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Every B2B SaaS takes on hybrid GTM

Emily Wang
2 min read

The Software as a Service (SaaS) business model has become so popular among B2B companies that it’s almost assumed. But when it comes to supporting customers, there’s a wide spectrum of helping customers adopt a SaaS product:

  • Self-serve, where the product does all the work to onboard, activate and even convert the customer to paid (self serve billing + in-app paywalls).
  • Hand-held, where the sales and customer success teams manage the entire onboarding, expansion and payment processes.
  • Hybrid, where the product and your success team work together to get the customer up to speed, and customers can go at their own pace.

But no matter the stated approach, we find that almost all B2B SaaS is actually hybrid. At some point, customers need to be able to activate scalably without being blocked on an email exchange or conversation. And at some point, customers should be able to engage with a human to resolve a key issue. 

Yet getting the experience "right" can be quite difficult and requires iterations.

The challenges of onboarding flows

Onboarding is rarely one-size-fits-all:

  • Different speeds for different customers. Forcing your customers to wait for an in-person meeting to continue onboarding can be frustrating and add artificial friction. Even in hand-held deployments, offering some level of product-led activation allows high-momentum customers to move faster. 
  • Business and use cases differ. When product teams design onboarding flows, they do so with an archetype customer in mind because it can be too complex to solve for every variation. But putting all self-serve customers down the same path can be confusing or miss out on the opportunity to position the product's value ahead of its features.
  • Out of sight, out of mind for developers. In many B2B SaaS companies, onboarding is the responsibility of customer success managers (CSMs). That makes it easy for the product team to inadvertently ignore it and deprioritize the new user experience. 

Ways to improve onboarding for hybrid SaaS

That leads to how to develop better onboarding flows for hybrid SaaS companies. You can use several tactics to make the development process run more smoothly.

  • Start with sharing. It may seem obvious but if product and success teams don’t have regular touch points to talk about the adoption journey (not just feature adoption), companies are more likely to “ship the organization”. Product teams can bring funnel metrics to the conversation while CS teams can share onboarding decks, checklists, and even meeting notes to shed light on “how things actually work” versus how they were designed to work.
  • Enable collaboration. Don’t make developing onboarding flows a one-time, months-long project. Instead, use a collaborative, iterative strategy that includes your non product team members and find ways to enable non-engineers to make changes.
  • Keep humans in the loop. You can see conversion rates drop if your customers get stuck as you implement self-serve onboarding flows. Give your CSMs tools to track customer progress so they can step in if it looks like a new client is floundering, and you’ll avoid those problems.

Designing a hybrid onboarding experience

Bento was built with this kind of better onboarding in mind. Here’s how you can think about onboarding to make your flows run more smoothly.

  • Account-level tailoring: Every customer, especially larger accounts or expanding accounts, will be different. This means that their onboarding should be different, too. By providing account-level tailoring with your onboarding process, you can give every customer the information that’s most relevant to them, but still deliver that experience in-product.
  • Notifications to the CSMs: Keeping CSMs up to date on the onboarding process for each new client can help them provide better service and ensure that everything is running smoothly. Human intervention can be a strategy, not a set-back.
  • Lightweight iterations: Your product will evolve over time, and new changes aren’t relevant for every customer. You’ll want to empower CSMs to find out about new features and include them where appropriate for new customers.

How to get started on your SaaS onboarding journey

You can make smooth onboarding a reality with the right tools and planning. If your SaaS business isn’t already a hybrid, it will become one soon. Getting started doesn’t need to be a full-fledged quarter-long project, but instead can begin with:

  • Agreeing on a first value-moment
  • Identifying the smallest set of critical (maybe non-obvious) actions to get to that moment
  • Surfacing those actions (along with content on why) in a trackable format in your product and ensuring that the success team can follow along. If you don’t have an easy way to build this, Bento can help.

From there, the iterations and expansion will come naturally. Activation strategies never stop, but they have to begin, and begin with the right people at the table.

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