How to Use Webinars to Improve SaaS Onboarding Success

SaaS success is not easy.

Unlike many other industries, boosting sales and driving customers is not enough. You also have to retain customers.

Subscription-based approaches require time to generate profit. It may take a few quarters to see real business outcomes. Customers who cancel their subscriptions after a month or two amplify costs across the board.

Your churn rate measures the rate of customers cancelling subscriptions. Successful onboarding reduces churn rate and improves customer lifetime value.


The SaaS industry is one of the fastest-growing tech markets in the world. The best-performing SaaS vendors have streamlined onboarding processes that reduce churn and boost customer experience and retention. Many of these processes focus on high quality video webinars to guide new users.


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Webinars outperform other forms of onboarding content

SaaS tools are often technical and demanding. Even the most simplified SaaS platform has to educate new users to some degree.

SaaS vendors share a core problem. What is the best way to educate customers on how to use a new platform?

Few users have the time to look through a text-based instruction manual. Audio can be confusing without a visual guide. Video is the most detailed media format, but it is not interactive.

Educators know that interactive learning is the best way to achieve mastery. Webinars offer the best combination of user interactivity and digital convenience.


The thing that makes webinars special is the live feedback they offer. Viewers can ask questions to webinar hosts and get immediate answers.

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User research is key to webinar success

Most SaaS companies already use webinars to nurture and close leads. Expanding webinars to include new users extends their value.

Before you can use webinars to onboard new users, you must know who your users are. There are two broad options here:

  • Your own users: If webinar viewers are your own users, your job is simple. They already perceive the value of your product. The content has to show them how to leverage that value most effectively.
  • Third-party users: If the stakeholder who signed a contract with you is not the end user, your webinar has two duties to perform. It must educate users and sell to them at the same time. The content must make your platform’s value obvious.


When a new user finally understands how your SaaS tool makes their life easier, it is an “eureka!” moment. Getting to that moment is the primary goal of your webinar. Live feedback from your audience helps you get there.

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How to perform user research for webinar onboarding

Much of your webinar’s success is based on understanding your users. The better you can understand their needs and expectations, the higher the quality of your content will be.

There are two main areas where user research will yield the most valuable insights:

    • Researching activated users: Find out what actions your existing users regularly take. Look for common behaviors and try to explain why they act that way. You may also identify patterns that led users to sign up for your platform in the first place. Customer success teams and/or BI (business intelligence) tools will be able to provide you with these insights.
    • Researching churned users: Insight from users who signed up but never became active is valuable. It can be difficult to convince them to offer information to you, but it’s worth trying to do. You may find out what obstacles led them to exit your platform.


There are several ways you can reach out to both activated and churned users. Surveys are one of the most popular customer retention tools out there. One-on-one customer development interviews can also be incredibly valuable.


However you decide to conduct your research, the user-centric approach is key. Without understanding your users, it will be hard to guide them towards the “eureka!” moment you are looking for.

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How to use webinars for software onboarding

Once you have a solid understanding of your users and their intentions, you can begin planning your webinar content. The best onboarding webinars for SaaS platforms have three features in common:

1. They align the product with user goals

Your SaaS platform may have tons of useful features. It may be the most versatile tool on the market. But your users only want one or two things out of it.

Focusing on users’ goals is critical to onboarding success. New users don’t necessarily want to see dozens of features and use cases right off the bat. They want to see a solid, simple solution to a problem they have.

If you can identify what that problem is, you can focus your webinar content on it. That might mean leaving out some of your product’s most impressive features. Don’t worry! Retained users will find out about those too, in time.

This approach is especially important when creating webinar content for third-party users. Stakeholders and end users are not always on the same page with your CS teams, when it comes to perceiving value. The longer and more complex your sales cycle is, the more room there is for miscommunication.


Your onboarding webinar is the first place new users will look for solutions to their problems. Use it to focus on the highest value features. Walk users through the most important workflows. Make sure everything you talk about matters to the user.


This approach turns the webinar into a digital product tour. Showing the main value of the tool is incredibly important. It lets the webinar host answer questions about the core value first – and explain extra features second.


2. They motivate users to activate

Great onboarding experiences motivate users to become more active. That’s the whole point. Researching what types of behaviors users make before they activate helps inform the process.

Twitter offers a famous example. It discovered that users who follow at least 30 other users are far more likely to activate. That’s why Twitter asks users to do exactly that during its onboarding process – and it works.

Your onboarding webinar can do the same thing. There are specific behaviors your most valuable users share. Identify those and try to convince new users to adopt those behaviors.

This is an example of what economists call Nudge Theory. These behaviors are not rational predictors of longtime use, but they work nonetheless.


Great onboarding webinars encourage users to adopt those types of behaviors. This can take a variety of forms, from inviting new users to contacting support. Wherever there is a pattern of motivation leading to activation, there should be a nudge.


Every audience will have its own triggers, but most share some things in common:

    • They are often social: Human beings are social by nature. This is one of the main reasons social media has become such a cultural force. Many user-adoption nudges rely on a social element. Think about the way sharing, inviting, messaging, or otherwise communicating on a platform can change the way a user thinks about it.
    • They rely on great user experience design: A bad user interface will make it impossible to motivate users. Whatever action you want users to take should be easy. Anything more than one click is probably too much.
    • They focus on small details: You can’t ask people to do too much. A motivational nudge has to be a small task that takes seconds to complete. The smaller and more subtle the task is, the better.


3. They clarify misunderstandings

New users will understand certain aspects of your product incorrectly. You should expect it. They’ve only been on your platform for a few minutes. They may not know what your platform does, how it works, or who its intended for.

Worse still, they may be completely oblivious to their mistaken perceptions. If you don’t address these errors early on, you will almost certainly lose those users. This is especially true for third-party users.


Your onboarding webinar should immediately define your software. It should explain its capabilities and value. You might need to explain what your platform doesn’t do, as well.


Pay special attention to the things you assume about your users. If they need to have particular technical skills in order to use your SaaS tool, you should say so early on. If they are expected to have background knowledge, you should specify what it is.

The onboarding webinar is a great chance to educate users on these facts. It can also point them towards resources customers need to make the most of your tool. Consider users who can benefit from using your platform, but lack some of the necessary skills. You don’t want to lose them when you could be helping them.


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Don’t forget about lasting webinar value

The main value of webinars is undeniably the on-demand event. When you follow the tips mentioned above, you will be considerably scaling your customer success initiatives.
But, like videos, webinars can earn lasting value with new users. The better you understand your users, the more valuable past webinars can be.

This is because many new users will have the same questions. If you address those questions well in a webinar, making that content available after the fact makes sense.

There are many ways to maximize webinar value after the event closes. The cybersecurity firm Imperva has its webinar hosts write comprehensive articles in response to questions users pose during its community webinars. This works because cybersecurity is complex; simple questions often demand long answers.

Webinar transcriptions can also be incredibly useful. Users looking for specific data will appreciate being able to use their browser’s Find function to highlight it instantly. Hosting your webinar on a professional video hosting platform is always highly recommended. The latter ensures that you can leverage customer retention benefits and make full use of these features in the long term. You’ll be able to add closed-captions, annotations, and break the video into chapters. That way, users can return to it, and jump straight to part that addresses a specific area of your platform they are having trouble with.

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Originally published on August 23rd, 2020, updated on November 25th, 2020
The Blog

How to Use Webinars to Improve SaaS Onboarding Success

by Austin Jesse Mitchell time to read: 7 min