Leverage SaaS Onboarding for Customer Retention & Referrals

Article by | December 20, 2017 Marketing Strategy

Marketing doesn’t stop once a prospect becomes a customer. No matter what you call it — onboarding, implementation, roll-out — the goal after closing a sale is to educate new customers about your product’s value, get user buy-in, retain their business, and encourage them to grow their account over time. Research has shown the following:

The importance of recurring revenue through retaining customers is clear: higher retention results in higher profits and is less expensive than acquisition. Repeat customers spend more and are proven to help generate new leads. So why are most sales and marketing efforts focused exclusively on acquiring new customers? For SaaS companies, improving customer retention and account growth starts with the onboarding process.

Articulate the Onboarding Process

Even before a prospective customer makes the decision to work with you, a clearly articulated onboarding process is a competitive advantage. That’s because adoption is a costly, cumbersome undertaking. Before establishing a process foronboarding, craft user personas that account for their needs, goals, motivations, and the messages that will resonate with them. Showing that you can reduce the internal resources required to get the product up and running — or otherwise streamline the onboarding process — is a strong empathetic move. Demonstrate that you understand the problems of implementation and you’ve adapted your process to be easy and set users up for success. Then, make sure that sensibility manifests in both your website and sales and marketing materials so that prospects have a clear understanding of what it would be like to work with you.

One of our clients, XOi Technologies, has seen success precisely because they have the most well-articulated onboarding process of any of their competitors. Their Get Started page begins with an empathetic statement: “Deploying a new technology can seem difficult. We get it, we’ve seen others get it wrong. That’s why we’ve put ourselves in your shoes in order to plot out your steps toward success. From discovering more about our solution, to designing an onboarding process that makes adoption simple, we’ve made launching easy.”

The Get Started landing page then sends users into the three stages of implementation: discover, design, and launch. From there, they can easily discover the answers to their questions about how it works or contact the XOi team to sign up. Make sure to articulate timeframes, processes, and what buyers can expect through the process of onboarding on your website. List out the key steps, timeframe, and which team members will need to be involved to reassure the buyer that the process is effective, efficient, and well-thought out.

Remember that just because customers buy your software doesn’t mean they will adopt your product successfully. User onboarding is one of the most essential elements of any product launch and it needs to be continuously analyzed and optimized for opportunities to improve customer satisfaction and, therefore, retention.

Highlight Value Through Quick Wins

After a customer signs up for your product, the next milestone in their journey is crucial: their first success with your product. What you do in between acquisition and that first success is what will affect your customer retention rates, adoption success, and future account growth. An interactive, engaging onboarding process that clearly explains how to use your product, while highlighting the value for users, is key. Effective onboarding ensures that every new member possesses the understanding and skills to hit their objectives.

Onboarding should provide users with that “golden moment “where they realize the value of the product, its core features, and the value it will provide to them. Navigating multiple features or being introduced to too much at once can confuse or overwhelm the user, delaying that key moment. Interactions that educate and familiarize users with the core features of the product — whether that manifests across your website, platform, collateral material, email communications, or even conversations with customer success reps — should be helpful, easy-to-understand, and focus on your product’s UVP to help users realize quick wins.

Use Email to Support Onboarding

Onboarding isn’t just about education; it’s also an opportunity to build strong relationships with your customers and create a bond that will turn new customers into brand advocates, as well as grow the relationship. In SaaS onboarding, email marketing can drive engagement and referrals from existing customers. A strategic email plan can support onboarding education, turning new users into successful adopters and brand advocates.

Map user journeys through their initial interactions with your product and identify the major milestones and obstacles they are likely to hit. Optimize your marketing automation workflows to ensure emails are delivered at the right time throughout the onboarding process. Keep the message clear and include a strong call-to-action focused on getting the user to do one specific thing with your product. If your product has multiple tiers or add-ons, create marketing messages targeted at existing clients that highlight the advantages of upgrading.

From there, continue to A/B test what’s working and what needs improvement. Do customers prefer to communicate over chat or email? Do they want step-by-step instructions or a self-guided process? Do you see better adoption rates after sharing certain training materials or cheat sheets? Continue to refine your onboarding process to determine what works best for your product and how you can continue to improve adoption, retention, and advocacy.

Strong customer relationships begin with user’s first interaction with you and continue throughout your engagement with them, so it’s important not to neglect existing customers in favor of new ones. Higher customer retention, supported by marketing communications, means higher profits, more referrals, and less spent on acquisition. If you want some help thinking through how you can prioritize recurring revenue in your marketing strategy, let us know — we’d be happy to help.

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