How I Built An Automated Onboarding Program Using Intercom

I published a version of this post on the Mailgun blog here.

During my 2 year run as head of marketing for Mailgun, I worked on some amazing projects that had positive impacts on the business (you would hope, right?)

One of the these projects was increasing usage by our existing customers. Mailgun is an email automation service enabling developers to quickly integrate email into their application. Similar to other SaaS companies, Mailgun offers a free tier  allowing users to send or receive 10,000 emails free per month – after that, you are charged on a per email basis.

Integrating Data into Intercom

We started using Intercom back in 2012 mostly to engage with users logged into the control panel to ask for product feedback. Intercom is a great platform toengage with your customers within your dashboard. As we monitored users logging into the control panel, we noticed most of our users log in once when they sign up and never log in again. This is mostly due to the fact that Mailgun users use the API pulling data directly into their application. Because of this, we really didn’t get a good insight into customer health meaning that just because they weren’t logging into the control panel didn’t mean they didn’t actually use our product.

We weren’t using the potential of the Intercom platform. What we needed was more data about our customers in the platform. I gave the problem I was trying to solve to one of our developers and beginning of 2015, we started to pull data about our customers into Intercom. According to our developer,  we did this by using Apache Spark and Hadoop to read our event feed and produce nightly data aggregations that we import into Intercom using their API and Python’s Requests module. The Apache Spark API is great and SaaS applications like AWS’ Elastic MapReduce make it easier than ever to take advantage of these tools.

We pull in attributes like sign up date, number of emails sent and more allowing us to intelligently engage with our users based on their profiles.

Onboarding Emails Based on User Behavior

Now that we had data about Mailgun users within Intercom, we were able to set up a series of onboarding emails based on actions that our customers did or did not take.

In order to use Mailgun, there are a series of actions a user must take to use our product. For example, the first action is to add a domain. If a user does not add a domain within 24 hours we will see the attribute in Intercom as “domain=has any value.” If no value, a user will receive an email for “add domain.” If true, they will not receive an email.

Here is a diagram of how our onboarding emails are set up.

Decreased time from Free to Paying Customers

We track the length of time it takes for a user to start paying (sending over 10,000 emails). If you see below, you will notice that when we implemented onboarding emails, we decreased the time for a user to start using Mailgun from 4 months to less than a month.

Time To Usage

Helpful Tips

I’ve been doing customer marketing for over 10 years and have never used a product where I, as a marketer, am enabled to engage with our customers in an intelligent way without having to engage a designer or developer for every customer engagement (pulling lists, building a design). We have templates built within the platform and our data is automatically populated via API.

To maximize on your on boarding program, I recommend:

  • Make them personable. I sign emails either from myself or our support team. Here is an example:

Onboarding Blog Post Send Email

  • Include helpful articles. If you spend time building your documentation and help center articles, now is the time to share them.
  • A/B test your emails. We thought many of our users would prefer text emails but it turns out HTML performs better. Also, test different subject lines.
  • Respond. This is very important because if you don’t respond then it defeats the purpose of making them personable. Often times we get support related questions and because we integrated Intercom with Zendesk (our ticketing system), I can easily send the request to Zendesk and a ticket will automatically be generated and assigned to an email expert.

I hope you find this information useful as you build your on boarding program. If you have questions, please leave them in the comments below and I will get back to you.

Back to Basics with Becky Hammon


I had the sincere pleasure of watching Becky Hammon speak at the Rackspace Headquarters this morning. With the new gig as the assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs and the very recent win of the Summer League, Becky has been hitting headlines left and right. It was no surprise she packed the Rackspace Events Center with standing room only as Rackers flooded in with much anticipation to see her speak in person.

What I loved about her speech, or really about her story, was how authentic it was. Sometimes I think we expect these leaders and these people that are breaking barriers to tell a flashy story. In reality, to be a leader like her, starts with a solid foundation. The Spurs organization is a prime example of having a solid foundation that you can build off of and it’s no surprise that she is now one of those building blocks.  If I had to keep it to five things, here’s what I took away.

To earn respect, you need to listen and serve first.

Becky has been on many teams throughout her lifetime. And no matter how good she is or what her experience was, when she moved to a different team, it was like starting new again. She was still the new person on the team and always had to earn the respect of her teammates. When you ask her about how you earn that respect, she said multiple times “you listen and serve your teammates.” She even said if that means grabbing t-shirts and water bottles, that’s what you did. When she played overseas, it was even more important to show your service because of the language barrier; she needed to show her teammates how much she cared for them through her acts of service.

Trust your heart to make tough decisions and don’t look back.

