Onboarding And Retaining Your First Hundred Customers Successfully

01/23/2020 | By Hira Saeed

This post originally appeared on blog.up.co

onboarding customersOnboarding and retaining customers never end. For startups, it is perhaps the biggest obstacle they face when they enter the market. The friction that exists between the value of the product they are delivering and the potential customers they are trying to reach, is inevitable.

To eliminate this friction and make onboarding a smooth process for both the startup and the customer, the first and foremost thing that is needed is to change the way you see it.

What does it mean?

It means, to start looking at this process as a life-long and ever-changing activity rather than an event that happens only in initial days.

The whole onboarding and retaining process is a tall order to fill, and there are many little pieces that make up the whole experience. 

This article will share some tips on how you can successfully onboard and also retain your first hundred customers.

From a Dozen to a Hundred

  • Building a personal connection: First dozen customers hold a key position in your startup journey. Unlike later users, these initial signups get to benefit from the degree of personal and hands-on attention from the team. As a startup, it is crucial that you build a reputation by personally handling each issue that a user might encounter, solve it step by step and making sure that it won’t occur again.

  • Focus on the Tribe of people you already know: In initial days, focus more on networking to find out people who would benefit the most from your products. This should include past clients, former co-workers and people who showed an interest in your vision or idea. A demo call or free trial can help them understand how your product is a better or a new solution to their existing problem. You can also consult fellow-founders and join startup support communities to announce what you are building and attract potential customers.

  • You may have to go manual: When you attract and onboard your first dozen customers, you will be required to do some non-scalable activities for them to score a position in their heart. This can include things like manually setting up login credentials, or to call them to provide customer support.  

Daniel Long, Co-Founder of Clearabee also endorse the idea of providing personal and manual touch in initial days to scale better in the future. "There is no doubt that our first dozen customers received levels of intense personal handling that would never have been scalable. However intensive handling is vital to achieving those first parts of a track record after which it's a snowball effect”, said Daniel.

Onboarding the next Hundred Users to build Success

The way you will approach and target the next hundred users will be radically different than the personalised attention given to the dozen users in the beginning. As the company’s user base expands, the scope of performing manual, non-scalable tasks decrease. 

The following points aim to highlight how a startup should handle its next hundred users to build success.

  • The first priority should be to incorporate the feedback received from the onboarding of the dozen users, to build a self-service system.
  • Huge financial resources should not be invested in the development of the system past a minimum viable product. Following the lean methodology in processes is always a good idea.
  • After identifying the unnecessary steps taken by a user in the whole onboarding process and taking their feedback about those, you can look at how other competitors are eliminating those steps which are not necessary. 
  • Tools such as tutorials, tooltips, etc, that are used to guide users during their onboarding process, should be kept at a bare minimum.  This is because, without the data from actual users, entrepreneurs cannot guess what assistance new users require.
  • Adding the above tools in the wrong place would result in the generation of increased friction. Instead, using information from previous user testing sessions would be of more help. 

Retaining Your First Hundred Customers

After the onboarding process of the first hundred customers has been completed, focus on retaining them by building a relationship. For starters, stop looking at them as a number now. Referring to them as a Ticket #12345 isn’t going to retain them rather push them away. If you know they are your customer, talk to them by their names.

The following points are necessary for customer retention:

  1. Looking at Unhappy Customer feedback: The feedback can also be obtained from customers who are not willing to do business with your startup anymore. First of all, that’s okay. What you can learn from their exit is the feedback as to why they decided to quit. Learning if they are unhappy with the service or quality of the product received or they just don’t need the service anymore is very important for your future steps.

  2. Using Net Promoter Score: Net Promoter Score is a kind of survey that helps the company ascertain the status quo of the customers. Important information, such as the chances that the customers would recommend your product to friends or family can easily be found out.

  3. Sales Referrals from Loyal Customers: A startup can ask its loyal customers to produce some unbiased, positive referrals. Business referrals do wonders when re-engaging with “leaving” customers and compelling them to stay. It is also helpful in garnering more new leads.

  4. Fixing Up Customer Experiences: Poor customer experience is a direct threat to startup's growth and brand awareness. Customer service is required to show customers that the company cares about their problems and is willing to listen. The best way to provide a stellar experience to customers is to introduce a chat solution.

  5. Offering Better Upgrades and Other Rewards: Surprising customers by offering them upgrades, discounts and other small rewards, such as discount coupons, extra free features, extra subscriptions, etc. can help you retain your most early and loved customers. Investing in programs such as a customer loyalty program may seem expensive at first, but the return on investment far surpasses the spending.


Your customers need a reason to keep choosing you as their service provider. A good product offering, combined with a satisfying onboarding process, is a good start, but an authentic relationship and learning from their feedback is the ultimate key to retain them.