Episode 71: Optimize Your Onboarding with Alli Blum

Episode 71: Optimize Your Onboarding with Alli Blum

An expert shares her advice and takes us through the science behind a successful customer onboarding process.


For companies that offer a trial of their product or service before the purchase, the trial period is critical in converting trial accounts to paid accounts. That’s where an effective customer onboarding process makes a difference.
Alli Blum joins us to highlight common mistakes companies make in their onboarding, and what you can do instead to optimize the process and convert more leads. In this episode, you’ll learn how to craft effective onboarding messaging that speaks to the problems your customers want to solve, and how to measure the performance of your onboarding.
Alli Blum is a conversion copywriter who specializes in onboarding emails for SaaS companies. Learn more at AlliBlum.com, and find her on Twitter @alliblum.


Chris Davis: 00:24 Welcome to another episode of The ActiveCampaign Podcast. I’m your host, Chris Davis. On this episode, I have Allison Blum, who is a conversion copywriter that specializes in onboarding emails for SaaS companies. If you have a SaaS company, or you’re thinking of starting, there is this risk-free or trial period, where it’s very common practice to offer. We have one here at ActiveCampaign, and the conversion from the experience from that trial period is extremely critical to converting them over into a paid account, and even from a paid account on to upgrade and continual usage. In this episode, we talk about the science behind drafting an onboarding sequence that is effective. Alli’s going to break it all down for you, so enjoy.

Chris Davis: 01:21 Alli, welcome to the ActiveCampaign Podcast. How are you doing today?

Alli Blum: 01:21 I’m very well. Thank you for having me. How are you?

Chris Davis: 01:30 I’m good. You know, at the point of recording this, the season has changed from cold to warm, so I have no complaints at all, not a single one, and I will not until the next season.

Alli Blum: 01:45 That’s great. That’s wonderful. It’s a little cloudy here in New Jersey. Spring hasn’t quite caught up yet, even though it’s the middle of June. We’re still waiting on it.

Chris Davis: 01:54 Yeah, Out East. I haven’t spent much time Out East. Now, Alli, you are a conversion copywriter that specializes in onboarding emails. I just want to walk the listeners through. Tell us a little bit about your history, of course your background, and how did you end up in this space?

Alli Blum: 02:20 I’ll start with the background, and then I’ll break down the different elements of that introduction once piece at a time. I started working at an eCommerce company, and I did all kinds of marketing activities. It was a startup, and I was the second hire and one of the only marketers, at the time, one of the only people focused solely on marketing. I was feeling this … I was getting the opportunity to try a lot of different things. What I started to really fall in love with was the writing. There were a lot of … There’s writing in every aspect of business everywhere, but I was really interested in how we were using the words that we were writing in emails on our website.

Alli Blum: 03:04 When I left that position, I decided to become a “freelance writer,” very generalist type of position, and would write anything for anyone. Then I stumbled upon this type of writing, called conversion copywriting, a few years ago. Conversion copywriting is very, very different from what most folks think about when they think about writing.

Alli Blum: 03:27 Writing has a reputation for being the nontechnical skill. At events, startup events, there’s developers, designers, and nontechnical types. That’s where you put your writers, your marketers, Biz Dev people, all the people who don’t allegedly have any technical skills, but conversion copywriting is a type of writing that I think is a technical skill. I would say that it is.

Alli Blum: 03:52 It is much less about sitting in a room, coming up with an idea, saying what do we think would happen? What do we think we want our brand, voice, message to be? Instead of starting from that point, going out listening to customers, doing a lot of research about how customers and prospects talk about the problems that they’re facing in their world, how they talk about the products that they’re using, what they like, what they don’t like, and then looking at the research and saying, “Okay, how do we form a message that speaks to the problems and the pains and the conversations that people are having in their head, in the moment when they are considering our product? What stage of awareness are they at? Do they even know that the product we offer is something that could help them? Do they even know that there are solutions available? There’s a lot of different stages of awareness.”

