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AMAs

I’m Eric Keating, VP Marketing at Appcues. Appcues pioneered the user onboarding software category and remains one of the most trusted resources on best practices (see our User Onboarding Academy, Appcues Blog, and ReallyGoodUX). Over the last several years, we've helped thousands of SaaS organizations - from rapid-growth startups to the Fortune 50 - dramatically improve product adoption and user retention with in-app onboarding, feature tours, and surveys.

Since joining Appcues two years ago, I've focused much of my time and energy advancing the conversation about product-led growth. In my role as VP Marketing at Appcues, I'm not only marketing our product to product-led businesses, we're also a product-led business ourselves. That's why I co-founded the Product-Led Growth Collective in mid-2019.

Feel free to ask me anything about:

- User onboarding

- Product-led growth strategy

- Product-led marketing and sales

- SaaS marketing (content marketing, demand gen)

- Scaling marketing (I've seen it all from $0-50M in revenue) 

- Product marketing

- Any other question :)

  • AA

    Anuj Adhiya

    5 months ago #

    Hey Eric!
    So cool to continue to see Appcues representation in the AMAs - you're the 3rd one I think :)

    Here's a couple of Qs from my end:

    a. When should someone consider NOT using a tool like Appcues for their onboarding and roll their custom solution? What's criteria would you go through before making that call?

    b. When creating your very first onboarding flow what is the process you would follow to develop that initial flow?

    • EK

      Eric Keating

      5 months ago #

      Anuj - great to hear from you!

      I try not to be biased when I answer this question (you’re not the first person to ask). But the following two quotes sum it up for me.

      “You should only be building your own tool if you've tried lots of others on the market and find that none of them will solve your problem. Only build if you’re left without a choice. And still take care: I’d estimate that 50% of the startups that I see build tools can’t maintain them.” - Peter Reinhardt, Founder & CEO, Segment

      “Next thing you know, you’ve spent literally hundreds of hours building a tool that’s not core to your business. Hours that really hardly saved you any money. But worse than that, it was hours that weren’t spent making more money by improving your core product. Not only did you save an insignificant amount of cash, you actually stifled future cash.” - Josh Pigford, founder of Baremetrics

      In summary, if you’re considering essentially just building Appcues-like functionality in-house, I think that’s a mistake. Appcues and other vendors in our space focus on solving this problem day-in, day-out. It’s OUR core product. BUY so that you can focus on yours. That being said, there are limitations to what a third-party solution can do. We have a number of customers that build some aspects of their onboarding experience in-house and augment it with Appcues.

      In response to your second question… I think I already answered this in my responses to Gustavo and GuestView Guide. Essentially, identify your activation moment, design an experience that you believe will get users to that moment as quickly as possible, then test and iterate. A lot goes into that second part. Consider your audience. Interview your users. It’s rare to get it 100% right on your first try.

      3 Share
  • DF

    Daniel Foster

    5 months ago #

    Hi Eric - two questions come to mind.

    1) What are your thoughts on what Scott Belsky calls "presumptuous defaults"...attempting to guess how a given user would use the product and altering the defaults accordingly? Is it better to ask the user a series of questions...or just take a best guess from one or two pieces of data and let the user change the settings if you got it wrong?

    2) What's a reasonable % of users to close out/opt out of onboarding altogether; basically say "no thanks" to a guided experience? Put another way, what % of opt-outs suggests to you that something is wrong with your onboarding approach?

    3 Share
    • EK

      Eric Keating

      5 months ago #

      Hi Daniel!

      1. I love it in theory. It’s a best case scenario, and I believe that’s how Scott presents it as well. I’d start by analyzing your users’ behaviors. When left to their own devices, is there enough of a pattern across all users that you can remove some of the choice with a presumptuous default and meet the needs of the vast majority of users? If so, give it a shot. If it moves the needle, keep going!

      For businesses that serve a number of different personas, it’s not as easy. Check out the Twilio example (#6) in this article: https://www.appcues.com/blog/personalized-product-examples. They do a nice job of gathering information up front that they then use to personalize the rest of the experience. I assume this actually gives them to opportunity to employ presumptuous defaults post-info gathering, as there are bound to be broad patterns within a specific subset of users.

      2. Unfortunately there’s no broadly-applicable benchmark here. Totally depends on the audience, complexity of the product, industry, etc. This is probably an oversimplification, but you can generally expect that a more technical user base will opt-out of guided onboarding at a higher rate. And vice versa.

