6 Key User Onboarding Strategies Learned from HubSpot and Wistia

Andrew Capland


Growth Advisor


Delivering Value
Andrew Capland
Andrew Capland

Episode Summary

Today on the show we have Andrew Capland, a growth advisor and onboarding specialist with rich experiences at HubSpot and Wistia.

In this episode, Andrew shares his journey from HubSpot to Wistia, outlining the evolution of his approach to user onboarding and growth. Andrew walked through 6 key steps of a successful onboarding framework to increase activation and reduce churn.

We then discussed the importance of personalized user experiences and how businesses can implement these strategies to achieve remarkable customer retention. Andrew wraps up the conversation by emphasizing the critical role of continuous learning and adaptation in the ever-evolving SaaS landscape.

Mentioned Resources



Introduction to Andrew Capland's Onboarding Expertise00:00:56
Identifying Value in Onboarding00:04:29
Reducing Time to Value00:07:41
Effective User Guidance and Prompts00:10:45
Personalization Through User Segmentation00:15:16
Leveraging Templates for Quick Wins00:20:56
Onboarding Before the Login00:29:55
The Importance of Continuous Learning00:35:44


[00:00:00] Andrew Capland: The last step in the process is to start onboarding before they ever get into the tool. There's a few different ways you can do this, but where my team stumbled in on this was that we had recognized that segmentation and personalizing the onboarding experience increased activation. And we were like, huh, I wonder if we could get more people to do stuff on the website, or we could motivate them on the website that would influence their action in the tool.

[00:00:30] Andrew Michael: This is Churn.fm, the podcast for subscription economy pros. Each week, we hear how the world's fastest growing companies are tackling churn and using retention to fuel their growth.

[00:00:43] VO: How do you build a habit forming product? We crossed over that magic threshold to negative churn. You need to invest in customer success. It always comes down to retention and engagement. Completely bootstrapped, profitable and growing.

[00:00:56] Andrew Michael: Strategies, tactics and ideas brought together to help your business thrive in the subscription economy. I'm your host, Andrew Michael, and here's today's episode. Hey, Andrew, welcome to the show.

[00:01:08] Andrew Capland: Hey, thanks for having me.

[00:01:10] Andrew Michael: It's great to have you. For the listeners, Andrew is the founder of Delivering Value, helping heads of growth accelerate their careers with one-to-one coaching and early stage SaaS teams scales a product led growth advisor. He's an advisor to several startups and previously held roles as head of growth at Postscript and director of growth at Wistia. So before getting into it, obviously like, amazing name. Love it.

[00:01:32] Andrew Michael: Just saying it as well now going through the intro. It sounded so good, but I'm just taking it this. You actually probably the first guest now that I've had that's Andrew, but ironically, like growing up, I think in my class, there was like seven Andrew’s. And I live here in Cyprus. We have like a St. Andrew's Day, but cause literally I think probably one third of the population has the same names. I don't know if you have the same issue from where you're from or.

[00:01:54] Andrew Capland: Not really. Growing up, Andrew was not that popular of a name. There was a couple of Drews, but not very many Andrews. And so, no, man, I'm happy to be in, happy to be in the club.

[00:02:03] Andrew Michael: Nice, yeah. And I think actually I probably have seven Andrews or Andreas in my family alone. Just because there's like, here the heritage is like, you name your firstborn after the father or the mother. So my grandfather was Andreas, so like in my family, all my cousins, I have a lot of cousins, many, many. But yeah, so my first question I had for you today then, besides going on a ramble about your name is, how did your early experiences as an inbound marketing consultant at HubSpot shape your career and growth?

[00:02:34] Andrew Capland: It's such a good question. I… I'm going to back up one and then I'll answer that question. So I started my career working at this big ad agency called Digitas. It's kind of like your mad men style agency, over a thousand people in the Boston office, multiple offices worldwide. And basically my job was to be a small cog in the big advertising machine. And so I was fortunate enough as my first job out of… at a college and my first clients were like Disney and Aflac and Bank of America, and they would spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year on paid advertising.

[00:03:06] Andrew Capland: And a huge part of their playbook was A/B testing and experimentation and landing page design. And they test Mickey versus Pluto versus Donald and all kinds of cool stuff. And so I loved that, but I wanted to work with small businesses. Just, it just felt more, it just resonated more with me than helping these big companies scale. And so I got to go to HubSpot and do a few different things. But a lot of what I learned at Digitas, I got to do in a small scale helping small business.

[00:03:34] Andrew Capland: So I got to see, like, what the biggest baddest companies did and like companies that had insane amounts of traffic. But I sort of had to learn a new playbook at HubSpot because a lot of their customers were small businesses or medium sized businesses with more modest traffic, more modest resources. They couldn't A/B test 13 different versions of the landing page. And so I had to figure out, how do smaller companies grow and how do they test and experiment in ways that help them?

