Adoption Marketing

Adoption Marketing is a concept I have been working on for over 10 years, but for some reason never blogged about it.

Warning: This is a long post because it’s a big topic. Sorry.

Adoption Marketing is the effort to influence existing users to adopt the new features you design and develop.



At Marketo, we would be churning out new features every month. Internally, we were veryproud and excited about the new features. I remember launching “anonymous leads” which were a pretty big deal at the time (2007). I was in charge of many functions at that time, which included training new customers.

One extremely smart marketer named Jen Jones (née Erale) (one of the first Marketo users ever!), was the first person I called about the new feature. The look on her face surprised me.

This was the look on Jen’s face when I told her about the new feature

She took a deep sigh and told me that she would take a look at it. I asked Jen why she didn’t want to use it right away and she said, “I have a job to do, Glen. I’m already spread thin. I’ve got deadlines and too much work. Unless your feature clones me, I don’t have time for it right now.” (Paraphrase)

How long before she actually looked at it

I received a call from Jen six months later. She LOVED the anonymous leads feature and was implementing it all over her instance. The feature had value, but there is a lag between launch and adoption.

Another example was when we launched A/B testing. Again, I received long, exasperated sighs from the users. They told me, “This feature means that I have to write TWO emails, not one, to test. You just doubled my work. Thanks Glen. 😞”

A third example was talking to a user at our annual conference and they said, “I wish the system had the ability to …” I was surprised because we had already launched that feature months before. They had just never heard about it.


  1. Even a great feature is “something new to learn” and most users resist spending time on that
  2. Some features are valuable but increase workload
  3. Users don’t always pay attention to release notes

Marketing as Communication

The marketing department has many techniques that include:

  1. Email Blasts
  2. Webinars
  3. Websites
  4. Automation
  5. Analytics
  6. Inbound Marketing (Maria invented that!)

Because I was surrounded by these high powered marketing minds, I started thinking about how to solve my adoption problem using their techniques. Cheryl Chavez started having webinars for new features. We used automation to send the invites. We made a cool docs site.

Later, at Engagio, I took it to the next level and combined several systems together.

Long live the cloud

We had started using Pendo to monitor user activity in the application. It had an excellent API so with the help of Shaun VenWeelden, we connected it to Salesforce. Because it was connected there, it automatically sync’d to Marketo and Engagio.

All four systems had a record of each individual user and their activity. I would send an update from Pendo to Salesforce daily with a few fields including:

  1. # of clicks today
  2. # of clicks this week
  3. # of clicks this month

The Adoption Lifecycle

I created a new field for the health of a user. The statuses were:

Health StatusDescription
NewbornApplied for the first month of a new user
UndernourishedNever started using the app
HealthyNormal usage based on total clicks per week
SickWas normal, but total usage has dropped
ComaStopped using
ResurrectedStarted using again. Hold in this status for 2 weeks
DeadRecovery is impossible. (Left company?)
Health Status for Users

I programmed these statuses into Marketo with triggered smart campaigns to identify when people moved from one status to another based on the usage from Pendo. We had to spend a little time tweaking the numbers to gauge health correctly.


We used a feature (sadly, no longer functioning) at Engagio to run a “play” when a user’s status changed. It would allow me to customize an automated email that would be sent to the user. In general, it was just a way to see if they were still there. The email looked like it came from y Gmail, so it wasn’t thought of as spam. It also used the Marketo Engagement Streams functionality to send weekly or monthly notes to get them to use the system.

The emails would be different based on their health status. Additionally, the system could know if they used one part of the system but not another so it could be smart about what feature to suggest or promote.

Show the user their stats

One innovative thing we did was pump the Pendo stats into the app so the user could see their own usage and the admin could see their company usage. It greatly helped with internal adoption. By this, I mean that the people who purchased the software could see if their people had tried to use it. It kept everyone honest. It also helped when it came time for renewals.

Churn is the enemy

SaaS economics are complicated but have a simple root. The customer pays every month as long as you keep providing value to them. The enemy of any SaaS company is churn. This is when a customer buys your product and then declines to renew. For whatever reason, they didn’t want to keep the software. The goal of adoption marketing is to promote the value of the system and keep users engaged.

In most SaaS companies, adoption marketing is not paid much attention. Product Management is already thinking of their next feature, not the previous one. Product Marketing departments are more focused on net new sales. Support is more reactive in solving problems. Customer Success has their own initiatives, but they are often “old school” techniques like QBRs (Quarterly Business Reviews). No one owns this function.

Adoption Marketing

I believe that a new department should exist that focuses solely on Adoption Marketing. They should be staffed with technical skills so they can combine the systems properly and program the automation. It is a complicated ecosystem, but completely achievable by marketing operations people.

It is unclear where this department should live. It combines elements of Marketing, Product Management, Product Marketing, Operations, Customer Success, and Support. If I had to choose, I would put it inside Marketing Ops since they have the technical skills.

The KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) of this department should be

  1. Maximize healthy users
  2. Minimize time to value for new features (fast adoption)
  3. Maximize NPS and Referrals

User Experience

User Experience is the holistic experience of a user interacting with your company. This includes everything. If a user doesn’t know about your cool new feature, then what was the point in designing it or building it? If they try to learn the feature, but the docs site is confusing, then who messed up?

UX Designers should care about everything above. It is the essence of UX that you surround the user with thoughtfulness, design, and intent. If you design software and don’t pay attention to the complete experience then you are just pushing pixels in a UI. I hope I can influence you to strive for more.

Someone should wake up each morning thinking about feature adoption. Who is it at your company?


2 responses to “Adoption Marketing”

  1. dannylipka Avatar

    I was really excited because I thought it was marketing adoptions (like with children), which really needs some help.

  2. Prasad Avatar

    Really love how you’ve detailed the “Health statuses” and these fit great for both B2C & consumerised-B2B. You could also think about extra status(es) between Newborn & Healthy, to reflect onboarding (feature exposed moment), setup (setup moment) and experiencing the product value (Aha moment)

Whatya think?

%d bloggers like this: