Customer Activation

Unscalable Ways to Engage, Convert, and Onboard Customers

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When everyone else is automating, outsourcing, and bypassing interactions with customers, I challenge you to think about how you can go the extra mile and do things that don't scale. I'll cover unscalable ways to engage, convert, and onboard customers that will give you tangible boosts to your MRR and improve results across the board. We'll cover converting trialing users, doing demos, upselling and cross-selling, as well as reactivating expired trial users and past customers.

Corey Haines:
Hey there. I'm Corey, the head of growth for at Baremetrics, and excited to be talking to you about unscalable ways to engage, convert and onboard your customers and end users, of course. Okay? So I want to kind of fly through this because I want to make it as brief and concise and kind of packed as possible, but excited to have you with me today. All right, so let's get into it. First, I want to talk about some of the ways that you can kind of show your face, advise and help customers personally. I think the personal touch is going to make a comeback in 2020. It will be one of the ways you can stand out amongst the crowd. Service and human interaction will be a competitive advantage in the next decade or so. I've been doing this for over a year now, where basically I just ask if I can record a personalized video of me walking them through their own account and commenting on what I see.

Corey Haines:
It's very simple. It usually takes about 10 minutes, I usually only do it for the ones who say, yes, of course, and I get their permission to do so. And I've made about 200 plus videos since January of last year of 2019. But these users usually are about two, three times more likely to convert and become customers. And it starts great conversations. I learned a lot, they learn a lot. It's a great follow-up to get more specific into exactly what they're looking for, what they want to achieve. It's been a great tool for us personally to onboard and convert users. Podia is also a great example as they do a live weekly demo where the founder, Spencer, does kind of a general demo and then also goes into more specifics and details based on what people ask or what they're trying to accomplish and the feedback that they gather during the webinar. People are also baffled that I do this, but it's basically free.

Corey Haines:
It just takes time and I get the opportunity to get to know them and check in on their trial experience and ask some questions. So I ask if I can help them with their lending page, their pricing, or their onboarding, three of the things that make a huge difference for every business, really. And so I thought it's a kind of a good place to start there and just add value and kind of go straight to the neck, right? Straight to the juggler of kind of where I can add the most value to them. And then spend about 45 minutes with them and just helping on a call. And this really helps build relationships and get to know them, and get to the nitty-gritty. Even if they aren't open to doing a demo, if they're not open to me recording their own account, then I at least get an opportunity to talk to them and just kind of, yeah, have the opportunity to build a relationship there.

Corey Haines:
And this is a simple message that we send triggered based on what their churn rate is, revenue churn or customer churn as well. But for you, could be anything related to your product's value, what you offer. But the thought here is just to create kind of these trip wires across your app, in your customer experience, in your onboarding experience to start conversations and build relationships, of course. Okay. Also, you want to choose right activation model, even if it's unscalable, right? For Databox, offering a free trial actually helped them reduce churn because customers were essentially treating their first month like a trial anyways. So making this simple tweak in their model cut their churn in half. Scott says, my friend Scott Tousley [inaudible 00:03:18] he says, "I've had Evernote, a notion competitor for five years and didn't pay for it. I've had Notion for five months and just paid for it. The value is a nearly identical, Notion just at a better job at implementing a product qualified lead model where I felt the need to purchase when I felt value. P.S. Their product qualified lead model is 1,000 blocks."

Corey Haines:
So Notion's secret weapon is that you can use the product completely for free until you become a power user, essentially, until you've used up all the blocks, right? When you're ingrained, you're hooked, you're invested, which in their case is represented by that number of blocks, you using the app, and then they ask you to upgrade to a paid account. And Evernote's lost opportunity with Scott specifically was in their model, their activation model. They couldn't successfully monetize Scott because he could do everything he wanted to for free, right? So it matters. And these are the five kind of major categories of the activation models I found, and I'll get to the importance of these here in a second. But first we have freemium like Mailchimp, right? Where it's completely free to use, but you'll be limited in what you'll be able to do in that free version. We have a free trial like we do at Baremetrics. Try it for free for 14 days, no credit card required.

