October 25, 2020

February 11, 2021

Analyzing CARTO's user onboarding, with Florence Broderick

Table of contents

Today we analyze CARTO's user onboarding flow with Florence Broderick, who leads the Marketing and Sales Development team from London, after four years in the company, coordinating a team with offices in New York, Seville and Madrid. Let’s take a look at it!

About the company

What is CARTO?

CARTO is a location intelligence platform. We help companies in many verticals to convert their location data into some kind of insight for their business. For example, when a chain of restaurants like McDonalds or Burger King wants to understand where they should open or close restaurants; or a health company that needs to easily understand how covid-19 symptoms are evolving after vaccination.

In 2012, our two founders were working on biodiversity issues and they realized that the tools to analyze this data were quite limited. They didn't work well in cloud environments and they were really difficult to use if you didn't have specific training... So they decided to create CARTO, which has grown from a two-person startup to a 150-employee company with clients in Spain, North America, the United Kingdom, Australia…

Which type of clients do you serve?

We mainly have enterprise clients and multinationals, but we also have some mid-market clients. What all of them have in common is that they are growing a lot and they attach great importance to the use of their data and the insights they can get from it.

The user onboarding flow

How do you onboard new users on the platform?

Well, there are two different paths here. First, for acquisition we have a free trial and it is a great source of leads for us, but we have a different path for enterprise clients.

Especially in large companies, many times the person who contacts us is not the one who is going to use the product and prefers to speak with our Sales Team to understand how CARTO could help them with a specific business problem. 

The free trial

Our free trial lasts 12 months and we use HubSpot for flow automation, dividing the onboarding in 3 different flows: one for data scientists, another for developers and the last one for business analysts.

These are the three main paths, offering each of them specific tutorials and inspiring examples in our documentation center. For example, if they are looking to find out where it is better to open their next stores or restaurants, we send and show them examples and results of other retailers that have built similar use cases with our software.

In addition to this content, we also try to promote their use of the tool with their own data by displaying custom notifications like: “You have started with two maps, why haven't you published them yet?”. That way, we take the usage data from the platform itself to encourage them to build new things with the product.

In our case, it is also essential to give them information about the basic integrations they can use with CARTO, such as connecting it with their datasources in Drive or Excel and uploading them to their account, and this is particularly important because if you don't have uploaded the data to the platform it simply can’t be used. So this is one of the hot spots in the process.

Enterprise clients

When we onboard an enterprise customer, it is usually after an enterprise sales cycle. They will probably have spoken with an SDR before, who have already qualified the lead. Then they will have a meeting with an account executive and possibly a presales engineer, in order to better understand their needs, who submits a specific proposal after exploring their use cases in detail.

Once the contract has been signed, certain clients will have a dedicated customer success manager who will work directly with them to ensure they get the most out of the platform, by training their team, to let them know how to take advantage of all the features and integrations

The use of integrations is super important at the enterprise level. Many of our clients need to connect their CARTO accounts with BigQuery, Databricks, Snowflake, DataRobot, Jupyter Notebooks, AWS… So we really try to make it as smooth as possible.

User qualification & identity

How do you qualify your users?

What we have done in the past is having an open field for the job title because it changes a lot depending on the vertical and the country. Now we are also deploying a new field that allows us to get the department in order to collect data and segment better both content and experiences for specific profiles.

The challenge is that job titles are wildly different between different companies and industries, which is important for us to understand for the outbound prospecting process. 

One of the main profiles for us is people who work in GIS (analysts, developers, managers...) and, in a growing number of companies, there are also data scientists, machine learning engineers, data engineers... The skills and job titles change a lot, so we try to make our messaging and experience relevant to all of them.

We have also developed a lead scoring system. By receiving thousands of leads per month, we had to automate that process to try to understand if the lead is interesting and interested, checking the email, the size of the company, the profile and job title, the country... and also the activity: Have they visited the pricing page? How many case studies have they downloaded? How much content they watched? 

Then it automatically assigns a score number for each user so SDRs can better prioritize their time. Some weeks there are many leads and we need to reach the best first.

This is a process that we are continually improving and that will never be perfect. Sometimes great enterprise leads use Gmail addresses, or don’t share their company name as they are just experimenting - but we’re always looking to improve and tweak our scoring to identify the leads that are both interesting and interested 

Does the onboarding content vary depending on the profile? 

Yes, exactly. For example, for someone who is making a map for the first time, we help them see how to connect it with Google Drive and know what the best CARTOgraphy practices to communicate data on maps. 

On the other hand we show data scientists content about how CARTOframes works, which is our integration with Jupyter Notebooks, using Python. We send developers detailed information about the use of APIs, integrations, security, etc.

It changes a lot depending on the user's profile and we also use this content in the previous phase to generate interest and demand.

Do you ask for a phone number for authentication or just data enrichment?

Nowadays, the phone number is optional but it is something we ask for because with many enterprise clients it is surprisingly still the most efficient way yet to schedule a meeting is to call them on the phone - although that is changing as we start to see a new generation of buyers.

The phone number is very important for our SDR team to book meetings and understand what prospects need from the platform. There are a lot of users who prefer not to share it or who give a false number.

Do you use any standard for user authentication?

