In SaaS business, every point of contact with your customer is an important step in building a base of your brand’s advocates. From seeing your ad for the first time until they prolong the subscription over and over, there are hundreds of such steps. And the more well-managed they are, the higher are the chances you’ll reach that perfect destination of building an army of loyal customers.

So, as a SaaS creator, you know the ins and outs of your product as your own five fingers. But the customer that opens it for the first time doesn’t! And if the functions or interface are not clear enough, the chances are high customers will churn during the onboarding process. 

So, why would you want to waste the efforts of your marketers and salespeople trying so hard to sell your product on top of their ability? Of course, you don’t want that. And here’s where the SaaS onboarding process comes into play. 

What is SaaS onboarding? 

Literally, SaaS onboarding means helping new users of a SaaS product understand functions, and thus, the value of the product quickly. But there is so much more to it! SaaS onboarding is a perfect chance for you to showcase all the benefits to clients and make them believe they are truly advantageous for them. Moreover, it’s an awesome way to educate them and build trust right from the start of your cooperation. 

Basically, in your customer onboarding process you move step-by-step - from the simplest features to more advanced ones. In such a way, your customers will gradually dive into the most important aspects of your product. A full SaaS onboarding process takes into consideration the whole of the customer journey. From the moment a user signs up for the subscription up to becoming a regular monthly customer.

You may also like: Virtual mentoring – 9 essential principles you must know

Why do you need a SaaS onboarding process?

I have already partly answered the question in the previous paragraph. Your clients need a complete onboarding process, otherwise they won’t be able to experience the full potential of your product. And, most likely, they will leave you sooner than you can imagine.

However, there are some other unobvious perks for your SaaS business - just take a look at this list:  

  • You will increase the overall customer retention rate
  • The churn rate will drop significantly 
  • Customers will be able to address more complicated issues with your features
  • They will better understand your product
  • You’ll have a better idea of what your clients’ goals and needs are
  • You’ll gather valuable data about your target customers’ behavior
  • The relationship between your brand and your customers will improve
  • Your average lifetime value will grow 
  • You will spend less on customer support costs 

Overall, it’s easier to find a reason why NOT to implement and optimize an onboarding process, that vice versa. So, now let’s go on to the actual steps you can take to invent such a process for your SaaS product. 

Looking for more insights and practices for SaaS and IT business founders? Get your copy of a SaaS and Tech interviews e-book to see what experts think!

6 steps of creating a successful SaaS onboarding process  

Step 1: Create a full-scale knowledge base 

Your in-product onboarding process just cannot include all answers to every possible question. But! It can include a navigation to a knowledge base (which in its turn will have all the answers). So, if you still don’t have a huge help center, start by picking up the most common user questions (or, if your product is new, just analyze it and try to predict such questions). Then, sort them into categories and start filling up the space with your information flow. And, make sure to make it pretty!  

Step 2: Prepare a flow of automated emails 

It’s an absolute must - for both welcoming new users, and trying to get back the lost ones. With a well-done email, you’ll be able to reach out to customers regularly without having to be actually present. How cool is that? 

Those automated emails can include some insider tips, cool offers, product updates, etc. And, the best thing about it is that you could adapt the message content according to the user’s behavior or other characteristics. And personalization is always good! Even more, it’s kind of a must at this point. 

Worth checking: Facilitation techniques - 18 proven methods to make your meetings fly

Step 3: Identify your platform’s critical actions

Both positive and negative actions can happen within your product at any day. It’s crucial to figure out where customers can possibly get stuck, so you can fix those issues in time. And vice versa, you should pinpoint the critical tasks of your product to concentrate the attention on the best features. 

The perfect case would be identifying the moment where customers can truly realize your product’s real value for their specific case. Your task is to get an emotional response which will hook in their minds. Which in its turn will activate the motivation to continue using your product and really sets the tone for the rest of the onboarding journey.

Step 4: Choose an onboarding model

Depending on complexity of your SaaS product, you could go on with the following onboarding options: 

  • Self-service - a basic guide walkthrough that consists of the explanation of key functions. Suits non-complex products 
  • Low-touch - the middle ground used in most popular tools. Can be presented as an interactive walkthrough with an option for reaching out to human support.
  • High-touch - if your product is really complex and takes a lot of time to set up it correctly, this option is for you. An extensive knowledge base session and one-on-one calls is your way to go. You could even assigned a dedicated assistant for every client to personalize the onboarding as much. But of course, you need a piece of standard walkthrough as well. 

Step 5: Set up in-app tips

After figuring out the type of onboarding, the key functions, and the main benefits you want to expose, the most tedious part is waiting for you around the corner. What I mean, is at this point you need to get to coding, making the UX/UI part, implementing them and testing. This will definitely take up weeks and maybe even months, but is totally worth it. 

If you want to speed up the development process, or just not a fan of developing such standard features, make use of SaaS Boilerplate. It includes well-tested and developer-friendly pieces of code that will kickstart the development of your onboarding features. 

Step 6: Measure, improve, repeat

Testing, analyzing, and improving… It should be out of the question. The performance of your onboarding process should be checked regularly. Optimizing your onboarding process is definitely an endless process (in a good sense, of course). There will always be improvements to make as the product will change, together with the trends and customers’ behavior tendencies.

You might be interested: Happily Ever After, or Why Employee Happiness at Work is the Foundation of a Successful Company?

6 SaaS onboarding best practices  

And to polish up this article with some more juicy stuff, here the 6 best practices for inventing and implementing your SaaS onboarding: 

  1. Shorten time to value for customers as much as possible
  2. Reduce friction in your signup flow to maximize the conversion 
  3. Build interactive and personalized walkthroughs instead of linear product tours
  4. Bring your product’s value forward in the first onboarding steps
  5. Keep things simple, otherwise, you could overwhelm users from the start
  6. Offer a personalized onboarding flow

The sum up

With the correct approach, your SaaS onboarding flow can do wonders in terms of boosting retention and reducing the churn rates. What is more, it can improve the overall customer relationship and build up a loyal customer army for your product. Just make sure to sincerely make their lives simpler, show the clear value in front, and review the flow often. It is as simple as it is. 

Apptension can take over the SaaS onboarding for your product! Find out more about our SaaS UX services that increase customer retention!