23 SaaS Founders Tell Us How They Onboarded Their First Users

SaaS onboarding is a complex topic. Today, we’re lucky enough to chat with many SaaS teams about how they went about onboarding their first paying users.


Written by Simon Alcott: Published Sept 13th, 2019 | Updated Sept 13th, 2019.

Simon Alcott is a growth hacker and the driving force behind WhalePages, a SaaS Marketing Agency. Today he asks SaaS founders what marketing strategies they used to help onboard their first customers. 


9 Minute Read

We Asked 23 SaaS Companies How They Onboarded Their First Paying Customers. Their Answers Are Below.

Over the next couple of days WhalePages will have some very special posts being published on our SaaS marketing blog. We’ve interviewed dozens of SaaS entrepreneurs and asked them intimate questions about the inner workings of their SaaS companies. Yesterday, we asked the group of SaaS founders how long it took them to reach $2000 / month MRR

Today, we round up the SaaS teams again to ask them the following question:

“In Your Early Days How Did You Go About Onboarding Your First Paying Customers?”

1. Claude Schneider, Founder of SmarterQueue | Social Media Automation Platform

I had a very hands-on approach with the very first beta users, and would regularly have Skype calls with them to get their feedback. I’d built a 4 step onboarding flow within the product, and iterated on that many times, to help people understand the product, and get fully setup without needing onboarding calls. The two best things I did were set up Amplitude event tracking to look at our drop-off points in the onboarding funnel, and to watch users go through the onboarding and see what issues they were encountering.

After 4 months I’d invited several hundred people from our pre-launch email list, and had done lots of pricing surveys (a black art!), and was ready to start asking for money. It was great to see how many beta users valued the product so much that they were happy with a higher price point than Buffer.

2. Karsten Madsen, CEO of morningscore | SEO Platform

What worked? Honestly nothing really worked if you count input/output in terms of acquisition cost. It was super expensive and time consuming to get the first customers. A mix of organic and paid social media, blasting emails, calling people up, and of course using my network all helped. It was a struggle and it still is. Maybe even more now cause our goals are higher and increasing. If you hate to struggle don’t do a startup. I am addicted to it. Nothing beats the sensation of overcoming the seemingly impossible and proving the naysayers around you wrong.

3. Sonya Siderova, Founder of Nave | Efficiency Analytics Platform

Content marketing is what made the difference for us. Right from the start, we pushed out high-quality, relevant content that set us apart as reputable and trustworthy brand. In fact, we started the conversation around the concept we were building even before the product entered the development phase. This approach helped us set foot in the market with a pre-established degree of respect. Content marketing was, and remains, one of our main focal points, and we’ll continue to promote the conversation of increasing efficiency and productivity in the foreseeable future.

4. Tobias Knobl, CEO of Mailbutler | Email Platform

Word of mouth recommendations played a vital role in growing our company – even to this day! That’s why we put a lot of effort into our customer support and, of course, the product itself. Word of Mouth Marketing is an insanely powerful way to influence business results, which we are witnessing first-hand.

5. Mike Myer, CEO of Quiq | Business Messaging Platform

Our customer service manager on-boarded our initial customers. We continue to have a fairly high touch “go-live” and on-boarding process to help our clients successfully get started. We found our initial clients through past relationships and connections.

6. Emad From CyberStockroom | Inventory Management Platform

I think it’s a rite of passage for anybody building an online business to come face to face with the reality of how difficult it is to acquire new customers. You always assume that if you build it they will come. But that is extremely naive. In the early days we tried everything. We landed our first customers through a combination of Google AdWords and live chat.

7. Simon Chatfield, Founder and CEO of OptimumHQ | Business Solutions Platform

Our first customers came from referrals from previous customers, former employees, personal connections, etc.

8. Faik From dbBee | Spreadsheet Publishing Platform

We got all our clients either through organic search or through our listings in DIY web site building tools/platforms (like plugins library for WordPress, extensions library for Joomla, supported tools for Jimdo, etc.)

9. Michael Payne From Intervals | Time Tracking & Task Management 

We are completely touchless in our sales model and that hasn’t changed. From day one SEO and word of mouth. We have a legacy plan named “Top Shelf” that was our highest plan and our first Top Shelf customer, who still is a customer, is in Sweden. They found us via organic search. 

10. Kaushal Sutaria From MyEasyISO | Compliance Platform

We focussed on our existing clients from the consulting business to market our software. We also developed our social media outreach strategy and a detailed SEO focussed marketing strategy to let the world know about our software. Our customer onboarding was done manually for first few subscribers by a dedicated operations team. Later we automated our onboarding experience with a series of process automations to offer a seamless and quick onboarding experience.

