Does your app have a message schedule?

At Intercom, we’ve worked with hundreds of web applications, helping them target their messages and improve their messaging schedules.

Most web app owners have no experience designing a messaging schedule, so there’s always low-hanging fruit and quick wins. Let’s look at five messages everyone benefits from…

1. Onboarding Message

Onboarding messages have 3 goals. Firstly, you want to welcome the customer and set a friendly tone for your product. Secondly, you want to give them a touch point if they have any questions. Finally you want to give them a next step—somewhere to go from here.

Unfortunately, most apps still welcome by email. This is the wrong way to speak to someone who has essentially just walked into your store. The right time to welcome someone to your product is when they’re in your product, not when they’re on the toilet checking their mail one hour later. All of the data we have says that in-app welcome messages are more likely to be read, clicked on, and responded to, which is why we encourage our customers to use them.

Here’s how you’d set up a welcome message in Intercom in thirty seconds.

Automatic Welcome Message In App

2. Engagement/Lifecycle Marketing

Automatic Customer Engagement Email

As a customer digs deeper and deeper into your product, you want to expose more value and highlight more features to them. In Intercom, features like tagging, keyboard shortcuts, and auto-tagging don’t offer new users any value, so we promote them on their 20th, 40th and 60th sessions. This is when users care about things like shortcuts.

You can use timed engagement messages to:

  • Promote deeper features in your product
  • Help your user progress through onboarding
  • Motivate your user to upgrade/follow/like/subscribe/refer

It’s important to target messages against usage (10th session, 20th report, etc) rather than just time (e.g. 1 day, 2 day, 7 day). App usage and feature usage give you far better context for when to trigger messages. When asking users to do something that benefits you (e.g. tweet, like, mail a friend) always pair the request with a moment of value e.g. “You’ve tracked over 10K hours! We’d love it if you…” or “This was your 10,000th message, why not…”

3. Customer Development

In the early days every web app has high-value users. Maybe they’re your highest-paying customers, maybe they’re your ‘earlyvangelists’, or maybe you think their logo would look great on your marketing site. For whatever reason, these are the customers you’d like to pay particular attention to, so naturally this means contacting them personally.

Doing this manually means going through new accounts every few days, checking account data, and then writing messages. Very tiring. Of course, there’s a better way. Just tag the customers you want to reach out to, and have a triggered message based on these tags. Here’s an example of how we do this in Intercom:

Automate Customer Development With Intercom

This message fills up my calendar every week with calls and puts me in touch with lots of our prospective customers. Here’s what the customers see…

Customer View of Automated Engagement Message

4. Feedback Check-ins

Different Feedback Customer Feedback Comes at Different Times

I previously wrote 3 rules for customer feedback. Active customers have different ideas and issues on day two compared to on day twenty. As customers mature within your application, the feedback shifts from gut reaction requests to ones that offer insight into exactly what jobs they hire your product to do.

Setting up some well timed survey questions is an easy way to gather these feedback by a common perspective, and helps you separate the gut reaction feedback (Surely the iPhone has to support Flash!?!1) from the considered thoughtful feedback (I’d love a faster way to switch apps). Another valuable thing about them is that they help you proactively identify any issues your regular loyal customers are having, meaning that you can solve problems before they become deal-breakers.

5. Retention Messaging

A message for increasing customer retention

The dumbest retention message I see is “We miss you :( Please log back in”, and here’s the funny part: even that one performs well. The best performing retention message I’ve seen was shown to me by one of our customers. It’s an email listing out all the features added in the past 30 days to users who are inactive for the past 30 days, ensuring that it’s always telling people about features they haven’t heard of, but more importantly it follows the key rule of customer communication: don’t tell people to do something, motivate them to do it.

Don’t bookmark this post, JFDI

I can’t think of a single way to spend a couple of hours in a start-up that has more impact than to configure a good messaging schedule. Honestly. And I’ve spent over 5 years consulting for, working with, and co-founding start-ups. Regardless of the tool you use, just give it a try. Don’t bookmark it under some “things to talk about at our next strategy meeting” folder, it’s way more important than that.