Alli Blum: 04:47 When I started to get into conversion copywriting as a discipline, I really fell in love with the research, and I talked with … I knew I wanted to pick a niche. I knew I wanted to find a problem that you could solve from business to business, and I talked with between 40 and 50 folks from a lot of different industries to learn about what kinds of problems they face, whether or not conversion copywriting is even something that would be useful for them.

Alli Blum: 05:12 Eventually, I started to realize that Software as a Service, or SaaS businesses, tend to have fairly similar business problems, from one business to the next. You have to have people find out about you. You have to get them to your site. You have to get them to sign up for a trial or some kind of paid but risk-free period. You have to get them to use the product. Then you have to retain them over the period of time that they’re a customer.

Alli Blum: 05:44 What I started to get really excited about was this onboarding phase. Onboarding is what’s happening when someone signs up to use your product, but they haven’t yet been successful. They haven’t yet figured out how to use your product but, more importantly, they just … Your product has not yet become something that they care about. Their problem has not yet been solved. Onboarding messages and onboarding emails are about helping people who have already told you that they want to consider your product as a potential solution to another problem that they have. Sending them onboarding emails is a way to help them come back to your product. It’s a way to help them say, “Okay, here’s how we can help you solve your problem.”

Chris Davis: 06:28 Got you. I want to dive into some of the mechanics behind it, but for those who maybe onboarding is a new term, and they just heard the definition for the first time, is onboarding something that spans across any business, or is it … I know you do it specific for SaaS companies but, in your experience, have you seen other businesses, outside of the SaaS industry, that you’re like, “You know what? You could benefit from some solid onboarding”?

Alli Blum: 07:00 Oh, absolutely. There’s two big areas that I think about the most. One is, when I was at that eCommerce company, I hired a lot of interns. Every couple months, we had to onboard new hires and help them get started. The other area that I am starting to think a little bit more about, and I know some of my fellow onboarding optimization consultants think about is courses and informational products, or really any kind of email list, any situation where you’re going to be developing a relationship with someone through email. You want to help them solve their problems. You want to help show them that they’re in the right place from the very beginning.

Alli Blum: 07:42 I was at MicroComp earlier this year, and one of the conversations that we were having at a lot of our round-tables was about how almost everyone in the room had purchased some course at some price point and then never opened it. When we sell people our courses and we sell people our programs, we want them to be successful. We want them to go in and open the material, learn from it, be successful, because that … Not only does it help the people we want to help, but it increases the likelihood that next time we have something to buy, they’ll actually go and take a look at it, as opposed to, “Oh, I bought that thing from that guy that time, and I didn’t do anything with it, so whatever, I guess, I’m not going to bother with this new thing yet.”

Chris Davis: 08:27 Got you. I’ve found more and more value in onboarding as I grow in education. One of the parallels that I’ve found, Alli, is that I play a lot of video games. Well, I should say, I used to play a lot of video games. I don’t play as much now, but I’m familiar with the flow. I remember going, renting or buying a new game, and before even putting it in the system, reading the instruction manual, right?

Alli Blum: 08:27 Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Chris Davis: 08:56 Going through, looking to see which button does what and, while I’m playing it, having that instruction manual open, so I can refer to it. If it was a two-player game, my brother would … We’d both be looking at the instruction manual. You know what? Back then, that was a form of onboarding for the video game seller, right? Get me acclimated, so I can use this game, right?

Alli Blum: 08:56 Yes.

Chris Davis: 09:19 What I found is extremely interesting is how the consumption model or the rate of adoption or the trends of adoption of new things has changed, because now when you buy a game, all of … There is no instruction manual. You fire it up, and it’s a guided walkthrough in the application, where you’re in this test place, and they’re like, “Hit X to punch,” or this, this, and that. Then, before you know it, you’re familiar with the game by using the game. It more of a guided, hands-on approach.

