How to use contextual customer journey touchpoints to drive account expansion 

by Frederic Melanson in
Guy on a rocket ship illustration

Looking to drive account expansion and don't know where to start?

How about looking at your customer journey touchpoints and building your communication with the customer in a way that's relevant for them?

In this article, we'll talk about what contextual customer journey touchpoints are and why it's essential to start using them instead of time-based touchpoints to drive account expansion.

To showcase how you can apply this to your product, we'll look over some examples of using contextual touchpoints to prompt the user to upgrade their account.

What is account expansion?

Account expansion refers to generating more revenue from the existing customers/accounts you already have.

In other words, through account expansion you can increase your MRR while keeping the same number of customers.

In SaaS, account expansion can be achieved through:

  • Account upgrades: moving an account to a higher subscription plan (or moving from a free account to a paid one)
  • Upselling: offering premium support or add-ons to an existing user on top of their monthly subscription

What are customer journey touchpoints?

Customer journey touchpoints are the moments when a customer comes into contact with your brand. 

Interactions can be:

  • Click of a button
  • A website visit
  • A call with your CS team
  • Or reading an online review, just to name a few...

They can occur before, during, or after they buy something from you.

What are contextual customer journey touchpoints?

A contextual touchpoint refers to the context in which the user interacts with your brand, not just the type of interaction that happened.

Context might include:

  • Which stage of the journey the touchpoint occurred in: Awareness, Acquisition, Activation, Adoption, Retention, Revenue (Referral)
  • Which channel it happened on: website, social media, in-app, etc
  • How the customer felt: happy, frustrated, impatient, angry, etc 

Here’s a concrete example to show you what we mean:

While trialling an email automation tool, John opened the in-app chat to ask for help setting up his first email campaign. He was having problems with editing the email design and felt frustrated.

What are time-based customer journey touchpoints?

Time-based touchpoints look mostly at when the interaction happened and the channel it occurred on.

Example: John opened the newsletter email one day after it was sent.

How can you find your customer journey touchpoints?

You can identify the touchpoints by looking at the places and times the customer might interact with you across their journey. 

You can identify these using customer journey analytics.

A customer will have many interactions with your brand across multiple channels, so think of all the channels you are present on and all the ways someone can interact with you on each.

Possible channels include:

  • website
  • social media
  • email
  • in-product
  • etc.

Once you have a list of possible interactions, group them across each stage of the customer journey:

  • Awareness
  • Acquisition
  • Activation
  • Adoption
  • Retention
  • And referral. 
Identifying and mapping out customer journey touchpoints will give you a clear picture of your customer journey experience. 
Tools like Bliinx let you track all your customer interactions from external channels where your brand is present, such as email, Linkedin, Slack, etc. You can use Bliinx to monitor customer journey touchpoints and engage with your customers and prospects in a smart and meaningful way.

But not all touchpoints happen outside the product, right?

If you want to engage with your users in-app based on contextual customer touchpoints, Userpilot is a great tool for tracking touchpoints and building in-app experiences based on user behavior.

Benefits of contextual touchpoints over time-based touchpoints 

Using contextual touchpoints when trying to upsell or cross-sell will help make your message more relevant for the user. It will also help time your communication to the exact moment in the customer journey when the user is ready to buy.

Let's consider the following two options when prompting a user to upgrade their free trial to a paid one.

  • Option A: send the user an email following a predefined template two days before their trial ends, listing all the benefits and asking them to upgrade
  • Option B: look at the user’s in-product behavior, social media, or conversational behaviour (email opens, feature usage, etc) and send the ''upgrade'' message when the user is most likely to do it.

Option A is time-based touchpoint communication, whereas option B is contextual customer touchpoint communication. 

You usually have to decide between options A and B every time you try to prompt the user to upgrade their subscription.

Which one do you think will generate the most results?

In the SaaS world, it's important to understand that account expansion refers not only to upgrading users to a higher plan. More often, it's about upgrading them from free to paid. 

One way to do that is by following user onboarding best practices and communicating using contextual touchpoints. 

