Product-led Onboarding: Types, Examples, and Best Practices

Product-led Onboarding: Types, Examples, and Best Practices cover

Product-led onboarding is something of a revolution in the SaaS industry. It’s not a ‘hack’ or a quick fix: it’s a mindset shift in how you approach your user onboarding process.

In this article, we’re going to break down what product-led onboarding is and how product teams can implement it effectively to drive customer success.

Let’s get started!


  • User onboarding is the process of welcoming new customers to your product (and supporting them through the end-to-end journey to drive user success).
  • Product-led growth is a strategy that emphasizes driving growth using the product itself, rather than involving your sales team and using traditional marketing techniques.
  • Product-led onboarding is an example of a specific tactic you can use throughout the customer journey to boost engagement and improve customer retention.
  • As you’d expect, different SaaS companies adopt slightly different approaches around product-led onboarding. Userpilot helps you build a better onboarding process with a range of engaging UI patterns (like modals, slideouts, and checklists), as well as offers inclusive and ongoing support with a Resource Center.
  • First, signup should be as fast, smooth, and as frictionless as possible. Don’t let your quest to turn users into lifelong customers fall at the first hurdle!
  • Next, remember to consider your customer’s ‘jobs to be done’ (jtbds). You can learn about your customer jtbds upfront with a welcome survey.
  • Airtable and Notion both use techniques like populating empty states using personalized data – a great way of helping give users a successful first impression.
  • Third, you should be looking to create a user journey that reaches the ‘activation’ point as quickly as possible. That’s a surefire sign of a product-led company.
  • Fourth, you can’t forget the rest of the customer journey!
  • Onboarding isn’t just about new customers (primary onboarding). Look out for opportunities to enhance customer success with new features and relevant offerings.
  • Fifth, remember to feed the product-led growth approach through to your product update and release strategy. Finally, continuously optimize, iterate, and tweak the user onboarding experience.
  • Ready to get started with a product-led onboarding strategy? Book a demo to see how Userpilot can help.

Try Userpilot and Take Your Product Experience to the Next Level


What is product-led onboarding?

Product-led onboarding is derived from a wider school of thought increasingly popular across the SaaS industry: product-led growth.

Product-led growth is a proven approach that shifts the emphasis on the growth of the product from traditional sales and marketing techniques (like speaking with sales teams or reading whitepapers).

Instead, the product itself is at the heart of the go-to-market strategy.

The idea is to increase activation, customer acquisition, conversion, and retention using the merits of the tool. Users can try it out and ‘sell’ themselves by solving their own problems.

Product-led onboarding means you’re driving your users towards value right from the off.

Product-led onboarding vs product-led growth

So what’s the connection between the two concepts?

To understand that, we need to make a distinction between strategy (‘What are we trying to achieve?’) and tactics (‘How do we achieve it?’).

The diagram below is a useful representation. By focusing on a product-led approach, most SaaS companies will start to see the benefits of the adoption flywheel: users adopt, activate, adore, and then become advocates.

product led growth

That product-led approach is a technique that can underpin your entire growth strategy.

Product-led onboarding is one of the many specific, implementable tactics you could use to improve the overall product experience.

Common product-led onboarding types

There are various types of product-led onboarding approaches, each with its unique strategies and benefits.

The most common types include:

In-app onboarding

In-app onboarding involves guiding users through your product’s features directly within the application interface. This approach typically utilizes interactive tutorials, tooltips, and other interactive elements to guide users on how to navigate the product and accomplish their goals.

Kommunicate’s walkthrough
Kommunicate’s walkthrough built with Userpiloy

Onboarding email triggers

Onboarding email triggers are automated emails sent to new users to motivate them to engage with the product.

They often include templates, guides, or other resources designed to encourage users to explore the product further and take action.

For instance, onboarding email triggers may be based on factors such as user engagement level or trial expiration.

Here’s an example of an onboarding email series from Pendo that nudges you to return to their product to finish installation.

It starts with a welcome email with the installation guidance, then an installation reminder, and finally FAQs and other helpful resources for installing Pendo.

It starts with a welcome email with the installation guidance
Pendo’s second onboarding email
then an installation reminder
Pendo’s third onboarding email
and finally FAQs and other helpful resources for installing Pendo

Value onboarding

Value onboarding focuses on delivering immediate value to users during the onboarding process.

This approach often involves using a welcome survey to understand users’ needs and preferences, allowing companies to tailor the onboarding experience.

ClearCals’ onboarding survey built with Userpilot

Community-driven onboarding

Community-driven onboarding leverages user communities to enhance the onboarding experience for new users.

This approach involves utilizing online forums, groups, or other community platforms where users can connect with each other, share tips, and seek guidance from more experienced users.

