All aboard the onboarding train!

(Sorry, we got a little carried away there.)

But in all seriousness, customer onboarding is just as important as, or dare we say, even more important than closing the deal. 

Why? Because it’s during onboarding that your product will make its first impression on new users. And the impression that you make can either set the stage for full-fledged SaaS product adoption or spell doom for your relationship with the customer. 

But don’t sweat it. 

We’ve put together this handy dandy guide to customer onboarding to help you out. 

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What is customer onboarding?

Before we go any further, let’s make sure we’re on the same page.

In short, customer onboarding is all about helping new users familiarize themselves with your product and learn how to best use it. 

While the exact steps that you’ll need to include in your customer onboarding program will depend on your specific product, onboarding typically involves interactive tutorials, in-person training, or other forms of support.

Why customer onboarding is so critical in sales

Sure, what customer onboarding is makes sense. But why does it matter? 

Well, we hoped you’d ask that very question!

When it comes down to it, your customer onboarding process primes the relationship with the client for success (or failure).  

Because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter that you keep hitting your quota time after time if customers can’t figure out how to start using your product. 

This means that you’ll need to pay close attention to new customers and what their experience is with your product. 

When done right, customer onboarding can help you increase SaaS product adoption, increase customer retention, reduce churn, and boost customer satisfaction. 

On top of this, when your customers are happy, they can become a huge referral source. And when you boost customer retention, it can help you trim customer acquisition costs and drive revenue growth

Building an effective customer onboarding strategy

We’ve convinced you that you need to create a customer onboarding program! Excuse us while we go give ourselves a pat on the back.

Now, let’s get back to business. 

Even though you’re ready to start onboarding customers like nobody’s business, hold your horses, friend! 

Just like you wouldn’t start a company without first coming up with a clear business plan, you can’t kick off a customer onboarding program without first defining your strategy.

That being said, you always have the option to go back and make adjustments to this strategy as you learn more about your customers. But it will help you to have a plan of action in mind. Just remember that as you create your strategy, you’ll need to make sure your program is relevant for your product and target audience. 

Additionally, any onboarding program you build should also be focused on achieving retention goals like:

1. Encouraging customers to use your product multiple times during their first week

2. Making your product a must-have

3. Establishing a clear pattern of usage

All of this will go a long way in helping you make a good first impression on users and convince them to stay with you for the long run.

The client onboarding process in B2B sales

Customer onboarding is all about getting customers acquainted with the ins and outs of your product. So, your customer onboarding process should give users the tools they need to do just that.  

While the exact flow of your onboarding program will vary depending on the nature of your product and the needs of your customers, there are certain steps you should include to help users move from setup to their first win. 

1. Welcome email 

Part of each and every customer onboarding process should be to welcome new users onboard. 

This is your first interaction with the user during the onboarding process, so you’ll need to make it count. 

In your welcome email, you’ll not only want to congratulate them on their purchase decision and thank them for picking you, but also mention how excited you are to have them as your customer. It’s also a good idea to include some resources to help them get started.  

If you use an interactive demo software like Walnut, you can even include a link to an interactive tutorial to make it even easier to start using your product. 

The most important thing, though, is that you have a clear call to action that sends customers back to your product. Because after all, getting customers using the product is the goal of any onboarding program.  

2. In-app greeting message 

Wait, didn’t we just cover this?

Although this may seem very similar to the welcome email, there are a few key differences. 

The in-app greeting message is a, well, you guessed it, in-app message that helps welcome users after the first log in. The goal of this message is to help get users to take the first step to set up their account. 

Often, this message will include a how-to video.

3. Interactive tutorials 

Now that your customer has logged in, they’ll need to set up the product.

And this is where an interactive tutorial will come in handy. 

You’ll want to create an interactive tutorial that guides users through each step that’s required to set up the product. But remember, just be sure to keep it short and sweet. 

Another tip: the tutorial doesn’t have to be mandatory. Users should have the option to skip it and not be forced to go through it if they don’t need it.

If you’re using a demo experience platform (*clears throat*) like Walnut, you can quickly and easily create personalized training materials to meet customers’ unique needs, no code necessary. This kind of software also lets you add annotations to help you make the onboarding process as smooth as possible.  

Learn more about choosing the right customer onboarding platform 

4. Integration 

During this part of the onboarding process, you’ll need to help customers experience the “aha!” moment. 

This moment happens when they fully understand the value of your SaaS product. 

Your efforts to improve customer onboarding should center on helping consumers get to these moments. But just remember that “aha!” moments may happen at different times for different customers. 

So, you’ll need to speak to current customers, gather data, and perform user testing to determine exactly when these moments are taking place. 

5. Check-ins

Rule #1 of customer onboarding 101: customers need to feel like you care about their progress. 

During the first few weeks of onboarding, you need to reach out to users and see if there are any difficulties you can help them solve or where you can help them get more value. 

To do this, schedule a call to check in or create additional videos to help them navigate your product.

6. Retention 

You’ve provided the best possible onboarding experience for your customers. But what’s the secret to getting them to remain loyal to your brand?

Some of the best ways to make sure your customers stay onboard long-term are to update your customers about your new products, send customer satisfaction score (CSAT) surveys, organize online meetings to have discussions directly with them, and offer beta testing of new features. 

Good examples of customer onboarding

When it comes to perfecting your customer onboarding program, why not take a cue from other companies that are absolutely nailing it?

