Ep 09

Product-Led Onboarding: Critical Steps to Turn Users into Lifelong Customers

Ramli John discusses key insights from his new book, as well as break down what most SaaS companies get wrong and tips to set up product onboarding for success.‍

Presented by
Ryan Hatch
Head of Product Strategy & Innovation
Robert Kaminski
Senior Product Strategist
Ramli John
Managing Director at Product Led
Ramli John
Managing Director at Product Led
Andrew Verboncouer
Partner & CEO

Ryan Hatch: Welcome to exploring product everyone. Super excited today. I am Ryan hatch with my cohost Rob. And we are super excited today to have Ramli John on. Ramili John is the author of product led onboarding. I'll be sharing key insights from his brand new book. Um, welcome Ramli. 

Ramli John: Hey Ryan, hey Rob. Super excited to be here. Super like, uh, I love thinking about, about product and you know, this is going to be super fun. 

Ryan Hatch: Yeah, man. So we're going to, we're going to talk today about, uh, what most SAS companies get wrong with onboarding and why that's so critical. I'm also going to talk about what success looks like, dive into some really great examples that Ramli's brought along, along with how he works with clients, how the framework that, that he suggests that, um, that you can use in your startups to get to your, uh, get your onboarding really on track.

So excited to unpack this together. Let's do it. 

Ramli John: Sure. 

Ryan Hatch: So let's start off with why this book, right? Let's start out with your motivation for this thing. You talk a little bit about, about that and what most companies get wrong. 

Yeah, for sure. I mean, in terms of motivation for the book, I just, it just amazes me often onboarding I'll use onboarding is forgotten as a critical part of the customer journey or growth of a product.

I mean, there's data that backs that. Onboarding sets up users for success and for success. Typically the definition for a lot of software that is occurring is, is retention. Uh, there's data from ProfitWell that came out like two years ago, they started over like 500 different types of products. And they found like across the board from three, six week to nine week retention.

Those users that experience a positive, uh, positive onboarding experience really does stick around a lot longer. Like it's two to three times higher retention. And once again, if you're a SAS, like, you know, that retention results in higher revenue and higher, uh, referrals. It all stems out from that key retention.

Uh, there's also study from, from matrix partners where one of their partners found that one of the leading causes for churn or for a user or customer leaving a product is for us to fall when the key, uh, when the key person who, who, who brought the product onto the company leaves. So that's the first one.

The second one he said is improperly onboarding new users to the product. So it's so critical, but often it's forgotten. Like I even think about, I'm looking at books right now on Amazon or on onboarding and I could barely find any, I can barely find one. Uh, around using usually when you type onboarding, the first thing is about employee onboarding and not really related to product.

I know only two other books that, that really focuses on mourning this one by Samuel Ulek, uh, the elements of, of amazing onboarding. He's like this amazing expert on onboarding and UX. And the other one is called better onboarding. That just came out of swamp by like really this there's this gap that I'm seeing and how critical onboarding is for, for, for companies that there's not enough people who are talking about it, or really like digging into, into how to improve it in terms of like mistakes.

Like that was the second part to that question. I think. The reason why, uh, onboarding is often forgotten. I often call it the ugly duckling of growth because you've got the marketing and sales. They're super focused on trying to get more sales and users at the front of the door. And you've got the product.

Usually they're focused on delivering the product roadmap and new features that they forgot about this middle ground and it's left alone. And usually the two mistakes that I've seen, first of all, the first one is around neglecting it and just dropping users right in the product without any kind of direction.

There's this saying that I say that a loss user is a gone user. If a user, you guys lost the data, wasn't know where to go. They usually it's time to leave. Like confusion is one of the things that you want to avoid for, for people who are dropping into a new product. So that's the first one is like, just neglecting it.

The second one on the other hand of the collecting it. Putting too much in overwhelming users where you're just popups here. I'm not sure if either of you have signer up for something where you're Mumbar to buy popups, like product owners, like Ryan, check this out, uh, Rob check out this button, like exactly right.

Every, every single thing. And that the thing that the analogy I use for this is imagine going to a grocery store and somebody just grabbing your hand and you're like, Hey, Hey Ryan. Here's where the chicken is. Here's where the bread is. Here's where the toilet paper is. And you're like, one second. Why do you, why sharing is, I'm just here for the chocolate box.

I'm just hungry, man. Like why 

Rob Kaminski: at my grocery store? Well, maybe not to show you where the chickens at, at my grocery store, I have to hide from the cable companies set up desks. We have walked in the door and they try and get me in of like, what do you have for your cable company? And you're like, do you have HD channel?

I was like, no, I'm just making my way to the produce. Like hide from it right away. 

Ramli John: I do the same. I do the same all the time. And I think that's, that's two mistakes I see often is either it's too empty or to your point, Rob, like you just like you're, you're trying to run away from the problem to her.

Cause it just points out that yeah. 

Rob Kaminski: So may I have a question? You said, you know, in why you wrote this book, like you, you went looking for it, like, were you looking forward from the angle of like better activation and onboarding or was it for retention purposes? Like obviously you already have this experience, but maybe to like shape a specific project you were working on.

I don't know if that brings you back to, like what got you into the search in the first place? 

Ramli John: I think it's, it's, uh, um, uh, first I was like, Hey, we need our onboarding needs some love, and I needed to sell this up to back then. My, my manager's like, why is onboarding important? And that's when I started getting data around, like how critical it is to a lot, a lot of different things like, uh, and really, I think that's like that I, I liken it to like a first date or a job job.

Like both of you are big fans of the jobs to be done. Right. I and I, the onboarding, if jobs to be done is the end goal. The onboarding is the job interview. Really like, you gotta really nail that job interview. And that first impression is super critical. There's a, I forget where that status that within five seconds, like people have made up the mind whether they like somebody or not like, sure we can push that off, but that that's our like maybe instinct our evolutionary instinct to be like, Hey, within five seconds, do I like this person?

Do I want to hang out with them? Or are they going to try to stab me in the back? I think it's the same thing with products, because there are so many products out there and we just, we have very, as people we have very, very little limited time to we're going to make snap decisions. And those snap decisions typically stick with us, uh, whether we're going to love a product or not within those first few minutes that we spend with our product.

