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What’s the best onboarding plan for B2B SaaS?

Customer onboarding for B2B SaaS can take a variety of different forms with a variety of different content. But there are some grounding principles and key tactics that you should definitely consider incorporating into your own user onboarding process.

There is no “one size fits all” for customer onboarding. But the best plan is one that:

  • demonstrates value quickly
  • empowers the customer
  • evolves along with your product and user base
  • remains scalable for you

I’ll just lay out concepts and questions to consider within the framework of your business, as well as a collection of features or practices that are common throughout SaaS onboarding.

To plan customer onboarding is to envision customer success

First things first. Onboarding is not about teaching your customer how to use your product. It’s about teaching your customer how to solve their problem, using your product.

Think about what success looks like for your customer. Why is your customer using your product? What do they want to achieve in their own business, and what role does your product play in reaching that goal? Design your customer onboarding so that they can experience how your product will help them be more successful, or so they can see it clearly on the horizon. So they’ve “seen the value, or they recognize the value potential,” as Lincoln Murphy puts it.

The onboarding experience can have any arrangement of these elements:

Signup form.

Bare minimum necessary = lowest barrier to entry. Some forms ask for just an email address.

Welcome email (or call).

Keep it simple. Don’t bombard the new user with info or tips. Rather, provide them with some choice resources, such as content from your blog if you have one. And of course, thank them.

Educational emails.

Yes, the drip campaign. Remember that drips are small; this translates to one concept per email. The goal is simply to get the user into the app. Plan these throughout the customer lifecycle. A word from a SaaS customer success leader on this subject:

“Tie your customer or prospect communication (in-app messages, emails, phone calls, etc.) to their progress – or lack thereof – through those success milestones instead of saying you’ll just send something on Day 1, 5, 7, and 32.” – Lincoln Murphy

First login.

This is very impactful. Don’t display an empty dashboard. Provide a clear path to what they should do next, such as which tool to use first or literally which button to press.

Product tutorial.

This will depend largely on the kind of product you provide, but it’s definitely necessary.

Your question asks specifically about setting up product demos with individual customers. Individual demos present a scalability problem. This would be worthwhile not as a default element of your customer onboarding (which would consume a lot of internal resources), but more as a when-needed tactic for higher value accounts.

Otherwise, webinars are a scalable alternative for your product tutorial. You can communicate all the same information you would do one-on-one, but address a much larger segment of your customer base all at once.

Data import.

Again, this depends on your product. Many tools require this nowadays in order for the user to see any value. Here you’ll want to automate as much as possible and provide specific support around this point of the user experience.

Documentation.

Be sure that when users are really stuck, they can get the guidance they need – and that it’s easily accessible and understandable. This also lightens any strain on your support team. More on that below!

Notifications.

This is an important contact point, with a strong potential for re-engaging disengaged users. These aren’t just reminders. They can be well-timed bits of information, little “Did you knows?”, which inform the user about the logical next step they can take with your product, after completing a certain action.

Checkup call.

The power of simply picking up the phone and having a quick chat with a new customer to check-in can out-rank almost any other element listed here. And the best thing is, it’s two-way – you get a ton of valuable feedback at the same time.

For even more info on each of these elements, take a look at the ChartMogul Guide to SaaS Customer Onboarding.

A few factors to consider when designing your customer onboarding plan

Time to First Value

Or the amount of time between sign-up and what’s commonly referred to as the “aha moment,” as Szymon mentions. You want to keep this as short as possible, otherwise you risk users becoming disengaged. For more information and advice around the ‘aha moment’ and its role in customer success, check out my answer about converting free trial users to paying customers.

Scalable customer support

White glove or self-serve? The problem with the first is that one-on-one human support isn’t always scalable, and the problem with the second is that it may not be sufficient for your customer to truly realize their potential with your product. You could settle on a mixture of both. In fact, most customers would rather find the answer on their own than take the time to contact a support member.

Read on for more insight on how to provide efficient (yet effective!) customer support in SaaS.

Different experiences for different users

Is your B2B product designed for the user to bring on colleagues or friends? Then there are two onboarding experiences to consider, as Samuel Hulick points out in his interview with Intercom. First is the experience of the initial user, who found your product, explored it, and came on board. This initial user is motivated to learn how everything works. Second is the experience of follow-on users, who the initial user recruited once they trusted your product.

Keep in mind that those follow-on users “know substantially less than that first person did and [are trying] to make sense of what they’re supposed to be doing, why they were invited, what this product is, what it does, what their role in it is, etc.” Are there different automated messages, via email or notifications, that could help better guide this follow-on user experience?

So the onboarding plan is complete. Now what?

Once you’ve designed your new customer onboarding process, don’t put it into action and forget about it. The process needs constant revision and iteration, the same way your product does, to keep suiting your customers’ needs.

Also, remember that onboarding continues throughout a customer’s lifecycle, beyond the new user stage. Each new feature launch should incorporate some kind of customer onboarding to make sure users learn and take advantage of the new feature. Samuel Hulick argues you don’t even need a new feature release to continue onboarding existing customers: “Anytime there’s a way you can be making them more successful, there’s an opportunity to onboard them even further.”

I agree.


This answer was originally published on Quora. View the original thread here: What’s the best on-boarding plan for a SaaS B2B company?

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