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9/20/2017 Data-Driven Customer Onboarding

Onboarding matters in B2B SaaS marketing. We all know this. The way you introduce new users to your product
can significantly increase the chances that theyll activate, make their first purchase, and stick around as high-
LTV customers.

And luckily, there are excellent resources in the community to help companies design a great experience, from
welcome emails to product tutorials and more.

But many of them gloss over or ignore an important point: an optimal onboarding experience often requires
tailoring to different audiences.

As a SaaS product scales, its userbase is more likely to exhibit a wide range of needs. In the B2B world
especially, customers come from different industries, company sizes, and pre-established workflows. Sales
teams recognize the variations and assign them to different verticals and service levels. Why shouldnt
onboarding do the same?

A little personalization and segmentation go a long way toward helping a user hit their first successful action and
beyond.

In this chapter, youll learn how growth marketers at three SaaS companies, Canva, AdRoll, and CloudApp, have
used data and personalization to optimize onboarding for different user needs. What underpins their success is a
shared culture of systematic experimentation to learn what works for their companys unique customers. Best
practices are helpful, but they only go so far. Our protagonists have shared their actual in-app notifications and
emails so you can see them in action.

For our first story, we learn about Canvas growth playbook.

How Canva changes their first product experience based on


user intent
Xingyi Ho, a growth manager at Canva, follows a team process to run onboarding experiments and improve
activation rates.

For background, Canva is a graphic design tool that has raised $42 million (as of September 2016), and boasts
Guy Kawasaki as its chief evangelist. Users can easily create blog graphics, cards, collages, posters, and more.

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As Canva gained traction in both B2C and B2B markets, it built a growth team to not only get more signups, but
also to improve the products activation rate. For the growth team, activation comes after a new user signs up
for an account, and its tracked as the percentage of new users who successfully published a design after signing
up.

To improve activations, signups, and more, the team uses a growth playbook, which outlines a typical
experimentation process. Applied to the onboarding experience, the team can test small tweaks before rolling
them out permanently. Then they rinse and repeat, making testing a core part of their work.

And its highly effective. In aggregate, their early set of activation experiments have boosted their activation rate
by 10% to 12%. These improvements translate to tens of thousands of additional users finding value in the
product every month.

Lets take a look at one of these typical experimentation loops, in which Xingyi improved activation rates on one
part of the product by 10%. For this one, he was helping users who were looking to create posters with Canva.

The story starts with the search for spots in the onboarding experience that were ripe for improvement. Xingyi
first looked at the volume of all of Canvas acquisition and activation channels using Canvas product data
tool, Amplitude. If an acquisition channel only contributes to about 5% of our signups, we probably won't pay too
much attention to it, said Xingyi, but if a channel contributes to 20% to 30% of signups, thats where a big
opportunity might be.

He searched for channels that got high traffic but had low activation rates, and zeroed in on the webpage for
Canvas poster feature.

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A sizeable percentage of users who signed up on that page would not go on to create a poster.

Why? And what could be done about it?

Xingyi first went into research mode to understand why some people stopped in their tracks after signing up. He
ran a user experience test as a sanity check to see whether there was anything obviously confusing or
misaligned in the user onboarding experience. When they didnt find any snags, he moved on to surveys to help
him find more hidden reasons for why people might not be creating posters.

Xingyi emailed a one-time survey to churned users to better understand why they churned. The survey
questions were inspired by Avinash Kaushik of Occams Razor, who suggested asking the following to churned
users:

1. What is the purpose of your visit to our website today?

2. Were you able to complete your task today?

3. If you were not able to complete your task today, why not?

It revealed that many of the 500 respondents simply didnt find what they were looking for when they tried to
create a design in Canva after signing up. He pocketed that insight.

Then, he implemented an automatic email to be sent to new user almost immediately after signup. It contained a
short survey to figure out the users goalsin other words, the job to be done.

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Looking at the patterns of the responses that came in, Xingyi realized that the goals of new users were vastly
different. Some were coming to create a poster for their church, while others were doing it for a rock concert. The
clip art, stock photos, and tools these users needed may not overlap. That may have been why some visitors
didnt find what they were looking for. Faced with a sea of unfamiliar options, the rock-concert-poster-maker
would lose momentum and abandon.

If they sign up to create a poster, we want to know what type, said Xingyi. Is the poster for a church event or a
rock concert? If they had this signal, they could show the right templates and images to get them started.

Xingyi knew he was on the right track by changing the onboarding experience: a previous analysis of internal
product data showed that "When users want to create a design, they usually create the design on the first day,
he says. After the first day, anything we do will have a comparatively lower impact."

