The hardest thing about selling a software solution is convincing customers they need to change the way they are currently running their business.
When we first started Clearplan, we would contact companies one-by-one and personally show them the software. All the ins-and-outs… how to use it, how to run your business differently, et cetera.
Typically, after signing up, these companies would call us with questions about how to use the software.
In the beginning, I would spend hours on the phone with customers explaining how to do things. The best side-effect was our customers told us what would make Clearplan better. It was worth every minute.
The majority of our early companies really understood the software and the methodology behind it, because we spent a lot of time showing them how to use the software and why it makes sense in their business.
If the user is successful using your product, there is no stopping your business!
The hard part is the get him to use it consistently. To get him to think differently and work differently.
This initial success we had with Clearplan was amazing... 30+ companies using Clearplan daily, achieving outstanding results.
However, my excitement was quickly dampened.
The first punch to the face happened when one of our customers left the system. I couldn't understand what was going on. Why would they leave?
Clearplan is a software product that helps repossession companies tremendously. Not only does Clearplan help companies repossess more vehicles, but it allows companies to spend less time doing it.
In other words Clearplan helps you do more with less.
Up to this time, our strategy for getting users on Clearplan, was to give a personal demo of the software, have them sign-up, answer a few questions, then they would be rolling.
When you get punched in the face by a customer leaving your system, it hurts. How could they not love my baby?
We desperately needed to keep better track of our users.
After a week of writing code, we had our user analytics system in place. With these analytics, we could see who was using Clearplan. And—most importantly—who was not using the system.
What the analytics showed, was that our user sessions were down. Certain companies I assumed were strong users, were actually not.
I knew we had to take action.
At the end of the day, I want a customer for life. Making a quick buck doesn’t do it for me.
Long term value is what's important. If a company can make more money using Clearplan, and streamline their business, they will stay on Clearplan.
To acquire a customer for the long haul means not only getting customers to look at your software and use it once. But to get that customer to use the software day-after-day.
For Clearplan, generating leads and getting potential customers to sit through an hour-long demo was just the start.
At first, this is all we were doing. Users would look a demo, then sign-up for a free trial. We provided support through our Clearplan YouTube videos and phone calls.
What we found, was this method was not working.
Our conversion rate from time of demo, to sign-up was incredible—almost 90%. For a SasS company, this is an amazing conversion rate.
Our problem however, wasn’t signing customers up… it was keeping customers on the system.
We had to find a different method. Fast.
Here's the perfect case scenario for any SasS company:
- Build a Great Product
- Market Said Product
- Sign Users Up
- Kick Back on a Beach with a Delicious Beverage
While this case scenario might work for a handful of consumer-based products—this scenario is very rare in B2B software products.
To have a solid user base, we needed to teach our customers a better, more efficient way of working. Our goal in keeping customers for life is to motivate him to work differently. That's the hard part.
From earlier successes, I knew there were certain steps that needed to be taken for long-term success.
We couldn't just sign people up, sit back and do nothing. We had to be proactive and spend the time needed to teach everyone how to use the software. Clearplan is a new approach to doing business... users need to think differently.
Tackling the Problem
I started looking back at our best customers. What we did we do? How did we train our first customers? What changed from then to now?
We were simply spending more time with the early customers. We had lost that personal connection. I knew something needed change.
For each new Clearplan customer, if they complete the following steps, onboarding will be a success:
- Sign Up for an Account
- Add Team Members
- Load Accounts
- Draw Zones
- Review Icons
- Run Accounts
- Log In 5 Consecutive Days
Sign-up, to first-use was the most critical period. If we saw any users going longer than two days without accessing Clearplan, it was a problem.
The solution was to create what we now call the War Board.
Each week we do webinars Monday through Friday. He have a strong pipeline of leads from word-of-mouth and other marketing efforts. Our webinar participation has been strong.
After each webinar, our close rate for sign-ups was still averaging 90%. So we were doing a good job of showing what the software can do and why it's important.
Now, we needed to close the gap and get these people to actually use the software.
On the War Board we post the companies that signed-up each week. The war board is just a simple Google sheet with rows and columns, describing what needs to be done for each company.
After each company signs-up for Clearplan, we put that company on the War Board and assign specific people to follow-up with each company.
There are 12 unique steps that each company needs to understand and implement to be able to get the most out of the software. And, we know that if we cover each one of these 12 steps, that company will use Clearplan completely and get the most out of it.
After each component is explained to a company, we mark it done. When the entire row is complete, we move it off the sheet.
Simple, but super effective.
The investment is on the front-end. I know if we spend the time in the beginning of the life-cycle and teach everyone how to use Clearplan correctly, the support calls will be almost zero three months later.
Support is a huge issue for most software companies—ridiculous amounts of time and money are spent supporting their client base. The alternative is to spend more time and effort on the front-end.
Now, instead of waiting for users to drop off, we simply change the way we onboard companies.
This simple change reduced our churn rate considerably. In addition, it has reduced our support calls by half.
What's also super important—and actually really fun—is talking to each one of these companies on a one-on-one, personal basis. We've developed great bonds and great friendships with our clients.
At the end of the day, software is built by people. The personal connection is a must.
I know there’s still a lot more learn. But, the “War Board” method of onboarding has worked out tremendously thus far.