A Blueprint for New User Onboarding on the Web

Over the last 6 months, we’ve spoken to close to 100 software companies about how their new user onboarding process works. These companies covered the entire spectrum – from massive enterprise software firms to consumer internet startups. The goal of this post is to lay out what we learned about the process of onboarding (as compared to the product side), with a particular focus on the emails that we consistently saw companies sending that drove real impact.

Our hope is that you can use the list of emails below as a thought-starter (and then tinker with days / triggers / etc based on your application). Here goes:

Day 1

The Welcome Email

  • Trigger: Someone Signs Up
  • What: This is probably obvious – but make sure people know what to do next, and try to establish a relationship with them.

Day 3

The Come Back Email

  • Trigger: The New Sign-up hasn’t returned
  • What: Not everyone hits the ground running immediately. The goal of this email is to pull back in customers who signed up but didn’t actually get started.  For us, this email is short and personal, but also contains a simple statement of how we think our solution can add value. Many of the companies we talked to sent 2-3 of these emails over the first couple of weeks if users still hadn’t come back.

The Offer to Help Email

  • Trigger: The New Sign-up has returned, but hasn’t done a key action that’s part of getting started.
  • What: For most companies we talked to, there are a few things that users need to do before they can really get value out of your app. This might be adding data, uploading a profile picture, connecting with others, bidding on a job, etc. The goal is catch these issues before the user gives up entirely.

Days 3-60

The Next Step Emails

  • Trigger: Users are active but there are still features they haven’t used, setup they haven’t completed, etc
  • What: The goal is to give users a next step to take with your software that is based directly on something they haven’t done, while outlining the reasons they want to do it. By making this pathway (and the value) both clear and personal, your chance of getting them to do it is much higher – and ultimately it helps both of you out.

Day 45

The Feedback Email

  • Trigger: User signed up but never converted to an active or paying user
  • What: The stated goal of this email is to see if you can learn anything from users who didn’t see value in your service by asking them for feedback and giving them something in return.  The unstated and less obvious goal is to re-engage users and get them using your product again. Many of the companies we talked to found that users who might not have been ready initially responded to this follow-up email by re-engaging and ultimately becoming loyal users.

 

Based on these conversations, two high level lessons that carried through all of our conversations about onboarding process:

  • Always give users a clear next step. Letting users know what they can do next to get more value from your software gives them a clear and easy path forward.
  • The perfect can be the enemy of the good. Many of the companies we talked to had put a lot of effort into talking about how to do this, but hadn’t gotten around to sending a single email.

Looking to get started with improving your onboarding process? Try out Klaviyo to set up automated emails and to measure the impact.

 

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  • Although, not particularly about onboarding, I’d mention that at the 6 and 12 month marks (timing varies), I’d send another email as well. One regarding new updates/feature enhancements, and one about a potential discount on a new add-on or for a first sign-up.

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