How does one understand the pulse of your users? 😶What led to a 50% inc. in our payment conversion?

Welcome back to my weekly newsletter. This is going to be a series of articles covering how we came up with the idea of Calm Sleep, scaled to over a million users in less than a year, and all that with less than $1,000 worth of total investment. 🌱


I’m Akshay Pruthi, an entrepreneur who loves to build products from the ground up. Over the past 6 years, I’ve built multiple products from scratch and scaled them to millions of users. This is my attempt to share our most important lessons from building one of those apps - Calm Sleep. 🤗


Every week I will publish an article about a different challenge we faced while building Calm Sleep.


Last week, I asked Ankur Warikoo how to carry a winning attitude, how to think of scale, how to attract talent?


What is in this week’s read


  1. Understanding user's pulse

  2. In one of my previous articles, I mentioned 80% of the product is onboarding. The whats & hows of putting my preaching to practice.


How does one understand the pulse of your users? 😶

The first principle suggests that if you have a strong understanding of the systematic and structured collection of users’ requirements, you get the pulse of the users. The philosophy is that - the product should suit the user, rather than making the user suit the product. By collecting user needs, you can understand:

  • What users want and need.

  • How they currently operate, or how they want to work.

👆🏻 This is what SHOULD happen.

But, the usual REAL scenario is 👇🏻


Let’s try and understand why this happens. 🧐

With no fault of our own, many times we merge user requirements with our requirements. This is briefly explained in the above graphic. Each vertical gets its version of the user’s needs. And what you see at the end is a completely different product when compared to what users wanted.

The real art lies in disassociating yourself from solutionizing to understand user requirements.

For instance, for calm sleep, I will be incentivized to launch meditation features right away on the app as it seems like a perfect match for mindfulness. But, it’s important to go back and ask our users if that’s what they require?


When you gather user requirements, you’ll be enlightened with various insights. These insights will lead to various plausible solutions. As a product person, now it’s your job to select and investigate the best solution from users’ perspectives.


Now to get the user requirements right, you need to understand your users first. This is a product manager’s world is named “creating a user persona”


What is a user persona?

Having worked at an early-stage start-up, I have observed that a lot of founders/product managers struggle with creating user personas. In theory, we all want to create user personas but in practicality, no one finds the time to create one. Why? Because we want to move too fast, too soon. In the process of moving fast, we end up putting features > users.


I find it so foolish that we miss the chance of becoming a hit only because we spend (rather waste) more time in building features that end-users don’t want instead of thoroughly researching and building exactly what they want! It’s almost like being handed over food on a plate but choosing to cook from scratch and ending up burning the food!


Trust me, you don’t want to make such a mistake. To solve this, I have simplified the entire framework of understanding user personas and how to create one.


The first step to creating a user persona is developing a user profile. The single most critical activity to developing a quality product is understanding who your users are and what they need and documenting what you have learned.


Long story short,


A user profile is a detailed description of your users’ attributes (job title, experience, level of education, key tasks, age range, etc.)


User Personas are fictional individuals created to describe the typical user based on the user profile.


Why is user persona important?

As it can be difficult to feel connected to an abstract description of something, personas give your users life and help team members feel connected to them. They also get everyone on the same page by encouraging all the team members to think about the same persona. Personas are important:

  • to help keep specific users in focus during design discussions.

  • to build functional features that users will want to use.

How to create a user profile & a user persona?

With the help of a few resources I read online and the little knowledge I have, I created a cheat sheet for you to grab. Fill in this information as and when you collect it. This will help you develop a detailed user profile and user persona.

Putting it all together, users pulse = users requirement = user profile + user persona.

At calm sleep, we recently revamped the onboarding to understand the users better. We also added a few elements of trust by providing more information around how calm sleep will be beneficial to the end-user.


Look how we did it:


When we launched this, the results blew our minds!! 😵‍💫


  1. We were amazed to see that almost 40% of our users are less than 30 years of age and 14% of our users are less than 20. We had always assumed that we are building this app for 30+

2. The majority of consumption of our app is by females 😀. We had assumed men would dominate. And our female-payment conversion is more than men by 20% :)

3. Age group 21-30 contributes towards maximum payments. We had assumed the age group 50+ would contribute the max!


4. A lot of students (age group <20) use our app and we had zero clues about this.


I hope this is an inspiration enough for you to develop user profiles and user personas if you haven’t already!


-------Moving to the next section of the article--------


With the new onboarding, we hypothesized that it will increase our payment conversion. We saw a 50% increase in our payments with the new onboarding experience. We anticipate this might have happened because:

  1. We built trust

With the new onboarding experience, by showcasing how we will help our users sleep better, and how with calm sleep they'll be able to develop a better sleeping habit, we believe we built more trust amongst the users.


2. Virtual care

We asked for user information, signaling them that we care. This helps us with the data we need to personalize their experience and builds a sense of belongingness among the users. Win-win!

Incorporating things like these simply means making your users feel a part of a community where their presence & opinions are valued. And IMO, that's one of the fastest ways to improve your product while locking a strong user base.


In the upcoming articles, I will talk more about how one particular user feedback changed our entire thesis around a product feature. Until then, keep calm :)


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