SaaS Customer Onboarding in 2021: must-know tactics from the world’s leading SaaS companies

Casey Hill

Customer onboarding can be executed in so many ways, it can be hard to know which route to take for your own SaaS.

A/B testing different email onboarding flows, let alone complementary in-app messaging, can be overwhelming even to the most battle-hardened copywriter or onboarding specialist. There’s just so many variables at play!

Heck, here at Bonjoro we’ve tested so many different approaches ourselves we know the pain.

That’s why we decided to give you a helping hand and collate the best insights from some of the world’s leading onboarding specialists, so you can copy and steal what they’re doing instead.

Consider this your go-to reference for killer onboarding insights and tactics you won’t find anywhere else, and your fast-track to more trial conversions and super-engaged customers who’ll stick around for longer.

Customer onboarding survey - here’s what we asked the experts:

To gather these insights we created a set of 3 simple questions that would draw out actionable information with clear examples. Then we collated all the best responses and grouped them by question.

Here are the questions we asked: 

Question 1: What is the number one tactic you have employed to improve customer onboarding?

These answers will give you a head-start with your own onboarding flows.

Question 2: What do people not understand when it comes to customer onboarding, and where do most people fall short?

The answers contain a ton of information on potential pitfalls, so you can navigate right around them.

Question 3: Moving forward, what aspects of customer onboarding do you most want to optimize?

This is all about future proofing your work and jumping ahead of the competition with your own onboarding.

OK, let’s dive into the expert insights!

What is the number 1 tactic you have employed to improve customer onboarding?

Justin Zimmerman - SalesMessage

Pay attention to the next time you get an email or SMS. If it's too much to consume at a glance, your brain will say "cognitive load alert" and fire up the "worth my time test". We want to avoid triggering these, so we created ultra short (3-4 sentences) tiny texts to "check in" with new trials. We designed these messages to pass the "scan test", feel personal, focus on one key aspect of time-to-value, and we get tons of replies that proactively decrease churn.

Emilia Korczynska - Userpilot

Segment your users by their goals/ Jobs To Be Done right during their fist-run experience - in the welcome screen. This is the equivalent of a shop assistant asking a confused customer “how can I help you?” That way - you will be able to personalise their onboarding experience in a way that is really meaningful - by showing them the shortest way to getting what they want to do done.

Rob Napoli - Rise Up Coaching

Having a dedicated onboarding process and key checkpoints/tasks. This includes hard deliverables that prep/train the client to have a good awareness of what they are walking into. E.g. a walkthrough video and intake form.

Zineb Layachi - PitchSlap

Heatmaps, analytics and actual 1:1 conversations to understand what a good customer is doing, what a bad customer is doing, where do we lose them, where are the value leaks.

Justin Kao - Spiro

The most impactful change we’ve made to onboarding our customers is measuring the time to value of our onboarding process. This involves several steps:

  • Knowing exactly when the customer implementation process begins to ensure a standardized measurement;
  • Identifying and understanding the key process milestones that must happen during the process; and
  • Having a clearly defined, and agreed upon, definition of when a customer “recognizes value” from your product.

For Spiro.AI, we start the process when the customer completes an initial customer form with several important questions that kickstart the onboarding process, and we end it when they are able to utilize Spiro’s analytics capabilities on their own (which requires a fully implemented platform and trained users).

Importantly, we track time to value across our customers so as a company, we understand the ideal timing and can make changes in our approach where needed. Certainly, some customers have complex situations and the time to value takes longer, but it’s important that these customers are recognized exceptions. If you think about onboarding as being a journey with a starting point and a clear destination, it makes it easier to optimize the route along the way.

Liz Stephany - Close.io

The number 1 tactic we've employed at Close is offering different paths to onboard with Close. We know that depending on the role that our users have at their organization and the Close plan type our users choose, they have different goals for using Close and their needs for onboarding will vary. It's important to us at Close to give our users control over what, when, and how they will learn and to make sure our onboarding always has our customers' goals in mind.

We all learn differently; some users want long-form, written tutorials, some users want bite-size video tutorials. Some want to be led, some want to direct themselves. At Close, we offer a variety of learning resources and aim to reach users where they spend the most time. For all users, we have an in-app onboarding checklist to guide our users along reaching certain onboarding milestones, along with how-to videos on our main features. We also have email onboarding where content differs for an end user versus an administrative user. For the self-directed learner, we have YouTube video playlists that are specific to a plan's features and a searchable knowledge base. For those who prefer an instructor, we have a live new user webinar with a host who can answer questions and dedicated Customer Success Managers. We monitor these different channels for efficacy, employing A/B testing where it makes sense to understand how each channel is performing.

Eilis McCann - Method CRM

At Method, we employed a jobs-to-be-done framework. As a result, our onboarding strategy focuses on how we solve our users’ problems as effectively as possible. We use data analytics, interview our customers, and connect internally with sales and support to better understand how to perfect our onboarding process.