      2 Share
  • MR

    Mark Rogers

    5 months ago #

    I love ReallyGoodUX, but I'm curious - what was the reasoning behind making it a separate publication, rather than just a different blog category on your blog? And related - how do you help readers bridge the gap between ReallyGoodUX and Appcues?

    • EK

      Eric Keating

      5 months ago #

      What’s up, Mark?! Good question. I wasn’t at Appcues when the team launched ReallyGoodUX, so I can’t speak to the original thought process. That being said, I’ve been here for two years and we haven’t changed it, so I do believe it’s the right approach. And last year, we took a similar approach when we launched the Product-Led Growth Collective.

      There’s no right or wrong answer here. But in the cases of RGUX and PLGC, there are two primary reasons we broke them out. First, the value they offer is unique enough to standalone. Appcues is known for thought leadership and best practices around user onboarding, product and feature adoption, and user experience. RGUX specifically promises to deliver UX inspiration to your inbox once a week. PLGC specifically promises community-contributed content focused on product-led growth strategies and tactics. Second, when you create some separation between the resource and the company brand, it is often perceived as more trustworthy. While I’m very proud of Appcues’ commitment to delivering high-value, trustworthy content (you will rarely see an Appcues pitch in our content), I realize that vendor-originated content is often viewed with some level of skepticism. Creating that space can help the audience consume the content more openly, and helps us continue to deliver value to the community.

  • EH

    Evan Hallward

    5 months ago #

    Hi Eric,

    My company is still a bit early on in our product journey, but I am really taken to the idea of product-led growth and automated user onboarding. We have a fairly low LTV so need to keep CAC and customer onboarding as lean as possible. My 2 questions:

    * When do you think it's appropriate to implement product-led growth?
    * Is setting product-led growth as a north star (i.e. in the product roadmap, sales & marketing strategy) a reasonable goal for a startup? or is it something that should come AFTER direct selling (to learn) and achieving product-market fit?

    • EK

      Eric Keating

      5 months ago #

      Thanks for the questions, Evan!

      In general, I don’t think it’s ever too early. I can’t count the number of founders I’ve spoken with who wish they’d introduced a free trial or freemium product earlier. That being said, it’s important to acknowledge that there is some risk in opening up your product experience to the world before it’s ready. First impressions matter. You want to be careful about pushing a large volume of potential customers into a clunky product experience, especially in a world where word-of-mouth is more effective than any marketing campaign. If you’re unsure, ease into it. You could start with a sales-facilitated trial and gather feedback from the users. Or if you start with a self-serve experience, ease into it. Don’t try to drive thousands of users into the product on day one. Ramp it up as you gather proof that it’s working.

      I don’t consider “product-led growth” to be a north star. It’s a means. Consider the value that your business is trying to deliver; the problem it solves for your customers. Does being product-led help you solve that problem for more customers?

      2 Share
  • GG

    GuestView Guide

    6 months ago #

    What are the key KPIs when onboarding?
    We have a digital concierge that our customer has to add content to before it's useful. We're trying to figure out the ideal timing, interaction, and metrics to look at so we can prod them along quickly to see the value.

    Thanks!

    • EK

      Eric Keating

      5 months ago #

      Hi there. I'd focus on two metrics to start: activation rate and time-to-value. You’ll need to start by identifying your activation moment. At what moment do users realize the value of your product? For Appcues, we believe it’s when a new user builds their first flow. So we measure activation rate as the % of new users who build a flow, and time-to-value is the average amount of time between when a new user signs up to when they build their first flow. You should focus on increasing activation rate and minimizing time-to-value. Worth noting that you should never stop validating your “activation moment.” Ours has changed a number of times over the years. The key is to never stop testing, validating, optimizing, etc.

      Given that your users need to add content before your product is useful, I’d encourage you to look into the “learn-by-doing” approach to onboarding. Check out the Grammarly example (#3) that we feature in this article: https://www.appcues.com/user-onboarding#great-examples

      2 Share
  • EK

    Eric Keating

    5 months ago #

    Hey y'all! Thank you for the awesome questions so far. I'm going to break for a bit, but I'll be back to answering questions shortly. Keep 'em coming!

  • GN

    Gustavo Nunes

    6 months ago #

    Hi, Erick. Tks for hosting this session with us.

    Is there a magic number of steps for a user onboarding? I read once that some companies apply this psychology principle called Sunken Cost Fallacy that says that once people invest time and effort into something they’re most likely to stick to that product because they don’t want to give up on all the effort they put in (like Slack and Notion). I have no data to back me up but I believe that you'll have people finishing their profile, for example, but won't be loyal to your product or advocate of your service.

