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Ty Magnin is the Director of Marketing at Appcues, where he and his team help software teams create stickier, more adopted products of their own. 

Ty started his career producing videos for tech startups around Boston. In 2010, he was the first marketer at Work Market—an enterprise on-demand labor platform—where he spent 3.5 years. Before all of that, Ty wrote a chapbook of poetry based on his experience as a teenage father. More on that here

His second stint as a first marketer was when Ty came to Appcues in 2015 after becoming one of their earliest customers and evangelists. Appcues is a product adoption platform designed to improve activation, drive adoption, and proactively educate users. Appcues is helping anyone—technical or non-technical—build personalized walk-throughs, tutorials, and announcements—all without writing code.

At Appcues, Ty has written more on the topic of user onboarding than anyone else on the planet—see The User Onboarding Academy—and absolutely bring him your him your challenges and questions! 

He'll be presenting at GrowthHackers 2018 Conference as a member of their Activation Panel.

Feel free to also ask about him first marketer challenges.

He will be live on Jan 16 starting at 930 AM PT for one and a half hours during which he will answer as many questions as possible.

  • EF

    Ed Fry

    over 1 year ago #

    Hey Ty -

    Great to have you on here!

    I'm curious to hear your thoughts on what you as a director of marketing in a small team focus on within a small, fast-growing SaaS company? How do you split up work / projects and go about tackling big projects? Do you focus on week-to-week sprints / priorities or something over a long time period? Have you tried different methods?

    Curious too what your favourite thing to work on last year was - particularly with the gift of hindsight :)

    • TM

      Ty Magnin

      over 1 year ago #

      Hey Ed,

      Operating smoothly during rapid growth is really hard. I’ve found this true at Appcues and at Work Market where I was prior.

      Every few months we hire a new person, bring on a new partner, let go of a freelancer, etc. Those events often call for some kind of change in our the way we operate. I think the job of a marketing leader in such an environment is to smooth these transitions and iterate as needed.

      Right now our team operates on weekly sprints. We use Trello cards to track what we’re working on. In addition, we hold a weekly meeting that serves as three things:

      1) A standup: we go around and share what we’re working on that week (usually reiterating what’s in our Trello cards)

      2) We deep-dive into any challenge/opportunity areas. The goal is to define how we’re going to solve something and get input from the team on how to do so.

      3) We share a piece of creative inspiration. This helps us hold ourselves to high-quality, and take inspiration from what we’ve seen/read/heard the week prior.

      We’ve tried several variations of the above meeting, but this is what’s working so far. The key I’ve found to make this meeting effective is to send a detailed agenda beforehand and make sure to give everyone a role, so they know how they can participate.

      About a year ago, there were only 2 of us on the marketing team. Myself and a content marketer. We met once a week to go over our blog pipeline and once at the end of the month to analyze blog performance and strategize for the month ahead.

      Curious to hear how you’ve been doing things over at Hull. And for anyone reading, how does your marketing/growth team operate?

      5 Share
  • JS

    Jack Saville

    over 1 year ago #

    Hi Ty, great to see you doing an AMA. I was wondering, is there any software you use that helps you to quickly and efficiently organise your images?

    • TM

      Ty Magnin

      over 1 year ago #

      Great to hear from you.

      There isn’t anything I use. In fact, we just moved our CMS Webflow from HubSpot and we’re now worse-off than we were before on image organization.

      Can Bynder help marketers like me with this?

  • SE

    Sean Ellis

    over 1 year ago #

    Hey Ty, thanks a lot for doing this AMA.

    What do you believe is the biggest barrier preventing most companies from doing really effective onboarding?

    Look forward to seeing you at the GrowthHackers Conf in a few weeks. I'm sure San Diego will be a nice break from the Boston weather :)

    • TM

      Ty Magnin

      over 1 year ago #

      Hey Sean, thanks for having me!

      From what I've seen, the biggest barrier preventing most companies from doing effective onboarding today is that they don't tie their business value to product-metrics. Businesses that prioritize metrics like size of pipeline over metrics like engagement or activation are bound to invest much less in their product experience.

