Have you ever opened an app you just downloaded, tapped around, got super confused, and immediately decided to uninstall?
That’s because the onboarding process for that app sucked.
Think about it: your customer has already successfully gone through multiple processes to reach the download-and-use software stage, including going to your website, navigating through the checkout process, and finally completing the purchase. That money is now in your pocket — do you really want to lose that revenue to a poor onboarding process?
Of course not.
You want to provide a great experience for your customers so that they continue being your customer, tell their friends, family, and colleagues about your product or service, and overall just remain a happy user of your offering.
Ready to take your SaaS onboarding to the next level? Let’s get started!
What is SaaS Onboarding?
SaaS onboarding, or SaaS user onboarding, is the process that a company has in place to introduce new users to their product or service. After all, a new user won’t be familiar with your software and is going to need guidance to help them not only get started but become more comfortable and confident as they move from the basics to the more advanced features.
Why is SaaS Onboarding Important?
First impressions are everything.
Your SaaS customer onboarding process is a huge factor in determining if your customer will find success with your product or service. If your customer has a bad experience from the first time they open your app, how likely do you think they’ll continue using it?
But a thorough onboarding process has more benefits than just providing a good first impression; it also builds user confidence, helps them rely less on customer support, reduces churn, and helps your customers gain a sense of reliance on your software — meaning they will get to a point where they can’t (or don’t want to) do business without it.
SaaS Onboarding Checklist
Creating a rock-solid SaaS onboarding process can be accomplished through several straightforward steps, which we’ve outlined below.
Create an Easy Sign-Up Process
Signing up for your free trial, or even just making an account with your product should be easy. In fact, sometimes the sign-up page is the biggest obstacle to overcome, so tons of companies have worked to streamline their sign-up process to be as easy as possible. If you can get your sign-up process right, you’re on your way to smooth sailing with your customers.
A lot of people believe you only have about 8 seconds to capture someone’s attention on your site. Keeping this in mind, you want to make sure that your target audience doesn’t lose interest in your product simply because the sign-up form took too long to fill out.
There are a few key ways you can make your forms extra breezy:
- Keep your sign-up forms restricted to what you absolutely need. Will just an email address and password suffice at first? Can you ask for more information needed from clients later on in their onboarding process? Do they really need to enter their password twice? Try to keep this form to the bare minimum.
- Save time on sign-up by allowing customers to use their Google account or social media profile. If it provides you with enough information, this method is a great way to save time on the sign-up process.
- Don’t ask for credit card information unless it’s absolutely necessary. Having to enter credit card information when it isn’t necessary, like for free trials, adds another step in the checkout process that may not be required. Skip it for when you actually need payment information.
- Keep the form fields fairly large. Some people may not tab through the fields. They may click each individual form field with a mouse to fill it out, and larger form fields will make this easier.
- Don’t delete customer data on incomplete forms. If possible, make sure your forms don’t delete any information if your user tries to submit without all the required fields filled out. This wastes their time and may reduce the completion rate.
- A/B test your signup forms. Study the data, find out which form produced better results, and use that information to make improvements to your forms.
Send a Welcome Email
Remember when we talked about first impressions?
Once your customer signs up for your product or service, it’s important to keep the experience going with a welcome email. Your welcome email should, of course, welcome the customer to your product, but you should also take the opportunity to speak directly to your customer and express your brand’s unique style of writing as well as tone. This is typically handled by your SaaS marketing team.
What else should your welcome email include? Here are a few more things to consider:
Reply or No Reply, That is the Question
If possible, make sure your welcome email is able to be replied to. Otherwise, if your new customer has a question or concern, they have to either search around for a customer service email or visit your website and try to get help there (through a chatbot or otherwise). Simply making sure your customer can reply to your welcome email saves them a headache, and keeps the SaaS onboarding drifting along on calm waters.
Human or Automated SaaS Onboarding Emails
Marketing automation is awesome; it saves time, helps you connect with customers faster, and most importantly, increases efficiency.
It doesn’t make sense to type out every welcome email individually for every new subscriber, but there is a way to make these emails seem more human and less robotic. Focus on making your copy personable and ensure it aligns with your brand voice, and take advantage of personalization, like incorporating your customer’s name into the email’s intro and using a real person’s name in the subject line or preheader text, or in the email itself.
