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From Time-Based to Product Activity-Based: How Inflection Built Personalized and Product-led Onboarding

Usha Vadapalli
August 23, 2023

The significance of user onboarding has reached new heights in the product-led growth (PLG) era. As B2B SaaS companies grapple for sustainable growth and heightened customer engagement, the shift towards building better product onboarding experiences has become not just a choice, but a strategic imperative.

Like most early-stage startups, we built  an onboarding experience from scratch with limited feedback while our product is still evolving. Being the only B2B marketing automation tool that’s built for product-led growth companies, our initial goal with the onboarding was to provide comprehensive education about the product and its use cases for any B2B SaaS business - PLG or not.

However, as we gained insights and user engagement data, a realization struck – the one-size-fits-all approach wasn't cutting it.

In this article, we will take you through our journey of switching from a time-based to product activity-based onboarding approach at Inflection.io.

Time-based onboarding

Our initial stint with time-based onboarding was a common (read: age-old) practice that aimed to familiarize users with our product by spacing out training and information over a predefined period.

This approach aimed to prevent users from feeling overwhelmed by too much information and features right at the beginning. It was based on the notion that gradually exposing users to different aspects of the product would lead to better retention and engagement.

No prize for guessing, it didn’t yield desired results.

Why did we switch?

The time-based approach to onboarding is just not going to cut it. And here's why:

  • Diverse user base: Our users had different levels of experience, expertise, and familiarity with marketing automation. And, some of them are pure PLG whereas others are not.

    Trying to cram the same info down everyone's throat at the same pace obviously didn’t help.
  • Missed opportunities: A pre-set schedule in the fast-paced tech world might cost in terms of opportunity. We offer a free trial to select prospects, and getting them to their first aha moment is critical in winning their business.

    When you are not showing value quickly, you are risking an opportunity.
  • Personalization: Not the Hi <first.name>, but the personalization that is relevant to the users. Users need a tailored journey that speaks to their specific needs and a generic dump of resources is not helping them adopt and engage with our product.  

    It didn’t take us very long to realize that it’s high time to shift gears and embrace a more responsive, tailored, and effective approach – product activity-based onboarding.

Product activity-based onboarding

Naturally, we wanted to build a better onboarding experience.

Baby steps

The first thing we did was to identify product actions that drove customers to their aha moment.

Inflection is a B2B SaaS marketing automation platform built for product-led companies and use cases. For new users to find value through Inflection, they need to connect product data via data warehouses like Snowflake or CDPs like Segment and CRMs like Salesforce with our system. This allows them to build journeys using Inflection that personalizes communication based on their user’s product activity, CRM, and marketing activity data.

This is what our onboarding journey looks like after sending the welcome email.

Based on which source our customers are using, they receive instructions on how to integrate with that platform.

We also pre-set the exit criteria for that nested journey to make sure the customer does NOT receive integration instructions if they have already made that connection.

👉 PS: Inflection is the only B2B marketing automation solution that offers an advanced journey builder with nested journeys and exit criteria. To see it for yourself, request a demo.

Customized journey for different users

This is not the only onboarding journey for all our customers. We segmented our customers based on their role in the product and if the account is familiar. Meaning, a net new user with admin status goes through a different onboarding journey with essential set-up resources and a timeline than a new user added to an existing customer account.

When an Inflection customer adds a new team member to their account, the new user need not go through the setup steps but they are encouraged to build their first campaign.

Having a dynamic filter that checks for the account’s history with our product and sending them through a separate path in the onboarding journey is how we keep onboarding relevant to the user.

We faced challenges in building this version of our product onboarding, but it was so worth the effort.

Onboarding in the product-led age

Traditional onboarding methods that revolved around rigid time-based frameworks are giving way to a more responsive and user-centric approach – product activity-based onboarding. With the mentioned changes, we improved the onboarding experience not only to be more effective but also personalized, efficient, and scalable.

While a time-based onboarding experience might have its merits, it is inefficient for many reasons. A basic onboarding journey might help you get started and gather intelligence on user experience to optimize but, the old way has to go.

Embracing the shift to product activity-based onboarding was a game-changer for Inflection.

This strategy enabled us to guide users through specific product activities that are of value to the customer and helped them get there sooner. We constantly strive to gather intelligence on optimizing the onboarding journey as our product evolves.

If you are thinking about revamping your product onboarding, grab a 1:1 with our expert for a free onboarding consultation.

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