Overall, our learnings are that onboarding optimization needs to be iterative. That you need to make hypotheses about the ideal customer onboarding process and then test these hunches with product experiments such as A/B tests. To validate our onboarding hypotheses, we look at two metrics as indicators of success:

1. First Strikes: The first moment a customer thinks "I can see how this product solves my problem" while using our tool. 


2. Product Adoption Indicators: Using analytics, we can see if the user has formed a habitual pattern of behaviour within our product. These habit indicate that the customer understands the product and has incorporated it into their daily workflow.

✨ Bonjoro customer highlight: YourVone ✨

Read how YourVone took MRR from $20k to $50k in just a few months using video onboarding

...

What do people not understand when it comes to customer onboarding, and where do most people fall short?

Justin Zimmerman - SalesMessage

Conversations are good for business and onboarding is by far the best time to start conversations. So don't over automate onboarding! It's a goldmine of information. It's worth having your product marketing team manage this inbox. New customers will give you previously unknown marketing sources, partnerships, reveal gaps in your onboarding, offer ways to improve your support articles, and provide critical product and competitor feedback. New trials are willing to share this, if you ask. Plus having human-to-human conversations will differentiate your company's support from the start, which wins us five star reviews and more sales.

Most companies treat onboarding as a "one size fits all" experience, rather than focus on just initial "job" a trial customer signed up for. Many companies parade all the things the software can do (a drink from the fire hose). But instead should apply the philosophy in the book "The One Thing". There are probably a dozen industries and roles using your software, but there are only a handful of "jobs" your customers are hiring your product to get done. This is why onboarding should identify the primary job the customer is trying to get done, then deliver an onboarding experience limited to setting up and using those features to get that job done. 

Emilia Korczynska - Userpilot

The most common misunderstanding I see in onboarding is that companies try to show too much too soon. You need to be really selective. Instead of showing the user everything about your product, think of the 2-3 key actions they need to take to get the first value. To continue with the shop assistant analogy - imagine going to Walmart, and having a shop assistant grab your hand, and walk you through the store pointing at different products..."Here are tomatoes, and here are cucumbers, and here's milk, and here's cheese..." While you just came to pick up some toilet paper! Creepy, right? So is the traditional product tour pointing the discombobulated user in all directions.

Rob Napoli - Rise Up Coaching

Onboarding starts from the first touchpoint and goes through the first year you build loyalty and growth. Most companies think onboarding is the 2 weeks after a client signs and once they are up and running on the product or service. Many times onboarding falls short because you may spend a week on onboarding and the amount of information your client can retain is very little and will not be able to use the tools/tech effectively causing a disconnect with the product and brand.

Zineb Layachi - PitchSlap

That it’s not about the product, it’s about how the customer will use it to achieve something. Our main focus should be on how quickly we get them to 1) use it and 2) see the value.

The ultimate goal of onboarding is to activate users. Unfortunately, a lot of companies don't see the bigger picture and focus on simply highlighting the key product features.

Olga Petrik - Nethunt CRM

The onboarding process is your opportunity to find out what makes users love your product and bring them closer to this feeling as quickly as you can. Show value instead of functionality.

Justin Kao - Spiro

I think it’s important to understand that onboarding is not just product education - that’s only one facet of it. Explaining important and popular product features is best handled through easily searchable support articles or videos. For onboarding, it’s important to understand the context of why the customer is using your product in order to frame your discussions and trainings in terms that they understand and that they will be receptive to.

Another area people fall short in is customer marketing. It’s important to keep your customers up-to-date on what’s new. It's easy to make a big show of the product during the implementation process, but what about when you release new features? It’s important to make sure all of your customers are aware of new features, and remind them of lesser known ones as they grow into power users.

You can see these two areas come together when you look at how your customers train new users of your product when they hire new people. If you’ve done onboarding and ongoing customer marketing right, there should be a scalable, automated process in place for new users to learn your product quickly and easily leveraging recorded webinars and materials.

Liz Stephany - Close.io

I think most people understand that a product's churn numbers are directly impacted by what the customer experiences within the first few weeks of using the product. If a customer is set up for success early, they will use the product more, see its benefits, grow their footprint with it. That's the definition of time to value and most people know that shortening TTV is ideal. I think where a lot of people fall short is truly understanding what the 'value' part of TTV actually means. Understanding and mastering those 'aha moments' is really essential for an onboarding strategy to make a positive impact.

Eilis McCann - Method CRM

This is a great question and one that I think companies really need to keep top of mind. It's important to go back and analyze your onboarding efforts over time and pay attention to what methods are working the best. Right now, my team is focused on a way to deliver concierge-level onboarding to a larger subset of our customers in a way that we can continue to support as we scale. We have been seeing great growth from our accounts when they are able to interact with our team in a 1:1 way, so we want to foster that moving forward.

✨ Bonjoro customer highlight: Clickfunnels ✨

Read how Clickfunnels added $20,000 to their MRR with a unique onboarding approach

...

Moving forward, what aspects of customer onboarding do you most want to optimize?

