Sometimes, it really sucks being a marketer with a conscience. On the one hand, I want to promote MailChimp’s compelling (imho) new features and benefits to our customers all day long. On the other hand, I know that would annoy the hell out of customers, compelling them to leave our service. So the challenge has always been to find effective-yet-non-annoying-ways to sell stuff to customers.
Um, what about email?
Of course we can send promotional emails to our users. And we sometimes do. But those emails are sent to really small, targeted lists. It’s very tempting to send to our "System Alerts" list of all registered users (that’d be more than 2 million recipients), but we try to reserve that list for the most critical "we moved your cheese" issues. If we send those emails too frequently, people will stop listening.
The Problem with Login Road Blocks
So a few years ago we built an internal tool for making "road block" screens, that tell people about new features as soon as they log in to MailChimp.
But this roadblock technique never really got used much at MailChimp, because it felt like we were annoying our customers. Unlike with other apps, the stress level is pretty high when it comes to email. So, just like the System Alert emails, roadblocks are now reserved for critical messages ("we changed your navigation" or "it’s a holiday, and support is only partially available"). Here’s one recent example of a login roadblock:
I’m honestly glad that our road blocks are rarely used, because people are logging in to–you know–get work done. And we’ve learned over the years that MailChimp users tend to procrastinate, so when it’s time to send a campaign they need to do it yesterday. Blocking them at login, popping up advertisements and warnings and doo-dads is just a bad idea.
Waiting our turn to speak
But then we got to thinking: what about when users log out? Presumably, they’re all done sending their email, and all the stress and pressure and urgency (and shame of procrastination, in my case) is gone. Maybe this is when our users are most open to suggestion?
So we did a little research. We wondered how many people actually click the "log out" link inside the MailChimp app. We know that a lot of times, people just close their browser tab, thinking that’s good enough (it’s not, btw).
We looked at data for the previous month. Turns out, the majority of users in MailChimp didn’t log out. But among the people who did, we’d get about 750,000 views of the log out screen per month, if we had a log out screen. That was good enough for us to start experimenting.
So we built a new screen located at /see-ya-later/ and made it so that clicking "log out" simply redirected people here. This is what our first log out screen looked like:
It pointed users to our "Mobile Friendly Campaigns" landing page. The goal here was to teach our users about all the new responsive, mobile friendly email templates we’ve got in MailChimp. This design resulted in about 1,000-2,000 page views per week for that landing page. Not too shabby. Just for comparison, sending to my massive email list gets more than 500,000 opens and between 10,000-15,000 clicks.
This one featured a screenshot of the app that tried to show that Mandrill’s analytics-heavy, and is very different from the aesthetics of MailChimp (Mandrill’s more for devs, or for techie-marketers). We also wanted to demonstrate that there’s a very nifty mobile app for Mandrill, so there’s an image of an iPhone there. And there’s our witty little take on the startup elevator pitch that we’re all familiar with: "It’s like MailChimp, but for Apps."
Results were roughly the same as the previous log out promotion: it sent between 1,000 and 2,000 resulting page views to Mandrill.com. Nothing to write home about.
We had a hunch that this screen looked way too similar to the previous logout screen and maybe was suffering from the effects of some form of "banner blindness" (both were blue, both had smart phones). On that note, we also scrapped plans to launch this third log out screen that was going to promote our MailChimp Mobile app:
More blue? More phones? Not again.
So we went back to the drawing board and completely redesigned the Mandrill promotion. This time, we used a bold illustration to emphasize how "Mandrill’s new and Mandrill’s something altogether different from MailChimp" and we traded the MailChimp signature blue for Mandrill’s black:
This one performed way better. It resulted in 19,000 page views on Mandrill.com on the first week, and 14,000 the next week. Here’s a graph of that:
But what about conversions?
More experiments to come
- Apparently, Facebook does this too.
- Managing Change – A really nice roundup of different ways to educate users about changes to your application.
- In our research, we discovered that Twitter has a log out screen with promotion too. Imagine it doesn’t get much attention, since Twitter’s an app that wants you logged in forever (and many use 3rd party Twitter clients). Also, Twitter seems to be investing more in email automation lately.
- via Paul Gailey: How this App maker Doubled their Android Install Rate in 60 minutes http://www.dwellable.com/blog/How-We-Doubled-Our-Android-Install-Rate-in-One-Hour (by using a less "salesy" image, imho)