Ryan Hatch: That's awesome, man. Yeah. So most companies get two things wrong, either neglecting where they just kind of dropped them in, in, in the middle, in the middle of the jungle, if you will, and just. Good luck. Right. Or are there just constantly tapping them with a whole bunch of things and they're just overwhelmed.

Yeah. No, that makes, that makes, that makes tons of sense. And I wonder on the flip side of that, um, what does good onboarding look like in a way that like, if you were to do an audit of somebody, right? How would, you know, if they're good or bad? Like, how would you, how would you kind of like, what would you look for?

Ramli John: You know what I mean? For sure. I guess I can approach this from two different angles. The first is like, I'm just external and I don't have access to the data. You kind of sends, uh, that something is good when you, when it has a clear sense of purpose. And what I mean by that is they have a good, very strong idea of why their product, uh, is valuable.

And what is it that first they try to get you to, to that beachhead or to that one, just one thing to get you to stick to it. And I, an example, like during out this wrong Calendly, Calendly is this easy way to book meetings with somebody. And when you sign up for a day, they do step by step. First of all, the first thing they try to do to get you to do is connect your Google calendar.

So once you have that, now they have access to that. The second thing they do is they don't want you to send that Calendly link to a podcast guest or a sales, a sales lead, cause that's too risky. The first thing they try to do to get you to do is book a test meeting with yourself. So I think that just, it there's a sense of, of, of purpose, but also they're trying to derisk it slowly but surely so that, Hey, okay, this is what it looks like when I send it to Ryan or Rob or to somebody else so that when you send out the lake, you're not embarrassed.

Right? So when you, when you do finally send it out, like, you know, it works and you can, you know what to expect from it. So I think that's what I that's when the it's clear the first product action. And that's what, the only thing they focus on, they, they don't talk about, well, if you, if you connect your Stripe, you can get paid with Calendly.

Well, if you have a lot of salespeople, then you can have multiple. No, they, that's not the first thing they focus on, even though that. Um, valuable later down the road, but they focus on just getting you to use that one key thing, uh, for Calendly. It's getting you to book a meeting with yourself. I think that's what I would do if I was external, if it's their purpose here and they're really driving towards that instead of being distracted with other things, the second is if I'm really inside and like I get access to their data would be like a good measure of success is seeing them, uh, now seeing the number of people who are signing up.

And completing that first key product action. Uh, and once again, in county, how many people are actually signing up and, and, and getting to a booklet meeting with themselves, that's set out. And how long does it take them to do that? And then finally, how long does it take them to actually send it out to, uh, another person, whether there's somebody internal in the company or to a lead or to your podcast guests.

And you're really like trying to find that time, like how long it takes for them to see the value of the product. Uh, and then just seeing if there's really improvements to getting them to see that value sooner. So that's, that's one metric that I would really look at. Something called time to value or the time it takes for people to see the value and the percentage, percentage of new users that actually complete and accomplish that key product action would be like some, some kind of metrics that I would 

Rob Kaminski: when you're those, that metrics super interesting.

What do you look for? It might depend on the context of products, maybe some examples pop in your mind, but like what is a good time to value, right? Are we talking like seconds and minutes to get to something they use in weeks? Like, I don't know. Take me into maybe an example that you you've come across.

That that makes sense there. 

Ramli John: Yeah, I there's this actually that's, that's a really interesting question around time to value because often the advice people gave it's just, just shorten your time to value as quickly as possible. But the problem with that, that, um, that advice. When you're trying to learn something, if they rushed you through it, you're not going to retain any new information.

For example, if, if somebody is trying to teach you how to play the piano for the first time, and they're like, okay, here's a Hirsi. That's all, you know. Now the only thing you know, how to play is, is, uh, twinkle, twinkle little star, and you can't play it. Anything else? You don't know why you're doing that.

It's not going to be very helpful. So there is a study actually by inner trends. Uh, they're like this data company, or they found that they'd reduce their time to value to like two to three minutes. And they found that they're actually losing more users because they reduce it to too little, that people are not really getting it into a, rushing them through teaching them.

So they actually had to increase their time to value to five to six minutes to really get them to kind of learn how to use a product. And, and, uh, there's this blog from their CEO Claudio that I have to find on. And that really shares really interesting information. Yeah. That is it's the whole point of this is like, you want to optimize time to value, not for people to experience the value, but for people to stick around, you're optimizing for retention again.

So like, if, if it takes six minutes for somebody, a time to value for somebody to stick around 10 weeks after then that's, that's totally fine versus like trying to push it to three seconds and then everybody just get confused and they, they totally leave for that. So, uh, interesting. Your answer is it really does depend on, you need to, uh, your team needs to optimize and figure out like, um, look at the cohorts and like look at the different users based on the time to value for each one.

Rob Kaminski: So what I almost hear and tell me where I'm way off base, but from the first concept you introduced. Finding the first bit of progress. And what I heard was almost micro progress. What's the first small thing you can do that it gets you on that journey. You, you have to balance that with time to value you can't cram it all in.

And so those two key points is really kind of the, the fine tuning across those. Does that sound like fair and those two key things to think about. 

Ramli John: Yeah, you definitely want, you definitely want to get the quick win for us by like you, uh, then like getting them to the full value for product can take a few minutes to like really set up everything 

Ryan Hatch: so interesting because it's, it's almost like, and we know this intuitively re like the reason why product is hard is because it's not just a sign of.

Like, it's not just overdosed time to value to, you know, minimize it completely. It's actually, it's actually an art, right? It's like, it's a dance with the customer on what's what's too little information. What's too much information. What's, what's just enough to bring them along that they, that they, that they stay engaged.

Yeah. I love the, I the, the example of the Calendly, because like booking with yourself, like, cause, cause you're getting to see like both, you know, Calendly you're it's, you're not the only person involved, like it's you and whoever you're inviting. And I liked it. It actually gives you a perspective the other side of the table, unless you kind of like walk around the experience to understand what the other person sees.

Ramli John: A hundred percent. And I love you when you started that this is more of an art, right? Like it's, it really is like, whenever somebody is like, oh, here's a, a little bullet to improve your onboarding, just do product. Or, or just, just do this. Uh, I'm like that, you know, like the, this, the, the, the, the consultant and most people are artists Mart.

