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Scott Orn

Scott Orn, CFA

Emily Wang, CEO of Bento, talks about how Bento helps software companies build onboarding and adoption workflows

Posted on: 11/29/2022

Emily Wang

Emily Wang

CEO - Bento

Emily Wang of Bento - Podcast Summary

Emily Wang, CEO of Bento, shares the company’s vision of everboarding, an ongoing software adoption process that helps B2B SaaS companies build more effective onboarding workflows.

Emily Wang of Bento - Podcast Transcript

Scott: Welcome to Founders and Friends Podcast before we get to our guests special shout out to Kruze Consulting. We do all your startup accounting, startup taxes, and tons of consulting work, whatever comes up like financial models, budget actuals, maybe some state registration, sales tax, VC due diligence, support, whatever comes up for your company, we’re there for you. 750 clients strong now 10 billion in capital raise by our clients. I can’t believe it. 2 billion this year. It’s been a crazy awesome year. So, check us out at kruzeconsulting.com and now onto our guest.
Singer: So, when your troubles are mountain, in tax or accounting, you go to Kruze, Founders and Friends. It’s Kruze Consulting, Founders and Friends with your host, Scotty Orn.
Scott: Welcome to Founders and Friends Podcast with Scott Orn Kruze Consulting. Today, my very special guest is Emily Wang of Bento, welcome Emily.
Emily: Hi. Thanks for having me.
Scott: Oh, I’m excited. Just before we turned the mics on, Emily had three pearls of wisdom that I’m very excited to talk about, so this will be a really good podcast. So, I’m forgetting who introduced me to you, Emily, but you are an entrepreneur, I think you did… Are you part of the Stanford Business School Crowd? Is that how we got connected?
Emily: I’m not, but actually Michelle Valentine, who you had on the podcast, amazing founder, she put us a touch.
Scott: Michelle from the Anne Rock, which is Sales Stack Software, made the intro. She’s awesome and I’m always excited to meet another guest, good friend who’s doing something in Star World. So, I’m glad to have you here. Can you just retrace your career a little bit and tell us how you had the idea for Bento?
Emily: Yeah, well probably helpful to explain what we’re doing at Bento, but effectively we build product software that helps with what we call embedded effort boarding. So, you have a new customer, they’re in your product, how are they supposed to figure out how to get to value with your product and use it? Why embedded? Because we’re taking a different approach than all the tool tips and popups that traditionally we experience in these products credit where credit is due. A lot of the inspiration behind Bento came from some of the things that we worked on as part of the growth team at a company called Intercom, which many people have probably heard about.
Scott: I remember Intercom, great company, that’s really cool.
Emily: Great product. And we had a growth team that was focused on a lot of intercoms business problems, for example, getting customers to value. And this growth team, we built many things including this quick start guide that had its own separate page in the application and it served a very different purpose than these product tutorials, which we also had and which now you can buy off the shelf specifically. They actualy tracked your progress session to session because one of the things that we realized is that unlike consumer apps with B2B SaaS, it’s unlikely that your new user just figures out everything and finishes doing everything in one session. And these popups, they’re ephemeral. And so that form factored didn’t really meet and so the team did this amazing job building this quick start guide, which is still active and live and intercoms day, but we hard coded everything. And so as with all hard coding, really difficult challenges with content manager.
Scott: Hard to take it out.
Emily: And hard to iterate. And as it turns out, all the research that you can do up front, you still learn afterward that people respond to different messages in different ways. Plus for a company like Intercom, they ship so quickly, the product is constantly changing. They serve so many different use cases, it’s very hard to manage all of that targeting and all of that just content changing. So, that wa a really formative experience that a long way down the road eventually inspired a lot of Intercom. But my career’s been in product for the last eight or nine years. And being in product, you’re really focused on building new things and fixing a lot of bugs and it’s easy to forget what that new user experience feels like.
Scott: Yeah, yeah. That’s such a great, I was even thinking about that with Kruze because we’re like, “Vanessa’s 10 years in, I’m seven years in and it’s like for sometimes forget what it’s like to be a new client.” And the fact that your insight in that the way it was built for Intercom was hard coded, but yet Intercom iterated on its product so much that you actually needed to probably change the tutorials and the measuring of where people are getting through and all that kind of stuff. That’s actually an awesome observation I hadn’t really thought of, but it makes perfect sense and it is true for everybody, right?
