Business Operations

3 advanced hacks for getting more value from Intercom

Intercom is an incredibly popular tool for startups. Around 80% of all the clients I've worked with are using or have used Intercom at some point. What makes Intercom so popular is the fact that it provides the functionality of a number of tools, all in one platform.

I've learnt a number of hacks over the years that take the value that Intercom provides to new levels. I'd like to share 3 of these hacks with you in this post.

The "Sniper's Bullet" Hack

Intercom is a toolbox of services but at its' core it's a CRM. If you've set up Intercom correctly all your users should be listed in your account and available for targeting via email and in-app messaging.

Wouldn't it be awesome if we could tag specific segments of users within our Intercom account so we could send highly targeted messages?

Well the good news is that the "Sniper's Bullet" hack does exactly that.

Step #1 - Isolate your user segment

The first step in this process is to isolate the exact user segment that you want to target. Let's say we are interested in better understanding why users are turning off a new feature we recently launched. To build my list of users which meet this criteria I'd build a query similar to the one shown below. If you aren't familiar with SQL or your company's databases then ask someone in R&D to build you the list. It doesn't really matter how you generate the list as long as you have it.

event_name = "feature_disabled"
feature_name = "X"

*Email is the main id that Intercom uses to identify users in your account.

Step #2 - Create a Google Sheet

The next step in the process is to log into your Google Apps account and create a new spreadsheet.

Name the sheet and add one header, email. You'll also need to add at least 1 row, this row can have any value. You'll need at least 1 row of info so Zapier can detect the column in the sheet. I recommend not writing an actual email address since you don't want to tag a user by mistake that isn't part of your segment. Below is an example of what you need. hacks spreadsheet example

A good tip is to give a specific name to the sheet so that you can use the same spreadsheet each time you want to tag users in Intercom.

Step #3 - Build a zap in Zapier

Zapier is another tool I highly recommend. Zapier allows you to connect different tools to each other and create automation flows. Well thought out flows can save you a lot of time and headaches. I use Zapier to automate a number of flows in my own business.

For this hack we are going to use Zapier to connect Google Sheets to Intercom.

The exact zap we want to create involves setting Google Sheets as our "trigger" app and Intercom as our "action" app. The trigger for our zap will be, "New Spreadsheet Row".

Intercom Hack - Tag users for specific messages

Follow the steps in Zapier to select the relevant sheet.

Intercom Hack - Pick the correct sheet

Once you've finished adding Google Sheets as your trigger choose Intercom as our "Action" app and "Add User Tag" as your action.

Intercom Hack - Select Tag

When you're asked to customize the "template" section of the action click on the menu icon on the right hand side of the email field and select "email". This step maps the email field in our spreadsheet to the email id in Intercom. This is how Intercom knows which users should be tagged.

How to connect Intercom to Google Sheets

Next you'll need to provide a value for your tag. I recommend using the date as part of the naming convention and then include something clear that could be understood by anyone in the company that sees it. The reason you want to take a second to think about the naming convention of your tags is because you may repeat this hack many times and you don't want to create a messy list of tags that no one identifies.

How to use Intercom to message users

You can then skip the test but don't forget to name your zap and activate it.

Step #4 - Run the zap

The next step is to manually run your zap. Now this might seem weird because our spreadsheet only has 1 row but this will basically tell Zapier that at this point there is only one row of information and the next time it sees new rows it should process the action in the zap.

To manually run the zap click on the drop down arrow on the right hand side of the zap and click on "Run".

Run the zap - Intercom

Step #5 - Copy and paste your email list into the spreadsheet

We're almost done.

You're now ready to copy and paste your list of emails into your spreadsheet. Paste your list under the first row that we added earlier.

Spreadsheet example for Intercom

Step #6 - Rerun the zap

Go a head and rerun the zap.

At this point Zapier should identify that you have new rows in the spreadsheet and start sending requests to Intercom to add your tag to the users which have emails which match the emails in your spreadsheet.

You can check the Zapier task history tab to see this process in action and which emails did or didn't match with users in Intercom.

*If you have emails in your list which don't exist in Intercom then the request will fail. There isn't any repercussions for failed requests and new users won't be created in your Intercom account.