Chris Davis: 09:55 When I look at the space, as it is now, the trends of how people learn how to use stuff has changed drastically. When you’re mentioning all of these things relative to onboarding, like, hey, how do you get somebody to log into that course? How do you get them to use that, right?

Alli Blum: 10:16 Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Chris Davis: 10:18 They just signed up for your service. How do you get them to go beyond just logging in, saying, “Okay, it works. I’m off.” Right? Is that the main problem that you’ve found your onboarding email solves?

Alli Blum: 10:35 You hit on a really great point, when you’re talking about the way that onboarding has evolved from, “Here’s the manual,” to, “Okay, let’s get into it. Let’s get started. Let’s move forward one step at a time and, by using it, you’ll have some measure of success. We’re going to show you how to be successful.”

Alli Blum: 10:56 The number one gripe that I have with onboarding, many onboarding, emails is that they still are in this outdated mode of sending a manual. You sign up. I sign up for trials all the time. I want to see what people are saying in their emails, and so frequently people will say, “Great! Welcome to our product. We’re excited to have you here.” There may even be a really nice message from the CEO, and then they’ll say something like, “Here’s a 22-minute video. Just watch it, and I will show you everything you need to know.”

Alli Blum: 11:31 It’s like, “Okay, no one’s going to watch the 22-minute video. That’s a long video. That’s a huge ask to make of someone.” I asked this question from the stage at MicroComp. I said, “How many of you actually read the ultimate guides? How many people watch the video?” No hands went up. It’s not something that people do.

Alli Blum: 11:52 Instead, what I always recommend is to look at what actions people need to do to be successful. What do you have to do to get started. In the video game, you have to press X to punch, but if you’re setting up, for example, an email marketing software, like ActiveCampaign, what do most customers do when they’re becoming successful? Are the people who upgrade at the end of the trial more likely to have set up a form? Are they more likely to have set up an automation? Do they ask for help from support? What distinguishing characteristics do we know about the people who have used the product and been successful, and how can we help more people along the same path?

Chris Davis: 12:36 Yeah, and I guess that’s where your research comes in, because you’re … Now, I’m assuming. Keep me accurate here. I’m assuming when you’re in research mode, you’re asking the business owner about their business, about the users. Hey, what should they be doing first, right?

Alli Blum: 12:36 Yeah.

Chris Davis: 12:55 What first action leads to success the fastest in your business, right?

Alli Blum: 13:00 Yes, and this is a very … This is one of the biggest challenges, because there are many great tools, many great analytics platforms that can help give us some insight. If we’re working with a client, and they use an analytics dashboard, I can go in and I can say, “Okay, let’s look at the cohort of people who have signed up for a trial or verified their account within the last 30 days and started paying you, and the ones who didn’t start paying you. What actions can we see from how people are behaving? What does the data show us?”

Alli Blum: 13:36 At the same time, that’s only one part of the picture. That’s where talking with customers really becomes important. I was working with one client recently, and we saw these really interesting patterns of behavior. There were a lot of people who came in, and they used one or two features, the same one or two features. Then there was a smaller group, but still a measurable group that used 10 features. These are two groups of people who are here to accomplish very different tasks. They’re solving different problems.

Alli Blum: 14:12 When we started doing some customer interviews, we started to realize, oh, there are some people who are here because they’re working by themselves on a small project. There are other people here who are running agencies. The product has tools for both scenarios or both situations, both … I like to … are you familiar with Jobs to Be Done?

Chris Davis: 14:35 I’m not familiar with that one.

Alli Blum: 14:37 Jobs to Be Done is a great framework for talking about or for understanding the job someone hires your product to do. There’s a lot of … It comes from out of product development. The thinking behind it is that people … What your product offers may not be actually what people want. If you think about the … People don’t want the quarter-inch drill bit. They want the quarter-inch hole. To take it one step further, what people actually want is whatever thing that they need to nail. They want the picture hung on the wall. They want the furniture put together. They want that outcome.

