How Userflow focuses on getting trials to convert

An Interview with Esben Friis-Jensen, Co-Founder and Chief Growth Officer at Userflow

One of the best ways to get trial users to convert to paid users is with a robust user onboarding strategy.

To learn more about user onboarding, I had a chat with Esben Friis-Jensen, the Co-Founder and Chief Growth Officer at Userflow. Userflow is a no-code builder for in-app onboarding and surveys, allowing SaaS businesses to be more product-led. Prior to Userflow, Esben co-founded Cobalt, which today is a 200+ employee company.

Userflow helps teams with product-led onboarding. It allows you to build user onboarding flows, guides, product tours, checklists, and surveys without code. It’s a fast, simple, and powerful no-code solution to user onboarding.

The tool is fantastic—check out a demo of how it works here.

I asked Esben to tell me more about their strategies for improving trial to paid conversions, the tools they use to do so, and more. Here is our conversation, edited for clarity. Make sure you follow Esben on LinkedIn and on Twitter!

About Userflow

Kareem: Tell us about your company and how you set up your trial.

Esben: Userflow is a SaaS platform that allows you to easily build in-app onboarding for new users. It’s a simple way to implement walkthroughs, checklists, and surveys without code.

We offer a two-week free trial. We have an all-tech touch model rather than a high-touch model. But we do present ourselves as being available, so our users can reach out and book a call if they want. And we, of course, use Userflow to drive the onboarding and conversion on the trial.

We offer both monthly and annual paid plans—the user can choose to get a discount if they pay annually. Our three packages are called “Startup”, “Pro”, and “Enterprise”.

Our company is a bit special because it’s bootstrapped. We are only two and a half people—two full-time and a freelance designer. But we have almost 400 customers, so the business is doing really well. We’ve been around for three years now.

Kareem: You mentioned that you make yourself available for your customers to contact you. Is that by email or phone? Do you do demos? If you had to ballpark it, what percentage of people actually get in touch with you for higher-touch help?

Esben: We have two main channels. One is via chat on our website. This is primarily reactive, meaning that we don’t actively reach out on it, but it’s available to our customers to reach us.

And then we have emails. On top of our in-app onboarding, we send onboarding and trial emails. So that’s the other channel by which users can reach out to us. In those emails, we invite them to book a demo if they like.

We also offer a pre-recorded demo as well as a click-through demo.

Kareem: What tools do you guys use for chat and emails for sending those drip emails?

Esben: We use Intercom for chat and some emails. And then we use HubSpot for email as well.

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The “Aha!” Moment for Userflow Trial Users

Kareem: What’s your product’s “Aha!” moment? How did you figure that out?

Esben: I look at the “aha!” moment as kind of two things: the actual moment and how we measure it.

The actual “aha!” moment for our users is when they see how easy it is to build an onboarding flow in their app with no code. People like customer success managers and product managers are able to build a flow without needing developers. That’s really the “aha!” moment—when they build a flow inside their own product and get it up and running.

The way we measure whether they’ve experienced that “aha!” moment, is by looking at time spent in our app. We consider anyone who spends more than 30 minutes building inside our product as having had the “aha!” moment.

Kareem: And the longer they build, the better?

Esben: Yes, the longer they build, the better. There’s a minimum amount of time you need to build flows—you can’t really build something in 15 minutes.

And we’ve seen that in the data. Trial users who spend more than 30 minutes building in the product are much more likely to buy a subscription. It was by looking at that data that we realized that time spent building is the right metric to use.

The “aha!” moment itself was something we heard from qualitative customer feedback. Our users said that the thing they loved most was how easy it was to use and the things they could do with it.

Kareem: And how do you measure the “aha!” moment—do you have tooling? Or do you have something that you built internally?

Esben: We have an analytics tool to measure session time. We currently use LogRocket, but we’re actually looking at creating something ourselves in that area because we already have all the users and user flows. So we might add something like that in the user flows.

Kareem: That’s really smart. One of the common things I hear in these calls—and it’s been my experience, too—is that if you pay attention and ask, you’ll understand the “aha!” moment from the qualitative user responses. But understanding how to drive that is totally quantitative. You need to understand what the event is that helps people get that desired outcome, and then you need to measure and report on it.

