Put bunch of creative people in a single room, task them with solving a serious problem with software, and here is what you get:
Being more serious, if you have budget for one conference a year, no doubt about it, business of software in Boston.
If you haven’t looked at Jordan Koschei‘s analysis of dropbox user onboarding flow, you should go ahead and read it here. I’ve also found this interesting thread on Quora with other examples of good user onboarding flows.
User onboarding is a critical part of the product usage and adoption lifecycle. When users have the option from thousands of products and services to choose from, the first ‘feel’ of a product becomes very important to the success of a new product or service implementation.
Every online product manager is aware that to achieve both, there is tension between:
Crafting a great user experience while building a successful user onboarding flows is like an art, or more precisely a craft of minimalism.
Too little effort upfront will leave users underwhelmed with your product and too much effort upfront will turn away new users.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this problem and have been working with Totango customers on their user onboarding flows. You can read about nCircle’s journey here. From working with many customers like this, I have been able to find 5 rules of thumb that lead to great user onboarding implementations:
1. It’s all about the core value
When designing the onboarding implementation you should carefully understand the core of your application. In most applications, there are many things people can do, however, you’re designing the best way for people to understand your service value without interruptions and without extra unnecessary steps.
2. User-centric approach
Think about who your user is in a very concrete way. Where did they come from, what have they done prior to initiating your “getting started” experience, what language do they speak, which device are they using? By preemptively getting this data, you don’t need to ask redundant questions and they don’t need to fill data you already have.
3. Have an owner, have a team
Someone has to own the onboarding project, which will take time to get right. Have someone (you?) own it and drive it to success. It will require many follow up changes and decisions that will impact the results. Also, important, make sure you have an implementation team in place that can follow up with UI, graphics, flow, copy (language) changes.
4. Iterate, iterate, iterate…
You will probably need hundreds of changes, some of them very minor while other very significant to get it right. You’ll have to go through many cycles of analysis and learning to get it right.
The key metrics you should care about are:
5. Remove steps
“A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away“. ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery
This is an all-time favorite of mine, and it’s true in user onboarding as well. Always consider removing steps, you’ll be amazed by the results.
Which products do you find with the best onboarding experience? Let’s use the comments thread below to praise those products.
It has been 10 days since I’ve moved my family to Palo Alto. Just about the same time, we’ve moved Totango to a new office on Forest St. in Palo Alto.
I’m really excited about the change, these are exciting times for Totango and myself personally.
Totango, my startup, is now part of the official contenders list of CRM Idol. For those who are not familiar with the competition: it’s the brainchild of Paul Greenberg who – in turn – is considered by many one of the founding fathers of the CRM industry. The competition was first held last year. To give you a sense of how influential Paul is: three CRM Idol finalists were acquired, one during the competition, so clearly Paul has a nose for good companies.
Inspired by the blog of one of our fellow contestants, Mothernode, I wanted to add some color on our own experiences so far. Besides the great honor of being part of this distinguished list of exciting companies in the CRM space, we have already learnt a ton and the competition has barely begun.
After passing the first round (which consisted of submitting three customer references), we’ve been assigned George and MJ from Infor as mentors – thanks guys! They have been very gracious with their time and have met with us (more than) once a week to listen to our pitch. What they have been really able to help us with is telling our story. Here are some of the lessons I have learnt so far (which I believe are broadly applicable):
1. The story of the founders matters
I was born in Israel and rose through the ranks of CEO as an Engineer, Architect and Product Executive. Public speaking doesn’t come naturally, but with a little (a lot) of help from George and MJ we are getting there. My natural tendency is to talk about the product and leave out the bits about myself, why I started this company and why my rock-star team at Totango is uniformly passionate about our mission. I now realize my personal story matters.
For too long, CRM was about closing transactions and, more recently, building relationships, from the golf course to social media. I believe however that the future of CRM is about delivering true value to customers and end-users - every day, all day long. Value for customers is not created on the golf course, but rather through a superb product or service experience, insightful customer support and value-added interactions with your users, whether through the product, social media or in-person. Over my career I have seen too much software end up as shelfware. Especially BECAUSE I have a strong product background I believe in having the product always, always deliver on its promises and make customers successful, not just before the sale, but throughout the customer lifecycle. This is why I started Totango.