I wouldn't know how to say, but it depends. It depends on your users. It depends on your product. It depends on like exactly what you need. And sometimes things that we think are friction. I think that's the thing is like, thinks that we think our friction is actually quote unquote good friction in the onboarding, because that's actually helping users to learn something, because think about any kind of.

It requires some kind of friction. Like once again, going back to the piano example, if you've never played piano before you want to become a grand master pianists, like it's unique fricking you need to struggle. You need to struggle a little bit for that. And I think finding the balance with the struggle with them, like, oh, I'm, I'm done with Canno.

I hate it. Like same thing with your product. Like finding that balance with, with the good friction, with like friction that gets people annoyed is definitely more of an art than it is science. 

Rob Kaminski: I love that concept. Like good friction. It sounds really negative where my mind goes. Like, especially in terms of jobs is almost like you're talking about the emotional aspect of it.

A little bit of like, how do I, how am I supposed to feel going through these things? And it can't be this, this rainbow journey that everything's perfect. Like you need like, we're human, right. We're going to experience like emotions even in a good onboarding experience. And so when you say that, that's what triggers me.

How should you feel knowing that you're trying something completely new to get to some destination at the end. Uh, but I've never heard it put that way. So that's super into sure. 

Ryan Hatch: Yeah. And what this is really bringing up for me, it's like, you've mentioned the outside view in the inside of you, right. If you're going to go do an audit, you'd look at the actual customer experience themselves.

What's it like to go through the experience as a customer and then, you know, kind of like more macro inside the company. What's my funnel look like? Where are people dropping off? And what's the analytics look like, but, you know, we all know that looking at the data that tells you what's happening, but not why.

And so I'm really interested in, and we'll get to an example in a second, but maybe you can just give us some insight. Um, now about really feels like the only way we talked about an art and like it's dance with the customer and, and, and time to value too early, or I'm going to give, give up, cause this is too frustrating.

It was just difficult enough that I learned something and I'm willing to come back for the next piano lesson. Right. What, you know, what this is reinforcing for me is that continuous discovery, right? Like you're going to need to get back to qualitative interviews to figure out how they're feeling in the onboarding.

And I'm really curious on strategies. You've used to do that. And actually, you know, especially strangers where you actually like, you know, this isn't B2B where you act, you know, it's like, they don't know you from, from Adam basically. And they're going through your experience and how have you got an insight on that first couple seconds?

Right? Um, can you, can you integrate first couple of minutes? Can you talk about how you've done continuous discovery and gotten key insights and how you've got. 

Ramli John: Yeah. Um, there's, I'm, I'm definitely a big fan of what you were just talking about. Like definitely talking to customers, uh, and like finding out that Rob, to your point of SWAT, I bought that emotional journey that success, uh, uh, and really figuring that out, an example that I found, and it, this is something that I've heard from Andrew Kaplan.

He used to lead growth at Wistia a as a postscript, and now he's like a fonder of delivering value, helping like growth themes out. It's like, One simple way and it is quite surprising how simple it sounds, but it's actually brought them a lot of insights, particularly to what this is what the same fact that he did at Wistia, this video, um, uh, big video platform, uh, that, um, a lot of people use when he was leading growth there to improve their onboarding.

He just did a little pop-up survey when people log in for the first time. And he just asked a simple question, what are you doing? Achieve or what are you, what is your goal today with Wistia? And he got a ton of insight, perfectly who they are and what they're trying to achieve. Uh, and even like with one word or two words.

Exactly. Uh, what they're trying to achieve with that product was super insightful because what they did next to really improve their onboarding, as he found, they found that like the top three reasons why somebody signs up for Wistia and they started segmenting their onboarding. So they would segment, they would show a different kind of product tour.

They would highlight different kinds of features. They would change all their onboarding emails based on exactly why you chose that first question. What are you doing here today with Wistia? And I think that's just something that's so key and insightful is going through the wide angle and speaking in the, the jobs to be.

So the jobs to be done term the customer job, like what is the job that they're trying to do with that? Whether they're just trying to generate more leads with videos or are they trying to showcase their brand without video, whatever that job is, then you can start highlighting and feature. And emotional stuff based on that particular one.

So I think that that was the assessor simple thing that I I've been really seeing a lot of, I've been suggesting to other people that they're getting a lot of insights out of that as well. Just a simple, um, pop-up survey that you can use something like Hotjar or, uh, some other kind of survey tool that shows up right.

When people signs up, uh, and, and figuring out exactly why somebody is signing up without like getting into it. And once you have that answer, maybe you can even go deeper and ask them for an interview based on that. Oh, it's like, oh, I noticed, Hey, um, Ryan, I noticed you said that using videos to generate more leads.

Can I talk a little bit with you about that for like 5, 10, 15 minutes, just to dig deeper into that. So I think that's just, it's a segue to a, uh, a further conversation. Uh, so now you know, who exactly is open to a discussion versus people who are just like, oh, I'm going to ignore the survey. 

Rob Kaminski: Brilliant, no data to inform the qualitative discussions.

Like that's, that's money to us, like music to our ears in terms of like understanding context around the situation and the job, but then going in and validating that. Talking through it with a potential customer, um, Ramli, I know you have like a framework. Um, and so I really love to kind of get into it.

One of the things we, we do unexplained product is kind of getting into the weeds a little bit. So I want to hear kind of, uh, I want to hear about your approach. Uh, I know you have something kind of to share in that, and then maybe we can open it up into a case study to 

Ramli John: apply that to, yeah, let me just share this over.

Oh, perfect. Easy. So, yeah, there's this, this framework that we use called the bowling alley framework. This is something that Wes Bush actually created. Uh, and if people are interested checking it out, this product led.com for slash exploring fash product. Uh, and it essentially in a bowling alley, uh, in a bowling, you, your goal is to hit a strike, which is hitting all the pins, this white thing at the end of this lane.

And the getting that strike is all about getting that win, going back to Calendly. Uh, the first strike is getting a meeting booked with somebody else for the first time and in bowling, yadda, current state. And you want to rule it down straight down to getting that first strike in, in this, in this, uh, framework, the straight line onboarding is like the minimum number of steps that people need to take.

