Marketers today are under more pressure than ever to deliver bottom-line results. This series sponsored by Autopilot explores how essential automation has become in that pursuit and the many ways it’s evolving to shape the customer journey from acquisition through to greater lifetime value. Check out the whole series here.

Converting trial users into long-term customers is a huge challenge for SaaS companies. Doing so repeatedly and scalably is even harder. In an age where consumers have millions of distractions at their fingertips, how can a startup capture the attention of both new and experienced users long enough to get them hooked on their product? Like the Star Trek captain whose signature command propelled the Enterprise into warp, it requires personalized action. That means catching customers with the right message, in the right channel, at the right moment.

Enter Hint Health, founded by CEO Zak Holdsworth, a New Zealander and self-proclaimed marketing automation geek. His SaaS company helps medical professionals move from a traditional fee-for-service model to direct-pay healthcare. The app manages billing, enrollments, and communication so providers can free up time for patient care.

The strategy: Urge users toward success milestones

At the outset, San Francisco-based Hint Health recognized that the best customers are those who take a few specific actions early on, such as inviting other users into the app.

Their onboarding goal had one laser-like focus:

  • Get all users — sophisticated or not — up and running in their first week.

To move people swiftly along their trial journey towards this goal, Hint Health identified four key events all users need to achieve:

  • Inviting third-party team members into the app
  • Connecting their billing service
  • Adding and updating their pricing model
  • Configuring their email address

The company also identified two non-product milestones for customers to achieve:

  • Attend a consultation session to plan user data migration into Hint Health
  • Schedule new-user training with customer success

Deconstructing the Hint Health trial journey

Imagine each journey as a series engagement checkpoints. At each checkpoint, the company gauges whether the customer has taken one of the key actions above. Let’s go on a journey with a conceptual customer named Annie.

Because Annie hasn’t engaged, she goes down a path meant to encourage things such as connecting her billing service — starting with a Headsup message (Autopilot’s in-app messaging). If needed, this notification can nudge her back to a previous step.

She ignores it, so her next stop in the journey is receiving an email designed to bring her back into the app or to provide more context.

If she still hasn’t engaged at this point, Hint Health sends an internal Slack message to the Customer Success team, notifying them that Annie isn’t reaching key milestones. The CS agents can then take whatever steps they need to manually encourage her to do so.

As you may have noticed above, another of Holdsworth’s key onboarding strategies is using personal email and in-app messaging in tandem. Hint Health has found that relying on in-app messaging (messaging that pops up within a product as you’re using it) as the first customer touchpoint is a more surefire way of engaging users. Email is a fallback (or escalation) if people like Annie don’t respond.

In the words of Holdsworth, “In-app messages are a precision tool, and email is more of a sledgehammer.”

Personalization is key in the above strategy. All of Hint Health’s in-app messaging is accompanied by a photo of the founder, customer success manager, or product expert, and a very clear message relevant to the user’s stage in their onboarding journey, something like, ”It looks like you haven’t yet connected your team members. Here’s how you go about doing that.”

These messages are combined with emails to further personalize communication and build positive and loyal customer relationships with higher lifetime value (CLV).

Power play

On the flip side, suppose someone quickly figures out how to invite team members, connect their billing, add their pricing model, and configure their email. None of the escalation checkpoints will come into play, because the user blasted through from one stage to the next, all the way to scheduling a data-migration consultation and new-user training.

The next step is a reward. Once Annie is successfully onboarded, Hint Health congratulates her in fun ways such as sending humorous T-shirts. The company can do this because it has connected its automation journey in Autopilot to its CRM system, Salesforce IQ, which pulls in other customer data, such as a physical address.

Key takeaways

Hint Health has customers self-serving their way through an involved SaaS onboarding experience — a process previously done manually. It’s a great example of a marketing automation best practice, allowing the company to deliver a personal experience in scalable way.

Does the Hint Health engagement-based strategy work? The proof is in the pudding:

  • Hint Health has created a quality, proactive outreach system that automatically evolves based on user behavior, provides real-time insights, and automates complex tasks
  • 23 percent of all new customers are “slow starters” who might have struggled previously but now get proactive in-app and email-based help
  • 26 percent of slow-starting customers are now successfully self-activating without needing to speak to customer success
  • It’s working: within weeks, Hint has seen a 10 percent increase in pricing reviews and sales engagements, which goes straight to revenue

With these automated nudges, Hint Health is able to vastly reduce reliance on customer success managers — so the company can plow the tremendous cost savings back into building their business, and make customers happier in the process. It’s a win-win the rest of us shouldn’t ignore.

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