Alli Blum: 15:14 Jobs to Be Done interviews are about saying, “Okay, what was going on in your world, when you signed up for this product? What was the moment when you said, ‘I have to actually maybe upgrade here’? What were your feelings like? Who did you talk about this with? What was the first thing you did as soon as you upgraded?”

Alli Blum: 15:31 Getting to know why people do that helped us, in this particular client example, understand that people were coming here when their agency got one big project that they just weren’t going to be able to handle with Excel. That helped us position our marketing around saying, “Okay, we have two groups of people. Some people want this one project, this one feature. Other people, we want to capture them at the moment when their agency is growing, when they’re getting that one big project, and make all of their messaging about supporting them through that effort.”

Alli Blum: 16:07 What else does that involve? Well, it’s not just about what product features that they want. It’s about what other information they might need. How do they convince their team members to use a tool? Especially in … there’s a lot of industries where people are very … In the interviews, people will talk about how people in their industry are very resistant to technology. They’re very much more comfortable with paper signup sheets or Excel, and so how do we get the information that people need to support their team, to support whatever initiative they have going on, by using the product? They may need something else that isn’t even part of the product.

Chris Davis: 16:49 Yeah, that makes sense. You made the comment about a lot of SaaS companies right there onboarding emails very much like a manual, right?

Alli Blum: 16:59 Mm- hmm (affirmative), mm-hmm (affirmative).

Chris Davis: 17:01 Dissect or give us some insight into your approach to handling onboarding emails.

Alli Blum: 17:07 Okay, this is a great question. There are a thousand different copywriting frameworks that are out there that are formulas that have been tested time and time again. They come from the direct sales and direct marketing world. The way that … The one formula that I like to recommend to people when you’re sitting down to write your emails is one that starts at the top.

Alli Blum: 17:34 You want to join the conversation happening in your customer’s mind, so you start by talking about the pain that they’re feeling. Then you can agitate that pain a little bit. Then, after you’ve connected them, you’re going to start by talking about how the feature that you’re asking them to use or the action that you’re asking them to complete is a solution to this fear. This is what we call the problem- agitation solution or PAS formula. It’s great for onboarding emails, because it reminds people, who haven’t … Maybe you send them an email when they first sign up, and they don’t do anything, so you send them an email the next day, and they ignore it, and you send them an email the third day, and then, “Oh, what was this product I signed up for?”

Alli Blum: 18:15 You’re reminding them why they’re here, why they even bother to give your product a chance, but, more importantly, why they wanted to solve the problem, because when we’re sending onboarding emails, we’re helping people overcome two different kinds of work. There’s the work that’s related with learning anything, that learning curve. No one expects that they’re going to drop out of the sky and magically know how to use your product. Then there’s this internal work of helping people overcome all of the other distractions that could be preventing them from getting started. People will stop solving their problems for many different reasons. We want to remind them why they’re here, remind them about the problem that they’re solving, and then show them how to do that.

Alli Blum: 19:05 One of the ways that that might look like in a kind of A/B comparison … A traditional, conventional email that would make me grimace and take a deep breath and sigh a little bit would be an email that would say, “Hey, we just launched a new feature. You should try it. Here’s the link. Go get started.” An email that would be really conversion optimized and really designed to help your customers get started would say, “Hey, we actually know how hard this problem is. We’ve been hearing this a lot from people. We know that when you’re talking with your clients, we know how it can be really hard to keep track of where all the documents are. This is why we have this feature that lets you keep track of your documents. Here’s how to use it. Here’s some instructions that we can put right for you, right in the email, with some screenshots even. If this isn’t enough information, here’s a link to go get more information. Then, here’s a link to go get this feature set up in your account.”

Chris Davis: 20:04 I see what you’re saying. You provide them more context, because essentially, Alli, what’s happening is you’re fighting for attention, even as customers. As you’re breaking down the PAS system and the agitation, the pain-agitation-solution, I can see how it mirrors some of your marketing, too, right?

