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4 ways cybersecurity startups can boost adoption and shorten time to value
Cybersecurity products are notorious for having a very long time to value. This article offers advice on how to solve that.
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This article was originally published on TechCrunch.
The amount of time it takes for a user to realize and experience the value a product offers is known as time to value (often abbreviated as TTV). In a way, TTV is inversely proportional with adoption and directly so with churn — the less time it takes for a user to realize the value of your product, the higher the chances they will adopt it and the less likely they will churn.
Cybersecurity products are notorious for having a very long time to value. This is because historically, products in the space would fall into one of the three buckets:
Sales-led, B2B enterprise-focused tools. Companies in this category would require several demos, sales calls and pre-qualifications before access to the tool could be granted. Then, after the sale is closed, onboarding or setup would need to be completed (often with a white-glove service) before the user could see the value of the product.
Marketing-led, B2C tools. Companies in this category would employ fear-based marketing techniques to sell a “sense of security.” While a person would not necessarily be able to realize the product value right away, strong marketing could convince them that the tool keeps them safe.
Open source tools. Unlike the previous category, products that could be categorized under this bucket were open, transparent and accessible. However, time-consuming manual deployment, setup and configuration would often be required before the value of the product could be realized.
However, this has been changing in the past few years due to the widespread adoption of SaaS and the product-led approach. People and companies are no longer willing to wait months before they can start seeing returns on their investment.
The large number of vendors in the space, marketing buzz and the reliance on expert recommendations have made cybersecurity buyers cynical when evaluating new tools. One of the best ways to break through this cynicism is to show that users can accomplish something in five minutes when it used to take a few weeks. Short TTV is a powerful argument for people to spend more time exploring and further evaluating your product.
To increase adoption of PLG cybersecurity products, companies can take four steps:
Increase the likelihood of people trying a product.
Make it easy to get started.
Help users understand the value of the product quickly.
Measure and learn.
Increase the likelihood of people trying your product
Build trust with transparency
While the most obvious area to focus on when it comes to TTV is the onboarding experience’ you need to build trust long before onboarding.
To make it easy for a customer to take action, try to eliminate fear and ambiguity by being transparent about your product, its functionality and pricing. The easiest way to expose functionality is to make technical and support documentation easily accessible from your homepage.
In the same way, to eliminate ambiguity about pricing, make your pricing plans visible instead of requiring people to request a quote.
Show that there are people who trust you
Customers want to be sure that others have used your offering and were satisfied by it. To address their uncertainty, provide social proof to show that people trust your product. If you don’t yet have paying customers, ask a few industry leaders to review your product or talk about your vision.
Lastly, try to get some media to feature what you do and use press as a proxy for social proof.
Make it easy to get help
Support can be an area of concern when companies or people try something new: “If I run into a challenge or have a question, will there be anyone I can turn to for support?”
Be upfront about the kind of support available and the different ways customers can access it. A chat window and a link to the help center will usually do the trick.
Make it easy to experience value for free
No matter what your pricing model is, ensure that the full value of your product can be experienced for free.
In other words, a customer should not have to start paying before they can get to the “Aha!” moment. While this may sound obvious, I have seen several products in the space that require upgrading to a paid/higher tier before a customer can try the feature that makes a product stand out.
Make it easy to get started
You want to relentlessly optimize your onboarding experience. If a customer needs to hire an external consultant or read 10 pages of documentation to get started, you simply cannot say your model adopts a product-led approach — even if users can create their own accounts.
Design automated, frictionless, self-serve onboarding
Always put the customer first when designing the onboarding experience.
To decrease the time it takes for people to realize the value you offer, you will want to strip away any onboarding question that does not directly benefit the customer. Does knowing the company address allow you to serve this particular user better? If not, you don’t need it. Do you really need the user to say how many employees work in their company or what the name of their manager is? Very unlikely.
The side effect of this mindset will be increased conversion.
As an exercise, try to A/B test just how many people choose not to register for your product when asked for 15 pieces of information they would rather not share.
Don’t ask for payment details
Asking for credit card information at sign-up is an unnecessary burden that will drastically reduce the number of new users. A person creating an account likely does not yet know what your product does, how it works and whether it solves their problem, so asking them for their financial details before they have a chance to answer these questions will only lead to bad results.
Reduce the fear of making irreversible mistakes
Reduce the fear of making irreversible mistakes by being very explicit about what decisions are irreversible and what can be easily changed later. A simple user experience, clutter-free design and tool tips can do the trick here.
