This is a guest post from Kyriaki Raouna, a Content Writer at LearnWorlds writing about marketing and elearning. She is an experienced career consultant and a content writer for SaaS.
User onboarding is one of the hottest topics of discussion amongst SaaS companies. You start thinking about it on day zero of your launch and continuously improving onboarding as your business grows.
Welcoming and educating users on the use of your product is a priority for software businesses, and while you scale, you will want to automate the onboarding process.
In fact, the quicker you do so, the better. Customer onboarding is a huge opportunity for every SaaS. Especially if you are working to increase sales and reduce churn rates.
When onboarding is combined with customer education, it becomes the ALPHA and OMEGA of activating users and ending up with loyal customers who are experts in your product and advocate for you.
Indeed, the biggest software companies with a highly valued brands use education as marketing and for user onboarding, but more on this later…
What is user onboarding?
User onboarding is an online experience that guides users towards becoming more knowledgeable and capable of using your application, your website, your products and services. It’s the process that teaches users, transforming them from amateur users to experts.
User onboarding educates customers about the product that you offer through simple and easy guidelines, this is often a step-by-step approach through what we call “the aha moments”. It is done by giving customers access to certain pieces of content that are designed to increase their mastery in the use of the product.
The onboarding process starts as soon as the users sign up (but never ends), and helps their way towards answering the following:
- What is this product/service and what does it do?
- How can I use its full potential?
- How can it help me improve (any aspect of) my life?
The onboarding process helps users recognize the value of your product, but it is also a matter of branding. You have to win the hearts of your customers and establish your brand as a leader in your category.
The secret to achieving onboarding success for your SaaS business is integrating your product into their business or personal lives and start showing its value. This way, your users are more likely to buy into your offering.
In a nutshell, educational onboarding can:
- Reduce churn
- Increase the value of your product to the customer
- Generate additional revenue through product up-sells and cross-sells
With an effective user onboarding process, you are basically securing your business grounds. Helping users navigate around and avoid getting them overwhelmed, resulting in happier users. On a much deeper level, you are grooming them to become your active promoters.
But in order to do this, first you need to gain their trust. Building trust, brand awareness and the know-how needed. Teaching them how to use your product, with simple tasks and small goals leading to the ‘Aha moment!’.
That is when they take the decision to ‘get on-board’ and start using your product to solve their real-life problems.
P.S. Educational onboarding is also useful when hiring new employees. Many HR professionals automate the onboarding processes that have been standardized.
There are quite a few ways to onboard new users. Let’s go through the usual ways of onboarding:
In-app onboarding: In-app customer onboarding is the training-related content that is embedded directly into existing web and mobile apps through a learning platform.
Check out these client onboarding templates for an idea of what this kind of process might look like:
- Client Onboarding Checklist for Financial Planners
- Client Onboarding Checklist for Marketing Agencies
- Client Onboarding Checklist for Criminal Law Firms
- High Touch Client Onboarding for SaaS Companies
- Website Design Client Onboarding Template
- Landlord Onboarding Checklist
- Client Onboarding Checklist for an Accounting Firm
- Patient Intake Checklist for a Dental Clinic
- Patient Intake Checklist for a Medical Clinic
- Client Onboarding Checklist for Real Estate Sales
- Client Onboarding Checklist for a Managed Service Provider
- Client Onboarding Checklist for a Software Development Company
- Client Onboarding Checklist for Management Consulting
- Client Onboarding Checklist for an Insurance Broker
An email sequence: Automated email sequences can give out the necessary information and guidelines to get users started. The welcome email that they receive upon registration is just the first of many emails to follow that are going to keep the customer informed and engaged with your product.
A knowledge base (or help center): Setting up your very own help center support with how-to articles and video tutorials for users to access, can save you lots of valuable time and money with pre-made answers to the usual questions.
Webinars / video calls: One-to-one personal consultations or webinars where many users can join are great for introducing new users to your product. These can be used both before and after a user becomes a customer, helping in both the sales and retention processes.
Remarketing: Using retargeting ads to push users into the next “checkpoints” in using your product with relevant content. Serving the blog posts, webinars, how-to videos or suggesting the next action to take.
How to automate user onboarding with customer education
Education is the best onboarding, and you are already doing it!
All your blog posts, your email sequences and any other prompts or content you have are essentially customer education of your product. Taking this to the next level can establish your brand as an industry leader.
Now, imagine being able to do this without much interaction from your team. This is exactly where automation comes in. It helps to create an online training experience that is scalable across all customer needs and doesn’t require your continuous involvement.
More than just onboarding, automating onboarding means you get to:
- Educate a wider range of users
- Build a consistent experience
- Declutter your support and reduce associated costs
- Teach people how to use your product and be more successful at their work
- Build on trust and reputation between your users
- Encourage the creation of an online learning community
- Improve customer performance and increase business profits at large
All this sounds great, but is it do-able?
Today, it’s easier than ever to create your own business academy, and the material can be found in your blog, support center, youtube videos, or your recurring webinars. By re-using your content, you can build an onboarding course in just a few hours, all you need is the right structure for your users to follow.
Examples of SaaS academies
Top companies already use education for marketing and onboarding. You can find examples of companies that have already established themselves and heavily focus on educating their customers:
Even huge businesses like Google and Facebook find the need to educate their user-base around their product:
And this is just a small sample!