Then the minimum number of things they have to do, or minimum number of features, they have to learn. To achieve that, that desired outcome or for strike. And there's a few things that you need to do to, to achieve that. I mean, the first one we've already been talking all about this, uh, for both Rob and Ryan, like we're talking about like really understanding what success is for the users, understanding what we talked about, that emotion.

What is that functional? What is that social job that people are trying to accomplish? Uh, often this is the most often, this is, this is where things go wrong. The reason why is people just jump into like, Hey, just let's just implement a product tour. But if you don't have a clear purpose, you don't have a clear idea of what success is for users is like going on a road trip and not knowing where you're going to go.

Like, it just doesn't make sense. You're going to waste a ton of gas. You're going to waste a ton of food. You're gonna waste a ton of resources. If you don't know where you're going. And that, and going back to what we just talked about just now by like using surveys, talking to your customers, this is super, super critical.

If you miss a step, everything else in the, in the next steps will really not work out as well. Once you do that, like, what we do is we ask you to map out your current journey so you can use like Trello or some other things, like right now we're using neuro or mural, or even like, I'm just a whiteboard people.

That's definitely something that people can use. And what we suggest is like, what I suggest would be every single field or button click or every single thing that a user has to do would be a post-it note in, in mural, or it could be like a card in Trello and we'll see exactly why, why that's super, super critical once you do that.

We have the system, uh, that, that, that I use, uh, red, yellow, and green kind of system for every single step that you have in your onboarding, uh, that you've just mapped out in the previous step. What you want to do is market first of all, by yourself, and then ask your team to do it as well. Uh, and if you have data, you want to be using this here as well.

Uh, and based on insights from users, but green are those steps that are absolutely mission critical for user Stu to see or experience or to, to go through, to really experience that success that we talked about in step one, yellow is once that you can delay after they achieved that first success and red are just ones that are just, these are bad friction, this ones that you really need to chop off.

And if it's time to let it go. And once you have that, you want to go with your team together and just discuss this. I think this is where it gets interesting is somebody from sales. Four teams that have a sales team might say, Hey, you, you said that, that, that phone number or that thing that you said, I feel is not necessary, but our sales team actually really uses it.

And I, I believe it's green. So there's now this healthy conversation with your product, with engineering, with design and with your marketing and sales to really discussing what are the mission critical fields that users need to see to achieve success and that for you to help them out achieve that success particularly.

And that's your straight line onboarding. Once you gather all the green ones with that. So that's just a simple framework that you guys have any questions before I just do it, a sample where we go through this. 

Rob Kaminski: I think the sample would be great if on mine, what comes to like, so having worked around kind of UI and UX, just even just in product concepts.

The one piece that I, I feel like would come up running this exercise. So I'm curious how you might combat this hypothetical situation. Everyone thinks every part is critical or required. How do you approach that? Like where it comes up in our work all the time is when we're looking at features. So it's trying to make that analogy where it's like, no, we have to have that.

Or it's oh, we must have that. What, what's the sort of criteria or how do you coach around that to like really let them know that no, it's not required. Uh, and I have some thoughts, but I kinda want to hear her openly where you go. Um, we'll take it from there. 

Ramli John: Yeah, for sure. I think that's, that's definitely a challenge.

That, that could come up. What I would, what I usually suggest to teams in that scenario is like, really go into, like, if you have data and go through which ones are where people are getting stuck. And if you have insights, if it is mission critical back it up with insights from users. And you're like, are there some insights there, particularly the people who people can share and show up to that part.

Uh, and if not, then, uh, really like, is there a small experiments that you can show, Hey, this is absolutely mission critical for, for people to go through. Uh, and then if people don't, then, then that's, that's totally fine. What I do find is Mo most people, when they go through this, I suggest that, um, that not every step is mission mission girl.

So they need to mark at least a few reds if that's the case. So I'd be like, yeah, that's usually what happens, uh, is what I would, I would usually what I suggest with them. 

Rob Kaminski: Great. That makes, that makes perfect sense. It would, it puts in my mind is back to what you said of like, what is that first success, right?

When we opened up the conversation. And so my mind even goes into like time, right? Like almost time box the person, or user's not going to spend all day onboarding. Right. And so maybe almost create, and it's, it's exactly what you said. Just kind of inverse it's like you have to mark some red, well, you can only pick seven of the 10 cards that are out here.

Right. Just to kind of framing it a different way. Um, but that makes sense. Thanks for that. 

Ramli John: I'm curious, what you, what your responses to that? Like when everybody's like, oh, all of this feature is our mandate mandatory. How do you guys, how do you guys, uh, approach that scenario where everybody thinks every feature is, is a must have not.

Rob Kaminski: Yea, it's such a it's. I mean, it's funny, you're throwing Mike, same question back. So I appreciate it. And also like, damn, that's a hard question, uh, for us, I think it's first things first, right? So I, we, we like to think almost chronologically in terms of the, I guess, value. Um, and we weigh it. We think of it in terms of need and jobs to be done.

So like, if we really get to a point where we have to make, trade-offs like, we go right back almost what you said, go back to the data, go back to the user information that we have. The other reality that often we get working with startups. We don't know the perfect answer. So we have to pick one. And so we'll force ourselves to pick one and then go in with an experimentation mindset saying, Hey, this is a, this is a two door to sit or a two door decision where we can always come back and change our minds.

So we know it's this imperfect science where we might have to learn more. 

Ramli John: I like it doing like little experiments to figure out like, Hey, what's this even helpful? Or do people find this annoying? Absolutely. 

Ryan Hatch: This is a great, this is a seeing, even your framework just sparked some thoughts for me. Cause I wonder, like this is stuff that nobody thinks about.

I think if you kind of evidence that right by like the only onboarding book you could find was for employee onboarding, you know, it's like when we talk to founders, it's always about, it's always about the product. It's almost never about the customer and their job to be done. Right. Um, and so would that, you know, naturally lends itself to is, uh, features talking about, you know, I've got to have all these features and, and it becomes a conversation of what features are most important and you sure.

Um, but I wonder here, I almost wonder like, um, if you're, if you're approaching a product from, from ground zero, I see a lot of times, like I can see right here and maybe you're in your example, but I think a lot of founders naturally would build the product first. That's sure that's their inclination.

What, because they're afraid that they have to have everything polished before they go talk to a customer. Right. They have to have something built. Um, and then I think then they would go back to onboarding when they actually try to get your first customers on and, and, you know, bumpy, bumpy road. My question for you is like, does it make sense to do some core features and come back?

