Archive for onboarding

Thanks beta2, we’ll never forget you…

We have officially exited our beta period for the latest version of Zoomstra and learned a lot of great lessons that we won’t soon forget.  Here are a few of our learnings and improvements you’ll find inside of Zoomstra…

Speed & scale improvements

Our top learning during the beta was all about speed and ability to scale the distribution of workbooks to large audiences.  During the beta the Zoomstra application launched thousands of workbooks, sometimes creating long queues behind the scenes resulting in slow response to users.  We returned to the drawing board and re-worked the fundamental architecture and processes used to create and distribute workbooks.  We are now confident that we can scale to tens of thousands of workbooks and keep response times within acceptable limits for a web application (i.e. – immediate!)

Improving interactivity in the Zoomstra Cloud Reader+ with user created notes

Zoomstra workbooks are finding their way into several different niches like ebook companions and how-to guides.  As we worked with several authors the need for additional interactivity within the workbook itself was needed.  We have added a new feature that allows participants to add notes to individual checklist items so that they can not only track their progress, but they can keep track of their thoughts and ideas at the same time.











Customization of icons in the Workbook table of contents improves adoption

If you are a channel manager you’ll like this one.  We learned that creating visually appealing workbook invitations that are delivered via email is key to adoption when it comes to partner enablement.  You can now use your own icons to represent each lesson in a workbook.  Here is an example…











 integration is coming

One last piece of information we want to share is that we heard you loud and clear that integration with is a requirement for partner enablement programs.  We are actively building the integration and plan to have a preview of this connector application before the end of October.  Stay tuned for more updates!

Thanks to everyone who participated in our beta and providing feedback.  If you have a Zoomstra account from the beta we’ll be contacting you shortly with an offer that will let you continue to use the application as one of our early adopters.

What is Zoomstra?

In just a few days we will be rolling out a shiny new website for  Since our beta launch we have spent lots of hours talking to our early adopters, prospects and people like you who have businesses to run.  The result is a fabulous website that will help the visitor envision using Zoomstra to solve several different types of challenges.   One of the items we created is an info-graphic style overview of the Zoomstra solution.  In this graphic you can visual What Zoomstra Is and maybe even see ways you can apply it to your own business challenges.  Here is a sneak peek at the graphic….

Enable channel partners on their terms, not yours

We are in the midst of the Cloud services & SaaS offering land grab.  As an ISV selling cloud services or SaaS offerings your objective is to get more partners selling more of your products faster than ever.  It’s up to you to ramp up new partners and make them effective right out of the gate.  So you have to figure out the best way to do this, especially in these rather chaotic times for resellers.

But there is a challenge. You see, resellers and VARs have always had a wide variety of products in their “bags”.  Yet with the channel explosion of SaaS solutions and Cloud services, the speed of new product introductions and product evolution has dramatically increased.  This means that channel partners are inundated with a constant flow of changing information from ISVs. Sales decks, product data sheets, webinars and price sheets are examples of items constantly changing.  Unfortunately most of these materials end up in  giant scrap piles that never make their way to the account executives.

As an ISV you tend to be stuck in the ways of the past when it comes to channel enablement and training.  You throw together every bit of information you know about your product and then toss that one hour webinar and zip file of tools over to your channel partner.  You hope that the receiver at the channel partner will take that information your provided and get it out to the sales team.  You also hope that the sales team reads all that material you send to them and somehow magically come up with new sales.  Unfortunately this old school enablement “on your terms” isn’t going to get you anywhere fast.

Partner’s account executives want you to help them, but on their terms.  They don’t really care about the theory behind your product and the feature lists and dozens of documents you have for them.  What they need in today’s business climate is a very different type of enablement that is supported by these materials.  The account executive wants hands on experience brought up along side of them as a selling companion. They don’t want to tackle a mountain of materials and have to figure out how to piece the story together themselves.

Recently I wanted to learn more about the way that channel partner account execs look at enablement.  I talked with partner account executives across a wide variety of resellers.  From the discussions I  compiled the top 5 ways the account executive want ISVs to think about when creating their enablement programs.

5. Help me identify opportunities in my patch by giving me explicit instructions on who to target.

Simply put, tell the account execs exactly who to cherry pick in their territory to find some easy wins.  Create a checklist of the information that will help the account exec pull the right contact list.  Better yet, you can craft a simple campaign in a box that helps each account exec to target a set of customers, provide that first contact intro letter and then recommend a pointer to a recent article or 3rd party validation of the business problem.  It’s all about finding the right people and getting the conversation started.  By providing this kit as part of your enablement program you can help the account exec get started that same day! 

