The Most Remarkable Product Onboarding I’ve Ever Seen

Growth by Seeking Wisdom podcast

On this episode of #Growth, host Matt Bilotti dives deep into the product onboarding experience of Superhuman, an email client and the “fastest email experience ever made.”

No matter if you’re in B2B or B2C this episode and Superhuman’s unique, 1:1 onboarding experience is full of lessons you should steal for your own. Why? Because without stellar onboarding and activation, users will never pay you, stick around or tell their friends about your product. Be sure to catch all this and more on #Growth.

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Like this episode? Be sure to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review and share the pod with your friends! You can connect with Matt Bilotti on Twitter @MattBilotti.

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In This Episode

0:20 – Matt’s excited about a certain product’s onboarding & activation process
0:42 – Matt explains the company, Superhuman
1:47 – What two things Matt believes are most critical for products and services
2:23 – Matt talks about his experience with Superhuman
4:02 – Matt describes Superhuman’s onboarding process
5:55 – Superhuman’s onboarding is tailored to your inbox and customized needs
8:07 – Superhuman’s nurturing emails are valuable, here’s why
9:19 – What to learn from Superhuman’s nurturing email strategy
9:50 – Matt explains “Superhuman Blast”
10:51 – Why “Superhuman Blast” is a noteworthy and useful feature
12:00 – Superhuman’s seamless process and the challenge to re-create it

Full Transcript

Matt Bilotti: What’s up everybody? This is Hashtag Growth. I’m your host Matt Bilotti and I have something that I was just so excited to talk about today that I just had to jump in the recording booth to tell you all about it. It is the most remarkable product onboarding I’ve ever seen and it’s by a company called Superhuman. And if you, I don’t care if you’re in B2C, B2B services, whatever it might be, I promise you there’s something you can learn from this and the way that they do their onboarding. Let’s go ahead and jump right in.

So for those of you who may not be familiar with Superhuman, they pitched themselves on their website as of this recording as the fastest email experience ever made. And it’s also an email client that currently costs $30 a month, which seems crazy, right? Because you have dozens and dozens if not hundreds of options of free email clients that you can go download for your Mac, your PC, your mobile, whatever might be.

And so I heard about and I was like you know, why would I pay that? And then all of my social circles started getting all hyped about it, talking about how good it was. The VP of growth at Drift signed up for it. Gee. David Cancel signed up for it. I saw some people I respected starting to have the sent with Superhuman link in their email. And I was like, you know what, this seems pretty cool but still not bought in.

And then I got a notification one day that Google Inbox, which I love, was shutting down in March. All right, time to find something new. You know what? I’ll buy into the hype. I’ll give it a month. Let’s see how it goes. And I think there’s a couple really, really fascinating steps here. And the reason I’m talking about here on Hashtag Growth is because I fundamentally believe that onboarding and activation are some of the most critical parts of any product or service or offering, right?

If you can’t help people get set up and get value in the first place, then they’re never going to pay you. They’re never going to stick around. They’re not going to tell their friends. It is so, so critical and they just have done such a special, brilliant job with this. So I’m going to talk through my experience going through their onboarding.

So right now it’s exclusive. You can’t just go sign up for the product and try it out. You either have to fill out an application form, which asks you all sorts of questions around how do you use email today? What’s your philosophy on email? What type of company do you work for? What’s your role? What tools are you using today? What devices do you have? Not only are they gathering data about who’s interested, but this allows them to be really, really smart about who they bring on.

Now they can be really particular to say we’re seeing people from this group have a lot of success. We’re still early on, we’re finding product market fit. Let’s keep going in that group.

I had the VP of product here at Drift, he applied to Superhuman and he joked that he got rejected. Like he didn’t get accepted in. And I guess maybe either one of his workflows didn’t quite match what they’re finding people have success with today. But it is really, really smart because what they’re doing here, so I’ll say learning, when I get to each of the learnings, man I’m so excited about the way they’ve done this.

So learning here is when you’re early, if you could find a way to be really smart about who you bring on and craft the experience around that, it will really help you nail a market, right? Especially early on when you’re running either growth experiments or building something, it’s especially hard to try to be everything for everyone and this is a way to like narrow yourself down into that from the get go.

And the other way to sign up is you know someone already using it and you get referred into the tool, like a direct one on one referral, which can be done right from within the product. It’s really, really cool the way they do that too.

So let’s say you go ahead and apply, you spend 10 minutes filling out the survey and then six days later, which I think was around the time that I had, six days later, you get an email that says, welcome, you are invited to Superhuman. Let’s do this. I’d love to invite you to a 30 minute consultation. I’m actually reading the email.