Or is it the universe? Is it like, I'm only gonna, I'm only gonna work on building like the first minute, the first two minutes and then go from there and then go from there. Like, what are your thoughts on. You know how this, how this, when you, when you're launching a company from zero, how much thought you put into onboarding, and is that the only thing you do or do you get some core features plus that?

Like, can you talk about what your thoughts are? 

Ramli John: Man, let's talk about art. That's a really good question on his own this wall. Uh, I mean, for sure there is some thoughts around, um, you know, you want to make sure, and this is something that I've heard as well. And I don't, I don't necessarily know how I completely feel about this is like, you need to have a lot of peoples, you have need to have enough users signing up for you to start thinking about onboarding.

But in my, in my view, like you're, that's, that's kind of wasted resources, like where the initial marketing effort, the initial effort you have to signing up, whether that's launching a product line or other places, uh, or like, how do you acquire your first few users? Uh, when there you're just either dropping them in there or overwhelming.

So I'm off the camp that us, you add the futures they use. You're you're thinking about how, how do I guide my users through this, where I'm not necessarily overwhelmed, overwhelming them with all of this things and going back to like the jobs to be done. And like, what if I have, like, let's say that, let's just say I have 10 features.

What is that first feature? Or first two features that I need to introduce to them in this for us five minutes, instead of trying to introduce them to all 10, because there's this concept called like Hicks law is a psychological framework or our law around. Like, if, if you introduce, if you, if you introduce more than seven or eight things to a new, a person.

It is, it takes them exponentially longer to make a decision. Right? So an example is when you go to a burger place and there's only a burger or a hot dog, you're going to make that decision really quickly. When you have like burger or pizza, hot dog, you got Sundays, you got like, Terma like, you're going to stare at there.

Like, Hmm, what do I want? And the longer it takes for somebody to make that decision, the more likely they are to be like, screw this. I don't want anything anymore. I'm just going to go to, um, domino spot or something, or like to burger gate to get a burger. So I think it goes back to that, like us you're adding on future.

You want, I would suggest you'll have already an idea of like, what is that ideal flow of like logical flow, like, oh, let's introduce them to go market Galilee. Let's first introduce them to getting a, beat, a meeting book with themselves before we introduced them to, well, you can, you can sync Stripe to your Calendly so that you can get beta set consulted.

Oh, if you have 10 sales team, You can have a round Robin, uh, account with Kennedy so that you can get more things. So like Calendly has so many features, but they know that one or two things first that they want to get them on. And that's what I was, would suggest would be like, Hey, like if you're starting to build on features, find that first one.

And if that's the one that gets people excited, then the other one is, is the add-ons. 

Rob Kaminski: Yeah. Two things stood out to me. We just said, there is there, there is this threshold, uh, of users you have to have before you can really make, um, kind of this onboarding, uh, kind of that combination of art and science.

So that, that resonates to us. Cause sometimes we work with entrepreneurs that are like, they're, they're fighting to get their first few customers, which there's aspects of onboarding and that they need to address. But they're looking for the early adopters that are going to be a bit more on the bleeding edge.

Uh, and that's the second thing is when you, when you talk about addressing those key things, you want to introduce what I heard is. You almost, once you have that threshold, you're like this onboarding piece solves for the F the first followers, not the ones that are going to be in there in the weeds where it's kind of half broken and they had to like find their way into your product.

Um, but these are the ones that need a little bit of handholding. So that really, really resonated with me wrongly and not yet. And where this even fits for entrepreneurs that either are listening to this, or even that we work with Ryan for how we might approach this.

Ramli John: I think that's a good point around, and I think that's going towards like the idea of early adopters where like, you can, you can have absolutely worse quote, unquote onboarding experience where you have a ton of friction.

But if, if somebody's motivation is super high, where like what, what did that motivation comes from? My current situation really, really sucks. It is the worst experience I've had or that motivation comes from. Oh, I'm interested in NFTs and it's super cool. I want to be one of the cool kids or whatever that motivation comes from.

I want to be part of the in-crowd. If the motivation is high enough, then you're, you can overcome any kind of friction there. There's actually this other framework that is called BJ Fogg framework, where it actually really talks about that. Like to, to change somebody's behavior. There's three, three components to it.

Uh, according to this doctor off, uh, behavior change from Stanford, uh, and he said that it's the first one is motivation. The second one is ability, how hard or easy it is for somebody to do something would be somebody to adopt a new habit or different behavior. And the last one is around prompts. Like when you have like prompts, like.

Reminders or alarms or things like that, that get people to, towards that change of behavior. Uh, then it really does help. Uh, and he's applied as to like more of habit change for people like so that they can build good habits, but I've seen, I've actually, uh, see that it really works well with people who are, um, adopting new products as well.

Like whether if you can you increase motivation, can you make it easier for people or you have enough prompts inside or outside of your product that can help people to guide through that. Interesting. 

Rob Kaminski: And it sounds like the good onboarding, oh, sorry, Ron. It sounds like the good onboarding solves for the latter.

Two of like, you're not going to solve for motivation, but you can solve for ability and prompts through. The initial experience. That's the way I kind of think about it. 

Ramli John: I would say, I would say the, there, there is certain, and this goes back to, I think we're talking about jobs to be done. Is there a way that you can keep bringing that up?

What is that an outcome they have for, for somebody? Uh, what kind of emotion are they going to achieve once they get to that end state and example? I can think about going back. I keep going back to Calendly and I'm not sponsored by calendar at all. Yeah. But like you're talking about, but you're talking about removing frustration from going back and forth by, by meeting.

Or achieving looking professional in front of you in front of your peers could be another one with another, an emotion or an outcome or a job. See that somebody is trying to accomplish like a classic example of that, that I've seen as farmers. Well, let's say like Jim, when you're signing for a fitness club, like they try to show you with that, that nice fit bod body, like to focus on that.

Like, okay, I imagine now myself, like randomly next summer, I'm going to have eight packs, not even six. And you're just have that imagery in your mind. Right. That's the same thing for products. It's like, how can you paint that picture of that end success when they're going through like rough times, like, oh man, this, this, this part of this onboarding sucks.

