Getting Started with Product-led Onboarding – Don’t Miss Out!

Are you one of those that underestimated product-led growth?

If you aren’t, congratulations, you are a business genius. But if you are, so did I. And believe me, it’s not the brightest idea to sleep on PLG.

When I first heard about it from my colleagues, I went, “yeah, right. as if all products have the potential to do that.”

product-led onboarding meme

My first reaction to PLG that I very much regret now 😔

Then I stumbled upon a book called Product-Led Onboarding by Ramli John, written with Wes Bush.

Let me just say this once: I was wrong.

I read the entire book in one sitting and when I realized how big of a game-changer product-led onboarding was, this time I said to myself, “Everyone needs to know“.

So today, I am spreading the word on product-led onboarding by going over:

  • What the relationship between product-led growth and product-led onboarding really is,
  • What product-led onboarding is,
  • Some cool examples of good practices of product-led onboarding, and
  • How YOU can start with product-led onboarding as I touch upon the crucial parts of Ramli John’s book

Let’s start with the burning question we need to answer before we go:

What is the relation between Product-led Growth and User Onboarding, really?

the relation between product-led growth and user onboarding

To understand the relation between product-led growth and user onboarding, we should first know what product-led growth is.

Product-led growth is a business strategy to accelerate growth by creating a growth strategy revolving around a given product, which will be the most important thing for sales, marketing, and customer success teams with even higher priority than their respective primal tasks.

This strategy advocates that customer acquisition and retention is best achieved this way.

So, if we were to explain it in even simpler terms, product-led growth is putting your product in the core of your company and putting the customer in the core of your product.

Then, where do we put user onboarding in this schema?

Ramli John describes user onboarding as the crux of the product-led strategy in his book. And I can’t think of a better way of describing it.

Although user onboarding has been overlooked for decades, we are now coming to the realization that a good user onboarding process is actually the very best thing you can do for growth.

How come?

John further explains the three reasons why this is so.

First of all, user onboarding is a natural retention lever. Retention is essentially about customers coming back. And how can you make sure they will in fact come back?

By leaving a good impression. How are you gonna do that? With user onboarding.

Secondly, user onboarding is a revenue multiplier. When your customers have a great customer journey thanks to your product-led onboarding and keep finding value in your product, what happens?

You retain customers. Meaning you automatically multiply your revenue.

Lastly, an effective onboarding process means lower customers acquisition costs. the main goal of user onboarding is always to create good customer experiences.

And if your onboarding experiences are good enough, you just might get lifelong customers doing your marketing for you.

Now I bet we are all on the same page about PLG and user onboarding being hyperconnected to each other. Now let’s move over to the crux of it.

What is Product-led Onboarding?

what is product-led onboarding

Product-led onboarding is a type of user onboarding strategy similar to sales-led onboarding or hybrid onboarding that has both product-led and sales-led features in it. The main difference between the other types and product-led onboarding is that product-led onboarding makes use of a product-centered onboarding experience. Ramli John recommends this type of onboarding to businesses hoping to make revenue off of a big number of buyers making small purchases rather than a number of enterprise-level buyers.

Of course, this explanation brings along further questions like how to know what type of approach to onboarding you should prefer, or what companies use which strategies for effective onboarding.

Well, I say take a look at the book. You won’t be disappointed.

3 Examples of Great Product-led Onboarding Strategies

A product-led onboarding strategy might not be the easiest thing to visualize.

Don’t worry though, I can help with that. Among the industry leaders of today’s SaaS, there are plenty with a top-notch product-led user onboarding experience.

Here are three of the best product-led onboarding strategies out there. 

1- Grammarly

Grammarly is one of the most popular and user-friendly tools out there, but its user onboarding is nothing to be slept on.

Right after the initial signup process, Grammarly directs users to a demo environment where they can have their first product experience on a demo text.

It all starts with a tour modal where users can skip the tour if they want to, but they prefer to take the tour; that’s when the real onboarding starts.

grammarly product-led onboarding

Grammarly utilizes hotspots, tooltips, and even the demo text to onboard users within the product, using the product itself.

grammarly product-led user onboarding

This way, users don’t need to talk to sales or go through a sales-led onboarding while also getting the chance to have ‘aha’ moments by themselves.

2- Trello

The product-led onboarding experience is not reserved for the initial onboarding alone.

To make sure users find value in your product, you have to keep giving. User onboarding is a cyclic experience, after all.

Trello does a beautiful job introducing its new sidebar with a 4-step tour of the new UI, starting first with an announcement modal letting users know of the update.

Trello product-led onboarding

After users click on “show me,” a quick tour on the current screen starts, explaining the changes with the new update.

Trello product-led user onboarding

Lastly, another modal is prompted to the users, asking whether they would like to switch to the updated version or keep using the old interface.

Trello product-led user onboarding example

Trello not only keeps the user onboarding product-led but by asking the users’ opinion, it also makes the experience directly about the users.

And that’s all about having a product-led mindset.

3- Ghostwriter.ai

Although Ghostwriter.ai is a less popular tool compared to the other two examples, their understanding of a good product-led onboarding strategy at You Are My Guide company makes the tool’s product engagement level up.

