The ultimate guide to making SaaS onboarding videos from scratch

The first fortnight your customers get to spend with your product decides if they will continue with you. One way to woo them is to invest in onboarding. It’s so effective that 86% of people say they would stay loyal to a business that invests in onboarding content that welcomes and educates them. It’s even better if you leverage videos.

Let’s take a look at how you can build onboarding videos from scratch.

Why should you listen to us?

Content Beta has been around for less than a year. But even before CB, the team worked with the likes of Walmart, EY and Amazon. We built courses for these behemoths. So instructional design is something we know well.

But even in this short time we have been able to give immense value to SaaS companies of sizes ranging from $1-$10mn in ARR. We work with Manychat, Pipe, TapClicks, Compstack, Rudderstack, Kissflow, Taskworld, StructuredWeb just to name a few.

Our customers love us and you get to see the process firsthand.

What is a SaaS onboarding video?

Onboarding is the process of introducing new customers to your platform. Traditionally they feel like signboards at a Walmart or a Best Buy.

But onboarding with a video is like giving a virtual guided tour to your customers. It simply works better.

Where to use SaaS onboarding videos?

  • Product walkthrough or introductions should be the first interaction your newly acquired customers should have with you. Some do this through onboarding software that guides the user to do certain actions (absolutely hate that). But the smarter ones like Sparktoro put out walkthroughs in their emails (both support and welcome) as well as in-app modules.
  • Help centers are everywhere but they are bland as they come. I’m tired of seeing the same Intercom and Zendesk themes everywhere. It feels almost as if all the people in town decided to wear blue shirts with a pair of black trousers.

You need to flaunt that summer outfit and come out all guns blazing.
Here is a help center by Coda we absolutely love.

  • Academy: While most of the Hubspot courses are around skills. You will realise almost all of them subtly plug Hubspot products. And that’s the purpose of an academy to teach a skill which not only helps the user to be successful but successful with your product.

Why do you need onboarding videos?

  • Makes your product self-service

It’s the era of DIY and customers crave autonomy.

Give more freedom to the user, let them figure out what works best for them and you can be a catalyst.

  • People prefer videos

Viewers retain 95% of a message when they watch it in a video compared to 10% when reading it in text.

  • Increases Adoption

Videos will help your customer get the ‘AHA’ moment sooner than you would imagine.

This not only increases feature adoption but the adoption for the product as a whole. You win loyalty not just revenue.

  • Reduces support tickets

If most of your customer success team’s time is tied up answering support tickets, then they are on the reactive side of things. What you want is them to be more proactive. Give them their Mondays back xD

  • Reduces Churn

Attracting new customers and selling to them is 5 to 25 times—depending on your industry—more expensive than retaining and expanding the accounts of your current customers. However, on average, only 18% of the companies focus more on Customer Retention, while 44% focus on customer acquisition.

How to make onboarding videos from scratch?

We will walk you through the process we used while making an onboarding course for Kissflow, the industry leader in workflow automation software.

Step 1: Plan

Make a detailed outline of what each of your videos would cover. Use cases, best practices, examples, or anything else they need to include.

Involve everyone from your organization that has worked on the product for this.

Here’s is how it can look

Step 2: Design

Make a script with visual cues. Remember to have a rough idea of how you want the final output to turn out. Apply the laws of copywriting here but with more strictness.

For example, we have rarely seen people use the word ‘hence’ while they talk. So we don’t use it in our scripts.

Here’s an example

Next comes a storyboard.

Storyboards are like wireframes for your final video. These are the bridge between your video and the script.

You can use a variety of tools here like Figma, Canva, Prezi, or Google Slides.

We prefer to use PowerPoint. Because believe it or not, PowerPoint can do much more than boring office presentations.

Step 3: Produce

Now comes the heavy lifting. Get one of your team members mic’d up like Drift or Pipedrive do, use a software like Synthesia or hire a professional voice over artist to help you. Record them and put it through your video editor.

You can simply go for Loom or go for something we prefer like After Effects or Camtasia.

Step 4: Deploy

After a few revisions you will reach a video you love (we know it never happens but we hope you do).

You need to host it on a platform like Wistia, Youtube or Vimeo.
We personally prefer Vimeo because of the collaborative capabilities it gives us.

Not only can you review it, you can also choose how it will look when it is embedded at your desired location.

Step 4: Refine

Now leverage data. See where the drop-off points are, see which video is being viewed the most, see what people are trying to look for. Use all of this and make your videos even better.

SaaS space is evolving. It’s evolving faster than ever. You will be launching new features and tweaking the interface more often. Good thing for the customers, not so much for the training team. This also means that the videos will become obsolete sooner than you would like them to be.

To tackle this we try to use a simplified UI.

How to take your onboarding videos to the next level?

Hack 1: Recognition

Adding elements recognition such as achievement badges or certificates can get the users to engage more by appealing to their need for social status within your community.

Social media companies like Reddit and Facebook use this a lot.

As users use Reddit, they receive coins for their posts and level-up for each chat thread and groups they comment on.

Facebook has their own version where top-page commentators get various badges for their interactions.

Closer to home Hubspot, Drift and Pipedrive give out certificates and badges as you complete their courses. Apart from a fleeting dopamine rush this instills virality into your program.

Think of the number of people who have ‘Hubspot certified’ in their bio on Linkedin.

Hack 2: Chunking

Cognitive overload is overwhelming when you put out a 30-minute video.

I bet no one is going to see the whole video unless they are super motivated.

To fix this use chunking. Basically, group information into smaller chunks and let them tell the larger story.

We have seen the sweet spot to be 2-3 minutes and as a thumb rule 140 words is about one minute. 

Hack 3: Use faces

My problem with most of the onboarding videos is that they are all UI recordings.

And the problem with UI recordings is that they are not engaging.
Humans prefer humans.

So try and use not only human voices but human instructors in your videos.

Sprinkle some animations or live-action shots and suddenly you are telling a story not giving a tour.

Hack 4: Give back

Chances are your certificate and badges aren’t worth much to the user. HubSpot has built its brand on content for years now. No way your certificates will hold the same value.

To counter this you can give something tangible. Say a one week premium trial if the user completes your course or, like Clickup, credits to use.

Hack 5: The beginning and the end

It’s important to set the context because you can never know for sure where the viewer is coming from.

Non-linear customer journeys, you see.

So begin videos with a title and a short intro of what this video will be about. End the video with a recap and tell your viewers what steps to take next.

Hack 6: Do not overlook quality

The output, in my opinion, is as important as the process.

Focus on getting professional voiceovers rather than recording on your computer mic and write actual scripts instead of improvising.

These are sure to take your videos to the stratosphere as compared to your peers.

Conclusion

Investing in a well-thought onboarding video program will give your product a competitive edge. It will create more than loyal customers for you. It will create brand ambassadors.

That’s why forward-thinking companies from CISCO to Microsoft have developed training programs to help retain customers and build a loyal brand following.

The question is, will you?