[00:03:59] Andrew Capland: And so a lot of what I learned there was super applicable to my later growth career, because I kind of got to see an experiment and do a lot of that firsthand. And because I worked at HubSpot, I got to see not just one or two companies’ data, but I got to see hundreds of them over, like the four years that I worked there. And so I just started to get good and comfortable analyzing data to understand problems and then figuring out the playbooks to find the right answers. So basically, set up my whole career, being early on at HubSpot.

[00:04:29] Andrew Michael: Early on. Yeah, it's very interesting that dynamic that you mentioned as well. I certainly as well in my early career worked in that agency, working with, like top brands as well and then service smaller businesses. What do you think, like, makes the small business marketers that stand out from the rest? So obviously like with the large brands that have big budgets behind them and that can really drive growth. But what do you think like the small businesses that get things right, what do you think like the special sources for them?

[00:04:57] Andrew Capland: I think it's nailing the fundamentals, which is probably not a sexy answer, but they have a super clear idea of who their ideal customer is. And I think they obsess over brand. And I think for a lot of small businesses, brand drives word of mouth and word of mouth fuels a lot of the business. Obviously you can grow a business on a small number of channels, but without, brand to differentiate, a lot of that doesn't end up being special and doesn't end up being a differentiator or a moat. And so that's what I've seen in addition to the testing and all the tactical.

[00:05:29] Andrew Michael: Yeah. And I can see obviously, probably there's a bit of bias in your answer from the brand perspective coming from a place like Wistia. I think early on when I started working at Hotjar, actually we were looking, going through and exercise a brand and looking at like who are the companies that we admire, who we felt like really had a strong brand for an early stage startup at that time. And Wistia was, I think, top three on our list at that point. I think they did a phenomenal job building that early brand and still continue to this day.

[00:05:58] Andrew Capland: Totally.

[00:05:58] Andrew Michael: Just so much personality that they bring to it. It's amazing.

[00:06:01] Andrew Capland: Absolutely. And I… before I worked there, I didn't really understand the power of, brand. I was like your typical data-driven technical marketer. I just worked at HubSpot, so I thought I knew more than I really did. And I started working at Wistia and my job was to drive more signups. They had just gone freemium a few years before. And I was an acquisition marketer. And when you really dug into the data, the number one reason why people said they signed up or the number one channel that drove signups was word of mouth, referral, and it was brand.

[00:06:29] Andrew Capland: And so, previous me would have discounted, brand and said, well, let's just focus on the words and figure out how to convert more of the visitors and this and that. And, you know, brand is good because it drives SEO. That, that's old me would have thought that, and then when I really saw the data, it was hard to ignore.

[00:06:44] Andrew Michael: Yeah. And I think it also drives, especially, like in the case of, like a Wistia is retention as well at the end of it is that acquisition on the one end, but then people stay for the brand as well. They get to like, I think, as I mentioned, it's so personal, the brand of Wistia that, like you get to see the founders, you, they're in all the communication, the team is transparent. Like you see, I think that little dog running around the office, all the videos are all very quirky and you get to see the behind the scenes, like really, really amazing job that they've done. You feel a part of the company and a part of the story and a part of the journey that you want to stick with it, as well.

[00:07:19] Andrew Capland: 100%. When you run surveys and you say, hey, thanks for buying the product. We're so flattered that you pulled out your credit card and swiped for us. Would you mind sharing the main reason why you converted? The number one answer or a flavor of this answer is, hey, I'm like a weirdo and y'all are a bunch of weirdos and I just feel like your brand was made for me and I'm excited to use your product.

[00:07:40] Andrew Michael: Yeah.

[00:07:41] Andrew Capland: And so it's pretty cool when you see that. Like it really flows through.

[00:007:44] Andrew Michael: That's amazing. That's amazing. Today, we were just chatting before the show, what we should talk about. Today, obviously, you have such a rich background and experience. And you mentioned that one of the main areas that you've been focused on throughout the career was really around user onboarding and having spent quite a bit of time at Wistia focusing on that. But then now being able to sort of fine tune that craft and patch and match, working with many different startups. First of all, why onboarding was the topic that you decided would be good to go to first, and then we can dive into maybe the process that you've laid out and see where it goes from there.

[00:08:20] Andrew Capland: For sure. I never planned on getting into this. I didn't know it was a thing to get into. I mentioned I was an acquisition marketer at Wistia. My job was more signups. I took a very experimental approach to getting more signups. They had a ton of traffic when I worked there. I started in 2015. I think I worked there through 2019, through the end of the year. And I won't say the number because I don't want to get in trouble, but they had a lot of traffic, like seven figure traffic numbers. And I just thought their website could have been converting better based on all the data that I had just pattern matched it at HubSpot when I was there and got to see all the different data sets.

[00:08:53] Andrew Capland: And so we started experimenting just because we didn't know what to do. It was like, well, I don't know what page to focus on. I don't know how to improve it. I don't know what's stopping people from signing up and getting them to try the free product. And so we just started running a ton of experiments. And over time, we got more signups. Like we increased signups by 20% within a six to nine month period. And so we're feeling really good about that. It wasn't just me, I was part of a team focused on that. But the number of sales didn't really change in a material way for driving 20% more signups. And at this time, Wistia had no sales team.