4. Provide me with background information on the business problem you are trying to solve.

This is your bread and butter, yet it usually doesn’t get put into consumable information for the partner channel.  It’s hidden inside your training presentation on slide 35 or somewhere in hour number two of your online “course”.  The suggestion from the account execs is that you need to pull together a simple description of the problem, information on how companies are solving that problem, and why your ISV should be the one considered for the solution.   This should be no more than a 10 minute exercise for the account exec to go through, understand and add to their everyday thought process.  

3. Don’t assume that every account executive is junior, doesn’t know your domain or wants you to train them on solution selling.

Stop forcing account execs to sit through hour long sessions that tell them what they already know.  Give them a way to quickly skim your guidance so that they can pick up at the point where there find it most useful.  Long webinars and structured course-ware should be things of the past.  Start thinking in terms of playbooks, quick start guides and workbooks that are available at any time the account executive wants them.  

2. Show me how to best present your solution and give me the tools to back up the claims.

Just like a personal trainer shows their client exactly what to do to get results, you should do the same for your channel partner account executives.  Break down the selling of your solution into easily consumable pieces and show them how to be effective.  Start with the basics and focus the selling on the problem you outlined.  Don’t worry about all those functions and features.  As long as the account exec can build a case around your solution for solving the problem you win. 

1.  Give me examples of how others have solved the problem.

We all know that references and case studies help a lot during a sales process.  This gets even more important with your channel partners. They need examples that help them explain the solution in terms that the customer will understand.  Even if you don’t have approved case studies or customer testimonials, outfit your channel partners with examples and stories based upon types of customers or challenges that customers face. 

It all comes down to getting much more personal with the account executives of your channel partners.  You have the sales tools, you have the product content.  Now you need to work to make all of that useful in context of your channel selling team.

David Abramowski is the CEO and Co-Founder of Zoomstra Workbooks, a simple way to bring powerful one on one enablement programs to channel partner account executives.



The 3 “what’s” of a great channel enablement program

“It’s time to get personal” exclaimed one of the sales reps.  ”We have to put ourselves in the reseller’s shoes and show them exactly why we stand out and why they should sell our solution.”  Those comments kicked off a tremendously productive meeting between the sales and marketing teams while I was onsite last week with a client.  The cross-functional team agreed that we needed to take a fresh approach to partner enablement and make it much more personalized than they had ever done before.

To start out, the team decided that the enablement program would be focused on the top 3 questions the channel partner’s account execs want to know…

  • WHAT’s in it for me?
  • WHAT do I need to know?
  • WHAT will help me win?

With this new direction in mind, the team was able to break free from the typical spray and pray training so often found in enablement programs.   And since the team had selected and our zWorkbook approach as the vehicle for partner enablement we had a great match.  The customer’s team set off to answer each of the three “What’s” so that we could then create  actionable zWorkbooks to be shared across the entire partner channel.

In the first workbook entitled “What’s in it for me” we used this opportunity to sell the partner account executive on why they should represent the software to their clients.  We defined the business proposition for the partner sales rep.  We explained how the solution allows the rep to capture a segment of business they weren’t addressing. We outlined how the new solution enables the partner rep to improve their existing relationships and how they will make more money from it all.  We crafted 4 lessons in a zWorkbook that provided the context and supporting materials including an existing video that outlined the business problem.

The second question we answered was “What do I need to know?”.  For the partner sales reps, knowing the landscape and knowing how to set the agenda are crucial for success.  The team looked at all of the existing sales tools and digital assets that the marketing team had at its disposal. We then outlined a workbook with the basic information needed by an account executive and then determined which items supported the partner in setting the agenda and talking with their prospects.

Finally we answered the question “What will help me win?”.   This is where the beauty of experience came through for the client.  The sales team in the room had a treasure trove of best practices, examples and processes that have made their own team successful over the past year selling the solution.  We captured all of that experience and pulled together details into a zWorkbook. We included lessons that could be executed on their own with step-by-step checklists and supporting documents and materials.  We created lessons like and “introductory email campaign” complete with list pull details and example email letters. Once we had the outline and the concept the rest of the details came together quickly.  We completed the first set of zWorkbooks in the past few days and we are already testing the program in the USA and Europe.   Feedback so far has been stellar and more and more people are requesting access as they learn about the program.

The real lesson that I think the team learned is that breaking free from “incremental improvement” and striking out into new territory can be game changing.  At first the team was centered on the classroom style “lecture and testing” that is so pervasive in training today.  But after seeing some examples of how to get personal the wheels came off that old LMS bus and a new thought process took over.  It became clear that building partner enablement as a one-on-one program sharing experiences, information and step-by-step guidance was the opportunity to make a big impact across the partner community.  In the end the partner enablement program has to sell to the partner account exec on the opportunity as much as it enabled he or she to sell the solution.


zWorkbook reporting goes live!

