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How to onboard your early-stage SaaS customers (2022)

We discuss how you can onboard your early-stage customers for your SaaS with insights from experts and SaaS founders.

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Note: SaaSwrites is a curated growth marketing hub and resource built to help SaaS founders grow their products. We sincerely thank all our experts for their constant value addition to this world.
Updated on: 1/04/2022

How to onboard your early-stage SaaS customers?

Onboarding new customers is challenging. The bounce rate is your biggest enemy and makes you lose a ton of cash.
Franzou analyzed the onboarding process of 160 SAAS to unveil the best practices.

1. Demonstrate ASAP the value of your product to your target

Your onboarding is made for this one thing. It's not about showing all the features at once. It's about showing THE feature that REALLY matters to them. What they came for!
Inspiration: @hirson at @DocuSign
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2. Keep it simple - Remove frictions at all cost

  • Be minimalist
  • Use Multiple Choice Questions / Boxes to select when possible
  • Don't overcharge the screen
  • Do more steps, with fewer questions on each step
Inspiration: @mninness , @scottyim at @squarespace
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3. Stay Attractive

  • Use Visuals
  • Gifs / Videos
  • Progress of the Sign up process (Step X/3), Loading Wheel
Inspiration: Look at the work of @mayanjb at Notion, @GuillaumeMbh at @lemlist, and @DylanFeltus at @ConvertKit
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4. Know your customers

  • Learn about their Company (Size / Sector / Funding Stage)
  • Learn about them (Department / Role / Years of Experience)
  • Where did they hear about you? (Attribution)
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5. Identify the reason why they're using your app

  • Helps you to adjust the positioning of your landing page
  • The GOAL + Details collected on your customers will help to define better your user stories + build dedicated LP (and improve conv. rates)
Inspiration: @Leadpages
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6. Gamification

  • Provide interactive tutorials if your app needs some training
  • Give free perks (free days of trial) if some tasks are achieved
Inspiration: @vsodera and @k3tk1 at @Superhuman
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7. Show your emotions

  • Once you asked their name, repeat it later on in the onboarding process
  • Show your customer that you understand their pain to go through the onboarding process
Inspiration: @mikkelsvane and @3en at Zendesk. "We're almost there", "One step left", Great!
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8. Help them to see ASAP the value of your product

  • If necessary, create a dedicated "in-depth setup process" that they can do later
  • If an implementation is needed, guide them through it.
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List sorted by popularity of the tool, and its logo to identify easily which one needs to be selected
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@_brittlayton at @loom . Look how it looks easy. One button. That's it. They really nailed it.
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9. If your product is complex, innovate

@andrewmason at @DescriptApp has done the most amazing job in that regard. @DescriptApp helps to edit podcasts, directly from a transcript. They made it perfect UX wise
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Growth Tactics observed most SaaS apps lose 95% of new users within 90 days. They tend to lose those users during onboarding-when a first impression is made. Welcome users into your product in a way that motivates them into being lifelong customers.

10. 80/20 on onboarding

Start by visualizing your user's journey toward experiencing value from your productβ€”this is the reason users sought you out.
Then:
  • Identify the obstacles that come up along the way
  • Address those obstacles in your onboarding flow

11. Identify obstacles

Some obstacles will be known to you. They're onboarding steps that:
  • Require a lot of work
  • Are boring
Record these.
Other obstacles are hidden. To find them, observe users using your product:
  • For SaaS apps: Record users' in-app activity using Hotjar
  • For physical goods: Run a study. Watch customers use your product
User behavior reveals the NONobvious broken paths taken in onboarding.
Example: Twitter studied their users' onboarding behavior & found out that new users who don't immediately follow a few other Twitter users when they first sign up are less likely to return. So they redesigned their onboarding flow to force users to choose five people to follow.

12. Address them

Once you've identified the obstacles (tedium, friction, dead-ends), you can address them using 4 principles:
  1. Educate users
  1. Entice users
  1. Reduce friction
  1. Make onboarding productive
Actionable tactics for each:

13. Educate

Quickly show users how they can unlock the product's value. If it's not self-evident, try these:
  • Walkthrough: Point out key features
  • Video: A no-fluff, 1-min video > 15 mins of documentation reading
  • SaaS apps: Fill a dashboard w/ sample data & tips

14. Entice

Rule of thumb: Don't ask users to do something until you've excited them about the value they’ll get from it. Ex- Want someone to download your Chrome extension? Get them hooked on your web app first. Then prompt them to download once they clearly see value.

15. Reduce friction

β€’ Total workload: Only ask for what you need. E.g. pre fill in forms β€’ Perceived complexity: Break a complex task into easy steps β€’ Choice anxiety: Anything that requires users to put effort into choices should also include suggestions.

16. Make it productive

You want users to accomplish something meaningful while learning to use your product. E.g- If you run an email app, your onboarding walkthrough could guide the user through cleaning up their inbox. Provide a small dopamine hit so users continue to engage.
A great onboarding experience delights users.
  • Always make it clear what the next step is
  • And that step must appear easy
Build momentum towards your product's value. Because nothing is more motivating than experiencing a product's ultimate value within minutes. Your onboarding should show users how to get value out of your product.
Excite users and turn them into lifelong customers. Find the obstacles. Address each. Aggressively reduce friction and cognitive overhead. Focus on being educational, enticing, and productive.

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