[00:09:24] Andrew Capland: So it was a total self-service product led environment. We didn't call it product led at the time, but it just was a company without a sales team. And I was kind of pissed. My parents are small business owners. I wasn't motivated by moving a number if it didn't impact the business. Like my parents always taught me to think about the business holistically. And basically we pitched, could we take this same process that worked to get people to try the product, to get people to do more stuff in the product?

[00:09:50] Andrew Capland: Cause when we really dug into the data, what we saw is a ton of those people signed up, poked around for like 30 seconds or a couple of minutes and then left and never came back. And so there was some misalignment in what they were thinking they were going to get and what the actual experience delivered. And initially the answer was no. You're a marketer. Stay on the website and in the channels that you own. And eventually I was able to get some resources and a few projects off the ground and that led to dedicated resources.

[00:10:18] Andrew Capland: And what we learned is, the first user experience fuels everything down funnel in a product led environment. It fuels retention. It fuels active users. It fuels future customers. And I just became obsessed with it. How do you at scale motivate people to take action and how do you understand what actions somebody should take and how do you encourage them and what are the triggers and what's the psychology behind it? Like I could talk about this stuff for weeks. I just became obsessed.

[00:10:45] Andrew Michael: Yeah. I think like when we think about user onboarding on the show as well, it's definitely the number one area where you can have the biggest impact on churn and retention and it's often the number one biggest mistake we hear people talk about on the shows. They didn't focus on it early enough and they left it too long or they built way too many features and never focused on to vetting users for those that built when maybe they could have got by with 20% of the product and just really focused on that really good first, second, third time experience as opposed to just layering on feature where eventually you build a Frankenstein and people just like, what do we do? Yeah, we don't know.

[00:11:19] Andrew Capland: Yeah, totally.

[00:11:19] Andrew Michael: So you have a process now, obviously, having done this a few times and having worked. But back then it sounded like this was very experimental to you as well. And I'm curious here, like maybe what would you say was one of the biggest early mistakes you made when experimenting with user onboarding?

[00:11:36] Andrew Capland: Yeah. So the earliest mistakes were jumping to solutions without really understanding what the problem was. So I can remember like our first 10 experiments. We're like, well, what if we just try this pop-up tool instead of this guided tour? And what if we just use, intercom instead of building it in house? And what if we do a bubble thing instead of a pop-up thing? And what if we gray the background out so they can't do anything, but do the one thing we want? We had a million of those. It didn't really move the needle, really at all.

[00:12:09] Andrew Capland: And the challenge was that we didn't really know what good onboarding looks like, and we didn't know what was stopping people from getting from empty account to doing stuff that would have made us high five and predicted that they were likely to buy. So we just jumped from solution, tactical thing to tactical thing without really much traction.

[00:12:27] Andrew Michael: Yeah, I love those examples given as well. I can definitely remember playing out a few of those as well, pretty sure we went through something like that at Hotjar as well. And so what does it look like? So how did you sort of figure that out then and what should companies be doing when they're getting started?

[00:12:44] Andrew Capland:  I think the first step is to get clear on what would you high five over? What is good new usage? Typically it's value. Like I named my business Delivering Value because it's the crux of all of this stuff. It's figuring out what is valuable to folks. What are their goals when they signed up and how can you get them from zero to that place as quickly as possible? And so where I would encourage folks to start is by getting clear on what is your goal for onboarding.

[00:13:11] Andrew Capland: Typically it's called activation and defining activation is a part of this. Like figuring out, what is the thing? What is the result that you want to guide users towards? That when they do it, increases retention and likeliness to convert and also is aligned with the value that the user is looking for when they sign up in the first place. And starting with that and just getting clear on what is our definition of value, typically at an activation moment or an aha moment, is a great place to start because everything else is getting people to that place.

[00:13:40] Andrew Michael: Can we talk through maybe, like a practical example of this? We can maybe pick a company, doesn't have someone you know specifically, but just from the outside, maybe a product you use and what that might look like.

[00:13:51] Andrew Capland: Yeah, I mean, I'll use Wistia as an example. And this is from, again, during my time, there may have changed, but I'll share the process that we used. So Wistia is a video marketing company, video marketing software company, and so what we found from talking to users and looking at the qualitative data and double checking it against the quantitative data and looking for correlation and causation is that the simplest, most actionable thing that we wanted users to do that aligned with value was getting them to look at their stats, to share their video.

[00:14:23] Andrew Capland: They had to create a video first, they had to upload it into our tool, they had to share it with someone else who's not them, and then when they did that, it would generate a stat, which when they viewed it, to us, changed everything. That was our goal, we became obsessed with getting people to share their video and then view their stats, because that was the aha, that was the thing that was different about our product than other products. And for the most part, that correlated strongly with a much higher likeliness to retain and convert down the road.