Esben: Yes. And we build that into the first part of our onboarding. The first onboarding task is not to give an introduction to our product where we show them how to set up themes or whatever. It’s just to drive them to that realization that they can build a flow themselves super easily.

Kareem: You mentioned your target personas are CSMs and product managers. Are those your two main personas, or are there other folks who buy from you?

Esben: Within product teams, there are a wide variety of people that buy from us: designers, UX, and so on. That’s one group of people. And then customer success managers are another group. And then there’s this new breed of people called growth managers. It’s still not exactly clear where they fit in—most of them fit into product teams, but others might be in sales or marketing.

So that’s generally the mix. It’s non-developers, for the most part.

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Deciding on Onboarding Flow Steps

Kareem: So what’s the process you used to decide on the current steps in your onboarding flow?

Esben: Onboarding has been primarily focused on conversion. We have added some retention onboarding now, as well. But our initial onboarding was very focused on conversion because we needed to grow as a business. So the way we built it was to really drive towards key “aha!” moments.

  1. The number one moment is, “it’s super easy to build a flow.”
  2. The second one is, “it’s super easy to build a checklist to kind of hook your users.”
  3. Then the third one is “you can customize the look and feel” because that’s something a lot of people care about. They want to make it look like their own product.
  4. And then the fourth “aha!” moment is how little development work it takes to actually implement.

So those are the four key “aha!” moments that we are driving the users towards. The onboarding was built with all that in mind.

Kareem: And how did you decide on those steps and that order?

Esben: It comes back to that qualitative analysis of what you hear people say the most. And also, what is the priority for them.

For example, it’s rare our users come in and say that customization is the number one priority. For the vast majority of users, the number one priority was whether they can actually build flows that work, are robust, and so on. So again, it goes back to qualitative interviews and understanding what people are looking for.

Kareem: At the early stages, did you get that qualitative information from email or phone calls? Or were there other ways that you got it?

Esben: We were hyper-focused on understanding our users because we build an onboarding tool ourselves. So yes, it was something we asked.

But we didn’t necessarily conduct interviews or anything like that. You just have to listen to the market. You listen to what people say when they buy and what people tell you in support calls. That’s where you hear those early signals.

Especially as an early-stage company like ourselves, we don’t need to do super deep interviews to really understand our users. We get feedback when they buy or via our support.

Successful Strategies for Improving Trial-to-Paid Conversion

Kareem: What are the one or two most impactful things you’ve done to improve your trial-to-paid conversion?

Esben: The number one thing is that we drive to the heart. We want to get customers to that “aha!” moment. We have a checklist and onboarding flows that help us do that.

Number two is that we removed a big friction point by having a Chrome extension that allows you to build (and preview what you’re building) without installing JavaScript code. I think that’s one really big challenge for a lot of SaaS businesses who have some kind of JavaScript code—they have a hard time showing their value before installing the code. (Analytics providers are a good example.) Installing that code creates a lot of friction.

We remove that friction. You can build a flow in preview and really see how it works inside your own product. Not somebody else’s product or in a demo, but in your own product. So you can see the value before having to install it for end-users.

Kareem: That’s really smart. How did you guys come to decide on building that? How did you realize that that was a problem that you wanted to solve—that it was worth investing in?

Esben: I think that’s kind of what the no-code industry is about—that’s how you should think about it. I’ve seen no-code tools out there that you need a developer to actually use—that’s not the aim of no-code.

You have to know your ideal customer. And if your ideal customer is not a developer, then you need to make sure that it’s as frictionless as possible for that persona to try and see the value of your product. If they have to jump through a lot of hoops to see the value, that’s a big problem.

Want tactics to improve your Trial to Paid conversion? Get them here.

The Userflow Toolkit

Kareem: So what are the key tools you use to measure and improve trial-to-paid conversion?

Esben: So we have Stripe. And then we use ChartMogul to track all our conversion rates, all our subscriptions—pretty much everything. That’s our main tool.

Kareem: And you mentioned using Intercom and HubSpot for drip funnels and chat. Obviously, you use Userflow. Do you use any screen recording tools?

Esben: We use LogRocket. LogRocket is great for smaller companies. Going to something like Amplitude or Mixpanel can be a big step in terms of investment. But something like LogRocket is much more tangible to start out with.