Emily: Yeah, I mean one of the things that we talk about is the people who are building the product, designers, PMs, and engineers. As an engineer, you don’t wake up every morning and you drop your database and start new. Every time you start building, you’re building in an environment that is already set up as a product manager. You don’t wake up every morning, go through the signup flow all over again, but you log into your app and you see it in its setup state. And so, it’s very hard to build empathy I think for that new user experience.
Scott: Even if you do log in and go through the thing, you have this huge bias in that what’s supposed to happen or you assume it’s easier than the rest of the world actually sees it. There’re tons of biases so having a tool like Bento makes tons of sense to me that’s really, really smart.
Emily: And I think a lot of the learning we had is, it’s easy to treat an onboarding project, it’s one and done like, “Oh, we have design for onboarding, we have design for the sign-up flow.” Once you have signed up, accounts get created and you’re done. But the thing is, onboarding isn’t just about that first user, it’s also about every new user who is joining that account and when they join that account, that account hopefully has expanded now into more use cases than originally. So, you have a lot of dynamic states happening and I actually think it’s one of the trickiest problems to do well in product, which is why usually we just rely on customer success teams to bridge all of those gaps.
Scott: And so, Bento, how does it plug in? Is it an API-centric solution? If I build an app, then I can just plug into Bento and then use some of your form factors or something. You probably have a whole library of tested effective stuff, right. Is that how it works?
Emily: Yeah, and I think part of the irony is we had seen enough design projects that you end up getting this figma board of inspiration and it’s just screenshots of onboarding across 20 different apps and everyone’s like, “Oh, I like this and I like that.” And then what comes out the other side is a variation of a checklist or some cards.
Scott: Yep. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Emily: And so, not to undermine the fact that I do think it’s important that the form factor looks and feels brand consistent. But yes, we have basically taken a number of these checklists’ cards, carousel and made it a library and said, “Try it out, try this checklist style, try this one.” But the obsession doesn’t need to be how you’re going to make your checkbox work. The obsession is what really does that new user need to do to get to value? And given that we’re talking B2B Saas, your new users aren’t all exactly the same. And so what data do you need to make sure that the right use cases are getting to their format of value?
Scott: Can you see stuff this is… I think this is such a great idea. Do you see people going the wrong way, the quote unquote wrong way? I’m sure you see people who try some one thing, stop and leave the app and never return, right. Something like that. But do you see people going through an app and the reverse order you’d hope they go through or things like that? Are there analytics around that you can share with the team?
Emily: Yeah, I actually think that’s really important. Meaning not everyone learns the same way. Some people are read the instruction manual and other people they buy a piece of IQ furniture and they’re like, brilliant, throw it out and see what I can build. One of the really nice things about these embedded experiences is that you’re not locked in these models or these tool tips. It’s like you’re just trying to get them out of the way so that you can explore the way you want to. It’s pretty often with our customers implementations of Bento, we can see the analytics where their users completely dismiss the onboarding in the first instance and then 20 seconds in they’re like, “Okay, hang on, I don’t actually know what I’m doing.” And then they go back to it.
Scott: Can you describe me in any app I’ve ever used? I’m totally the person, my wife is the person who reads the directions and I’m the person and she always ends up doing better than me. But you’re right, I’ve definitely got into stuff and then I’m like, “Oh my god, I wish I could see that tutorial or I wish I could see how I was supposed to do this again.” And so, you make that possible where people can go back in and access it.
Emily: Yeah, well part of it being embedded is it’s like a page. Most of our customers will put it in whatever the landing page of their app is. And so, to the extent you can reaccess your dashboard, you can reaccess your onboarding cards or journey.
Scott: And are you doing this with web apps or iPhone apps or Android? Where do you play in the ecosystem?