Alli Blum: 20:04 Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Chris Davis: 20:27 It’s just the end result is different. The end result is a sale. In this instance, the end result is adoption or usage, but when you think of it like that, you see the similarities, and then you realize, even though I have them as a customer, I did not buy their undivided attention.

Alli Blum: 20:46 Exactly.

Chris Davis: 20:47 Right?

Alli Blum: 20:47 Yeah.

Chris Davis: 20:49 I’m still in the play for their attention.

Alli Blum: 20:52 Mm-hmm (affirmative), and especially in software as a service, because if you’re depending on people to pay you every month, they may have purchased one month, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to purchase the second month.

Chris Davis: 21:06 Yep.

Alli Blum: 21:06 How do you get them … The way that people stay is if the problem is useful, or if the product is useful, if it’s solving a problem for them. How do we … What can we do to help people get started? Onboarding is a jargony kind of term. It’s kind of technical, but it’s really helping people get started, helping them be successful and solve their problems.

Chris Davis: 21:27 Yes, you know what? Another thing … I just thought of this. This is recently. I purchased one of those video doorbells that you’ve been seeing everywhere. I go through the … I’m aware of all of this stuff now. I’m probably more excited about the process than the product a lot of times, so immediately … I think it parallels what you’re saying. Immediately, Alli, I’m looking at this product. It looks beautiful. The packaging is all great and everything, but remember, I just paid for this, so I’m really looking more for a reason to return it than I am to use it. If there’s any flaw, I’m taking it back. I’m like, nope, gone, trying to give me my money back, especially if it’s over 20 bucks or something like that. You’ve spent a substantial amount of money on something. You’re really looking for flaws more than you are looking for … You want it to work, but if there’s flaws, you know that you’re taking it right back.

Chris Davis: 22:23 Anyway, the packaging, everything, was nice, still not nice enough for me to say I wouldn’t take it back, but here’s what got me. Here’s what got me. Now, I have to take this doorbell now and I have to install it. I’m not an electrician. I’ve done some handiwork around the house, and this does not … The level of complexity of this is going to determine if I can get this thing on my house. If I can get it on my house, you can pretty much guarantee that I’ll be a customer for life, right?

Alli Blum: 22:51 Yeah. Once it’s on there, it’s on there.

Chris Davis: 22:53 Yes, so that process … I’m thinking, now, for that company, the process was critical. Do you know what they had me do? I scanned the product with my phone. There was a QR code on it, and it just fired up the app, and the app walked me through. It was very much like a manual, but better, you know?

Alli Blum: 23:18 Yeah.

Chris Davis: 23:18 The images were color-coded. It was all on my phone, so I’m literally just go … I’m swiping left to right. Oh, okay, do this. Do that. I tell you what. I was able to get this thing installed and going in no time, felt great about it. It was working. That essentially is onboarding, right?

Alli Blum: 23:18 Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Chris Davis: 23:37 Can you imagine if I had to call somebody and wait on hold, and then describe to them what kind of doorbell I had, what kind of wire.

Alli Blum: 23:46 Yes.

Chris Davis: 23:48 I wouldn’t have done it. Honestly, I just wouldn’t have done it if I’d opened it up, and it said, “Call us.” I’d have gone, “Okay, I’m going with the competitor.”

Alli Blum: 23:54 Pass. When you opened it and you scanned the QR code, once you were in the app, did it ask … I’m not really a doorbell expert. Are there different kinds of doorbells? Did it ask you what kind of doorbell? Were there separate-

Chris Davis: 24:08 Yeah, there’s electric doorbells, electronic doorbells. There’s your regular transformer based. They had images and everything, so that you could easily identify which one you had, because I didn’t know. I was like, “I don’t know. I’ll have to take the cover off.”

Chris Davis: 24:22 It was in very common-spoken terms, like, “Okay, locate your doorbell, and just take that front cover off. Does it look like this?”

Chris Davis: 24:31 I was like, “Yeah, it does look like this.”

Chris Davis: 24:32 “Okay, you have this type.”

Chris Davis: 24:34 I was like, this is very good.