Figma community
Figma community

Examples of product-led onboarding experiences in SaaS

In this section of the article, we’re going to dig deeper into some ‘best in class’ product-led onboarding experiences from across the SaaS industry. We’ll explore how they boost activation by focusing on releasing product value to their users as early as possible in the onboarding process.

Attention Insights – built using Userpilot

Attention Insights is an AI-powered tool offering attention heat map analysis of websites, ads and other designs before launch. By adopting Userpilot to build a frictionless user onboarding process, it has effectively improved user activation by 47%.

Here’s how it did with its onboarding content.

When you sign up for the trial, you’ll engage in an interactive walkthrough that shows you how to build your first project.

Attention Insights’ interactive walkthrough
Attention Insights’ interactive walkthrough

It also offers an onboarding checklist that guides you through essential tasks and actions you need to complete. This ensures you make the most of your experience with the tool.

Attention Insights’ onboarding checklist
Attention Insights’ onboarding checklist

Upon clicking on each of the tasks, you’ll see an interactive walkthrough that provides hands-on instruction for that specific task. This makes it easy for new users to learn how to use the tool without self-figuring anything at all.

Attention Insights’ onboarding flows
Attention Insights’ onboarding flows

Build Interactive Experiences and Drive Product Growth with Userplot



Airtable has put together a user onboarding experience worth analyzing.

They understand how important personalization is: no two users are the same. The form below shows them taking advantage of what can be a boring process – signup – to learn more about their customers.

By gathering key information, like the user’s role, industry and organization size, they can tailor the onboarding experience according to their specific needs.

Screenshot of Airtable onboarding
Gather key information in the signup flow.

In the onboarding flow itself, they use a range of engaging UI patterns (hotspots and slideouts to name a couple) to engage users, direct their attention to relevant areas of the page, and ensure they’re shown appropriate guidance.

Screenshot of Airtable project
A handy tooltip can help a user understand how to get value from your product.

Similar to Userpilot, Airtable offers self-service support using a Resource Center. This is an invaluable part of product-led onboarding: users get access to guides, tutorials, and support all within the app itself, unlocking value along the way.

Screenshot of Airtable
In-app help is massively important for a smooth onboarding experience.


Notion is a rapidly growing SaaS company focused on knowledge management. They’ve scaled incredibly quickly, using a range of product-led growth techniques. Their user onboarding experience is no exception.

They kick things off with an engaging welcome page.

Understanding what the person is trying to achieve makes it simpler to create branched and personalized experiences for each distinct use case.

Screenshot of Notion signup
A visually appealing signup flow that helps clarify user intentions.

Notion also utilizes a checklist to drive activation – helping users see the tool in action as they tick off key onboarding activities.

What makes this an excellent first product experience for new users is the lack of ’empty state’ content (which can leave users feeling confused about how to proceed).

Screenshot of Notion welcome checklist
Showing users how to get value and populating an empty state: a double whammy.

How to craft the perfect product-led onboarding strategy and drive customer success

In this section of the article, we’re going to build on the lessons we can draw from the different SaaS company onboarding experiences above.

We’ve taken inspiration from Ramli John’s six-step ‘Eureka framework’ from his book, ‘Product-led Onboarding’ – but looked to supplement each step with specific best practices.

Let’s dive in!

1. Start with a frictionless signup process

First things first, you want the signup process to be as smooth and seamless as possible.

No matter how perfect the onboarding experience you design, if users can’t get into your application – it’ll all be for nothing.

Crafting a product-led onboarding process means you drive growth through the merits of the product itself: so simplifying the signup process (which is effectively the route in) is the logical first step.

How do you ensure your signup process is as simple as possible? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Keep forms short: Ensure that signup forms are as brief as possible, minimizing the number of fields required.
You only need a work email to starts with Airtable
You only need a work email to start with Airtable
  • Consider Single Sign-On (SSO): Offer the option for users to sign up using their existing accounts from platforms like Google or Facebook to streamline the process.
Monday enables SSO
  • Use multiple screens if needed: Break down longer signup forms into multiple screens to make the process feel more manageable for users.
Miro breaks the signup survey into multiple pages
Miro breaks the signup survey into multiple pages
  • Delay email verification: Postpone email verification until after the user’s first session to allow them to explore the app without interruption, improving the initial onboarding experience and increasing retention.
  • Avoid requesting credit card details upfront: Refrain from asking for credit card information too early in the process to prevent user drop-off, especially as a first touchpoint.
  • Leverage microcopy to build trust: Use concise and reassuring language, like offering a free trial period, to instill confidence in users right from the start. For example, Miro includes a microsurvey for each question they ask to explain why they need certain information from you.
Miro’s microsurvey
Miro’s microsurvey upon signing up

2. Understand the user’s job to be done

You can’t solve a problem you don’t understand. So you need to work on understanding what your users are trying to achieve. Jobs to be done framework can help you dig into customer psychology.