This led to the hypothesis Xingyi would go on to test: personalizing the onboarding experience based on intent
around poster creation would improve activation rates.

He took the survey results and tallied the types of posters people wanted to create; the six most popular ones
were Event, Retail, Music, Fundraising, Holiday, and Advertising.

Testing the hypothesis

One quick way to figure out what kind of poster a new user wanted to create, without implementing a complicated
tracking system that followed their Google search query, was to simply ask them. So Xingyi created an interstitial
to appear in the Canva onboarding experience. Since he didnt want to tap into engineering resources to try it, he
used Appcues to run a small test for a percentage of users pitted against a control.

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Based on what a user selected, Canva would route to a different experience that highlighted thematically
appropriate images and templates.

After two to three weeks, statistically significant results appeared in Amplitude. He found that, indeed, the tailored
onboarding experience worked better, with a 10% increase in activation for the posters product.

When Xingyi and his growth team get positive results like these, they do three things next:

First, they refine. Theyll run a few more experiments to squeeze a bit more value from the finding. We try to
find very small opportunities for optimization. That could be testing different types of thumbnails in our Appcues
message, the copy, or the design.

Then, they roll it out 100%. After running experiments in Appcues and getting a large enough impact, theyll roll
out a change to 100% of users. This often involves engineers hard-coding the experience into the product.

Finally, they extend the hypothesis to other features and products.The personalized onboarding hypothesis
has since been tested in Canva for Work (their B2B product), their cards feature, and the onboarding experience
from the Canva homepage, which is their largest acquisition source.

Once a hypothesis has been validated and extended, they start from the top, look for the next low-hanging fruit,
and run the same experimentation playbook. Canvas growth team has conducted 30 to 50 of these initial
experiments, using the following process:

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Steps in Canvas growth process:

1. Identify the opportunity. Xingyi looked at product data and saw that the posters acquisition channel had high
traffic but low activation. Thats what opportunity sounds like.

2. Gather data. Xingyi ran several surveys, looked for patterns in the data, and quantified jobs to be done.

3. Hypothesize. Based on the patterns, he thought an onboarding experience tailored to a users desired type
of poster would improve activation.

4. Experiment and measure results.He ran a three-week interstitial test in Appcues and saw a 10% lift in
activation.

5. Double down.He refined the interface and poster options with more tests.

6. 100% roll out. The product and engineering team hard-coded the interstitial into a permanent part of Canvas
product.

With the cycle now complete, Xingyi and the growth team will start over again, looking for new opportunities to
improve activation.

Next, lets take a look at onboarding experiments from the growth team at AdRoll, where they have a similar
playbook, where they repeat cycles of tests and double down on what works in other areas of the business.

How AdRoll encourages integrations by automatically


segmenting new signups

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Remember Max Blaha from AdRolls growth team in Chapter 1 of Data-Driven Marketing, where he shared his
tips for retention emails? Were having him back to tell us about his most successful onboarding experiments.

As a reminder, AdRoll is a self-service advertising platform that helps companies retarget and prospect
customers with ads across web, mobile, and social media. (Theyve raised $90M in venture capital since they
were founded in 2006.)

Onboarding is a key growth lever for AdRoll, on par with retention and feature adoption as focus areas for Maxs
growth team.

And they have a very specific metric for a successful onboard: getting the user to spend their first $1 on the
platform. The more new users Max can convert into paying customers, the more room the company has to grow.

Max knew that integrating AdRoll with other marketing software made it much more likely that a user will start
spending with AdRoll, so he focused his experiments on improving integration rates.

The platform offers integrations with popular marketing, email, CRM, and ecommerce tools, such as MailChimp,
Zapier, Shopify, HubSpot, and Marketo. For example, a new AdRoll user who already uses MailChimp can
connect to Mailchimp through AdRoll. Theyve worked hard on building and segmenting email lists, so why not
use those lists to do better ad targeting in AdRoll? Similarly, a user who also has Shopify can connect it to AdRoll
and retarget people whove abandoned their shopping carts.

Its easy to see how an integration makes AdRoll more powerful and useful for the user down the line. Max
confirmed this hunch by running regressions across raw product behavioral data exported from Amplitude,
showing that enabling integrations correlated with customer success.

Integrating also helps new users get off the ground faster. By integrating AdRoll with other platforms, users can
target their audience faster and more effectively. Its an essential part of getting set up, says Max.

It takes just a couple of minutes to click to connect, sign in, and authenticate the accounts. Customers just need
a little prodding.

