So, you’re trying to grow a business. You’re in a stronger position than you might think. It’s never been easier for companies to acquire new customers, but at the same time, it’s never been easier for your competition to take them away.

This means one thing.

The primary focus of any business with growth on its mind shouldn’t be customer acquisition – it should be customer retention.

It’s long been said that it costs 5x (or more) to acquire a new customer than keep an existing one, but in a world where a customer could be lost with a Google search and a few clicks, you need to be doing more than ever to ensure that once a customer comes on board, they stay there.

This is where onboarding comes into play.

As you already know, onboarding is the process of turning new sign-ups or users into devoted customers. It’s about teaching new customers the value of your product, giving them that “aha” moment, and getting them to that point as quickly as possible.

Get your onboarding experience right, and you’ll have found the key to substantial growth.

Here are 7 ways you can improve your onboarding experience to do just that.

1. Appoint All Users an Account Manager

So you want to maximize the impact of your onboarding experience? Then you should be assigning every single customer their own account manager.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s just you and an assistant, or if you have a team of 200 – you need to ensure your customers are communicating with the same person every time they have an interaction with your company.

This works for a number of reasons.

Customers who interact with the same team member every time they have a question or problem will be more likely to:

  • Ask for help
  • Get better results from the product
  • Develop an emotional affiliation with the brand
  • Sing your praises and refer other customers, and, most importantly (in this context)…
  • Remain a customer for longer

2. Involve Account Managers in the Onboarding Process

Assigning customers a dedicated account manager involves much more than handing them the name, email address and direct line of the person they need to contact if they have any questions or queries, and you can probably guess why.

In most cases, customers won’t reach out and contact their account manager if they encounter a problem or want help getting to grips with your product. They just won’t do anything.

Your account managers have to be taking the initiative when it comes to onboarding new customers.

You can (and should) help them do this by supplying them with a list of tasks they need to complete every time they’re assigned a new client. This will probably include things like:

  • An introductory phone call (this is always better than an email).
  • Providing the customer with a short questionnaire designed to help the account manager better understand them, their target audience, and their need for the product.
  • A follow-up call upon receipt of the questionnaire to clarify its contents and ask for further detail if needed.
  • A further follow-up call 2-4 weeks later to see how the customer is getting on.
  • Occasional check-ins by email or phone call after this (ideally check with the customer on how they would prefer to be contacted, and how often).

3. Help New Customers Get a Quick Win

The sooner a customer realizes what your product can do for them, the greater the odds that they will stick around for the long haul.

Bear in mind what we’re talking about here: quick wins. You don’t need to transform your customer’s business. You just need to get them to do something that helps them realize its value.

Take Evernote. The first win a user has with the app will be leaving a note. That’s all it takes to understand the app’s value and greatly boost the odds of new users coming back.

Health app My Fitness Pal asks new users to input data about their weight, lifestyle and goals, and immediately offers up instructions and a timeline for achieving those targets.

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These are simple wins, to the point that they might sound insignificant – but imagine what would happen if users downloaded these apps and didn’t immediately use them.

Ensuring new customers experience a positive interaction with your product – i.e. a quick win – is essential to any and every onboarding process.

4. When They’ve Had That Quick Win, Ask for Referrals

As essential as customer retention is to growth, you still need to be acquiring new customers on the sidelines.

One of the most effective methods of customer acquisition is referrals.

Happy customers tell other people. Those other people come on board, get value from your product, and the cycle continues.

Or so you hope.

The fact is, even happy customers rarely refer others because they simply don’t think about it.

According to Texas Tech, although 83% of satisfied customers are willing to refer a product or service, only 29% actually do.

The lesson here is, if you want customers to refer new customers, you have to ask them to. That said, timing is key.

Asking for a referral the second a customer comes on board will get you nowhere. Wait until they’ve had that quick win.

Once a customer understands your product’s value, they’re far more likely to respond positively to a referral request.

5. Create Email Sequences

Between 40% and 60% of new software users open an app once, and never return.

Ensuring account managers are following a process along the lines of the one described earlier will help here.

So will email sequences.

Often, software users don’t return, not because you did something wrong or because there was an issue with your product, but because they simply forgot you were a thing.

So remind them.

Automated email sequences are really handy for reminding inactive users that your product exists, and that based on their previous interaction with it, is something that may be useful to them.

They can also help onboard on-the-fence users by showing them how to use different elements of the product (ideally just one element per email), and remind them that their account manager is there for them when needed.

For even better results, segment your email sequences into groups according to users who have signed up and never returned, and those who are interacting with the product, but aren’t yet fully onboarded.

6. Encourage Existing Customers to Share Their Success Stories

It’s probably not news to you that content like reviews, testimonials and case studies has a big impact on conversions, but here’s a stat from a recent BrightLocal study, just in case:

In short, consumers trust the opinions and experiences of other consumers. Ask your existing customers to share their success stories, and use them as part of both the pre- and post-sales process (i.e. feature them on your site as a conversion tool for potential new customers, and in onboarding emails as tool to help tempt inactive users to return).

7. Engage Churned Customers

This is one of the most common mistakes I see companies make, and one of the most frustrating mistakes to me personally.

Don’t let customers leave silently – get in touch with them and try to find out what made them go.

Sure, some of those customers won’t want to hear from you, and that’s fine. But this won’t be the case for all customers.

I’ve been one of those customers.

They will have left for a very specific reason, and chances are, they’re going to be happy to tell you why – if you just take the time to ask them. They might even be frustrated that your product let them down in some way, they left, and you didn’t bother to follow up and find out why.

Make sure you’re following up with every churned customer, asking their reasons for leaving, and adjusting your onboarding processes in response.

Do you have any other tips for boosting growth by improving onboarding experiences? Comments are just below – if you’ve got the time, it’d be great to hear your ideas: