10 psychological nudges used by the best B2B SaaS to nail user onboarding

When it comes to onboarding flows, the possibilities are endless.

How should we capture a new user's intentions? What’s the first thing we want users to do? Should we make it interactive or descriptive?

You can't just steal another product's onboarding flow. It was tailored to their value proposition, features, target audience and also scoped on their team's technical bandwidth.

What you can (and should) steal from top SaaS companies are the subtle tricks they use to optimize their user activation rate. These tiny percentage points go a long way.

To help you with this, I've studied over 50 SaaS onboarding flows and came up with 10 psychological nudges great products use that you should add to your onboarding flow.

Here we go 👇

1. The "lazy skip button" 🤨

This one is really subtle.

When Slack prompts you to invite teammates during the workspace setup, the "skip" button appears with a ~1s delay. Just enough to make users think they must invite someone to continue the setup. Did my internet connection cause the delay? I don't think so…

2. The not-so-disabled "continue" button

Airtable uses this trick to get users to reply to onboarding questions. The "continue" button is disabled by default, giving you the impression that you need to answer the question to move on despite there being a "skip" button.

🎁 Bonus: Make users click an answer to continue the flow instead of having to select an option and then click "Continue". This saves a click while also increasing the reply rate on that question 🤯

3. Use smart default values to minimize user input

Typical B2B SaaS will have you set up an environment (workspace, environment, account, …). If the user signed up with a professional email, you can use the email's domain name to:

  • Fetch the company's logo using Clearbit (for free)
  • Pre-fill the workspace's name with the users' company name
  • On the "invite your teammates" screen, you can pre-fill the domain name of the user's coworkers

When the email is private, the process is a bit more tricky, but you can still retrieve someone's company using enrichment tools. Alternatively, use simple naming such as "James' workspace" to keep things clean.

4. Capture their email first

Pretty much all successful SaaS companies do this: The first step of their signup page only asks for the user's email. The rest of the setup & onboarding questions are only revealed after you give them your email.

This serves multiple purposes"

1. Nurture you with content in case you drop off during the signup or onboarding flow.

2. Makes the signup flow feel lighter because the questions asked are spread over multiple steps.

3. Your email is the starting point for data enrichment that can be used further down the onboarding.

5. "The sneaky progress bar"

B2B products typically have two phases in their onboarding flow: "Create user account" (your personal profile) quickly followed by "Create or set up workspace/environment."

Airtable's progress back jumps back.

The progress bar goes 100% for the "Create user account" phase, then moves back to 75% when you start the environment setup. This makes users think they're "almost there", making the onboarding feel less heavy.

6. The non-intrusive onboarding checklist

ClickUp revamped its onboarding flow and edited its onboarding checklist. It ticks all the boxes:

✅ It's not intrusive. The checklist is already opened when you arrive in your workspace and doesn't disrupt the flow.

✅ You can close the checklist without losing it.

✅ You can fully close it if you don't want to see it again.

✅ The CTA "Show me how" opens a short video or triggers a product tour (more on this below)

7. User-triggered product tours

Once the user lands in your product, most products trigger a guided "product tour" automatically.

ClickUp and Airtable understood one thing:

Letting users trigger their own product tours gives them a sense of control and plays on their willingness to actually go through the product tour instead of being forced into one.

ClickUp does this by letting you click a "Show me how" button in their onboarding checklist that opens a short video or starts a product tour.

Airtable goes one step further by performing the task for you and highlighting the result.

8. Mark the first checklist item as "completed"

The hardest part with any checklist is always that first task you don't want to get started with.

A simple trick here is to mark that first task as "completed", giving users the feeling that they're already on their way.

9. The fake "mandatory" button triggering a reverse trial

Reverse trials enabled paid features for new users, for a limited trial period, before reverting back to the freemium product at the end of the trial period. The goal is to hook you on using paid features and then create friction by removing these features, pushing you towards a paid subscription.

Some products automatically trigger your reverse trial at signup. Others let you opt-in once you're activated on their free product.

Airtable & Asana have a subtle way to get you to opt-in on a reverse trial: They display a pop-up with a single CTA and no "exit" or "skip" button. This pushes users to trigger their reverse trial, while they could also simply click outside the pop-up to close it.

10. Make it quirky

Most onboardings are similar: "Get started", "skip", "next", invite teammates, do this, do that.
It can get boring.

If you have a quirky idea that can give new users a "wow" effect, go for it.
This could be through copywriting: ClickUp changed the copy of their "Get started" button to "Play with ClickUp".

Or something more advanced, like generating relevant "dummy" data using AI, in the context of your product.

That's a wrap! If you spot any other great onboarding tricks, I'd love to hear from you. You can reach me by email or LinkedIn. I'm always up for a great product chat 😃