How Appcues Uses Hull To Unqualify 30% More Leads

Like many B2B SaaS companies, Appcues’ sales pipeline is built around a free trial. Their sales growth manager, John Sherer, and marketing manager, Ty Magnin, wanted to give their sales team insights into which free trial accounts were getting the most value and were most likely to convert.

Appcues Homepage

Appcues used Hull to concentrate their small sales team on the accounts which are most likely to close. As a B2B SaaS company, a sales cycle built around a free trial comes with a specific challenge.

The big problem we had was having more free trialers than our sales people can look into and understand every detail about how they’re using the product by looking at individual Mixpanel profiles.

A free trial model requires effective usage first

Sales has to sell both the vision and the reality. Therefore, sales needs to know who is demonstrating signs of effective usage.

We want to alert sales to people who are using the product effectively within the trial so they can prioritize their time to be spent with those people.

If you pull out the moment they pay in the buyer’s journey - from “signup” to “got value”. What Hull allows us to do is identify the moments when they’re moving through the buyer’s journey, take that information in, and then react.

Analytics data is the key to product qualified leads

This data was being tracked and recorded already in Mixpanel - their analytics tool of choice. But, their sales team used HubSpot CRM which doesn’t have a way to access this data.

Also, Mixpanel doesn’t make it easy for a sales person to get a quick overview of which free trial accounts are ready to convert. HubSpot has all the accounts, but not the behavioral data that sits in Mixpanel.

The data was already available inside of Mixpanel. A sales person could go into Mixpanel and dig through an individual's account and find that data - but the issue was a sales person would be working a lot of accounts, and they don’t have time in their day to go through every one of their leads to see if that lead took an action or did something interesting inside their trial. So what happens is they just “cherry pick” whoever is deepest in the pipeline, or they do nothing. Salespeople shouldn’t be in Mixpanel - it’s ineffective for them.

A sales person could dig into every target account they suspected might be performing well, but this would involve a lot of guesswork and wasted time. They didn’t want their sales team “bouncing” between tools.

Our CRM, which is where our sales people spend time, which is where we want them to spend time - we don’t want them bouncing between a bunch of different tools - HubSpot doesn’t integrate well with the tools that have that data. We needed a way to get usage data - the way people are using our product - and demographic data about them from Clearbit into our CRM in a reliable manner.

For Appcues, optimizing this workflow allowed them to maximize the value generated by their small sales team. This starts with getting the right data into the right tool in a way that was immediately useful.

Manual exporting product usage data for sales doesn't scale

John Sherer, their head of sales also considered manually exporting and presenting that data to their sales team each day.

Without Hull, it would be a pain in the arse. To get the invaluable behavioral data in Mixpanel to sales everyday it would take about 20-40 minutes every day of boring monitoring.

When they tried automating the process by sending data through the HubSpot API, they found a significant amount of data was lost when it was passed over to HubSpot. This made the records unreliable and didn’t give the sales team any confidence in the data.

[The data] was only coming in 1 out of 4 times. There was no way to predict when it would come in. It was completely unreliable, therefore we did not do it. We tried. Didn’t work.

Without developer resource to spare, the only other alternative was to move across to Salesforce where the app ecosystem is stronger, but this wasn’t appealing.

We don’t use Salesforce. Honestly, I don’t want to use Salesforce for as long as I have to. It’s a pain in the arse. A part time job. It’s a huge implementation effort. Hull has helped us get a ton more lifetime and potential out of the HubSpot CRM

To solve this, they used Hull.

Their first project was integrating analytics data with HubSpot CRM

John (Director of Sales and Growth) and Ty (Director of Marketing) were referred to Hull by another customer. They were attracted by the idea of creating one, unified “master profile” from customer data in multiple tools, then share those profiles to their other tools like HubSpot. For Appcues, this data included:

  • Contact profiles for trial customers
  • Company profiles associated with the trial customers
  • Actions by contacts within their trial

Appcues use Segment, an analytics tracking tool to pass the data to Mixpanel for analysis, and to Hull for action. Installing the Segment connector took just a few clicks. Segment could then send all their user data - including new trial users - through to Hull.

[Sales] can reach out to a prospect and say “hey, you just installed. What are you looking to do next?”

To give sales all these raw insights - which they needed to communicate effectively with trial customers - Hull sends over all the raw data points to make it visible on the HubSpot CRM contact profile.

Appcues used Clearbit data to learn more about each lead

Besides usage data, this also included Clearbit data (extensive profile data on a person and a company).

For sales, two highly active, healthy trial users can have different account values - depending on the company data. For Appcues, the strongest indicator here is the number of employees.

Businesses with employees under 6 have the same sales cycle length as larger ones, a 50% lower average sale price and we retain their monthly recurring revenue at a rate 10% lower.

To help sales distinguish between high and low value active accounts, Appcues wanted to send this Clearbit data into HubSpot too. Previously, they tried piping this directly into HubSpot, but it wasn’t reliable.

The [HubSpot] API doesn’t operate the way we need it to. We can’t get the data we want in there.

With Hull, all this customer action and profile data could all be managed centrally and batched regularly into updates to HubSpot CRM. This ensured they had the data reliably in the tools that their sales team was using.

Hull has helped us get a ton more lifetime and potential out of the HubSpot CRM.

This gave sales the ability to discern between leads that were and weren’t using the product effectively, and those accounts that fitted their ideal account size.

Now that we don’t give sales 30% of leads, the decreased deal flow, should allow for better focus, as should the usage data

Most importantly, this data was provided in real-time in both the HubSpot CRM and in Slack. This shifted the sales workflow from proactively hunting down data on accounts in multiple different tools, to reactively responding to trial customers actions in HubSpot and Slack.

We don’t want them to spend any of their time being proactive, digging through accounts, trying to figure out what’s going on. Instead, we just want to send them triggers when something good or bad happens so they can immediately react. Customer does something bad which indicates they’re likely to churn - send them a note. Follow up. Customer does something good that indicates maybe they should be upgraded - Boom! Send them a note.

Together, having the right data in the tools that sales wanted to use, and having the timely notifications of interesting actions, sales teams had the insights they needed to focus on closable accounts and communicate with those trial customers effectively.

Hull is the way we get our data into HubSpot. Hull lets us manipulate the data without code.

Hull enabled sales at Appcues without a developer.

With Hull, Appcues were able to circumnavigate the problem most sales and marketing teams face when trying to reliably manage data across many tools - they didn’t have any developer resources.

As a sales person at a company that’s really searching for product-market fit, and as a technical company, there’s a million things I want the developers to help me with to make us a better sales team. Ultimately it’s more valuable for their time to be spent on the product - and I want their time to be spent on the product - but sometimes I’m just blocked and I need their help.

With Hull, it became a point-and-click exercise. With little setup, Hull could reliably sync the data their team needed so ideas could be executed without the internal battles for buy-in.

Hull enables me to start initiatives. Think about initiatives. Execute on initiatives without having to go through dev. That’s a big value add. I wouldn’t be able to consider these things. I wouldn’t, without dev or Hull.

Ed Fry

Prev 'Ed of Growth at Hull, working on all things content, acquisition & conversion. Conference speaker, flight hacker, prev. employee #1 at (acq. HubSpot). Now at Behind The Growth

If you've questions or ideas, I'd love to geek out together on Twitter or LinkedIn. 👇