In our Behind the Conversations series, we put the marketing heroes you don’t hear about so often in the well-deserved spotlight.
Marketing is every bit of contact a company has with anyone in the outside world. What challenges do modern marketers face in the conversations their companies have with their clients? And where do they go for inspiration?
This time around, we talked to Aazar Shad about his marketing campaigns and messaging strategies at user onboarding tool, Userpilot.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.
My name is Aazar, and I’m the Head of Growth at Userpilot, a code-free user onboarding tool for SaaS companies. We help product managers and customer success managers at SaaS businesses build personalized in-app experiences such as modals, tooltips and checklists to boost activation, retention and reduce churn. Userpilot has a visual editor, which means an experience takes 15 minutes to build rather than a few days, and reduces the required development time to zero.
Actually, before I got into marketing, I had a career in sales for a few years. I started as a field salesman and then moved into marketing when I moved to Germany and founded my own startup. That’s when I became really passionate about digital marketing - and I learnt it by doing.
My passion lies in finding the perfect combination between sales and marketing.
What led you into marketing?
When I was still working in sales, I was really motivated by the impact of what I was doing on the business and the bottom line. But selling door-to-door, you can only reach so many people.
Starting my own online growth business and reading the ‘Growth Hacking’ book by Chad Riddersen and Raymond Fong, was really the ‘aha-moment’ that pushed me into digital marketing - I realized marketing was simply sales at scale. It allows you to have a much larger impact on a much larger group of people. Plus, I like to be able to see the bigger picture, which comes with that scale. In sales, you’re mostly acting on the account or customer level.
What are the marketing tools you can’t live without?
Well, I’m not going to be very original here - I’d say there are a lot of great tools out there, but Google Analytics is still my number one. That’s because it’s so robust. You can measure almost everything with it if you set it up well.
And since online marketing is all about funnels and flywheels, being able to measure the results and impact of each marketing tactic you have in your strategy is what differentiates growth hacking from throwing spaghetti at the wall. If I didn’t have GA, I’d feel like I was blind.
Other than GA, I’ve recently fallen in love with Poptin.com, the opt-in form and pop-up tool that makes my email marketing automation and lead magnets super-powerful. It has the kind of advanced analytics, A/B testing, customization and targeting functionalities that I’ve never seen before in email capture tools. It allows me to create experiments and measure the results like no other tool I know - and get ahead, since most marketers don’t do lead capture experiments at all.
I also love Crowdy.ai for how easily it allows you to integrate social proof into various areas of your website and signup flow, with reviews, testimonials and social count.
Where do you go to get inspiration?
I try to follow the people whom I admire and who has achieved the kind of results I’d like to get in Userpilot. I get inspiration from the best marketers, the books they recommend, their websites, and their way of doing marketing. I’m usually surrounded by tech people, so I now try to look outside as well.
Here’s the list of my favourite marketing and growth people. Follow them on Linkedin/Twitter:
- Dave Gerhardt - the former head of growth Drift, currently at Privy - for the work he does with social media and his priceless copy
- Kristen Lefrance - her newsletter and Twitter work within Churnbuster are cutting-edge
- Guillaume Cabane - Segment/Drift - for his growth hacking skills
- Nadya Khoja - for her copywriting and SEO work with Venngage
- Julian Shapiro - for his growth work at Webflow, and now in his agency DemandCurve
- Tim Soulo - for SEO at Ahrefs
- Udi Ledergor - for his fast-growth marketing skills at Gong
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What campaign/piece of work are you most proud of?
We recently released a report on SaaS Product Onboarding based on investing in the onboarding of 1000 SaaS companies for 120 minutes each - and I’m very proud of it.
It took us 4 months and over 1000+ hours of original research to compile it - but it produced the kind of results that really give value to the SaaS community. We discovered for instance that 40% SaaS companies don’t have a welcome screen, only 29% user any product tours in their onboarding, and only 24% use interactive walkthroughs. These are pretty shocking stats considering the impact onboarding has on conversion and retention. We also found 6 common mistakes that SaaS businesses make in their onboarding across the board.
The study went viral and drove around 20K visitors to the landing page in one day, and 1000+ people downloaded the infographics. This was a good move, as we made sure only the people who were really interested in the study summary clicked on the ‘download’ button - so it gave us some really qualified MQLs.
Doing this research was time-consuming, but totally worth it - it was a win-win and had a big impact on both the industry and Userpilot. It elevated Userpilot to the position of a thought leader in the SaaS industry.
How does your company converse with its clients?
We use multi-channel communication. It’s a fine balance between using automation and being efficient vs. personalisation and being approachable and authentic.
We try to do both.
For more personal messages, we send our users recorded videos especially for them in emails during the onboarding stage.
We also send hand-written Christmas cards and postcards to all our users!
When it comes to automation - we use chatbots. I believe bots are useful on high intent pages to provide value. But you shouldn’t put bots on each page. We also automate our lead magnets and newsletter.
What are some challenges you face in these conversations?
I feel like the biggest challenge we have is that we are not educating our users enough.
Once we have onboarded them, it’s critical that we keep in touch and make sure they understand the value of the experiences they have built with Userpilot, and use the learnings to build upon them. That’s the only way we can retain them.
Also, it’s hard to find the right balance between a chatbot that is helpful and leaves a positive impression, and one that is simply annoying. If a chatbot keeps pinging, that’s just annoying. That’s also a challenge.
How are you planning to solve these challenges in the near future?
We have recently launched a series of webinars organized by our customer success team to connect with and educate our customers. They come at beginner and advanced levels. We’re also planning more Zoom calls, in-app messages, and chatflows to re-engage them.
I think in, terms of the chatbots, a good UX is the solution to everything. When we move towards account-based marketing, I’m 100% sure these bots will prove useful to strike up a good conversation with visitors.
Also, right now, we’re not turning to solutions like Clearbit Reveal - amongst others - to identify our website visitors and use the learnings to create more of the content that attracts the ideal customer persona.
Could you share some cool future experiments on your roadmap?
We’re currently planning a virtual summit as an experiment. I believe it’s the trend - video marketing being another one. So, we’re combining those two together. A friend of mine drove 1,500 qualified leads with his last virtual summit.
I also want to start a podcast to be more authentic, and focus on authentic marketing as a way of influencing the growth of Userpilot. What I mean by that is being genuine, truthful and original. And being yourself!
I know some people may see juxtaposing the words ‘authentic’ and ‘marketing’ as an oxymoron - but that’s exactly where a lot of marketers go wrong.
In the era of product-led growth, most people see through marketing the moment they start using your tool - and don’t convert if you haven’t delivered on your promise or your market positioning is misaligned with what you really are.
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