The 4 Principles of Onboarding for Product-Led Growth Platforms

The 4 Principles of Onboarding for Product-Led Growth Platforms

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As the product driven growth motion (PLG) becomes more popular, the process of acquiring customers will mature. The flywheels of the PLG process as well as the inbound marketing strategy are making it more obvious which stages are necessary for customer acquisition.

The four stages of the PLG flywheel are activate, adopt, adore, and advocate. The inbound flywheel has three stages; engage, attract, and delight. Each spins faster as you learn, test, iterate and iterate for long term success. Yet none of these reflects the principles of product-led onboarding in my mind.

Related: How Customer Enablement Drives Product-led Growth

The stages of onboarding for B2B PLG organizations

To set the scene, onboarding does not start at the point someone signs a contract or inserts their credit card details. Onboarding is widely agreed to start at the first touchpoint in any channel your organization owns. This could be an advertisement, a social media post or an event. Each of these must set the tone and trend for the next activities and actions. What are the four principles?

  • Marketing onboarding: making the unfamiliar familiar

  • Platform onboarding: familiar to the freemium user

  • Value onboarding: freemium to paid user

  • Peer-led onboarding: paid user to product champion

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

Marketing onboarding principles for PLG companies

The very first stage of onboarding for product-led companies is marketing. From here, there is a natural flow to take strangers to champions. What does this look like? And what is the best strategy for B2B SaaS? For me, it’s the inbound marketing strategy, but let’s look at some of the channels you can adopt:

  • Content marketing

  • Paid search

  • Paid social

  • Organic social

  • Email marketing

  • Vlogging

  • Programmatic marketing

  • Search Engine Optimization

You can dominate a single channel alone, but that may not prove beneficial to your longer-term goals. Content marketing is the price for admission to the table. However, in order to make content work in today’s overcrowded online market, you will need paid advertising to promote it, email marketing to support it, and social media marketing (both paid and organic) to distribute it.

Therefore, a multi-channel persona-led inbound marketing strategy is the only choice. Unless, of course, your PLG platform also sells to the enterprise, and then you will require both an inbound and account-based marketing strategy for continued success. You also need strong messaging strategies on your website that will encourage new potential customers to sign up for your platform.

Related: Inbound Marketing — What is it and Why Does it Matter?

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 combination frameworks like:

Nail this stage of the onboarding process and your customer acquisition program will be heating up. I have not only given you the playbook for PLG onboarding, but also the tools to do it.

Value onboarding for product-led SaaS

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

  • Pendo

  • Userflow

  • Chameleon

  • Heap

  • Amplitude

  • Mixpanel

  • FullStory

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

Keep optimizing to deliver continuous value and to understand how you can build and focus on future product or feature releases.

Peer-led or peer-to-peer onboarding for product-led 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 great, you ultimately want to build a product that is so valuable, valuable, and necessary that your best users will talk about you and hype up you.

You want these users to tell their stories, and have your platform as a hero. How do you do this? It is likely that this phase will be easy if you have mastered the first three. However, your job is not to become complacent but to treat this onboarding phase like a partnership channel — one that is driven by a user community, not a sales team.

You can add the ability to invite and share from their account, that’s pretty much standard these days, but ask your team this question: How do we enable our best users, the champions and cheerleaders, to easily invite and onboard new users on our behalf? You’ll be able to figure this out by creating a champions committee.

Related: How to Turn Strangers into Loyal Customers With User Onboarding

I hope you enjoyed this take on the four principle stages of onboarding for product-led growth platforms and that I’ve given you enough for you to go back to your teams and refocus your efforts. Using this framework will allow your organization to become more embedded and cross-functional, which can only prove beneficial for the entire go-to-market motion.

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