How to Maintain User Momentum & Motivation During Onboarding

How to Maintain User Momentum & Motivation During Onboarding

Have you ever considered that product adoption is a lot like physics? Let me explain. We’ve all heard that “object in motion stays in motion,” and it’s an assumption we unknowingly apply to onboarding. We think that the inertia that got a user started on a free trial or new account will keep them going, but unfortunately, it isn’t that simple.

You see, every new user can experience roadblocks during onboarding that slow them down. Confusion about the next step, unanswered questions about how to use a tool, or simply a schedule that doesn’t leave time for building new habits can all get in the way of a user’s momentum. All of this results in around half of all free trial users using a product once and never signing in again.

Keeping new users motivated during their first weeks or months with your product is critical, though. Onboarding is a make or break time that lays the foundation for how a person interacts with the tools you’ve worked so hard on.

So what are you to do to make new users maintain momentum once the novelty of a shiny new tool wears off? Let’s explore.

Elements of Steady User Momentum

Before we get into the tools you’ll use to maintain user momentum, we need to understand the strategy. There are six elements of maintaining steady user momentum throughout onboarding and beyond.

An understanding of user goals and motivations

Designing a winning onboarding strategy starts with an understanding of your users. What does success look like to them, and what are they hoping to achieve? Identifying what they hope to accomplish helps you pinpoint which features and tools they should be prioritizing. You’ll also need to understand what motivates them. What frustrations or ideal outcomes inspired them to act in the first place?

An interview with Venngage revealed they customize their onboarding based on the user’s role and organization type. During onboarding, a new user answers a few questions about themselves, like in the picture below. From the answers, each user can be placed within a different flow that is customized to their needs.

A direction to go

A person has signed up for a free trial or new account—now what? Based on your understanding of their goals, you’ll need to point them in the right direction. What should be their first step towards checking the goal off their to-do list?

A quick win

While the first two elements are all on you, the idea of a “quick win” begins to involve the user. A small victory at the beginning of a person’s relationship with your company builds trust in your ability to help get them to their goals. Plus, a quick win is an emotional boost that makes a person excited to keep going.

One way to deliver quick wins is to break onboarding into smaller steps. You can do this with a small checklist, like the one from FunnelCRM show below.

Steady Reminders

Another bedrock in your onboarding strategy is consistency. Don’t assume that a new user will remember to sign in regularly. After all, they haven’t built a habit or found the perfect spot for you in their workflow yet.

Help over roadblocks

When the inevitable roadblocks pop up on a person’s onboarding journey, you need to be there. Acting as a resource builds trust as well as keeps a person moving forward. Win-win.

A willingness to adapt

Your onboarding won’t be perfect on the first try, and that’s okay. Continually seek feedback and review your strategy to adapt to your users. You have a few different ways to monitor your onboarding strategy. First, you can measure in-app events such as login frequency and feature adoption. Heatmap tools are another useful way to monitor what users do within your app. Finally, you can use in-app messages to ask for feedback, like the one shown below.

The tools of the trade for steady onboarding

We’ve covered onboarding strategies to maintain user momentum, and now onto the tools of the trade. These are the tactics you’ll use to put your strategy ideas to use.


Onboarding emails are your friends “out in the wild.” While the other tools in this section live within your in-app experience, emails are your first line of onboarding efforts. You’ll use onboarding emails in a couple of ways:

To send consistent reminders

Remember that consistency is key in onboarding. Emails meet your new users where they are and help keep your tool top of mind. Send emails throughout the free trial to keep drawing their attention back to your app.

To send helpful info

Many of your users will likely encounter the same challenges or roadblocks during onboarding and beyond. Therefore, you should create valuable content to help them move past the bumps in the road. Use onboarding emails to shares FAQs, guides, webinars, and more.

Shopify uses its onboarding emails to send comprehensive guides based on their customer’s goals. The example below features a list of marketing strategies that are aimed at helping Shopify user’s find success. After all, a person is more likely to keep using Shopify if their business takes off.

To give context for in-app messages

Onboarding emails are also useful for adding context to the actions you prompt within your app. If in-app messages and tooltips are the “how,” then emails set the scene with “why” a person should care.

In-app messages, tours, and alerts

The second category of tools for maintaining user momentum is all of the in-app notifications you can send. These include in-app messages, pop-ups, product tours, new feature alerts, and more. All of these tools are useful for:

Giving a direction

Someone has signed into the app for the first time, and the seemingly endless possibilities of what to do next are overwhelming. Quick—show them where they should start. Call attention to an important feature or give them a tour.

Securing a quick win

Remember, quick wins are low hanging fruit. You can use a product tour to lead users to a task that’s easy to do in a few minutes or stagger in-app messages to slowly work them up to more complex features. Remember, checklists are also perfect for breaking onboarding down into manageable chunks.

Evolving with the user

User goals and needs aren’t static, and in-app messages can evolve alongside your community. As you learn more about how people use your tools, you can adapt your in-app messaging strategy. Product tours can also evolve as user’s advance to bigger and better goals.

Establishing an onboarding strategy that prioritizes customer success and implementing tools that encourage consistency and smooth growth are great ways to maintain a new user’s momentum. Not sure how to get started? Go out and talk to your users, or people who could benefit from what you have to offer. Ask them about their goals and challenges, and begin to craft a plan for how you’d help them. Then, talk to users again after you’ve implemented the strategy to make improvements.

Want to learn more about onboarding tools? Check out this list of 30 Free & Paid User Onboarding Tools to Crush Growth and Revenue Goals.

Image by Remaztered Studio from Pixabay

About the author





Steph Knapp

B2B / SaaS Content Marketer + Traveler + Cat Mom + Pizza Lover

She helps SaaS companies authentically speak to customers with copy so that more connections (and sales) are made.

You can reach her here:

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