Many small and medium SaaS companies are jumping in to education, as it is the fastest way to build their brand loyalty. Everyone talks about content marketing and writing blog posts, but a blog post seems cheap and overused, online courses reuse the same material but feel like a premium product.
Top academies not only offer courses on their product, but also topics that are important for their customers.
Hubspot for example teaches about content marketing and sales (among many other topics) and Hootsuite about social media, both of them certify users with industry recognizable certificates.
Without a doubt, online training offers a handful of benefits – not only to businesses, but also to their customers. Through course training, you can create engaging multimedia, and come up with a variety of assignments to put a customer’s skill at test.
Training also offers the best way to check on a customer’s learning process and helps to find out which topics are the easiest or most difficult to consume.
With the easy addition of engaging media – video, audio, exercises, quizzes, image and text, into your training, you can create a unique learning experience for your users and encourage them to have fun in the process!
How to launch educational onboarding for your business
Time to get practical!
As said above, you probably already have the content, now, you need to plan, create/re-use and execute.
Automation is about thinking the most often used scenarios and have a ready answer for them. Think of the most usual questions, challenges or most read content on your website. This is where you need to focus and follow the plan:
Step 1: Set out goals
First, come up with a plan and think about how you will train your customers to use your product.
- What is that you want your customers to do?
- What do you want them to learn so that they understand how to use your product?
- Also, how can you structure it so that it remains interesting and engaging?
Think about the onboarding topics you want to focus on, gather your expertise, and create information that is going to be useful for your customers based on what you know.
Each step your customers take needs to encourage them to move further through small wins and completing to-do tasks.
Think about your customer’s goals, what are they looking to achieve?
Step 2: Map out the onboarding timeline
The process for on-boarding starts with the first touch of your product. If you already have an email onboarding sequence, you can use the same logical process to structure an online course.
Think of your sales process. How do you find and onboard users up to now, and how can this be translated into an educational sequence?
Do they visit your blog reading on hot industry trends, then join a webinar and then a sales call?
Maybe they get a trial, then send multiple tickets to your support. Think of the tickets you can eliminate by teaching your users to use your product correctly and include them there.
Include the checkpoints you want them to pass before the final sale.
- Setting up an account,
- Completing a profile,
- Customizing their dashboard,
- Getting a video-tour etc
Step 3: Create the content (or re-use)
Provide your customers with a guide on the courses that you have available. Creating a course outline is important so that they know exactly what they can get out from it and that they are completing milestones as they go.
When designing your onboarding course content and curriculum, you may use previously used content from blog posts, email sequences, canned ticket responses, webinars, guides, help center articles, or even recorded sales calls.
Then, identify what you are missing. It might be a call-to-action, an assignment, a quiz or a few how-to screencasts.
Come up with the right format combination for it and allow users to find their own pace of learning, and you are ready to go.
Once you’ve decided what kind of content you’re going to create, you need a process for actually creating it, like this blog post pre-publish checklist:
Step 4: Choose the right delivery
Educational onboarding can take many forms, e.g. email sequence, how-to videos on youtube or in-app cues.
However, the best way to deliver online training is by using the elearning platform. You will need to choose a platform that can be white-labelled, deliver high quality learning experiences and connect with your other tools.
Some companies like Ahrefs have built their own solution by embedding Youtube videos, or you can look for a suitable course platform.
Process Street, for example, utilizes integration to streamline the user onboarding process:
If you ever find yourself doing the same repetitive process, getting frustrated with little things like having to send the same welcoming email again and again, or constantly jumping between Gmail and Salesforce to gather information about new users, then you might want to check out Process Street. There’s a good chance we can help you save a whole bunch of time, money, and headaches.
Step 5: Review
Once you have your content in place, have a run through it and check for possible grammar and spelling mistakes. Proof-read, review and edit before you are ready to launch it.
Then, get a couple of users or your staff to test it and work on the last details depending on the feedback you receive.
Step 6: Launch
Let your people know when will be the release date of the program and prepare them. Take your academy as a major product or feature release.
Once it is out, don’t forget to check in with your customers and see how they are doing. Find out what’s working with them or not, and adjust your content accordingly.
As with your other onboarding methods, you should be getting feedback and updating your content every now and then. Keep it fresh and relevant, as your product grows, so your onboarding process should follow up.
Combining onboarding with customer education creates loyal customers that will stick with you for a long time. Educational onboarding can increase sales, reduce churn and make your users experts in your product.
Identifying your users’ challenges can help you automate this process, collect the resources you already have and structure it as a highly-valuable course for your audience.
Transform your users into experts, and earn their hearts with the most valuable product, knowledge!
Check out these other Process Street articles on the topic of onboarding:
- Why Google’s Onboarding Process Works 25% Better Than Everyone Else’s
- 9 User Onboarding Tools to Smash Your Revenue Targets
- How Microsoft’s Secret User Onboarding Process Fooled Us All
- 14 Client Onboarding Process Checklists for Finance, IT, Medical, SaaS, & Real Estate
What’s your process for customer education? Have any tips and tricks you’d like to share? Leave a comment down below, we’d love to hear from you!