3 Ways to Prepare an Easy Customer Onboarding: The Race Car Approach

The only three things you need to know to set up a successful low-touch onboarding experience for your customers.

3 Ways to Prepare an Easy Customer Onboarding: The Race Car Approach

A successful customer onboarding strategy is simple if you think about it. In the onboarding stage, both you and your customers want the best for them. The only focus here is to get your customer maximum value in a minimal amount of time.

While some companies are acing onboarding and conversions, why are other companies losing customers to the dark void between onboarding and product adoption?

Does this have to do with the company's size or the product's ease of use? But what if you do not have enough people to shed towards your onboarding teams?

What easy tricks do successful companies do to make their customers stay, and most importantly, can we get the cheat sheet?

Shortcut to cheat sheet

You can skip to the segments you want to explore first.

Decoding success in customer onboarding

Letโ€™s look at two companies with different operating models and simple onboarding practices with fewer human interactions.

Dropbox, the cloud storage platform, uses an elaborate email sequence to help with customer onboarding. Recently they even added videos to this mix, giving them an average 10% hike in open rates. This approximately correlated to a $24M increase in revenue, depicted by a smiley-faced onboarding team hand-in-hand with their sales teams.

Dropbox onboarding email
Source: Dropbox onboarding emails on Customer.io

Duolingo, the language learning app, turned ten this year and has become a social media sensation for its UX. It uses a customized approach to onboarding its customers. They use interactive visuals that make learning a new language easy and fun.

Duolingo onboarding
Source: Our teammate flexing her Spanish

While Dropbox prefers sending their customers collateral to learn and use the product, Duolingo lets them learn the tool by using it. These companies blend passive and active learning methods through their onboarding approaches to fit their audience and product complexity, directly impacting the bottom line.

While people glorify the impact, they seldom notice that most companies have taken entirely different approaches to reach the same destination.

Considering there is no silver bullet to make you an overnight billionaire from onboarding, where do we start if we want to set up an easy customer onboarding flow?

The 3 secrets behind successful customer onboarding

Lincoln Murphy from Sixteen Ventures says that successful customer onboarding depends on the initial success of the customer and how soon they realize the value in their relationship with you.

We can break down the process of customer onboarding into three stages and take the analogy of a race here to simplify the different steps involved in setting up an onboarding flow.

Cars the movie
Source: Cars, the movie

On your mark ๐Ÿ

In a race course, this points the racers to be ready near their starting points (the mark). In onboarding, your mark would refer to setting up things essential to gear your customers for launch,

  • Your goals
  • Your team

Set your customer onboarding goals

Any successful onboarding has a mission that mainly revolves around educating your customers on how they can get their first win out of it.

At Trainn, as a video-first customer education tool, we onboard our customers with the help of videos by Trainn about Trainn. ย We spoke to Vivekanandhan Natarajan, co-founder of Trainn to further understand the process behind Trainnโ€™s onboarding goals.

He says,

โ€œIn Trainn, we identified important product activation goals that we want our users to do for effective production adoption. In our case, the goals were 'installing extension', 'recording a video using that extension', 'editing the recorded video', 'sharing the video with others' and so onโ€.
Trainn customer onboarding
Source: Trainn customer onboarding

While this method can be easily used for self-serve businesses, a certain level of human interaction is necessary for complex products. It is essential to arrange a team of people with clearly defined goals who oversee the onboarding process from start to finish.

Prepare your customer onboarding team

Depending on the size of the organization, your team size would vary. But to see success with onboarding, your team needs these three archetypes.

  • The Subject Matter Expert: This is the person who knows the ins and outs of the product. In a startup, this could be the founder. In a scaling company, when the founder is busy fighting VC fires, it could be a product manager.
  • The Executioner: Even though the title sounds Grim-Reaper-ish, it simply means the person who can get hands-on and design the customer onboarding experience. This person could be from any of the customer-facing teams.
  • The Manager: Since the onboarding process brings together people from different departments to understand the customer better, it is best to have a project manager who can lead and coordinate the efforts.

Get Set ๐Ÿ

Now that the team is aligned near the mark, itโ€™s time to prepare them for their first customer who steps through the product onboarding gates. The onboarding teamโ€™s goals act as their north star, which decides their course of action at this stage.

Setting up the customer onboarding journey

To design the customer onboarding journey, you can bring in all the customer-facing teams and build a consumer experience map. Ask your teams about the different elements they would bring in to impress newly onboarded users.

Would you go for an email sequence like Dropbox? Or, would you add colorful UI elements like Duolingo to appeal to a broader audience?

Here is an example from Trello of its customer onboarding template that highlights the roadmap for their customer, leading them to take their first move within their product in chronological order.

Trello customer onboarding
Source: Trello customer onboarding

The complexity of your product and the level of your customer knowledge would decide your customer journey. Hence there is no one-fit solution for all. Instead, it is better to try out different mediums, from emails to videos, and then double down on what works.

Marking the milestones

As discussed in the first point, successful onboarding is when the customer uses the product and gets their first win. But it continues with their repeated use and slowly morphs into customer success.

Setting milestones not only helps push the customers to achieve the objectives you set and makes your product integral in their lives.

How often have we been motivated to finish something because we are only a couple of points away from the finish line?

Below is an image of Craig Morrisonโ€™s screen when he shifted to AWeber, an email marketing tool. Curious about the percentage icon, he realized upon clicking on it that it was slyly keeping track of his onboarding progress.

Medium Craig Morrison
Source: Medium Craig Morrison

Users who havenโ€™t finished their onboarding journey are given a visual reminder when the milestones are marked. This can help them become repeat users in the long run.

Go! ๐Ÿ

The flag has swung, and the race has begun!

But are we there yet?

Pre-launch and test your onboarding flow

The best way to test anything is to initiate pre-launch. Your product gets to have a pre-launch and a long-tailed waiting list. Why not your onboarding flow?

Test everything from spelling to grammar to UI. Invite your grandma for tea and make her go through the launch sequence. Allow the beta users, employees, and long-time users to test the onboarding flow.

The goal is to make users understand you care about their needs, tweak the flow based on their usage, and familiarize them with the product.


The moment of truth has arrived. It may look like all your hard work comes down to this point, but it is just another drop in the ocean of your business.

Constantly measure how your users are performing your key product activation metrics and keep tweaking them for better conversions. For example, at Trainn we also came up with a plan to measure our onboarding goals and established a product activation funnel.

The idea here is to constantly measure how the users are performing these goals and make the necessary adjustments in the onboarding journey to make the end user see value in the product.

Successful customer onboarding doesnโ€™t demand international teams. Instead, when the basics of customer onboarding are covered, it reflects in the bottom line.

If you are currently re-thinking your onboarding flow and customer interactions, we are curious to know if you include videos in your onboarding. You can write to us at support@trainn.co and share your thoughts.

If you are curious, you can create your first product video here.

Sinduja Krishnakumar

PUBLISHED ON: 8/26/2022