Potential customers need to have a crystal clear understanding of your product and how it is going to make them achieve their desired outcome.
47% of buyers viewed 3-5 pieces of content before engaging with a sales rep. (Demand Gen Report, 2016)
You need to write more content to improve conversion. But you also need to write more content to help trial customers to onboard successfully.
That's why content marketing is so crucial for customer onboarding. You need to deploy a content strategy that includes excellent landing pages, helpful blog posts, attracting case studies, and a continually improving knowledge base.
Start by improving existing content
Improving existing content is a great way to get more traffic.
Let's take the example of QuickBooks doing so by deleting 2000 posts. Pruning has the same function as improving existing content. In both cases, you remove what doesn't work.
And while you might expect that traffic dropped—it didn’t. In fact, traffic was up 20% within a few weeks. And by the time peak season rolled around—tax prep creates a surge in search volume between January and May—traffic was up 44%. That extra traffic contributed to a 72% increase in signups as well.
They removed 40% of their blog posts, and their traffic got up 44% during tax season. But here's the more exciting part, the extra 44% traffic contributed to a 72% increase in signups!
It's essential to create content focused on your customer segments, your ideal customers. If you have a lot of traffic without lots of signups, then your content doesn't attract right-fit customers.
Be sure to define your buyer personas, research what they read by going on subreddits, forums, and other communities to see what content is popular there. And don't sell too hard. Be helpful, and then your product is going to sell itself.
Your product is probably not as easy to use as you think it is. Even with a great user experience during the signup and product tour, some customers are going to be confused about how to use it for their own needs.
Let's take an example: project management.
There isn't one way to manage a project – as you are probably painfully aware. And you can't shoehorn every possible methodology into your onboarding process. That's why guides are essential in order to improve your onboarded rate.
Write guides on how to use your product with Scrum, Kanban, SAFe, etc. Video is also a great medium to make guides.
It is especially true if you have a highly customizable product. Airtable is one of these products. You can use it for a lot of use cases, and it can be confusing. Alex Hillman – seasoned entrepreneur – explains how he learned to use Airtable for CRM purposes.
What I discovered is that the trick to learning Airtable, like learning Trello before it, is to watch someone actually use it. What ended up working for me was spending a few hours on Youtube watching people build different kinds of Airtable demos before I understood how it really worked. And now that I really understand it, Airtable is one of my favorite tools in our toolchain going into 2019.
Many people use Airtable. I'm sure Alex found videos about using Airtable as a CRM pretty quickly, but your product might not be in that position.
Invest some time making guides for different use cases.
Side note: Templates are a great way to get started, and Airtable provides a lot of templates. You get sample data and the structure that might fit your needs. You can include a CTA in your guides to get started with a template related to the current guide. It reduces onboarding friction and increases the likelihood of customer success.
96% of B2B buyers want content with more input from industry thought leaders. (Demand Gen Report, 2016)
It's a number that's hard to misinterpret. People want more facts and less content about best practices that come from nowhere. And interviews are great for that. Thought leaders – who have a good track record – are followed by many while your product is probably not.
If buyers can make a connection between your brand and industry thought leaders, growth will be just around the corner!
Miro (formerly RealtimeBoard) has a great interview that illustrates precisely the statistic above. They were able to make an interview with Hiten Shah, famous co-founder of CrazyEgg and KissMetrics who talks about product and remote a lot.
It's the perfect person to interview to give their audience the justification that their product's mission – the future of distributed teamwork – is wholly aligned with such a great product creator.
It gives their customers and potential buyers more reason to trust them, and they are going to be more likely to stick with them.
Because remember, the market is saturated, and your product matters less than your brand and the relationship with your customers. Interviews are a great way to expose your brand to more people.
Don't think about case studies just as a way to convince your product is excellent and they should buy it. Because there's actually a couple of other advantages to case studies.
When it comes to retention, companies who are deploying content are seeing 5 to 10% better retention, especially when they deploy content that is more customer success focused. (ProfitWell)
Guides are a type of customer success focused content. Case studies are another.