Explore the reasons they’re signing up.

What exactly do they think they’ll be able to achieve? Without an adequate understanding of these pivotal questions, you won’t be able to personalize their onboarding journey.

A bland, multi-purpose onboarding flow doesn’t help deliver value as quickly as possible: an idea that is antithetical to the tenets of product-led onboarding.

So stick to asking users for only the data needed to create an account.

Then expand the ‘surface area’ at your disposal for capturing data: you can use a welcome screen with a jtbds survey to collect user data too, giving you more valuable insight to help construct an appropriate onboarding pathway.

Canva's welcome survey
Canva’s jtbds survey

3. Focus on driving users to the activation point

So at this stage, you’ve helped users sign up. You’ve gathered some key data.

Now, you need to help them reach that tipping point: activation.

That’s the moment they start to experience value from the product by properly engaging with its core features. Until you’re consistently helping them achieve customer success, you’ve got very little chance of converting them into paid users.

That’s a surefire way of increasing churn.

A proven way to drive your customers towards that tipping point is using a checklist, guiding them to engage with your product’s key features.

clickup onboarding checklist
Help clarify the next action using a checklist – Clickup’s example

Used correctly, checklists can form an incredibly valuable part of any product-led onboarding journey.

4. Don’t forget about the rest of the user journey

Remember, onboarding doesn’t stop at the activation point. You don’t just want to convert and retain customers: you want to showcase the value of your product and encourage them to upgrade.

But don’t forget the rest of the user journey.

You should focus on offering relevant guidance at every stage of the flow – that’s a proven way to build confidence and enhance your product onboarding experience.

Here are a few useful tools:

  • Utilize checklists: Create checklists tailored to introduce users to advanced features that add value in specific use cases.
  • Implement hotspots and tooltips: Use hotspots and tooltips to provide contextual pointers towards features that may entice users towards upgrading.
Userpilot tooltip
Disclaimer: This is not a tooltip implemented in Miro, but an example of how to build a tooltip using Userpilot
  • Leverage word of mouth: Get onboarding right, and users can become your best marketing tool and incredibly impactful advocates. For example, you can incentivize promoters to leave positive product reviews.
Nps follow up
Trigger an NPS follow up to promoters to ask for product reviews

5. Keep users engaged with changes in your product

We’re not quite done yet!

Onboarding isn’t linear. Your product should constantly be evolving: you’ll be looking to roll out new features, pushing updates and enhancements live, and tweaking functionality.

Don’t leave the user guessing: keep the communication game going!

Got no ideas? Here are few easy tactics for you:

  • Contextual guidance using tooltips: Offer tips and guidance within the product interface itself to help users understand new features or changes.
Contextual help
Example of contextual help built with Userpilot
  • Modals and banners: Utilize modal pop-ups and banners to inform users about upcoming changes or feature enhancements.
banners to communicate changes
Use banners to communicate changes and updates
  • Constant communication: Keep users informed through regular updates via email newsletters, in-app notifications, or announcements.
in-app modal for product updates
Build an in-app modal for product updates using Userpilot
Build a resource center using Userpilot
Build a resource center using Userpilot

6. Continuously optimize the product led onboarding experience

How do you know you’re successful?

Unless you gather the data, you simply won’t know.

So, you should regularly ask users for feedback to identify pain points and areas of friction. That’ll give you a clue around the areas you should bolster with additional guidance to simplify the onboarding experience.

Testing, learning, and iterating are key to this process.

There are a few ways to refine your onboarding process, including:

  • A/B testing: Utilize A/B testing to understand which in-app experiences help users reach milestones faster and improve the onboarding journey.
Run an A/B test with Userpilot
Run an A/B test with Userpilot
  • Micro surveys: Implement short and contextual surveys to collect valuable insights from users without overwhelming them with lengthy forms.
onboarding question sequence
Examples of an onboarding question sequence
  • Path analysis: See if new signups follow the guided path to assess the effectiveness of your onboarding guidance. In case you spot a more common path, it’s time to work on refining the guidance.
Path analysis in Userpilot
Path analysis in Userpilot


We’ve covered the fundamentals of product-led growth, and how the key principles filter through to product-led onboarding.

By looking to drive value within the product itself, you’re giving yourself the best possible chance of converting new users into loyal, lifelong customers…

And that’s an ambition every savvy SaaS owner should aspire to.

Want to get started with product-led onboarding? Get a Userpilot Demo and see how you can craft engaging onboarding experiences that drive customer success.

Try Userpilot and Take Your Product Experience to the Next Level

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