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Ez Texting

Using the Benchmark API & Autoresponders as an Onboarding System

Nov 28 2011, 04:41 PM by

Ez Texting is a web-based SMS Marketing service. Our business is actually very similar to Benchmark, except we do for text messaging what they do for email. Like most SaaS offerings, our customers sign up on their own. We don’t have an old fashioned sales team. What we do have is a team of Community Managers who help our customers get the most out of our service. We had a few goals in mind when we ramped up our customer onboarding efforts:
  1. Let every person who signs up for a free trial know that our Community Managers are there to help them get started, not sell them something.
  2. Let those people know that we have a wealth of SMS Marketing resources that distills six years of experience advising customers into really useful advice for beginners.
  3. Track the effectiveness of the emails that we planned on sending.
Where We Were
We’ve always sent Welcome emails that a new customer receives as soon as they create an account. Welcome emails do a good job of getting people started; they initiate contact and give an overview of some quick ways to try out Ez Texting. The problem was that email communication (aside from newsletters) ceased after this initial email. We knew there was a place for more information, delivered in small doses. The small doses part is important – no one reads endless emails, so we didn’t want to just shove everything into a welcome email. We decided that four to five emails would be needed, spread out over the course of a month.

The first thing we did was spec out an onboarding system that would work through our own backend system. After talking those specs over with our Lead Developer we realized that this project was not going to be the best allocation of our developer’s time. Further, functions such as delivery, click and open tracking went from “essential” to “nice-to-have” to “perhaps in a future iteration.” Clearly we needed another solution. This is the point where we turned to Benchmark, who we were already using for our email newsletters.
What We Decided to Do
After talking things over with a few people at Ez Texting, we realized that we could use Benchmark’s autoresponder feature to send a series of timed emails. That solved half of the problem; getting our new customers’ email addresses into the system was the other half, and that’s where the API came into play.

The process we set up probably isn’t exactly what Benchmark had in mind when they designed their autoresponder feature, but it’s worked flawlessly for us. When a user creates an account, our system calls Benchmark’s API in the background. The user’s email address is loaded into our Onboarding Email List. We still send our Welcome email, but after 24 hours, the autoresponder sequence kicks in. The new email address that was added via API is sent its first onboarding email. And then, over the course of the month, a few more follow.

Aside from saving countless development hours (writing the emails took longer than doing the API integration), we simply can do more by using Benchmark than if we were to send the emails on our own. Changing timing, changing messages and headlines as needed, testing rich layouts - those are all things that would have been a pain, if not impossible, in the system we had intended to build ourselves. But of course there’s a lot more.
The Results
We had four goals, and we accomplished all of them. The first goal is a bit abstract but we are doing a much better job now of letting signups know that real human beings are here at Ez Texting, waiting to help them. Open and Click tracking, along with our internal analytics, confirm that we’ve achieved our second goal – pointing out the guides, articles, videos and webinars that are freely available to help new signups get the most of their Ez Texting account.

Tracking the effectiveness of the emails is where Benchmark’s web app shines for this project. It’s all there, from a high-level overview of messages sent and read in the entire series, down to click stats that we can tie to a particular customer. Again, none of this information would be available if we had built this out on our own.
Down the Road
As great as onboarding has performed for us, we know there is more that we can be doing. We’re fanatic A/B testers here, but the email subject lines and contents are something we have not tried to improve just yet. After collecting a few months' worth of data we’re in position to do this. Beyond that, we need to keep some secrets to ourselves. Have questions? Our Marketing Director is happy to answer your questions in the comments, or you can find him on Twitter at @JoshText.

Posted in Tips & Resources, Lists & Signup Forms, Online Tools and Applications

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