Activate users with an automated onboarding for SaaS

The automated onboarding checklist for SaaS

If you don’t believe in love at first sight, you should. A great first impression through a great SaaS onboarding process can determine if your users will activate or run away from your app. But don't be mistaken: to build a bulletproof onboarding you need to carefully analyze and plan your strategy. The onboarding is not only the first impression that your customer has of your product but will also determine the ongoing relationship between your customer and the product. What does this mean? Two words: it's critical.

Differently from simple applications with a single functionality, a SaaS onboarding process can be much more complex, and take much longer to be taught and to be well learnt by users. That’s because there are more features, tools and screens to show and explain.

So we will tell you why you need a killer user onboarding and what are the things that you can't forget to add in your plan. In other words: an onboarding checklist.

Why should you care about the user onboarding

SaaS onboarding is pretty much about making the user get to know the product interface, play around with it, explore it and actively learn how to navigate wherever they need. A good onboarding experience must a be a mix of selling, educating and learning how to use your product. But remember that the main focus is not the product but the customer. You should be able to show your customer what the product can do for them.

Your onboarding should focus on “here’s what you can do with our productJason Fried, Basecamp CEO

As some say: the seeds of churn are planted early and unfortunately most of them are seeded on the onboarding phase. The results of a poor onboarding experience? Massive drop-off immediately after sign-up, low Free Trial-to-Paid conversion rates, few customers staying past 90 days post-conversion, to name a few.

So, if you haven't realized yet, your onboarding is directly related to your retention rate. In fact, it can even help you predict the customers that may leave you according to what actions they take in their first weeks.

Take Facebook, for example. After analyzing their engaged users (engaged users being the ones that use Facebook every day) they discovered that these users added at least 7 friends within 10 days of signing up.

You can achieve three important goals by improving your onboarding process:

  • Less customer service requests: an intuitive smart onboarding is there to help new users, not to complicate their lives. So, you’ll probably want to change your efforts from delighting your customers to help them in what they need.

  • More activated users: good onboarding experiences increase the chances that trial users become active users and start paying for better features because they already know your product and its potential. More than that, active AND happy users are more likely to give their feedback and report bugs.

  • Increase customer retention: after they grow very fond of your app, you can say goodbye to high churn rates. How they can grow fond of an app? With an remarkable first impression. Just by using in-app messages, companies can retain 61% of their users in the first month, opposed to 28% from companies that doesn’t use in-app messages (source).

Every one of these goals is connected: if you want to engage your customers from their first moment in your product, you need to cultivate their loyalty and a long-lasting relationship. And without an effective SaaS onboarding process, they won’t be able to use the product to its full capability, and unfortunately, the churn rate will hauntingly increase.

User onboarding best practices

The task of turning beginners into master users demands a well-planned onboarding strategy. It involves targeted notifications and reminders, onboarding emails, a creative UX design intended to help the user navigate easily throughout the initial usage steps, and of course, full dedication to the user experience.

But where do you start? What are the items of the perfect onboarding checklist? The first step? Get to know your users.

Put in your mind that knowing your customers is more than important to create personalized interactions and effectively reach them.

Who are your personas? What are their needs, goals, and pains? Knowing exactly these will help you craft segmented messages and flows to fit each user. Once you have your personas clearly defined you can create different landing pages tailored to each one of them. Doing that you increase relevance and therefore conversions. With that, you can also test what elements work better.

After your customer enter your page it's the time to fill up the signup form. This is the first touchpoint so it's crucial that the process runs as smoothly as possible. Remember to ask just the necessary information. Avoid frictions. To make things easier consider the social sign up. It's quicker and it has proven to increase signup rates. Just remember that once you chose the social signup adding another form might be a big turn off.

Signup done? Not quite! Don't forget the welcome email. Or emails, if you opt to send a drip welcome campaign. This is a great opportunity to impact your customer. Try not to overwhelm them with loads of information but at the same time give some resources that will help engagement and conceive your product's value.

The AHA! moment

As we said before your main concern should be showing to your customers what your product can do for them. More than that. They need to feel it while onboarding, preferably in the first 5 to 10 seconds. This is called the AHA! Moment. The customers need to understand your uniqueness, the costs, and benefits of the product. This will entice the desire for more and it's one of the most important items of your automated onboarding checklist.

If the customer sees the core value of your product immediately, if they understand how it’s going to help them they are far more likely to continue using it.