[00:14:50] Andrew Michael: Interesting. Yeah. So obviously, like people came to us here because they wanted to get views on their videos and being able to actually see those views and the stats was the moment where they had their aha experience. So you've identified then sort of what is this aha moment? What is that main point you want to get the users towards? Where do you go from here? Like, you mentioned you had a six step process. So what steps are we on now? Like what's next?

[00:15:16] Andrew Capland: Yeah. So step number one is defined value. Step number two is, reduce time to value, get people to that place as quickly as possible, which, like sounds obvious and intuitive, but in practice isn't always that way. And so again, I'll give you a couple of examples here. So most companies treat a new user the same way they would treat a power user. And I'll give you a Wistia example. So for Wistia, to upload a video, you first need a folder to put the video in. And then you can upload your video into the folder and after you upload your video, then you can do stuff to the video. There's different types of things that you can do to the video to customize it, the color and forms and chapters and all kinds of cool stuff.

[00:15:54] Andrew Capland: And then after that, you can embed it and share it. And so what we used to do is we wanted every new user to understand how they should use the product. And so you would sign up and you would enter an empty folder basically. And the first step was to create, or an empty account, and the first step was to create your folder. Create an empty thing to put your first video in. Then after that, you had an upload target and you could upload your video. Then after that, you could do stuff.

[00:16:20] Andrew Capland: And what we realized is that there was five unnecessary steps in that process that was preventing people from eventually sharing their video and viewing their first stat. So we just said, well, what if we just shortcut the whole thing? What if we made their first folder for them, call it whatever the account sign up name is, first project, we'll have it already opened with an upload target in the middle, the second you upload your first video, we'll just open up that panel so you can start using the tool. And it decreased the time to value substantially by like five pages and also by like tens of minutes without getting too into the minutia here.

[00:16:54] Andrew Capland: So a pretty substantial change that got folks to that value much quicker. And so that's a really good exercise is just to look at where you want users to go, what are the bare minimum number of milestones that they need to get through to get to that point? And then removing all the unnecessary friction and confusion and unnecessary steps to get them there. And challenging yourself to think about the new user experience, not being the power user experience.

[00:17:21] Andrew Michael: Yeah, very interesting. And definitely, like, I think this is something you hear over and over and over again is like reducing time to value, getting them there as fast as possible. We've talked as well on the show that it's not always the right choice as well for every business. I think previously we spoke about segments and an [inaudible] where if people just got started using their product immediately, they ended up churning off because they didn't put in good practice with data governance. And in that case, they really had to stop them and make sure they created a good tracking plan.

[00:17:51] Andrew Michael: But for the most part, like in the majority of businesses, it is really about like, they're coming to us for something. The faster we can give that to them, the faster we can give them that first piece of value, the more likely they are to attain and build a habit out of using our products or service.

[00:18:05] Andrew Capland: Totally. Totally.

[00:18:07] Andrew Michael: You've identified what value is, you're cutting down the time now. What's next?

[00:18:13] Andrew Capland: Now you've got to figure out, how can you guide users with prompts? What are the right types of prompts to guide users? And what I've learned is, so I talked about how when I first started in onboarding, I jumped to the step, which is I just started tinkering and trying. Appcues versus Intercom versus Pendo. You know, it's like I just took building stuff in-house. And what I've learned is that it's only effective when you figure out where you want folks to go and you strip out everything that's a distraction. But what I've also learned is that there's different types of users.

[00:18:45] Andrew Capland: So my team spent a lot of…  we use, full story and every Friday we jump in a conference room and we'd watch 20 people go through the new user experience for the first time. And what we saw is that there was basically two types of users. No matter what prompt we use, there was one type of user that would, you could see their cursor go over every single word, almost like word for word. You could watch them read. And then there was another, so that was one type. And then there was another type of user that would just immediately minimize all that shit. Like, it's like they were allergic to it and they just wanted to go off on their own. And then at some point they would get lost and then kind of come back to the instructions.

[00:19:21] Andrew Capland: And so the challenge is most of the existing tools set out there only allows you to show whatever prompt you're using one time. And so like, for example, Intercom, Appcues, Pendo, most of those literally only have an N of one when it comes to how often they display. And so the challenge was, if you were someone who likes to read, you were sort of stuck reading like 10 steps, and then you had to remember what the first step was, and then the second step, and then the third step, but it was like, you know, you'd read all these steps, and then you had to try to reverse engineer things. So that experience wasn't good for that type of user.

[00:19:54] Andrew Capland: The other type of user ignored all the prompts, immediately minimized them, got lost on their own, and then couldn't bring them back on when they needed it in the moment. And so what I've learned is that if you can find some mechanism, some type of prompt that people can minimize and then come back to when they're ready, that is a really effective way to guide users to let them know what to do next. And so you see companies that do different types of this. My team's tried a few different of these flavors.

