In the subscription industry, onboarding is the very last step of the acquisition funnel, and probably the most important. However great your product may be, if you fail your users’ onboarding, a great majority will just stop using it and churn, throwing your marketing and sales efforts down the toilet. As they say, “you only get one chance to make a first impression”…

Here are the best practices we’ve gathered from industry experts Appcues, Livestorm, and Airteach, and from our own experience as a Customer Success platform.

Appcues creates beautiful in-product messages and walkthroughs to help businesses build user onboarding, NPS surveys, or feature announcements without a line of code
Livestorm is the best web conferencing software to host webinars, remote meetings and more, just from a browser.
Airteach SaaS platform that transforms internal expertise into engaging digital training.
Salesmachine is the post-signup platform to better understand your customers and orchestrate interactions based on their behavior.

1. Define your objectives

The first step to setting up your onboarding consists of determining your objectives. What do you want to achieve with it? What do you expect from it? And what would make you consider the onboarding was successful? According to Appcues, it all comes to defining your Aha! moment.

If you’re not familiar with this concept, the “Aha! moment” is the very moment when a new user understands your product value. In order to define your Aha! moment, you must spot the key features your users need to start using so that they can see the real value of your product

Defining the right KPIs is crucial for a successful onboarding:

  • key features to activate
  • conversion rate from signup to key features activation
  • frequency of use
  • average time to “first time value”
  • and so on.

In Appcues’ case, their Aha! the moment happens when a user builds the first flow.

“Our users understand our product value as soon as they install our script and start using the flow line. They immediately grasp the easiness and effectiveness of our tool. That’s the point our onboarding need to drive them to.”

“We have created a baseline of in-app messages to helps users build their first flow. The main question we need to solve is: what could be stopping them from understanding our product value?”

2. Set the cursor between self-service and a dedicated onboarding

Once you have determined your objectives, you need to decide if you are going for a fully-automated onboarding or a more dedicated one. Livestorm started with a full self-service onboarding. Calls to actions were pushed through automatic emails, product documentation, and webinar suggestions. But at some point, the team felt some clients needed a more personalized onboarding.

“We started by identifying the users that needed more attention, based on their activity, the conversations we had with them, and the potential MRR they could generate.
We then added manual tasks to our self-service, prompting our customer success team to watch out these “high-touch” customers, and if needed, reach out and offer training or specific documentation.”

Choosing between a dedicated onboarding or self-service really depends on your business model. For instance, a complex solution requires a dedicated onboarding and support to get started. This must be taken into account in order to price the solution. On the contrary, a simple and low-priced solution will favor self-service in order to avoid excessive support costs.

3. Choose your channels

Now that you know your onboarding strategy for low-touch and high-touch customers, you need to choose the channels you are going to use and in which case:

  • In-app messages
  • Emails
  • Push notifications
  • Phone or video calls
  • Webinars
  • Tutorials/academy

For instance, Airteach offers 30-minute training modules or webinars to guide users on their first steps. And share these training tutorials in a comprehensive FAQ section for further reference.

Channels can be combined. For example, very important information can be sent both through emails and in-app messages. Emails will reactivate passive users, while the in-app messages have a greater engagement rate for users inside the product.

Appcues chose different channels during the trial and after, and according to the type of clients.

“Our trial period is owned by the product team. They use in-app messages to highlight product features and optimize product usage. Once the trial period is over, our low-touch customers keep receiving automatic emails sent by our CS tool.
Our high-touch users are introduced to their Customer Service Manager by the sales representative who completed the sale. Communication happens through emails and Zoom. And for Enterprise users, we’ve set up a dedicated Slack channel to allow them to reach us anytime.”

4. Personalize self-service at scale

Segmenting your user base in low-touch and high-touch tiers is the first step. But you can personalize your onboarding even more if you consider users objectives inside an account.

In our case, we identified our personas (administrators, developers, account-owners, end-users… ) and defined their specific objectives using our tool. “We determined the key actions each persona group needed to perform and tailored our communication to it.”

For instance, administrators need to receive all relevant information to set up our tool, connect integrations, and invite other users from their organization. End-users only need documentation to understand how to use our product. And account-owners, on their part, receive specific information and incentives to upgrade to premium.

“Our tool helps us target the right users, it’s the basis of account-based engagement.”

“Moreover, we also target messages to the right end-user based on the account behavior. For instance, we get in touch with all the administrators of an account when a feature hasn’t been activated yet. Or when account usage is dropping (for example if license utilization drops below 50%), we engage with the account owner to understand the reason. Personalizing the message makes communication more efficient.”

5. Set up your team processes for your dedicated onboarding

Having a dedicated onboarding doesn’t mean that your customer success managers have to be left on their own. On the contrary, if you want to offer a unified experience to all of your clients, you must define team processes in order to help CSM know exactly what they need to do.

In our case, our platform helps us coordinate digital (emails and in-apps) and human (training, demos, calls) interactions, in order to provide a personalized experience at scale.

“We defined team processes on our platform for both automated and dedicated onboardings. They include playbooks for standard onboarding and training, but also CSM actions based on customer behavior. It helps our CS managers when and how to act.
For example, we have a specific playbook on what to do when account usage is dropping.”

Conclusion: ever-evolving your onboarding

Processes are good, but what if your platform or tool keeps evolving from month to month? How do you keep your onboarding relevant?

Airteach’s answer to its constant evolution is to “stick to simple onboarding methods.”

“A webinar, for instance, isn’t a static content, it can evolve with the product. In-app messages can also be easily modified. In terms of training videos, we prefer doing screencasts with a voice-over, it’s easier to make and to modify. And we avoid using effects that involve too much work editing the video.”

Do you have other onboarding best practices you’d like to share? Use the comments section below ⬇️