Today we turned on a very exciting new feature - visual reports!  These new reports will let you see what is going on with your zWorkbooks and your users.  You can drill down into any of the data elements of the reports and see a list of users.  You can even download the user list so that you can import it into other tools or applications.

To access a report you visit your Library tab.  For each Zoomstra Workbook Original you will see a new icon on the far right that looks like a little report.  Click on this.





This will open the report page and the reports will build themselves while you wait.  It only takes a few seconds and you’ll see the three reports starting with the Distribution & Progress Summary.  This report is a pie graph that shows you the number of completed zWorkbooks, the number that are currently in progress and the number that have no progress yet.  You can hover over any data element and you will see a pop-up box with additional details. You can also click on any of the data elements to see the list of users that make up that segment.  For example, you can click on the red section to see a list of all the users that have never logged into the zWorkbook.  You can then export that list and use your favorite tool to import/merge/send a message to those people encouraging them to join the party!









The second report is the Lesson Summary Report.  This report shows you the number of users that have completed each lesson.  Since Zoomstra allows the user to freely move around a zWorkbook, this report helps you understand what lessons are being completed and what lessons are being ignored. This can help you to improve existing lessons and get better with your future lessons.








The third report is a progress report by completion bands.  This report shows you how many of the zWorkbooks have reached a particular level of completion.  For example you can find out about your most enthusiastic users by drilling down into all of those users who have reached 100%, 90%,80% etc.  You can then use this information for your next campaign or to let sales know that they should immediately contact these people to check in with them.









As mentioned earlier all data elements will reveal the user list or zWorkbook list details.  What you see below is the drill down screen.  Notice that there is a link to download a CSV (Comma Separated Values) file with this information.  Just click to download or right click and “save as” to select your download location.






As you distribute zWorkbooks to your audience these reports will help you to keep things moving and to continuously improve.  Let us know what you think about the reports and how you will use them to help your efforts.

David & the Zoomstra Crew!

What a SaaS App Can Learn from Old-School Software Sales – Time, Value, and Trust

Remember how way back in the old days of traditional software sales, customers had to pay the entire purchase price and installation costs before they’d ever get to use the software? Sounds crazy now. The customer had to commit to making the initial investment of time and money before seeing any value out of the software. While this created a tremendous barrier to customer acquisition, once a customer came on board, they tended to do the work required to see the return on their investment. This meant they would spend time learning a software package’s interface, integrating it as needed, and inputting their data. By paying 100% up front, the customer was on the hook.

In today’s world of software-as-a-service, we work to remove barriers to customer acquisition. The easiest way to do this is to break down the steps of customer commitment into small bite-sized pieces, and then sequence these steps so they align with the value your customer gets out of your application. Ideally, you want to make sure your customer always gets more value out of your application than they are investing in it at every step of the process. This has led us to a world of applications with optimized sign-up processes, free trial and freemium pricing plans, and refined & delightful user experiences. A successful SaaS application builds trust with customers by delivering value. With that trust comes increasing customer investment.

Here’s what a ‘perfect’ SaaS customer investment process might look like, where the customer never has to give you anything (their email, time configuring the app, their data, or their payment info) without first seeing enough value to build trust for the next step:

This ‘perfect’ process works well if your app delivers value in a nice, linear way over time. It works even better if you can deliver a big bang of value right at customer signup. This is one of the reasons why a big criteria of SaaS success is the ability to provide immediate value to new customers. Unfortunately for some of us, value only comes from customer investment. If your app requires complex configuration, integration, input of customer data, collaboration across multiple users, or external action from your customer before you can show value, you’re out of luck.

For example, Google Analytics can’t provide you with any value until you’ve set up the tracking code and waited at least 24 hours. The first step in their Onboarding Checklist is basically a big road-block sign saying “Wait 24 hours”.

Making a customer wait to see value is a huge risk in your acquisition process. This risk is amplified when they haven’t invested in the app yet. If you make a customer wait or perform some complex step before you can show them value and before they’ve invested in your app, you face the very real risk that they just might simply not ever come back. All of that work in marketing, optimizing your signup process, and building out features is just lost by simple user impatience.

So what can you, as a SaaS business, do?

1. Detune the process

Learn from traditional (old school) software sales. If you can get a customer to invest early on, they are committed to seeing the return on their investment. Try moving a key step in your customer investment process up in sequence, so you’re forcing them to commit. This might mean taking a credit card at the beginning of a free trial, shortening your trail period, or requiring customer data earlier. Keep track of the key milestones that differentiate customers that stay after the activation period from those that don’t to get a sense of what you should move up.