Justin Zimmerman - SalesMessage

Multichannel onboarding. We'd like to build out tranches of "jobs to be done" based onboarding that include video email, 2 way conversational SMS, welcome postcards, and more in-app intercom product tours. We also know when customers integrate other apps with ours, the longer they stay and the more they pay. So we'd like to add partnership content to onboarding, so customers can see how to get even better results using a combination of our product with others. A good example would be a use case webinar for prospectors and recruiters to demonstrate Woodpecker or Lemlist for cold outbound emailing, Calendly or Chilipiper for appointment setting, Salesmsg SMS for confirmations and follow up, and then Hubspot or ActiveCampaign for deal management.

Emilia Korczynska - Userpilot

I would still like to improve user segmentation and personalise onboarding even more - especially at later stages of the user journey. Onboarding doesn’t end at the new user stage. You need to keep pushing the users to unlock more value from your product and stay engaged, if you want to keep them. So ideally - I’d like to have more time to look at the user’s behavioural analytics and then prepare bespoke secondary onboarding for them, pointing them towards the advanced features I think they would find helpful based on their use case and in-app behaviour.

Rob Napoli - Rise Up Coaching

Parts of onboarding a new customer is very time-intensive, the more prep docs/videos/intake forms that we can automate the better but not at the cost of having meaningful interaction with the client.

Zineb Layachi - PitchSlap

Mostly the journey to that value for the customer: how can we keep working to make it as short as possible. Customer interviews really help here because you can ask questions like: what surprised you about our product when you onboarded that would you have known about it before you purchased would’ve made you buy much earlier.

Olga Petrik - Nethunt CRM

For us, it's analytics. We need to have a better understanding of how our users interact with NetHunt during the activation flow to make improvements. We aim to minimise the time it takes for our users to realise the real value of our product and incorporate it into their routine workflows.

Justin Kao - Spiro

We’re laser focused on improving our time to value metrics, both by decreasing the time involved and by increasing the measurable value delivered. Our customer success team has done a great job in the last year of decreasing the time required, and now we’re focused on building in best practices to make the entire process more efficient and less work for customers. As part of this process, we conduct executive business reviews (EBRs) between the midpoint and a quarter before the customer’s renewal date. This helps ensure that the initial value delivered in the implementation has continued, and to identify any additional business challenges that our platform can address to deliver even more value over time. This gives great feedback that we use in future implementations, and directly contributes to our great net promoter score with our customers. And importantly, we share this feedback to the entire company in order to identify areas of improvement.

Liz Stephany - Close.io

This is a great question and one that I think companies really need to keep top of mind. It's important to go back and analyze your onboarding efforts over time and pay attention to what methods are working the best. Right now, my team is focused on a way to deliver concierge-level onboarding to a larger subset of our customers in a way that we can continue to support as we scale. We have been seeing great growth from our accounts when they are able to interact with our team in a 1:1 way, so we want to foster that moving forward.

Eilis McCann - Method CRM

Method is a "swiss army knife" sort of software as it solves multiple problems for clients in totally different fields of work. So, our next step when it comes to onboarding is to offer targeted onboarding specific to a user’s persona and industry. This way, we’re tackling that user’s exact pain points from day 1 and getting them to realize the full value of our offering as soon as possible.

Boost your trial conversion rates with Bonjoro

Here at Bonjoro we help SaaS companies instantly boost their trial conversion rates by adding personalized videos to their onboarding flows. Whatever tool you use, just connect it to Bonjoro and you'll be notified at the perfect moment to record your onboarding videos from your desktop or mobile. Get a free 14 day trial and give your own trial conversions a huge lift in 2021.

Customer onboarding can be executed in so many ways, it can be hard to know which route to take for your own SaaS.

A/B testing different email onboarding flows, let alone complementary in-app messaging, can be overwhelming even to the most battle-hardened copywriter or onboarding specialist. There’s just so many variables at play!

Heck, here at Bonjoro we’ve tested so many different approaches ourselves we know the pain.

That’s why we decided to give you a helping hand and collate the best insights from some of the world’s leading onboarding specialists, so you can copy and steal what they’re doing instead.

Consider this your go-to reference for killer onboarding insights and tactics you won’t find anywhere else, and your fast-track to more trial conversions and super-engaged customers who’ll stick around for longer.

Customer onboarding survey - here’s what we asked the experts:

To gather these insights we created a set of 3 simple questions that would draw out actionable information with clear examples. Then we collated all the best responses and grouped them by question.

Here are the questions we asked: 

Question 1: What is the number one tactic you have employed to improve customer onboarding?

These answers will give you a head-start with your own onboarding flows.

Question 2: What do people not understand when it comes to customer onboarding, and where do most people fall short?

The answers contain a ton of information on potential pitfalls, so you can navigate right around them.

Question 3: Moving forward, what aspects of customer onboarding do you most want to optimize?

This is all about future proofing your work and jumping ahead of the competition with your own onboarding.

OK, let’s dive into the expert insights!

What is the number 1 tactic you have employed to improve customer onboarding?

Justin Zimmerman - SalesMessage

Pay attention to the next time you get an email or SMS. If it's too much to consume at a glance, your brain will say "cognitive load alert" and fire up the "worth my time test". We want to avoid triggering these, so we created ultra short (3-4 sentences) tiny texts to "check in" with new trials. We designed these messages to pass the "scan test", feel personal, focus on one key aspect of time-to-value, and we get tons of replies that proactively decrease churn.