      This starts at the c-suite and works its way down. The good news is that businesses are prioritizing product metrics more and more these days. So the shift is definitely happening, and Appcues has been lucky enough to catch the wave!

      I know you asked for "the biggest" barrier, but here are another two worth mentioning:

      1) Not having anyone 'own' onboarding. Onboarding often falls between marketing, CS, sales, and product, and if no one owns it, nothing gets done. My advice to anyone who finds themselves in this situation: there's not a 'right person' to own onboarding. Assign the best-fit and watch things evolve.

      2) The responsibility of creating and testing onboarding experiences too often falls on developers. Developers are most often focused on core-product value and are allergic to building something as ephemeral as a growth experiment. I think tools like Appcues are taking off because they are significantly lowering this barrier by letting any teammate build and test onboarding experiences.

      See you at the show!

      5 Share
  • CH

    Cara Hogan

    over 1 year ago #

    Hi Ty,

    Excited for this discussion! Would love to hear about how you scaled your marketing team from a few years ago. How much has it grown and what were your priorities for your team as it grew?

  • NJ

    Nelson Joyce

    over 1 year ago #

    Hey Ty,
    For B2B apps, how do you think about the split between onboarding the team as a whole vs. onboarding individuals on that team. Do you guys just look at team level activation/retention, user level activation/retention, or some combination of both?

    • TM

      Ty Magnin

      over 1 year ago #

      Great question.

      I think companies should prioritize how they think about how they’re onboarding and measuring engagement of the team vs the individual based on their business model.

      If a company’s business model is based on selling seats, than onboarding and retaining the individual is an important driver to revenue. Same goes for apps that maybe have multiple users, but really only need one of them to be happy.

      Otherwise, I’ve come to believe measuring product engagement at an account-level for a B2B app is best practice. For Appcues, for example, our customers typically have several active users on their account, so what matters to us is how often they are coming back and getting value. Therefore we measure activation, engagement, and retention on an account/team level.

      And this makes sense as our revenue model is tied to an account, not an a individual.

      As for where to prioritize onboarding efforts, if a business is taking a product-led approach where their model is B2C2B and includes a free trial, they probably need to prioritize both the individual first and the subsequent users that they invite.

      From what I've seen, a lot of products are coming up short around onboarding invited users. It's a lost opportunity.

      4 Share
  • BJ

    Ben Jacobson

    over 1 year ago #

    Thanks for doing this AMA, @tymagnin! What are some of your favorite blogs for SaaS product marketing insights? Bonus points for hidden gems.

  • JD

    Jimmy Daly

    over 1 year ago #

    When I signup for a new app, I seem to get one of two experiences. 10% do a really job onboarding me, i.e. it's clear what to next and how I'm going to get value. The other 90% leave me with a blank slate a lot of questions. It seems like there isn't much in the middle.

    Is there low-hanging fruit that any app can/should be doing to get users going? And are there any companies that do a great job that we can learn from?

    • TM

      Ty Magnin

      over 1 year ago #

      My blanket advice to any company that isn't onboarding well is to first identify their points of friction by running user tests and then get the right tooling/process in place to make improvements to their onboarding experience.

      As for companies that are doing it right, I’d look to the current wave of unicorns. They all seem to be growing from having a better product experience than their competitors.

      For a mega library of user onboarding examples, check out our blog reallygoodux.io.

      4 Share
  • UA

    Umair Anwar

    over 1 year ago #

    Hey Ty,

    What are some of your favorite content promotion strategies, and how do you promote your content? And what do you think about my promotion strategy, and how can I improve on it? ( wrote about it here: https://www.proficientblogging.com/what-is-outreach-marketing/)

  • AL

    Ariel Long

    over 1 year ago #

    Hi Ty! Amazing to see you are doing AMA here! I have a question that's bothering me recently, for an (almost) brand new product, what's the most cost-efficient way to figure out the AHA most accurately? So, for example, very limited budget or time to conduct comprehensive UX research, would you call/trust your gust. And if so, how would you approach to convince your team/dev. Cheers!

    • TM

      Ty Magnin

      over 1 year ago #

      Hey Ariel - Good to hear from you!