Alli Blum: 24:37 That’s great.

Chris Davis: 24:37 I can just see the similarities in how the language and the process and the imagery, because you were talking about making the onboarding process for the SaaS companies and emails not feel like a manual, so it is very much the language that you use, the images that you display, before it is click and do this. It has to be extremely simple. What hurdles have you faced, specific to email, when it comes to onboarding? Is it simply just getting them to open it, or is it something else?

Alli Blum: 25:18 Well, the biggest hurdle is when we go through the research process, and we realize that it’s not a marketing problem or an onboarding problem, but a product problem or a business problem.

Chris Davis: 25:32 Hmm, wow.

Alli Blum: 25:38 One of the great fortunes that I have in my work is being outside of a company, that when I can go out and I can do this research, and I can talk to a bunch of people, and I can go get all of these opinions that people are saying about their experiences with the company and the questions that they’re chatting to Support, which normally you live in disparate places, so there’s not normally one person in charge of all of this … I’m sure there are in many organizations, but I have not found an organization where there’s one person in charge of, or one department in charge of, customer feedback across all departments. There might be someone in charge of customer support feedback. There might be someone in charge of what the salespeople say. Maybe they’re swapping things back and forth, but there’s no structured, formalized way for everyone inside the organization to say, “Oh, okay, 48% of people are saying that we actually have this huge problem, and we have to take care of it.”

Alli Blum: 26:41 My great fortune is that I can come in as a person who is not involved in any of these departments. I have no dog in this fight. No project was my baby. I can say, “Look. This is what we are working with here. There is no clear value proposition for your product. It’s not as different as we think it is in our marketing department from some of the other competitors. It’s missing this one key feature that people are going to your competitor for, or it’s really a … You have it set up as a subscription service, but there’s a very finite … You do one thing with it, and then you don’t need to be subscribed anymore.”

Alli Blum: 27:22 There may be some things that are not going to be solved with a better … The emails can only do so much. This is the one big challenge, that’s sometimes fixable, not always fixable. Some people … It’s like the Cassandra Effect. No one wants to hear the bad news. Some people deal with it, and some people don’t.

Alli Blum: 27:46 The other thing that I frequently find is that we’re not … Most people don’t segment customers and users in a way that is based on their problems and their objectives and their goals. To the earlier point that I was talking about, with the client that had a bunch of people who used one feature and a bunch that used a lot of features, and they were agencies versus solo people, when we are bringing new people onboard, we want to find out right away what they’re here for.

Alli Blum: 28:24 Many customers will segment people, based on the different features that people might be here for, like, “Oh, are you here because you want to try our email tracking, or are you here because you want to try our automated sales messaging,” whatever different features that you have, as opposed to saying, “Hey, are you here because you are getting ready to launch a product, and you want to grow your list in advance? Are you here because you are using … your last proposal software lost all of your data?” for example. That’s not really an ideal example. That’s something that happened to me.

Alli Blum: 29:02 People will say, “Are you a marketer? Are you here because you want to learn about this field?” as opposed to, “What do you actually want? What are you actually here for? What’s your goal?” That’s usually not tied up in what our job title is or what feature we want to use in our product. No one cares about the features. That’s not what people are here for. They’re here because they have problems they want solved.

Chris Davis: 29:22 Yeah, yeah, that’s true. What would you say you use … Let me just recap real quick. When you start with a client, you do the research first, and that’s where you identify if it’s an onboarding issue or not, right?

Alli Blum: 29:40 Yes. The first step is to say, “Okay, you have a trial or a risk-free period. You have some kind of new” … Most of the time, there’s some kind of period upfront where people haven’t committed to be with you for a long time. What makes people stay during this period, and what makes people leave? Those are the questions we’re trying to answer.

Alli Blum: 30:01 Again, the analytics tools we have are not that great, so we’re looking for leading indicators. We want to see what things might be happening. Then, based on what we learn, we say, “Okay, these are the things that we think might be areas of exploration. These are some experiments we might want to run.”

