product decisions, feature releases, copywriting, design and much more.

You should discover why people use your product or hesitate to sign up, what information is missing on your site or what are visitors’ objections to converting to a paid plan.

How We Do Customer Development At Piktochart

At Piktochart, talking to users, doing customer development and forming user personas are some ways we gain and utilise user data .

We are so committed to understanding our users that we brought someone on board exclusively for that: Eureka. She is our fantastic UX Researcher, and she is 100% dedicated to discover new things about how and why Piktocharters visualize data.

I should preface this by saying that my primary background is in psychology, not marketing, hehe, so my idea of customer development is better understanding customer (or user) needs, which is also the focus of user research”.

Before Eureka joined the team, Piktochart used a few different methods to better understand how people perceived our website and service.

Before Eureka

First, Wei Jian, our brilliant Data Analyst, ran several user tests as well as impression tests of people who visited the site. He also ran some surveys to gain a broad overview of what sectors our users were working in. In addition, Ai Ching, our CEO, made phone and Skype calls with users who had either recently upgraded or cancelled their account, asking them about their background and why they were using Piktochart.

With Eureka on the Team

For the past 3 months, Eureka has been working on gaining as much user data as she possibly can while giving more depth to our user personas. She started by using our customer relationship management (CRM) tool to randomly select users who were most active on our website. Then, followed up with some of these customers to understand their goals of using Piktochart and the challenges they face at work. This helped our team gain a general sense of what groups our top users fit in.

From here, Eureka started interviewing more users in these groups. She finds people willing to do a short interview from several of sources:

  • people who reply to our emails.
  • users who answer our surveys.
  • users who engage with us on social media.
  • people who send custom design requests.

Customer Dev Process

To continue to validate these initial personas, Eureka, with the help of our talented team of developers, implements several surveys at different points in our email flow. This helps us further engage with active users who are using our service at the moment.

To finalize the process, each week, Eureka makes a short 5-minute presentation during our Monday Morning Meeting about a user or group of users. This helps the entire Piktochart team understand what’s the driving motivation behind our users. In addition, each team member has a copy of our personas, which includes a description of their needs, goals, and pain points.

Our biggest challenge was segmenting our entire user base (which is around 2 million people) into different groups or categories. “I’ve been reading many articles on developing and validating user personas and I’ve learned that customer segmentation varies from company to company”, Eureka states.

The solution: we found out there’s no magic bullet or formula for splitting your users into groups. We experimented with dividing our personas in several ways – for example, by industry, then by job function – and settled (for now) on dividing our users by their goals of using Piktochart.

How it impacted marketing

Understanding and learning from the user data and ultimately, about our users, has been a major force behind the marketing decisions we make as a team.

As you can see, our preferred tactics is building users personas: “I think they are incredibly useful because they are concrete and descriptive”, says Eureka. Personas help the marketing, development and design teams put themselves in a user’s shoes and better anticipate what they would benefit from, what they would like to read, and what might cause them problems in the future. Constructing user personas also gives our team focus: they know specifically what to do in their day-to-day activities in order to satisfy user needs.

Although some people may see personas through a negative lens as we might be missing out on the people we don’t fit into a specific persona and therefore, we don’t target, we believe the benefits clearly outweigh that problem.

User Personas Define Our Content Strategy

Having a clearer picture of who our users are and what they need to accomplish, has been a major impact on our content strategy. This includes our upcoming blog posts, infographic templates, and even the content in our emails and social media updates.

Now, instead of publishing a blog post about complex data analysis, which only some of our users would be interested, we’re better able to come up with content ideas that will benefit a wider portion of our audience. For instance, our users can expect to see more posts about how they can apply Piktochart in different situations and industries.

Another data point we use to decide what we write about, especially in our “Piktotips” emails is feedback we are collecting via surveys about what people wish they were better at. This type of content is extremely useful for our users because it helps them improve as marketers, designers, entrepreneurs and much more.

We’ve recently started working on featuring user stories in our community. We reach out to users with great stories to tell about their experience with Piktochart and will feature their story and brand on our blog.

Our Biggest Lesson So Far

Eureka’s job is a continuous stream of ‘aha’ moments, but ‘perhaps the biggest thing that I’ve learned so far is that the people who sign up for Piktochart are sometimes very different from the people who end up using it.’. This means that the buyers differ from the users. For instance, a manager finds and purchases Piktochart, but it’s his or her team that uses it.

This presents several challenges to the team because a buyer has different needs from a Piktochart user – they might be more concerned with the price of the solution and whether it is easy to learn, but an end user might be concerned with things like, “can I find icons for my industry?” or “is it possible to download my project in .PDF format?”

As mentioned before, this is a challenge. Fortunately, customer development is ingrained in the Piktochart DNA, so now we can use the insights discovered by our team and increase our monthly recurring revenue.

The Tools We Use

Piktochart is, in part, a distributed team so we rely heavily on several online tools to communicate and keep track of conversation with users as well to gain the ever so precious user data: CRM tools, support desks, video call apps and shared documents. Let’s take a look.


Intercom is a great tool for customer communication: behavioral emails, in-app messages and live chats. At Piktochart, we use it to connect with users, send messages to them and determine their usage patterns on the website.


Zendesk is our preferred customer service and support ticket software. We use this tool to keep track of support tickets (which can also be a source of user interviews and understanding user pain points) and reply to user’s concerns and questions.

Google Docs & Spreadsheets

We use Google Spreadsheets and Google Docs to keep track of research findings and share those insights with the team. These services are really helpful because anyone can jump in and start collaborating on the doc in real time.

Google Hangouts & Skype

Besides data and chatting with customers, talking to users 1-on-1 is extremely useful for customer development. For that purpose we use Skype and Google Hangouts. Both are great, easy to use, and free.


Being an international company, we rely also on Calendly to schedule interviews with users in different time zones.


We use Piktochart for a bunch of different reasons, but we find it extremely useful to present the results of our customer development efforts to the entire team in a visually compelling, memorable manner. If we could say so ourselves.

This post is part of Piktochart’s Marketing Series, stay updated with new and relevant posts about all your infographing needs and more by subscribing to our blog.