2. Focus on the story of your customers
You can speak about all the wonderful features of your product all day long, but in the end of the day, as I said above, a product is only as good as the value it delivers for its customers. We have learnt to tell the story of our product through our eyes of our customers. Now, when we demo our product, we tell the story of how Zendesk was able to increase free to paid conversion over 30% by focusing their sales team, how nCircle increased successful product activations over 3x by learning about product usage and usage bottlenecks and how Clarizen was able to proactively identify and turn customers at risk of churn. We even were inspired by the competition to write more of our customer stories and we launched just last week a new section on our website with these stories. Coincidentally adding this section significantly increased visitor to sign-up conversion on our site (but that’s the topic for another blog).
3. Celebrate success
Our mentors have also helped us realize how much we have already accomplished. We are helping about 100 businesses with over 2 million customers to better understand and engage their customers. Those are big numbers for a little company, which only started to sell earlier in 2012. Too often you look at the mountains to climb still ahead, but being part of CRM Idol has also forced us to look back at the valley below and see the ground we have already covered.
What’s more important to me personally is realizing the impact that we are having on some really awesome companies. I already quoted some of the numbers above, but perhaps the best evidence of our success is that organizations like Zendesk and BigCommerce are now using us throughout their company. Both started with us in one department (sales) but over the months other departments started to use customer insights: product teams are building better features, customer success teams are identifying struggling users and reach out and marketing is sending helpful tips by email based on product usage. When you share user engagement insights throughout the organization magic happens: happy and successful customers lead to better monetization and lower churn.
We are looking forward to our briefing this Thursday and more learning to come.
I recently read Ben Horowitz’s piece on the importance of training people in startup companies. At the end of this article he put together a document “Good Product Manager, Bad Product Manager”. Here’s my spin on it: Good Developer, Bad Developer. Enjoy, I look forward to your comments!
Good Developer, Bad Developer
Good developer is an artist, a craftsman who enjoys the process of creation. Bad developer considers himself as a programmer, responsible for generating lines of code.
Good developer understands the problems of the customers. Bad developer understands only the technical problem at hand. Good developer does not define the why, but constantly strives to understand why. He’s responsible for the how, and still sees the big picture. Bad developer is focused on building classes and methods and configuration files, but does not get the big picture.
Good developer understands the complete architecture of the product. Bad developer knows only the components he’s written. Good developer fully understands the technologies that are used within the product. He understands what they are used for, and how they work internally.
Good developer is not afraid of new technologies but embraces them by quickly getting a grip. Bad developer only sticks to what he knows. His immediate reaction to any technical change is negative.
Good developer is constantly learning and improving his skills. Good developer reads technical articles, and finishes several technical books a year. Bad developer does not have time to learn. He’s always too busy with other stuff.
Good developer cares about the product quality. He is also very much concerned with the process quality. Good developer pushes himself to create bug-free code; bad developer leaves it to QA to find bugs to fix.
Good developer develops features which create value for customers. Bad developer completes tasks. Good developer will never claim the requirements are incomplete, and will make sure to fully understand the features he’s working on. Bad developer will wait until the finest details are available. To emphasize: good developer is the CEO of the feature – he’s going to make sure he always has the information needed to accomplish the feature, and in case information is missing he’ll make sure he gets it.
Good developer is not afraid to go into anyone’s code. Bad developer is afraid of others looking into his. Good developer understands that it shouldn’t take more time to write self-explanatory and well-documented code. Bad developer always needs to allocate extra time to document and simplify.
Good developer will never feel his code is good enough, and will always continue to clean and fix. Good developer always strives to create elegant solutions but understands that his job is to deliver value to customers. Bad developer thinks only about the elegance of his code and leave the job of delivering value to others.
Is that all? Did I miss anything or got some of these wrong? Feel free to chime in the comments below!
Co-Founder & CEO, Totango
I have moved this blog to be hosted at WPEngine. I know that as a reader you don’t really care where this blog is hosted, and you’re right. But I care that you as a reader will get a great experience, and in this case, experience means speed! Yep, the time it take the blog to load and serve is very important.
You should expect me to also write more often, as it’s also easier and more fun to me with this new speedy site.
Well done WPEgine guys, keep up the good work!
