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Intelligent Product-Led Onboarding: The Secret Behind Chameleon’s PLG

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A positive product-led onboarding experience reassures your audience that they made the right choice and, simultaneously, helps you retain them for the long run.

We chatted with Pulkit Agrawal from Chameleon to get to the bottom of how to run a successful product-led growth company and strike a balance between educating and motivating users during user onboarding.

Let’s dive in.

Product-Led Growth at a Glance

Product-led growth (PLG) is a go-to-market strategy in which the product is the main driver to acquire, activate, and retain customers.

Done well, PLG has the ability to seamlessly build a company-wide alignment across all teams. In turn, this can boost product awareness, provide better quality leads, and ensure more meaningful customer interactions.

For PLG to work, you need a killer product that solves one, if not many, customer pain points.

The story of Pulkit Agrawal, the co-founder and CEO of Chameleon, provides a good example. “I remember a few years ago when I was learning how to use Asana and being quite frustrated that I had to keep switching between using the tool itself and going to the Help Center and coming back again,” he shares. “I felt the pain of not having more contextual guidance, more contextual learning.”

Here’s where the idea of Chameleon gained momentum.

Chameleon is a no-code solution that helps product and sales teams build and deliver smooth in-product user onboarding. Pulkit elaborates: “If you want to highlight a key feature for a user to know about when getting started, nudge them in a certain direction, or highlight a product change, you can build all of those experiences with Chameleon without writing any code.”

Because the tool helps speed up the onboarding process, it enables businesses to be more data-driven, experiment with different PLG strategies, and avoid being bottlenecked by engineering.

How Does Product Marketing Fit Into PLG?

Just a few years back, sales was the tip of the spear and the product marketing role was, by large, focused on supporting and enabling the salespeople.

Today, the buyer journey is as complex as ever, and the decision-making process entangles a near-infinite loop of exploration and evaluation.

More and more companies are beginning to recognize the importance of product and growth teams working together and leveraging cognitive biases such as category heuristics to help users exit that loop. Pulkit adds: “We’re definitely seeing product marketers play a more fundamental role as part of the product-led growth in communicating all of the benefits and value that the product might bring to the user.”

In this way, you can further emphasize your product and center it at the forefront of your digital marketing efforts.

Using the product as a channel to drive growth and looking further than freemium and trial conversions “is almost a repackaging of an old concept around self-service. So PLG is kind of a reframing of that perspective and Chameleon allows product teams and marketers to deliver these in-product experiences,” Pulkit shares.

In a PLG model, marketing can focus on sharing knowledge, value-driven content strategies, and thought leadership to encourage prospects to get interested in the product and give it a try.

At the same time, we need to reimagine sales.

By its very nature, PLG blurs the lines between the role of marketing, sales, and customer success and the team becomes the big vision and end goal. In fact, in product-first companies, the role of sales becomes even more important and complex.

After all, a massive part of any product-led company is upselling, cross-selling, expanding revenue, and, overall, achieving customer success. The key here is to focus on being a reliable point of contact for (prospective) users and leverage more meaningful techniques such as sales storytelling.

Product-Led Onboarding: How to Keep Users Motivated

User onboarding helps users get to know the main functions and advantages of your product and, ultimately, leads them to the “aha” moment.

How you onboard your new customers is crucial for your ongoing relationship with them. Done well, the process can reduce churn, turn new users into lifelong customers, and even increase customer lifetime value (LTV).

One thing that many B2B SaaS businesses miss, however, is the role that motivation plays in creating an effective user onboarding flow.

Even though it’s a B2B sale, it’s good to remember that there are real people involved, and customer psychology still plays a role.

Whether your audience comes to your product with some previous experience of using a similar service or is completely unprepared, Pulkit shares that “products are fairly intuitive, and the reason that people drop off is that their motivation store runs dry.”

He sums up with an example: “When I’m in the product, I’ll find some friction and what I need then is not necessarily a walkthrough, but motivation. If my motivation levels are up, I’ll keep exploring and I’ll keep discovering and, eventually, I’ll find value. When I find value, that gives me more motivation to keep going.”

What does this mean? It means that prospects generally put more value on the self rather than just corporate gains.

Here are two ways to help you start creating an onboarding strategy that turns free trial users into raving fans.

Keep Selling Users on the Why

One big (and not so well kept) secret to turning first-time users into paying customers is to inspire and light up your prospects by sharing your why.

When onboarding a new customer in the product, one of Pulkit’s biggest tips is to keep selling them on the why and make your onboarding more about product marketing than a how-to manual.

According to Chameleon’s CEO, explaining how users should use your product simply assumes that they’re already convinced of your value proposition.

In reality, however, users tend to churn not because they can’t figure out how your product works, but because they don’t want to.

Instead, PLG marketers should focus on clearly communicating the product’s benefits. By showing and explaining the value, you can effectively motivate users to stay engaged and enable them to discover a lot of functionality themselves.

Leverage Tooltips

The main task of onboarding is to help users figure out what to do in your product to achieve a certain result, and tooltips are an excellent way to do just that.

