Welcome to Chameleon’s Product Adoption Platforms Buyer’s Guide. This is an ongoing series intended at helping SaaS buyers navigate through the process of buying a product adoption platform (a.k.a. digital adoption platforms).
So far in this series, we’ve covered the role of product adoption platforms in detail, describing the variety of use cases they can serve and what you should be looking for when investing in this kind of tool.
In this part, we’ll prepare you to begin the buying process, guiding you through your initial discovery and demo calls with sales teams, and giving you a framework for running an effective trial.
The buying process starts with the discovery call – a coffee date-like meeting where you establish whether the product is a good fit
There are a number of guidelines you can follow to make the best of your time in the discovery call. The #1 of them: be clear about your needs and wants.
Establishing what is the issue you’re trying to solve, why it matters, and what success will look like are some of the steps you can take to prepare for a discovery or demo call - you can jump right here for the full prep sheet 😉
The discovery and demo phase is followed by the free trial, a time to test out the mechanics of the tool and determine whether it fits your criteria for the ideal product adoption software.
Setting priorities and key requirements upfront will yield the best out of the trial period and help you create a thorough assessment of all products you're testing - check out some ideas for testing frameworks and evaluation criteria.
The stages of the buying process #
Buying new software, especially a robust platform like a digital adoption tool that will serve thousands of end-users, doesn't happen overnight. From understanding what the tool offers to negotiating a contract, the buying process can be time-consuming.
Following this guide will help you understand what to expect at each stage of this process and what you can do to prepare to make your entire experience less laborious.
First, there are two ways you can kick off the buying process of a new product adoption platform:
1. Self-service and try the product yourself #
Most product adoption tools offer users the option to self-serve their sign-up and kick-off a free trial without having to go through a sales team. This is a great option if you need to explore the platform and understand it further on your own before you can reach out to a sales rep for more information.
We recommend self-serve sign-up for teams that:
- Are still not quite sure what a product adoption platform can do and want to become better informed before discussing the solution with an expert
- Have experience with product adoption platforms (perhaps they already use one and are only switching solutions)
- Are small and have limited resources, therefore prioritize action over establishing a robust plan for buying and implementing the tool
Go through a sales-assisted motion #
The second option that most, if not all, companies will offer is for customers to schedule a call with a sales rep and get introduced to the product with assistance and support from a dedicated expert.
The typical sales-assisted motion will take customers through an initial discovery call, a demo of the product, establish a Project Lead to lead the trial evaluation, and finally to contract negotiations.
☎️ The discovery call: Introduce yourself and your company, present your challenges, explain your tech stack, and describe the solution you’re looking for.
🎥 The demo: Get a tailored run-through of the product based on the information you provided on discovery and get your concerns answered. Sometimes the sales and demo calls are run jointly.
💳 The free trial: Try the product for yourself, start sending data in from other tools, and explore the features that best serve your use case.
📃 The procurement: Understand the costs and nuances of signing the new software, get legal and security clearances, and negotiate contract terms.
Deal signed ✍️
Let’s explore each of these stages further.
Stage #1: The Discovery Call #
The discovery call is the first conversation you have within the buying process. It’s like a first coffee date between two SaaS products where they explore whether they might be a good fit for each other.
In a discovery call, you should expect to:
- Answer questions from the sales rep about your company and product.
- Explain your goals, challenges, primary use case, and how they think a product adoption platform can help.
- Understand how the product is positioned against competitors, what features it offers and are included in each plan, and what you’ll be able to test during the trial.
- Be introduced to the product and its main features in a high-level demo or walkthrough.
Some teams run the discovery and demo calls jointly. Most of the time, that decision will be up to you: do you prefer to get a high-level overview of the product and explore the rest yourself, or would you rather go through a detailed walkthrough with a product expert?
In this guide, we’ll help you prepare for the discovery and demo stages separately, but use this guidance at your own discretion, based on how you prefer to run this stage of conversations.
How to prepare for the discovery call #
1. Start with the research #
If you’re reading this, you’re on the right track.
An important part of preparing to buy a new product is research, and that doesn’t mean only reading through a marketing website.
