User Onboarding

PLG Mythbusters: Debunking Three Common Myths About User Onboarding

product-led-ideas
Get access to all our product-led growth courses and private community of growth experts.
Learn More
About
Transcript
Feedback

User onboarding - some consider it as a quick product tour, a popup, along with a few emails aimed at new users.

Others view it as just teaching new users how to use a product.

Many believe it’s not required at all, and users should be free to explore the product themselves.

That’s the problem with this term. It has vague and varying definitions – even to people in the same company. How are you supposed to have great user onboarding if your team isn't on the same page about it?

In this talk, I’m going to debunk three common myths about user onboarding.

In the end, I’ll share with you our definition of user onboarding at ProductLed. My goal is to help give you a clearer understanding of what user onboarding is and what it isn't.

Ramli John:
User onboarding. Some consider it as a quick product tour, a pop-up along with a few emails aimed at new users. Others view it as teaching users how to use your product. Many believe it's not even required at all, and users should just be free to explore your product themselves.

Ramli John:
That's a problem with this term. It's vague and has varying definitions, and even people within the same company have different definitions. How are you supposed to have a great user onboarding if your team isn't even on the same page?

Ramli John:
My name is Ramli John, Managing Director here at ProductLed. In this video, I'm going to debunk three common myths about user onboarding. And at the end, I'll share with you our definition of user onboarding here at ProductLed.

Ramli John:
Before we get started, I put together this free one-page ProductLed onboarding checklist to make sure that your onboarding is on point. You can use it whether you're redesigning your onboarding or are checking to make sure that your current onboarding is really optimized to turn more of your users into customers. You can download it for free at productled.com/checklist.

Ramli John:
Enough about this. Let's jump in in our first myth.

Ramli John:
Myth Number One: The goal of user onboarding is for someone to experience that first "aha" moment.

Ramli John:
You can't bring up user onboarding without bringing up the term "aha" moment. It's this magical moment for new users when the clouds open up and a realization hits them like a gorgeous ray of sunshine from the heavens. They say, "I now understand what your product does." All of a sudden, everything just clicks. "Aha" moment is the Holy Grail of user onboarding, right?

Ramli John:
If you think that first "aha" moment happens after users sign up for your product, then it usually means that you've lost a lot of people already because the majority of your users never actually make it that far. Now these "aha" moments start at the very first touchpoint. These touchpoints are moments when your users interact with your brand and often the first touchpoint occurs outside of your website. Maybe it's watching a video dropbox in action and saying, "Wait one second. I drag one of my files into this folder, and it automatically appears in all of my devices?" Or seeing a social ad from Netflix and saying, "Hold on, I can watch any movies for one flat fee every month, and I don't even have to go to the video store or deal with late fees." Or hearing from a friend how one password works and saying, "So you're telling me I can have fancy, super secure passwords with those fancy symbols, and I don't even have to remember any of them."

Ramli John:
A successful first touchpoint helps people visualize your product in the context of their own situation. You need to be guiding users through a series of "aha" moments before, during, and after user signs up for your product and with each "aha" moment, users receive increasing value from your product in a series of steps. They jump to a higher value as they perceive and experience your product capabilities.

Ramli John:
Here's what an "aha" journey might look like. Now, while surfing for your website, you can say, "Aha, I understand how this product can help me." Once they sign up, you can say, "Aha, I've tried the product out the first time, and it's actually useful." After you've used a product several times, you can say, "Aha, I've adopted this product into my workflow, and it's saving me a ton of time and money." Finally, once they start telling others about it, they can say, "Aha, I've invited my colleagues, and we're working more efficiently together." So the user journey is not about driving users to a singular "aha" moment, but guiding them through a series of "aha" moments.

Ramli John:
Now this implies that user onboarding experience actually starts before users even sign up for your product which leads to the second user onboarding myth.

Ramli John:
Myth Number Two: User onboarding starts after a user signs up for my product.

Ramli John:
When Dave McClure came up with the Pirate Metrics framework, it provided an easy way to categorize the user journey in five steps: acquisition, activation, retention, revenue and referral, or AARRR for short. Like a pirate. Pirate Metrics. Get it?

Ramli John:
In this framework, the first touchpoints with a user are part of the acquisition steps. This is when marketing or sales teams work to increase awareness, traffic, and signups for your product. It's also when your users form their first impression. When using this framework, many assume that user onboarding fits into the activation step when users interact with your product for the first time. From here, it's usually the customer success team's job to guide users through the value of the product.

Ramli John:
The problem with this definition is that it dismisses the critical role the acquisition step plays in user onboarding. For instance, if your product offers video hosting, but people sign up thinking that it's a video marketing agency because of your landing pages, they're doomed from the start. There's no product or [inaudible 00:05:07] message or other onboarding tactics that can save that.