Corey Haines:
You could also require a credit card upfront as well. There's also a paid trial like Ahrefs does with their seven day $7 trial. And this is perfect for them because what they found was that there was a lot of shady people who were kind of taking advantage of their free trial and they had a lot of honest people also who didn't want to necessarily subscribe because maybe they just had a one-off project, or they're a freelancer, or they're just kind of exploring and really weren't ready to subscribe to a paid account which starts at $99 a month, I believe. So this way, they can kind of ward off the bad people while still extracting some value from the good people. And there's also a money back guarantee like MeetEdgar does where they will refund you, no questions asked, within 30 days. A lot of other companies do this here as well. And then finally, the consultation model like you see a lot of Salesforce or a lot of other enterprise kind of softwares do. But believe it or not, price actually doesn't have very much to do with your activation model.

Corey Haines:
And this is kind of the cracks of where I want to challenge you here. A perfect example of this is Superhuman, a Baremetrics customer. So Superhuman costs 30 bucks a month, but does that mean that you can just kind of sign up and get started for free on your own? No, not at all. In fact, they meet and onboard every single customer. In fact, you would probably also have to wait in line to even book a meeting to sign up because again, that's what they've found the results and the most happy customers. So Superhuman requires some training and some practice so they help you configure your inbox, they'll practice keyboard shortcuts with you, go over everything you need to know in order to see value in the product and kind of extract that, right? And this screenshot here is of an onboarding case study done by growth.design, by the way if you want to check it out. One of their employees of Superhuman hit a milestone for 1,000 customer onboardings fairly recently.

Corey Haines:
I think that's pretty amazing and outstanding, right? A lot of people would argue that this is completely unscalable and that they could grow a lot faster if they just let people sign up and try themselves, but the fact is that they're growing like crazy and they also have really solid retention so you tell me if they're crazy or not, right? I think it's actually very smart that they have this personal touch in that onboarding experience. And I think we could all learn a thing or two from Superhuman and lengths they go for their customers even at just 30 bucks a month, right? The key here is just to find a way to scale it. There's a lot of ways to scale, not everything is just so binary. It's not binary like scalable or unscalable. So find the activation model that results in the most customers, not the most leads, the most customers, right?

Corey Haines:
Most people focus on lead volume or lead conversion, but focus on what actually results in the most customer is what matters at the end of the day, right? Because even if there are unscalable parts of activation, you still want to optimize for what results in the most customers. Kind of just want to beat that into your head a little bit here. But how do what results in the most customer as long-term? This is a cohort analysis in Baremetrics that essentially shows you when and where churn happens, but essentially what we would want to know and learn here is that we want to look in this zero to one month, so the first 30 to 60 days here in the customer's life cycle, if there was a steep drop-off from zero to one or from one to two, you might have a problem with your activation model. You might have an issue there. You need to rethink how you're doing it.

Corey Haines:
Is it actually unscalable? Is it not working for you? Are there other ways you can add in that personal touch to get more people to stick around for a longer term? But anyways, this is where you would see, this is how you would know if things are working or not. Or if, again, there's an opportunity to improve and maybe to make things a little bit more unscalable or less scalable that results in more customers. Also, don't be afraid to upsell, cross-sell and push upgrades. That purple portion here in this graph is the Baremetrics revenue from expansions. And as you can see, it's a pretty sizable part of the business and it makes us a much healthier and better business for it. So we have an upgrade path based on revenue and essentially usage, but we also have add-on products, recover and cancellation insights.

Corey Haines:
But this can come in many different forms, right? Based on your pricing model; features, tiers, usage, perks, add-ons, right? You name it. So here's an example of a message I used to drive adoption for our add-on products, recovery and cancellation insights. So my goal here was simply to get response, right? Churn is a priority for everyone. I just made it seem a little bit more urgent and offered some help, right? [inaudible 00:08:47] response, there was no link, there was no ask to book a meeting, right? Basically I was just trying to get to a yes. In this strategy, I basically just offered to do some consulting and services essentially. So after enabling the add-on cancellation insights, I offered to do some light consulting for a limited time, right? Basically it's just a one-time promotion. If you add on our product cancellation insights, I will help you do X, Y, and Z because that personal touch here. And now not only are they getting the value from the product, they're also getting the value from the services and from the consulting and from the information.

Corey Haines:
This is a crucial one, gather qualitative feedback on why customers cancel. So this is kind of the scalable way. We do this in Baremetrics through our feature called cancellation insights. But the principle here is to collect feedback from canceling customers, no matter what that looks like or what medium that comes through or how scalable it is, right? For some companies, especially in the early days, they don't allow self-service customers to cancel, right? You have to kind of ask or request a cancellation and this forces a conversation around why they canceled, right? Which is unscalable, right? Because you have to go through every single one manually. But you will get absolutely invaluable data, I promise. You can also do this via a Typeform survey, an automated email that goes out after customers, even just asking to hop on a call when they do request that cancellation.

Corey Haines:
And nonetheless, then hopefully you can start surfacing some trends and some patterns that can inform your product and your growth strategy, right? And one of the things you need to do to fill the gaps and retain more customers here. Even though it's very unscalable, I think you'll find that it's probably one of the most important things you can do in your business. Another one many forget about is reactivating churned customers or canceled customers, right? So here are three examples of messages I use for this strategy, even though they might be unscalable to certain degrees and varying degrees here. In Baremetrics' cancellation insights, one more plug here, you can set up personalized email follow-ups based on the reason people said that they canceled, and this allows me essentially to automatically start a conversation. And then I can pick it up when they reply to the email so that I can continue the conversation here.

Corey Haines:
And this is probably my best performing email of all times, it's a manual email that I sent out. And you can see how simple it is. It's, what would it take for you to become a customer again, right? I'm not beating around the bush. It's very straightforward. And this is completely unscalable because I was managing literally hundreds of conversations in my inbox after this, but the insights and the reactivated customers again are invaluable and we're better for it. In this example, I'm kind of switching it up a bit to be more inclusive. So I could also send this to users whose trial expired, right? So they never became customers, but they gave us a shot and decided that it wasn't for them at the time. And it's just a very friendly, simple message, right? Again, lots of replies to this, lots of time spent, but great results from it, great insights.

Corey Haines:
Annual plans specifically in the ways that I'll show you here in a second are a great way to engage a longer term relationship with customers if you primarily have monthly plans. So the conversion rate on this email that we sent out a while back was 11%, which is a whopping 131% increase from the previous offer of two months for free. You can see here that the special offer is three months discount for switching the annual and the advantages of annual are not just the... Well, I guess there's a lot more behind the scenes, right? Here we get the cash upfront. There's a minimum 12 month commitment from the customers. There's a longer term mindset and buy-in from the customer, and then there's lower churn as well. The math kind of works out. I won't go into it here now, but the math works out. They retain more customers for longer periods of time when you have more on annual plans.

Corey Haines:
Here's another example of an offer that we made and just kind of a really quick example of other ways you can word it or the things you can do here. Did a one-time promotion. The annual plan strategies, right? You can scale the discounts for larger tiers or plans. You can offer usually like a 10 to 25% discount for switching to annual. You can even show annual pricing on pricing pages first to kind of anchor that lower price if there is a discount attached to it. And then you can make an annual offer, one to activations when they upgrade, two, maybe two to three months as a customer with their life cycle with you, and maybe three, a year into the life cycle. And then four, if you're really strategic, you can do it around the November, December timeframe at the end of the year so that they can include that as an expense and make that included on that year's tax filings so that they have less taxable income for the year.

Corey Haines:
All right. And finally, proactive support can go a long way to retain customers by just going the extra mile with customers. Instead of waiting for them to have an issue, we usually kind of assume essentially that they probably will have a question or two with this more kind of technical integration and technical product. And so instead, we kind of break the ice to make it easier for them to reach out to ask a question, to start a conversation so that we can address it before they drop off or lose interest. Fomo.com, they offer to credit your account if they take too long to get back to you or fix an issue, which is a really inventive and unique strategy here. But I've seen a lot of positive response from, and you can ask [inaudible 00:14:10] here. All right. And there you have it, unscalable ways to engage, convert, and onboard customers, right?

Corey Haines:
Show your face and help customers personally, choose the right activation model even if it's seemingly unscalable, don't be afraid to upsell, cross-sell or push upgrades, gather qualitative feedback on why customers cancel, reactivate churned customers, incentivize and encourage annual plans, and then implement proactive support, okay? And if you have any questions about any of these, feel free to tweet at me, I'm just @coreyhainesco. Probably on Twitter too much so I'll definitely get back to you. And of course, if you need metrics and retention tools, check out Baremetrics, baremetrics.com. And I also have a lot of personal projects and learnings on my personal site, as well as my newest project, refactoring growth. Okay. Thank you guys so much.

 

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Gretchen Duhaime
Corey Haines
Founder of Swipe Files
Previously the Head of Growth at Baremetrics and the first marketing hire at Cordial. Also the creator of Hey Marketers, Refactoring Growth and Mental Models For Marketing.