When researching about and for product adoption platforms, we recommend:
- Exploring the product landscape (i.e. what products are out there, what sizes or types of companies they specialize in, what the average price for this type of product is, etc.)
- Reading customer reviews on G2 or Capterra (hint: if you see a G2 badge on a company’s website, that’s a good indicator of positive customer evaluations)
- Looking for case studies that relate to your use case (most companies will offer those on their website)
- Browsing for resources available on company blogs, resources like this Buyer’s Guide, benchmark reports, eBooks, etc.
2. Prepare to answer questions #
A discovery call is like an interview where both parties are interested in learning more about each other. You will definitely have questions about the tool that you’re buying, but you should also expect the other end to have questions about your product.
To prepare for this, think about what your goals are, and what reaching those goals would look like after you’ve implemented the solution.
Here are some questions you’ll likely be asked during the discovery call:
❓ What challenges are you facing that a product adoption platform could help with?
❓What is your user journey and how can a product adoption platform fit into it?
❓ What features are you looking for?
❓ What key metrics are you trying to improve?
❓ What would a successful outcome look like?
👉 Use our Discovery Call Prepsheet for a broader list of questions and to start jotting your answers down.
Be able to articulate your needs #
From the research you’ve done, you should come into the discovery call aware of your use case and whether the product adoption platform you’re considering can support it.
🤔 Need a refresh on what the common use cases are? Take a quick look back at them and come back here.
Your research should also have given you an overview of the primary features available in a product adoption platform and helped you figure out which you’re most interested in or absolutely need.
Besides your expectations around the tool’s functionality, you should also be able to articulate your team’s plans and expectations for implementation, mostly around what the timeline to get the tool up and running is.
Know your technical requirements in detail #
Outside of whether there is a fit between the product and your problem, the tool will have to be seamlessly implemented into your existing system. This can come with all sorts of technical requirements that need to be met.
Let’s take a look at the most common and important questions around this.
What technology is your app built on?
Your product’s backend and frontend frameworks can define what product adoption platform is best suited for it. Make sure you have that information handy before coming into the call.
How many MTUs/MAUs will you be tracking?
Many product adoption platforms charge customers bases on how many active users they have per month. This information is important to have not only because it will determine your pricing, but also indicate what plan is ideal for you.
Do you want the product adoption platform to work across more than one channel?
Some customers look for a solution that can work across both their product and their marketing website. Some product adoption platforms can do that, but this can have an impact on your pricing if the tool charges based on monthly active users.
Is your app a Single Page Application?
A single page application (SPA) is a web app that dynamically loads elements to a single web page with new data, like Gmail for example. If your app is a SPA, there will be certain product adoption platforms that run better on SPAs than others.
Do you have a native mobile app?
If you have a mobile app, and you would like to add in-app messages and experiences, then that is an extra layer that needs to be considered. Not all product adoption tools are equipped to run on mobile frameworks, so if that is a requirement be sure to bring it up early.
What integrations are must-haves?
Chances are, you’re already using quite a few tools that are connected to your product, such as your Salesforce and HubSpot CRMs or product analytics software like Heap or Mixpanel. A product adoption platform should be able to integrate with a few different tools in your stack, so be sure to point out which integrations are absolutely mission-critical, and which are nice to haves.
Are there any special requirements?
Specialized and more advanced requirements can be vastly different from product to product. You probably have your own unique conditions that you would like to meet, and clearing those up during the discovery phase can determine whether it's worth moving forward or not. These might include features like first-party data collection, localization support, or advanced security requirements like an SSO certificate.
Make sure to understand every single special aspect of your product that needs to be matched with the product adoption platform you’re looking at and bring them all up during the call.
💡Tip: Build a spreadsheet with all your requirements and tick the boxes off if they're met. Feel free to use our template!
5. Ask questions #
The Discovery Call is also your opportunity to get your questions answered before you get busy trying out the product for yourself. Asking the right questions will help you determine whether going through a trial is even worth your time; you might find that, if a product doesn’t work with your product’s backend structure, or doesn’t offer a make-or-break feature that you’re looking for, it’s not worth taking the buying process any further.
We recommend asking questions about both the operational and technical aspects of the process. For example:
💰 Costs and investment
How is the product priced?