The quickest way to identify your Aha! Moment is listening to your user's feedbacks. Listen to what your users have to say, track their actions and behavior and use everything to help your users to get what they need in a quick and smooth way.

Aha moment is the point where your buyer suddenly sees the benefit they get from using your product, and says to themselves ‘Wow! This is great!’David Skok

A helping hand

If your product is complex or if it has too many features your customer might need an extra help to understand its value. You can do this either by using tutorials or with a Onboarding Concierge.

Tutorials can be in any format: videos, images, gifs, you named it. Keep it simple and make sure that your customers can access it later. Sometimes people simply skip notifications because it may not seem relevant at the time. If you believe that your tutorial is essential for the customer to get the core value of the product makes it imperative. Pinterest, for example, requires users to go through the tutorial before allowing them to explore the product.

Pinterest tutorial

Another way to guide your user through your product is concierge onboarding. The main focus of the concierge onboarding is to keep the user engaged in a dialog. A relatively new trend, it offers a 1-on-1 interaction with the customer, usually by phone. Together with an automated onboarding, the concierge onboarding can be highly effective if you have a complex product, that works via subscription and if you charge more than the competition but provide more value.

This is the case for many SaaS companies that offer something innovative or a solution for a problem that the customer may not even know that he has.

Whether you have a complex or simple product the one thing that can't be missed is the documentation. Although it may not even be needed (if everything goes well), you have to make sure that you have an updated, accessible and understandable guidance. Your document should answer all the questions your customer may have including how they can accomplish this or that task with your product.

The beauty of using in-app messages

You’re probably thinking “why the heck should I use in-app messages on my user onboarding process?”, don’t you? Well, the main quality of in-app messaging is its punctuality. Emails are a good way to communicate with your contact, but no one - and I mean it - have the patience of going to their inbox on every step of the onboarding process, just to click on another link that goes to the app, over and over again. See what I mean?

In-app messages are here to solve this problem. It is possible to fully customize the messages to fit your needs: choose where and when you want it to show up. If you’re still skeptical, here are some examples:

  • To show your users a “first steps” blog post of your product, grab them by the hand and create a notification that is automatically displayed to users who just logged in for the first time, with a CTA containing a link to the feature.

  • For reaching more advanced or valuable contacts to show a really cool new feature, add them to a segment, using their company size or account age, and display a simple notification pointing to the new functionality and showing how to use it.

  • Check if new users are having problems with your app and improve even more your automated onboarding process by sending a message with a reply field and asking for their feedback. After you fix the issue, the next users won’t have the same problem.

  • In the end of the onboarding process, create an in-app survey notification and ask your newly-teached users to rate the entire process, just to be sure that you’ve done everything right to provide a good experience for your new customer.

  • To recruit beta testers and early adopters for future features - sorry for the tongue-twister - add an in-app message with an email subscription field when users reach the last page of the onboarding process. That’ll add them to a custom (and valuable) list to get precious feedbacks about your product.

In-app messages should contain starter tips, first steps or a quick tutorial, so users can move forward on using your product. Don’t forget about adding some kind of condition to determine the next action of your automation flow based on the user's interactions.

In-app messaging is a gift for control-freaks. A handful of personalization possibilities: position, size, delays, triggers, conditions… I really don’t want to sound generic, but in-app messages are the future of company-customer communication.

Track and analyze

As every move you take in marketing and sales you need to track and analyze your results. Create interactive and intuitive messages to guide and teach the user on how to use your product. Track their behavior within the product so you can identify on which step of the onboarding process they’re facing issues.

If your analytics tool shows that most of the users stop after a certain page that isn’t the end of the onboarding process, there’s something wrong with it. The user won’t know how to achieve the best performance of your product, and they may even lose interest on it. On the other hand, with a smart onboarding process, the user will not just master your product, but will also do it faster and more accurately than ever!

Another way to track your results is simply by asking your user what they thought of your onboarding. Apply a survey at the end of your onboarding so your customers can rate the experience and give you some feedback. With this information in hands, you can them make the changes you consider to be relevant.

These are the primordial steps in your onboarding automation flow. After that, you can keep feeding your contacts with relevant tips about your app, after all, you have to gradually increase the interest of your user into using your product’s awesome features. Now you have everything to create an automated onboarding process for your SaaS. Understand your customer behavior by tracking their actions, engage with them to help them learn every feature of your product, and create personalized journeys to create a long-term relationship with them.

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