The Collins English Dictionary defines onboarding as:
The management of the early stages of a relationship between a business and a customer.
Making a good first impression in any relationship is hard – we all know how difficult it is to recover from a bad one.
When thinking about onboarding for your product, you need to ask yourself a few key questions:
- What might a customer be feeling the first time they try out our product?
- What do we want them to feel when they sign up?
- How quickly can we deliver the value promised on our marketing site?
When looking at our own product – the GoSquared platform – it’s changed considerably over the years. It’s evolved from a real-time web analytics dashboard into a complete customer communication platform. “What GoSquared can do for you” is many different things to many different people – it’s inherently a more complex relationship.
Moulding our onboarding to manage this new breadth of relationships isn’t easy and we’re by no means finished. It’s obvious that a one-size-fits-all approach no longer works.
This post is the first in a series where we share the lessons we’ve learned from developing our onboarding process.
Keeping the signup form short and sweet
To provide a tailored onboarding experience you need to know who is signing up and why. It’s tempting to ask lots of questions at this stage, but having a 25 point survey on your join form is a great way to reduce your on-site conversion to a minuscule fraction of its full potential.
Initially you have no idea what motivated somebody to sign up. Maybe they already love your product, maybe they don’t care, maybe they’re begrudgingly using it because their boss has made them research tools in the space. Whatever the reason, you can guarantee one simple truth: people are lazy.
So, how do you build a tailored onbaording experience with minimal input from your new users?
Clear and consistent Calls To Action (CTAs)
We have ‘Start free’ buttons on every page of our marketing site. Although they look the same, each button links to a different join form. This helps us infer which product/feature the user was interested in when they were motivated to hit the sign up button. Each join form is tailored with custom copy for the specific path each user has taken. We store a record of the join form they used as a property which will come in handy for tailoring the experience later.
To reduce the perceived effort for the user, we split our join form across two separate pages. On the first page we ask for the bare minimum needed to create a GoSquared account – email address and a password.
It might seem superfluous but we also ask for the user’s first name. The ability to address somebody by their first name is essential when trying to build a personal and meaningful relationship. If the user leaves your site at this stage, you’ve already got enough information to write a personalised email to entice them back.
Only ask the important questions
We have a second page of the join form where we ask for more information to help qualify leads (to prioritise sales outreach) and set up onboarding triggers – all with minimal input from the user.
Our customers are primarily businesses, but we don’t ask for company information – by this point the user has already given us their email address, which we have used to create a profile in People CRM. This automatically pulls in any social profiles associated with that user’s email address (LinkedIn bio, Twitter follower count, etc), along with information about the company they work at.
We also don’t ask for billing details upfront. Offering a free trial cuts out tedious form-filling, and we feel more honest when we ask for billing details later in the process. Only after we’ve successfully demonstrated the value in the product do we feel comfortable asking for credit card details.
To guarantee a tailored onboarding process, the one key question we ask directly is: “What is your true motivation for signing up?” New users have to complete the following sentence:
I’m most interested in GoSquared helping me…
We store the answer as a property in the user’s People profile and use it to prime the rest of the onboarding flow.
Now that we have a good idea of why someone has signed up, we can do a lot more during their trial to help them successfully use the platform.
Making it easy to get help
If you hadn’t noticed yet, we’ve been working on a huge new part of the GoSquared platform – Live Chat.
We’re building Live Chat with the same assumption that ‘people are lazy’ – the less effort a customer needs to start a conversation, the more likely they’ll have a conversation with you. If it’s easy for customers to talk to you, then it’s easy to gather their feedback, and ultimately build a better product for them.
With Live Chat, we’ve gone a step further and removed more effort for the user by pro-actively starting the conversation ourselves.
If a customer is wavering about whether to sign up or not then we want to be able to help lay any concerns to rest. So if a visitor has spent longer than 5 seconds on the join page, we automatically push them a simple message asking:
Is there anything preventing you from signing up right now?
No matter how slick snd streamlined you make your self service onboarding, for any customers sitting on the fence, there is nothing more effective than personally walking them through every step of the process via Live Chat.
What’s more, by asking this question, we also gather extensive feedback on how to improve the messaging, navigation and design of our marketing site, which feeds into our design process, and ultimately leads to increased on-site conversion.
Wait, there’s more!
This is just the first in a series of posts where we share what we’ve been learning about designing an onboarding flow that converts visitors into successful customers.
In part 2 we look at how we use the information we gathered in the signup process to tailor the onboarding flow with well timed, relevant emails that help make users more successful.
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