What plan would be recommended for your team?
Can you start with a basic plan and upgrade later?
🛒 The stages of the buying process and necessary resources
Who should be involved in the process from both ends?
What are the steps following the discovery call?
How long is the free trial? Can it be extended if needed?
What kind of support is offered during the trial period?
🚀 Competitor differentiation and cases of success
How does the product differentiate against alternatives?
Are there any case studies that relate to your use case?
If you're already using a product adoption tool, why should you switch?
🛠️ Product functionality and development
What features are recommended for your use case?
What features will be available for testing during the trial?
Is there any flexibility in enabling certain features that might not be available in your initial plan?
How often are new features rolled out and is there a request process for customers?
By the end of the discovery call, you should have a deeper understanding of what a product adoption platform can do for your team beyond what you learned on your own while doing your research. Now, it's up to you whether you want to take the conversation even further by following up with a product demo, or if you're ready to quick-start a trial.
If you identify with the latter, you can skip directly to Stage #3: The free trial.
Stage #2: The demo call #
In the discovery call, you might get a quick walkthrough of the product as a sort of introductory demo that will contextualize what the primary features are and what the product looks and feels like. For some, that might be enough to get them through to the trial and self-serve learning more about the platform.
Some customers, however, prefer to go through that learning process alongside an expert who can guide them through a personalized demo, typically a 30-45 minute demonstration of how to build the types of UX and UI flows that they need for their use case and showcase how key features can help them achieve success.
In a demo, you can expect to:
- Understand how the platform is set up and implemented (ie. what steps your team needs to take before they can start building in-app experiences).
- Be guided through the process of building a type of experience that they would like to see on their own app or website, like an onboarding flow for new users, for example.
- Address their technical concerns and walkthrough those.
How to prepare for the demo? #
You’ll be having a few meetings with sales reps for different products that you're considering. To ensure that you’re making the best use of your time, ensure that you communicate the type of demo you’re expecting.
What would be most impactful in making your decision? When you’re deciding between a few different software, they will share many of the same features and differentiate mostly in their advanced functionality. Being able to vocalize what aspects of the product will weigh more in your decision-making can help the sales rep deliver the most relevant demo experience.
In that case, you could opt for either:
A high-level walkthrough of the product, showcasing the main features for your use case
If you’re looking for a solution that will improve your user onboarding experience, a high-level demo would show you how to build an onboarding flow.
- Explore the builder’s interface
- Explore which building features are available, and which are most relevant to your use case
- Test out basic styling capabilities, understand the level of control you have over how an experience looks
- See some advanced features in action, like setting up on-page triggers or configuring buttons and CTAs
- Receive orientation on some of the best practices for your use case
A detailed and personalized demo
If you opt for a more robust walkthrough, you will explore the product beyond its building capabilities, understand the flow of data to and from the tool, how integrations are implemented, and more.
Considering the same use case as in the previous example, your detailed and personalized demo might include:
- 1 An overview of the installation process for the tool, including how to connect data from your product via your preferred method (most tools will offer a few options, like APIs, Google Tag Manager, and more).
- 2 A demonstration of the types of UX and UI flows you can build, for example, you might want your onboarding flow to include tooltips, side pop-ups, modals, etc.
- 3 Guidance on how to leverage audience segmentation features, create or import cohorts, and attach them to experiences.
- 4 If the product offers testing and experimentation, a walkthrough of how those are set up and monitored.
- 5 A sneak peek into how analytics are presented on the product, and what data can be collected and should be tracked.
Regardless of which type of product demo you choose, it will serve as an introductory course to testing out and exploring the product's mechanics, which will be your focus on the next stage: the free trial.
Stage #3: The free trial #
Most product adoption companies offer 14 to 30-day free trials for customers of all plans to test out the product before they make a buying decision. Since you will likely be running more than one trial at once, preparing is essential if you want to make the best-informed decision.
Free trials are a great opportunity to test the mechanics of the tool and evaluate whether it fulfills your team’s needs and is an investment that leadership can approve.
What to expect from a free trial #
Trialing a tool that will have a major impact on how users experience your product isn't the same as signing up for an app on your phone that you will likely cancel the subscription for before the trial expires. To test out a product adoption platform, you need a plan.