Emilia Korczynska - Userpilot

Segment your users by their goals/ Jobs To Be Done right during their fist-run experience - in the welcome screen. This is the equivalent of a shop assistant asking a confused customer “how can I help you?” That way - you will be able to personalise their onboarding experience in a way that is really meaningful - by showing them the shortest way to getting what they want to do done.

Rob Napoli - Rise Up Coaching

Having a dedicated onboarding process and key checkpoints/tasks. This includes hard deliverables that prep/train the client to have a good awareness of what they are walking into. E.g. a walkthrough video and intake form.

Zineb Layachi - PitchSlap

Heatmaps, analytics and actual 1:1 conversations to understand what a good customer is doing, what a bad customer is doing, where do we lose them, where are the value leaks.

Justin Kao - Spiro

The most impactful change we’ve made to onboarding our customers is measuring the time to value of our onboarding process. This involves several steps:

  • Knowing exactly when the customer implementation process begins to ensure a standardized measurement;
  • Identifying and understanding the key process milestones that must happen during the process; and
  • Having a clearly defined, and agreed upon, definition of when a customer “recognizes value” from your product.

For Spiro.AI, we start the process when the customer completes an initial customer form with several important questions that kickstart the onboarding process, and we end it when they are able to utilize Spiro’s analytics capabilities on their own (which requires a fully implemented platform and trained users).

Importantly, we track time to value across our customers so as a company, we understand the ideal timing and can make changes in our approach where needed. Certainly, some customers have complex situations and the time to value takes longer, but it’s important that these customers are recognized exceptions. If you think about onboarding as being a journey with a starting point and a clear destination, it makes it easier to optimize the route along the way.

Liz Stephany - Close.io

The number 1 tactic we've employed at Close is offering different paths to onboard with Close. We know that depending on the role that our users have at their organization and the Close plan type our users choose, they have different goals for using Close and their needs for onboarding will vary. It's important to us at Close to give our users control over what, when, and how they will learn and to make sure our onboarding always has our customers' goals in mind.

We all learn differently; some users want long-form, written tutorials, some users want bite-size video tutorials. Some want to be led, some want to direct themselves. At Close, we offer a variety of learning resources and aim to reach users where they spend the most time. For all users, we have an in-app onboarding checklist to guide our users along reaching certain onboarding milestones, along with how-to videos on our main features. We also have email onboarding where content differs for an end user versus an administrative user. For the self-directed learner, we have YouTube video playlists that are specific to a plan's features and a searchable knowledge base. For those who prefer an instructor, we have a live new user webinar with a host who can answer questions and dedicated Customer Success Managers. We monitor these different channels for efficacy, employing A/B testing where it makes sense to understand how each channel is performing.

Eilis McCann - Method CRM

At Method, we employed a jobs-to-be-done framework. As a result, our onboarding strategy focuses on how we solve our users’ problems as effectively as possible. We use data analytics, interview our customers, and connect internally with sales and support to better understand how to perfect our onboarding process.

Overall, our learnings are that onboarding optimization needs to be iterative. That you need to make hypotheses about the ideal customer onboarding process and then test these hunches with product experiments such as A/B tests. To validate our onboarding hypotheses, we look at two metrics as indicators of success:

1. First Strikes: The first moment a customer thinks "I can see how this product solves my problem" while using our tool. 


2. Product Adoption Indicators: Using analytics, we can see if the user has formed a habitual pattern of behaviour within our product. These habit indicate that the customer understands the product and has incorporated it into their daily workflow.

✨ Bonjoro customer highlight: YourVone ✨

Read how YourVone took MRR from $20k to $50k in just a few months using video onboarding

...

What do people not understand when it comes to customer onboarding, and where do most people fall short?

Justin Zimmerman - SalesMessage

Conversations are good for business and onboarding is by far the best time to start conversations. So don't over automate onboarding! It's a goldmine of information. It's worth having your product marketing team manage this inbox. New customers will give you previously unknown marketing sources, partnerships, reveal gaps in your onboarding, offer ways to improve your support articles, and provide critical product and competitor feedback. New trials are willing to share this, if you ask. Plus having human-to-human conversations will differentiate your company's support from the start, which wins us five star reviews and more sales.

Most companies treat onboarding as a "one size fits all" experience, rather than focus on just initial "job" a trial customer signed up for. Many companies parade all the things the software can do (a drink from the fire hose). But instead should apply the philosophy in the book "The One Thing". There are probably a dozen industries and roles using your software, but there are only a handful of "jobs" your customers are hiring your product to get done. This is why onboarding should identify the primary job the customer is trying to get done, then deliver an onboarding experience limited to setting up and using those features to get that job done. 

