Can school software companies do away with their sales team?

If you’re a company looking to get into the school software space, you need to make sure you heavily invest in web. Unless you’ve got some small, niche problem that can only be solved by a platform specific app, web is the way forward. Schools and their community use every operating system imaginable, and the only common platform between these is web.

While the web presents many challenges, it also opens huge opportunities. One of the biggest opportunities is ‘zero touch onboarding’.

What is zero-touch onboarding (ZTOB)?

As the name suggests, it’s the process of turning someone who has just discovered your platform into a fully paying customer, without any contact or interaction from staff at your company.

It works by using engineering to guide new users, instead of human interaction. The traditional business model relies on a sales team who procure a lead, and turn them into a paying customer. But it’s 2016 and we can replace sales teams with clever software engineering.

How does ZTOB work?

When a user discovers your product, they need to be able to start using it straight away. But before they start using it, they need to understand what it does and whether it will work for them. Videos are the best way to demonstrate what a product does without actually using the product itself.

Once they’re interested in giving it a go, they need to be able to get started themselves. This means without a phone call or having an account set up for them. If someone at the other end of the phone is going to create an account for the user, why doesn’t the user just create it themselves?

But it goes further than this. The process to create an account has to be dead simple. It needs to have no more than two steps before the user is able to fully use the software. Long forms for gathering the user’s details are going to turn users away. Let’s remember we’re just creating the user’s account. So they should only have to enter the bare minimum information required for an account. Some less important information can be captured at a later time, when that information is needed.

Another way to get users in is for them to not have to create an account (like JSFiddle). Make your website the actual app itself, so they can start using it without having to fill in a single sign-up form. If they like what they see, they can create an account.

Once a user has signed up, they need to know what to do next. Skill sets vary here; some users will just jump right in and start clicking around, others will want to step through some help before feeling comfortable. What’s important is they should not have to call, email, or message you to do this.

Progress bars are a great way to show a user how ‘complete’ their account is. It’s human nature to want to complete lists, so by showing a progress bar, users will want to finish all the steps in it. Providing in-app help articles that can be stepped through in an order that makes sense is a great way for less competent users to work out how to use the app. Video is also great, if your budget can afford it, but be careful, because low-quality, videos may get less engagement and may hurt your brand.

Once the user feels comfortable using the app, they should be able to take the next step to becoming a paying user themselves. This means setting up billing should be an easy process and shouldn’t require filling out paper forms or sending information back and forth.

It’s 2016. Let’s use a modern approach to getting users for our school software.

Marketing and product support still play a big role. If no one can find your platform, then there’s no point in building it in the first place. And if users don’t feel supported when they get stuck, then it’s detrimental to your brand. Self service is a great way for users to get help when they get stuck. If we can empower them to fix their own problems, then we can allocate more resources to building great products that help schools grow.

All big products in the consumer market and business market do a great job at onboarding. Think about when you setup Facebook — you didn’t need to call anyone to get your account setup, or have an in-person training. You just went to the website and signed up. Facebook is a pretty complicated platform that does a lot, so why can’t market leaders in school software adopt the same practice? A bit of upfront effort in developing a strong onboarding strategy can mean resources can be reallocated to building a better product.

A single golf clap? Or a long standing ovation?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.