Why User Onboarding Is so Crucial For Your Growth Strategy on SaaS

Product onboarding is an essential part of customer activation and retention for businesses that are SaaS providers. 

One of the best things you can do for your customers’ success as a SaaS provider is to ensure that you walk them through a wholesome onboarding experience. 

When you give your customers all the relevant, necessary tools to succeed with your software, you should be able to retain them as customers. Additionally, you’ll increase the lifetime value of your customers and reduce the need for new client acquisitions. 

A bad onboarding experience won’t impact your bottom line as a SaaS company, but it will negatively affect your customer’s productivity.  

What makes an onboarding experience a bad one? What steps can you take to ensure that new users of your software fully understand the value it can offer them if they use it correctly? 

This post aims to answer the above questions. We’ll take a look at why onboarding is crucial and how you can optimize your onboarding experience. 

What Is Successful Onboarding?

A properly optimized onboarding strategy should have a high “aha moment” conversion. What does that mean? It’s the point where a customer realizes the value of your software for their business needs. 

At its core, successful onboarding entails converting trial users into monthly paying customers.

The real question you should ask yourself is: how do you, as a SaaS provider, ensure that your onboarding strategy increases your conversion and retention rates, respectively?

After using measuring tools to measure the effectiveness of your onboarding strategy (we’ll look at these tools in the next section of this post), you’ll want to develop a winning onboarding strategy. 

Let’s take a look at some case studies that will hopefully inspire you and steer you in the right direction. 

Drip

Drip is a popular CRM solution for eCommerce. Due to the complex nature of their software, the team over at Drip knew beforehand that they had an arduous task ahead of them—with regards to coming up with an effective onboarding strategy. 

The company realized that they couldn’t teach their users everything about their software at once. As a result, they focused on their “aha moment” for users. This helped increase their conversion and retention rates.

Autodesk

Knowing when to supplement your onboarding process, versus adding to it, is vital for finding the right balance of information given versus the time required to consume the information.

Autodesk noticed that their customer support was frequented by disgruntled users struggling with effectively using Fusion 360 after the onboarding stage. 

Instead of adding additional learning material into their onboarding process, they decided to supplement it instead. Increasing the onboarding material allowed them to create a comprehensive course on Fusion 360. 

Autodesk handled their dilemma in the most effective way possible. Instead of potentially creating information overload, they made a comprehensive course. The user could choose to engage with or not, depending on their needs. 

BigCommerce

Ecommerce giant BigCommerce figured out early that having a dedicated customer support team to answer any onboarding questions was vital to their success.

The company takes customer care seriously. They have a live chat feature and a dedicated telephone line for their onboarding experience. 

BigCommerce is so focused on providing a robust onboarding experience that they even offer one-on-one consultation for their clients. 

How To Search Through Onboarding

New users of your software aren’t going to be instantly familiar with it, and as such, they’ll likely require help. 

There are a plethora of tools used for successful onboarding. Onboarding within of itself is a bonafide industry, meaning that it’s a mature industry with robust practices you can use for your business model as a SaaS provider. 

What is successful onboarding? There isn’t a clear-cut answer to this question. We can, however, measure the effectiveness of a company’s onboarding strategy by using the following metrics: 

  • Product tours
  • Customer messaging
  • A dedicated product onboarding helpdesk
  • Product analytics

Product Tours

It’s easy, and quite often common, to fall for the fallacy that your creation is easy to understand and use. You might think that you have a relatively easy-to-use service because you know what it is meant to do. 

Product tours, as a customer onboarding tactic, have quickly become one of the most effective tools there is out there for user onboarding. What’s excellent about product tours is that they make it easy for new users to learn the delicate details of your product up front. 

Additionally, product tours are a great way to increase your overall user engagement while ensuring that your customers get the most out of your product. 

