We recently hosted an AMA for the Launch Awesome community with Ramli John, the author of "Product-led Onboarding". It was a fantastic opportunity for our community members to get direct insights from Ramli on his book and learn more about product-led onboarding best practices.
p.s. if you want the opportunity to join AMAs like these, apply to join the community!
You can listen to the full episode now on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.
BIG FYI: this post actually goes into much more depth about specific tactics and UI patterns you can use to improve your onboarding that the video doesn't cover -- so I encourage you to read on.
User onboarding is a retention lever, a revenue multiplier, and a means to lower customer acquisition costs (CAC).
So why is onboarding such an after thought for so many companies?
Ramli's book identifies several common reasons companies struggle with onboarding:
To address these challenges, Ramli introduced the EUREKA framework, which consists of the following steps:
In this post we get into the how and the why behind each of the 6 steps in Ramli’s EUREKA framework.
In our AMA we talked about how onboarding is a victim of the org chart -- and how most of the work we do is with our functional peers on relatively localized projects.
Onboarding is very different in this regard.
Effective onboarding team considers the entire user journey.
Therefore, onboarding teams must be cross-functional, with representation from:
Some teams have dedicated stand-alone squads whose sole objective is around optimizing onboarding and more broadly "the funnel".
You certainly don't have to have a team dedicated to only working on this, but it can make sense for larger companies to organize teams this way.
Onboarding is so important that you should be committing serious resources to constantly improving it.
How much exactly? Hard to say but I would personally recommend at least 10-15% of your Product team's time.
So it's extremely important that the leadership team is committed to this endeavor.
Before you do anything, you need to really understand what your users are trying to accomplish.
A helpful way to think about is that users aren’t buying your product, they’re buying an outcome for themselves. They're buying a way for them to make some progress in their lives.
So it's very important that you understand the following things about your customers:
If customers are hiring your product to do some job, then your onboarding experience is the interview.
This is very common for B2B SaaS products so don't fret.
The solution here is for you to segment and personalize the user onboarding experience for different customers.
Humans aren't robots -- we feel things, and we care what other people think about what we're doing. So the job your product does for your customers has more than just a functional dimension.
There are three components to customer jobs:
You need to take all of these things into account when designing your onboarding experience.
Once you know what success looks like for your customers, you can start to create a definition and quantify what exactly is the set of actions customers need to do to achieve that success.
Let's define "fully onboarded" (in a B2B SaaS context) as "the company has developed a habit of routinely using your product to solve a problem".
Given this definition, I think it's impossible for new signups to fully onboard themselves in a single day.
There are milestones along the way to fully onboarded.
Keep these in mind - we'll use these milestones as the basis for our onboarding strategy in a sec.
The final stage mentioned above refers to the idea that the company is using the product at a cadence that suggests a new habit is forming or exists.
You need to figure out within your own product....
...is predictive that the user is building a habit of using your product to solve a problem?
To think about your own, consider these oft-cited examples:
Ultimately, the test of a good product adoption indicator is that it's predictive of that the user is building a habit of using your product to solve a problem.
The next step is to take a full inventory of what your current onboarding experience is like for users.
You'll want to take a screenshot or create a little post-it notes in Figjam or Miro for:
Ultimately the experience we want to create for our onboarding is give the user a direct path to a "day-one win". Your day-one should be the furthest meaningful milestone identified in section above that you can reasonably expect to get users to on their first day of using your product:
Onboarding is ultimately about changing behavior. It's about cultivating within your signups a new habit of using your product to solve their problem.
And no one knows Behavior Change better than Stanford professor Dr. BJ Fogg.
The BJ Fogg Behavior Model, posits that behavior change is a function of
The idea that if our combined motivation and ability exceed the "action line", then prompts to do such behavior will be successful.
Onboarding is one big prompt to get the user to do something:
You need to make onboarding feel as easy as possible.
A common onboarding failure is cognitive overload: bombarding users with pop-ups, in app messages, tooltips, and more.
Here's some ways to do better.
Instead of point out what every feature is with a tooltip, tell them exactly what they should do and when.
Check out this portion of Hubspot's onboarding.
Notice two things:
Yes, it should be noted some people don't like this kind of onboarding. Giving people a way to opt out and just explore for themselves is totally fine.
Pages are designed to have data in them. When they're completely empty, it leaves a user without a clear idea of what they should do next.
Instead emphasize the value of taking action, give helpful contextual video/images about what that thing is, and direct them to do the desired action as well.
One other option here is to add a bunch of dummy data to new signups so that pages are pre-populated with data. I think this can work, and works even better if you implement a way for new signups toggle between their account and a "demo environment".
Content is a cheat code to onboarding.
Think about it like this: it’s hard to write a whole story from scratch, but it’s easy and fun to do ad-libs.
Check out how Zapier provides template Zaps that are customized for the user:
Use microcopy throughout the onboarding process to highlight how the users is about to improve their lives.
Ask users at the beginning of onboarding what their primary goal is in signing up for your product. Then you can use that data to:
Here's how Customer.io peppers in these values statements into bits of copy.
Progress indicators play at something human - we’re wired to set goals and we inherently feel good when we accomplish them.
Check out how Hubspot hits on this in two ways:
We say “yes” more readily to people we like and are attracted to. Do a welcome video with a quick intro to the product.
Here's how Appcues does it within their Chrome Extension:
Hot take: founders should also write bespoke intro emails to ICPs that sign up. Unless you have super lower ACV, this is one of those things that "doesn't scale" but I think you can realistically get this done if you spend an hour on it every day.
When people have FUD they look to the behavior of others to determine their own.
There's going to be times when folks aren't sure exactly how they want to configure your app when they're onboarding.
This is an opportunity to show them how others are using your product.
It's a long road, so remember that improving your onboarding is acontinuous process that will have it's ups and downs.
If you don't have a bespoke onboarding or it hasn't been touched in forever, prioritize high-impact changes first. You'll learn more and you only have time to make run so many experiments.
Share learnings with the team as you go. It's a team sport and doing write-ups about what experiments are working and what's not will help everyone get better.
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