Onboarding email with 80% response rate

How to get feedback from early product adopters

Some of the most brilliant ideas are born out of scarcity. This is why I like working on indie projects – you only have an hour or two of focused work and that forces you to carefully pick what you develop and get creative with solutions.

Getting feedback is hard

At the beginning of this year I’ve built Snack – Video Chat Roulette for Slack. The goal was simple: develop something extremely minimal with a well defined use case and polish it to perfection. Keeping functionality focused on a single pain point allowed me to quickly iterate through feedback and to clearly communicate the value proposition. It worked: today organizations and events of all sizes use Snack to build and elevate relationships in Slack.

But getting feedback is hard. You don’t want praises. The most valuable feedback comes from people who got upset with your product. This could be because it doesn’t do what they were expecting (poor value proposition communication) or because it doesn’t work as they were expecting (poor onboarding). Not coincidentally, folks upset with your product are the hardest to get a response from.

One goal: get user response

But there is a trick: As long you manage to get user to engage you once (regardless on what the subject is), getting a follow up is a thousand times easier. Using this insight, I iterated through email onboarding copies with a single goal: get user response. After dozens of iterations, the email I ended up using is this:

The email copy is intentionally made to sound like something written in a rush; something an indie project author would do in response to a notification.

The result: 80%-90% response rate.

Not only is the response rate high, but it provided me with a ton of insights about what channels and keywords people used to to discover Snack.

As I iterated through different copies, I identified these variables that matter:

  • Short message. The shorter the message, the greater the engagement.
  • Actionable from first sentence. All email copies that could have been answered after just reading the first sentence had a lot greater response rate.
  • Non-actionable subject. Somewhat counterintuitive discovery, but subjects that disclosed what the email is asking for had lower open/response rate.
  • Mystery sender. Emails sent from my person email address VS @aboutsnack.com had a greater response.

The average response length was just two sentences, but as mentioned earlier, it was already valuable because it provided me with a ton of insights about how Snack acquires users.

Depending on what was the response, I had a few follow up templates that I used to extract further information about users or to drive them to sign up to our Slack community where they had a direct channel to talk with me. But in general, I kept the conversation short, thanking for their response and encouraging them to follow up directly with me if anything comes up. After all, our goal is to just warm up the conversation.

Get user feedback

The greater goal of this experiment was to get feedback from users that tried Snack app and either uninstalled it or did not re-engage with it. We sent the first email with a goal to start a conversation, theorizing that getting a follow up to an existing conversation is a thousand times easier than starting a new conversation. So how did we do?

First of all, the vast majority of users followed up to the same email thread when they had questions about the product. That’s already a huge win. Instead of deleting the app after encountering an issue, users followed up with questions and suggestions.

But the real win is that I got 100% response rate to follow ups that were about uninstalled Slack app. Every single person with whom I had a previous conversation took time to respond something to my email asking about them uninstalling the app.

The greatest learning here is that you should always warm up direction communication before asking users to do anything (like leave a review or give feedback). Therefore, the next time you have a recurring email in your process that has a low response rate, see if you can engage users ahead of it to develop a personal rapport.

Software architect, startup adviser. Editor of https://medium.com/applaudience. Founder of https://go2cinema.com.

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