We’ll meet you over screen share, share faster ways of working and help you become as productive as possible. You’ll be asked to enter credit card which will hold your spot at the front of line. You won’t be charged until you’re flying through your inbox. Would you reserve a time here?

So my response to this is really well summed up in my friends’ response, who I ultimately invited into Superhuman. I got him invited and then he got that email and he wrote word for word. Wait. So I have to get on a 30 minute call. Why can’t I do it myself? This is annoying. Also, no free trial? I have to pay before trying. And then five hours after his onboarding call, he showed back up into Slack and said okay, it’s awesome. Because I had convinced them, I was like, trust me, go ahead and do it. And he shows back up and goes okay, it’s awesome. Everyone go get Superhuman. Wow.

So it’s a 30 minute session. It’s a real human there who they start the call with a walkthrough of your actual inbox today. So they ask you to step through it and they say, all right, show me what are some of the workflows that you do? Okay, you click that. What are some groupings of emails that you get often that you pay attention to at this time of the day or whatever? When do you look at your email? How often do you look at your email? So they spend a little bit of time understanding that and then they finally gave me access into the product.

So before the call they asked you to install Superhuman for the desktop and Superhuman for your iPhone. And then we go ahead and jump on and Ryan, shout out to Ryan, who is my onboarding specialists, did a great job. He asked me all these questions, had me walk through my inbox, I showed him the different workflows that have. And then he finally, finally gives me access to the product. So we open up the product. And then it’s this really beautifully done, all right, press these keys to go up and down your email. Press enter to open, press enter to reply all, press escape to discard the draft.

So it is clicking me through it and he’s sitting there watching me do this. So learning, not only is he making sure that I’m getting a personal touch through this whole experience, but he’s also, like they built this in product onboarding that clicks me through everything with a lot of attention to detail. That’s very clear. But now that he’s sitting there watching me do that, it’s like every single onboarding session into their product at this early stage is a user interview session, right?

Like he’s getting a chance to watch me as the product to then presumably take the points of friction that I run into, bring that over to the product team and say here’s how we can make this thing better. So it’s really this like do things that don’t scale in this type of system that scales beautifully in these early days.

So then we clicked through all this stuff and then Ryan says okay, so you know, we saw in your inbox that you had this grouping of emails. Go ahead and press command K. Great. Now type split. All right. Now type confluence. So I type confluence and then all of a sudden all my confluence emails are in a bucket right there in this tab. And then he says all right, well here’s another bucket of emails that you showed me that you work through, you usually star things, right? So then he walks me through how to start it and then makes me tab a star group.

So this is incredibly personal because now it’s not just like I went and signed up for the product and then I had to go figure out on my own how to click through all these things and set it up as is. He is making sure that this thing is tailored specifically to my workflows, which is amazing. I’ve never gotten set up with a tool that has ever felt like mine so, so immediately.

Next step. I get all set up. It’s pretty great, I’m starting to tell my friends about it. And then every single day for the next, it’s been like three weeks now, every single day for the next three weeks I get a nurturing email. And usually after I get the second or third nurturing email from a new product or service that I use, I unsubscribe because I hate them.

However, every single one of these emails that they have sent has been actually useful. So they’re teaching me how to use the product in every single email they send. There’s no fluff, there’s no trying to upsell me on other things. There’s none of that. All they care about is getting me to the point where I’m going to continually get value from this product and learn how to use it better. So most of the emails that I get are hey, did you know about this shortcut or this cool feature and here’s how to do it with a screenshot, some bolded words that make it really simple to know what I’m looking at. And a call to action on I’m pretty sure every single email that says hey, we love hearing from you. Please reply and let us know what you think. And all these emails also come from the CEO, which makes it again, feel really, really special.

So the learning here is nurturing emails can work really well if they’re useful. It’s really easy. I’ve made this mistake all the time. It’s really easy to fill the emails with, all right, we really want them to do this. And sure that could be useful and maybe the do this is log in and click on this thing, but the Superhuman emails are really just focused on we want to make sure that you know how to do this that you’re learning another thing with each of those. And that was really special.

And then today, this morning, I get another email, the next or nurturing email. And this one was the really, really special one. And I think at this point I, like I said before, I’m three or four weeks in. So my renewal’s coming up and I get an email that says a game and says, Hi Matt. A gift just for you. It’s a screenshot of a thing called Superhuman email blast and it says loading. And it says click to launch and complete this challenge to get through inbox not twice but thrice as fast.

