The 7 SaaS Onboarding Sins
The 7 SaaS Onboarding Sins
I get it — SaaS onboarding isn’t as enticing as lead generation. You don’t have to love it, but please avoid these cardinal sins.
SaaS and subscription business onboarding is a bit like dating.
You’ve done the work to get the date, but it’s far from over. In fact, this is make-or-break time. First impressions matter, there has to be a connection, and you better bring some value to the table. So how do you nail the first few dates that are SaaS onboarding?
If you want to read what it means to have a successful onboarding series, I’ve covered it more in depth here. The short answer is that onboarding is all about creating a habit and helping customers reach their goals — not yours.
So how does one rise up to the challenge of creating an amazing onboarding series? By avoiding these onboarding sins, of course.
First up is uncertainty, and this can manifest in a few different ways.
Ignoring user expectations
Whether you realize it or not, your users have an expectation of what will happen when they use your product. At the very least, they have an idea of what they would like to happen. If they didn’t have some end goal in mind when they signed up for a free trial, they wouldn’t have gone through with the sign-up. Your onboarding emails need to help users reach their goals.
Ignoring time constraints
There are goals of all different sizes, and they all can’t be accomplished during onboarding. Whether you’re working within hard time limits, such as an expiring free trial, or within the limit of attention span a new user has — a limit exists. It’s up to you to try and match user expectations with what’s actually possible in a given time period. Aim for quick wins so users want to stick around.
Maybe it’s my strategy background talking, but I don’t think it’s possible to have a successful onboarding email series without a plan. Failure to plan means:
Not creating a desired customer action map
You know what users want to accomplish — now what steps do they need to take to get there? Plot out what features they need to use, and in what order. Now base your onboarding sequence on that map.
Your users are not living their lives in a vacuum, so why would your onboarding series be in one?
Lacking an omnichannel onboarding experience
Life is happening all around, and you should be supporting a user’s onboarding experience from all angles. Emails, in-app messages, promoted content, communities and more should all be cohesive and have a common goal.
It’s really hard to finish a task or reach a goal when you’re confused or distracted. Beware that your onboarding emails don’t:
Dump every feature under the sun in front of new users
Curation is the name of the game. There will be time for new feature releases and update alerts later, but keep onboarding minimal. Only show new users what they need to see to achieve those quick wins.
Get mixed up with normal marketing broadcasts
When a person is going through an onboarding email sequence, that better be the only emails they receive. Update your settings so that new users aren’t also receiving your weekly newsletter or product update emails — they’ll just add noise right now. You can send them these emails after onboarding is through.
Another surefire way to add confusion is to overload new users with too many asks.
Jumping straight into the most complex features
Remember how we talked about quick wins? Don’t direct brand new users into your biggest or most complex features — the time commitment will scare them off.
Including too many CTAs
Repeat after me: each email has ONE GOAL. That means one CTA. Multiple CTA buttons can work on occasion, but it’s a good rule of thumb to have a single ask in each email.
Onboarding isn’t the time to be shy about what you’re capable of. The sin of obscurity shows up as:
Emails that ignore the power of a feature
People care less about the specs of a feature and more about the outcome. Uncover the power of a feature by presenting it as a lever for success.
Vague subject lines
This is a small detail, but still worth noting. An email subject line is your very first opportunity to hook a reader, after all. Don’t waste precious subject line space with titles that are vague or misleading.
Establishing a connection between a user and brand is important too, folks. The final point I’ll leave you with today is:
Don’t forget to introduce yourself
Yes, a person probably knows at least a little about your company before they sign up. However, onboarding emails are prime real estate for solidifying your brand identity. Take time in the welcome email to tell new users what your company stands for and hopes to accomplish.
What do you think about these 7 onboarding sins? Would you add any to the list? Let me know below!