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SaaS onboarding: How to lower customer churn and improve retention

Rachel McBryde
Jan 29, 2021

You've spent time creating B2B SaaS marketing content to nurture your leads, they've moved down your marketing funnel and raised their hands to signify interest in your software.

You've allocated resources of time, energy, and money to acquire your clients. So what should B2B SaaS companies do next? 

You've spent time creating B2B SaaS marketing content to nurture your leads, they've moved down your marketing funnel and raised their hands to signify interest in your software.

You've allocated your time, energy, and money resources to acquire your clients. So what should B2B SaaS companies do next? 

Acquiring your customers is just the first step to a fruitful partnership. And it's not just about growing fast anymore. Some articles have noted a shift to customer retention as a cost-effective strategy for establishing continuous growth for B2B SaaS companies. However, if there is a shift of resources into customer retention, what form of strategy could a B2B SaaS company adopt?

Out of 15 examples of customer retention strategies, Hubspot noted an onboarding program as a means to mitigate churn. Similarly, in an article written in 2019, Lucy Literado approached 7 experts on what they considered to be the best churn reduction method. Each expert noted 3 approaches, and low and behold, onboarding was one of the themes that were mentioned repeatedly amongst them.

So how can you successfully retain your B2B SaaS customers? Continue to attract, engage, and delight your clients through a value-adding program—onboarding. 

Why implement a SaaS customer onboarding strategy?

Onboarding your software customers is the initial embrace you give your new clients after they've signed up for your software. Whether it's for a free month trial period or a locked-in annual subscription, onboarding and connecting with your customers during the first week is crucial to long-term success.

But why is your SaaS onboarding strategy so important? What can B2B SaaS companies gain from onboarding as a B2B SaaS customer retention strategy?

Here are some of the overall benefits of an engaging SaaS onboarding experience:

1. Reduced customer churn 

Your customers become heavily invested in your product, mitigating the risk of looking elsewhere. SaaS Churn impacts your valuations, MRR, and ARR over time. 

2. Decreased support inquiries 

Your customers will only reach out for critical issues as they have been thoroughly trained in the software.

3. Promoted internal training  

As your team develops training methods for your product, they become product "champions." This leads them to become trainers for not just your customers but the rest of the company too. 

4. Increased customer engagement 

Your customers will likely refer your product to others and become potential evangelists for your company. 

Inform your SaaS onboarding strategy with user research

So how does a B2B SaaS company create an engaging and value-adding onboarding experience for their customers?

It's all about research. 

Remember, first impressions are everything. Just like any first date, this is where you can let your software shine and capture the hearts of your customers.

If you adopt an onboarding process that doesn't suit your customers' needs and isn't successfully showing value to your product, your customers will most likely question their decision.

Further highlighted in this article as one of the 4 most common causes for customer churn:

...customers abandon your product because they get lost, don't understand something, don't get value from the product, or simply lose interest. - Len Markiden

At the end of the day, there are no weak onboarding approaches, just inadequate customer research. However, if your approach to onboarding secures your customers' interest, you can guarantee a successful long-term partnership.

Merely creating an onboarding process without strategically asking why you're doing it, can hurt your company's chances of providing an engaging experience for your customers. So how do you figure out what works best for your customers?

How to build a successful SaaS onboarding program in 3 steps 

The art of a successful SaaS onboarding process comes in all shapes and sizes. Re-align your strategy and see what resources you can allocate to this onboarding program. 

  • Do you have a sizable team where you can conduct 1 on 1 onboarding sessions over the phone or through zoom? 
  • Is this method of onboarding scalable and sustainable in the long run? 

These are two of the more straightforward questions to consider when you start creating that mind map for your onboarding program. But as an excellent place to start, it's crucial that B2B SaaS companies consistently provide an onboarding program that caters to their customer personas.

It's about creating a customer-centric—not product-centric— experience that thinks about their customers' pain points. As you conceptualize your customer personas, the user/advocate, the supervisor, and the executive—B2B SaaS companies can integrate their pain points into the overall onboarding experience. 

Take Grammarly, for example, a tool growing in popularity as it provides users with a "personal writing assistant" that checks documents for grammatical errors, provides synonyms, and helps with the documents' overall delivery.

 


b2b saas customer retention strategies

Step 1: Segment your onboarding to each user's level of experience

When users first sign-up for the tool, they’re asked to highlight where the document will be used and their current writing abilities.

Generally speaking, you can segment your users through job-to-be-done, role, or responsibilities. For example, an HR administrator and marketing specialist would have very different needs out of their HR software—you should accommodate to their needs with relevant information. 

Use each user's information then segments and groups users, providing them the most relevant, timely in-app insights and walkthroughs. This will deliver the right information to the right people at the right time.

b2b onboarding saas

Step 2: Feature walk-through with in-app guidance

Once you've identified the use cases and job-to-be-done, or level of proficiency of each user group, you can provide relevant information to their unique responsibilities & duties.

Guide your users with animated walk-throughs and in-app guidance, walking them through key features available with the tool. Doing this will expedite knowledge retention and allow them to realize the benefits and capabilities of your software in real-time rather than before logging in. 

b2b saas onboarding

Step 3: Offer a customized product demo.

Finally, ask your SaaS users to go through a demo document that showcases the features and capabilities of your software in action. And the best part? Users learn as they go along, a "learning by doing" onboarding process. It keeps customers on their toes, engaged, and curious.

Onboarding allows SaaS companies to retain customers & lower churn 

So what can B2B SaaS companies take away from this three-step guide to promoting user adoption and retention? 

Effective onboarding and retention programs are all about showing value, simplicity, and let's face it—seamless flow.

Your software's onboarding should have a step-by-step onboarding approach that begins with goal setting and assessing your user's goals and proficiency. Spend some time mapping out your customer journey, and research what processes would suit your customers’ needs best.

Take a page out of Grammarly’s book and explore your ideal customer personas’ preferred way of consuming content, and look into the different approaches to learning. When analyzing your customer personas' favorite mode of consuming content, you'll ideally look to highlight their preferred medium for onboarding. What are the demographics of your customer base?

Are they baby boomers, gen x, y, or z? Do they prefer to learn by reading, or would a video tutorial be more engaging? Better yet, will an in-app tutorial create a one size fits all solution? 

Start building your B2B SaaS customer retention strategy

With so many questions to consider, where does a B2B SaaS company start?

Firstly, you need to reach out to your most successful clients. Start with the simple: how did you learn how to use our software successfully, and what processes would you have liked to have seen when you started?

Secondly, as you go along this process, it's essential to map out what your customer journey will look like from start to finish. This will enable you to evaluate the resources required to cater to your customers' onboarding experience. 

Above all, set your goals to provide a bigger picture of your customer's journey. Remember, it's not about putting an onboarding process together without thought, it's about delivering the most engaging and value-adding experience for your customers. As a little thought to take away:

People tend to confuse the goal of onboarding; they think the goal is to 'get the user set up', when it is actually to 'convert users to power users'.

- UX Planet

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