Max tested a personalized loop to nudge people along the integration path. His existing onboarding flow was a
one-size-fits-all experience, so Max tested a personalized, automated loop to nudge people toward integrations.

He started by encouraging MailChimp integration via email and in-app notifications. A MailChimp-focused
message shouldnt go to all of AdRolls new customers, only the ones who also used MailChimp. (That would be
confusing.) So he needed to isolate the right people.

Finding the right audience

Max and team set up this flow to automatically find MailChimp-enabled folks as new users create AdRoll
accounts:

1. As people sign up for AdRoll and enter their email addresses to create accounts, the address is sent to a third-
party data provider, Clearbit, which enriches the user record. Its company tech tags represent the technology
stack used by a company, and flag the users that have MailChimp accounts.

2. Next, internal data flags and excludes accounts that have already integrated AdRoll with MailChimp. No need
to send a redundant message.
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3. Segment sends the user records to Customer.io for targeted emails and to Appcues for targeted in-app
messages.

This flow happens automatically as soon as a new user signs up for AdRoll, with Segment tying all the tools
together.

Sending nudges

Max set up the emails and in-app notifications to encourage a user to integrate MailChimp, making sure the
messaging was specific to that platform and set of user needs.

It included:

Copy about the value and benefit of integrating

A call-to-action to integrate now

MailChimp logo and a graphic for MailChimp+AdRoll (which he created with a designer)

Then he tested it out, setting the emails and in-app messages to appear 15 days after signup to catch any folks
who didnt integrate during their first two weeks of using AdRoll. Heres a look at what the in-app modal looked
like in Appcues:

The copy reads: Do you use MailChimp for email marketing? If so, we have good news! You can now retarget
your MailChimp email audience wherever they browse, across devices, the web, and Facebook. It goes on to

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point out that the user put a lot of hard work into their email lists, so why not use them for ad campaigns too?
Now thats a convincing value prop. The call to action is Connect Mailchimp to AdRoll, with an opt-out.

20% of the people that saw the in-app message went on to integrate. This kind of adoption was unprecedented,
Max said. Its a crazy-high adoption rate, even when compared to email or account manager outreach.

Within two weeks, the number of people who had integrated MailChimp doubled, from about 400 to 800
integrated accounts. Five or six months later, the percentage of people who integrated Mailchimp multiplied 5x.

Repeating the playbook

When something works, were going to do more of it. Max went on to create emails and in-app messages for
every integration, making sure to highlight individual value props. Here are examples of the HubSpot and
Marketo integrations:

Modal for HubSpot and AdRoll integration. Value prop: You can now retarget your HubSpot email audience and
reach them with online ads across the web and Facebook.

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Modal for HubSpot and Marketo integration. Some of the value props highlighted include Retarget your known
Marketo leads with AdRoll ads across display and social channels, Use AdRoll to find more leads outside your
Named Account List, and Ad reporting is integrated back into Marketo so you can see the impact of campaigns
all in one place.

Across all integrations, the average goal completion rate remains around 20%, although some do better than
others.

Iterate to improve

Its important to keep experimenting and improving on what works. Max started testing alternate form factors.
Heres a pop-up to notify people of newly available integrations:

Theyre also experimenting with more advanced personalization, like dynamically adding a new customers
company logo into the in-app notification and email, or highlighting that companys platform statistics. In the email

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below, they highlight a companys open rates and click rates, and suggest that they follow in the footsteps of
companies with similar benchmarks.

So what can we learn from AdRoll when it comes to data-driven onboarding?

Use third-party data to learn about the customer in the wild (such as what software they already use), then
personalize your messages to them accordingly, which lets you be direct about the benefits and call-to-action for
their specific situation. The more personalized an onboarding experience, the more effective it is, Max found.

When you find something that works, repeat it. And always keep experimenting.

How CloudApp sends helpful, automated, personalized


emails to get new users started

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When Scott Smith, CloudApps VP of Sales and all-around good guy, first turned his focus to his user onboarding
emails, he had no real direction to follow. Considering that his version-one onboarding emails basically all just
said, here are three things to do, let me know if you want a demo, his emails have come a long way.

CloudApps onboarding emails now have layers of data manipulation in order to prioritize and personalize each
outreach. This helps them automate part of the sales process for users that only need a self-service product,
which reduces overhead while scaling their small team of two people (they act more like a team of 10).

Scott didnt build it all overnight. He talked to marketer friends, read blog posts, and listened to users who
responded to his onboarding emails to improve each one. Through the process, Scott added layers of complexity,
from machine learning to Clearbit data, all over the course of 13 months. But far from feeling robotic, the emails
are so well personalized that they continue to get warm responses. Were seeing growth in our email replies
from people who feel the outreach is real, not automated, says Scott. All this contributes to faster onboarding
with fewer complications for the sales team.