Last step - Build your email / in-app messages and send

The last step is to build out your targeted messaging campaign in Intercom. Take your time with this step and make sure your content is precise and direct. Think about what you are hoping to achieve with the message and get one or two colleagues to comment on the campaign before you send.

Make sure to select the new tag as part of the criteria of the campaign.

Publish the individual messages and activate your campaign. Sit back and wait for the feedback to flow.

Final thoughts on the "Sniper's Bullet" hack

This hack is one of my favorite because it allows you to fully leverage your company's business intelligence for strategic communication with your users. The more data you collect, the more powerful your feedback loop will be.

Be warned that this hack can also be abused and the last thing you want to do is overwhelm your users with messages.

The "Intercom + Data Viz" Analytics Hack

Did you know that you can send events and other user-specific information to Intercom through their API? Did you know that you can export this information in a few clicks and run awesome analyses on your users?

Intercom allows users to send two main types of information to it's platform. The first is your standard user properties data. Examples of this data include gender, data of birth, signup date etc. This information is very useful but understand that this is dimensional data (a snapshot in time, not historical data).

The second type of data is events. Events are moments in time which we want to record. Intercom takes your events and provides you with properties for first time, last time and overall count. This information is also very helpful, especially when we want to analyze key milestones in a user's life cycle or if you want to calculate frequencies of certain events.

If you're a head of the curve and sending a lot of useful data to Intercom then you're in a position to take advantage by exporting this data for analyses. Tools like PowerBI, Tableau and even Excel are great to help you get everything you can out of your data, not to mention help you identify useful insights.

If you're still an early stage company and have no plans to invest in sophisticated BI infrastructure then use this hack to answer some of your more critical product usage questions before you're blind sided.

The "Thank You For Your Product Recommendation" Hack

Many companies are collecting product recommendations from users but few are doing much with this information.

This hack helps you take this feedback and leverage it in a smart way to increase sales. This hack can be used whenever you launch a premium feature that was requested by many users.

To help explain this hack lets assume you've just launched an advanced editor for your blogging app. Let's assume this feature was requested through support tickets and on your forum by many individuals.

Our goal is to try and convert as many of these individuals into paying customers. We are going to leverage the fact that we listened to them and improved our product to move them from our free plan to one of our paid plans.

Step #1 - Generate a list of users which recommended feature X

The first step is to generate a list of emails of users which requested the feature. We need this list so we can tag them in Intercom using the "Sniper's Bullet" hack.

I recommend asking support to add tags to tickets of users which are recommending certain features and other product updates.

It can be a mission to organize tags based on specific feature requests so stick with a small number of tags so support isn't overwhelmed. This will mean you'll need to manually scan through all the tickets with relevant tags but that should be manageable.

Step #2 - Implement the "Sniper's Bullet" hack

Once you have your list follow the steps I covered in the "Sniper's Bullet" hack to tag these users in Intercom.

Once they are tagged you can create email and in-app messages that target users with your custom tag. These messages need to thank the user and push them into the sales funnel. Set up the campaign so that if the user upgrades, the campaign ends.

Don't turn on the campaign just yet.

Step #3 - Generate a custom landing page or push them into an existing sales funnel

If you've got the resources I'd recommend creating a custom landing page which can be used to convert these users into paying customers. Try to be creative and provide a hook. Perhaps you can offer a discount or an extended trial to these users to thank them for their involvement in your product's evolution.

If you don's have the resources or don't believe it is worth the effort to set up a custom funnel then add CTAs to your Intercom messages that push these users into your existing sales funnel.

Step #4 - Test your flow and turn on your campaign

Once the messaging and funnel are ready make sure you test the entire flow before turning it on.

If everything looks good during your tests then turn on the campaign.

Final thoughts on the "Thank You For Your Product Recommendation" Hack

When I ran this hack at my previous company we saw very high conversion rates. I think it's very powerful when a company follows through on user requests and this hack is meant to help you take advantage of these events.

If you're in a company which has a very quick development cycle then you can set up a more generic campaign in Intercom and every other week rerun the "Sniper's Bullet" hack to push more users into the campaign. This will limit the amount of time needed to implement this hack each time you update your product.

I'd love to hear how you are using Intercom to grow your business. Share your Intercom hacks with the community by commenting below.

Thanks for reading.