Or like I'm getting through it. Like if they have that, if you painted that picture really clearly from the get-go with your copy or your images on your landing pages, or even in your ad campaigns, then it does help increase that motivation even before they sign up for the product and go through extensive.

Ryan Hatch: This is really interesting. This is great. I think we'll get to your, we'll get to your example in one, one moment here. We're excited to unpack that with you, but what we're talking about right now was actually,

Ryan, you might be on mute. No, I'm not on mute. 

Rob Kaminski: I hear you now. I hear you now. Can you hear me now? 

Ryan Hatch: Sorry. If my headset's having problems. Um, um, I think the question is like, as an entrepreneur, I have so many things to do, right? I'm so overwhelmed. It's hard to know what to do now, what to do later. Um, and the question kind of becomes like, Hey, when do Y thinking about customer segmentation and stage of my company and like, you know, pre pre-revenue, uh, first customers like, or first followers, you know, like, um, I'm just thinking about when, as an entrepreneur, should I focus on, um, Thinking about, like you talked about maybe it's these early adopters that are, that are really, really motivated their arms on fire, like, right.

They're going to go, they're going to go to the gym because, um, I don't know, there there's some big event coming up. They need to do, they're going to go on a, on a big adventure. They're going to climb Everest or something. It's like, I need, I need to, I need to prep, um, where there's, there's crunch there, there's high motivation.

Um, and even if I can't get to the, can't get to the gym, I'm going to open up, you know, lift logs in my backyard or something. It's like any, anything it takes versus someone who's kind of like couch potato, who just needs some needs some prodding, or do you know what I mean? Like, is there early on in a, in a venture, if you're targeting early adopters, first two are aware of the problem who are already trying to solve it.

Two are going to, you know, crawl on their hands and knees to get to something that you're, that you're offering. If it truly is 10 times. They don't need as much handholding. Right. And I feel, it feels like the onboarding stuff is the stage after is after you get your first 10, 15, 20, 50, maybe a hundred, then it's time to really focus on.

Ramli John: That's a good rule. I don't know. Yeah. I think I would say that's a good rule of thumb. I think the first thing I would really focus on if I was an early stage founder is really kneeling down my positioning and like getting people X, like I'm going to use the word excited, but getting people like to understand exactly the problem that they're facing with what is the problem with the current situation?

And why is your, the new situation, the new scenario that you're creating with your product going through? Do your words 10 times better? Why is it like gonna make their lives easier? I think that's like if you nail that, like that, that's gonna solve a ton of problems, not just around onboarding, it's going to solve a ton of problems around sales and marketing going to solve a ton of problems are on your product roadmap, because now you're a hyper-focus on that particular scenario that you're, you're trying to solve for.

I think that's really what I, once I've, I've really nailed down. My product positioning is, is when you can like throw more resources around onboarding and like scaling up your, your, off your offering and even like, uh, trying to get more people to sign up for your users. Cause like that, that does help a ton.

And it's something that I've really talked about. A squall is like, you know, if a lot of onboarding issues is, is a lack of clarity around your positioning, around your offering and, and get, and exactly what you're trying to do with your product and how you're helping people.

Ryan Hatch: Wonderful. Awesome. With that. Let's jump into your example, man. 

Ramli John: Yeah, sure. I mean, th this is just an example of what I would go through with a client. Uh, I, if, if I, if I was going to go through with, with, uh, with an onboarding experience, I would break it down step by step like this, where once again, like I'm putting down a post-it note for every single thing that a user needs to do to achieve success in terms of Canva, Canva, uh, for people who are not familiar with it, it's an easy way to create like logos business cards, any kind of design work that you need, you can make it cause they have templates for it.

And you don't, you don't need to have Photoshop skills at all, or design skills because they have templates. So what I would go through would be just like mark down the steps that a user would need to take from right from the beginning. So, first one, somebody needs to click on, sign up here on the homepage after they click on sign up.

I prefer to click sign up with email. So there's like if I zoom in here a little bit, I know it's a little, a little, a little dark here. So like it's a up with email. I'm going to create a post-it note for that here. And when somebody signs up, you're presented with three fields and one button click. So I'm actually going to use post-it notes.

And once again, for every single one of these, uh, enter name and their email and their password click get started and, and go forward from there. So once again, every field you want to be able to write that down, to make sure that you can have a healthy discussion with your team. Do we really need that? Do we really need that, that phone number?

Do we really need that other field, especially for more complex B2B products where you need a ton of information sometimes to sign up for something, then that thus get that conversation going? Because what you want to do is with.

W, what do you want to do with that is you want to be able to evaluate that with your team, with a red, yellow, and green template that I, that I have. So for example, here's the first one that I usually ask people here. Uh, it asks it's S here with Canada, as soon as you sign up with it, ask you, what will you be using canned before we'll use this to recommend recommend designs templates, especially for you.

They say you're a teacher, you're a student, you're a personal, uh, for your personal use, small business, large company, nonprofit and charity. And usually what I ask people here. And, and the reason why a lot of people, uh, trying to decide if this is useful at all, would be, I would, I would ask people, Hey, is this something that's absolutely necessary for people to experience canvas promise or their first success for users?

It is then you would mark our here. If it's yellow, something that they can delete after that success, or it's green, if it's absolutely mission critical. So, I mean, that's exactly what I mean. I'm curious for you guys, Ryan and Robin. For this particular staff in CAMBA, assuming we don't have any data. Like if I, if I had data that was also, uh, absolutely working for Canva, I would go to the data to see if people are getting past this.

But for the most, if you just based on this, you think this is, uh, a G mission-critical Y if it's this, something that can be delayed or are something that can, uh, we need to chop off right away. 

Rob Kaminski: I think for me here I go to Y like, I, my, my explaining my thinking is sort of, this is something that we, the company, if I'm wearing for canvas.

Sure. I want to know this so that I can maybe tee up a journey later on, but what a me, what am I, the user getting out of this? Like, to me, it's an extra step for myself. Okay. 

Ramli John: Yeah. That's a good point. 

Ryan Hatch: Well, we talked about the whiskey example and capturing context early, even on like, we're redoing the headway website right now, and we're talking about capturing context early, so we can message to them specifically based on who they are.