11. Jake, CoFounder of Dubsado | Business Management Platform

Our on-boarding was primarily guided by word of mouth. Our system was originally designed to create more up-front work to our customer. Our target audience was not the person that had a whole lot of experience with CRMs or business systems in general. With that, we were able to take liberty in designing our features to suit how our system wanted to work rather than
how the market dictated a CRM should have functioned at the time. Our original mailing list had 250 sign ups on it. Roughly 10% of the list signed up for a trial. And the first 23 trials ended up becoming paid at $10 per month and some still have that old subscription profile still on their account.

12. Casey Sullivan, Founder of Bookafy | Appointment Booking Platform 

At first, we did nothing… that didn’t work. Since then we are constantly trying to improve our onboarding process. This is probably the most pivotal part of our business… if we can onboard better everything changes. So this is something we are constantly focused on.

13. Kyle Racki, CoFounder From Proposify | Sales Platform

When Proposify was first starting out, onboarding for early customers was extremely manual. Our cofounders would need to redesign customer’s proposals in the software to get them started. Launching proposal templates and automated onboarding allowed Proposify to Scale. Early customers were found through content marketing, podcasts and word of mouth.

14. Piotr Łapiński, Marketing Manager From Konfeo | Event Registration Platform

Natural web positioning in search engines.

15. Amrish From Pixpa | Portfolio Platform 

Starting out, the biggest challenge was to get our first few customers to try us out. We went out and met with photographers and literally built their websites on Pixpa for them. As a few customers came on board, we starting getting more through word of mouth and references.

16. Richard From HelpSite | Support Center Platform

Initial customers were found through Twitter, Quora, and SEO.

We built the product to be pretty self-service and not require a lot of manual onboarding beyond some back and forth emails for people who have questions.

17. Team From GlockApps | Email Analytics Platform

Sending cold emails about our service was the least successful channel. We got listings on other sites but not many.

18. Team From Fanout | Streaming API Platform

Early on, we did guerilla marketing at conferences. We’d get speakers to mention us in their talks. We’d wear company t-shirts with huge print. We gave out branded candy. Through these efforts we got us our first beta signups, usually within days of the events.

We’ve been blogging since the start, which has always been a good source of traffic, especially when our posts get highly ranked on sites like Hacker News or Reddit.

By the time we launched, getting our first paying customers was somewhat easy. We already had people using the service from the free private beta, and so they converted over. We even discussed pricing models with them before we started charging.

Over time we’ve done other things like tweet, speak or run booths at conferences, create open source projects, be featured in the press, build partnerships, run online ads, and send bulk emails.

19. Peter Coppinger, CEO and co-founder of Teamwork | Collaboration Platform

When we started this business it was just my co founder and I and a couple of other developers. Onboarding as we know it now wasn’t a thing. The best thing we did for ourselves and our customers was to make ourselves available to them. We spoke to them every single day, listening to how we could improve the product experience. Anyway we could help make the use of the product easier – we did it. If a customer called us and said feature x would make life a lot easier for us, we’d add it to the product instantly.

Today, our onboarding looks a lot different, we’ve employed a customer champion who sits on the product team and works closely with the product manager and product marketer to create a seamless onboarding experience.

20. Jacob McCarthy From Freedom Edits | Photography Editing Platform

Onboarding and Customer Success are vital pillars of our business. Our video call onboarding has been a key market differentiator for us and despite it taking longer than conventional onboarding processes, it has a HUGE ROI.
Our first customers came from hitting our power base and good old Instagram DM’s. We hustled hard for those first 100.

21. Henry Joyce From Align | Growth Management Platform

Our first customers came through our business coaching partners. At first, we heavily relied on a human touch to facilitate onboarding. Now we’ve been able to use AppCues to automate the onboarding process. We still provide personalized customer

support to all our clients if they run into any difficulties.  We also have added customer success and providing accountability services to help larger clients with more complex transitions.

22. Team From RationalPlan | Project Management Platform

Many of them were existing On-Premise customers that opted to migrate to our SaaS model.

23 Team From Leadberry | Lead Acquisition Platform

We actually gained many active users in our free beta days, and many of them stayed with us when we switched from beta. Many of them are actually still with us today.

We used a mixture of PPC, email automation and actually used our own Leadberry (identifying website visitors then reach out to them with a personalized message) to attract customers, this mix worked out pretty well.



We hope you’ve found this list helpful. If you’d like to learn more about growing your SaaS company we suggest you head over to our SaaS marketing homepage.


Written by Simon Alcott: Published Sept 13th, 2019 | Updated Sept 13th, 2019.

Simon Alcott is a growth hacker and the driving force behind WhalePages, a company that grows SaaS websites. So, if you have a SaaS company and you’re kinda into things like website traffic and increasing your MRR, then check out our SaaS marketing agency today.



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