“How do I get people that download my app to be active and long-time users?”
“How do I get users to stay?”
“Are there things I could be doing better to keep users active on my app?”
We get asked these types of questions all of the time. The challenge is that most of us struggle with how to move downloads to users and then move passive users to long-term customers.
So, we came up with 13 fast-facts about how to use the power of email to quickly build and retain your user base. We use these fast facts and tips ourselves so they’re battle-tested.
1. One Call to Action is the ticket when you’re welcoming new users
What’s the purpose of a welcome message? Get users in, get them started on using your product, and get them to convert to long-term customers. The trick is, how do you get that all done with one message?
The answer is simple – you don’t. It is a process to get users moving from initial download to long-term customer… and you cannot take shortcuts if you truly want to be successful.
So how do you get the process started? A friendly, welcome email with a clear call to action is the ticket to success. Now, I know what you may be thinking, “Our app is really cool; it has a lot of great features and functionality and my users need to know everything about it right away.” No they don’t – at least not in the first message. Give a user too many options right away and they will suffer from what is called “The Paradox of Choice”. What will end up happening is that users will become overwhelmed and instead of engaging with your app, they will simply set it aside, never to be used again.
Ask yourself “what is the most important next step I want my customer to take when they receive that first email?” Then make this the single call to action. Take it from us; it should be a simple, inviting task that eases your customer into using your product and getting them engaged.
To better understand this, let’s look at it in action from Nextdoor, a social network for neighborhoods.
They focus on one call to action in their welcome email – Create Your Neighborhood. What it does is to encourage the user to complete the next step in their onboarding journey. There is no confusion, no choice and no oversell. It’s straightforward and easy to understand.
When you are considering that welcome email, make it simple for your users. You will see your initial onboarding engagement rise.
2. Don’t forget your manners and say thank you – or the follow-up message
Saying thank you also provides you the opportunity to give them additional information about features and functionality that will give them the best experience with your app. The great thing is that you can tailor them to be a bit of a guide to move your users further down the onboarding path.
Thank you emails should be an absolute priority for your business. Here’s a great example of one company getting it right – Pocket. Within the first five minutes of a user creating an account, they receive this thank you message:
It’s simple, to the point and says that Pocket will guide you through the process. Remember the risk of being forgotten is almost always bigger than the risk of over communicating in the early stages of your user’s lifecycle.
3. Motivate, motivate, motivate
One of the biggest challenges with many start-ups is that they traditionally talk about features first, rather than to focus on getting the user to move forward and actually use the app. One way to do that is to focus on motivating your users. Think of it this way; you buy a Corvette because it’s cool and makes you feel good – not because it has a killer engine. Similarly, customers will download your app because they think it will be great for them and not because it has a bunch of features that they don’t know about yet.
Onboarding isn’t about selling your product – it’s about getting users to engage with you and use the app. We suggest using motivating messages instead. Motivation is tailoring your emails toward interests and reminding why users signed up for your product. Perfect Audience know results are a big motivator for their customers so they use them.
They include testimonials of customers that show their successes. What’s great about this part of the onboarding journey is that it goes beyond the “here’s how to use our product”. It provides proof points from actual customers who have seen great results. It’s a smart motivator that appeals to Perfect Audience’s customers – a high return on their investment.
4. Yak, yak… Are you yapping or are you listening?
Onboarding messages are traditionally one sided. Receivers of your messages, i.e. users are, in general, not prompted to reply.
When you’re sending hundreds or thousands of onboarding messages a day, the amount of quantitative data that can be obtained can clearly show what is working and what isn’t. But there’s one massive source of insight that’s often overlooked and untapped – and that is asking for users to reply.
They decided to change the angle of their onboarding messages to get users to have a conversation. So they sent a message that asked the this simple question – “Why did you sign up for Groove?”
Groove experienced a remarkably high response rate of 41% from this email. It was a shrewd move as the answers they received gave them invaluable insights into what they should be doing as a business.
What’s nice about these messages is that you are inviting your users to tell you what they want and need from your app. It gives the user the sense that you are truly listening to them and that you are happy to continue a conversation so that they are comfortable with your app. What’s great for your business is that because you are listening, you can gain insight and ideas into common questions and feature / functionality upgrades.
5. There is no try – there is only do
There is always a fine line between badgering, motivating and suggesting. Of course you want them to see the full value of what you’re providing but remember the Paradox of Choice. Guiding users into what and where you want them to go and do will give you a far greater chance of them becoming active and long-term users.
One way to achieve that goal is to look at your data and find out what your users are doing and even comparing their usage to what users similar to them are doing. From there, you can cross and up-sell new products, services, games, and so on.
Comparing what other similar customers enjoyed and then using this as a guide of what to recommend is a smart tactic. You aren’t randomly trying to get your customers to try everything; instead, you are making calculated recommendations that are more likely to appeal directly to them.
Netflix uses this strategy when engaging with customers to cross-sell.
They make calculated suggestions based on their users viewing histories. The message has the subject line “we think you might like…” followed by recommended viewing that is similar to the customer’s previous selections.
This approach is more likely to appeal to a customer because it is based on what their interests may be. Even if your customer doesn’t purchase right away, you have planted the seed for them to click through to learn more and make subsequent purchases.
6. Don’t be a stalker… or the fine art of messaging
Message frequency can be challenging to get right. Sending a never-ending stream of messages is likely to irritate the receiver and make them unsubscribe, or worse yet, call you SPAM. It has even been reported that the more messages marketers send, the less likely a customer is to engage.
Finding the right number of messages to send to get users to do what you want them to do is a delicate balance. One tip to figure out the right cadence and frequency is to measure a user’s interaction with your product. If they are regularly engaged and considered to be successful, limited messages are appropriate.
