SaaS companies lose up to 75% of users in the first week. Great user onboarding can help you reduce the rate of attrition.
Onboarding. What is it good for? Absolutely everything. Unlike “war” in the song made famous by Edwin Starr, user onboarding is good for absolutely everything when it comes to product success.
For SaaS companies specifically, user onboarding can take your product even higher. (Did we just sneak another classic song into the intro of this article? Yup.) Onboarding can directly lead to more revenue.
Don’t just take our word for it. According to a recent HubSpot survey, SaaS companies are likely to lose up to 75% of users in the first week. So helping new users stick around is crucial. On the flip side, happy customers are the best referral source for growing a community around your SaaS offering. Those two reasons are exactly what those first few customer interactions have to count.
Making those first few interactions count means leaning hard into user onboarding. The best product managers build onboarding flows that quickly push new users to your aha moment.
Rather than giving you a list of “best practices for SaaS user onboarding,” we’re going to give you some inspiration from three SaaS companies who place a big emphasis on user onboarding: Asana, HubSpot, and Notion.
Asana creates actionable guides to encourage team adoption and retention
Asana is well known for being a great project management software. But, like most project management SaaS products, it can be tricky to learn. That’s why Asana arms users with a self-serve guide that is ready to answer any questions they may have.
The Asana Guide is the brand's fully searchable centralized content hub of best practices to help bring teams up to speed with their product. As a growing resource, it features a wide range of educational content to help teams with Asana onboarding.
Asana’s dedicated Search page allows users to quickly identify themselves as “just getting started with Asana,” or “helping my team learn Asana” to be served relevant, contextual help outside of the app.
User drop-off in the product-adoption phase is one of the most challenging aspects of retention. That’s why Asana provides checklists, templates, webinar links, and step-by-step instructions to address common reasons for user drop-off. The brand's thoughtful Change Management Strategy Guide and Guide to Inspiring Team Confidence are both great examples of how Asana helps their new users get through product adoption.
Pro tip: Help users find their way back to an aha moment
Asana knows that frictionless onboarding doesn’t always happen. Users may get distracted and leave their onboarding flow temporarily, or worse — permanently. Asana wants users to complete the onboarding flow so they use simple prompts.
If users lose patience and navigate elsewhere on your product, a prompt (such as a team onboarding checklist embedded into an Asana adoption guide) can bring them back into the app as an active user.
HubSpot’s CRM personalizes SaaS user onboarding with surveys
If Rod Stewart wrote a song about HubSpot’s CRM, he might’ve sang that it was “forever free.” That’s because their CRM is free...forever. That presents a unique challenge because users have no “skin in the game.” They haven’t paid for anything and they never have to. Product adoption is tough in these instances so HubSpot has to have their user onboarding dialed in.
HubSpot onboards and retains users by personalizing the onboarding experience, based on user survey responses. The SaaS tool sends new users a getting-to-know-you Q&A session with no more than four multiple-choice questions.
HubSpot requests details about the user’s role and company and what they’ll be using the tool for. This information is then used to personalize the customer’s dashboard and online workspace. Product managers can personalize a user’s learning curve when they better understand what motivates them and pushes them to action based on their job function.
HubSpot’s CRM encourages customers to stay active on their dashboard by indicating what value they’ll gain in return for feedback or data. This could be learning a new skill that’s essential to their job, gaining insight into who is the most productive on the team and why, and setting quotas to visualize progress.
Pro TIp: Reward users for action by celebrating progress
When users are new to your product, remind your them every step of the way that taking action leads to progress (visualized in a checklist, progress bar, percentage value), progress leads to action, and a certain number of actions in a specified timeframe lead to accomplishment.
When customers feel productive in the digital workspaces set up for all their day-to-day tasks, they’ll be more likely to encourage other team members to come on board and join them.
Notion onboards users with an interactive, task-based product tour
Founded in 2015 by Ivan Zhao, Notion is a collaborative workspace and productivity tool that helps you and your team to write, to plan, and to get organized.
To onboard users, Notion offers a guided tour filled with tasks on the "Getting Started" page. This onboarding approach encourages users to learn the valuable core functions anyone will need to start collaborating and creating as soon as possible in the software.
During the onboarding process, users can choose templates that help them build Notion pages—budgets, meeting agendas, and more. These templates encourage users to build collaborative content and systems based on team purpose and business needs.
Notion encourages actively exploring and practicing prebuilt pages to build confidence with the product. Their onboarding flow is designed as a to-do list on a private Notion page. Users can play, test, and learn by discovering interactive hover states with more detailed walk-throughs.
Pro Tip: Make learning interactive and encourage customization
By making the onboarding flow a “Get Started” to-do list, the document serves two purposes for new customers: they learn how to click through and make progress on a basic use case (a to-do list that can benefit any team function), and Notion also makes it clear what basics need mastering to gain value straightaway (for example, keyboard shortcuts).
During Notion’s onboarding survey, customers explain what their job function is and who they’ll use Notion with (either solo or with teams). Accordingly, Notion pre-populates a workspace with relevant templates and encourages users to check them out via friendly tooltip messaging.
Customize onboarding templates for different teams, cultures, and contexts as needed. Users can try them out as a jumping-off point to use your product for the first time in a way that’s relevant to their needs.
Embrace the unknowns of what makes the “best” onboarding process
Customers don’t just hope for good onboarding—they expect to be blown away in those early interactions. Maybe they need help convincing their team to join them in the product to get the most out of it.
SaaS companies like HubSpot, Notion, and Asana have leveraged how-to guides, personalized user flows, and template libraries to map out positive outcomes and productive solutions by rewarding customers for the right behavior early on.
But as Margaret Kelsey, OpenView's director of marketing, said, "There's no definitive best user onboarding because users' experiences vary so much from product to product." Instead, product managers should focus on understanding what their customer believes is a great onboarding experience based on their unmet needs.
By learning to meet your customers where they’re at (even if they’re at risk of leaving), you’ll be able to take on the role of a thoughtful tour guide who can guide them back to finding value and making the most of your product.