      It sounds like you’re looking for a system to gather qualitative user feedback to help you identify your Aha! Moment(s), and I think that’s exactly right. Aha! Moments are inherently an emotional thing, and you’d be remissed to try to identify that emotional response with something like a regression analysis.

      That being said, regression may be the best way to identify your activation event—think Facebook’s 7 friends in 10 days.

      But back to the subject at hand—I highly recommend running a few user tests. User tests can be super cheap—or even free—and almost always yield some helpful insights. You might know what your Aha! Moments are, but I think you might be surprised at the magnitude of one of them as compared to others.

      One thing we do at Appcues is we have a ‘User Testing Day’ on the last Thursday of every month. We typically set up shop in another software company’s office for the day, put up a few signs, and get a ton off free user tests. Here’s an article we wrote on the how we run our User Testing Day.

      Another way you could do it is to simply ask at the end of onboarding—’what was your Aha! Moment?’ I recommend trying to catch a user with an in-product feedback form to get that insight instead of email. If I’m not mistaken, you’ve implemented a similar survey with Appcues at Bynder! How did that work for you?

      2 Share
  • AA

    Anuj Adhiya

    over 1 year ago #

    Hey Ty - great to finally have you on!

    A while back you'll did a post about Activation being the most important pirate metric and that post had a % lift calculator in it as well (for people who haven't seen it: https://growthhackers.com/articles/why-activation-is-the-most-important-pirate-metric/).

    I was wondering whether you'll ever tested such a calculator (any version of it) on its own as a lead gen mechanism (a la HubSpot's website grader).
    If not, why not?

  • RS

    Rishabh Saxena

    over 1 year ago #

    Hi Ty!

    I'm a big fan of the content on Appcues' blog.
    How important has content been to your marketing strategy and how has the content strategy evolved since you first started at Appcues? Any special insights from building up the blog that you can share with us?

    • TM

      Ty Magnin

      over 1 year ago #

      Thanks Rishabh!

      Content marketing has been our #1 driver for growth since inception.

      Our content marketing strategy has evolved in 2 ways:

      1) Promotion. In the beginning, I spent a lot of time hustling our content around. After a year or so, we focused on organic traffic more. Now, we're leaning on a mix of a few things, but it's much less about that manual outreach and hustle.

      2) The content itself has evolved. We've learned a lot from blogging for 3+ years, so we've iterated considerably on the archetypes of posts we create and doubled down when we found success.

      My only advice if you're just starting out is to first write something you think is meaningfully helpful and unique to your audience. Once you've done that hard work, you shouldn't feel timid to put it in-front of people and ask for help distributing it.

      Hope that helps!

  • GH

    Glen Harper

    over 1 year ago #

    Thank you for joining us today, Ty.

    When in your mind does "onboarding" begin for a product?
    What do you consider to be the difference (if at all) between onboarding and activation?

    • TM

      Ty Magnin

      over 1 year ago #

      Hi Glen,

      To make things simple, onboarding begins upon entry to a product typically after a signup form.

      That being said, a lot of what's done on the landing page before that matters to a users expectations, and should be considered as a bottleneck to activation.

      As for the difference between onboarding and activation, I see onboarding as the thing a product team does to get a user acclimated to a product, and activation as the measured result of that. It took us a while to define these this way, so I understand where it gets confusing. Hope this helps!

  • DH

    Dani Hart

    over 1 year ago #

    Hi Ty,

    Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge with us today.

    1. If you were to take over new user onboarding for a company that's never experimented on this part of the funnel and doesn't see the value of anything past acquiring more users/pushing new product features, what would be your first 3 steps?

    2. What are your steps for identifying an activation metric for companies? Given my experience, all companies rarely have the same activation metric and I'm curious if you have a methodology behind your approach.

    Can't wait to see you at the conference!


    • TM

      Ty Magnin

      over 1 year ago #

      Hi Dani - stoked to be here! Love the questions.

      1) If I were to take over onboarding for a company that didn't see value in activation as much as they did acquisition, here's are my first 3 steps (labeled a, b, c for readability):

      a. I'd get the c-suite to adopt activation as a top-level KPI right alongside acquisition and revenue.
      b. I'd gather qualitative feedback via user tests, surveys, and watching user sessions to come up with a few hypotheses that could improve activation.
      c. I'd implement initial tests based on the hypothesis and try to drive a significant win within my first 90 days.