Right. Do they not have a product yet at all? It's like pre product. No. Pre-revenue like launch or is it someone who's like, you know, PO you know, series a funded who's actually got teams are actually trying to figure out where they go next. I think those are different starting points right now. Yeah. To Robin's point, like you were saying, green is a go

with the experts. I'm saying I don't, I don't know these aren't jobs to be done to me either. Right. These are just like who I am. I'm a person. I'm a, yeah, I'm a teacher. I mean, I don't know if that tells you much, but I think like capturing intent and capturing the idea of capturing a job to be done in context early could be helpful.


Ramli John: No, this is where it is. This is exactly why this exercise is interesting. Especially if you're like, I love rock. I love Rob's explanation. And Ryan, like, this is where like this exercise really does work out. I would say depends on how they use this. I, I do go with both of you, but knowing I know the end and, uh, and w you know, we can take a lot longer for us to go through.

Let me give you the spoiler here. I'm going to skip this one, skip this one, too, adding your team. So I chose small business here, and this is the thing that they did, uh, with Canva was like, based on your answer there, they actually gave you the, the Poplar designs based on that option. So in this case, they gave you, Hey, you, around the, you said your, and I would probably design this a little bit better just to make that even clearer Brownlee here are the popular designs for small businesses, and they give you Instagram posts, logos, Facebook posts.

Uh, Facebook cover and then video. And then if you select any of the other options there, they give you a different top designs. Uh, knowing that now, uh, it would be for me, I'm starting to see,

Rob Kaminski: this is great. This is like, this is the speed to value. And like, even though you had to slow me down for that half, second early on, you got my speed to value is there. And the context is probably right, perhaps, but this is interesting to see the case study kind of come to life for how it might get debated live.

Ramli John: Exactly. Right. Yeah. So, I mean, that's exactly the case here. I think that they have thousands of designs and going back to that thing, I mentioned the Hicks law, where if you show me a thousand designs right now, I'd be like, I'm outta here or it start, but they're limiting it to like five or six or seven that they have for you.

And that it makes it like, I, once again, I think they could have, it could have been designed a little bit better here to show that that options, but to Rob's point, I think this is where that discussion comes in, especially more interesting. If you have qualitative customer research data, as well as quantitative data, now you can be like, really like, be brutal and say, Hey man, this looks nice.

Like, let's say this, like, Hey, it looks like they're trying to add team members. Do we really need this now you're actually really going through and finding out where you can chop things that us not adding value or delay things after they experienced that first success so that you can get to it. I mean, that's, that's, I mean, we can go through this for another half an hour.

Exactly, exactly. Asking the same thing, but this is the exact same process I go through with any kind of onboarding experience. Uh, and if I do like once again, if I do have access to the data, then I would marry this, this experience with, with some kind of data, would it? I think 

Rob Kaminski: that is the, like, when you showed the first question and you even, you kind of like, even give us a tip, like you don't have data where it took me.

It told me what data I might start wanting to look for each thing. Um, and I, I think for a lot of the folks we work with, like even having that is like the big lift versus even just figuring out what to put on the screen. The other thing that's sort of highlighted for me wrongly is like the, there is also this I'm going to call it kind of the upper threshold we talked about when user onboarding can start, especially for smaller entrepreneurs.

And I look at Canva that's now this sort of platform thing, right. You know, in your experience, what is that threshold for segmentation look like with multiple journeys? Like they be context dependent, but that's I saw here was like, wow, Canva can serve six different types of users in different ways. Um, is that a big challenge for folks that people know they want to be this big platform?

Ryan Hatch: Like what, what do you usually see? 

Ramli John: I would, I would definitely focus. Focus is such a big thing, especially early on for early founders or entrepreneurs. I would definitely focus on one, just one experience and nailing that. And then the other stuff is, comes later.

Rob Kaminski: So yea, we coach on that all the time and it's probably gets it right.

Cause you can't it be scatterbrained until you have the traction to go there. Sorry. 

Ramli John: No, I I'm totally with you there. I think talking about scatterbrained. Like you don't, you're going to have like an, I believe Jacob mentioned it earlier. You can like half ass, a whole bunch of different options here, but through his, I think it was Ron Swanson.

Like you want to whole ass, just one option there and like totally double down. Make that absolutely awesome. Make it great. Make people stick around because of that one experience and then go from there. 

Rob Kaminski: Terrific. 

Ryan Hatch: Yeah. You know, one of my questions that I'm thinking about. Yeah. So, this is great. Like you're going through each step and I like how you're, it's almost like micro steps, right?

Because normally we would just look at like, oh, it's only five screens, three screens. Exactly. But the micro steps, I mean, that's interesting to capture, oh, that's the actual friction we're creating. I also wonder like, you know, for an existing product to do an audit, like that makes a lot of sense. I also kind of makes me think like, is there ever a time to just time out let's, re-imagine, let's just map out jobs to be done, you know, like first interview steps in between, you know, we just kind of talked about, and re-imagine what that experience might look like right from the ground up 

Ramli John: for sure. I mean, that's exactly, I think that's a scenario where like, it's I see, I've seen that scenario happen twice. Uh, in two scenarios. One is. Where there's apple. There's absolutely nothing where they just not be into the experience like where they're like, it's a blank canvas and that's totally what you want to do.

And the other one is we worked with this company. I don't want to say who, but they had 83 steps to get people to that first value. And I'm like 83 steps. Mad. I start from scratch. I don't want to mark, like, you know, like the teacher with a red pen and just like, this is, this is not good. Like, let's just start from scratch totally to your, to your point.

Like, let's like, what is the, what are they really trying to do? What does success look like? What is, and then once you have that, the second thing you want to ask is what is the minimum number of features or things they need to do? Or what is the minimum number fields they need to fill out to get them to that success.

And let's start with that. And then you start like discussing around, well, now, now, now you have a baseline to, to do around the discussion, whether, uh, you know, th this is, uh, is, is the co quote unquote. And I know I don't want, I don't want to be those guys, but the minimum viable onboarding that minimum onboarding experience to get people to experience that, that first value is this what it is, and really driving home that point with that.

Rob Kaminski: So it it's like you're removing steps, but then you're also looking at. That value that they want to get to. And what I heard you kind of say is sometimes you have to negotiate that, like, can they actually get to that big value? And if they can't, can we break that down and do a sub-component that's reachable because 80, I mean, I think 83 steps feels like insanity and it are they too aspirational and yeah, we can teach, we can teach them in an hour.

