November 12, 2019 Last updated November 11th, 2019 1,177 Reads share

How to Design for Maximum Product Adoption in the Enterprise

Design for Maximum Product AdoptionImage Credit: DepositPhotos

The consumerization of the enterprise had a massive impact on how products get adopted in organizations.

Today, not only do teams get to bring their own devices to work but they also often get to choose the applications they use.

This, in turn, led to the growth of free trials in the enterprise. Enough so that, Symantec CloudSOC now estimates that the average enterprise uses up to 928 cloud apps. That’s a lot more than the 30 to 40 apps their CIOs think they use.

With three-fourths of those applications freemium or in trial, and the average free trial conversion rate around 4%, it’s obvious that, in spite of the growth in the number of products used by enterprises, few products reach true company-wide adoption.

Why so Many Free Trials Fail to Reach Product Adoption

New products are fighting an uphill battle in the enterprise. Not only is it difficult to change existing behaviors, but stakeholder attention is also extremely limited.

New product trials compete against one another for time, budgets, and stakeholder attention.

Truly adopting a new product is costly. There’s the time it takes to train, setup, and support users of these new products, the actual usage/license costs, but also the social capital required to get new products adopted.

Your product may have garnered strong support from a specific team, an early adopter or a curious user, but to get others to also adopt the solution, this person has to use his or her influence to convince skeptics across the organization.

The amount of social capital required to try and convince a team to switch software cannot be underestimated.

But here’s how it gets easier, there are ways to design products to maximize product adoption. Below are three of those ways:

#1 Understand the Change Agent

Product usage always starts with a single user.

This is true across large and small organizations.

If you can’t convince the change agent – the person initiating the use of the product – to mobilize his or her team, your product will fail to gain enough momentum inside the organization to truly get adopted.

You need to understand the role of the person who initiates usage, what benefit or outcome this person hopes to achieve, and why the trial was initiated by this specific person in the first place.

If the initiator was in IT, but your product targets sales or marketing, the decision to use your product might have already been made.

If it wasn’t, your product’s first-time experience and onboarding will need to achieve 2 things:

  1. Quickly convince the change agent of the value of your product
  2. Arm him or her with arguments to convince and mobilize key stakeholders in the organization

Will procurement, IT, or another team be able to influence the decision to adopt your product? Can you extend product benefits to these stakeholders? Can you help your change agent talk through the value of your product to these people?

Your change agent will most likely need to convince employees, colleagues, and managers to use your product before it gains full adoption.

Make sure they have all they need to evangelize your product internally.

#2 Overcome Objections

Each new user of your product brings his or her own objections and expectations.

Perhaps he or she dislikes the user experience, perhaps it breaks their workflow, or perhaps the added value isn’t yet clear to them.

If your product is used across roles, teams, and management levels, closely monitor product adoption by role, team, and stakeholder types.

Do they ask for different features? Do they struggle with different parts of the product or terminology? Is their use of the product focused on different sections and functionalities?

The faster you’re able to point key stakeholders to the value they seek, the faster your product will get adopted.

Do work. Figure out the outcomes each of these stakeholders seek, and what they need to be successful.

Use onboarding and product segmentation to point stakeholders to the value they seek.

#3 Leverage Internal Virality

The more people use your product within an organization, the harder it will be for the organization (or a competitor) to dislodge your product.

This has been a key part of Slack’s hypergrowth story; their product leveraged intra-company expansion mechanics for growth.

This form of virality happens when apps become increasingly valuable the more users are connected (network effect), or when they’re able to leverage internal influence structures.

Superhuman, an email app that recently raised $33M, managed to achieve just that. They purposefully gave priority access to their closed beta to tech CEOs.

Because those CEOs are constantly sending emails to their employees and investors, and they’re in a position to influence their teams’ work habits, the company was able to create what Superhuman CEO Rahul Vohra calls « 2D virality ».

By creating product CEOs love and letting those CEOs control invites, Superhuman was able to leverage companies’ structures of influence to create intra-organization virality. CEOs invited their employees, vendors, and investors.

This strategy allowed Superhuman to map organizations and reach employees across teams. Today, 70% of their growth comes from these referrals.

Are there levers your team can use to leverage intra-organization virality? How will usage expand inside organizations?

How to Design for Product Adoption

To design for maximum product adoption in the enterprise, you need to understand why your product gets trialed, by whom it gets trialed, who the real decision-makers are, how to mobilize them, and how to expand usage beyond the initial use.

To gain insights into these mechanics, you’ll need to deeply understand the value your product provides, the pain points, and the agenda of the stakeholders involved.

A lot of this information can be gleaned from analytics digging through profiles, usage, and expansion data. To truly understand your users’ motivations, you’ll want to do in-depth customer discovery interviews.

Ask the right customer discovery questions to understand the problems, priorities, objections, and expectations. Compare data across organizations, learn, adapt, and refine.

The more your product and onboarding match the pain points and outcomes sought by decision-makers, the faster product adoption will grow.

Thoughts? Add a comment below.

Product Design – DepositPhotos

Etienne Garbugli

Etienne Garbugli

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