Launched in 2017, Superhuman is quickly becoming one of Silicon Valley’s darling startups. They did this not with advertising or content marketing (in fact, Superhuman goes against most traditional startup “best practices”). Instead, they converted their product’s onboarding process into a sales and marketing tour de force.
Tech and SaaS companies are unique in that they usually require some form of user education in order for customers to get the most value out of the product. If a user can’t get over the learning curve of your product quickly, they are more likely to drop out. This is why onboarding has become a huge topic in sales and marketing; it’s directly tied to customer acquisition and retention.
Where most marketers and product designers will find ways to minimize user drop-off via onboarding, Superhuman takes it further by maximizing user retention AND promotion, turning their onboarding into a growth engine. Here’s how it all works…
You can’t use it unless you already love it
If you go to Superhuman’s website, you won’t see any “sign up” or “join now” buttons. Instead there’s a mysterious “request access” call-to-action, which leads you to a very thorough questionnaire.
This questionnaire digs deep into how you use email, what is essential to your workflow, and why you believe it will be a game-changer in daily use. After completing it, we were excited to get on board, credit card in hand and all. And then we received this…
Wait; what’s going on?
In an age defined by near instantaneous access to everything on the internet, it’s almost jarring to be denied. Why would you want to say no to potential customers and revenue?
By having a strict user filtering system (i.e. deny people who’s workflow doesn’t match the product), Superhuman guarantees that you can’t use the product unless you already love it. And those that do get left out (like us) become leads that they can retarget in the future when the product is ready.
Superhuman’s first step in onboarding ensures that the product is as amazing for every user as promised, which leads to world-class net promoter scores. Instead of investing in ads, Superhuman has invested in their “delightful” user experience, priming their happy users to become strong promoters.
High touch is high impact
Once you make it through the questionnaire filter, each Superhuman user is onboarded over a 30-60 minute call.
To many founders, this idea is ridiculous — “it’s not scalable,” we can hear many of our friends cry. Not only is it difficult to scale operationally, but if you Google the best practices on onboarding users, you’ll find hundreds of tips on how to make onboarding forms and emails as straightforward as possible. For most people, simplicity and speed means less friction and more customers.
Not so much for Superhuman. In fact, that world-class net promoter score and cult-like following is strongly tied to this hour-long onboarding call. This extended period of time firmly establishes a personal connection between user and startup in an age where such relationships only exist through an interface or an email (apart from sales demos or support calls). The high-touch approach is also aligned with their premium branding (remember, Superhuman is an email product at $30/month), where customer care and attention is critical.
If business is the game of people and technology is the game of software, then Superhuman’s onboarding process makes sure users never forget either.
Sent by Superhuman, the club
From day one on the product, users are destined to love it and are enthralled by the personal touch of onboarding. The next step in Superhuman’s product experience is providing users their badge for joining a great club: “Sent by Superhuman.”
Again, here is where Superhuman goes against the grain.
The branding badge is usually something that users pay to get rid of (e.g. removing that MailChimp logo in your email footer). In Superhuman’s case, many users actually prefer to keep that little badge on their emails because they love the product and they’re proud to be part of the club.
Who needs advertising when you’ve got hundreds of your customers’ emails going out with your name on it?
Customer acquisition costs (CAC) are quickly becoming a throbbing migraine for many startups that have aggressive growth goals. Prominent venture capitalists like Chamath Palihapitiya and Andrew Chen speak of CACs and marketing channels as an accelerating treadmill and naturally decaying over time. While traditional marketing like advertising and content do have their place in certain situations, startups need to innovate both efficient and cost-effective strategies in order to meet milestones without sacrificing ROI. Superhuman sheds light on how a strong filter and high touch approach to onboarding can turn users into fervent promoters, creating an engine for growth.
Looking to grow your startup? Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.