What you could learn from ‘The Elements of Onboarding’ by Samuel Hulick (2015, 123 pages)

Customer on-boarding is difficult to do well.  Samuel Hulick’s book ‘The Elements of Onboarding’ breaks down the challenge into 14 concise and readable chapters.  Samuel uses the analogy of helping a customer climb a mountain to lead the reader through the twelve helpful chapters.


Revisit the customer journey

Look at each step of a customer journey (outlined below) and make sure that you have thought through each step, go back to basics and ensure that someone is responsible for each step.

  • Introduced to product
  • Sign up process
  • First use of the product
  • Recurring use of the product
  • Purchase
  • Ongoing use
  • Advanced use


Make better people

Customers do not want to give you information, they do want to solve a problem.  Ensure that when you ask them for information it is clear how the information moves the user towards their goal.


Selling the dream

You need to clearly show how your product makes customers awesome, not tell customers how awesome your product is.



From ‘I am listening…” to “I get it”

Show customers the benefits (customer use case) before they sign up.



The painful joy of Switching

You need to convince customers that the way your product solves their problems is worth the pain of change.  You need to appeal to the customers both emotionally and rationally, while also making the change as easy as possible.  A great analogy, that Chip Heath uses in his book Switch (which I reviewed here), is that of a rider and an elephant.



The emotional tie that binds

People are not robots, they respond to stories and imagery.  If you can make people feel something, they are far more likely to remember you and your product.



Providing rational ammunition

People decide with their heart and then rationalise with their head.   Make it easy for customers to rationalise.  For example, borrowed authority from reviews.



Clearing the runway for takeoff

Remove all forms of unnecessary friction.  Water follows the easiest path, and most of the time people also follow the easiest path.



Pick out the quick win

Highlight a near-term goal that the customer gets in their first interaction.  If people see a huge mountain in front of them, they are more likely not to start climbing.  However, if it is broken down into small, manageable steps, it will less daunting and more people will make it up the mountain.


Planning the first run experience 

What the one first step in your software that, if you knew someone took it, would make you feel sure that they would become highly-engaged users.  Show the customer that they can easily start using the product.



Designing for a safe landing

What happens once the customer has filled out the last form?  What does the customer see next?  Make sure you balance the need to further explain the product, with letting the customer start using it.  Great websites do both.



Tailoring the first impression

The first use is critical.  Help customers gain value from the product as quickly as possible and leave them feeling that they want to learn more and that they have a reason to return.  Think ‘what is the toothbrush factor’ i.e., what is the feature that makes people come back every day.  For example, LinkedIn uses the news feed, finance apps have balances and transactions.


The Elements of User Onboarding is a good quick read.  The book widens the definition of onboarding in a way that is helpful and insightful.  Read this book if you want a beginners guide to customer on-boarding.

You can get access to the eBook here.