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How to Effectively Motivate SaaS Users

You know your product can help people. If only you could get them to use it.

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It’s obvious that free trials are a crucial time for converting dip-my-toe-in users to maybe-I’ll-swim-around-for-a-bit users. And while the average conversion rate for free trials does vary based on factors such as credit card required or not, another key element is action.

A new user isn’t going to want to roll to a paid account or remain with your service if they aren’t gaining value from it. And to gain value from a product, you need to use it.

So how do you help users see the light and motivate them to roll up their sleeves and get to trying? You need to push and pull.

The Duality of Motivation

Motivation comes in two forms: a desire to gain an outcome, or a desire to avoid an outcome. Different characteristics or outcomes make us feel different ways. Think of “pulling” as your favorite food being dangled just in front of you at all times, and “pushing” as a monster chasing you.

For example, let’s say there’s an accounting manager who wants to make her daily work easier and more organized. She’s motivated by a desire to save time so that she can get more done in a day and feel accomplished and at peace. She may also be motivated by a fear that if she falls behind or fails to innovate, she may eventually lose her job. She’s pulled forward by the idea of getting more done, and she’s pushed by fear of stagnation.

Think about a goal you’d like to achieve or a habit you’d like to take on or a change you want to make in your life. Then try to understand what’s pulling you (the good thing you perceive on the other side of achievement), and what’s pushing you (the discomfort you’ll feel by staying the same). Use those feelings to empathize with what may be happening with your users subconsciously.

How to Sustain Motivation

In the words of my 7th-grade history teacher: “doin’ stuff’s hard.”

Is it the most eloquent quote? No. But is it true? Yeah. Doing “stuff”, especially new “stuff,” takes effort. This doesn’t mean the effort isn’t worth the outcome, but devoting mental space and time to learning a new tool or process requires sustained motivation.

So how do we use email to make sure the motivation to achieve goals, despite the effort required, is sustained?

First, activate the motivation

In a way, a new user activated their motivation by signing up for your free trial. They had a goal in mind, and they took the first step towards achieving it. Go them!

Your job is to use that initial momentum to launch them into your product. Enter: the welcome email. The welcome email needs to have high energy that makes a reader feel good about their decision so far and emboldens them to go further. Then, you direct them into your product via a checklist item to cross off, an intro piece of content to enjoy, or a baby step they can knock out in two minutes flat.

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Then, keep poking the motivation

Consistency is key in onboarding. You want a new user coming back to your product over and over until it’s simply a daily habit they don’t think twice about.

So you drop into their inbox every few days. You give them new reasons to give a crap about your product. You show them new ways that your tools can work as levers for their success. You recognize their progress and remind them of the ideal future state they’re working towards.

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Finally, you just keep turning up the heat

As your onboarding series progresses, so too does the intensity. Think of it as a transformation from “nice to have” to “need to have.” Or, begin with positives they want to reach and end with serious negatives they want to avoid.

Mint did this throughout my first 30-days as a user. In the beginning, they focused on nice little positives such as “Get your free credit score right now in Mint.” Nice to have.

Then, by Day 23, they were warning me of the potential of having my money stolen. An email with the subject line “Wait, I didn’t spend $300 at the taco truck…” told me about their suspicious activity alerts.

We increase the intensity because sometimes persistence isn’t enough. You need to cover your bases, particularly if you’re running a time-based instead of an action-based series and therefore may not be sure if they’re building a habit or not.

How are you going to use these ideas to keep your users motivated? Let me know down below!

Ready to create or upgrade your SaaS onboarding email series? Download What to Include in a 14-Day Onboarding Email Series (And When to Send Each Email) here.