Emily: Yeah, our big focus is on B2B SaaS because it’s complicated, right? Because with B2B SaaS you have different personas. If you just have one persona and it’s like Instacart, it’s like look, you have to go get some groceries, you put in your payment information, you got to check out, just build it yourself. Why would you use a third-party tool for that? But if you have different use cases, and especially if you want to allow your customer success teams to collaborate, well now the complexity of building it in house is just skyrocketed. So, because we focus on B2B SaaS, we’re predominantly web desktop focused.
Scott: Yep. Super cool. Have there been some moments in the evolution of the company? Is there a moment where you’re like a company, a client customer signed up with Bento and you’re like, “Oh, we made it.” A company you admired, signed up. Have you had that moment yet?
Emily: We’ve gotten to work with some really amazing companies. One of our customers, ironclad powers because for a lot of other companies that we’re familiar with. But there’s also been really fun to see the world of PLG type companies and correlated is one of these new data companies that helps you understand who’s in your product, who’s using your product actively, how do you send your sales team to engage with customers who are product qualified leads. And we got to be a part of their product hunt launch because suddenly they were opening up to many more new signups and it had to have a way to land people into a reasonable starting path.
Scott: That’s awesome. That’s really cool. That was the moment where you’re like, “Bentos going to work.” Kind of thing like validation?
Emily: I think that’s happened a couple of times. We work with this pretty incredible customer success manager at another company called Assembled. And she was just on call, after call, after call. And Bento has been part of a push that they’ve had to really create scale with their onboarding. And after they launched with Bento, they were able to not only shorten the amount of time it took their users to get to that activation moment by something like 25% or 30%, but Sam’s calls drop by 75%. Now, she’s doing group calls and the calls that she’s doing are much more engaging than, let me walk you through steps and that’s the whole point. It’s not to remove the human, it’s that no human wants to be on the other side. Pedantically regurgitating the same training over and over again.
Scott: Well, and so in this use case, the customer can go through it and the customer success, it was a customer… I’m forgetting what her title was. She can actually watch them doing it and talk them through it or be there to answer questions if they get stuck kind of thing?
Emily: She can log in to Bento and see what users have done, in fact who did it. And when you can set up Bento steps to either automatically complete based on data that gets passed in that says, “Yep, they set up this integration.” Or you can let your users tell you that they completed something, a traditional checklist.
Scott: That’s really cool. And when you said activation point, is this the classic? I’ll use the Facebook, Facebook say if you have seven friends you’ll become a Facebook user for life kind of thing. Is that the activation point you’re talking about where this is B2B SaaS, someone’s finally comfortable enough to use the app and we’ll actually use it in business and be retained? Is that what you’re talking about?
Emily: I think deciding what your activation metric is incredibly hard to pin down. Lenny’s Podcast, I can’t pronounce his last name, but he does this really great newsletter as well. And they released a bunch of-
Scott: I subscribed to that and I’m not even a product person, I just enjoy reading it.
Emily: Yeah, it’s very well done. You released a benchmark study around B2B SaaS activation, I want to say two weeks ago. And one of the things that they called out is where do people get this wrong? And one of it is like, “How do you define activation?” Activation could be okay, I’ve plugged in enough systems such that people can feasibly start using that’s like earlier.
Scott: Got it. Yeah.
Emily: Activation could also be, “Okay, the 20 friends in seven days where, okay, now I’m hooked.” I think for B2B SaaS, that last one is really hard to pin down, right. But I think we encourage people to not think of this as, again, that one shot, it’s again, we call it ever boarding because you’re counting on renewals. So, you’re counting on this being a multi-year long journey. And so, activation is not just, oh they got to a milestone and now we’ll ignore them and they’re safe, right?
Scott: Now, we can retire. Yeah.
Emily: Yeah. I think it continues to go, but having a couple of activation metrics I think helps the team be honest with itself around, “Okay, is implementation too difficult or is the actual long-term value moment too difficult, right?” And then I think nothing sub out for qualitative research. I think just talking to people and saying, “When was that?” For us, oftentimes that moment happens when we get feedback from our customers that say, “Hey, I got feedback from an end user that said they loved our end product onboarding. They didn’t know how we did it, but to please pass on their thanks to the product team.” They’re like, “Actually, we’re going to pass it on to you guys. And for us that’s like a brilliant moment.”