Look at how Slack does it:

Slack limit message

Timing and relevance when engaging with users make all the difference. The user will feel cared for and understood. 

Users need a compelling reason to upgrade their subscription plan. 

In SaaS, this usually happens when:

  • The user reaches the subscription usage limits (account users, number of contacts, etc)
  • The user needs access to extra features not included in the subscription they are using
  • The user gets to the AHA moment and finds value while using their free subscription

Sending the user an email when they reached their subscription limits and need to upgrade is not the most proactive option. Worse, pausing their account when they reach the plan limits will cause frustration and a high churn rate. 

Both of the above examples are communications driven by time-based touchpoints.  This means your message has a high chance of reaching the customer at a bad time or being completely irrelevant for them. 

As I mentioned in the benefits section of this article, switching from time-based touchpoints communication to contextual journey touchpoints will make your ''upgrade now'' message more relevant to the user. 

Since account expansion is all about prompting the user to upgrade their account, let's look at some examples of how other companies are using contextual journey touchpoints to push the user towards that.


Examples of using in-app contextual touchpoints to drive account expansion

#1 Intercom: prompts you to upgrade when you hover over a feature not included in your subscription plan

Unless you make it obvious, customers won't know about features that are not included in their plan. And how often do you think they check your pricing page to see what's included, especially after they purchased a subscription?

Using contextual journey touchpoints, you can trigger in-app tooltips showing users what they are missing out on and offering them an easy way to get it. 

How? By upgrading, of course.

Intercom does it nice and smoothly. It displays available Steps, including the ones that are not included in the user's subscription when a user is in the process of building a Series.

This way, when scrolling over a particular UI element, a tooltip pops up letting you know that the option is unavailable and you need to upgrade. By integrating the premium feature into the journey, it's easier for the user to see it in context and understand the value an upgrade might bring him.

Intercom screenshot

Short recap:

Contextual touchpoint 

  • When the user hovers over a list of options to include when building an email series 

In-app communication prompt

  • Tooltip pop-up with a call to action to upgrade

#2 Mailchimp: shows you a modal telling you to upgrade when you reach a feature usage limit 

Mailchimp displays a small modal when you reach your audience limit on your subscription plan, asking you to upgrade. 

This might not prompt the user to upgrade on the spot (unless they need a larger subscriber limit right there and then), but it will make it easier for them to upgrade when it's needed.

You see, context is what matters. It helps you be proactive and makes the upgrade process as user-friendly as possible.

Mailchimp screenshot

Short recap:

Contextual touchpoint 

  • After building the maximum allowed limit of Audiences on your plan

In-app communication prompt

  • In-app modal telling you what happened and what you need to do (upgrade)

#3 Asana: invites you to try a premium feature when you click on it on the menu

Just because it's not included in the user's subscription doesn't mean you should remove a premium feature from the menu.

However, instead of prompting the user to upgrade every time they log in, it's better to keep the feature on the menu and show it to users based on their in-app behavior. 

Take Asana for example. When you click on the Goals feature in the menu, a modal pops up and tells you what you're missing out on. 

In other words, users are shown premium features at the exact time they might be looking for them, in the exact space they would expect to see them.

Asana even gives free trials of premium features, increasing the chances of upgrading by letting the user experience the value before deciding to upgrade.

Asana screenshot

Short recap:

Contextual touchpoint 

  • When clicking an item/feature on the menu

In-app communication prompt

  • In-app modal telling you what the feature is and prompting you to try it

These are just a few examples of how you can use contextual journey touchpoints for account expansion. When we talk about in-app contextual communication, it's all about adding value at the right time. 

The right message in the right context equals increased upgrade chances.

To implement the above and drive account expansion using contextual journey touchpoints, you can use a tool like Userpilot. It will allow you to build tooltips, modals, and other in-app experiences for your users without having to code. 

Userpilot screenshot

This means anyone on your team can easily set up contextual in-app communication and drive account expansion.


