You might not believe it, but just two and a half years ago, Campaign Monitor didn’t do much customer onboarding. That’s not to say we didn’t have a welcome email or provide any in-app guidance. But for the most part, as a self-service product, we were fairly hands-off.
The problem is, not all customers should be expected to simply do it on their own. Some are new to email marketing, some might not know about features like our journey builder and well, some might just need a helping hand.
As Customer Success Programs Manager, part of my role is to get our customers off to a flying start, by giving them the resources to exceed their goals as email marketers. So, updating our onboarding process was definitely a great place to start.
Today we have an on-brand series of onboarding emails, that kick off from the moment someone signs up for an account and continues to guide and educate them well after they send their first email. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg; with training videos, a growing library of resources and more improvements in the works, we feel like we’re just getting started with improving our onboarding process.
In this post, we’ll outline 4 things you must do to develop a SaaS customer onboarding strategy that can scale and evolve as your business does. And the keyword here is “evolve”. Regardless of whether you’re just getting started, or have a detailed behavior-based strategy in place, we hope that you’ll come away from this post with practical ideas for improvements, too.
Must-do #1: Understand your customers’ intentions and goals
If you ask two or three people in a SaaS business what a “successful” customer looks like, you’ll probably get a range of responses. For example:
Marketing person: A successful customer is one that adopts our latest feature and makes a purchase
Finance person: A successful customer is one that chooses a plan and spends a certain amount each year
Customer Success person: A successful customer is one that has worked through this checklist of account setup tasks…
The fact is, when you’re caught up in what would make your business successful, you can easily lose track of what customers really want.
At Campaign Monitor, we’ve had a long history of talking to customers, both formally and informally. Following discussions with Product, Customer Success, Marketing and other teams, “success” – in the first few weeks – sounds more like this:
“Being successful means obtaining detailed reports on my email campaigns”
“Being successful means getting Campaign Monitor to sync with my business apps”
… and so forth. The difference between a business-centric and customer-centric view of “success” can be like night and day.
It’s not to say that you shouldn’t just have a prominent “Buy Now” button in your app (to make Finance Person happy), but chances are, your customers have needs and desires that should be acknowledged and addressed, both before and after a purchase is made. By understanding your customers’ intentions and goals – through interviews, surveys, Customer Support interactions and more – you can develop resources that address buying objections, deflect Support inquiries, reduce 90-day churn and allow your customers to find their definition of value from your service. Hang tight, as we’ll talk more about customer research, later in this post.
Must-do #2: Deliver content that’s relevant to the customer’s experience
A gentle nudge can go a long way. At Campaign Monitor, our Marketing team has looked into customer behavior – and particularly, where prospects have gotten stuck – then delivered messaging via email to help them progress. For example, it’s possible that a prospect could create an email campaign, add email content… But perhaps become distracted and never add recipients. That’s when a gentle nudge can come in handy. Here’s the animated email that not just deep links the user back into the app, but also provides an animated “how to” as to how it’s done:
Paired with an understanding of the prospect’s intention and goals, marketing automation can be used to trigger emails on based on behaviors to deliver very relevant messaging that not only addresses obstacles, buying objections and doubts, but also links them directly to the tools, resources and support they need to succeed.
Must-do #3: Educate and inspire at scale
The helpful messaging doesn’t end after someone converts to a paying customer – in fact, now that the customer knows that “must-have” features exist, it’s a great opportunity to educate them on best practices, provide tips, and yes, link back to the app, so they can seamlessly put what they’ve learned into practice.
We use the Campaign Monitor journey builder to send and measure a 3-week series of educational and inspirational emails. These emails link to free guides, a training video, and our very popular Top 100 Email Marketing Campaigns:
The main advantage to using email and online resources to help educate and inform customers is that it scales effortlessly as our customer base grows. Second to that, we can also track the results, too – including who viewed the video, clicked through to a guide and more.
25% of paying customers are now accessing on-demand video training, with 44% of all training video traffic is driven by these post-purchase onboarding emails.
There are other benefits, too – for example, our prompts to subscribe to our monthly newsletter and blog updates consistently add thousands of new subscribers to these lists each month. And through incremental improvements to our content, we’ve experienced a 112% increase in our click rates, since we began these emails just a few years ago.
Of course, these changes haven’t come without challenges. The biggest pain point for us has been in identifying and syncing the customer events we need, from our app to our email list. Thankfully, we’ve been able to use our API to sync the most essential data, but once you go down the “events tracking” rabbit hole, you’ll likely find yourself requesting more data from your developers than you initially assumed you needed.
As we continue to expand our Customer Success-led onboarding program, we’re looking to integrate more in-app messaging at key moments in the customer experience, as well as inform our Product team about needed features and improvements that help our customers achieve their goals.
Must-do #4: Research, measure and improve
As mentioned earlier, research, measurement, and providing recommendations to our internal teams is a large part of Customer Success’ strategy. We do this through efforts such as our Voice of the Customer Program, that aims to set baselines, collect customer feedback and convene with our Product team on a scheduled basis.
Through Voice of the Customer, we’ve been able to monitor trends in our Net Promoter Score, as well as collect more qualitative feedback around what improvements we can make – not just as it relates to key features, but also within the evaluation and onboarding process.
Finally, an important note to be made is in regards to closing the feedback loop. Using the Campaign Monitor for Salesforce connector, we use transactional email to ensure every completed survey receives an immediate thank you email. Also, we distribute responses from people who give us low scores to our regional Customer Success managers, so they can follow up personally with an email or even a phone call.
The most evident challenge has been using our learnings to reshape an established, 10-plus-year product to better onboard customers, based on the customer insights that we’re receiving. As in any business, every team has existing priorities – and we hope to give onboarding more of a presence on these priority lists, by collecting more data and bringing functional teams closer to our customers.
In all, we want to create a great experience for customers, regardless of whether they’ve been using Campaign Monitor for eight days or eight years. The cornerstone to that is staying on the pulse of what our customers are feeling and thinking, through formalized research and measurement.
So, you might be wondering, what high-level wins have we had by putting these 4 essentials into practice? For the Customer Success team, one of our most visible business goals is 90-day churn – and this is particularly relevant to the customer onboarding process.
Through building a richer picture of our prospects and customers, delivering relevant content, providing education, delivering recommendations and finally, actively monitoring the outcomes, we’ve seen a progressive reduction in 90-day churn. And that means not just a happy team, but happy customers to match. By successfully onboarding your customers at scale, you’re not only setting them up for months – if not years – of success with your app, but ensuring that your business continues to reach its goals – growth and otherwise, too.