There are quite a few tools out there that you can use for product tours. Here are a few that we recommend: Intercom Product Tours, Appcues, Chameleon, and Userpilot

Customer Messaging

Communication in business development is crucial; this fact holds true for customer onboarding as well. It’s vital for you as a SaaS provider to be right by your customer’s side.

You want to be reachable should they require answers about a particular problem they ran into using the product. 

You’ll need a customer messaging tool as part of your product onboarding strategy. Messaging tools empower your customer journey experience. You can set up a series of timely messages to send to your user base at the appropriate time of their journey with your product. 

Helpdesk

Your customers will have questions for you, whether it’s about the product and its usage or your company in general. The former rings true more so for your customer’s product adoption phase. 

To ensure that your customers receive the correct answers quickly, we recommend setting up Helpdesk to automate this part of the onboarding journey. 

There are plenty of tools in the marketplace for this specific exercise. Here are some tools that we recommend checking out for all your Helpdesk needs: 

  • Help Scout
  • Groove
  • Kayako
  • Zendesk

Product Analytics

Product onboarding can serve many purposes. For example, onboarding is used for user engagement. With product analytics tools, you can gauge this yourself. 

Let’s say your goal is to see which features your users are using the most;—you plan to use these insights for your next software iteration phase. Product analytics will provide this information for you.

You can even add another level of iteration by segmenting the data so you can see which features are mainly used within the first week of your users signing up.

When used correctly, product analytics can supercharge your customer onboarding and retention strategies. 

Here’s a list of popular analytics tools you can use for your onboarding analytics: 

  • Pendo
  • Amplitude
  • Mixpanel

So you’ve covered all your bases and set yourself up for success as a SaaS company, but how do you measure your success?

What You Need To Get Successful Onboarding

Successful onboarding is a tricky business. Here’s a detailed bullet list of what we believe you need: 

  • Email onboarding: This strategy typically involves sending periodic emails to users. Upon signing up, users receive a welcome email. These emails introduce users to the software’s features and teach them how to use it. Emails can also be event-triggered. 
  • In-app training: This strategy guides the user through the software as they explore it for the first time. Welcome screens, tool-tips, pop-up screens, and tutorials are the tools of choice. The number one advantage of this strategy is that it allows users to do all their onboarding on one screen.
  • Content: This strategy is more of a supplemental process than a stand-alone one. It works well if paired with either email onboarding or in-app onboarding. Autodesk’s Fusion 360 tutorials are a great example of this strategy.
  • In-person training: This strategy allows new users to interact with a real human being and have all their questions answered. At the same time, they see first-hand what the software can do for them. It is an excellent strategy if you are targeting small businesses or high-value prospects. 

We have just covered effective tactics for a successful onboarding strategy; here are some soft tactics that can be beneficial for your overall strategy.

Show Value as Quickly as You Can

To ensure a high conversion rate, you must show your software’s value as quickly as possible. 

This will focus the user’s attention and will most likely lead to them taking practical action, like signing up for a subscription or a free trial. 

Remove Frictions

Customer onboarding isn’t a static function. Its dynamic nature means you constantly have to remove clutter in your process to ensure that you don’t bombard new users with unnecessary information early on.

Think of it as removing bottlenecks as you would in a supply chain-related exercise. 

Don’t Be Afraid To Educate Contextually

This statement goes against what we just talked about. While removing friction is suitable for grabbing attention, continuous learning is excellent for retaining it. 

It’s common practice for SaaS companies to have an on-demand, secondary onboarding strategy that acts as a supplementary learning strategy working hand in hand with a preliminary plan. This is similar to the case with our Autodesk example from earlier. This ensures that you can provide as much detail about the software as possible so that the user harnesses its full potential. 

Conclusion

Customer onboarding is a vital part of customer acquisition for SaaS companies.  For example, if your users fail to grasp the value of your software, they’re more likely to cancel their subscription. 

Onboarding should be designed so that new users of your software understand the value of your offering. Once you’ve accomplished this, you can identify how to offer that value continuously

Mateus Oliveira

Mateus Oliveira

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