Ramli John:
The acquisition step is when you shape the perceived value of your product and the positioning of your offering. If you set unattainable or confusing expectations during the acquisition step, good luck successfully onboarding new users. If you're going to be successful in user onboarding, you need to plant the seed of future value at the very first touchpoint, whether that's in a Facebook ad, a referral from a friend, an invite email from a colleague, or the search result page. By screening out people who shouldn't be signing up for your product early on, you'll be able to focus more of your time and resources providing incredible experiences for people who should be using it.

Ramli John:
So going back to the Pirate Metrics framework, we can now assess that user onboarding crosses over both acquisition and activation steps. The question is when does user onboarding end which leads us to the third myth.

Ramli John:
Myth Number Three: User onboarding ends after a user becomes a paying customer.

Ramli John:
Another common misconception is that user onboarding ends the moment that they become a paying customer, right? The problem with this notion is users could be paying for your product, even though they're not getting any value from it at all. How is that possible? Now think about any products or services that you're currently paying for right now now that you're probably not using or getting any value. This could be a gym membership you sign up for in January, thanks to new year's resolution, or that could be that Disney+ subscription you've already forgotten about because you've finished watching your favorite Disney classic or a Star Wars movie.

Ramli John:
Jonathan Kim, founder of Appcues, warns that paying users are not the same as successfully onboarded users. He said, "Because our price point is relatively low, people would hit the end of the 14-day trial period and just buy the product, with the intention of testing it out later. Unfortunately, a lot of people apparently got distracted, didn't circle back to fully test out the product, and churned."

Ramli John:
The lesson here has to be careful. Don't assume a paying customer equates to a happy customer. So when does user onboarding end if it's not when users become paying customers? Some argue, me included, that user onboarding never actually ends. As new users complete the initial onboarding and become regular users, your onboarding team can and should help them adopt new capabilities and use cases of your product. For now, let's focus on the initial onboarding experience for new users. When does that initial onboarding experience end?

Ramli John:
To answer this, let's take a look at Slack, a channel-based messaging platform that helps teams work together more efficiently. Chances are, you probably use this for work or communities that you're part of. How do you think Slack defines a successfully onboarded user or team?

Ramli John:
Think about it for a second. You might assume that it's the first time someone signs up and sends a message. Others might expect it's when maybe it's 10 people have joined the same Slack channel, or perhaps it's more complicated than that, when 11 people have joined the same channel and sent 100 messages.

Ramli John:
Well, let me share with you what Slack CEO and Co-Founder, Stewart Butterfield, defines as a successfully onboarded team. He said in an interview that, "Based on the experience of which companies have stuck with us and which didn't, after any team has exchanged 2,000 messages, 93% of those customers are still using Slack today." For Butterfield, a team is not successfully onboarded until they've sent not 1, not 10, but 2000 messages. It's at this threshold where they found that teams continue using Slack going forward.

Ramli John:
Of course, acquiring new paying customers is fantastic. It's a great feeling, but you can't build a successful business on one-off customers. They need to keep coming back. That's because it costs up to five times more to acquire new customers than to retain them.

Ramli John:
This is why the end-goal views on onboarding is to not only convert users into paying customers, but to make sure that they stick around for a long time, the initial user onboarding experience and when you have a signal that users are gaining meaningful value from your product and is likely to continue using it forward.

Ramli John:
So if we go back to the Pirate Metrics framework, user onboarding bridges the gap across acquisition and activation step and leads into retention step which continues on to revenue and referral.

Ramli John:
Now that we've busted three myths about user onboarding, let me share with you our definition of user onboarding here at ProductLed. User onboarding is the process that takes people from perceiving, experiencing, and adopting the value of a product to improve their lives.

Ramli John:
There are three important implications of this definition.

Ramli John:
The first implication of this definition is that the goal of entire the onboarding experience is to help users improve their lives. It sounds so simple, but it's actually very important to view onboarding not as an exercise in teaching users about your product, but rather how it makes them successful. For that reason, onboarding shouldn't be defined by how many features users have adopted. Instead, it should be defined by how much your users' lives have improved with your product.

Ramli John:
For example, people consume Netflix not because they enjoy streaming video. They watch it because it relaxes them after a long day at the office or at work. People adopt Slack not because they need another messaging tool. I mean, we already have a ton of that. It's because it helps them share knowledge, resources, and information effectively within a team all while cutting back on email. And similarly, people don't use OkCupid because they enjoy completing dating profiles. It's because they want to connect with new people that they'll hopefully date or marry someday.

Ramli John:
So think about it. How are you helping enhance your users' lives with your product? You're helping them relax like Netflix, communicate within teams like Slack or connect with future lovers like OKCupid. Whatever that is, user onboarding is just a means to help users improve their lives.

Ramli John:
The second implication is for users to be successfully onboarded to your product, they have to achieve three key milestones.

