There Are Two Kinds of Feedback. Here’s Why You Should Care.

Everyone knows a fast-paced, highly iterative environment is essential to a winning startup. And the single best way to improve is to pay attention to the feedback your users give you. But analyzing who is giving feedback, you’ll know whether to listen to it or not.

There are two main categories of user feedback: Free users and paying customers. Here’s what each category means.

Free User Feedback Is Marketing Advice

Free users haven’t committed to paying for your product or service. You can’t trust them to tell you how to improve it. But you can trust them to guide your marketing process: It’s the process that will help them know whether they want to move forward into your funnel and lay down some money.

Here’s the difference, as explained by investor Elias Torres on the Drift blog:

“Free users, meanwhile, skew more towards the product marketing category with their feedback. These users are sometimes just scoping your product out, seeing if it could work for them. So they’ll ask questions like, ‘Can you sync with this platform?’ or ‘Can I host this myself?'”

With these questions, you can put together a useful FAQ to let them know if they want what you have.

Paying User Feedback Is for Big Changes

Here’s Torres on paying customers’ advice:

“Ultimately, we try to prioritize what features we build based on customer feedback and what we’re hearing the most from people. When more and more people start requesting the same thing, and those requests start happening more and more frequently, we know there’s a real issue that we need to address.

It just so happens that the people who make these shared requests tend to be paying customers, since they’re the ones who know better than anyone what could be improved upon. So they all end up finding the same weak spots in the product and telling us about them.”

The End Result? You’re More Proactive

Armed with this feedback, you’ll be able to identity problems that you might never have noticed otherwise. As another blogger, Reforge CEO Brian Balfour, put it: “If the results are positive, keep going. If the results are bad, then stop and feed those learnings back into your next set of hypotheses in a series of iterations.”

By addressing these issues, you’ll both fix your marketing problems and improve your core product. By channeling your feedback into two categories, your next response will be clear.

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Adam is a writer at and has worked as a tech writer, blogger and copy editor for more than a decade. He was a Forbes Contributor on the publishing industry, for which he was named a Digital Book World 2018 award finalist. His work has appeared in publications including Popular Mechanics and IDG Connect, and his art history book on 1970s sci-fi, 'Worlds Beyond Time,' is out from Abrams Books in July 2023. In the meantime, he's hunting down the latest news on VPNs, POS systems, and the future of tech.
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