Chargify (somewhat infamously) went from offering a free plan with 50 customers to zero customers to force trial customers into committing to their application. While this made free customers unhappy, it forced customers to either commit to investing in their use of Chargify or get out of the way.

By detuning the process, you’re creating a trust barrier that you will need to overcome somehow. This might mean better marketing, providing a toll-free number for customers to call during sales and setup, or some other activity to build a relationship with your new customer, just as a traditional salesperson would.

2. Create artificial value

If your application requires setup and time to see value, look for other ways to create value early on. This can range from simple marketing techniques like publishing ebooks & videos to developing ‘mini applications’ that get customers in and receiving value from your business to build the momentum required to overcome the value gap in your engagement process.

Hubspot has developed an entire toolbox of market resources, from webinars to training to a suite of mini applications, all designed to deliver customer value and build trust that will get customers through the signup and engagement process they require before seeing the return on their core applications.

3. Be proactive in engaging customers

Sometimes your new customers just need a little push. Other times, they need to be reminded that you exist. Make sure you have a clear and well lit path for your new customers to travel down, and a communication plan to keep gently guiding them forward. Keep track of your customers as they move through activation and begin to see value so you determine which customers are at risk, which ones are likely to become paying customers, and reach out if and when they get stuck.

“The more things change, the more things stay the same…”

In the move software to the cloud and build out web applications, we’re moving our customers through a dramatic shift in the way they purchase and pay for software. We’ve removed some of the biggest sales hurdles that in the past required trust. But in doing so, we’ve lost a little bit of control of the process. As we work to perfect our customer acquisition strategies, take advantage of the lessons learned in years of doing sales the hard way. Sometimes forcing your customer to commit up front will benefit them in the long run. And always remember that the end goal has never changed: happy paying customers.

Souper frustrations – SaaS & the grocery store dilemma

Remember the last time you went to a grocery store that you were unfamiliar with?  Remember how frustrating it can be and how much time it can take to find the simplest of items?   You roam around the aisles wandering with your eyes rapidly moving between the category signs and the items on the shelves.  You don’t quite understand why that can of chicken stock you are looking for isn’t in the soup aisle.  Finally you find that chicken stock in a special section next to the spices four aisles away.  Frustrating right?

That grocery store chain has spent thousands upon thousands of dollars on designing their store to be the most organized, thoughtful, easy to use experience for the user errr.. I mean consumer.  I’m sure there was a study done and the result was that most people in their sample group thought that the chicken stock should be next to the spices, therefore it ended up on that aisle instead of the soup aisle.  Yet, as a new visitor to the store you don’t think like the test groups, and the result is that the first few visits are miserable.  As a matter of fact, you may decide to abandon that new store and drive half way across town to visit a store you are already familiar with.  It’s not the store layout, the lack of research or the signs around the store – it’s the general level of familiarity you have as a user that makes or breaks your experience.

This same analogy can be applied to today’s web applications.  Independent Software Vendors (ISVs)  do their best to model out the desires and needs of their target user and then build the software to satisfy those needs.  Unfortunately not all users think the same and what may be logical for one user may not be logical for the next.  Back in the days before app stores and instant downloads of everything, vendors of boxed software for personal computers were all aware of this dilemma.  They created getting started guides and quick start brochures all to help the user find their way around the software in the very first experience.

With SaaS offerings it seems that most companies are forgetting to solve this problem up front. The SaaS vendor thinks that the users will just get it and quickly adopt the solution.  The software vendor may even think – “well heck we are giving them a 30 days free trial to figure it all out they will eventually get it”. Unfortunately the conversation numbers from try to buy are showing all of us that there is still a significant gap that isn’t being addressed.  I personally think that putting in place an Onboarding program for each and every web application out there is what can make the difference between the start of a happy customer relationship or the lack of interest in completing a trial.

When it comes to introducing users to a successful start, SaaS vendors and web application entrepreneurs should do their own self evaluations.  They need to look at the overall experience of new users and determine how to make sure that every user sets off down a path leading to a mutually beneficial result.  Simple application can satisfy the needs of new customers with a quick video or getting started eBook.  And the more complex applications that involve multiple steps to get setup, interaction with third parties, installation of additional software or even the need to setup and teach other users all require a bit more guidance, examples and checklists to take those new users down a path to success.

There will always be a learning curve with everything new that we experience in life.  And those who profit from the new experience of software in the Cloud will be the ones that get their users quickly entrenched in their solutions.