We teach them in the day. It's like, maybe you can't, can you teach them enough? They'll come back tomorrow and pick up at twenty-five percent progress to value. Keep going. 

Ramli John: Yeah. 

Ryan Hatch: I was just sorry around me. I was just going to say that, you know, if I was in that was doing Calendly, probably designing, Calendly myself, you know, like ground zero, I would have thought to myself, well, the major steps are like account creation and sent first, you know, booked first calendar booked booked for.

And may, I was actually realizing that there's a, there's a really high anxiety level to inviting someone else to a platform. You don't, you don't, you're not familiar with like, um, and I think this requires a different type of thinking to say, what would make them feel comfortable? Cause it's an anxiety.

It's like an empathy conversation to that. Right? What would make them feel comfortable? Oh, if they booked with themselves and if you can anchor, I think, I think to me, that's, that's the biggest art in this whole thing is like, what is that first interview? Right? What is, what does, what does comfort look like?

What is, you know, a taste of success look like, and if we can agree on that, Then I think it, then I think it becomes an exercise of like beginning with the end in mind and backing your way, backing your way out or into that, which I think is, would make it a lot, a lot easier, right? Because you think about, well, geez, how am I going to design this website?

What are the, what are the steps? I mean, it's overwhelming. I could do it a million different ways, but if you're, if you're anchoring in that first interview that you've talked about, right. 

Rob Kaminski: Ramli, I have one question in my mind and maybe, maybe we can close on this and I don't want it to go down a rabbit hole necessarily.

So more of just your opinion, but in getting the first value value you've given us all these, these kind of approaches and things to think about where to trials fit in on this for you with onboarding, um, sort of general, like, do you lean into that? Do you lean away from those and why in terms of getting to a good onboarding experience 

Ramli John: and when you mean by trials, free trial, free 

Rob Kaminski: trials. Yeah. I should've been more specific. 

Ramli John: Yeah. Yeah. I mean the challenge with, so there's usually two thoughts in general. There's two thoughts with trials. There's the time-based. Or like, you're give them like seven, 14 days. That's probably the most popular in 99% of trials. It's usually time-based, there is one that's interesting that that, uh, has ricin because of the whole product led movement called space trials, where the trial does an end, not based on time, but based on the number of times they finally use a product.

Uh, an example I can think of, uh, is uses this onboarding tool that allows you to create tourists and different things like that. And the tour, uh, the, the trial ends when a hundred of your customers. Well, a hundred of your website, visitors have seen the tour that you've created as a trial. And that's when the trial ends.

I think that's, that's an interesting thing that I need to experiment more in terms of like getting data from other folks. Cause like that really does get to the point of like, sure, I can sign up for a seven-day trial, but do you actually use it? Like how many of you have signed up for a trial where like, oh man Rob, or, or rifle we decided for this, I don't know what this is about.

I'm going to go sign up for it. Actually. Don't, don't use it versus now where you're like, you're really like, you know, we're not successful until somebody actually uses our product super, super risky in that sense. We're now you're not, you don't have like time based or like, oh your seven day trial is done.

Uh, but I think it goes back to, to the point where like, Okay, can you drive people to see that value, uh, sooner? Uh, and I think w just rule of comp for most products, usually within three days, like at least get them to, uh, one quick win would be super, super big. Uh, the data I've seen, uh, across the board from B2C and B2B is after three days, you've usually lost somebody already, uh, even for HubSpot where you're like any kind of B2B where it requires setting up something, uh, cause like, I don't even remember what I ate for lunch three days ago, you know, like much less like yesterday.

So I don't remember what I signed up for three days ago. And then I'm getting this email. I was like, what is this app that I signed up? Why are they sending me emails? I don't quite remember. So I think that's, that's just something that I, that I've seen is like, you want to really be driving home, whether it's freemium free trial or anything else, like you really want to, uh, get them to a quick win within the product, uh, within, within that timeframe.

Rob Kaminski: Yeah. Amazing. That's probably like this, this chat true, truly amazing. And Orion. And I take a notes. We're going to try and fold some of these learnings into our practice. Um, probably where can people like find your book? Where can they find you? Like, what's the best way to stay in touch with us and our community?

Ramli John: For sure. I mean, they can find me on Twitter. I'm super active there. Uh, I'd randomly John, uh, and LinkedIn as well. Um, feel free to email me if you have any questions, family, I product led.com and, uh, my book, you can find on-boarding book.com and they can check out the first chapter for free. If they like it, then they can get the book for like five, $10 on, on Amazon everywhere.

So, uh, it's called product led onboarding and, and that's not available in any Amazon store anywhere. 

Rob Kaminski: Awesome. 

Ryan Hatch: Well, 

Rob Kaminski: this has been written a book written around me.

Ryan Hatch: Thanks so much for joining us. Yes. Big congrats. Uh, join Robin now on, on the book, um, this was a really great discussion and we, we covered a lot of great things from customer segmentation.

We talked about, you know, an art and a dance and, and, and, and how wonderful, how important that that onboarding really is. It's made us kind of rethink, Hey, how do we work with startups and how do we, um, how do we, how do we find out what that first, you know, first nugget of value might, might be in work customers towards.

So Ramli, thanks so much for joining us and be sure to check out Ramli's site, follow him on Twitter and check out his new book, product onboarding. Thanks so much. 

Ramli John: Thanks Rob, Ryan..

show notes
  • Why User Onboarding Impacts Your Startup
  • Common Mistakes with User Onboarding
  • Why Write Product-Led Onboarding Book
  • What Does Good User Onboarding Look Like?
  • ‍What Is A Good Time To Value?
  • Onboarding Is An Artform
  • No Silver Bullet For Onboarding
  • Good Friction Concept
  • Outside vs Inside View
  • Bowling Alley Framework
  • Identify User Success
  • Map Out the User Journey
  • ‍Vet Every Step‍
  • ‍Straight-Line Onboarding Experience‍
  • Determining What Is Mission Critical
  • ‍Early Adopters + User Motivation‍
  • ‍Case Study: Canva‍
  • When to Reimagine Your Process
  • Where Do Free Trials Fit In?