Product-led Onboarding in SaaS: Convert and Retain More Customers (Part One)

Product-led growth.

If you’re in the SaaS industry, you’ve probably heard the phrase before. As a SaaS content marketing manager, I hear and see it every day.

When I first read about “product-led growth” on the Product-led Growth Collective, I was like, “okay, it’s a great idea but do products have the power to sell itself?”

Then, I read the famous book “Product-led Growth: How To Build a Product That Sells Itself by Wes Bush” on Scribd, and I was amazed.

For the first time this year, I admitted defeat and took my words back.

Products have the power to sell themselves.

I am not done with the book yet, but now I understand how important product-led growth is and why people are raving about it.

I also saw a similar book written by Ramli John and Wes Bush — Product-led Onboarding: How to Turn Users Into Lifelong Customers.

This book is the real MVP.

It made me realize how big a deal product-led onboarding was and why every SaaS business should be doing it.

So what is product-led onboarding, you ask?

I’ll tell you.

In this piece, I’ll go over what product-led onboarding is, why product-led onboarding is crucial for SaaS businesses, how to successfully onboard users, and give you examples of companies using the product-led onboarding strategy.

Let’s get started…

What is Product-led Onboarding?

Product-led onboarding is a user onboarding strategy centered around a product.

In other words, product-led onboarding is all about using your product as the primary vehicle in customer onboarding to increase conversion and retention.

In the book, Product-led Onboarding: How to turn your users into lifelong customers, Ramli John and Wes Bush said:

Product-led onboarding is about using your product to have your users experience a series of value realization called “Aha! moments” so they can buy and stay around.

So why should every SaaS business implement product-led onboarding?

Why Should SaaS Businesses Implement Product-led Onboarding?

From my research and the information I got from the book, there are three major reasons why SaaS businesses should implement product-led onboarding:

  1. To reduce customer churn;
  2. To increase customer activity; and
  3. To turn leads into lifelong customers.

Let me address each reason:

Why do customers churn?

One of the major reasons customers churn is that they don’t understand your product and how it works.

The best place to address this issue is during the onboarding process.

Product-led onboarding, when done right, can significantly reduce customer churn and keep your customers coming back.

In my previous article: How to lower customer churn in SaaS businesses, I spoke about customer churn and how it affects SaaS businesses. Refer back to the article to learn more about Customer Churn.

Increased customer activity is a crucial factor in the growth of your SaaS business. When your customers know exactly how to use your product to solve their problems, they’ll use it repeatedly.

Good onboarding leads to happy, satisfied customers

When customers feel guided and supported from the onboarding stage, they’re more likely to stick around, spend more, and become advocates for your business.

Now that you know why SaaS businesses should implement product-led onboarding, it’s time to get practical. By practical, I mean let’s look at ways SaaS businesses can onboard users successfully.

How to Onboard Users Successfully

We’re here.

Now let’s talk about what you need to do to successfully onboard users:

Show and Collect only what’s necessary

A report from Wzylow shows that the average human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds in 2000 to eight seconds today.

In other words, if you think a user will sit through a 5-minute tutorial learning about your product, you are mistaken.

To prevent customers from leaving your onboarding process, you need to show and collect only what’s necessary.

Most SaaS companies put up long copy/video and unnecessary form fields in the initial signup process — this is a big mistake. Yes, it’s important to have these fields and an in-depth information to help your customer know more about your product and how best you can help them.

But, do customers have the time to digest the information and fill out the forms?

No.

So show and ask for only what’s necessary to take your customers to the next stage of the onboarding process.

Trello is a great example of a brand that seriously follows this step of onboarding.

Their copy is short, straight-to-the-point, and it helps prospects understand the product and how it can solve their problems.

They also don’t have a list of form fields. They collect what’s necessary to get you started: your email.

Trello

Guide your users to the Aha! Moment

Userpilot defines the Aha! moment as the moment a user realizes value in the product or is convinced that it will be a solution for a specific pain they have.

In other words, an Aha! moment is a moment of sudden realization of how a product works and why it is a must-have solution for their problems.

However, you need to guide your users to their Aha! moment. Whether you consider your product self-serve, don’t leave users to figure out things on their own.

A self-serve product is one where a customer can go through the full product experience — from signing up to first use to activating new features to managing their account to upgrading and/or cancellation — all without ever needing to interact with another person.

Gokul Rajaham

I recently experienced my own Aha! moment with Airtable.

I signed up for Airtable, and the onboarding process was the smoothest. I didn’t watch a 20-minute video about the product or company vision — none of that.

I was guided through the whole step, but I still felt in control because I was doing it myself — this made me understand more about their product without needing to ask any questions.

Airtable Onboarding Process

My Aha! moment was when I realized I could get any marketing template and tweak it as I like.

With those templates, I was able to build editorial calendars and took my content marketing tasks from 6 hrs down to 2 hrs because the templates saved me a whole lot of time. I could also add my teammates, and they could leave me comments and make changes to my work without having to request access to my work.

Aha! moment

Put the spotlight on your product

Show your product in action to users as part of the onboarding process. Doing this removes the guesswork and makes the user confident in your product because they can see what it can do.

Airtable is an example of a SaaS brand that put its product in the spotlight as part of the onboarding process.

Airtable

By going through the template Airtable used during onboarding, I understood how best to use the product without going on Youtube or contacting support.

It’s Not Goodbye But See You Later

That’s it for now.

I’ll be back with more information in the second part of this article.

As a bonus tip, I want to add that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to product-led onboarding.

What works for one SaaS brand won’t necessarily work for yours because you have different products and users. You have to find what works for you and improve on it. If you’re looking to get started with product-led onboarding, the first thing you should do is get Ramli John’s book; It’ll guide you on your journey.

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