Customer onboarding is a critical strategy of any sales or product-led software or technology organisation. It's an area of focus for your product marketing team that is key to SaaS sales and product development. The real issue to understand is that the customer experience starts way before they get to the product so your onboarding process should start there.
Onboarding is a key part of the growth strategy and customer success, therefore having a framework from which to operate will help your product organisation scale effectively with excellent onboarding experiences.
How to build an onboarding checklist
Good onboarding is about more than product tours and wizards, it’s about learning about guiding your users with great onboarding flows. This sets the tone and plays an important part in your product experience.
But onboarding has to be part of your company culture, ingrained in your work environment so that your team members live and breathe it. It has to be the truest form of customer centricity in a product environment.
So let’s look at how you build out your product onboarding process, a 12-stage step by step approach.
Stage one - Introducing yourself and your business
If you’re reading this and your role as a demo expert for your business isn’t as a salesperson then your goal is to get your relationship off to a good start by introducing yourself (personally and professionally). Remember, first impressions count and last so make sure this is something that sets you off on the right foot.
In some cases, this might be a sales rep, in others it could be an Account or Customer Success Manager, for example.
Stage two - Give your prospect a warm welcome
Whilst it may sound like a given, your job is to guide people into the next stage of their setup so they know what's coming. Personalise this where you can - including the individual’s name, company and type of plan (i.e. freemium, basic, premium, etc.).
You can do this by email but a better way would be to create a personalised video using Vidyard or suchlike and share that with your prospect.
Stage three - Hold your prospects hand
Don’t say hello and then leave your prospects to their own devices. Create a series of walk-through messages or a video tutorial to explain where everything is and how users can make the most of your features.
I believe you should lean heavily into video as you can record them in a way that lets you use them in automated sequences in HubSpot to guide your prospects down the right path.
Stage four - Make key information visible
If your potential client is struggling and needs help, the last thing you want is them suffering in silence. Send a message letting them know where they can find useful resources and who to contact if they’ve still got questions.
Again, great tools to do this are email and video, however, you can also send a written guide in a blog post for example. If you use a tool like HubSpot, you can set sequences and workflows to automate this process for you.
Stage five - Acknowledge user activity
To drive future usage, acknowledge when a new user’s used feature X for the first time and list some more use cases for them to return to it again. The aim here is to make sure they see the value in repeat usage.
There are a number of ways to do this, you can build it into your platform as a trigger event using mailgun or something like that, but if you use HubSpot for your marketing and sales tools then their open API offers the same ability.
Stage six - Send reminders as part of your strategy
For demo, new and test users who don’t show any activity, follow-up to remind them you’re here and use this message as an opportunity to demonstrate your value.
The type of messages that can be used for users who are active but just aren’t making use of key features are - i.e. “Did you know you can also....”
Remember your product has to feel like it engages your user in the right moment so the experience feels intuitive.
Stage seven - Make sure you check-in
Make sure new accounts have got everything they need to keep progressing with you. These types of messages can massage your new user deeper into the product and encourage the adoption of more available features.
Stage eight - Ensure you have tactical messaging about particular features
Encourage trial and/or freemium users to convert into paying customers and those who’re already paying to maximise your product (and stay) by feeding them with relevant and contextual how-to content.
These messages should be seen as ongoing, not one-off. Just because someone’s using your product today it doesn’t mean they will be next week, which is why it’s so important to drive ongoing adoption and continually deliver value.
If your platform has usage restrictions or upgrades, this is a perfect way to cross-sell and upsell on top of guidance.
Stage nine - Don’t forget quiet or inactive users
Spending too much time focusing on what active users are doing can be productive but don’t forget you can learn a lot from inactive users.
If you wait until someone’s stopped using your product before acting to re-engage them there’s a good chance you’re already too late, so keep an eye on your users' activity and if engagement starts to drop, hit them with a re-engagement message.
Something like this:
“Hey, we noticed you haven’t logged in for a while…
For more on how you can make the most of [product name] head over to our Help section - it's jam-packed with how-tos and use cases.
Or, if you'd like to speak to an actual human, give our Customer Service Team a call on [insert number].”
Stage ten - Ask for feedback on your onboarding process
Gauge how new users are finding your product and use the results to determine who to display the next two steps to.
You can do this on a timed released message, a usage released message or you can adopt a Net Promoter Score (NPS) approach. Whatever you choose to adopt, the data you gather from this can be integral to the future development of your product or service.
Stage eleven - Upsell and cross-sell
Although I have already touched on this, sales are still part of the onboarding process, even if it's about adding new features to a subscription.
Tease freemium and paid accounts with what else they could achieve if they upgraded with your current product/purchased a complementary one.
Monitor this activity to see what sells and what doesn't, all of which will help you create a better user experience.
Stage twelve - Ask for social proof, collect reviews
In today’s world, there is nothing better than social proof and proof collected on external sites like G2, Capterra and other product and service review sites.
The more reviews the merrier - they’re great for both your marketing and customer research tactics, so see if you can squeeze one out of your new users. Just remember to exclude any that expressed evident displeasure in stage nine.
Summarising your onboarding process
In summarising how you evaluate your onboarding process, remember these essential ideas:
- Onboarding should be a culture within your organisation
- Employees should feel like they own this process
- Social proof is essential for further sales and to add weight to your onboarding process
- Messaging is tactical as well as needful
- Having a checklist is essential
Onboarding is a progressive element of your organisation, it should be guided with a clear framework and KPI’s. It should be measured, recorded and iterated in 90-day sprints to keep your product development roadmap agile, informed and reactive.
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