My Startup Got a 95 Net Promoter Score and That’s a Problem
Experience tells me it’s a good problem to have, but still a problem
When is a problem a good problem to have?
One answer might be when all your customers love your product. As humblebraggy as that sounds.
I founded Teaching Startup — my project to deliver tactical startup advice to all levels of entrepreneurs at a sustainable cost — almost three years ago. I’ve been measuring Net Promoter Score (NPS) since the very beginning.
At the end of last year, our NPS came back at 95.8, an unreasonably high number. Most product marketers would kill for that number. But for me, a product engineer, it’s a problem. Or at least a warning.
How I Interpret NPS in the Early Startup Lifecycle
Without getting too deep into philosophy, NPS is a simple equation. It begins by asking a decent-sized sample of your paying customers, using a 0–10 scale: “How likely is it that you would recommend [our brand] to a friend or colleague?” The results give you a view of promoters, passives, and detractors, and an overall score from -100 to 100.
I don’t read too much into NPS as a rule, but I do pay attention, and I usually see a pattern in the early days. It begins with a spike in NPS, as the initial customer base fills with loyal and passionate early adopters. That’s usually followed by a leveling off, which signals wider customer adoption beyond those early adopters.
Teaching Startup followed that pattern, launching with a score in the low 90s, then bouncing around and ultimately leveling off after the first year into the 80s and 70s. Then at the end of last year, almost three years in, it jumped to 95.8.
Awesome! But wait…
How a Startup Achieves a High NPS
Here’s a little secret. The traditional concept of “brand” with a startup is almost meaningless. I say “almost” because there is indeed some meaning to latch onto, but it has very little to do with the response one normally associates with brand management. It has everything to do with the value provided by the product or service.