Scott: That’s awesome. Hey, it’s Scott Orn Kruze Consulting. Taking a quick pit stop to give some of the groups at Kruze a big shout out. First up is our tax team amazing. They can do your federal and state income tax returns, R&D tax credits, sales tax help, anything you need for state registrations. They do it all and we’re so grateful for all their awesome work. Also, our finance team is doing amazing work now. They build financial models, budget actuals and help your company navigate the VC due diligence process. I guess our tax team does that too on the tax side, but the finance team is doing great work. And then Ithink everyone knows our accounting team is pretty awesome, but want to give them a shout out too. Thanks. And back to the guest. This is kind of a funny question, but because you have this library and because you have so much analytics across a lot of different companies, do you find part of when you’re working with a new customer as you’re almost like an advisor or a consultant for them? Because they have to know Emily and her team have seen a 100 companies do this or maybe more, I don’t know how many clients you have, but do you get that request for sharing your wisdom and pinning down the activation metric? How’s that dialogue go between you and your customers?
Emily: We do, and it’s actually funny because I think sometimes people mistake Bento as being a purely self-serve company or enabling full self-serve and we were talking about this before you hit record, right which I’ll unpack a little bit around why I don’t believe that self-serve means no touch, but exactly that. It’s the reason we actually talk to all of our customers, even before we send them the trial link, we try to understand what are their goals? Are they interested right? In some of the benchmarks or patterns that we’ve seen because just like with giving feedback, it’s not really about what we say, it’s about what they want to hear. And if they’re excited to partner on that, then it’s going to be great.
Scott: That’s awesome. You had another incredibly wise saying that. I actually wrote down humans can be a feature and not a bug. And I love that because our business is super people intensive and so we believe the same. But tell me how you think about that or how you talk about that to the Bento team, to your customers.
Emily: Coming from a product background, one of the first things that we actually did when we started the company is to outline a couple of principles. And the reason behind it was to create some internal consistency around how we wanted to build features and how we wanted to build a culture around what mattered. Going back to Intercom, the hard-coded quick start guide that we built works really well for a long tail self-serve customer. But if you’re talking about larger deployments, there’s still a customer success manager involved and they’re running it on Google Docs, they’re running it in Zoom calls because you need that flexibility, right? And we were saying earlier, we build and sell software, but really at the end of the day, it’s humans buying. It’s human workflows that have to change and it’s organizational politics that have to be navigated through. And it’s stll humans who are best at helping each other do that. You can guilt trip people, you can motivate people. It’s very hard for software to do that. And so, I think with the focus on B2B SaaS, we knew that if all that Bento did was allow you to have a content management system to inject stuff into your app, it would be moderately helpful and we would still see what we always see, which is your larger accounts are going to be on Google Docs. And so from the get go, we invested from a data model perspective, from an infrastructure perspective, the ability for your Bento guides stuff course be templated, but a fork is created for every single account, every single company that you’re supporting.
Scott: Wow, that’s interesting.
Emily: And that means a customer success manager or salesperson, if you’re doing these pre-sales, can go in there and actually change. And so, it means if I’m talking at Kruze Consulting, maybe I use different language that resonates versus if I’m talking to Nike and maybe certain steps in your onboarding aren’t relevant and so I’m just going to remove them and I’m going to add the things that are relevant.
Scott: That’s really cool. That’s really cool.
Emily: Oh no, that’s the whole humans being a feature, right because these humans… By the way you’ve spent all this time to hire, it’s too bad if all they’re doing is repeated training because they can be great sources of insight and context so leverage them and then help them amplify this through your product.
Scott: Yeah, that’s very, very well said. I love it. There was another thing we talked about, it was a little slight digression, but it’s applicable to your category. First of all, for those who know, PLG is Product Led Growth is a term. And we were talking and one of the things we thought would be fun to talk about was just the myth around PLG like you, because you’re coming into this, this is your world every single day. What are some of the things you’re seeing or people, I always think the first one is if you build it, they will come kind of thing like the classic line. So, it’ll make it so easy that it’ll just grow so much. What are some of the myths that you see in this world?