    • EK

      Eric Keating

      5 months ago #

      Gustavo! Thanks for having me.

      In short, no. There is no magic number of steps in a user onboarding flow. I’ve seen very short flows and very extensive flows perform equally as well/poorly. I’d consider your audience (a less technical user may prefer and benefit from extra hand-holding, whereas a highly-technical user may prefer a quick intro before opting to explore on their own).

      The goal is to [get your users to realize value] [as quickly as possible]. I recommend that you start by designing an experience that you believe will—if completed—get people to that aha moment. Next, think about how you can remove steps as an optimization.

      You’re absolutely right to bring up the “sunken cost fallacy” here - it’s real. I had a conversation recently with a friend working for a business that makes it easy to build a website. Through experimentation, they’ve found that when they require users to name their website (and declare some additional details) up front, it increases the likelihood that the user will ultimately publish the website. The same person also experimented with requiring a credit card up front. Same result.

      The most important takeaway from that example: make sure you’re optimizing for the end-result you want. His team determined that their “aha moment” (aka activation) is when the user publishes a website. When they required a credit card up front, they saw a notable drop off in account creation. When they required the user to name the website up front, they saw fewer users start building. But in both cases, the total count of users who published a website increased. If they were focusing on optimizing for either of those preliminary steps, they likely would have decided to remove that friction.

      2 Share
  • WH

    Wagner Hertzog

    6 months ago #

    Hi Eric!

    What kind of of strategy do you think fits better for B2B Facebook campaigns? Lead generation with LP or Facebook forms, direct contact with WhatsApp, or another? I need to reach people who are responsible about human resources decisions on their companies while they're using their personal profiles on Facebook. Thanks!

    • EK

      Eric Keating

      5 months ago #

      Wagner, I wish I had a better answer for you, but I don't have much experience with Facebook forms. What are you asking these folks to do? Start a trial? Talk to your sales team? I covered this topic a bit in my response to ColourMoon.

      One suggestion I have related to Facebook ads... they're cheap enough, and the reach is great enough, to use Facebook ads to test and validate messaging/CTAs. If you're trying to improve your value prop, create an ad for each variation and measure which one generates the most interest/clicks. It's a decent proxy for getting a visitor to take action/learn more based on a website headline.

  • CT

    ColourMoon Technologies

    5 months ago #

    Hi Eric ....
    What are the key KPIs? and
    what kind of strategy do u think better to Facebook campaigns?

    • EK

      Eric Keating

      5 months ago #

      Hi there. Thanks for the question. I'm not sure exactly how you're hoping I'll answer this one, but I'll give it a shot.

      New user onboarding
      - Two most important KPIs: activation rate and time-to-value (see my answer to GuestView Guide's question)
      - Improving Facebook campaign efficiency: if your Facebook campaigns are driving people into a trial or freemium experience, I'd actually consider your user onboarding experience as one of your best levers. If you improve free to paid conversion (another great onboarding KPI if applicable), CAC will improve.

      General demand/acquisition
      - My team's top two KPIs are pipeline and revenue. It doesn't matter how much traffic we drive, many leads we source, what our conversion rates are, etc if we're not contributing to pipeline and revenue. I'll sound like a broken record to those who know me, but I could deliver 1000 leads that turn into 5 new customers or deliver 100 leads that turn into 20 customers. Time to move on from the lead-focused mentality that persists marketing.
      - In my experience advertising on Facebook (purely B2B perspective), content-focused campaigns have always performed best. Don't be afraid to take a multi-step approach, ie. attract net new prospects with content, then retarget them with stronger CTAs (free trial, demo request) later. Also, take advantage of Facebook's lookalike audiences.

  • JA

    Jolie Adam

    5 months ago #

    What are some best practices for user onboarding?

    For a Chrome extension-based service, should users gain immediate access post-installation or should they sign up first?

    What are some important factors to consider when it comes to gating your product?

  • SS

    Stacy Schweizer

    5 months ago #

    Hey Eric!

    How do you decide when/where to introduce onboarding in your experience? For financial apps, it makes sense to always have it at the very beginning. But with other apps/sites, like airbnb and trip advisor, you can search without going through onboarding or creating an account. is it really just a question of value exchange - and making sure the value you're providing for the effort/information you're asking from your users are balanced?

  • CT

    ColourMoon Technologies

    5 months ago #

    Hey Hi...

    How many ways Product marketing in online (Please provide me High Rank Links)? please explain clearly

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