Customers’ relationships with brands used to be mostly transactional, but those days are gone. Today’s customers expect more than great products and great value. From the very beginning, they expect great brand experiences.

That’s why it’s crucial for today’s brands to onboard new customers in welcoming and engaging ways. And make sure they’re comfortable with the product or service they’ve just purchased. Many brands have risen to the challenge, but there’s still work to be done, 54% of customers believe companies need to transform their approach to customer engagement.

Companies typically engage with customers through acquisition and engagement journeys. Today, we double-click on engagement journeys and explore how Salesforce uses Journey Builder to address three key customer onboarding challenges:

  • Time to value challenge: How can we shorten the time it takes for new customers to start getting value from new products?

  • Content challenge: How can we organize introductory onboarding content into one streamlined, centralized flow?

  • Persona challenge: How do we make sure we’re engaging with the right customer personas and giving them the information they need to be successful?

Inspired by the Salesforce method for customer onboarding, here’s how to introduce customers to your brand and help them feel at home with your products and services:


1. Shorten time to value from day one

Time to value is the time between when a customer makes a purchase and when they start getting value from that purchase. Ideally, all companies make time to value for their products and services as short as possible. The sooner customers start using new purchases, the better things are for everyone involved. 

The post-purchase time period is an especially important time for brands to remain engaged with new customers. Seventy-three percent of customers expect companies to understand their needs and expectations, and many new needs and expectations typically arise at this point. New customers will likely have questions about how to use your product, and you need to make the answers to those questions both readily available and easy to understand.

When figuring out a new product, customers often find it difficult to know where to start. This can lead to a sort of paralysis, which may result in a long time to value and less satisfied customers. At Salesforce, we learned this from experience. Years ago, we used to link confused new customers to help articles — but we quickly realized that this was not the best approach. 

Linking out to articles forces the customer to put even more effort into trying to understand your product. It creates an additional barrier they need to overcome. The onboarding process should be easier for customers, not harder! Now, we use an interactive in-app guide to help customers get started in six simple steps, with direct links to in-app setup options. We know it works because it has significantly shortened time to value for our customers.


2. Streamline content flows

Content flows help introduce your brand, products, and services to new customers in an easy-to-digest, seamless format. The funny thing about content flows is that while they’re meant to be easy for customers to understand, they aren’t always easy to develop. It can be difficult to organize the right content into one centralized flow. That’s why we’ve developed a crawl-walk-run model to help.

You should always start to develop new content flows based on research about your new customers and what you’ve learned about them through your partnership and networking efforts. Then, you should:

  • Crawl: Slowly onboard customers with content drops through just one communication channel. At Salesforce, we like to start with a weekly step-by-step email series that only targets our net new customers.

  • Walk: Automatically gather data on your new customers' actions as they engage with your content. Use this data to build data-driven triggers into your email journeys, taking customers down customized paths that deliver answers to their unique questions.

  • Run: Learn more about your customers' channel preferences as they interact with your content. Start to use this information to build cross-channel journeys beyond email and engage customers with data-driven triggers wherever they are.


3. Leverage data to personalize journeys

When introducing different types of customers to your brand, it’s important to send the right content to the right audience persona. At Salesforce, we use another three-step strategy to tailor onboarding messages to the right accounts, users, and personas.

  • Target new accounts: Start by targeting all net new accounts with general messaging welcoming them to your brand. No matter how different your customers may be from one another, at this point, they all have the same thing in common — they’re new to your brand.

  • Target specific personas: Based on the data you’ve gathered from general account profiles, start creating persona profiles. This allows you to engage with more specific and relevant audiences within an account and help them with their onboarding experiences.

  • Create multi-persona journeys: By engaging multiple users, you can learn about their preferences and pain points, and then start sending them relevant streams of content based on their personas.


Guide: Build an onboarding journey in 5 steps

Here’s a handy template for creating new customer onboarding journeys the Salesforce way. 

  1. Set your goal: Define the goal for onboarding new customers and measure it to see how much impact your journeys will have. For example, when we were creating our journey for new users who bought Email Studio, we measured the time it took to onboard them and for them to send their first email via the software.

  2. Define your audience: Who is buying your products and services, and who do you want to onboard more efficiently? At Salesforce, our audiences typically include new administrators, account users, and business decision-makers.

  3. Collect data: This is a very important step in the journey-building process. Be sure to integrate data systems so you have all the information you need to build accurate and relevant journeys. At Salesforce, we integrate Marketing Cloud with Sales Cloud so we can begin the onboarding process (powered by Marketing Cloud) as soon as someone makes a purchase (managed by Sales Cloud). 

  4. Create content and identify channels: Build the creative content for your emails and identify channels beyond email that you may be able to leverage. At Salesforce, we tend to focus on email, but also make use of mobile and other channels depending on customer preferences.

  5. Design your journey: The process of designing journeys goes more smoothly when you’ve completed the previous four steps. At Salesforce, we like to brainstorm journeys using sticky notes. Start small and focus on one moment, and then plan the various ways you want to interact with the customer. Finally, draft ideas in a way you can easily communicate with your team and edit if changes are necessary.


Salesforce onboarding journey in action

The result of this journey was a shorter time to value, with a 500% increase in account penetration and multiple touchpoints for multiple personas. 

To see the impact of Journey Builder for yourself, watch our Customer Success Team’s mini webinar on how they accelerate new customer onboarding.