Emily: Yeah, absolutely. The number one myth is if I just have a great product, I don’t need onboarding, I don’t need help, send articles. And again, I think this is where consumer and B2B SaaS is so different, but in B2B SaaS oftentimes we’re dealing with complex topics. You’re dealing with finances and tax, that’s complex. Iron Cloud is dealing with contracts that’s just complex. Correlate is dealing with data. These topics are not trivial. And so even if your product has great UI, super functional, super clean, you can’t expect every user to log in and have a clear mental model on exactly how they intend to get value. If I were signing up for-
Scott: Actually, it’s like the first time they’ve ever used it or they’re experimenting, they just don’t… It’s a new experience for them, right? Their mental model’s getting formed, they’re not going to come in with a preconceived thought process on how it’s supposed to work.
Emily: If you’re a checklist to do app, yeah, that should be pretty easy. People know how to enter in a thing and check it off. But in most of these cases, it’s not really about the product UI or the navigation, it’s actually that we’re dealing with complex topics. And so, I thinks it’s a little cavalier to say, “I just need to have a nice product.”
Scott: I firmly believe in that one. Yeah.
Emily: Yeah. The other one we were talking about is that self-serve means no touch.
Scott: That was another words of wisdom. Yeah, I love it. Say more about that because you and I are totally aligned on this, keep going.
Emily: I think self-serve means that we allow people not to be blocked by a phone call, right to do things. And those people specifically that we’re talking about are motivated and qualified people. An unmotivated person is not going to get through no matter your most beautiful self-serve flow. And so, the touch comes in around the things that software can’t solve for motivation, keeping people on track and focused, navigating organizational roadblocks. Those are geat ways and I think very critical ways that you still have to incorporate some type of human help. Ideally, it’s opt in so that people aren’t forced through it, but it’s a win-win. Not only is your customer user set up for success, but the person you’ve hired to be in a customer success role is engaged because now they’re a strategic partner.
Scott: That strategic partner part of it too is really smart because we get some of our best suggestions on improving Kruze service from our customers and if we were trying to automate them out of everything or never talk to them, we would miss out on a treasure trove of ideas or little process improvements. So, I’m totally with you. It makes so much sense to give them an avenue to talk to you or let your success person jump in and help them in a moment in need. You’ll learn so much.
Emily: Yes. And we hear that sometimes from people who are reluctant to bring aspects of self-serve. They say, “Well, we really want to learn.” And it’s like, “Yes, you should keep doing that.” But unless the thing that you’re trying to learn is how someone’s going to set up your Slack integration, like that part you probably should make self-serve.
Scott: I love it. I love it. Well, I’ve loved this. I think you’re really onto something and I’m glad you have those customers like correlated and ironclad who make you feel good as entrepreneur because I always find also these moments where you sign a new client or you’re working with someone and you’re like, “Oh, it’s like a validation for you as an entrepreneur and for the whole company.” So, that’s super, super cool. Maybe you can tell everyone we should wrap it up, but how do they reach out to Bento if they want to work with you, how do they try the product, and let them know where they can find you.
Emily: Yeah. Our website is tribebento.co turns out bento.com was already taken. And yeah, they can sign up for a demo or just join the mailing list. We’ll reach out in both ways. Again, we like to have a call up front just to really understand the use case and be helpful whether we think that the solution is Bento or something else. And if there is a fit, we set you up with a free trial. We let you do all the mechanics on your own. But we’d love to be that thought partner and strategic partner along the way.
Scott: I love it and it seems like someone will be foolish if they didn’t want your feedback, because you’re seeing this across so many companies, so very, very cool. It’s a pleasure meeting you, Emily. Thank you so much for coming on and wish you the best luck and we’ll be rooting for you from abroad here so congrats.
Emily: Amazing. Thanks Scott.
Scott: All right, take care.
Singer: So, when your troubles are mountain, in tax or accounting, you go to Kruze, Founders and Friends. It’s Kruze Consulting, Founders and Friends with your host, Scotty Orn.

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