Direct to Next Steps
Perhaps the most important function of your welcome email should be to guide your new customer through the next steps, whether that be creating an account or opening the app to complete the setup process.
After all, you should be thinking about your onboarding process flow (we’ll discuss more about this in the next section) and how your welcome email acts as a starting point for that process. Think about it: there are really two ways that your customer will start interacting with your product, and that’s by following the directions in your welcome email, or the In-app welcome message.
Include an In-App Welcome Message
As soon as a new user opens your app, they should be greeted with a message that let’s them know what to do next. In-app messaging can be contextual, meaning that certain messages should pop up when the user performs a particular action, like engaging with a feature they haven’t used before or describing the next step in a tutorial. It’s also a great way to let customers know about new features, promotions, updates, and other announcements.
Use In-App Messaging
In-app messaging is great for keeping your users engaged and also communicating with them regularly. Here are some best practices to follow to execute in-app messaging properly:
- Keep Messages Short and Sweet
Remember, you’re communicating with your customer through your app, so any pop-ups should have a concise and direct copy. Don’t get bogged down with including unnecessary details and descriptions that will confuse or cause annoyance to the user.
- Context is Everything
A great way to figure out where to place messaging within your app is to use your customer journey analytics to help you map out the typical ways in which your customers go through your app. With the information gleaned from your customer journeys, you can determine where the best places are in your app to include contextual communication to keep up a good user experience.
- Take Advantage of Different Types of In-App Messages
SaaS user onboarding messaging within your app doesn’t just take place when your customer opens the app for the first time. Messaging can and should exist throughout your app, appearing when it’s appropriate for the user. This means you’ll need to take advantage of the different types of in-app messaging and apply them where necessary.
Here are the main types of in-app messaging:
User onboarding message. This message usually pops up when a new user opens your app for the first time, and helps them complete the app setup process.
For example, the Save-On-Foods grocery shopping app prompts users to register or log in to get started and gives information about what the app can do for their shopping experience.
Discovery messages. These are typically visual messages that guide your user through an action they need to complete in order to move forward and is especially useful to include while they are fully engaged in using your app.
For example, the Nike+ Running app uses discovery messaging to show the user that they can rotate their phone to see information in a different way.
Feature update messages. When your app gets updated with a new feature or functionality, your user needs to know about it. Feature update messages should be as visual as possible so the user can easily see how everything works.
For example, the video game Animal Crossing Pocket Camp showcases new seasonal items available in the game as soon as the user logs on.
Create a Knowledge Base
Knowledge bases are a great way to take your SaaS customer onboarding in more of a self-service direction but give your customers a way to access onboarding information themselves. A knowledge base can also be a helpful reference tool, taking away the need for a customer to contact your support for basic questions and instead find the answer themselves quickly and easily.
You can start your knowledge base off with a few basic questions that you anticipate your customers will require answers to, but over time it’s wise to gather data from customer support, your chatbot, or any other relevant source to ensure that you’re actually answering the questions your customers have rather than making assumptions.
SaaS Customer Onboarding Process Flow
Creating a successful SaaS customer onboarding process flow means taking everything you know about your customers, including their behaviors when using your products or service, and marrying that information with a holistic strategy that considers every touchpoint and interaction.
You’ll want to do the basic starting tasks like completing your SaaS onboarding checklist, but you’ll also need to determine how much handholding your onboarding process will entail.
While there are countless ways you can onboard your customers, all methods typically consist of some combination of self-serve SaaS customer onboarding or “white glove” SaaS customer onboarding.
Self-Service SaaS Onboarding
Some users may prefer to onboard themselves to your product or service, as it allows them to remain in charge of their own experiences and use your app the way they want to, without having someone breathing down their neck controlling what they do next. Think about a piece of software that you used where certain features were locked until you completed whatever tutorial or onboarding THEY wanted you to do, rather than allowing you to explore the software on your own terms.
Self-service onboarding can also be useful if your audience is tech-savvy, or if your product is simple and straightforward.