Examples of using external contextual touchpoints to drive account expansion

#1 Unstack: Send value-driven contextual emails and Slack messages 

Unstack’s employees do a great job at engaging their users outside of the product itself, which converts more users to paid and boost retention. 

They do it through 2 main channels. The first is messages sent to users on their Slack community. It’s a direct way to reach users and engage them. 

Here’s an example of Grant, CEO at Unstack, using their Slack community to engage and ask feedback on Unstack 👇

Unstack screenshot Slack

The second is with contextual emails. Here’s a great example of personalized empathy and timing from Unstack. 

What they did here (don’t know if it was intentional or not), is they saw that I was starting to use their blog functionality a lot, thus prompting me with helpful content. 

Unstack email

A follow-up email by the same person to talk about a premium paid blog feature would work 100% well in this context. 

Short recap:

Contextual touchpoint 

  • Using content relatable to the user’s actions in your product

Communication style

  • Sent by founder, manually or looking very manual
  • Suggestions on how to improve the user’s experience, ideally prompting collaboration.

#2 Lemlist & Hugo: Leverage product data to engage free users and provide more value to their experience

Hugo takes the best notes from its users and creates a “contributed templates” list with meeting note templates from other companies. It results in 3 outcomes: 

  • It adds value to the product itself by increasing the amount of templates available to users 
  • People share that their note got featured on Hugo’s community, which creates virality and awareness
  • It increases customer retention for Hugo because they show users that they care about them and encourage them to create awesome notes in Hugo. 
Hugo screenshot
Bliinx hugo template

Every week, Lemlist showcases a “Lemlister” on their newsletter. A user that has achieved great results with Lemlist recently. They then share the emails used by the Lemlister on their website. 

Similarly to Hugo, this adds value to the Lemlist website, reinforces retention and increases viral adoption through social proof. 

Lemlist email screenshot
The lesson here? Use the value created by your product to create content that can be shared. Use that content to engage your users. 

When they engage in return, you can mention the advantages of your paid offering or have them promote your product for you! 

Another great way is to prompt users to invite colleagues to make the app more valuable, based on how they’re engaging with your product or brand. Here’s an example from Hugo’s meeting report: 

Hugo report email

Short recap:

Contextual touchpoint 

  • Using what your users do in your product to engage them

Communication style

  • Show the value generated by expanding or upgrading your customer’s account

#3 Hugo: Drive account expansion through social media touchpoints

Providing a great experience goes beyond how great your product is. Users want to relate with the brand and its community. 

Hugo does a great job at this by engaging its user base with personal messages, contests and challenges. 

What they did: 

  • Engage me manually, which turbo boosts the chances of me responding versus an automated message
  • Create a challenge that increases their reach & virality
  • Create a challenge around your TEAM’s meeting habits. Thus prompting users to participate and invite their colleagues to participate. 
Hugo message linkedin
See how effective this can be? 

They combined a marketing initiative with something that is designed to force good habits on their users, and also create account expansion. Add to that the personal touch and you have great retention + account expansion potential.  Brilliant! 

Short recap:

Contextual touchpoint 

  • Showcasing best practices to your users and prompting them to participate.

Communication style

  • Use social media or communities to turn this initiative into a marketing effort at the same time
  • If you have the processes in place to do so, avoid sending automated messages and reach out manually (you can use Bliinx to do so). If you do send automated messages, make sure they don’t feel like a newsletter. 

🚀 To implement the above and act on external contextual touchpoints opportunities, you can use Bliinx blindspots. Bliinx will integrate with your communication channels and customer records to find touchpoint opportunities with your leads, prospects and customers. 🚀

You can then engage them right from your workflow, manually, in order to convert more revenue. 
Bliinx blindspots on the web app

This means you can nurture more meaningful relationships with your users that lead to referrals, higher retention and expansion! 💰

Liked this article? 🤩

Make sure to try Bliinx for free, learn more about Userpilot and follow the authors 👇

Authors

Emilia at Userpilot

Emilia Korczynska, Head of Marketing @Userpilot  

Fred Melanson headshot

Fred Melanson, founder @Bliinx