Tooltips draw the user’s attention to a specific icon or button and – when you hover over or click on it – you get a brief description of the functionality.

Simply put: informative and relevant tooltips enable your audience to receive a hint exactly at the moment when they need it. To do that, focus on good tooltip design, make tips contextual, and ensure users get immediate value from that information.

4 Useful Tips for a Successful SaaS Onboarding

As a SaaS PLG business, your bottom line is tightly linked to that of your customers. So, it’s important that users feel confident with your product and know how it can help them reach their goals.

With that in mind, let’s explore four product-first strategy tips that you can use to start your customers off on the right foot.

Map Out the Actions Before Value

The debate of time-based versus action-based emails is arguably one of the hottest topics when it comes to email onboarding.

According to Chameleon’s co-founder, the modern way of doing it is by using actions as triggers. For example, as soon as a user has done some action, that’s when they should get a follow-up email.

“I think a similar concept should apply in the time-to-first-value,” he adds, “it doesn’t really matter how many days it takes, but really how quickly in terms of actions required can I get value.”

With PLG, there are going to be many points of value within your product. Pulkit shares that a tangible way to address time to value is by identifying some of these first points of value and mapping out in detail what are the specific user actions required. See how heavy that is, determine how many actions do you have before people get value and see how you can reduce that.

Don’t Neglect Your Help Center

Having really good in-product tips that answer users’ questions on the spot doesn’t mean you need to get rid of your Help Center. On the contrary, “I don’t think one replaces the other. You still need help documents and detailed write-ups of things. The way Chameleon complements the Help Center is when someone gets stuck on something in the product. Some people will be highly motivated and they’ll go to the Help Center. But some people may not be entirely motivated and those people are at risk of churn or bounce.”

One way to combine in-product information with your Help Center is to provide more contextual links. For instance, imagine your product is a music streaming service and you want to explain what shuffle is.

On the surface level, this might seem like an easy task. If you dig deeper, however, you’ll see that there’s a lot more to explain based on context (e.g where the user is clicking form or what they’re shuffling).

Pulkit expands: “you can say “Shuffle means this. Click here to learn more” in the tooltip right next to the word shuffle. When they click that, it opens the shuffle article in your Help Center. That way, you’re making the gateway into the Help Center very specific and contextual.”

Deliver Value Before You Capture Value

Before users can get excited about using your product, you need to reemphasize the value you’ll provide for their unique case.

Truth is, once customers have experience value, they’re more likely to invest further in your product. To become a habitual user, most people first have to enter a loop of taking action and getting a reward. “Once you’ve had that reward, that’s when you ask the user to do some work and tightly loop them into the product,” Pulkit notes.

After all, when we invest in things and when we make decisions, we’re much more likely to follow through on commitments we’ve made because we don’t want to break our self-image.

Chameleon’s CEO adds: “we don’t want to know that we were wrong in making that investment and so we’re much more likely to continue to pursue actions that validate our prior decision making.”

Use Friction Logging

In theory, removing friction sounds fairly straightforward. In practice, though, it can get quite tricky as it’s not always obvious and may require some substantial effort to recognize onboarding friction points.

To get in the right frame of mind, consider friction logging – a framework that allows you to discover the processes and actions before users get value from your product. Even more, friction logging helps you determine which actions are more cognitive-heavy.

By going through all of these steps in detail, you can then identify and tackle the touchpoints that are:

  • Friction full and likely to cause users to turn away
  • Somewhat friction full which might be an annoyance, but people will generally follow through
  • Delightful

Pulkit explains: “You’ll record your session, write out all of these steps, do some highlighting, and then you’ll aggregate ‘okay, these are the highest friction steps in my flow’.”

Friction logging is a great exercise for any brand to employ because it breaks down two main questions: where do we find growth opportunities and what do we look to reduce friction in.

Action-Based Emails: Get Users to Actually Use Your Product

When users fail to interact with your product, you need to reach out and help “reactivate” them. Email lets you do this gradually and without pressure for either your prospect or you.

Plus, “another really strong pro for email is that it’s low investment. It’s very easy to read an email; you can browse it, you can scan it. So I think product teams need to lean into that.”

When sending an email, Pulkit advises focusing the use case around people who are less motivated and not ready to dive into the product just yet and drive-up motivation.

Similarly to keeping users excited during the onboarding process, Chameleon’s CEO shares that SaaS brands need to account for “why someone should use your product vs how someone should use your product. Often, when emails focus on how you should use a product, they fail because it’s hard to explain in text.”

Action-based emails need to be focused on value. Show people why they should care and why they should use your product. Consider showcasing case studies, video testimonials, and social proof.

Start Turning Browsers Into Lifelong Customers

In product-led growth, customer onboarding makes users’ lives easy by having the knowledge they need to use your product readily accessible.

Ultimately, with every customer interaction, you get an opportunity to gather insights that’ll help you make the process more effective. So, take the time and build a seamless experience between every touchpoint.

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