I should say that we are very careful about not recording our customers and we’ve reduced the screen recording to just focus on trials. Because I think that can be a bit intrusive. We really try to lock it down as much as we can, to not expose any sensitive data.

Userflow actually just launched an explicit no-code tracker. So we are picking up elements of that tracking ourselves. We’re using that same element tracker to now do explicit no code events. So that makes it easy for customer success or product management to set up a no-code event and then track it. We’re not planning to be an analytics provider, but we made it super easy to tag and create events in a no-code fashion. So you can tag a button and track when it’s clicked.

We’re not trying to compete with analytics providers. We did it mainly to make it easier to control flows based on historic events and also to make it easy for somebody who’s not ready for the more advanced analytics to get up and running with something simple.

Inspiration from the SaaS Community

Kareem: Who’s one person you follow online to learn more about improving Trial-to-Paid?

Esben: It’s a good question. I don’t have a lot of people I follow for that, exactly.

I follow the product-led community in general, and they have a lot of good content. Wes Bush and Ramli John have written two great books on product-led growth and they have inspired me a lot.

I also love the product-led SEO book by Eli Schwartz. He writes really well about building authentic content. And that’s the earliest stage of the funnel—how you actually attract users to your platform.

I’ve also always been a follower of Jason Lemkin from SaaStr. He writes a lot of good stuff. But it’s starting to change a bit because he writes a lot about the more old-school sales-led model. These days, I’m much more interested in the product-led community. But it’s always fun to get different perspectives.

Kareem: Totally agreed. One thing I like about Jason Lemkin that I find rare out there is that he was a very smart practitioner who is now teaching. I feel like most practitioners are busy doing. And a lot of teachers were not practitioners, so they teach at a very high level, but don’t really get down to the nuts and bolts. But Lemkin very much does, so it’s really useful stuff.

Can you think of one company that you would like me to talk to so that you can learn about their onboarding?

Esben: Oh, there are many. Slack is definitely a big one. I think they are doing a lot of interesting stuff. And they have such a complex product, it’s insane. It can do so many things and it’s becoming even more complex. And they’re a modern organization, I think that’s important as well. So they would be super interesting in terms of how they do onboarding.

The only problem with Slack is that their scenarios are so different from everybody else’s. So you can draw inspiration from it, but you might not be able to apply it directly.

Kareem: Totally. What about a company that’s maybe a little bit ahead of Userflow? Maybe 1000 customers or 2000 customers that you’d be interested in?

Esben: Maybe Amplitude. They just went public and are an interesting company. They’ve always been very product-led. They still are to this day—they might have added a sales kind of button here and there, but they’re still very product-led.

They’re super product-led even while being very enterprise-focused. They always had really great product-led strategies—things like viewing a demo, rather than scheduling a demo… those kinds of things. I think that’s super interesting, and I would love to learn how they’ve grown and how that has changed over the years.

I also love Notion. It’s a product we use ourselves. It’s so simple. I love how they think about the product and how keeping everything consistent and clean and so on is super nice. I actually think they could do more in terms of onboarding, but it’s a really interesting product.

The Big Takeaways

Here are the major takeaways that I took from my conversation with Esben:

  • Figure out your “aha!” moment. You can often glean it from qualitative customer feedback data, like interviews, comments from converting customers, or support calls.
  • Measure your “aha!” moment. You need a metric for your “aha!” moment. The Userflow team saw that using the tool for 30 minutes was a good indicator of when a customer would convert. Find out what your metric is and make sure you track it.
  • Prioritize onboarding. In Esben’s words, “Drive to the heart.” A thoughtful, well-designed user onboarding experience can drive your users to their “aha!” moment and increase conversions. (And if you need a simple and sleek product-led onboarding tool, consider Userflow ;)).
  • Reduce friction. Make it easy for your users to see the value of your product. The faster they can see the value of your product—and the fewer hoops they have to jump through—the better your conversion rate will be.

Don’t forget to give Esben a follow on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Userflow has designed a low-friction onboarding experience that converts. If you need help building a low-friction, high-converting onboarding flow for your product-led B2B SaaS, let’s talk.

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