Here’s an example of a welcome email from Luminary.

Not only is it short and to the point, but it has one clear call to action to encourage new customers to go to the product.

Luminary customer onboarding example
Source: Luminary

Let’s take a look at another example from Etsy. 

When a new user goes to set up their shop, Etsy clearly shows them each step they’ll need to take and how much progress they have made. This helps set expectations and makes users more motivated to finish the process. 

Etsy customer onboarding example
Source: Etsy

Client onboarding checklist

Creating a smooth onboarding process that makes the transition from new user to veteran pro seamless isn’t easy and takes time. 

That said, there are a few best practices that can help you get started. 

1. Understand your customer: Make sure you know your customer’s challenges and pain points, as well as what their ideal solution looks like. This will allow you to personalize the onboarding experience to meet their specific needs. 

2. Set clear expectations: During the sales process as well as the onboarding process, you should lay out any possible sticky points so buyers know what to expect and they don’t abandon ship as easily.  

3. Show value: Reiterate the value your product brings by setting up a kickoff call, special training, or offering helpful resources and documentation. 

4. Communicate regularly with customers: Keep customers interested in your product by remaining in constant communication with them. 

5. Focus on customer-oriented goals: Because every customer has their own unique goals, help them define measurable milestones so they can make sure they are monitoring their progress. 

6. Try to impress: Referrals are the name of the game. So, you’ll need to ensure interacting with your product is a positive experience that makes current customers want to rave about your brand.  

7. Track your progress: Even after you’ve created your onboarding program, you should gather feedback from users, identify sticky points, and track important metrics to understand where you can make improvements going forward. 

Who should be involved in the onboarding process? 

If you think that customer onboarding is a one-team show, think again. 

Several different teams and departments need to work together to make the customer onboarding experience a positive one. 

Here are just some of the different stakeholders that can be involved in the onboarding process:

1. Customer success—Typically, when you think of customer onboarding, you’ll think of customer success. These stakeholders are responsible for helping customers with product setup, reducing time-to-value, and addressing customers’ specific concerns.  

2. Customer support—When it comes to customer support, their job is to help spot any problems with the onboarding program and resolve the issue as quickly as possible. 

3. Product development—It’s a good idea to involve your product development team in your onboarding strategy so they can gather feedback and make the product even more user-friendly. 

4. Technical support— These stakeholders can create a knowledge base and offer in-depth information that can be used during the onboarding process.

Metrics for client onboarding

You’ve put your blood, sweat, and tears into your customer onboarding program. 

But how can you figure out if all of your hard work is paying off? Great question!

To see how effective your onboarding program is, we recommend tracking a few key SaaS metrics

1. Customer churn rate

It’s not just about acquiring new customers. You have to also keep your existing customers happy. 

Because no one likes having to say goodbye to customers. 

That’s why you’ll need to make sure you’re constantly managing your SaaS churn rate. If you see this metric increase, it could be an indication that something is going wrong during customer onboarding that’s preventing or making it more difficult for users to activate and fully adopt your product.  

To calculate your customer churn rate, take the number of customers you lost in a month and divide it by your total customers at the start of the month. Then multiply it by 100. 

Churn rate formula: (Number of customers you lost in the month ÷ Number of customers at the start of the month) x 100 

2. Revenue churn rate

How much are these lost customers costing you? Another great question!

This is exactly why you’ll want to track your revenue churn rate. 

Revenue churn rate will help you better understand which kinds of customers are churning. If you notice that your revenue churn rate is low, that means you may be struggling to retain smaller customers. And if the opposite happens, it could be that you’re retaining less of your larger customers. 

Knowing which kinds of customers are staying with your brand and which are leaving will help you fine-tune your onboarding program going forward.

To determine the amount of revenue that churned, divide the monthly recurring revenue (MMR) you lost in the month with your total MMR at the start of the month. 

Revenue churn rate formula: (MRR lost in a month ÷ Total MRR at the start of the month) x 100 

Optimize your customer onboarding with interactive tutorials 

You are killing the game and making sales left and right. But it doesn’t really matter. 

Say what?

That is, if your customer onboarding isn’t successful.

Good customer onboarding is about providing new customers with a realistic and welcoming space to get to know your product. And that’s when you’ll want to take advantage of an interactive tutorial. 

And one way to create interactive tutorials that give prospects the lay of the land is by using a demo experience platform. 

There are even some demo experience platforms out there (*this is not a plug for Walnut, wink, wink) that let you personalize your tutorials to meet prospects’ unique needs and track their usage so you can gain valuable insights. 

Think of it this way. When you use a demo experience platform to create interactive tutorials, you’ll be giving prospects everything they need to become full-fledged users of your product. 

Glossary Terms:

1. User journey: To put it simply, the user journey is the path a user might take to reach a goal when they use a product or service. 

2. User onboarding: User onboarding (AKA customer onboarding) is the process of getting new users up and running with a particular product.

3. Journey map: A journey map is the visualization of the user journey, or the process a new user will go through to reach a goal when using a product or service.     

Ready to start boosting your customer onboarding? Book a meeting with us now by clicking that big purple “Get Started” button on the top of the screen.  

About the author
Maya Sasson
SaaS Content Marketer
Maya is the new content girl at Walnut. When she’s not writing about SaaS sales stuff, you can find her trying to think of all the different puns she can make with the word nut.
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