      2) You're right. No two companies activation metrics are the same, and it's hard to know yours. The way I help our customers approach this conundrum is by setting the expectation that there are levels of sophistication to determining your activation metric.

      Facebook's 7 friends in 10 days metric is super advanced and nuanced. A simpler version of this might have been simply 'added friends.' If you're just trying to discover yours for the first time, you may just want to use your gut. If you're Mailchimp, a simple activation event could be 'sent first email.'

      If you're trying to be a bit more thoughtful, you can run a regression test against your behavioral events to determine correlation. This exercise may yield other helpful insights, but until your product and data normalizes, your activation event may be a moving target, so keeping it simple might be a nice solution.

      Can't wait for the Conference!

  • TM

    Ty Magnin

    over 1 year ago #

    Hey everyone - thanks for all the great questions! Have to run for now but hope to circle back later on tonight.

  • TS

    tanushree shenvi

    over 1 year ago #

    Hey Ty,

    According to you which apps provide the best user onboarding experience? In the food-tech, online travel and media & entertainment vertical.

  • YA

    Yoav Aziz

    over 1 year ago #

    Hi Ty! Great to see you here, i'm a big fan of your brand -- you are doing amazing job.

    How quickly has AppCues grown over the last few years and what are your main levers for growth?

    How do you see the future of SaaS marketing departments? Brand & Growth should sit together? Will it be all-in-one players that are doing everything or one person for SEO, one for PPC, Funnel optimization, Content etc.

    • TM

      Ty Magnin

      over 1 year ago #

      Thanks Yoav :)

      We've been really lucky at Appcues to have a lot of support from our customers and communities like this one.

      Although I'm not _totally_ comfortable sharing specific revenue #s in this forum, we did over 300% growth in 2017, and over 350% in 2016. As you can imagine we have some aggressive goals yet again for 2018.

      As for how SaaS marketing departments evolve, I'm not sure exactly how everything will evolve, but I do imagine Marketing and Growth sit together more in mid-size organizations. I imagine they all report up to a 'VP of Marketing & Growth.'

      And I think growth as a discipline finds their way further into all positions such as Brand, SEO, or Product Marketing. Would you agree/disagree?

      4 Share
  • JP

    John Phamvan

    over 1 year ago #

    Hey Ty - good to see you here.

    a. What tools are you using at Appcues for experimentation & analytics right now (other than Appcues, of course)?
    Have you added any tool(s) to the stack recently? If yes, why?

    b. Where does your data live, ie what is the "source of truth"?


  • MD

    Mark Anthony de Jesus

    over 1 year ago #

    Hey Ty,
    The common saying I hear every now and then is that your app should be so intuitive that it should not need the "crutch" of a walkthrough/tutorial etc.

    Given that sentiment, shouldn't more focus be on improving the product so it becomes that intuitive vs adding elements to explain certain parts of the product?

    So where do you draw that line here?

    • TM

      Ty Magnin

      over 1 year ago #

      Glad you asked. We get this question a lot at Appcues.

      I could be wrong, but I've come to the opinion that the idea of an app being completely intuitive is overly idealistic. Even Instagram uses tooltips and walkthroughs.

      All softwares are different. All software users come with different expectations of how to use the software, and good and bad habits for using software. That's where onboarding/help comes in handy.

      I think each product team needs to consider who their users are, and how sophisticated their product is when considering how much help they might need to get started. More sophisticated softwares with less sophisticated users need more help and visa-versa.

      I do agree, however, that creating an intuitive product can be a good thing to aspire to.

  • RS

    Rehan Sajid

    over 1 year ago #

    Hi Ty, Great to have you here - congrats on the success over at Appcues.

    Question is a short one: in terms of delivering growth how much emphasis would you put on Automation. And which platforms have worked for you?

  • BF

    bradley fehler

    over 1 year ago #

    Hi Ty,

    What is your team's general philosophy when it comes to creating "stickier, more adopted products"

  • MZ

    Mila Zambrano

    over 1 year ago #

    Is there something like a "best strategy" when doing B2B marketing?
    If yes, what does this entail?

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