[00:20:20] Andrew Capland: A really common is, like a getting started page. So it's a page inside of your product dedicated to telling you what to do next and showing you the next steps. And another really common one that's actually the place that my team landed on was a new user checklist. Something that they could bring up that would live on every page. So unlike the getting started page where you'd have to go from that page to wherever the action occurred, you could have something that would follow you page to page on the website. You can minimize it, when you want it, when you didn't want it. You could maximize it when you were ready. And that's the place that we landed on as the most effective prompt for our audience. But that was some of the reasoning behind that.

[00:20:56] Andrew Michael: Very cool. Yeah, I've seen a few different flavors of those. I think probably my favorite getting started page is Intercoms. You mentioned them as well. I think they did a great job of laying it out, sort of like the key actions, and then later as you progress, how you can get more technical with the product through integrations and things like that. But as you mentioned as well, the way to be able to minimize and have that getting started following you wherever you go is probably the least friction for users to be able to access it when they need it in context. Because I think that's probably one of the problems with the single page, as you mentioned. It's not really in context. It's not really in that place where they're actually doing the action or trying to complete the step.

[00:21:37] Andrew Capland: Yeah. And the master class here is, no prompts. And you just actually design your product in a way that's intuitive, that explains the next step. And it's not something layered over the product, but it's actually the product experience itself. And so that's like the master class version of this that every company aspires to and very few can do well.

[00:21:56] Andrew Michael: Yeah, I think that comes just after years and years of craft as well though, and minimizing and being extremely strict. I think it's like Steve Jobs' quotes around minimizing, like “Limit the number of details to perfect” or something like that. And then I can't remember the exact quote, I'm… totally butchered it now, but the whole point is really just trying to limit as much as possible to bring clarity into the product and to make things simple. Even though I don't think the Apple TV remote is that intuitive, that's an example of trying to reduce everything to its bare minimum.

[00:22:31] Andrew Capland: Yeah. And the clarity there to me is the takeaway. There's maybe a point of view there that's like you're removing too many things and you're limiting the user. But to me, it's adding clarity and it's simplifying. And for new users, generally speaking, that tends to result in more action, and especially for new users that aren't really sure what to do, they might be a little overwhelmed or a little lost or multitasking. I think that's really good stuff.

[00:22:53] Andrew Michael: And that goes back to your step two again as well, like how do you reduce friction for new users so they can get to that point as fast as possible, and then later you can layer on those steps, I think. So nice. So step three, we're adding prompts regarding users. What's next? How do we make a killer onboarding?

[00:23:10] Andrew Capland: Yeah, so once you're at this point, you've got a pretty solid basic flow, right? You know what good is when it comes to onboarding. You're getting people hopefully there quickly with little friction. You're guiding them if they get lost along the way. The way you can take this to the next level is with segmentation. It's personalizing the onboarding experience and not just having a one size fits all flow, but having a few different types of onboarding. I call them recipes to get people from that empty account to fully activated.

[00:23:39] Andrew Capland: And what you find is that based on the different user goals, outcome that you want people to get to might be the same, but the pathway there might be slightly different. And so what my team kind of discovered is we knew that segmentation would be powerful, right? Segmentation in marketing tends to lead to higher conversion rates in paid ads, on websites, in all kinds of examples, and in the sales process. And so we just weren't sure the right type of segmentation for our onboarding. And so my team experimented with vertical and industry and title and all this kind of stuff. And at some point, we landed on jobs to be done. We started asking people first to tell us what your goal was when you signed up. So we had an open-ended text field for a little while.

[00:24:22] Andrew Capland: And then once we identified the four or five most common answers, we changed that into somebody they could self-select. And then we changed the onboarding based on what their answer was. And that was something that almost overnight gave us a jump in our activation rates. And as a bonus, we started to see certain jobs to be done that correlated with higher retention, with higher conversion to paid, that bought the more expensive paid plan, so higher LTV. And so that kind of opened up this whole opportunity to then give that feedback loop back on the acquisition side as well. Yeah, yeah, yeah. So it just changed everything. So it's identifying the jobs to be done, and then it's personalizing that onboarding experience based on what the user just told you they wanna do.

[00:25:03] Andrew Michael: Yeah, I love that. I love that you mentioned, like jobs to be done as well, because similarly like in the past went through those exercises of like, let's segment by user role or by industry and then try to create a tailored... Ecommerce are different to SaaS businesses. Let's see how we can figure out. But really, it came down to what was the job to be done of each. And there were jobs that overlapped between the two, but there were jobs that were completely different between the two.

[00:25:27] Andrew Michael: And I think... And I really like as well you starting with an open-ended question as well that way, giving sort of... Not just making assumptions on your own in the beginning because I think this was something I've been guilty of in the past. These are the five things that are… the product does. Let me put this in this and having that open ended, you get surprised as well, I guess, and also then being able to use your own users words and the way they describe the problem as opposed to maybe the way that you would describe it. So very, very cool on that end. And you've segmented it now. Like you're really creating this personalized experience on the job to be done. You've got your good guides. Where do we go from here? We have six steps.

