The 4 Principles of Onboarding for Product-Driven Growth Platforms

The 4 Principles of Onboarding for Product-Driven Growth Platforms

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As the product-led growth (PLG) movement becomes more popular, the process will mature as will the strategic customer acquisition process. The customer acquisition phases are becoming increasingly evident in line with the drivers of both the PLG process and the inbound marketing strategy.

The PLG flywheel has four stages; activate, adopt, adore and defend. The incoming flywheel has three; attract, engage and delight. Each of these spins faster the more you learn, test, and iterate for long-term success. Yet none of these reflect the principles of product-driven onboarding in my mind.

Related: How customer enablement drives product-led growth

The stages of onboarding for PLG B2B organizations

To set the scene, onboarding doesn’t begin the moment someone signs a contract or enters their credit card details. It’s widely accepted that onboarding begins at the first point of contact in any channel owned by your organization. This could be an announcement, social media post, event or speculative email, for example, and each of these should set the tone or trend for the following activities and actions. So what are the four principles?

  • Marketing Inclusion: making the unfamiliar familiar

  • Platform onboarding: familiar to the freemium user

  • Onboarding value: freemium to paid user

  • Peer-led onboarding: from paid user to product sample

For each principle there are corresponding tactics and strategies, some of which can be applied in silos, while others give best results when used in a cumulative or combined strategic approach. Let’s talk about these in more detail.

Marketing onboarding principles for PLG companies

The very first stage of onboarding for product-driven businesses is marketing. From here, there’s a natural flow that brings the outsiders to the champions. But what does it look like and what is the best strategy focused on B2B SaaS? For me, it’s the inbound marketing strategy, but let’s look at some of the channels you can adopt:

You can dominate a single channel on your own, but that may not prove beneficial to your long-term goals. For many, content marketing is the price of admission to sit at the table, but for content to succeed in today’s crowded online world, you need email marketing to support it, paid advertising to promote it, and social media marketing ( both organic and paid) to distribute it.

Therefore, a person-led cross-channel inbound marketing strategy is the only choice. Unless, of course, your PLG platform also sells to the business, and then you’ll need both an inbound and account-based marketing strategy for continued success. Other than that, you need a strong messaging strategy on your website copy that drives your new interested parties to start trying out your platform.

Related: Inbound Marketing: What is it and why is it important?

Platform onboarding principles for PLG companies

Once you’ve fully optimized your marketing strategy (which can only happen over time as you collect and use your data), you want to fully optimize your onboarding process. To do this, you need to use a recognized framework or combined frameworks such as:

Complete this stage of the onboarding process and your customer acquisition program will heat up. Not only have I given you the playbook on PLG onboarding here, but I’ve also given you the tools to do it — and I’m not done yet.

Onboarding value for product driven SaaS

The articles I’ve shared with you in hyperlinks will surely provide you and your team with more valuable guidance and context, but there’s another stage to optimizing onboarding and that requires tools. These tools come in the form of:

  • I think

  • User flow

  • Chameleon

  • Pile

  • Breadth

  • Mixpanel

  • The full story

There’s also a whole host of other tools to help you understand whether your product is delivering the value you set out to deliver, where the bottlenecks are, and how you can address them. Optimizing your PLG platform for value is how you minimize the time your freemium users spend recognizing the true value of your product.

Keep optimizing to deliver ongoing value and to understand how to build and focus on future product and/or feature releases.

Peer-to-peer or peer-to-peer onboarding for product-driven organizations

The final principle of onboarding is to optimize your platform’s ability for your champions or cheerleaders to invite their friends and colleagues. While incentives are always good, in the end, you want to build a product that’s so good, so valuable, and so necessary that your best users can’t help but talk about you and praise you.

You want these users to tell their stories and for your platform to be a hero in history. So how do you do it? Chances are, if you nail the top three, it’ll take care of itself. However, your job is not to become complacent, but to treat this onboarding stage as a partnership channel, driven by a community of users, not a sales team.

You can add the ability to invite and share from their account, which is pretty much standard these days, but ask your team this question: How can we enable our best users, the Champions and Cheerleaders, to easily invite new users on our behalf ? Find out through a champions committee or something similar and you’ve nailed the four stages of PLG onboarding.

Related: How to turn strangers into loyal customers with user onboarding

I hope you enjoyed this take on the four main phases of onboarding for product-driven growth platforms and it gave you enough to get back to your teams and refocus your efforts. Using this framework will enable your organization to become more integrated and cross-functional, which can only prove beneficial to the entire go-to-market movement.

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