The initial onboarding with Ghostwriter.ai requires quite some explaining, but using product-led onboarding, they make the product a priority for the users and users a priority for the product.

What happens is the onboarding happens at different parts of the tool. For example, this one here is the curator tool onboarding:

ghostwriter.ai product-led onboarding

Without the need for a sales demo, users learn the tool in 8 simple steps.

ghostwriter.ai product-led user onboarding

Then it is time for a different part of the tool, again with no demo from the sales.

ghostwriter.ai product-led user onboarding example

So, in the end, rather than doing a sales-led onboarding demo that would end up being pretty forgettable for the users, Ghostwriter.ai uses contextual onboarding.

Mind you, that’s how you engage better with users, therefore have a good onboarding experience without a sales demo, thus make them fall in love with your product and consequently be product-led. 

Wanna know more about how Ghostwriter.ai created their user onboarding flow? Check out their success story right here 👈

Ready to Master Product-led Onboarding?

So, now you know.

That Product-led onboarding can actually be a retention driver, a revenue multiplier, and help you lower acquisition costs. And that such an onboarding flow is pretty doable, looking at the examples.

But how to actually do such a doable thing?

Remember, what brought me to writing this article was Product-Led Growth by Ramli John. Of course, what you’ll do for the perfect product-led onboarding is to follow his advice.

Now I could have summarized the book for you but that wouldn’t be the same. Instead, let me give you 3 of his advice from the book that I took to heart.

👉 User onboarding is not an exercise in helping users try your product, but rather how your
product can make your users successful.

The reason I loved this one was that it is the very obvious truth of user onboarding we all should be more aware of. Users simply don’t care how cool your product is; they care about what that tool can do for them.

And they have every right to feel that way.

👉 User onboarding is a cyclical process where users experience an increase in value over time as they perceive, realize, and adopt advanced capabilities or other use cases of your product.

Another thing to always remember: onboarding does not have an end, contrary to popular belief.

Of course, for practical reasons, there might be an end to your initial onboarding flow, your new update onboarding flow, or any other flow. But doesn’t that mean there are several onboarding flows that keep coming?

Give it some thought, people.

👉 If you are going to be successful in onboarding new users, you need to plant the seed of
future value at the first touchpoint.

Where does user onboarding really start?

It is hard to pinpoint the exact time, just like the end of a user onboarding. And that is a good reason to start making every possible first touchpoint product-led.

Because if we can’t show the value of the value in the product from the very start, how can we guarantee that they will see the next step in the customers’ journey?

That’s how you get product-led.

Now if you think these takeaways were beneficial, you should see Ramli John’s brainchild. 

Let me tell you a bit about the EUREKA framework.

It is a six-step methodology that draws on fields of growth marketing, UX design, customer psychology, and copywriting to bring them all together for the ultimate product-led onboarding experience.

And the steps are:

1- Establish an onboarding team

The place of onboarding is severely underestimated, plus it is hard to own the onboarding experience between the sales and the product teams. So start by getting a team dedicated to onboarding.

2- Understand the users’ desired outcome

You can’t create the ultimate onboarding without knowing your users’ ultimate goal with your product. So take your time to figure that out, then build the onboarding experience around it.

3- Refine your onboarding success milestones

Not knowing what success is in an onboarding context is a big problem in SaaS and a great contribution to onboarding illiteracy.

So, you want to create milestones in your onboarding flow, all of which will separately and cumulatively define customer and user success.

4- Evaluate the new users’ journey

Once the onboarding journey starts to shape up, you want to see how it looks and works. This step is also the perfect time to get rid of extra steps and make sure users get to the product value the quickest way possible.

5- Keep new users engaged

Make sure your onboarding is engaging enough for users by utilizing different UX patterns like checklists, product tours, and onboarding emails. Through product engagement, help them get rid of old habits.

Remind them that this is not just a product but a new way of doing things that will lead them to success first and foremost.

6- Apply the changes and repeat

Though we are talking about an “ultimate onboarding”, it doesn’t mean it can be flawless.

It can be only the best to date.

And to keep it that way, you need to apply changes and repeat the process of enhancing your onboarding along the way.

User onboarding is continuous, after all.

Conclusion

Product-led growth is not a seasonal trend. In fact, it’s been around for a while now and it does not look like it’ll be going out of fashion soon.

As one of the core drivers of product-led growth, product-led onboarding is the best investment you can do for your product. It is no small undertaking, but it is worth every penny and minute.

Moreover, there is a book out there that is literally the bible of product-led onboarding.

So I say go get Ramli John’s book Product-Led Onboarding and be ready to refer to it on your journey to perfect your user journey.

We’re here to help. 🚀


Frequently Asked Questions:


What is the product-led approach?

The product-led approach is a business growth method that revolves around making your product be the top priority for your business and users the top priority for your product.


What is the customer onboarding process?

Customer onboarding is a process that starts at the very first touchpoint with the customer and is essentially designed to help users see the value in using your product. 


product-led user onboarding

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Serra Alban

Serra is a Creative Content Writer of UserGuiding specialized in user onboarding and UX design. When she is not writing you can find her playing video games or throwing random movie trivia at uninterested people.

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