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What I’ve Learned About Accelerating Product Adoption Using Content From Ramli John

Usha Vadapalli
October 26, 2023

What can product-led growth (PLG) businesses learn from Super Mario Kart?

Ramli John, the author of the Product-Led Onboarding book, and content Director at Appcues, drew parallels between the popular game and product adoption during his talk at the PLGTM 2023 sessions. Here’s what I learned from his talk.

The high churn rate within the crucial early stage of user engagement underscores the difficulty many PLG companies face in bringing users back to their products after the initial interaction. According to the data from Mixpanel, a substantial number of SaaS companies struggle to retain users after the initial interaction. Specifically, within the first day of usage, these companies lose 75 to 80% of their users.

We need effective strategies to enhance user retention and product adoption beyond the initial onboarding experience.

The solution lies in good old content and Super Mario Kart!

In Super Mario Kart, players encounter elements like speed boosters like turbo start accelerate the player's progress (momentum boosters), while obstacles like banana peels impede progress (momentum blockers).

Just as in the game, companies need to identify the elements (features, strategies, etc.) that can boost users' momentum toward product adoption and recognize the obstacles that hinder their progress. By understanding these dynamics, PLG companies can strategize to enhance the positive factors (boosters) and mitigate the negative factors (blockers) in their user onboarding processes.

Ramli suggests leveraging content strategically within the framework of the BJ Fogg model to address the challenge of user retention, specifically focusing on product onboarding. The BJ Fogg model, developed by behavior psychologist Dr. BJ Fogg from Stanford, emphasizes three key elements for behavior change: motivation, ability, and prompts. Here's how the speaker integrates content strategies with this model:


Content can be designed to increase users' motivation by highlighting the benefits and value proposition of the product. By crafting compelling narratives and emphasizing how the product solves users' problems, content can push users away from their current situation and pull them toward the desired behavior, which, in this case, is active product engagement.

Ramli gave two examples to illustrate the point.

1. Wave Financial is a platform that offers easy ways for entrepreneurs to create invoices. The challenge they identified was that many entrepreneurs, while creating invoices, often resorted to traditional methods like Excel or Word documents. To motivate these users to adopt their service, Wave Financial crafted a compelling message during the signup process. They emphasized a specific value proposition: "Designed to get you paid three times faster.”

This messaging tapped into the core motivation of entrepreneurs - getting paid promptly.

2. Meet Edgar is a social media scheduling tool. The company managed to increase its free-to-paid conversion rate by 40% without making any changes to the product itself. Meet Edgar emphasized the value it brought to the users via website copy. They communicated a clear benefit: "Meet Edgar can take all of your blog posts and content and schedule it for you automatically."

By highlighting the convenience and time-saving aspects of their service, they tapped into the users' motivation to simplify their social media management. This shift in the messaging resonated with potential users, encouraging more of them to convert from free users to paid subscribers.


Content plays a crucial role in enhancing users' ability to engage with the product. Addressing both cognitive and emotional friction, content can provide practical guides, tutorials, worksheets, and educational resources. For example, content can help users brainstorm ideas (cognitive) and build confidence (emotional) in their ability to use the product effectively. By reducing barriers and simplifying complex processes, content ensures that users feel capable and empowered to navigate the product seamlessly.

Let’s look at some examples.

1. Thinkific is a platform that allows users to create and sell online courses. One of the challenges they identified was that many users got stuck in the brainstorming phase, not knowing what course to create. To address this cognitive friction, Thinkific provided users with a practical solution: a course creation worksheet.

During the onboarding journey, Thinkific offered a worksheet to users who were struggling with ideas for their courses. This worksheet served as a cognitive tool, guiding users through the brainstorming process and helping them organize their thoughts. By providing this resource, Thinkific empowered users, reducing the cognitive friction related to generating course ideas. Additionally, Thinkific's customer success team actively engaged with users, asking them whether they had filled out their course creation worksheet, and providing personalized support to tackle this specific cognitive challenge.

2. Mavin is a platform that simplifies the creation of cohort-based courses. Live online courses can be challenging to manage, creating both cognitive and emotional friction for users. To address these challenges, Mavin introduced a cohort-based course about... creating cohort-based courses.

In this unique approach, Mavin offered users an opportunity to participate in a course specifically designed to teach them how to manage and run cohort-based courses effectively. By providing frameworks, strategies, and real-time practice, Mavin tackled both cognitive and emotional friction. Users learned the necessary skills to navigate the complexities of live online courses, reducing cognitive friction related to understanding the process and emotional friction tied to potential fears or uncertainties about running a successful course.


Content-driven prompts are strategically timed messages that encourage users to take specific actions within the product. Congratulatory emails, achievement badges, and personalized messages are examples of content prompts that can be sent when users accomplish certain milestones. These prompts tap into moments of joy and accomplishment, encouraging users to further explore the product features. By reaching out at the right time with the right message, content prompts users to engage actively, reinforcing their positive experiences.

Here are a couple of examples to illustrate how companies effectively used prompts through content to engage users at the right moments.

1. CloudApp is a platform that allows users to capture and share screenshots, GIFs, and screen recordings. CloudApp utilized congratulatory emails as prompts to encourage users to progress further within the product. For instance, taking the first screenshot gets you a congratulatory email acknowledging the accomplishment from CloudApp. These emails were designed to tap into moments of joy and achievement.

By recognizing and celebrating milestones with emails, CloudApp provided positive reinforcement, encouraging users to continue engaging with the platform. These prompts acknowledged users' progress, making them feel valued and appreciated. As a result, users were more likely to explore additional features and functionalities, increasing their overall engagement with the product.

2. Canva is a design tool that enables users to create various visual content, even without design skills. Canva implemented a badge system as prompts to motivate users. For instance, upon creating five designs, users received a badge recognizing their accomplishments.

These badges served as prompts that tapped into users' sense of achievement and recognition. By offering tangible rewards for completing tasks, Canva not only acknowledged users' efforts but also provided them with a sense of accomplishment. These prompts motivated users to set and achieve goals within the platform, encouraging them to create more designs and explore different features.

Wrapping up

Leveraging content strategically, especially during the onboarding process, can significantly accelerate user engagement and retention. Through motivational narratives, educational resources, and timely prompts, companies can effectively address users' motivations, enhance their abilities, and prompt meaningful interactions. PLG businesses can create a positive user experience, reinforcing achievements and encouraging further exploration of the product's features using the right content guided by the Motivation Ability and Prompts (MAP) framework.

If you are thinking about enhancing your product onboarding and adoption strategies, you should check out Inflection. We can help you build personalized campaigns with the right mix of product activity and CRM data. Request a demo.

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