CUT THE CHEESE: 5 ways to make the best first impression on your customer

Mark Pinard
Jan 27, 2016 · 3 min read

You must be tired, because baby… you’ve been running through my mind ALL day. Not sold on a cheesy pick up line by some half-drunken sailor in a bar?

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This is no different than what every product in the world does when new customers decide to give them a try. First-use experience is the cheesy pick-up line in which you find the love of your life or are quickly put off and run to escape further persecution. It is literally the most critical part of customer acquisition and you need to get it right.

How often have you been excited about using something you truly believe will help you — only to get stuck in setup hell? Conceptually every product can pop its collar on how great it is but if you cannot live up to that in the first 5 minutes of someone new using it, then you are doomed.

A new customer needs to feel the tangible benefit your product provides within the first few screens or you will be shelved only to never be used again. On-boarding is your cheesy pick-up line and therefore the most important thing for any product team to get right. You want customers to feel like they are ready to use your product as quickly as possible. If your customers are lost for even a second, you may never have another opportunity to show them who you really are.

Reality check: you have one shot to make the best impression and deliver the best experience possible. The first experience customers have with you sets the tone for your relationship, if you overwhelm, confuse or somehow limit the potential value customers can see, you may be in trouble.

Here are the top 5 best on-boarding practices to ensure you seal the deal(s):

  1. Make it as easy as humanly possible. Customers are coming to you because they believe you can help them solve a pain point. Don’t make them feel like getting started with your product is worse than the pain they are trying to solve. Understand what information is critical for them to get going and keep it at the bare basics of necessity. You want to deliver the feel good feeling immediately, don’t make them work for it.
  2. Nail your value prop. This cannot be emphasized enough, if I don’t know the value you deliver — than I will not know how you are going to help me. Limit your value prop to a sentence or two: what differentiates you from others and why can’t I live without you. Use your value prop as the compelling final push off the cliff.
  3. Respect their time. If you’re like most consumers, time is valuable, limited and you need to get sh*& done as fast as possible. A lengthy on-boarding process is like standing in line at the DMV. Nobody likes it. Remember that you are still building the trust with customers, so if at all possible, limit the information you ask for upfront and leave the most personal information for later.
  4. Roll out the welcome mat. They have taken the time to get signed up, now is your chance to make them feel like part of the family. Properly thank them by providing a follow up from customer support, a welcome page or at least sending them a welcome email. This is your opportunity to romance customers and make them feel like they made the best choice.
  5. Pour on the charm (a lot). Rome wasn’t built in a day and nor are relationships with your customers. Take the time to nurture customers and keep them engaged throughout their lifetime. Think of on-boarding as planting the seed for future retention. Once planted, you need to keep adding water by guiding them to the most useful tools your product provides. When all else fails, make sure your customer support is accessible and there to help.

Just like love relationships, there really is no secret sauce, so take the time to get it right. Test, test and test again until you feel comfortable you are putting your best foot forward. Doing this will make sure your cheesy pick-up line is on point and that customers fall in love with you at first sight.

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