When Becky wasn’t asked to play for the US Olympic team, she had the option to sit at home and watch the Olympics over some BBQ, or she could go play for Russia. As a girl that grew up in South Dakota, she is as American as you can get so going to play for another country was definitely a tough decision she had to make. So how does she handle tough decisions like this one? She literally said “pray, listen to your heart and depend on your circle of family and friends that have your best interest at heart.” When she made the decision to go play for Russia, she received a lot of backlash and people even questioned her patriotism. But because she felt in her heart that she was doing the right thing, nothing else mattered. She focused on serving her team and being the best she could and ended up bringing home the Bronze.

You don’t have control over someone’s attitude but you do have control on how you respond to it.

I love this point because attitude is something that no matter how good you are at a sport or a certain skill, it’s your attitude that will take you through to success. I’ve learned this as an athlete growing up and is something that I continued to drill into the kids I coached a few years back. You can be the best player on the team from a physical standpoint but a bad attitude can oversee that potential and can be detrimental to the team. It’s no different in the business world. The reality is people will still have bad attitudes and sometimes people might just be having bad days but often times, it’s their permanent being. Becky points out that even though you can’t change someone’s attitude, you can control how you respond. It’s so easy to become the complainer about people but it’s harder to not let it affect you and the rest of the team and even harder to rise above and change the course of direction to a positive one.

Going for the quick win does not mean you will have longevity of winning.

This goes back to building a foundation. She talked about how Coach Pop starts with building a foundation first that is not to be messed with, even through loss. Often times in professional sports, when teams don’t make the playoffs, they will change management, change the team and bring in big names that will hopefully get them a ring. Becky says that they might get a quick win and if that is what they want, then they’ve won. But if they’re looking for tenure and a longevity of wins, those practices will not get them there. This really relates nicely to the corporate world. Companies are often under pressure to hit revenue and profit targets and when they are missed, people panic and change direction, strategy, people, etc. But if you have a solid foundation and a set of core values, missing a goal is just an obstacle that you have to overcome to reach long term success. If you react to that loss, you take yourself backwards instead of forwards.

You really can make a living doing what you love, it just may not be in a manner that you initially thought.

As a little girl, starting at the age of five, Becky loved basketball. She emphasized the importance of repetition and practice. She knew that she wanted to make basketball her career. Her dad always told her that she could do anything. When she asked her dad if she would be able to play basketball in the NBA, he said well, “no.” At the time the WNBA didn’t exist so it didn’t seem possible to pursue a career in the NBA. When she landed the job as an assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs, she said she was excited to make that phone call back to her dad to say “You never said that I couldn’t coach for the NBA.”

What an honor to have heard her in story in real life and what an honor it is to have her as a leader in our city. This was truly a special and memorable moment for myself and many other Rackers. Go Spurs Go!

Where Can College Graduates Afford To Rent?

This post was written and contributed by Kristy Hessman. Hessman writes for HotPads, a rental search website that makes it easy for you to find your next place in the city.

Whether you are a parent of a student, or a student who identifies as a Longhorn, Jaguar, Horned Frog or Red Raider, graduation season is coming up quickly.

But where will new grads head after school? Many new graduates will be saying goodbye to their college towns and hello to cities like Dallas to start new jobs.

A new interactive map out from the rental website HotPads helps new college graduates determine some of the most affordable neighborhoods to rent in within the Dallas metro area.

HotPads used salary information for full time workers ages 22 to 30 with college degrees, along with rental data to map just how much recent grads can expect to spend of their gross salaries on rent.

Here is a snapshot of what the rental market looks like for graduates in certain professions moving to Dallas.


According to the data, new graduates with teaching degrees moving to Dallas will likely earn between $44,000 and $45,000 in annual gross salary. The City Center District will be the most expensive place for teachers to rent. They’ll spend around $1,158 each month on rent, about 35 percent of their annual salary. If they want to save some money, they can head to Preston Hollow where they will spend 16 percent, about $590 a month, of their income rent.


Graduates going into accounting or auditing roles will have a bit more flexibility when it comes to the Dallas rental market thanks to their slightly higher salary of around $54,000 a year. This will allow them to live closer to the action in neighborhoods like Oak Lawn or Near East, where they will spend 24 and 27 percent of their respective rents on salary.

Software Developers, Applications and Systems Software

Graduates in the software and systems fields will have even more flexibility than accountants and teachers due to their estimated $61,894 annual gross salary. That means they can live in the more expensive neighborhoods of Dallas, like City Center District and South Boulevard Park – Park Row District and still spend less than 30 percent of their salaries on rent.

Along with Dallas, HotPads created maps for 10 additional cities throughout the US, including: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington DC.

Recent graduates can choose their profession and search neighborhoods within those cities to see how much they can expect to pay in rent.

HotPads also compiled a Rent Here Not There “cheat sheet” for new grads moving to cities throughout the US.

You can explore all of the cities by profession by clicking here.