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User Onboarding That Improves Customer Success, Avoids Churn

Written by Bill Cushard

Published on March 31, 2016

On Tuesday, March 29, we hosted a webinar with special guest Samuel Hulick, a user onboarding expert. The goal of the webinar was to expose the customer education and customer success communities to a different way to think about user onboarding. This perspective considers a customer and product-centric view of helping customers get off on the right foot using your product. And the basis for this perspective is demonstrated very well on one of Samuel's slides:

People don't sign up to learn - they sign up to accomplish something.

With that in mind, Hulick walked us through a typical customer lifecycle, using a model developed by Dave McClure called the Five Steps to Success. These are the steps:

  • Acquisition
  • Activation
  • Retention
  • Referral
  • Revenue

In the webinar, Hulick focused on the two steps most relevant to those of us who want to increase adoption and avoid churn: Activation and Retention.

Using the Product to Learn the Product

One strategy for increasing adoption and avoiding churn is to use the product to introduce the product, right from the very beginning. Here is basically what Hulick means by that. When a new user logs in to your product for the first time, make sure they don't log in and then see an empty space or that there is nothing there. Customers should instead see, when they log in, a particular use of the product that they can use to both learn the product and actually use the product. In the case of a task management product, a user would log in a see a project of tasks that a new customer would have to complete in the app in order to complete the project.

Learning and doing. 

You have to watch the webinar to appreciate what Hulick is talking about. It is important.

What Motivates Your Users to Do the Job They Do With Your Product

A second strategy, and one of the key lessons of the webinar I found most useful, is to figure out the driving force of your customers. In other words, what motivates your customers to use your product. Why did they sign up and what do they expect to accomplish or improve by using your product? When you can answer these questions, you can then help your customers achieve those specific things during the onboarding process. 

Remember, as Hulick describes it:

People don't buy your product, they buy a better version of themselves.

Another way to say that is that user onboarding is about more than getting users up-to-speed. It is about the overall product experience and, perhaps more accurately, is about the overall life experience. The goal of user onboarding is ultimately about helping customers do something for themselves better or otherwise to become a fireball-throwing version of themselves. 

See below the Mario Brothers design video that Hulick referenced in the webinar. It was fun (and educational) to watch. 

If you want to learn more about Samuel Hulick and UserOnboard, I recommend visiting User Onboard, and I especially recommend getting Hulick's eBook, The Elements of User Onboarding.

If you are responsible for onboarding your customers, please check out the webinar

Watch Webinar