[00:26:03] Andrew Capland: Yeah. So the fifth step is to leverage things that people can borrow from you to help them get up, get set up faster. Templates, things like that. So the example at Wistia that we saw, when we started, man, if you survey folks who don't engage in your products, you get almost no responses. So we surveyed like tens of thousands of people who had used the product and not taken action. I think I got two responses, but the two responses were basically like, look, I signed up for the tool because I was doing some research. I don't have a video yet. I don't have anything to upload. I just wanted to, like, check out the product.

[00:26:37] Andrew Capland: And we're like, man, that sucks because if you signed up for the product and you don't have a video, you get almost no value and you can't even really kick the tires on the tool and check it out. And you certainly can't activate. You get no value. I wonder how helpful that even was. And so we looked at the data and we saw a fairly large percentage of our signups every month, never uploaded a video and we're like, huh, what if we made something that they could borrow? A video that they could borrow from us. That was just a loner, so they could at least see the real functionality of the tool and maybe they would activate it, maybe they would share it with somebody else, but it would at least provide a lot more value to that segment that we were currently underserving.

[00:27:16] Andrew Capland: And so that opened up this whole opportunity for us to try all kinds of different videos. And my team, so we stumbled upon this idea of having some video, which was great. So now all of a sudden we'd increased engagement and retention with this group that previously was underserved. And then we started experimenting with different types of videos. So the original one was like that cute dog Lenny running around with a VHS tape in its mouth and, you know, it's sort of like reinforcing Wistia's value prop and brand, and there was sort of like a cutesy text overlay that said Wistia is a different way to do video. And that was fun.

[00:27:51] Andrew Capland: And we started experimenting with what if we could use this video more strategically? What if the video showed you what to do in the product? And so our videographer, Chris Levine, created this really cool video that basically said, Hey, welcome to Wistia. My name is Chris. If you're new here, let me show you around. If you look up here, that's where you'll find your settings. Over here on the left, you can add all of your marketing tools. Here, check this out. This is what a form looks like. And he would kind of do this pullover and a form would show up on the screen. And we would literally see people following along during the video, doing the things that he was suggesting they would do.

[00:28:23] Andrew Capland: And again, we dramatically increased activation from this cohort of users. And I didn't know that's what we were doing at the time. We were just trying to solve the problems that we had found. But now as an advisor, this is a huge part of my playbook today, which is, can you create things to shortcut the process so that folks can get to value faster? Even if they don't have their own stuff right now. And so you see this a lot with the big players, right? Canva is probably the best example of this where there's thousands of templates since their whole strategy. But there's a whole bunch of other companies, your Mirror’s, your Airtable’s as well that have taken this and really taken it beyond what I've ever imagined.

[00:28:59] Andrew Michael: To the next level. Yeah. I love those. Well, in your case, what you've just described as well is that you're using your own product to show the value of your product in a way as well. By having the video there, by demonstrating. This was something as well like I think I love the idea of as well. At Hotjar, it was like really trying to find ways because it's such a great product where you can actually start collecting information. And for example, they have surveys and you can immediately bring up a survey asking a few questions. You're collecting information maybe about sign up and saying, how did you, let's just say, how did you discover us?

[00:29:29] Andrew Michael: And the typical marketing thing, this is what a survey looks like. You can set one of these up and like going through that onboarding experience, but being able to actually show the product at the same time, I think is one thing. But then also in this case, while you're looking to, templates, you actually have a data that they can play with afterwards and get some kickstarted quickly to see the value. So I think this one did a two for one in that sense.

[00:29:50] Andrew Capland: Yeah.

[00:29:51] Andrew Michael: How do we take it to the top then? What's number six?

[00:29:55] Andrew Capland: So we kind of stumbled in this, the last step in the process is to start onboarding before they ever get into the tool. There's a few different ways you can do this, but where my team stumbled in on this was that we had recognized that segmentation and personalizing the onboarding experience increased activation. And we were like, huh, I wonder if we could get more people to do stuff on the website, or we could motivate them on the website that would influence their action in the tool. And so we took those same jobs to be done and we created individual feature pages or use case pages about those explaining how those different use cases would use the tool. And we saw activation crept up just a little bit.

[00:30:32] Andrew Capland: And so we're like, okay, we validated this idea that we can influence action before the tool. We still have people that are signing up, not doing stuff. What if we took all these interesting insights and combined it all and let people just play with the product on the website? What if we made a lightweight version of the tool? We embedded on the website, different based on your use case, covering the four major use cases that we see most often. Would that weed out some of the pokers? Would that motivate folks to take more action inside of the tool? And would that basically start the onboarding process before they ever got inside of the product?

[00:31:06] Andrew Capland: And so them signing up was really just a step in their usage. And we had evidence that maybe this would work. I don't know if you remember way back, but optimize, they used to do this, like back in the early, like 2012, do you ever use optimize? Do you remember what I'm talking about?

