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The Insecure Product Trap.

Updated: Jul 16, 2023

Your product’s first impression matters!

A positive initial interaction with your product can mean the difference between a one-time user and a long-term, loyal customer. Proper onboarding will increase activation, reduce churn rates, and consequently boost your bottom line.

Unfortunately, many SaaS companies fail to make a strong first impression.

The main reason is they simply fail to solve the problem that the person was looking for when they signed up.

There are 3 main components that contribute to this:

  1. Failing to recognize that onboarding starts before users sign up.

  2. Overwhelming new users with excessive features and functionalities.

  3. Lack of personalization.

The result?

A value gap is created.

Perceived value vs experienced value

Yes I know, it’s obviously important to make your product sound incredible.

But your proposition needs to be realistic so that when people finally use the product, they won’t be too disappointed.

When the promise we offer in our marketing (Perceived value) is heavily misaligned with what we actually deliver (Experienced value) - new users are likely to have a disappointing first experience and may never come back.

So, set reasonable expectations because people that have a positive first experience with your product are way more likely to stick around and give your product a real shot.

Remember, onboarding is the user’s first impression.

Rule: Make sure it’s positive, and make sure it’s honest. Fact: Once a first impression is formed, people are less likely to change their mind.

Okay, now it’s time to get practical.

Onboarding doesn’t start when they sign up.

Where onboarding actually starts

The journey begins with the very first interaction a potential user has with your brand. That could be seeing an ad, visiting your website, or hearing about you from a friend. As product builders and marketers, it's crucial to keep this in mind and guide the user toward the problems your product solves for them, and how it provides value to their life or business as early as possible.

Set the tone by communicating your value proposition clearly. Paint a picture in the user’s mind of what they can expect.

Another common mistake here is overpromising.

Example - If you’re offering a free trial or freemium and in those tiers users will only experience a certain level of access, don’t over promise!

Don’t confuse them with features and functionality that they won’t even be able to benefit from. It’s really frustrating when you sign up for a free trial only to realize that you actually can’t do anything properly without upgrading. This isn’t a great first impression.

Free trial feature limitations


Not being able to define realistic expectations often results in the insecure product trap.


Less is more.

Less is more

In today's market, everyone is trying everything they can to get new signups to stick around because they're scared to lose out on potential leads.

But the funny thing is that they're actually scaring users away by trying to over impress them. By "over impress", I mean trying to force value onto new users. Showing them everything their product can do in hopes of something catching their attention.

Now I'm not saying there isn't a time and place to show off your product's superpowers. But that's not why they signed up. They have a specific problem and all they want to know is if your product can help them solve it.

In the beginning, less is more. You need to focus on solving their immediate pain point.

Solving user's problems

When you give them a positive first impression, their likeliness to activate and explore more of your product increases exponentially.

This requires a deep understanding of what your target audience’s pain points actually are.

When this is clear, it’s a whole lot easier to know what to prioritize in the order of each persona’s user journey.

Speaking of personas, this leads us into the third piece of the puzzle.


People crave personalized experiences. They want to feel understood, valued, and catered to. If your product can give them this feeling, you're well on your way to securing their loyalty.

Personalization can start as simply as addressing users by their name. But it can go much deeper, encompassing tailored onboarding journeys, personalized product recommendations, and user experiences that adapt based on behavior and preferences.

My favorite place to start is by asking. For example, let’s take Canva - when you sign up, they ask you the following question:

Canva Personalisation

Then, based on your answer, your next steps are personalized to make sure you get closer to what you’re looking for, faster!

The suggestions they offer you on your landing page change accordingly like this:

Canva Personalisation

One small touch point like this can transform the entire user journey.

Questions like:

  • What will be using {product} for?

  • Have you used a {product category} before?

  • Which problem would you like to solve first?

Every company is going to need to experiment with this depending on their different user segments but always remember - Don’t assume, just ask.

Personalization shouldn’t end with onboarding. Your engagement sequences, communications, feature recommendations, in-app suggestions, pricing… the entire user journey should be tailored to best fit each user’s needs.

Wrapping up

By prepping users before they sign up, focusing on their problems rather than your features, and personalizing the experience, you can provide a more engaging, helpful, and satisfying journey for your users.

Not only does this make a fantastic first impression, but it also paves the way for long-term loyalty and engagement.


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