One company who has skillfully made cadenced messages a part of their marketing strategy is Buffer. If a user is keeping their feed topped up and is logging in on a consistent basis, the user will receive minimal message because they are considered engaged. It is only when the user’s feed is empty and they need to re-engage that they get a prompt from Buffer.
7. But… don’t be a stranger
Bombarding your users with messages is a big mistake. Not engaging users at all can be even worse. Businesses often shy away from sending too many messages but it can be at the detriment of their growth.
The truth is you could be being overly cautious about sending messages and not connecting with your customer enough. Long periods of silence gives users time to forget you and move on from your business.
Insurance business Aviva had some interesting results when they began sending more emails. Previously, they contacted customers once a month encouraging policy renewals. The sad fact was that the strategy wasn’t working. So to increase engagement, they decided to try doubling the amount of messages they were sending per month.
Of course, finding the right frequency is something that will be specific to your business customer. A/B testing what your users respond to best is the only way to find the optimum amount and get your campaigns succeeding. It’s essential you test frequency to optimize your campaigns.
8. Shiny happy people… make it friendly
Building a connection with your customer can be a tricky proposition. Businesses can be considered cold and faceless. Couple that with not providing the right information at the right time to build the relationship – and you have a recipe for disaster.
Onboarding messages are the perfect medium to build a long-term relationship and add warmth to your business. Messages that actually are from a person, rather than a general email address tend to do better in terms of engagement. And it makes sense. We’d rather hear from our trusted partner than some impersonal business.
Hubspot added a little bit of a human touch and personality to their emails. They ran a test to see if they could increase customer engagement and sent two emails. One was from the company, HubSpot. The other was from someone on the marketing team.
The more personal email generated 31% more engagement than the one from Hubspot Corporate. Another way to take this type of message further is to use a less formal and friendly tone, using “I” and “we” more than “the business”.
9. Keep the conversation going and prevent users from dropping off
It’s only natural that interactions with your business will fluctuate. Sometimes users will use your product consistently every day for a month then suddenly drop to only a couple of times a week. They could be losing interest, getting bored and more likely to churn.
It’s your job to find these fluctuating customers and target them with effective messages that keep them interested. Find the users whose interactions are fading and prove that you are still relevant before they jump ship.
KickStarter has done a great job at not letting customers go without providing ways to re-engage. After a user is finished with a campaign, it is common to find drop offs. What Kickstarter does is provide a friendly reminder message
This message informs users that they should keep their account updated and explains why. Encouraging messages such as this one from KickStarter helps to stop customers from slipping away and is essential to add into the onboarding journey.
10. ABC – Always Be Converting
Throughout your customers free trial we are betting that you can predict which ones will convert and which ones will churn.
They display certain behaviors that gives away the likelihood of conversion. This knowledge can be used to convert users more quickly that before. Constructing a message that looks at upgrading sooner in the onboarding cycle is a smart way to boost conversions. Sending it when they are most engaged and seeing the value is the best time to ask.
SquareSpace are an example of a business doing it right.
They don’t wait for a user to finish their free trial to ask them to convert. When they see a customer using and enjoying the product, they aren’t afraid to jump at the opportunity to ask if they are ready to upgrade. Just 4 days into a 14 day free trial they send an invite to upgrade now.
11. A sense of urgency isn’t a bad thing
Keeping users motivated and then moving them to convert in the onboarding journey can be challenging. Fortunately, there is a tactic you can use to nudge users to convert – urgency. Make them feel as though they are missing out on something great and chances are they will feel compelled to move their relationship with you forward by converting to a paying customer.
One example is Shopify. They use big bold copy to tell their customer that the free trial phase is about to end.
Let’s look at Shopify’s emails and their use of urgency.
What’s more, they give customers a warning that the trial will end in a set amount of time. It’s an effective push that says you need to act now. Your time is running out.
12. Don’t let that customer walk out the door – abandoned cart for SaaS
There seems to be a myth that abandoned cart messages are only for eCommerce. Many businesses just don’t send them thinking they aren’t applicable to the onboarding journey. The truth is when someone fails to fully signup for your product you shouldn’t see them as a lost cause.
They could still be interested in your business. And sending a compelling reminder that encourages them to come back is a shrewd move that ensures that you get some of those users back.
We really liked this example from Virgin America.
It’s a gentle nudge to get a customer to come back in a friendly, non-obtrusive way.
13. Never give up
Not everyone converts. It’s a fact of business. The question is – what to do?
Often businesses leave users alone, figure maybe they just weren’t a good fit. The truth is you should be doing all you can to get non-converting customers back. Remember; just because a user decided not to become a paying customer now, doesn’t mean they won’t again. They could just be testing your competitor or they just weren’t ready – bottom line? Never give up.
Netflix is relentless in their win-back campaigns. Over the course of a year, we counted that they send around nine messages to a user that failed to convert in an attempt to get them back.
The first email arrives a month after the user has left. It’s a gentle reminder that Netflix is still there. It clearly explains pricing, the benefits and how easy it is to get back in using the product.
If that initial email fails, they do not stop. A new win-back message is sent sporadically every one to two months. They all contain different call to actions and different content but they all still reinstate the positives of Netflix and consistently try to get the customer back.
Get started today!
These 13 tips may seem daunting for you to do, but the truth is the customer onboarding journey takes time to perfect. The first thing we recommend is to create a plan outlining your onboarding and activation process and illustrate the message you think are essential for your users to receive, then build from there.
With continuous testing and monitoring, it’s possible to build successful onboarding campaigns that connect you with your users and show the value of your product.
We’d love to hear your take on these. Drop us a line – or visit us on sparkpage.com.