Alli Blum: 30:22 We don’t assume that anything we try is going to “work” on the first time, because lots of things don’t “work,” even though that’s what everyone wants to see, something work for the first time. We say, “Okay, maybe the people who are coming here tend to all use this one feature first, and then they use the second feature,” and then we can say, “Okay, it looks like this is a very simple problem to solve. We want to get people to use these two features. Once they use these two features, they tend to stay for a long time.” This, whether it’s one, two, four, five types of steps in the process, this tends to work on closed feedback loop, limited functionality type products.

Alli Blum: 31:09 In other cases, we may not have that luxury. It may be very messy, and we may have to make some hypotheses about what’s happening, but as we’re looking at all the behavioral data and what all the customer support tickets say, we’re also talking to customers and doing what we call Voice of Customer research, listening to how people describe their problems, and then bringing that so I have an onboarding roadmapping session, and that’s what that process is all about is looking at everything that you have, all the information that’s available to us, and saying, “What might we do, over the next 30, 60, 90 days?” or if we’re really serious about it, over the next one to two years. Onboarding, really truly committing to optimizing your onboarding messaging and your copy and your in-app messages, and maybe even making changes to your product and how you reach out to people … It could take two years, and you should expect that it’s going to take a long time.

Alli Blum: 32:09 How do we go about prioritizing, with the limited resources that we have and the limited time that we have, that we all have? No company’s got this magical unlimited resource that every consultant wishes they had, to actually spend time properly addressing these problems. How do we make these trade-offs? What do we want? What do we want to prioritize? Then, from there, we start plotting our sequences, writing our emails, testing them, then research, writing, testing, over and over and over again-

Chris Davis: 32:09 Got you.

Alli Blum: 32:40 Until we start to get to some kind of measurable improvements, and we may not … Our tests may fail. Over the weekend, I heard Noah Kagan talking about how something like 92% of the tests that they run at sumo.com fail, but the other ones do really well, so larger companies can do a little bit more testing. Smaller companies take the best practices and run with them, and then run to the next thing, typically.

Chris Davis: 33:11 Yeah, and either way you’re learning, right?

Alli Blum: 33:12 Either way you’re learning.

Chris Davis: 33:14 Then, you could say you learn more from your failures than your successes, but for you, when it’s all said and done, everything is up and running, how do you like to measure that an onboarding sequence is successful? What are some of the measures that you look for, the trends, or some of the data points you look to say, “Okay, this is successful”? Is it the amount? Is it feature adoption, or is it something else?

Alli Blum: 33:42 I think that most of the time it’s more paid subscriptions or upgrades or noncancellations.

Chris Davis: 33:47 Oh, okay, so retention and upgrades?

Alli Blum: 33:50 Yeah, ideally. When we’re talking that first period of time, when we’re still in … I like to say that onboarding never really ends and never really begins. It’s just kind of you’re always … It’s everything, because you’re always teaching. You’re always helping people get started with whatever they’re doing. Anytime someone’s trying something new, even if they’re using the same product, you might be helping them get started or helping them continue on. Anyway, it’s a personal little soapbox of mine.

Alli Blum: 34:15 In that initial stage, when people are first signing up, we like to see more people staying. We like to see more people signing up for paid plans. We like to see more people signing up for the paid plans that we, if there’s different tiers or there’s different types of plans for different feature sets, helping more people find one plan that may be right for them. Then, on an ongoing basis, we want to see more people staying. We want to see more people retained.

Alli Blum: 34:45 We also like to see … The other measure of feedback is people responding to emails. If you send emails, and you ask people to reply. If you ask if they have questions, and they do, and you’re using email as a way to really build relationships with humans, I think that’s another really important indicator, because too often it’s easy to say, “Oh, these are emails; these are a deliverable; that’s part of our marketing funnel; that’s part of our KPIs, and we’ve got these OKRs,” as opposed to saying, “These are human beings, who have decided to give us a chance, and how can we help them?”

