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Onboarding: the Value of a Closed System

My last article discussed how marketers must balance growth with product testing in the early days of a startup. In particular, I mentioned how discounts, free usage, and early access can be used to incentivise interviews or survey completions whilst also encouraging people to use and engage with the platform. Another useful way of combining marketing and product is through a mandatory 1-1 video onboarding process, and it is something that proved invaluable for us at Genei when we first opened our product up to the public.

So what is mandatory 1-1 video onboarding?


It's a process that allows users to access your platform only once they have taken part in a call with a member of your team.


You can email your waiting list explaining that your company has an 'exclusive access' policy and that the only way to use the product is to take part in a call.


Then using a tool like Calendly, you can schedule the calls in and start speaking to your users over Zoom or Google Meets.


The process was popularised largely by the email client, SuperHuman, and has since been described as "stellar", "unique", and "the most remarkable product onboarding I've ever seen" (https://www.drift.com/blog/remarkable-product-onboarding/).


... And in our experience trying 1-1 onboarding at Genei, it certainly proved a very valuable experience.


But what makes this process so powerful, not only to users but also to the company implementing the onboarding strategy?


For starters, meeting your users individually allows you to get to know them personally. You can incorporate a bit of a chat and have a joke, and as a result, it's much easier to build a connection between your company and the people using your product or service. I've kept in touch with a lot of people I first met through the video onboarding calls, and many of them have offered honest and useful advice as Genei has grown.


By speaking to users and getting to know them face to face, you are also able to better understand their problems and workflows. Before explaining anything about what your product can offer, you should ask users to explain their problems and why they were interested in what you were offering. You should ask them to describe their current workflow and where in the flow they face problems or obstacles. You should hone in on the parts of their workflow that are broken or inefficient and consider whether it's something you could address with your product.


Similarly, understanding users' issues in depth means you can tailor your walkthrough to suit their specific needs. By going through each step of your product, you can iron over any potential points of confusion and hone in more precisely on the value of your product. Ultimately, you are far more likely to create power users this way, who have a deep understanding of the functionality and the value of your offering. As a result, you will decrease churn and increase usage retention amongst your entire audience.


Speaking to users and demonstrating the product during these calls can also double up as a usability test for your product. Are there particular parts of your offering that appear confusing? Do you find yourself regularly having to explain certain flows in additional detail? Sometimes, working through your product's flow can highlight underlying flaws you may not have initially noticed. Similarly, placing fresh eyes on what you're doing can expose previously unseen deficiencies in your offering. Make sure to record calls where possible and take as many notes as possible. They will prove invaluable when going back to Product!


Finally, manually onboarding users in this way can prove a great marketing tool. By limiting access to the product, you will naturally generate scarcity and exclusivity, which often is used to generate hype and excitement. Furthermore, 1-1 manual onboarding is great for virality. It's an unusual experience for many users and as such generates a useful talking point. Note how I earlier referenced SuperHuman, as many others have. Maybe one day, people will be speaking about your product and your onboarding experience!


It's important to note that onboarding users in this way is a slow process and will likely take up a lot of your time when you implement it. However, as a short-term solution in the early stages of your company's life, it represents a great way to get to know users, understand more about the problems they face, and assess your own product direction


Moreover, in the early stages of your business, whilst the temptation may be to have as many people as possible using your product, and in extension bringing in vast amounts of revenue, in reality, having a smaller but more focused number who you can gather valuable feedback will likely prove far more important. But that's the subject for my next blog...

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