Onboarding 15k Trial Users/Year: Need Help Streamlining the Process

Hey everyone!

We’re a software company with about 15,000 trial downloads floating around every year. It’s a free trial, and if users need more than 10 seats, they can upgrade to our paid plan.

Right now, people download directly from our website. Some share email addresses, and we try to follow up, but it’s a messy system. The big issues are that folks don’t always get updates (like those critical security patches!) and miss out on proper onboarding instructions.

I recently tried Midjourney, and I love how they place testers into a community (it’s Discord for them). It gives newbies an easy onboarding flow and puts them with other beginners where they can help each other.

I’m seriously thinking about using Discourse to onboard our users in a similar way. I especially want to address install issues since those are a real problem for a lot of people. We already have Discourse.

Here’s my rough plan:

  • User registers with their email to get our software
  • This creates a corresponding community user
  • Community sends them the download link
  • Easy-to-digest, step-by-step instructions live in the community
  • Newbies get a dedicated channel where they connect with other users
  • Our team can monitor and jump in to help when needed
  • Users can opt-out of the community easily if they choose

I’m hoping this amazing community can share some best practices! Also, anyone who’s into consulting on this, let me know!

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If your users have accounts on your system, then it would make sense to implement Setup DiscourseConnect - Official Single-Sign-On for Discourse (sso) to handle their accounts rather than sending them invite links and maintaining a separate login.


Thanks, @pfaffman
It looks like a viable alternative.
Currently, we don’t demand the creation of an account, it is totally open.
The idea would be to ask the user to leave the email address, that would create a user in the community and the community would bring the link to download, as well as some sort of journey for the newbies to follow.

Few tips from my experience:

  1. You can use the automation plugin to set some actions and triggers. E.g. send emails with guides a day/week/two weeks after the user signed up. That works better than sharing everything in one bunch. Triggers can also be joining a group, earning a badge and more.
  2. Discourse offers a lot of options to stay updated. I’ve listed some for our forum here :bell: Subscription & notification options - Software AG Tech Community & Forums, so you can leverage those to keep them updated.
  3. You can create groups for newbies e.g. every month and even have respective subforums for them (check cohort learning). But you have to appoint someone from staff to encourage discussions and the newbies somehow. Also a con I see is that questions/answers might might repeat if you keep them hidden. I’d go with a different structure for questions, to keep them tidy.

I totally missed what your plan is. You aren’t trying to integrate Discourse with some existing scheme, but making a discourse-only scheme for support and distribution.

Your plan is to use Discourse to distribute your software. You can have them create an account and join a group (either by paying with the subscription plugin to be assigned to a group, or just joining). You could either have the software available in a topic there, or have a plugin (perhaps the automation plugin) send a PM with a unique download link when they login or join the group or whatever the trigger is.


@tpetrov and @pfaffman
You both helped me a lot. I am still processing the ideas in my brain and recognize that it is possible to do. The main concerns now are that we have no contact with the downloaders that try the software. And onboarding them in a community style environment would allow us to ensure they have all the info while trying, would make it possible to connect them with other people in the same situation, but also allow us to supervise. Plus, respecting their privacy.

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