Let's say you have a customer that has impressive results with your product and use it in a way that isn't well documented. That's a great way for existing customers to learn more about how others have been using the product.
And if you make it good enough and long enough, it's also going to attract some organic traffic.
I'm probably not the only one to explore the website of a product just to find meager case studies that tell me nothing about the use case. Not only it isn't going to convince people, but it's also not going to be helpful for customers and Google will just ignore it.
This case study has more than 700 words with easily identifiable metrics. The benefits are clear, but it also explains in details how Moz uses Intercom.
We can't talk about content helping customers without talking about the knowledge base. It plays a crucial part in the onboarding process.
In a survey by Coleman Parkes of nearly 3,000 online consumers, an overwhelming 91% said they would use a single, online knowledge base if it were available and tailored to their needs. (GrooveHQ)
How many times have you been frustrated at a product because you didn't find the answer you were looking for in the knowledge base?
It happens to me all the time!
Only 37 percent of respondents currently even bother trying to use self-service options, because they perceive them as inaccurate or incomplete. (GrooveHQ)
It seems like I am not alone being frustrated by knowledge bases.
Creating a knowledge base alone isn’t enough. It needs to be good. If that weren’t the case, more than 40% of customers would not have been contacting a call center after failing to find answers to their question via self-service. (GMR Web Team)
Imagine losing 40% of your trial customers just because they didn't find the answer to their questions. I hope you have the perfect product tour or your trial-to-paid conversion ratio is going to be abysmal!
It's going to take time. But it is worth every bit you are going to invest in it.
If you have a support team, let them have some free time from answering requests to write knowledge base articles. If you are too small to have a support team, make it a priority for someone to spend a bit of time to write every day.
Like content on the website, your knowledge base needs to be updated regularly. Here are a few tips to improve your knowledge base:
- Add a survey to your articles to have feedback on the quality of the knowledge base and if you get too many unsatisfied customers, hurry up and improve the article.
- If a support request starts like "How do I..." then it's time to update your knowledge base!
- You need visuals in your knowledge base. An image, gif, or video will help tremendously in answering questions.
Landing pages are a very complex topic to talk about. If you look at the landing pages of the biggest SaaS companies – Intercom, Slack, Atlassian, and more – you will see almost the same layouts, the same type of illustrations, the same CTA. They are practically identical!
So you just have to follow them, right?
I don't think it's going to work. You see, they have recognizable brands and have lots of guides, case studies, and blog posts.
People going on the landing pages are probably already accustomed to their brand. It's perhaps not the case with yours.
You need to explain in details why they should sign up.
There’s a change in who signs up, too. We’re now signing up at least 2x the amount of larger plans. Larger plans pay more, get more value in return, and they churn a lot less.
By improving the copy of the landing page and going in-depth about the problems her product solves, she was able to get more signups, but especially by bigger customers!
Remember the 3-5 pieces of content people read before making a decision? Well, if you have a useful landing page, it could answer all the questions that would instead be in these pieces of content.
That's for the main landing page. When you have a product targeting multiple customer segments, and with more features, you are going to need more landing pages.
Let's take a look at Airtable. They have landing pages for the primary use cases. For example, this one about UX Research.
While the top of the page is the good ol' layout that we have everywhere, the rest of the page is laser-focused on the use case.
You are going to find multiple templates that will give a quick demo of real-world workflows made by real, recognizable brands and thought leaders.
It's crystal clear!
Another thing that is great with landing pages related to a use case is the automatic personalization. Most sign up processes will ask you about your role in order to personalize the onboarding process.
By having landing pages for each of these roles or use cases, you can skip the part during the signup process and in doing so remove friction that is going to be precious to increase the conversion rate.
You don't need designers, developers, or managers to improve the onboarding process.
As you can see with all these types of content, there are a lot of ways to improve conversion, engagement, and retention of your product during onboarding just with words.
It's something you can start doing right now!
I'm not done with content. I yet have to talk about emails, in-app messages, product tours, and microcopy. But they deserve their own articles.