Whether you are a SaaS company needing to register new users effectively, or anyone with a registration page on your website, effective communication with those who are just being introduced to your product/brand for the first time is key.

  1. How much automation is too much?
  2. Onboarding differences for freemium vs paid plans?
  3. Whether or not to require email verification?
  4. Why use trigger-based emails vs time-based emails?
  5. How to use third-party data enrichment tools effectively in the onboarding process?

Wes Bush is best known for challenging the traditional way of growing a SaaS business. He has been featured in Forbes, the Huffington Post, and has lectured at Canada’s top Polytechnic college. He is currently the founder and president of Product-Led Institute.

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Show Notes:

When it comes to onboarding, what is more important than marketing automation?

Automation can help the onboarding process in many ways. For one, it can be used to make the onboarding process more personal by tailoring the messaging and experience to the specific customer.

If your product can speak for itself, it will onboard customers much of the way for you.

Here are some things to remember with onboarding:

  • People want to try products before they buy them, let them test it and get sold by it.
  • You can achieve this without talking to anybody in sales.
  • Onboarding is a great bumper. When bowling, we all want a strike. Automation helps that happen but it doesn’t actually get you the strike.
  • Automation also services people quickly.
  • Video can be a great way to enhance your onboarding flow.
  • Use automation to make the onboarding process more personal.
  • CEO sometimes gets an automation trigger when a new client signs. They can then appear in a meeting and talk to the new customer.
  • Personalizing the process is a great service to your client.

Should you make users verify their email before a free trial?

Wes: Email verification has its pro’s and con’s. The engineering side of things usually wants a lot of data — and they want to make sure it’s clean. From the customer’s standpoint, email verifications usually leads to 20-30% of them not moving through the process. Of course we all want clean data, but sometimes leadership will try to get too much data upfront, instead of using something like a 3rd party data enrichment tool. Clearbit, for example, is a great tool for enrichment but can be expensive. While costly, options like this will often be worth it compared to the cost of inaction by potential customers and should be seen as a necessary investment.

  • Email verification usually leads to 20-30% of customers do not move through the process
  • There’s no real need to verify their email, it usually only works to lose customers
  • The engineering side usually wants the data. They want to make sure the data is clean
  • Break down what you actually need to sign up for the product
    • Once you get their email, you can find a ton of data
    • Sometimes sales lead teams want too much data upfront
    • Use a 3rd party enrichment tool for extra information rather than asking it from the customer
  • Clearbit is a great tool for enrichment but it can be expensive
  • The cost of inaction will likely be higher than the cost of these tools
  • There’s really no reason to not invest in enrichment tools

Why trigger-based emails vs time-based emails?

Wes: Trigger-based emails are effective because they get in front of people within a specific window of time that’s related to an action the customer has taken. This type of messaging will feel relevant, timely, and personal compared to the more clunky time-based email strategy. Triggered emails have the ability to catch people where they are in the customer journey and help move them through the process, whereas time-based emails cause people to tune them out from the constant or irrelevant messaging.

  • You NEED to have trigger based emails
  • Time-based emails don’t work, eventually, people tune it out
  • It’s important to catch people where they are and help them to the next point in the journey

You mentioned the two bumpers, this reminds me of a struggle most saas founders with a free trial go through between product/engineering – do you get less info from the user upfront, then let them play around in the dashboard? OR – do you try and get as much info as possible prior to letting them experience the product?

Wes: It’s extremely important that the perceived value of the product matches the actual value. Depending on where a potential customer is in the journey, they may see more or less of the full product capabilities. You can offer free trials to give them a taste of the product and show them how to do a few specific things that will demonstrate the value of the product and shows the full paid product is worth it. If there’s a large gap between the perceived value and the actual value, the fewer clients you will bring on board.

  • Where they are at in the journey is most important
  • Perceived value must match Actual value
    • The larger the gap between the two the harder it is to bring a client to paid services
  • Free trials are meant to show people how to do one or two specific things so they can see the value  
  • FOr paying customer, the goal is to show them the value of the entire product.

Finally, we discuss the onboarding stack – what tools you should use to create this custom onboarding experience?

Wes: There are several tools that can be used to build an onboarding stack. Zendesk is a powerful integration tool to keep everything in one place. For email platforms, they should also have product analytics in place because it makes it easier to see what’s working and what isn’t.

Many of the tools you choose will depend on your budget. In the beginning, focus on affordable tools that you can leverage to get your stack working and maximize all the value you can get from your current resources before expanding your stack.

Additional recommended resources are User.io, Akuse, Mixpanel.

  • Zendesk integration is really powerful to keep everything in one place
  • The email platforms I use are the easiest to use
    • They should also have product analytics in place because it makes it easier to see what’s working and what isn’t
  • User.io Is a very powerful resource
  • But it really depends on what your price point is
  • Focus on the tools that are affordable.
    • Akuse (accuse?) is a great and affordable tool
  • Mixpanel is a great tool for analytics even their free version is powerful
  • For those who are just getting started just focus on what you have. Try to maximize the value you are getting from what you have before expanding your stack


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