You should come into the trial aware of:
- What kinds of in-product experiences do you want to build and deploy?
- What features do you want to test?
- What immediate impact do you want to see?
Let's get into it.
Establish a mutual plan #
Signing up for new software is, essentially, starting a new partnership. The team that sold you the tool wants you to succeed as much as you do, so establishing a plan together will not only ensure that you are aligned on goals and objectives, but also the steps that need to be taken to achieve them.
A mutual plan can be a document shared amongst both teams that states:
- Who will be involved from either team in running and evaluating the trial?
- What the trialing timeline will look like, considering how long the trial lasts and what needs to be tested?
- What is the success criteria for each feature and functionality being tested?
- What resources are available to support the trialing process?
👉 Use our mutual plan template for reference.
Involve other teams as needed #
A product adoption platform can be a great solution for product teams because they can take the strain of creating in-product experiences away from the engineers and make the process faster, cheaper, and more intuitive.
Nonetheless, you do need to check in with other teams before kicking off the trial to get their perspective on how the product will be implemented and tested.
🧑💻 Engineering support: Will likely be involved in the installation process and setting up integrations.
🧑🎨 Product design support: Can help you incorporate your custom CSS to evaluate how your brand identity will fit into the new UX flows or create templates to test out the building functionality.
💡Tip: A RACI Plan can help you formalize who will be regularly involved in running the product vs who will only be informed.
Executing the free trial #
If you’ve done your prep work, you’ll start the trial with a defined scope that will tell you how much time you need to spend inside the product.
Building a testing framework can help you find value quickly and present your evaluation of the product under clear criteria.
This is also a time for self-serve discovery of the product’s functionality, so give yourself the flexibility to explore beyond your scope – perhaps you’ll be surprised to find your “aha!” moment where you didn’t think to look before.
Create a testing framework and criteria #
Trialing is all about making good use of your time. You know how long you have to run the trial and what requirements you want to test, but how exactly can you go about them?
Chameleon’s Co-Founder and CEO, Pulkit Agrawal, shares an idea for developing a testing framework:
At the end of the trial, you might have to present to executives or other people on the team how the trial went, so think about what this presentation might look like beforehand, and what the slide deck should include, and it will be easier to structure the trial.
In other words, think about what product capabilities are most critical to obtain buy-in from the team and approval from decision-makers.
At this point, you know if the product offers those capabilities or not, so now is the moment to evaluate how well they work.
For example, some product adoption software might have stronger analytics, while others have better editing UI. Your criteria should evaluate how well each feature works in tandem with how high of a priority the requirements are.
Evaluate technical support #
During the free trial, you might not need to depend too much on technical support as you’re not ingrained deeply into the product yet, and you can rely on self-serve support from help docs and tutorials.
For some product adoption companies, a mid-trial check-in with a dedicated Customer Success Manager is part of the process, and that would be a good time not only to get through hanging questions but also to evaluate the quality of the support being provided.
A big part of buying SaaS is choosing the right partners. You don’t want just another product in your stack, you also need to find synergy with the team you’re working with on the other end.
Here are some questions to help you with that:
- How easy is it to schedule a chat with support?
- How quickly can you get responses?
- Are you provided with additional resources or guided toward where you can find them?
- How well does the support team understand the way their product works in relation to yours?
Pay close attention to how knowledgeable the support team is, and how much they care about timely resolving your issues. If your problems are getting unstuck efficiently, that's a good sign that the quality of their technical support is high.
Wrapping it all up #
By the end of your trial, you should have a good understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of each product you are testing. It is now time to combine the evaluation you have done for each one in a comparative analysis to determine what is the best fit for your team.
In the end, this evaluation will be subjective to what you have determined as key requirements and how well each product served them.
Aside from all of the above, pricing can be an important decision-making factor, too. Our advice for this part of your assessment is to look beyond the digits: weigh the cost of each option you are testing against the features it offers and how much they satisfy your needs. This should give you an accurate idea of whether the investment makes sense for your team.
Next up in our series, we’ll take you through the process of negotiating a deal, handling procurement, and getting security and legal clearances to kick off your partnership with a product adoption tool.