So I’m looking at this, I don’t know what the hell am I looking at. So I go ahead and click on it and it’s actually a game and it’s like a space invaders type game. And it shows you like a little piece, I don’t remember what you are, but there’s emails falling from the top of the screen and you press shortcuts, right? So enter to respond, escape to go back, J to navigate up. So each of the shortcuts is one of the emails that I can blast away and it’s just so, so smart. Here’s the learning.

It’s not, like I’ve seen other companies do this kind of like cool thing to get people to talk about them. This is a kind of thing that I might go tweet about or tell my friends about. It’s noteworthy. It’s also timed perfectly because they made this thing show up in a critical moment where I’m coming up on a renewal and I have been using the product already, but maybe I’m starting to think to think about not paying for it. And then boom, they show up with this amazing thing to remind you how much they’re paying attention to your experience and they’re finding a way to make it fun to learn how to use the product more and more.

And the last learning here is it’s not just cool, but it’s useful, right? It’s not like flashy thing that just makes me laugh at it. I’ve seen emails that come with a gif or some goofy campaign. I’ve seen some other ones before and it just kinda like oh yeah, cool, but this one is useful because it actually, again, teaches me how to use the product while being noteworthy. Just really, really special.

So all of these things really boil down to creating an onboarding experience that is amazing. And they’re doing a thing that doesn’t scale right now around activation, but the amount in which they are learning must be so, so high and it allows them to do really, really rapid experimentation because they have five people every single day onboarding new users one by one. And what they’re going to get as an output of that is this incredibly seamless onboarding activation flow.

And so a question that I’m starting to kick around now is how do I do something similar without having to hire five people to onboard users every single day onto our product? Like that is a hard challenge. And I’m almost wondering huh. Should I do that? Should I just spend a week and a half doing this myself? And I think maybe the answer is yes, give it a shot.

And at the end of the day, all of these tactics are amazing and what’s critical that they also have is that the product actually lives up to the hype, right? It’s a world class experience. They’re super open to feedback and communication. The things that make it special are really overlooked in other products in the market like these other free tool offerings. And they deeply understand their core user and market.

I am a person that works in the tech world who gets a ton of emails. I’m definitely their early adopter group and they just know me so well. Like the whole workflow and the whole experience is built around that. And so it’s really critical if you’re trying to figure out how do we get more people onboarded or activated, it’s also important to just think from the start, are these the right people in the first place? And maybe that means that you got to figure out how to work with the sales team and the marketing team to help better define the leads that are coming in or create a system, a referral system that gets other similar people in the door.

This is not to say that all the things in Superhuman would work in any context because I don’t think that’s true. But making sure that you’re getting the right people in are going to mean that the right people are getting activated. And if you can help yourself and your team better define who that right person is through these types of like non-scalable things, it is so, so valuable and I’m going to give it a try myself.

That’s mostly what I got. I’ve been super excited to share this because I really think it’s one of the best things I’ve ever seen around activation and onboarding. And so if you are using Superhuman and you’ve had a cool experience, I’d love to hear it. Maybe there are parts of this that I’m missing or other learnings. Or if their other products that have these kinds of experiments going right, because I imagine that this is an experiment that will necessarily scale forever. I mean maybe, but I can’t possibly imagine that they’re going to hire 100 people to do these onboarding sessions. It is fundamentally an experiment.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I think it’s really, really cool. It’s really special. I’d love to know other company’s tools, whatever, that you have seen that do similar types of tactics because I think that there’s so much to learn. Again, no matter what industry you’re in, this is just a world class job well done and a lot to learn for future growth experiments.

So that’s all I got. Thanks so much for listening and I’ll catch you on the next episode. Five stars only, Hashtag Growth. Thank you so much. My email is Send along any feedback and I will catch you next time. Thanks.

Thank you so much for listening. If you found this interesting, actually my colleague Maggie Crowley, who runs Hashtag Build, which is another podcast that came out of Seeking Wisdom, she is going to have the CEO and founder, Rahul of Superhuman join her on that podcast. So go ahead and check it out. I can’t quite say if that episode will be done by the time this gets launched. If it hasn’t, hang in there and go subscribe to her podcast Hashtag Build. You’ll learn a lot of really, really awesome stuff. If it has come out, then when you go check out the podcast, you’ll see the episode there.

And as always, if you have any feedback, any thoughts, anything that I can do to make this time more valuable for you because you’re spending time listening in, I really do appreciate it. Please just let me know. My email is Send anything my way before or after you post a five star review. Thank you so much and I’ll catch you on the next episode.