Emilia Korczynska - Userpilot

The most common misunderstanding I see in onboarding is that companies try to show too much too soon. You need to be really selective. Instead of showing the user everything about your product, think of the 2-3 key actions they need to take to get the first value. To continue with the shop assistant analogy - imagine going to Walmart, and having a shop assistant grab your hand, and walk you through the store pointing at different products..."Here are tomatoes, and here are cucumbers, and here's milk, and here's cheese..." While you just came to pick up some toilet paper! Creepy, right? So is the traditional product tour pointing the discombobulated user in all directions.

Rob Napoli - Rise Up Coaching

Onboarding starts from the first touchpoint and goes through the first year you build loyalty and growth. Most companies think onboarding is the 2 weeks after a client signs and once they are up and running on the product or service. Many times onboarding falls short because you may spend a week on onboarding and the amount of information your client can retain is very little and will not be able to use the tools/tech effectively causing a disconnect with the product and brand.

Zineb Layachi - PitchSlap

That it’s not about the product, it’s about how the customer will use it to achieve something. Our main focus should be on how quickly we get them to 1) use it and 2) see the value.

The ultimate goal of onboarding is to activate users. Unfortunately, a lot of companies don't see the bigger picture and focus on simply highlighting the key product features.

Olga Petrik - Nethunt CRM

The onboarding process is your opportunity to find out what makes users love your product and bring them closer to this feeling as quickly as you can. Show value instead of functionality.

Justin Kao - Spiro

I think it’s important to understand that onboarding is not just product education - that’s only one facet of it. Explaining important and popular product features is best handled through easily searchable support articles or videos. For onboarding, it’s important to understand the context of why the customer is using your product in order to frame your discussions and trainings in terms that they understand and that they will be receptive to.

Another area people fall short in is customer marketing. It’s important to keep your customers up-to-date on what’s new. It's easy to make a big show of the product during the implementation process, but what about when you release new features? It’s important to make sure all of your customers are aware of new features, and remind them of lesser known ones as they grow into power users.

You can see these two areas come together when you look at how your customers train new users of your product when they hire new people. If you’ve done onboarding and ongoing customer marketing right, there should be a scalable, automated process in place for new users to learn your product quickly and easily leveraging recorded webinars and materials.

Liz Stephany - Close.io

I think most people understand that a product's churn numbers are directly impacted by what the customer experiences within the first few weeks of using the product. If a customer is set up for success early, they will use the product more, see its benefits, grow their footprint with it. That's the definition of time to value and most people know that shortening TTV is ideal. I think where a lot of people fall short is truly understanding what the 'value' part of TTV actually means. Understanding and mastering those 'aha moments' is really essential for an onboarding strategy to make a positive impact.

Eilis McCann - Method CRM

This is a great question and one that I think companies really need to keep top of mind. It's important to go back and analyze your onboarding efforts over time and pay attention to what methods are working the best. Right now, my team is focused on a way to deliver concierge-level onboarding to a larger subset of our customers in a way that we can continue to support as we scale. We have been seeing great growth from our accounts when they are able to interact with our team in a 1:1 way, so we want to foster that moving forward.

✨ Bonjoro customer highlight: Clickfunnels ✨

Read how Clickfunnels added $20,000 to their MRR with a unique onboarding approach

...

Moving forward, what aspects of customer onboarding do you most want to optimize?

Justin Zimmerman - SalesMessage

Multichannel onboarding. We'd like to build out tranches of "jobs to be done" based onboarding that include video email, 2 way conversational SMS, welcome postcards, and more in-app intercom product tours. We also know when customers integrate other apps with ours, the longer they stay and the more they pay. So we'd like to add partnership content to onboarding, so customers can see how to get even better results using a combination of our product with others. A good example would be a use case webinar for prospectors and recruiters to demonstrate Woodpecker or Lemlist for cold outbound emailing, Calendly or Chilipiper for appointment setting, Salesmsg SMS for confirmations and follow up, and then Hubspot or ActiveCampaign for deal management.

Emilia Korczynska - Userpilot

I would still like to improve user segmentation and personalise onboarding even more - especially at later stages of the user journey. Onboarding doesn’t end at the new user stage. You need to keep pushing the users to unlock more value from your product and stay engaged, if you want to keep them. So ideally - I’d like to have more time to look at the user’s behavioural analytics and then prepare bespoke secondary onboarding for them, pointing them towards the advanced features I think they would find helpful based on their use case and in-app behaviour.

Rob Napoli - Rise Up Coaching

Parts of onboarding a new customer is very time-intensive, the more prep docs/videos/intake forms that we can automate the better but not at the cost of having meaningful interaction with the client.

Zineb Layachi - PitchSlap

Mostly the journey to that value for the customer: how can we keep working to make it as short as possible. Customer interviews really help here because you can ask questions like: what surprised you about our product when you onboarded that would you have known about it before you purchased would’ve made you buy much earlier.

Olga Petrik - Nethunt CRM

For us, it's analytics. We need to have a better understanding of how our users interact with NetHunt during the activation flow to make improvements. We aim to minimise the time it takes for our users to realise the real value of our product and incorporate it into their routine workflows.