Enable users to see the value of your product quickly
It’s very unlikely that creating an account is enough to get people to see the value of your product. You can take several steps to make it easier for people to get to the “Aha!” moment.
Get them to complete the most important (key) action
Every product has a key action that users need to take for it to start being useful. For Facebook, it’s connecting with a few friends; for Asana, it’s creating a project with a few tasks; for an antivirus, it’s the installation on the endpoint.
The key action should be a part of the onboarding experience. Depending on your product, cybersecurity products typically need a combination of the following:
Some form of technical configuration.
Integration with the customer’s environment and existing tools.
Getting the customer’s data flow into your tool.
While you want users to be set up to fully benefit from your product, when it comes to onboarding, less is more. Therefore, you should avoid creating long onboarding flows. Focus users around the one key action that can get them up and running and make the rest available via tutorials.
Set up a knowledge repository
To make it easy for new users to get started, you want to design an easily accessible repository of knowledge about your product.
This may include:
Frequently asked questions.
Courses and educational videos.
Making it easy for people to answer questions and learn about a product’s functionality increases the chances of them adopting your solution and realizing the value it offers. The self-serve nature of these materials makes it possible to scale and onboard more new users without incurring higher expenses of customer service.
Complement self-onboarding with hands-on support
While you should strive to design a fully self-serve onboarding experience, there will be times when you will want to complement it with white-glove, hands-on support. This happens when a product requires complex integrations with other tools, custom configurations or when getting a large customer set up quickly is important for the company’s strategic goals.
Hands-on onboarding is expensive and can be hard to scale. To be strategic about how you expend effort, after each hands-on experience, add whatever new information you gained to the onboarding knowledge repository. You should also automate parts of the onboarding that can be streamlined so that fewer users will have to rely on you for setup.
Keep onboarding communication focused and personalized
Educate your customers by sending them custom onboarding emails designed to move them closer to experiencing the product’s value.
Automated email campaigns are a great way to make it easier for users to discover parts of the product they could miss and to guide users through the steps you want them to take. Additionally, they help bring users back into the app so that they can keep exploring.
Avoid dropping people into a blank product experience
As a security infrastructure provider, our company faces a unique challenge: Security infrastructure is un-opinionated and fully configurable based on the customer’s needs. We don’t do anything for the customer, and instead, offer them the ability to choose what they want to happen in their tenant.
While this approach provides a great degree and flexibility, it can feel like walking into an empty store that has nothing on display. To solve this problem, we offer preset configurations and demo content as a part of the onboarding flow.
Gradually introduce users to new features
Instead of unleashing a ton of information about all your great features and capabilities, introduce new users to your product gradually.
It helps to define milestones reflecting different levels of product adoption. Begin by introducing features that are both core to the experience and simple to get started with. Only after the user is comfortable and ready to explore more should you move to less critical or more complex functionality that helps them realize the value of your product.
Use demo content
Some products require users to configure something or generate their own data. A way around this is to pre-configure some demo content that makes it easy for users to start exploring the product before they complete the setup or bring in their data. This approach can work particularly well in cybersecurity, where people do not always feel confident or even have the ability to share their production data with new vendors.
Replace empty states with useful instructions
There will be times when a user lands on the screen and it won’t be clear what actions they can take to get started. This causes them to either navigate away or get frustrated instead of getting any value from your product.
To prevent that from happening, replace empty states with content that helps them get started with new functionality quicker. This reduces time to value and improves new feature adoption.
Measure and learn
To make data-informed decisions, ensure that you have full visibility into your product onboarding, as well as the whole customer journey. To see where people get stuck, identify drop-off points and reduce the time it takes for customers to get to the “Aha!” moment, track customer behavior in your product.
Tracking the onboarding flow alone is not sufficient. You want to closely monitor how and how much different features are used, especially those core to your product’s value proposition to uncover gaps in the experience, improve discoverability and increase usage.
As for measuring TTV, you will want to pay attention to:
Onboarding: The amount of time it takes for a user to be ready to start using a product. This includes the setup and configuration necessary for the product to be useful.
Free to paid upgrade: The amount of time it takes for a user to upgrade to the paid version of the product. Before deciding to pay more, they would have experienced the value of the product.
Lastly, it can be a good idea to conduct onboarding surveys to gather feedback from users who have recently become your customers and been through the onboarding experience.