Think about one of your customers… let’s call him Tom. Do you know, for certain, the last time Tom used your product? Do you know how often he uses a specific feature, or what his last support request was about?

You might be saying to yourself, “I know Tom. He loves our product. Why do I need any other information?”

Great product managers know not only why, but how someone uses their products. The why tells you that your product is better than something else… The how indicates which features are successful, which ones could use improvement, and what needs to be built next.

That’s easier said than done. I’m practically never in the same room (or country, for that matter) as our users. How could I possibly know how they are using our product? For managing our customers and understanding their patterns, we use Intercom.

Don’t Assume Your Customer’s Behavior

Here at ProductPlan, we build roadmap software with a focus on B2B inbound leads. Let’s say Tom signs up for a trial of ProductPlan. Before Intercom, we would piece together his usage and behavior within our app from several sources, none of which were easily aggregated into a single location. By identifying Tom’s user behavior, we could manually send him specific resources or content based on actions. We were going to need a much bigger team to make that work for every single user.

Intercom changed our workflow drastically. Right off the bat, we were able to use key metrics provided by Intercom (i.e. when a user was last seen, number of total sessions in the app, etc.) to identify customers who were engaged and happy, as well as those who needed a small nudge as a reminder to update their roadmaps. Analyzing the activity of a large customer was no longer a database query followed by a series of VLookups and pivot tables.

Then we found the true value of data tracking. Using Google Tag Manager within our application, we’ve mapped fields in Intercom to triggers within ProductPlan, providing information on specific feature usage at the individual user level. This helps us in several ways:

  1. By looking at our most engaged users and how they’re using specific features, we are able to profile what level of feature usage can predict customer success. So, when a customer is deficient in one component of that profile, we can send them targeted resources to get them on track to be successful.
  2. We’re able to identify which users are the first to use new features, making it easy for our product team to reach out to targeted groups and ask for feedback.
  3. Themed (personalized?) Email Campaigns. We’ll come back to that one in the next section.

Don't Assume Your Customer's Behavior

Targeted Messaging and the Glorious In-App Chat

Remember those free AOL CDs? Most of the email I get feels about as targeted as those were. I shouldn’t joke, email marketing isn’t easy as it seems. That’s why we like simple, targeted and valuable messaging.

How can Intercom help with simple messaging? It saved us from ourselves. We were spending too much time updating HTML ridden emails, and synchronizing multiple softwares when we wanted to push out a small update to our copy. Intercom provides good-looking and simple templates — you add the text and you look like a professional. (If you want to build your own email template, you can do that too).

In-App Chat

Targeted and valuable messaging go hand-in-hand. Let’s say you’ve been a customer of ours for six months but haven’t used ProductPlan in three weeks. Guess what? You’re probably not the only one… We can set up a segment in Intercom to capture all unengaged users with similar characteristics, then send them a nudge email based on a common theme in their usage. Churn averted.

So maybe email marketing isn’t so tough after all. But why send an email, when you can send an In-App Chat?

One of the most powerful and unique features Intercom provides is the ability to engage with your users at the most opportune moment: when they are in your app. For product managers in particular, the value in being able to communicate with a customer at the exact moment they try a new feature is unquantifiable. Real-time messaging with your users about what they would like to see in the product, about how a feature works, or about why the sky is blue (sometimes conversations get deep) is so much simpler and quicker than keeping up with an never-ending email thread.

ProductPlan Intercom

Tags and a Bonus

The foundation that makes in-app messaging and feature tracking really valuable requires some forethought. Sure, you can spend 8 hours in-app messaging all the users you stumble across in your app, but it’s not a good use of your time (that being said, don’t think for a second that having emoji battles with your customers isn’t a beneficial task, because it is). The true test is in walking the fine line of marketing automation and personal reach-outs. We use Tags and Segments to balance everything out.

As product managers, we know how crucial remembering who wanted what really is. While tags are quite versatile, here’s one way we use them at ProductPlan:

Tag User Intercom

We get feature requests all the time — our customers love our product and they want to help in the development process. Admittedly, we can’t build everything at once, but that’s not to say that those ideas aren’t valuable. So how do you show those users that their input is vital to the success of your product? Each time we get a feature request, we use Tags to mark that user’s account with the name of the feature. As we approach development, we reach back out to all our customers who mentioned a specific feature, and we schedule some time to really understand what they want out of the product, and what they think could be improved. After development, you’ve now got an unbelievably targeted list of people who want to know that you released that feature. This is how we truly delight our customers.

Bonus Feature: Segments

We can’t say enough about products that turn manual work into automation (we’re looking at you driverless cars). Intercom has a number of features that eliminate those day-to-day tasks many of us are used to, allowing us to focus on the big picture.

Segments Intercom

In addition to Tags, Intercom provides user Segments to make quickly identifying and engaging with particular customers easy. Segments are real-time filtered lists that aggregate all users based on a set of criteria, updating automatically as users fall into or out of those parameters. We use Segments for tracking several user groups, but the most important might be our health-check list. At a glance, this segment relays key information about our biggest customers who recently subscribed to ProductPlan. Arguably, the most important stage of a user’s lifecycle is the transition from trial to paying customer. Our health-check Segment allows us to quickly check the vitals of our largest customers as they navigate the on-boarding process with their team.

Why do you Care?

Maybe you do, maybe you don’t. In any case, hopefully you have a better understanding of how Intercom has helped us scale and manage a large customer base effectively. Because when it’s all said and done, Intercom is simply a great service with a lot of perks for product managers. And at ProductPlan, we’re fans of good products.