Ramli John:
First, they have to achieve what we call the moment of value perception. This is the moment when users first visualize your product in the context of their situation. For the initial onboarding of new users, this usually occurs before they sign up for your product, whether it's they've checked out a video or your landing pages or your ads. For Slack, it could be when users read through their website and realize, "Aha, I understand how this program can help my team communicate and share information more efficiently than email or other messaging tools."

Ramli John:
Second is the moment of value realization. This is when users first experience the value of product, and with Slack, it could be when two people from the same team join a channel and message each other.

Ramli John:
The third is the moment of value adoption. This is the moment that users start using your product regularly and integrate it into their life or workflow. At Slack, as we've seen earlier, it's when team exchanges at least 2000 messages because those teams are 93% more likely to still be using the platform today.

Ramli John:
Now some would argue that user onboarding is only about helping users experience the value of your product, and that's it. I'd argue that this is often not enough. Experiencing the value of product once does not mean your users will continue using a product. Think about it for a second. Let's say you want to start running in the morning everyday, so you can stay fit, feel healthy, and get more energy to start off your day. The first morning you run and you experience a runner's high, that brief, deeply relaxing state of euphoria. But soon after, your body is sore, and you feel like giving up. As you run more often, it gets easier, and now it's become a habit.

Ramli John:
The lesson here is that doing something once is not enough to build a habit. The first time you do it, you might decide that it's not for you. Maybe it's too hard, or your body's too sore. It's not even worth it. You're not getting that energy that you were looking for. But if you do the behavior enough or the activity enough times, it becomes easier and becomes natural to you without any prompt or reminder. Thus, habits are formed through repetition.

Ramli John:
Similarly, one of the big goals of user onboarding is helping users let go all the ways that they did things so that they can embrace new habits with your product. Habit-forming user onboarding experiences require users to experience the value of your product more than once. Once your users have used your product enough times, they're more likely to continue using going forward. This is the reason why for Slack, Butterfield and his team define a successfully onboarded team at 2000 messages because those teams are more likely to stick around, about 93% more likely to stick around and continue using Slack today.

Ramli John:
The third implication is that user onboarding is a process. It's a series of actions that uses both tools and people to provide new users the knowledge, skills, and behavior effectively interact with your product. An important distinction here is that user onboarding is not a linear process. We already mentioned this earlier. It's a cyclical process. It never actually ends. After the initial onboarding experience for new users, they can add should go to a new cycle of perceiving, realizing, and adopting additional features, capabilities, or use cases of your product.

Ramli John:
Much like a flywheel, gaining momentum to start requires a huge effort. You'll have to overcome friction and help users let go of old habits and move past anxiety with change, but once your users complete each cycle of perceiving, experiencing, and adopting new features or capabilities do they achieve an increasing level of value over time from your product.

Ramli John:
Let me give you an example of using Intercom, a messaging platform that allows businesses to communicate with prospective and existing customers online.

Ramli John:
Here's what a user onboarding journey can look like for them.

Ramli John:
That first initial onboarding cycle helps companies install the live chat software on their website. This speeds up their acquisition time, as they can respond to queries from prospects in real time as they're surfing through their pages.

Ramli John:
The second level is once users have started regularly using Intercom's live chat feature, then onboarding team can help users add smart logic which directs conversations to relevant help articles or blog posts.

Ramli John:
The third level helps users automate conversation using chatbots. With this example, the Intercom onboarding team assist users by giving them more value over time. They're helping them save time and potentially gaining more revenue faster. What's even more important is that they're encouraging you just to upgrade their pricing tier from 39 to $499 per month.

Ramli John:
As you can see, onboarding customers to additional capabilities and use cases of your product is critical for revenue expansion and increasing the average revenue per user. But first, you have to help new users complete the initial onboarding experience.

Ramli John:
Well hopefully, this video has helped give you a clear understanding of what user onboarding is. If you're going to be successful in onboarding new users, you need to plant that seed of feature value from the very first touchpoint which often happens outside of your website. From there, you need to help them perceive, experience, and adopt the value of product. And the initial user onboarding experience ends when you have a signal that your user is getting meaningful value from your product and is likely to continue using it forward.

Ramli John:
If you know any other myths about user onboarding, I'd love to hear them. Comment them down below, and if you found this valuable, share it with your colleagues.

Ramli John:
Before you go, we put together a free one-page product onboarding checklist. You can get this for free at productled.com/checklist. You can use it to take stock of your current onboarding experience or run all of your new designs past it before unleashing it to the world. Like I said, go get it for free at productled.com/checklist.

Ramli John:
Thank you for watching this video. That's it for now. Until the next one, this is Ramli John from ProductLed. Goodbye.

Contact Us

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Gretchen Duhaime
Ramli John
Managing Director at ProductLed
Ramli helps product-led companies optimize their user onboarding experiences and convert more trial users into life long customers. He is also the host of the Product-Led Podcast.