Justin Kao - Spiro

We’re laser focused on improving our time to value metrics, both by decreasing the time involved and by increasing the measurable value delivered. Our customer success team has done a great job in the last year of decreasing the time required, and now we’re focused on building in best practices to make the entire process more efficient and less work for customers. As part of this process, we conduct executive business reviews (EBRs) between the midpoint and a quarter before the customer’s renewal date. This helps ensure that the initial value delivered in the implementation has continued, and to identify any additional business challenges that our platform can address to deliver even more value over time. This gives great feedback that we use in future implementations, and directly contributes to our great net promoter score with our customers. And importantly, we share this feedback to the entire company in order to identify areas of improvement.

Liz Stephany - Close.io

This is a great question and one that I think companies really need to keep top of mind. It's important to go back and analyze your onboarding efforts over time and pay attention to what methods are working the best. Right now, my team is focused on a way to deliver concierge-level onboarding to a larger subset of our customers in a way that we can continue to support as we scale. We have been seeing great growth from our accounts when they are able to interact with our team in a 1:1 way, so we want to foster that moving forward.

Eilis McCann - Method CRM

Method is a "swiss army knife" sort of software as it solves multiple problems for clients in totally different fields of work. So, our next step when it comes to onboarding is to offer targeted onboarding specific to a user’s persona and industry. This way, we’re tackling that user’s exact pain points from day 1 and getting them to realize the full value of our offering as soon as possible.

Boost your trial conversion rates with Bonjoro

Here at Bonjoro we help SaaS companies instantly boost their trial conversion rates by adding personalized videos to their onboarding flows. Whatever tool you use, just connect it to Bonjoro and you'll be notified at the perfect moment to record your onboarding videos from your desktop or mobile. Get a free 14 day trial and give your own trial conversions a huge lift in 2021.

Customer onboarding can be executed in so many ways, it can be hard to know which route to take for your own SaaS.

A/B testing different email onboarding flows, let alone complementary in-app messaging, can be overwhelming even to the most battle-hardened copywriter or onboarding specialist. There’s just so many variables at play!

Heck, here at Bonjoro we’ve tested so many different approaches ourselves we know the pain.

That’s why we decided to give you a helping hand and collate the best insights from some of the world’s leading onboarding specialists, so you can copy and steal what they’re doing instead.

Consider this your go-to reference for killer onboarding insights and tactics you won’t find anywhere else, and your fast-track to more trial conversions and super-engaged customers who’ll stick around for longer.

Customer onboarding survey - here’s what we asked the experts:

To gather these insights we created a set of 3 simple questions that would draw out actionable information with clear examples. Then we collated all the best responses and grouped them by question.

Here are the questions we asked: 

Question 1: What is the number one tactic you have employed to improve customer onboarding?

These answers will give you a head-start with your own onboarding flows.

Question 2: What do people not understand when it comes to customer onboarding, and where do most people fall short?

The answers contain a ton of information on potential pitfalls, so you can navigate right around them.

Question 3: Moving forward, what aspects of customer onboarding do you most want to optimize?

This is all about future proofing your work and jumping ahead of the competition with your own onboarding.

OK, let’s dive into the expert insights!

What is the number 1 tactic you have employed to improve customer onboarding?

Justin Zimmerman - SalesMessage

Pay attention to the next time you get an email or SMS. If it's too much to consume at a glance, your brain will say "cognitive load alert" and fire up the "worth my time test". We want to avoid triggering these, so we created ultra short (3-4 sentences) tiny texts to "check in" with new trials. We designed these messages to pass the "scan test", feel personal, focus on one key aspect of time-to-value, and we get tons of replies that proactively decrease churn.

Emilia Korczynska - Userpilot

Segment your users by their goals/ Jobs To Be Done right during their fist-run experience - in the welcome screen. This is the equivalent of a shop assistant asking a confused customer “how can I help you?” That way - you will be able to personalise their onboarding experience in a way that is really meaningful - by showing them the shortest way to getting what they want to do done.

Rob Napoli - Rise Up Coaching

Having a dedicated onboarding process and key checkpoints/tasks. This includes hard deliverables that prep/train the client to have a good awareness of what they are walking into. E.g. a walkthrough video and intake form.

Zineb Layachi - PitchSlap

Heatmaps, analytics and actual 1:1 conversations to understand what a good customer is doing, what a bad customer is doing, where do we lose them, where are the value leaks.

Justin Kao - Spiro

The most impactful change we’ve made to onboarding our customers is measuring the time to value of our onboarding process. This involves several steps:

  • Knowing exactly when the customer implementation process begins to ensure a standardized measurement;
  • Identifying and understanding the key process milestones that must happen during the process; and
  • Having a clearly defined, and agreed upon, definition of when a customer “recognizes value” from your product.

For Spiro.AI, we start the process when the customer completes an initial customer form with several important questions that kickstart the onboarding process, and we end it when they are able to utilize Spiro’s analytics capabilities on their own (which requires a fully implemented platform and trained users).

Importantly, we track time to value across our customers so as a company, we understand the ideal timing and can make changes in our approach where needed. Certainly, some customers have complex situations and the time to value takes longer, but it’s important that these customers are recognized exceptions. If you think about onboarding as being a journey with a starting point and a clear destination, it makes it easier to optimize the route along the way.

