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How to Take Your SaaS Sales to the Next Level with User Onboarding

Your customers’ first experience is absolutely important. Here’s how to make it count.

What happens when a user signs up for your platform or product?

Many SaaS companies think that — the moment after they sign up is when they’ve “won” the user.

In reality, 50-60% of SaaS users will open an app once and never log in again.

For most companies, especially SMEs, there are two essential milestones that need to be reached before a customer can reach their full value potential:

  • The moment a customer signs up for your service, and…
  • The moment a customer achieves their first “success” with your service.


In the graph above, you can see a disproportionate amount of your customer churn will take place between (1) and (2). That’s the point where your users drop your product because they get lost, don’t get something, don’t get value from the service, or simply lose interest.

In order to decrease that opening churn, smart companies focus on user onboarding: the process by which you help a customer go from stage 1 to 2 as fast and smooth as possible and win you higher customer retention and more satisfied customers.

The Basic

We have a simple question.

After you’ve done the hard work of getting a person to your site for the first time, how many get to the experience you wanted?

Yes, We’re talking about that hard to pin down the feeling of core product value – the “aha moment.”

There are growth specialists/experts, who’ve spent thousands of hours learning how we all can be made active through usability and A/B tests of copy, design, and UX.

While that canvas of work that we all enjoy is available at all times, as we get used to the great products we use every day, we lose what it takes to get us on board.

Onboarding is the process of getting a new user to a must-have experience, and a set of best practices to get them active. Good onboarding involves a mix of selling, educating and using your product. 

In this article, we’re looking at 8 tips for users onboarding to get an idea on where their own onboarding process may be lacking and could use some clever optimization.

8 User Onboarding Tips

1- Consider your customer: Set expectations

Define and prioritize your goals for what you want the user to accomplish. Show your customers exactly where they are in the user onboarding process and how much they have left to go through the endowed progress effect. Make your users more motivated to finish with every step that they take.

For example, look at how Evernote does this to help users set up their account, with a progress meter showing them what they can expect to be doing throughout the onboarding process:


2-  Don’t Overwhelm New Customers

SaaS companies often become so excited about the possibilities of their product that they feel like they need to show their customers everything the second they sign up for our product. Rather, businesses should focus on taking a step back and think about what their most successful customers did when they first joined their product. 

One way to ensure a smooth onboarding process for new customers is through email automation. Automated emails can engage prospects and introduce them to your product in a gradual, easy-to-digest way. This makes the onboarding process less overwhelming and more likely to result in long-term customers.

To avoid overwhelming new users, make every step in the process as simple as possible. Has the most limited amount of friction possible. If you have an engine of growth in the onboarding, avoid it. If you have a request for social shares in the onboarding, avoid it. If you have an email opt-in or a “special offer” from the user onboarding, avoid it.

For example, Dropbox could tell their new users to “upload all of their files,” rather, their onboarding flow requests the user to upload a single file:


3- Know your customers

You should also understand what success means to your customers. Give a sample of the real-life value of your products that you offer, rather than as an external experience stapled on long after the “real product” has been completed.

All users are different, so you need different skills, different needs. Users respond differently depending on the simplicity or complexity of the product and the onboarding process. 

The most certain way to understand customer-defined success is simple: Ask the customer.

That’s what TeamWave, one of the best CRM for small businesses, does with their very first onboarding email that every new user receives:

Screenshot from 2019-08-14 01-21-39.png

Building relationships with users like this will help you improve your onboarding process today and over the long term as your user’s needs change.

4- Get to the “ah-ha” moment ASAP

As a SaaS business owner, one of the most influential things you can do when a user signs up is to provide immediate value. Help your new customer understand the value of your product as soon as possible. 

Take a look at the example of Hack Chinese, a SaaS platform built to streamline vocabulary acquisition and retention for Mandarin learners. The product provides its users with a few quick win tips for measurable success from using it daily. 


While it might take time to fully onboard a customer, it is possible to enable them to succeed with the software quickly. This is easier than it sounds. This can be in the form of a small feature that is easy or fun to use like generating a report, creating an invoice or sending a text message. 

If the user is successfully using a few features of the product within the first few minutes of the onboarding process, they will be more inclined to spend the time needed to learn the full platform. However, the most important thing is not the value of the particular feature but the experience for the user to feel successful and build some confidence that they can use the product.

5- Ask What You Need Not What You Want

Do you really need your user’s debit/credit card from day one?

Do you really need your customer’s last name?

Or their email id?

You may have a valid reason for needing this information, but how discreetly have you thought through all of the info that you asked for in your onboarding flow?

Why do you want your user’s last name? If it doesn’t give value to you, think about not asking for it. Every bit of information that you ask for is another level for the user to complete, and every level is a possible abandonment point.

6- Behavior-based communications

Gone are the days of sending emails based solely on the number of days customers have been trial users. 

Forget your 10-day trial – users onboard and convert based on behavior. 

Based on research, here are some facts and figures to prove the above point:

  • 80% of SaaS sales conversions happen in the first 40 days. This is true regardless of whether it is a 15-day trial, 30-day trial, or freemium offering.
  • 50% of all SaaS sales conversions will happen AFTER the trial ends.
  • SaaS companies that rely on the trial and as a primary conversion trigger are missing opportunities.

However, there is no “best” way to onboard because customers convert at different moments. Our recommendation is to transform customers based on behavior instead of an imperious X-day trial. This is easier than it sounds:

  • Give early conversion incentives for users who get value sooner.
  • Try to close qualified trial users up to 6 months after the trial ends. 
  • Timed trials are excellent for creating a conversion incentive, but start them once customers get value from your service – Also, don’t rely on an X-day trial for all of your customers.
  •  Use exit intent technology to collect feedback for the time users have.

7-  Show Off the Platform

Many businesses use mediums like videos/guides as a way to walk new customers through a product.

For example, take Trello for instance, it has an onboarding guide with cards that both the show and tell the customer how things work.


If you have features in your platform that you can use to both show and tell, doing so can be an excellent way to explain and bolster the value of your product at the same time.

8-  Measure

Onboarding is about the experience of doing business with you. Analyzing the data is crucial when looking at whether your current customer onboarding is successful and in figuring out where it needs improvement. 

Most customers don’t come back after the first session, so metrics are crucial to ensure you keep investing time to help users find value and have them return. 

Bonus: Organizations use StoryXpress Recorder to maintain a smooth flow of communication and information amongst team members.  Whether you have to suggest a new idea, highlight a bug or present a solution, you can quickly record short video bites and share them with your team through a simple copy paste link.
The In-built video tools transform your screen into a canvas where you can draw, write and engage viewers in multiple ways.

Bottom Line

The onboarding process is hard. It is a delicate balance between hand-holding users and naturally allowing them to realize the value of the service or the product. SaaS teams who have effective user onboarding flows are constantly testing and improving them. 

Make sure you’re obtaining enough data to have complete visibility over your customers’ progress toward success. Continue to look at your onboarding flow critically from your customer’s perspective and refine, analyze your data, refine, analyze your data, refine…

To learn more about user onboarding best practice check out this resource

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