Getting users past the #1 onboarding milestone

The first and only thing Scott and the CloudApp team care about for new users is that they download their
desktop app. Thats the basis of their product, and without the desktop app, people cant truly use the product.

So they use a series of emailsfive, to be exactto push people to install. CloudApps app data lives in
Segment, which tells Customer.io which users have not yet installed the desktop version. Customer.io then
triggers the email series, stopping it when a user installs.

Heres an example of an early message in the series. The first call to action is Download the app:

Evaluating the likelihood of buying

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After a user installs the CloudApp desktop app, CloudApp helps them discover features and use the product. The
more active they are, the more likely they are to upgrade to the paid product.

So the overarching onboarding flow passes through three phases:

1. Get users to install the desktop app.

2. Help them use the tool and discover free features.

3. Talk to them about the features theyd get with the paid version.

CloudApp has a sales team that can talk to leads about whether upgrading is right for them. But to keep the team
lean and effective, they should really be talking only to qualified leads, such as people who could get their team
at work into a CloudApp team plan. Scott set up a way to qualify users and route them into different onboarding
experiences with different amounts of sales and support attention.

MadKudu, a machine learning tool, scores CloudApps new users automatically. MadKudu first evaluates
CloudApps successful customers and then looks for look-a-likes among new users, based on in-app behavior
and Clearbit firmographic data like job title, company industry, and company size. Then they score each new user
and put them into tiers that indicate how likely they are to become successful customers.

This score is pushed from MadKudu back into Segment, where Scott assigns users to segments that will receive
different targeted emails.

Users who qualify as likely to buy will get emails from a CloudApp account manager offering demos. This
makes sure the sales team doesnt get unqualified appointments on their calendar and helps them stay lean.
Heres an example of a short, warm introductory email in the onboarding series from a sales teammate, Kat:

Users who dont qualify get similar emails, but from the customer support team and without the offer of a demo.
These users are often people who signed up with a Gmail or a iCloud account, indicating that theyre individual
and not business users, or without associated Clearbit profiles. The emails are structured templates that

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immediately help a user self-serve and get started on their own, rather than striking up a conversation like the
sales emails do.

Over the next few days, the user will continue to receive tips in the series.

Give users dynamic help

Sometimes, users got stuck during onboarding in the sense that they stopped short of trying certain CloudApp
features. Scott implemented emails that are triggered in Customer.io based on what events a user has done and
hasnt done, and helps them try a specific feature or reach a certain milestone, moving them along the funnel.

Heres an example of an email that pushes users onward from their first CloudApp drop to the next step:
annotating an image.

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In the next example, the email shows the user how to upload files to CloudApp for sharing.

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These emails were slightly different, depending on whether the user was a self-serve account or a sales-qualified
account. For example, this outreach email references the users potential difficulty in adopting a new tool into
their workflow:

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Other emails would ask if sales-qualified leads wanted to sign up for a team plan. This example is automatically
personalized for the recipient, referencing the 3 people at their company who are already using CloudApp:

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These emails were an effective way to automatically help people get the most out of CloudApp without sending
their whole product documentation to everyone at once.

Winning back expired trial users

All of CloudApps paid plans offered a 14-day trial window, and CloudApp encouraged trial users to upgrade to a
full-time, paid plan before the two weeks were up. But looking at MadKudu data, Scott saw that 50% of
CloudApps paid users had converted after their trial had ended. He realized then that it was just as important
and fruitful to communicate with users about upgrading after they had technically churned from the trial. He
immediately set up a series of three automated emails with a casual tone to win them back.

These were triggered based on the trialExpired event in Customer.io. Heres an example of one of the later
notes in the series:

Now, when I look at the number of responses per day that Kat receives, its substantially higher because of
these win-back emails, says Scott. We now see pre-expiration and post-expiration as part of the same pipeline.

What can we learn from CloudApp, AdRoll, and Canva?

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When you design or improve your own onboarding experience, take a step back and check whether there are
any obvious ways you can segment new user groups. How can you meet their unique needs? Can you
customize the way you communicate with them?

If youve checked those major boxes, it might be time to break out an experimentation playbook to find hidden
personalization opportunities. What areas of your product experience have high traffic numbers but show low
activationor other indicators of stuck? Moving users through those hurdles might mean offering a different
helping hand from one person to the next.

But the beautiful thing about the data-driven approach is that once youve set up this customization, its
automated. Your marketing systems scale so your support and sales teams dont have to. Happy onboarding!

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