Liz Stephany - Close.io

The number 1 tactic we've employed at Close is offering different paths to onboard with Close. We know that depending on the role that our users have at their organization and the Close plan type our users choose, they have different goals for using Close and their needs for onboarding will vary. It's important to us at Close to give our users control over what, when, and how they will learn and to make sure our onboarding always has our customers' goals in mind.

We all learn differently; some users want long-form, written tutorials, some users want bite-size video tutorials. Some want to be led, some want to direct themselves. At Close, we offer a variety of learning resources and aim to reach users where they spend the most time. For all users, we have an in-app onboarding checklist to guide our users along reaching certain onboarding milestones, along with how-to videos on our main features. We also have email onboarding where content differs for an end user versus an administrative user. For the self-directed learner, we have YouTube video playlists that are specific to a plan's features and a searchable knowledge base. For those who prefer an instructor, we have a live new user webinar with a host who can answer questions and dedicated Customer Success Managers. We monitor these different channels for efficacy, employing A/B testing where it makes sense to understand how each channel is performing.

Eilis McCann - Method CRM

At Method, we employed a jobs-to-be-done framework. As a result, our onboarding strategy focuses on how we solve our users’ problems as effectively as possible. We use data analytics, interview our customers, and connect internally with sales and support to better understand how to perfect our onboarding process.

Overall, our learnings are that onboarding optimization needs to be iterative. That you need to make hypotheses about the ideal customer onboarding process and then test these hunches with product experiments such as A/B tests. To validate our onboarding hypotheses, we look at two metrics as indicators of success:

1. First Strikes: The first moment a customer thinks "I can see how this product solves my problem" while using our tool. 


2. Product Adoption Indicators: Using analytics, we can see if the user has formed a habitual pattern of behaviour within our product. These habit indicate that the customer understands the product and has incorporated it into their daily workflow.

✨ Bonjoro customer highlight: YourVone ✨

Read how YourVone took MRR from $20k to $50k in just a few months using video onboarding

...

What do people not understand when it comes to customer onboarding, and where do most people fall short?

Justin Zimmerman - SalesMessage

Conversations are good for business and onboarding is by far the best time to start conversations. So don't over automate onboarding! It's a goldmine of information. It's worth having your product marketing team manage this inbox. New customers will give you previously unknown marketing sources, partnerships, reveal gaps in your onboarding, offer ways to improve your support articles, and provide critical product and competitor feedback. New trials are willing to share this, if you ask. Plus having human-to-human conversations will differentiate your company's support from the start, which wins us five star reviews and more sales.

Most companies treat onboarding as a "one size fits all" experience, rather than focus on just initial "job" a trial customer signed up for. Many companies parade all the things the software can do (a drink from the fire hose). But instead should apply the philosophy in the book "The One Thing". There are probably a dozen industries and roles using your software, but there are only a handful of "jobs" your customers are hiring your product to get done. This is why onboarding should identify the primary job the customer is trying to get done, then deliver an onboarding experience limited to setting up and using those features to get that job done. 

Emilia Korczynska - Userpilot

The most common misunderstanding I see in onboarding is that companies try to show too much too soon. You need to be really selective. Instead of showing the user everything about your product, think of the 2-3 key actions they need to take to get the first value. To continue with the shop assistant analogy - imagine going to Walmart, and having a shop assistant grab your hand, and walk you through the store pointing at different products..."Here are tomatoes, and here are cucumbers, and here's milk, and here's cheese..." While you just came to pick up some toilet paper! Creepy, right? So is the traditional product tour pointing the discombobulated user in all directions.

Rob Napoli - Rise Up Coaching

Onboarding starts from the first touchpoint and goes through the first year you build loyalty and growth. Most companies think onboarding is the 2 weeks after a client signs and once they are up and running on the product or service. Many times onboarding falls short because you may spend a week on onboarding and the amount of information your client can retain is very little and will not be able to use the tools/tech effectively causing a disconnect with the product and brand.

Zineb Layachi - PitchSlap

That it’s not about the product, it’s about how the customer will use it to achieve something. Our main focus should be on how quickly we get them to 1) use it and 2) see the value.

The ultimate goal of onboarding is to activate users. Unfortunately, a lot of companies don't see the bigger picture and focus on simply highlighting the key product features.

Olga Petrik - Nethunt CRM

The onboarding process is your opportunity to find out what makes users love your product and bring them closer to this feeling as quickly as you can. Show value instead of functionality.

Justin Kao - Spiro

I think it’s important to understand that onboarding is not just product education - that’s only one facet of it. Explaining important and popular product features is best handled through easily searchable support articles or videos. For onboarding, it’s important to understand the context of why the customer is using your product in order to frame your discussions and trainings in terms that they understand and that they will be receptive to.

Another area people fall short in is customer marketing. It’s important to keep your customers up-to-date on what’s new. It's easy to make a big show of the product during the implementation process, but what about when you release new features? It’s important to make sure all of your customers are aware of new features, and remind them of lesser known ones as they grow into power users.

