LOCALOGY ENGAGE 19: What Drives Engagement?

Most SMB software products offer customers improved efficiency and time savings. But the upfront investment in learning and training is a big ask for busy SMBs.

One of the key threads in the latest wave of LSA’s SMB survey research, now called the Modern Commerce Monitor™, is that small business owners are underutilizing SaaS products, for a variety of reasons.

In fact, just 34% report using the full capabilities of the software they have purchased. And nearly half say they use software less over time, a bad sign for engagement when most SMB SaaS products strive to be mission critical.

When we asked small businesses to be prescriptive and tell us what would improve their engagement, many of their responses centered around a better process of establishing engagement early in the relationship:

  • Better initial training: 57%
  • Better expectation setting about what the product can and cannot do: 55%
  • Proactive customer support after onboarding/initial training: 23%

At last week’s LOCALOGY ENGAGE: SaaS/SMB event, we invited the SaaS legal services provider LegalZoom and email marketing platform AWeber to share some examples of how they address the engagement challenge with a better initial onboarding process.


LegalZoom has had great success scaling customer acquisition, topping 3.6 million customers by 2015, expanding internationally in 2016, largely through helping small businesses form LLCs and complete other legal tasks related to business formation.

One thing the company discovered was that in order to work with businesses throughout their business journey, and not just at formation, it needed to understand businesses better. They set out to talk to customers in order to learn not just what they say, but the deeper meaning behind it, then map the process of developing products and services to what they learn from their customers.

To learn more about what it takes to drive this level of engagement, LegalZoom launched a pilot onboarding process designed to set a positive tone at the beginning of the relationship, provide hands on guidance to the customer, gather needs that will be shared within the business and generally be a better customer advocate.

The results were solid. NPS rose by 11 points for customers that received an onboarding call. There was a 5% drop in orders that required customer outreach to solve a problem, bill through increased (LegalZoom wasn’t specific here) and they generated $45,000 in monthly cross-sell and up-sell from onboarded customers.

“If you are not currently doing an onboarding program, we encourage you to do so,” said LegalZoom’s Amy Haupl.

She also encouraged developing a process to gather customer feedback that goes beyond the perfunctory, “Step outside of your business processes and get to know your customer.”

Empathy and active listening are critically important to any effort to learn from customers.



Chris Vasquez talked about AWeber’s own onboarding trial, aimed at improving customer experience.

As he noted, “Customers don’t love email marketing.” They love their businesses. Email marketing is just a tool that can help them succeed.

The challenge for AWeber and any company serving the SMB market is, “Scaling in-person onboarding is difficult and expensive.”

Vasquez described an onboarding trial that sought to use data to identify their highest potential customers using both active and passive profiling.

One outcome was that these high-potential customers were paired with a customer support rep. The cohort that was served by a CS rep had much lower churn than those that were not.

Another outcome of the profiling effort was to identify which technologies a customer is using. Then services are suggested based on this profile. The result was higher email engagement rates and an increase in customers activating AWeber integrations in the first 30 days.

One theme that keeps coming up in conversations that we are having about driving engagement is that whatever can be done to get customers to activate features in the first few days or weeks of the relationship is a great bulwark against churn.

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