Yes, we have an OAuth system for authentication, and it is an important feature particularly for enterprise clients to be able to enter with their corporate accounts.

Lead generation & conversion 

Do you run lead generation campaigns? And do they generate real users or just leads that you need to attack later?

Yes, we run lead generation campaigns. That's our day to day in marketing. Now we are focusing on a range of actions such as case studies, reports and webinars, which have always been very important in our strategy but, you know, everything has changed a lot this year.

We used to rely quite a lot on external events to have conversations with prospects, but they have disappeared and we had to innovate a lot this year.

One example of this has been organizing virtual events, using a platform called Hopin. We held an event that was a huge success in October: with 6,000 attendees, it was really a great success in terms of lead gen.

We are also doing a lot of outbound prospecting, to focus on target accounts to which we can bring a lot of value; and we are also starting to do some experiments with paid ads, but that can be challenging with such a diverse range of buyer personas across many verticals. This is why having a list of target accounts has been so important.

Then, in addition to the free trial, the request for a demo and the contact us forms, we have a live chat on the website, which is manned by our SDR team.

In addition, we also have a blog where we publish 3 or 4 articles per week, reports, ebooks... which also works very well. Case studies are also important, taking a simple PDF telling the story of important clients in different verticals to see the value CARTO has brought to their business.

Honestly, our conversion suffered a bit in 2020 due to the COVID-19 situation. We generated a lot of leads but there were a lot of people window shopping, whose answer was they still didn't know what was going to happen in the company, so they preferred to consider it again in six months. But now all this demand is already heating up, so it looks good for 2021.

How do you measure conversion?

We use HubSpot and Salesforce in the Marketing team, and our Product Team uses a mix of tools like Google Data Studio to track activity and conversion throughout the funnel.

In marketing and sales, we want to keep a close eye on conversion from lead to opportunity, and then from opportunity to booking, and we try not to become too obsessed with the number of leads, but rather with the number of opportunities. You can generate thousands of leads per month, but if they don't convert... What's the point in generating them?

In Product Marketing, we measure a series of metrics relating to the account: how much storage is being used, how many maps are built, how many times the user has requested geocoding... which tells us how exhaustive is the use of the account and the trial. And all of this information is shared internally to evaluate the user experience.

What is your customer loyalty strategy?

The customer success manager role is super important for us, to help with any problem, any question about integrations, on how to build new use cases... And this is a quite important part of our strategy, because if you cannot expand the accounts you already have, how are you going to get new enterprise clients?

The Support Team is also essential. Many times we receive messages from our clients telling us that the Support Team has saved their lives and the truth is that it is an incredible team here at CARTO. They always receive really great customer feedback, and we continuously send surveys with Ask Nicely to understand how our clients are feeling.

We also try to encourage referrals. Many times we get a client because a consultant or a partner has recommended CARTO to another company to save time when creating solutions. 

The work in progress

Has the onboarding flow changed a lot since the company started?

Yes, it has. I was not in CARTO when they were starting with the strategy of democratizing the maps, but little by little everything has gone towards focusing on value for the enterprise. So many large companies need to make more spatially-aware decisions.

But yes, we’re always looking to improve this process. For example, we want to get more information about the integrations a client needs, such as Tableau, Power BI… We are trying to get this info in a much more automated way rather than relying on calls to ask.

In the free trial we are also trying to encourage requests for integration connectors. We want to be data-driven when it comes to approaching the integration roadmap.

Do you have a team focused just on the onboarding process?

Our Demand Generation Team is really involved, which collaborates a lot through product marketing with the Product Team, but we do not have a standalone Onboarding Team.

Which teams work on building these flows and processes? And how do you manage collaboration between them?

It is very different how Marketing, Product and Data teams see different channels, so we always try to bring them together. The person who has to gather these opinions and turn them into solutions and processes that make sense is the product marketing manager.

Although it is a team effort, the person who manages all the communication and needs is very important and we are already making new changes in the flows thanks to this new way of collaboration.

For example, when we ask in the demo request form about the lead’s department and what tools they use, we now display different integrations and content depending on the input answer. We always check these options with the most technical teams and profiles to make sure they make sense to them.

Future expectations

Thinking about the future, do you have something new in mind that you want to try: passwordless flows, biometric systems...?

Honestly, it is not something that we have looked at. Something we do look at was a beta of a product called Lusha Forms that we use to collect data for prospecting (emails, phones and such) but we decided it wasn’t a priority at that moment in time.

It seemed interested as you could auto populate some user data to speed up the process. If it were to help us to increase conversion even marginally, it might be something we could consider. 

The expert’s advice

Lastly, what advice would you give to a company that is beginning to define all these processes?

Well, I think design is super important. There are many startups that hire an external designer and decided not to prioritize it, and I think it is a mistake. As one of our founders (Sergio) is a designer, it’s always been in our DNA here at CARTO - which is why we often win against our competitors in terms of usability and customer experience. It really does matter for the modern SaaS company. 

Design matters: the onboarding has to be beautiful and intuitive, and you have to test it with your target users. Sometimes I see onboarding processes that are quite confusing, and you just quit, so it really matters. Those that prioritize design often seem much bigger than they are, precisely because of that. It really impacts a lot.

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