You can see these two areas come together when you look at how your customers train new users of your product when they hire new people. If you’ve done onboarding and ongoing customer marketing right, there should be a scalable, automated process in place for new users to learn your product quickly and easily leveraging recorded webinars and materials.

Liz Stephany - Close.io

I think most people understand that a product's churn numbers are directly impacted by what the customer experiences within the first few weeks of using the product. If a customer is set up for success early, they will use the product more, see its benefits, grow their footprint with it. That's the definition of time to value and most people know that shortening TTV is ideal. I think where a lot of people fall short is truly understanding what the 'value' part of TTV actually means. Understanding and mastering those 'aha moments' is really essential for an onboarding strategy to make a positive impact.

Eilis McCann - Method CRM

This is a great question and one that I think companies really need to keep top of mind. It's important to go back and analyze your onboarding efforts over time and pay attention to what methods are working the best. Right now, my team is focused on a way to deliver concierge-level onboarding to a larger subset of our customers in a way that we can continue to support as we scale. We have been seeing great growth from our accounts when they are able to interact with our team in a 1:1 way, so we want to foster that moving forward.

✨ Bonjoro customer highlight: Clickfunnels ✨

Read how Clickfunnels added $20,000 to their MRR with a unique onboarding approach

...

Moving forward, what aspects of customer onboarding do you most want to optimize?

Justin Zimmerman - SalesMessage

Multichannel onboarding. We'd like to build out tranches of "jobs to be done" based onboarding that include video email, 2 way conversational SMS, welcome postcards, and more in-app intercom product tours. We also know when customers integrate other apps with ours, the longer they stay and the more they pay. So we'd like to add partnership content to onboarding, so customers can see how to get even better results using a combination of our product with others. A good example would be a use case webinar for prospectors and recruiters to demonstrate Woodpecker or Lemlist for cold outbound emailing, Calendly or Chilipiper for appointment setting, Salesmsg SMS for confirmations and follow up, and then Hubspot or ActiveCampaign for deal management.

Emilia Korczynska - Userpilot

I would still like to improve user segmentation and personalise onboarding even more - especially at later stages of the user journey. Onboarding doesn’t end at the new user stage. You need to keep pushing the users to unlock more value from your product and stay engaged, if you want to keep them. So ideally - I’d like to have more time to look at the user’s behavioural analytics and then prepare bespoke secondary onboarding for them, pointing them towards the advanced features I think they would find helpful based on their use case and in-app behaviour.

Rob Napoli - Rise Up Coaching

Parts of onboarding a new customer is very time-intensive, the more prep docs/videos/intake forms that we can automate the better but not at the cost of having meaningful interaction with the client.

Zineb Layachi - PitchSlap

Mostly the journey to that value for the customer: how can we keep working to make it as short as possible. Customer interviews really help here because you can ask questions like: what surprised you about our product when you onboarded that would you have known about it before you purchased would’ve made you buy much earlier.

Olga Petrik - Nethunt CRM

For us, it's analytics. We need to have a better understanding of how our users interact with NetHunt during the activation flow to make improvements. We aim to minimise the time it takes for our users to realise the real value of our product and incorporate it into their routine workflows.

Justin Kao - Spiro

We’re laser focused on improving our time to value metrics, both by decreasing the time involved and by increasing the measurable value delivered. Our customer success team has done a great job in the last year of decreasing the time required, and now we’re focused on building in best practices to make the entire process more efficient and less work for customers. As part of this process, we conduct executive business reviews (EBRs) between the midpoint and a quarter before the customer’s renewal date. This helps ensure that the initial value delivered in the implementation has continued, and to identify any additional business challenges that our platform can address to deliver even more value over time. This gives great feedback that we use in future implementations, and directly contributes to our great net promoter score with our customers. And importantly, we share this feedback to the entire company in order to identify areas of improvement.

Liz Stephany - Close.io

This is a great question and one that I think companies really need to keep top of mind. It's important to go back and analyze your onboarding efforts over time and pay attention to what methods are working the best. Right now, my team is focused on a way to deliver concierge-level onboarding to a larger subset of our customers in a way that we can continue to support as we scale. We have been seeing great growth from our accounts when they are able to interact with our team in a 1:1 way, so we want to foster that moving forward.

Eilis McCann - Method CRM

Method is a "swiss army knife" sort of software as it solves multiple problems for clients in totally different fields of work. So, our next step when it comes to onboarding is to offer targeted onboarding specific to a user’s persona and industry. This way, we’re tackling that user’s exact pain points from day 1 and getting them to realize the full value of our offering as soon as possible.

Boost your trial conversion rates with Bonjoro

Here at Bonjoro we help SaaS companies instantly boost their trial conversion rates by adding personalized videos to their onboarding flows. Whatever tool you use, just connect it to Bonjoro and you'll be notified at the perfect moment to record your onboarding videos from your desktop or mobile. Get a free 14 day trial and give your own trial conversions a huge lift in 2021.

Category
Growth tips
About the author
Casey Hill
Growth Manager
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