NPLG 9.22.22: How To Delight All Your Users
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NPLG Startup of the Week: CommandBar
On a walk with a founder yesterday, I was told that users typically use less than 50% of functionality in SaaS apps. He said a big reason for this was that in-app education is still limited and that it can be difficult to find new features and the right content. This creates a massive opportunity for PLG companies to expose users to more of their product and in doing so, make their product stickier while offering upsell opportunities. Enter CommandBar.
CommandBar is a powerful widget that provides a searchable index of your app's features and content. I am a big fan of what CommandBar is doing and they are already winning some big accounts like Netlify and LaunchDarkly. As a quick side note, I really like how CommandBar lets prospective users play with the product directly on their website (check it out here). For this edition of Notorious PLG, CEO and co-founder James Evans shared with me his thoughts on how CommandBar is both using PLG and enabling PLG for many high-growth customers:
“CommandBar is a collection of widgets that product and growth teams can embed in-product to make their products easier to learn and addictively fast to use. CommandBar is particularly useful for teams focusing on PLG because it is no-code configurable and personalizable. It’s much faster to run an experiment through CommandBar than to make a PR and instrument an A/B test using traditional tools.
As a result, we’ve had the chance to watch world-class PLG teams at work, from Hashicorp to Freshworks to Gusto. A lot of good content has been written about PLG, but here are some less well-known techniques we’ve seen work for our customers.
Let users pull
Salespeople are magic onboarding machines. They can learn about a prospect’s pain points, hopes, dreams, and desires and then guide the prospect straight to the features that matter most for that individual user. It’s harder to achieve this in-product. There are plenty of tools for embedding useful onboarding experiences in-product, including those that leverage progressive disclosure to educate the user in an ongoing way that doesn’t overwhelm them up-front. But in our view, a key principle of PLG is admitting that you can’t design a perfectly personalized onboarding for every user. You will inadvertently show users some stuff they don’t care about, and users will struggle to find things they do care about.
Enter the concept of user pull. Pull means shifting the burden to the user to tell you what they’re trying to do in your product, and then serving up results. Basically, it means search, which we’re increasingly reliant upon everywhere. Imagine being stuck with only Netflix’s (admittedly good!) recommendations instead of having the ability to tell Netflix what you want to watch.
To enable pull, you need to give your users some way to search for what they’re trying to do. This can take many forms — and CommandBar is known for our solution, a command palette. The key idea is to give the user the lowest-friction way possible to express their intent, which both makes it more likely the user will try the feature and enables the next tactic…
Leverage search logs
User pull enables a superpower: you can read a user’s mind. When a user searches for something, they are telling you “I am interested in X.” You can then use this information in a ton of ways. You can use that intent to inform a product-led sales motion. Is a customer searching for a feature that is on the roadmap? Reach out and tell them it’s coming soon. Do you have customers searching for an integration you don’t support? You can use this data to inform your product roadmap and reprioritize building that integration.
Keep users in-app
Product exploration is key to PLG, but there are so many distractions. Workers report at least 3 to 4 interruptions per day. Whether that’s due to a chatty coworker or maybe they just got sucked into another YouTube rabbit hole. Some of these factors are outside your control, but you can avoid shooting yourself in the foot by keeping your users in-app as much as possible (or at least not jettisoning them out of your app unnecessarily). This seems obvious, but if you x-ray a few user sessions, you’ll see lots of places where you’re sending your user away:
Product tutorial videos that open on YouTube
Help center articles that open in a dedicated help center
Customer forums that pop open a forum page
Of course, you still want users to be able to access this stuff (especially contextually relevant content, like an explainer video that helps a user get the most out of the feature they’re currently using). An in-product widget can help you to embed as many of these pieces of content as possible for access without distraction.
Push when appropriate
While we believe most onboarding strategies over-use push strategies, there is undoubtedly a place for push. The trick is to avoid losing the user’s trust. Over a third of workers feel overwhelmed by persistent alerts, and up to 78% of users report deleting an app due to notification fatigue.
When you first download a new app, notifications from that app are novel and exciting. But if the app sends many useless notifications, we become desensitized. In-product nudges are like yelling at the user, “IT’S TIME TO PAY ATTENTION TO THIS THING.” You should only do that when (a) what you’re nudging is an extraordinarily valuable action (like an upgrade or an action that is highly correlated with a future upgrade) or (b) you can anticipate the user’s need with high confidence.
Allow upgrades at the point of “aha”
An upgrade is one of the most valuable actions a new user can take—that magical moment where a user decides your product deserves their or their company’s money. Often, this can happen when a user realizes they need to upgrade to unlock a feature they want.
This is the perfect time to get a user to upgrade. To do so, you should give them a quick path to upgrading at that exact moment, and an in-app nudge or CTA is excellent for this. Slower approaches like email convert less well (only 1 in 5 emails get opened!) than in-app form factors where a user can take immediate action. An upgrade moment requires the user to hold a lot of context in their head: why they are upgrading, what will happen if they don’t upgrade, how they upgrade, and (if a B2B tool) who they need to inform about the upgrade. Even if the user sees an email notification later on, they will likely have forgotten some of this context, making the upgrade less likely to happen.
A product adoption toolkit, like CommandBar, can help you balance pull vs. push onboarding, surface buried features, help content, and recommended actions, nudge people to convert, and drive PLG.”
I would love feedback. Please hit me up on twitter @zacharydewitt or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you were forwarded this email and are interested in getting a weekly update on the best PLG companies, please join our growing community by subscribing:
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Arpeggi Labs, a web3 startup focused on music creation and publishing, has raised $5.1M. The round was led by A16Z.
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Codi, a startup that creates more flexible office space for companies whose employees want private, flexible workspaces, has raised $16M. The round was led by Andreessen Horowitz.
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Zesty, a company that automatically scales resources to meet app demands in real time, has raised $75M at a $430M valuation. The round was led by B Capital and Sapphire Ventures, with participation from Next47 and S Capital.
Fortanix, a startup that aims to decouple security from network infrastructure to keep data secure even when the infrastructure has been compromised, has raised $90M at a $463M valuation. The round was led by Goldman Sachs Growth Equity, with participation from Giantleap Capital, Foundation Capital, Intel Capital, Neotribe Ventures and In-Q-Tel.
Recent PLG Performance (Public Companies):
Financial data as of previous business day market close.
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15 Highest EV / NTM Multiples:
15 Biggest Stock Gainers (1 month):
Complete Notorious PLG Dataset (click to zoom):
Note: TTM = Trailing Twelve Months; NTM = Next Twelve Months. Rule of 40 = TTM Revenue Growth % + FCF Margin %. GM-Adjusted CAC Payback = Change in Quarterly Revenue / (Gross Margin % * Prior Quarter Sales & Marketing Expense) * 12. Recent IPOs will have temporary “N/A”s as Wall Street Research has to wait to initiate converge.