White Glove SaaS Onboarding
If you’re serving a less tech-savvy audience or your product is more complex, a white-glove or one-to-one onboarding process might suit your situation better. White-glove onboarding is more common with B2B since products focused on that audience tend to be more complex, have more customization options, and require the onboarding of multiple people at a time.
For instance, common business applications like Salesforce or ClickUp often require a more hands-on approach to onboarding, as the customer will likely need guidance through the interface and some examples of how to tailor the software to their own use-case scenario.
SaaS Onboarding Time to Value
You can create the perfect SaaS product, something you KNOW your users will love, as it solves every problem your core audience has — but what happens when they grandpa simpson their way in and out of your app?
When there’s something about your shiny new SaaS product that’s causing new users to jump ship, it’s all hands on deck to find out what’s going on.
There’s a certain metric in SaaS called Time to Value (TTV) that measures how long it takes for a customer to reach that “aha” moment, or the moment where the lightbulb goes off and they suddenly understand how to use your product. Your customer’s TTV determines whether they see your product as a worthy investment. If they don’t, then that’s when they’ll gladly go overboard.
With onboarding, the goal is to decrease your TTV metric to be a low as possible, but it’s important to be reasonable — TTV metrics aren’t exactly static across all industries, products, and services, so analyzing your competitors and using customer feedback is essential here.
Here are a few actionable tips for decreasing your TTV:
- Follow your SaaS onboarding Checklist
This may seem like a given, but having a rock-solid onboarding checklist doesn’t do anything unless you follow it. Ensuring you’re sending those welcome emails, you have your automation on point, and your customers are responding to those in-app messages and self-serve resources is paramount for decreasing your TTV.
- Think About Implementing a Digital Adoption Platform (DAP)
Plain and simple: if a customer thinks your app is difficult to use, they’re going to uninstall it and move on to something that they feel is more user-friendly. DAPs help customers learn about your product organically, such as through tutorials, videos, interactive walkthroughs, and more.
Providing your customer with in-app help options like the ones listed above saves them time, and keeps them engaged with the app as they learn how to use it.
- Provide Enhanced Support
Consider providing a customer success manager or dedicated customer support employee to clients that require a bit more white-glove support than others, like large enterprise-level businesses. This saves the customer from having to “start over” by explaining their pain points to a new employee every time they need support, and it also shows them that they are valued and you’re willing to spend a bit of extra time ensuring they are onboarded properly.
Use Landmarks to Guide Your SaaS Onboarding
SaaS customer onboarding success can be measured using “landmarks”. Just like a sailor takes comfort in seeing a familiar lighthouse, landmarks highlight familiar steps in your SaaS onboarding that clearly indicate when a customer finds value in your product or service.
These landmarks should be customized to your product or service, but here are a few examples:
- Break each onboarding milestone into an actionable task such as obtaining credentials, integration, and training.
- Set up a flow for customers, email them to remind them to complete a task in case they’re stuck.
- Once they’ve completed a milestone, email them again to let them know the next thing they may want to start on.
Remember, landmarks should reflect goals that are measurable events, outcomes, or customer behaviors. Specific landmarks might not be obvious at first, so you’ll likely need to look at your product usage data to identify how your best or most successful customers use your product compared to those who get stuck.
Read More: Learn more about who your ideal customer in our post The Benefits of Creating Marketing Personas For Marketing.
Ensure that these landmarks are driven by what your customer considers a success, not you. For example, success for you is when a lead converts into a paying customer, but that’s not what your customer measures as a success. Instead, look at your data, and ask yourself what your ideal customer defines as success with your product or service.
Successfully onboarding your customers is pivotal to them finding value in your product or service. Smooth onboarding creates customer satisfaction that leads to customer retention, which then leads to revenue.
It’s important to have a good onboarding process in place to ensure success for your SaaS product or service. Without onboarding, customers lose time, feel like they aren’t valued, and are more likely to willingly walk the plank rather than deal with software that’s difficult to use.
As a SaaS business, it’s natural to want to keep things streamlined and efficient — after all, the very nature of the SaaS industry is that it moves quickly — so to support this, you need to facilitate a SaaS onboarding process that is quick, effective, and serves your customers what they need to be successful with your product or service.