It’s becoming increasingly clear that one of the best ways to get and maintain customer engagement is through video. Like all methods, though, there are some best practices that are always good to keep in mind.
April Bixel on via680 notes that video helps you show off your company’s personality and culture. Getting out in front of them is good all on its own, but putting a friendly and memorable face to your name is extra valuable.
Jacco vanderKooij’s webinar on social media for sales points out (amongst many other things) that video makes a good sales tool: you can show videos interspersed with your presentation on your iPad. They offer consistent quality content that can explain a product’s value at the executive level or provide solid customer use cases. Video will generate more trust and offers the sales rep the chance to sit back and watch the reactions of the audience. If you include a link to a video you sent to customers to watch at their own time, make sure to use a tool like Wistia so you can track who has watched your messages.
Video may be more difficult to produce than, say, a blog post (for instance), but the effort is worth it!
At first glance, “lifecycle email marketing” looks like three nearly-unrelated words stirred haphazardly together into a lukewarm buzzword hash. But appearances can be deceiving: Chris Sturk at Mequoda has written an excellent series of posts on lifecycle email marketing that give great insight into something we could all stand to be doing more of, and better.
- Lifecycle email marketing is about creating a relationship between you and your recipient through well-timed emails. Sturk outlines seven points during the typical customer lifecycle that would be good times to send an email.
- But what goes in those emails? There are plenty of opportunities to offer rewards to prospects and customers alike for their engagement, but it’s possible to do it wrong. Would you like some tips for email reward campaigns? Who wouldn’t?
- Knowing the lifecycle is great and all, but it would also help to segment your audience, so you can send the right messages to the right people. One useful way to differentiate the crowd is by — you guessed it — engagement.
- Just as there are plenty of ways to slice an onion, there are plenty of ways to write a good email. Sturk caps off the series by offering some good examples.
Lifecycle email marketing: less of a buzzword hash and more of a nourishing strategy stew. If you’re ready to start digging in, and you want some help with the audience side — segmenting your users by engagement, for instance — feel free to get in touch. You know where to find us!
How do you grow from trial to paying users? The freemium business model is popular with many cloud-based companies but depending on company size, the user experience for trial users is different each time. We sat down to discuss smart conversion metrics for the freemium business model with Vik Chaudhary VP of Product Management and Corporate Development from Keynote Systems. Keynote is experimenting with free mobile apps to drive demand and leads for their paid enterprise solutions.
To read the full transcription of the video, click here
It’s important to figure out how deeply your trial users are using your product. Here are some metrics to consider:
- Are they downloading your software?
- Are they registering for your service?
- How often are they logging in to the service?
The ultimate goal is to figure what they are doing within your service and how to get them to upgrade to your paid features. Identifying the right conversion metrics will allow you to more accurately target your users and extend the lifecycle of your relationship with them.
Hi, my name is Vik Chaudhary and I’m VP of Product Management and Corporate Development at Keynote Systems. At Keynote, what we do is test and monitor the online user experience for companies that are online or have a mobile presence. When you talk about premium business models, there’s really two kinds of premium.
One is if you’ve got a product that’s used by hundreds of thousands or even millions of users. Starbucks is a great product for that. The other one is a product that may be a premium product used by a smaller number of enterprises. We’re talking about maybe tens of thousand of companies using this.
When you have a premium product for the latter, it’s a very different kind of experience that you have to measure. When we talk about premium business models, you really have to think about who is buying your product. On one end, it could be a product like DropBox, which is bought by consumers or by small businesses.
And that could be used by millions of users. On the other side, it could be a product that’s used by tens of thousands of enterprises. So when you think about a premium business model, you really have to think about who’s gonna be buying it and how do you build conversion metrics into the process of going from trial to paying users.
When we start thinking about how do enterprises evaluate and use our products, we really have to go for metrics such as downloading a product, registering for it. But how do they deeply begin to use the product? Are they creating a test script, for example? Are they begging to play back the test script?
How many websites are they testing? How many times are they logging into the product? So as we begin to look at our funnel, we’re really thinking about, what are the users doing here? They’re logging in. They’re logging in many times, they’re creating test scripts, they’re testing their own websites.
Are they coming from existing customers, or are they completely new to Keynote? Those are the kinds of conversion metrics that we think about.