Alli Blum: 35:21 Val Geisler is another email onboarding consultant. She likes to say that they’re humans. They’re not ATMs, so how can we make sure we treat them like humans?

Chris Davis: 35:32 Yeah, and that’s something we talk about a lot on the marketing side, right?

Alli Blum: 35:37 Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Chris Davis: 35:38 Even on the podcast, where I talk about scaling personalization, the goal for technology is not to appear as a robot, but to actually put you in the position where you can talk to people at mass scale and still make it feel like an individual conversation. From the sounds of it, it looks like that same approach, taken across the board, across that borderline of lead and customer and into the customer post-purchase journey, has the same effects.

Alli Blum: 36:09 Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Chris Davis: 36:10 Alli, this has been amazing. I’ve learned a lot from this, and I know you can just go for days, talking about onboarding strategies and some … We didn’t talk about some of the battle scars that you have, but I’m so grateful that you took the time to share. Onboarding is something that is so important, especially with the amount of new SaaS companies coming to the market. Thank you for sharing that insight and information. How can people stay connected with you?

Alli Blum: 36:41 I have a free four-part email mini-course that I have on my website, which is at alliblum.com. I also just started tweeting mini-lessons on writing onboarding emails, and my handle is @alliblum.

Chris Davis: 36:56 Oh, nice.

Alli Blum: 36:59 Thank you so much for having me. This was really a really great conversation. I loved that we got to talk about some things outside of SaaS, because onboarding, helping people, is everywhere.

Chris Davis: 37:08 Yes, I agree. We’ll put all of those links in the show notes. You’ll find them at this episode, activecampaign.com/podcast. You’ll be able to see all the podcasts. Alli, again, thank you so much for coming onto the podcast and sharing your expertise and time with us.

Alli Blum: 37:25 Thank you, Chris. Great to be here.

Chris Davis: 37:29 Thank you for listening to this episode of the ActiveCampaign Podcast. I hope that you have a better understanding of the onboarding process, just the term in itself. Hopefully, it’s not as technical, because getting started is really important for every business. It’s often said, “It’s not how you start. It’s how you finish.” The case can be made, relative to onboarding, that the opposite is true, right? It’s how you start that’s important.

Chris Davis: 37:58 Now is the time for all businesses. The model or the trends of consumption are changing. How people are being trained to learn new skills and new things are changing. It’s time to reassess and say, “Okay, in my business,” even if you don’t have a SaaS, “In my business, what is the most effective way for people to get started? What are the steps that I need them to take to ensure success early in their customer lifetime with me?” I hope this podcast was good for you to get those gears to start to turn, all right?

Chris Davis: 38:36 If you are new to the podcast, if this is your first time listening, this is my special invitation to you to subscribe: iTunes, Stitcher Radio, Google Play, SoundCloud, anywhere where you can download podcast episodes. We are in there. Just type in The ActiveCampaign Podcast and subscribe. Shout out to everybody who’s given us five-star ratings, four- and five-star ratings, and have left reviews. I greatly appreciate it, and so do our listeners and our future listeners. I can’t thank you enough.

Chris Davis: 39:04 If you’re stuck, if you feel stuck getting started with ActiveCampaign, don’t stay stuck. Do not stay stuck. We have a Success Team ready and willing to help you, one-on-one, through your issues, so that you can hurry up and expeditiously find success with ActiveCampaign. To do so, to sign up for a one-on-one, go to activecampaign.com/training. If you want more of a guided approach, if you say, “Hey, I’ve got it; I just want something I can read on my own, late at night, after hours, while I’m waiting,” the Education Center is perfect for you. It’s the home of our podcasts, our guides, our manuals, our help documentation. Everything is accessible from the Education Center at activecampaign.com/learn.

Chris Davis: 39:46 Remember, we are here to help you succeed. This is The ActiveCampaign Podcast, a small business podcast to help you scale and prepare your business with automation. I’ll see you on the next episode.

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