This sponsored post is produced by Klipfolio.

There’s an old saying in marketing that ‘you can’t sell a customer a drink until you get them in the door.’

Entering into 2015, I saw we were getting lots of people through the door, but not enough of them were buying. For that matter, some of them weren’t even thirsty!

This had to change — I had to take action and steer the team forward.

One year later, after a lot of hard work and single-minded focus on the issue, together we have dramatically improved not only our conversion rate, but our retention rate as well.

Here’s how we did it.

1. We created a research culture inside the company


We realized we didn’t know enough about our customers. Although we have 4,000 customers, we lacked detailed information about the user experience to tell us what was working well and what wasn’t. We also wanted to be able to measure the success of new features we were introducing, but had no effective way of doing so. In other words, we needed statistically valid information about our customers’ experiences to make the right decisions faster. That information would also help us better understand prospects.

What we did:

  • We hired a user experience researcher: That person worked with our Director of Product Management and our Chief Experience Officer to make user research a priority and to gather and analyze information. This person’s background is in cognitive science.
  • We called and interviewed both failed prospects and successful ones: We wanted to understand the reasons for their decisions. Where did the failed prospects stumble? Why were others successful? Though we often used incentives to encourage people to talk to us or answer a few survey questions, we found most folks were happy to help; they realized this was not a sales call. For surveys, we used a tool called FluidSurveys, which was recently acquired by SurveyMonkey.
  • We created customer personas: We used the interviews to get a sense of which people inside a company matter most to our success. The development of the personas showed how we need to manage the users’ experiences to appeal to the right groups — in our case the business champions and their technical counterparts — who are critical to our success.
  • We integrated Mixpanel into our app: Mixpanel is an analytics platform that analyzes every action a user takes inside an application. (It’s one of several possible tools you can use to do this; another is Kissmetrics). Used in concert with the anecdotal data we were gathering through interviews and surveys, Mixpanel allowed us to gather lots of behavioural data on how people use Klipfolio.
  • We developed other tools: Beyond using this data to make better product decisions, it also informed our marketing, sales, and support teams about who our customers were and the experiences they were having. For example, we published a Success Factors sheet which advises our customers, step by step, on what they need to do to become successful with Klipfolio. The persona research has also helped us develop targeted webinars and in-application tours.

As a note, to be useful, any data needs to be statistically relevant. That’s where volume comes in. The more the better, and luckily, that is something we have.

2. We got the whole company focused on our conversion rate challenge


We have always had a very healthy “top of funnel” (the number of users visiting our website and starting trials). But what good is that number if you then can’t convert them into paying customers? We knew this was an important issue and made it the top priority for the entire company. Everybody started digging in and coming up with ideas. And then we put the best of those ideas to work, testing and refining them.

What we did:

  • We got the right prospects into trials: If prospective customers enter into a trial before they are ready, they may have a bad experience, and that decreases our sales efficiency. Our marketing team needed to focus on generating quality traffic as opposed to overall volume. They needed to ensure we were targeting the right personas and understanding what stage prospects were at when they first became aware of Klipfolio. Only then could we decide if we needed to further nurture and educate them, or if they were ready to start a trial right away.
  • We focused on the first 10 minutes of a trial: Using data we were gathering through research (see item 1), we made those first 10 minutes better. We had defined journeys that we expected trial users to take inside of our application. Based on these defined steps, we could see the inefficiencies — areas where we needed to make the user experience better. This involved our user experience, documentation, support, and development teams. If we can’t get a prospect past the first 10 minutes, we’ve lost all hope of turning them into a paying customer.Klipfolio1Click here to see a live dashboard of how our UX team measures what’s most important to them.
  • We increased the number of out-of-the-box templates for our dashboards. This allowed prospective customers to choose from a greater number of pre-built applications; with more to choose from, they were more likely to find something that matched their needs. It also made it easier for customers who did not know how to code.

The results:

The process worked. Our Q3 conversion rate shot up by 50 percent — a significant increase. The results were evident and everyone knew that their efforts had paid off — which was a powerful message in terms of company morale.

3. We went the extra distance to keep customers happy


After spending a lot of effort to attract new customers, we needed to make sure they not only stayed, but were happy. So we looked at ways to improve retention. If you’ve taken a look at what poor retention can do to a growing software-as-a-service company, it’s an eye opener. Customer churn is powerful and can quite easily outstrip new customer acquisition as the business grows. (I’ve written about churn here.)

What we did:

  • We hired a person whose job is to ensure customer success: Once a new customer signed up, we knew there was a critical 60-day window in which to get them successful. Customers who were successful were on a path to grow their subscription with us, but those who struggled would go dormant and were very difficult to revive. So we hired a person specifically to think about success and loyalty. This person makes sure new customers have their hands held throughout this initial 60-day period. She also makes sure they receive the support and training necessary to make them successful moving forward.
  • We created onboarding programs for customers: These included webinars, better documentation, and in-application tours aimed at customers as opposed to prospects.
  • We began monitoring customer health: We developed a dashboard that looks at all our customers and categorizes them into different “at risk” buckets. We can then take automated and manual actions to help customers who seem to be wavering. It’s an early warning system.
  • We changed the cancellation process: Although we don’t stand in the way of someone wanting to cancel, we do want to learn why. So when anyone wants to cancel, we channel them through the customer success person, who will ask them why they want to leave. Often the answers surprise us. Sometimes, it’s just that they want to pause the account. Sometimes, we can even save the account by just answering some questions — one customer in 20 changes their mind after talking to the customer success person.Klipfolio2Click here to see how we keep an eye on our customer retention metrics.

The results:

Thanks to these efforts, our monthly net retention rate jumped up by 1.5 percent.

(Net dollar retention is calculated using the following formula – making sure only to include existing customer activity:


Having a positive net retention number is important because it means your customers love your tool so much that total monthly upgrades overshadow all cancellations and downgrades.)

Growth is never-ending. It’s a challenge and it’s lots of fun when things come together. For us, doing those three things changed the trajectory of our company. I hope you can benefit from our experiences — and I’d love to know what your big three were.

If you want to see more examples of how we monitor our most important metrics, click here to see 14 live dashboard examples.

Allan Wille is a co-founder of Klipfolio, and its president and CEO. He’s also a designer, a cyclist, a father and a resolute optimist.

Sponsored posts are content that has been produced by a company that is either paying for the post or has a business relationship with VentureBeat, and they’re always clearly marked. The content of news stories produced by our editorial team is never influenced by advertisers or sponsors in any way. For more information, contact