Matt Witt is the CMO of M1 Finance, a Chicago-based automated investment platform. Read on for a transcript of his presentation from our June 27, 2017 Here’s How Startup Marketing Conference where he describes how to convert leads for your startup.

I’m excited to talk about M1 Finance and some of things that we’re doing specifically. Today I’m going to talk about how we improved conversion drastically with our onboarding experience, but first I’ll start with just a brief description of what M1 Finance is.

At M1 we like to think of ourselves as an investment savings platform. What I mean by that is we take the ease, the convenience, the liquidity and just the sheer simplicity of a savings account and combine that with the potential for investment level returns. We give people the chance to take their savings and put it against investments that they believe in, specific companies, securities, industries, etc. because another friction that we all have with our savings accounts is that we earn next to nothing off our savings, particularly these days.

So we wanted to produce this kind of hybrid product, a next generation savings and investment brokerage account. But that’s kind of a novel idea and somewhat abstract.

So the challenge for us was, “How do we take this idea and present it to people?”

Taking all the components, the functional and emotional benefits of the product, the ability to buy fractional shares, the easy convenient UI that we’ve developed and the fact that we have no commissions, how do we take all of that and cram it into a very streamlined easy experience that onboards people, gets them to sign up and fund their account and also do this within the regulatory standards of the federal government? This was really the challenge that faced us when we looked at our onboarding process.

I joined in the fall of last year, just after we had launched our product. We launched publicly in September of last year and we’ve grown pretty rapidly. We have about 13,000 total customers now and about $60 million in assets under management. It was around January of this year when we really started to get into our stride of putting out marking messaging, working with the Propllr team to get some fantastic press coverage, Forbes, Barron’s, Fast Company, and other places, so we started to grow pretty rapidly in terms of app installs, user science, etc.

So we were excited about that, but we took a look at how well we were converting people who signed up on our platform by just giving a name and email address that allows them to kick the tires and check out our tool. Then we looked at how effectively we were converting those people into actually funded accounts where they’re creating a brokerage account, supplying personal information, again in accordance with the federal government and some of those are regulatory standards, and actually becoming invested, paid customers.

We looked at January and we saw that we had only converted about 6.34% of our total user base that had come in that month into funded accounts. We saw this as a call to action and a challenge to improve that significantly. So here are the steps that we took, and I should caveat this heavily by saying that this is designed as a repeatable process and certainly a work in progress where we’re going through our onboarding experience and the whole product experience holistically to continue to improve, refine and perfect it.

  1. We identified friction points (and therefore opportunities)

First of all, we identify the friction points and we chose not to see those as hand-wringing moments of like, “Oh my God, the people are getting stuck right here, what’s going on,” but as opportunities to attack and to improve the experience.

  1. We hypothesized improvements

We then got together and hypothesized improvements, “How can we make this better? How do we make this a better customer experience? How can we make this far more seen?” This was a very collaborative effort. Our CEO, product leads and lead designer were all involved, and there was a healthy amount of debate during this process because we’re looking at data but we’re all interpreting it differently, so it was very important for us to get in a room together to share our ideas, share our perspectives and ultimately come to a consensus.

  1. We prioritized actions

So then we came out of that with a list of different things that we could do, so it was important for us next to prioritize the actions. We looked at things and we decided on what would probably make the biggest impact with the lowest amount of effort put forth, and so we prioritized the actions that we wanted to take next.

  1. We executed rapidly and learned constantly

Then we decided we need to execute this very rapidly and learn from that. And like I said, this is designed to be repeatable so learn from that and you’re going to see some things didn’t have the impact that you thought while other things would have an outsized impact, so take those learnings and put it into the next cycle.

The Results

This is what we started to do in late January and into early February. First of all we enhanced our CRM greatly. We had decided to move to an enterprise-level solution so we integrated Salesforce into our efforts, and from that we built a ton of automated journeys that we were retargeting customers who had signed up but yet hadn’t funded.

But we wanted to make this feel very human and personalized so we included things like a personal note from the CEO once somebody signed up. We now have a personal note that comes from our head of business development a week after somebody signs up to just say what’s going right, what’s going wrong, how can I help you and just to offer the chance to demo the product further to point out certain features. So we wanted to put a lot into the CRM effort to just make people feel that there was a team of humans behind this automated technology.

Secondly, we took our onboarding slides for our mobile applications that existed and we redesigned those. We actually have gone through two integrations of those and we’ve moved them outside of the signup process.

Previously you had to sign up at our mobile apps and then see the onboarding slides to orient you as to the features of the product, so this was just a common sense thing that we arrived at in those collaborative workshops. Let’s move this outside of the signup process so once people install the app they can understand better what are the features and benefits of this product.

We redesigned our homepage. We’ve made it far more visual, put new compelling content in there. We launched a blog to improve our SEO and education of the experience. We looked at the customer orientation within the sign of flow and wanted to better educate people: where they were, what steps they still had to take and break it down to make it as easy as possible. So, there are three steps. You’re on step one, they’re two steps ahead. Again, a lot of this was just common sense, things that came to us during that collaborative workshop.

We also streamlined our funding process. This is was probably the biggest engineering challenge, admittedly. Because previously, due to some technical challenges, when somebody funded their account, they couldn’t see that immediately. So we re-engineered that process so that it could be a far more immediate thing. They could fund their account as soon as possible. This was a huge impact in terms of the amount of people who went from creating a brokerage account, which is providing their personal data, to then actually funding it and connecting it to their bank account.

And then we positioned pie building as part of the signup process as well. We think of our portfolios as pies. We use pie charts, and this is actually the standard tool that we use within the process to be able to allocate what you want to invest in. This is something we realized looking at the data, 70% of those people who had created pies did not liquidate their accounts. They actually moved more money onto their accounts, so we saw this as a key part of the process to make people feel more invested. We wanted to move this into the signup process and teach them how they can customize their pies and make it truly theirs. We went through this series of actions, and after six weeks total to do that, we had tripled our conversion rate.

Like I said, this is a working process. The CEO and I look at this and we want to hit 50%. That’s our goal. So this is just going to be a process we can continue to repeat, we continue to come up with new eyes and hypothesize how can we make the signup process better.