[00:31:20] Andrew Michael: We use it, but I don't remember the site from back then.

[00:31:23] Andrew Capland: So they had this really cool website experience where their homepage said something like, look, we can tell you about all of our features, but why don't you just play with it and check it out yourself. You enter in your website, it's totally ungated. You would enter in your site and it would open up, optimize. They had a WYSIWYG editor and you could set up your first A/B test. And the last, I mean, I probably spent 20 minutes setting up my first test, changing copy and playing with it and checking it out. And the last step was to create your account, to launch it. And obviously I had to embed my script at some point in that process too.

[00:31:55] Andrew Capland: But I was like, oh, this is genius. What if we took that idea and applied it with all the other insights that we had? And so we called it Wistia Light. And so we had an engineer, there's no low code tools to help you do this now. But at the time we had our best engineer spend weeks crafting out Wistia Light. We put it on the website, the engagement was through the roof, it increased activation, and we got a ton of feedback from new users that said, hey, I love that. That experience was super cool, super interesting, influenced my likeliness to become a customer. Love it totally on brand. And I was like, oh, that's incredible.

[00:32:29 ] Andrew Capland: And at my most recent head of growth job at Postscript, we did that exact same experience where we said, what if we let people use the product pre-signup and use that experience to influence activation and retention and usage and saw very similar results there?

[00:32:44 ] Andrew Michael: Yeah, no, absolutely. It's… definitely is like one of those [in back], similarly as all my startup audio, we did a similar experiment where we were providing transcription for user interview analysis and we actually put the transcription ahead of the sign up process and we went from like a, I think it was a three or four percent conversion rates visitor to sign up to 25%. So like one in four visitors were signing up for the product after that. It's like, I think there's no faster way as well to show value than that is what's like literally there on the side They're hitting and they're getting it there.

[00:33:15] Andrew Michael: But this is definitely one of the areas where I think there's a big missed opportunity in the space and you don't see enough of it. And I think not only delivering the product, but also tailoring, using the website as an onboarding experience. I can't remember the site now and if I do, I'll put in the show notes. But I saw a really cool site the other day where they had the jobs to be done in their header, like, what are you trying to achieve? And then basically the site would optimize based on what the job to be done was and then the experience that they received focused on that content and what they were trying to achieve, as opposed to having to figure out where to go and looking for menus and things like this.

[00:33:51] Andrew Michael: Like, what are you trying to achieve with us? And then everything else was located to that. And I'm pretty sure then the onboarding experience extended into that, or being able to experience and try the product.

[00:34:02] Andrew Capland: We actually tried that test at Wistia too. So after we found out the jobs to be done, we made those use case pages and we changed our homepage for like a year. And literally the above the fold hero section of the homepage said, Hey, welcome to Wistia, mind sharing what your goal is for stopping by. And it was the five most common jobs to be done based on what you selected, we took you off the homepage to that use case page. And I think putting it on the site increased conversion by like 4% or 5% from the homepage, like almost overnight, we A/B tested it. And eventually we moved in a different direction because like brand wise, it kind of didn't make sense and we went through a big redesign, but for a while that was a killer part of the experience. So I've seen similar results.

[00:34:42] Andrew Michael: Similar results. Yeah. Amazing. I think this has been a fantastic step-by-step guide for anybody thinking about running through the process. Backing up again, first identifying what the value is that your product delivers, cutting that value down as fast as possible, giving prompts for users to be able to guide them through that process, and then going through good guides, typically other ones in context so people can self-serve on their own time. And I'm running on my own memory now. So hopefully I get all of these steps correct.

[00:35:14] Andrew Capland: I got you. Four is personalized with the recipes. Five is engaged faster with the templates and six is, build momentum before the form.

[00:35:23] Andrew Michael: Amazing. So, yep. If you're thinking about getting started, I think this is an amazing sort of layout. Obviously Andrew speaks with great experience and amazing results to back that. So I want to make sure I ask you a question I ask every guest that joins the show before we wrap up today. What's one thing that you know today about churn and retention that you wish you knew when you got started with your career?

[00:35:44] Andrew Capland: When I started, I thought the way to solve churn was to ask people why they were leaving and try to use that information to customize some offer. LinkedIn does this, right? When you go to Cancel LinkedIn Premium, it's like, Hey, why are you canceling, is it price? They offer you a discount, that type of thing. And what I've learned is the real way to combat churn is to understand engagement at a deeper level for all users. Because by the time they really are doing things that indicate they're likely to churn, it's way too late to save them. And creating some kind of an engagement score that you can track and optimize for and run campaigns to improve over time, that is the thing that I wish I knew earlier. It took me way too long.

[00:36:22] Andrew Michael: Yeah. It's definitely the first place people start is, like, this churn exit service. Let's figure out why people are leaving, but really like it's more on the flip side, like what's making people successful. How do we get more people to that state? Yeah. And actually today, like I wanted to bring this up earlier, but I couldn't figure the right time in it. As I've recently been trying to look into different areas outside of SaaS and two different industries where you can get ways that people are retaining their customers and improving experience for users.

[00:36:50] Andrew Michael: I was going through TikTok and I came through an interesting one. I think it might have been like a Gary Vaynerchuk interview. I can't remember the guy now. I'll try and remember it as well for the show notes. But he was talking about the restaurant industry and goes to the concept of onboarding as well. It was like, something like only 30% of first-time visitors will ever come back for a second visit. And then he's like, well, and guess what? Only 30% of second-time visitors who came back after the first will come back for third-time visitors. And he's like, but people that come back for a third-time visit, 80% or 90% are coming back for that fourth-time visit. You've got like almost a customer for life after that sort of thing.

[00:37:27] Andrew Michael: And I think like, those numbers sort of match like the SaaS businesses I've worked with in the past. And if you think about the first 90 days being the most critical experience. And what I loved about what he said next though was, he's like, so here's what we do. He's like, when a person comes into the restaurant for the first time, the waiter says to them, is this your first time? And if it is, yes, they get a red napkin on the table. Every waiter in the restaurant knows that that's that person's first time. They know how to treat that person on their first time. So they have a tailored experience for that first time experience. They might go through certain different menu choices or explanations on how things work and operate.

[00:38:03] Andrew Michael: And then the same would apply if they went and said, no, it's my second time. We've been here before or whatever. There would be a different color or there'd be something else that they're placing on the table. So every waitress knew, okay, this is how we treat the second time ones. And then by the third time, then they knew the person's name and then they were welcoming them and they treated them as a lifetime. And I really loved that idea as well of thinking like user onboarding. It's like the first time experience is really critical and important, but it's almost more important that second and third experience is going to keep them coming back and continuing to use the product.

[00:38:34] Andrew Michael: So thinking about, yes, they've now added their first thing, they've established that first core value prop that we're delivering. How do we create a habit now and how do we keep coming them back? But I love that example. And hopefully if anybody knows anymore, if you know anymore, I'd love to hear and start learning from them as well.

[00:38:49] Andrew Capland: Now, I love that example. And it makes me think, probably a good waiter at that restaurant follows up with the question, oh, it's your first time here? Is it a special occasion? Right, and if they say, oh yeah, it's my partner's birthday or whatever, it's gonna be totally different than, yeah, we just graduated high school or something like that, right?

[00:39:06] Andrew Michael: It's their job–

[00:39:06] Andrew Capland: Personalize it. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yep, you got it.

[00:39:11] Andrew Michael: Well, Andrew, it's been an absolute pleasure learning from you today. Is there any sort of final thoughts you want to leave the listeners with? Anything they should be aware of about your work or how to keep up to speed with what you're up to?

[00;39:22] Andrew Capland: Yeah, if you're interested in connecting with me, I'm most active on LinkedIn. I post on there daily sharing growth tips and insights and things that I've learned and mistakes I've made in my career. You can also connect with me on DeliveringValue.co. It's where I run my coaching and advising practice for anyone who either wants onboarding help, I'm happy to assist as an advisor or is looking for career coaching. It's a lot of what I do these days. And I guess it's like some parting thoughts. I'll just share. I know enough to know that there's no playbook that works for everybody.

[00:39:53] Andrew Capland: So the stories that I shared today are based on my lived experiences, what's worked for me, and some of the insights that I've gained, but I know enough to know that that doesn't work for everyone. So try some stuff, hold yourself accountable, be clear what success looks like, and don't be afraid to question the playbooks that people like me share.

[00:40:08] Andrew Michael: I love that. And yes, for listeners, we'll make sure to leave everything today in the show notes. All the links will be there for you to find that. Thank you so much for joining, and I wish you best of luck now going forward.

[00:40:19] Andrew Capland: Thank you.

[00:40:20] Andrew Michael: Cheers.

[00:40:22] Andrew Michael: And that's a wrap for the show today with me, Andrew Michael. I really hope you enjoyed it and you were able to pull out something valuable for your business. To keep up to date with Churn.fm and be notified about new episodes, blog posts and more, subscribe to our mailing list by visiting Churn.fm. Also don't forget to subscribe to our show on iTunes, Google Play or wherever you listen to your podcasts. If you have any feedback, good or bad, I would love to hear from you. And you can provide your blunt, direct feedback by sending it to Andrew@Churn.fm. Lastly, but most importantly, if you enjoyed this episode, please share it and leave a review as it really helps get the word out and grow the community. Thanks again for listening. See you again next week.


Andrew Capland
Andrew Capland

The show

My name is Andrew Michael and I started CHURN.FM, as I was tired of hearing stories about some magical silver bullet that solved churn for company X.

In this podcast, you will hear from founders and subscription economy pros working in product, marketing, customer success, support, and operations roles across different stages of company growth, who are taking a systematic approach to increase retention and engagement within their organizations.


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