Who of you are SaaS product owners struggling with user onboarding? I mean if you own one you certainly are questioning yourself constantly of as to how you should activate and retain more users, aren’t you?

No matter, if you have a product market fit, no product ever will manage to survive! Not without adopting any user onboarding tactic whatsoever.

So, where does your user onboarding strategy begin exactly?

1. First things first, you adopt a powerful user onboarding tool like Intercom or Drip– I am certain that many of you have done this already, but many SaaS limit their actions in just using the tools for live chat purposes (without actually adopting a customer success strategy), while if they add the right message to the right page they can make wonders.

2. Further on create clever walkthroughs to highlight your key functions and features. Here it would be wise to reward the user in a way as they move forward and conclude their first milestones. Eg. You just won a free consultation with our customer success manager who has made his life goal to get to know clients like you and contribute to your personal success.

3. Always have in mind that there are two main types of user onboarding. Benefit-Focused and Function-Focused. The 1st you use to explain 2–3 core benefits and how to achieve them via your solution and the 2nd follows the same logic but it applies to your product’s key functions.

4. Consider what kind and how many marketing and/or sales personas you have, in order to create the necessary funnels that will suit your user onboarding strategy.

5. Before actually start creating any strategy at all make 100% sure that it is aligned with your marketing & sales KPI’s

6. Include in it any soon to be released features– or at least consider the effect they will have to your users’ journey once they do launch- as you don’t want to redesign the whole strategy every once in a while

7. In case you already have a respected amount of users consider to conduct a customer satisfaction survey. Ok, I‘ll admit that’s a tricky one.

Consider asking questions like:

  • How long have you been using the service?
  • Which features do you use mostly?
  • What’s the added value you get from the service?
  • What do you consider to be the product’s greatest weakness/missing element?
  • From 1 to 10 how satisfied you are with the customer service?
  • What would you consider missing when it comes to your education regarding the product in question?

Before you go ahead and ask why should I ask all these questions since I have a google analytics account, hold your horses and think how many times you have come to the conclusion that you have set the wrong goals or even worse how many feedback and data you have lost if you haven’t even set your analytics from the very beginning.

8. Access your google analytics account and get an overall report based on your KPI’s and a separate one based on your behaviour flow. Pro tip: the second one is actually your users’ current funnel in high level- God bless Google for that one.

9. Gather any funnels you currently use eg. Leading people to dedicated landing pages or a specific page on your website does count as a micro funnel. The same goes for any kind of automated email you send out there.


10. Study the competition in every possible way. See what they do wrong and what they do right. Subscribe to their blog, talk to their customer success agent, get a free demo of their product, and map their pricing strategy. Any single action they practice or not is a win for you to know (the first you will optimize the second your will do first)

11. If you are a relatively new product consider to onboard users manually before actually automating anything. They will perceive the required value they deserve and you will end up knowing beforehand what are the bottlenecks you will face in the future when you will be ready to set up your email marketing flow and automation procedures.

12. One size user onboarding doesn’t fit all. Create different user onboarding strategies for different personas. As much as you offer one single product you still get to target different kind of users right? So, don’t use the same content and/or techniques when you try to approach a CEO, a CTO or a marketer. Simply because they don’t speak the same language and they will not respond to generic messages.

13. Create an awesome knowledge base that will include how-to videos and articles to eliminate customer success requests and enable users to get deeper knowledge on your product 24/7

14. Don’t educate all the users in the same way. A more advanced user needs different tips and tricks to get the most of your solution in comparison with a new user who just gets to know his way around your features. So don’t rush into sending your long tutorial to the second one as it will overwhelm him to say the least.

15. Be aware that is always a work in progress. When the context changes and so does your user onboarding. By context here I mean: the industry, the user’s needs, your product and the automation tools you may use for your user onboarding.

16. Try not to involve a sole userTry to onboard teams that are all interdependent to your product’s value. How? By creating a team pricing plan and related guides to make them successful in what they do via your product capabilities.

17. Always profile the user that is about to subscribe to your service. Don’t overwhelm him. Segments like email, job title and organization they work in could be a nice start for your segmentation. Progressively though build a robust profile for each user by mapping every single action he makes.

18. Consider to start your user onboarding with a free trial that will end up in a freemium. At first the user will be able to see all your products capabilities and later on he will be able to use basic features of it. The competitive advantage?

  • The user learns firsthand your products pros
  • You always give away free value and you sure know by now how much users love that.
  • A ton of free data to play around and redesign your product (and of course your user onboarding) when the time comes.

19. Know your metrics.

Usual metrics to use here are:

  • Percentage of activated users
  • Percentage of returning users
  • Percentage of trial users converted to paid
  • Percentage of users that renewed their subscription (yes onboarding do apply on retention)

20. I saved the best for last. Teardown their product and their website. Try not to observe their features but the logic behind them. Try to find the reason why they structured their onboarding the way they did.

Ask yourself questions like:

  • How do they lead their users to their aha moment?
  • How would my persona/user get something out of their onboarding
  • How would my persona/user be disappointed by their onboarding?

Wrapping it up

This guide does not include an exhaustive list of onboarding tactics. It only includes a mere taste of it. Before adopting any of it take a step back to consider if it actually applies to your product and before anything try not to replicate a competitors strategy just because it looks fancy! Believe that will not end well both for your users and your ROI! Your onboarding should be unique, to the point and custom to your needs and your needs only!

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