Updates | 5 min read

How Draft Grew Paying Customers by 200%

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As Nathan asked himself, “How can I reach my revenue goal for Draft?” it dawned on him that Intercom could help a lot, with very little work.

What follows is a guest post from Nathan Kontny, founder of Draft, about how Intercom gave a serious boost to his Monthly Recurring Revenue.


To sustain Draft I needed to make more money. Draft, if you haven’t heard of it, is an online text editor with version control and collaboration tools. I created it so people could improve their writing.

Draft has two revenue sources. There is a professional editing service inside Draft, and also a paid subscription. You can use a full featured Draft for free, but if you want to support it and keep out annoying adverts, then you can upgrade to a paid plan.

I set a 30 day revenue target that seemed simultaneously humble yet ambitious, given it was a new project. I hoped that paid subscriptions would help me hit that target. Things started out great: the very second I turned on the “Please Support Draft” button, someone upgraded. Yay! Next I sent an email out listing all the new recent features and that paid subscriptions were now available, and I got a nice bump in revenue. Midway through the month upgrades slowed down dramatically. I was in danger of missing my goal by some distance.

How can I …

One thing I’ve learned over and over is to never get wrapped up in “I can’t“. Instead, I force myself to ask, “How can I accomplish this?” Even if it takes me days or weeks, living and sleeping and working and reading and eating with that question in mind, good solutions eventually come to me. In this case it came to me via my text editor, Sublime Text.

I can use the full version of Sublime Text for free, but it gently reminds me with a popup window every so often to register my copy. I can’t believe how many times I’ve been forced to pay to register for a product’s premium features only to be sorely disappointed, and now I have to figure out how to get refunded.

What’s interesting about Sublime’s model is that it’s rarely used online. Sure, there’s projects that have fremium versions and they might even stick an ad in the sidebar to remind you to upgrade. But I don’t see anyone using a reminder message like Sublime does.

However, even with this insight I postponed doing anything, because I had way too many other things on my todo list and this seemed like a bit of work to set up.

Enter Intercom

Intercom is a tool I use to do customer communications and messaging. In a nutshell, Intercom makes it easy for users to message me and me to message them, either using email or in-app popups. It also allows me to easily segment customers, so I can see who is using what features and how often.

As I asked, “How can I possibly reach my revenue goal in time?” it dawned on me that I could use Intercom to accomplish this reminder window with very little work. In two minutes I can get data like this into Intercom:

I only want to remind people who are actively using Draft with this message, so I can filter down to the right people with the following filter. (Note screenshot edited)

Which created this rule

This was the in-app popup I sent:

And heres the Markdown behind it:

One other thing you might notice in this reminder window is it’s an Intercom conversation, so it’s a two way dialogue. This way I was able to include a question “If there’s a reason you won’t subscribe, I’d love to hear your feedback. You can reply to this message below.

I got this idea from Noah Kagan, the founder of AppSumo and blogger at OkDork. One of three things is going to happen:

  1. Your potential customer will realize they don’t actually have an objection to buying today.
  2. You’ll hear real objections which you can test and solve immediately and potentially win a new customer.
  3. You’ll learn what features paying customers value so you know where to focus development.

What was the result?

I had a 200% increase in subscriptions the day I turned this popup on. I ended up meeting my goal 9 days early! And the increased rate has held steady.

I’ve had lots of friends ask about Intercom, and I keep telling them it feels like a Swiss Army knife. There’s lots useful ways you can use this messaging tool with the data it captures. For example, every few weeks I send a “New Release” email that generates a lot of activity. And I’ll use more in-app messages to indicate new features as I deploy them. I’m just scratching the surface of Intercom.

It’s also another reminder that asking How, instead of moaning I can’t, led to a great solution. You often end up realizing you have the resources already under your feet.


Why did this work?

I would tentatively attribute Nathan’s success to 3 components:

  1. Nathan’s initial email contained more than one update, which means the upgrade tone was fighting for attention alongside more interesting feature announcements. A common rule in marketing is Never try to sell two things at the same time. Important announcements are best done standalone so they can dominate the body & subject line of a mail.
  2. An email asking for an upgrade is likely to arrive out of time, out of context, when the product isn’t in use. Sublime Text show the pop-up when you try to use the product. Not the following evening when you’re archiving emails waiting for a train. Nathan’s in-app message was shown to the right users at the right time.
  3. Not all customers will be ready to buy the second your email drops. Nathan’s post is a great reminder that “Customers buy when they’re ready to buy, not when you’re ready to sell”. Some customers need a few reminders before they upgrade, some still need persuasion. This is why message schedules are useful.

Got a great use case?

If you’ve achieved success with an Intercom message and would like to share it on our blog, drop a mail to des@intercom.io and we’ll get talking.