What Every Startup Can Learn About Onboarding From Video Games

Build customer engagement into your product without expensive software

Joe Procopio


About a month ago, I got to listen in on a management meeting at a startup that I was considering advising. The meeting was just getting started when one of the management team folks asked the CEO one of the best setup questions I’ve ever heard: “Why is our customer onboarding so awful? And since it never works, why do we keep doing it the same way?”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that question. I can tell you that I’ve asked that same question of my own startups and my own products. And I can also tell you that more often than not, there’s a very simple answer: Leadership is putting off spending time and money on a very formal and very expensive onboarding solution, one that probably requires a custom build or a third-party bolt-on.

You don’t have to do this. You don’t need to build widgets or wizards or Clippy. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on specially designed software to onboard your customers and keep them engaged. You just need a good plan.

Here’s how to devise your onboarding and engagement plan to lead your customers to success and generate longer lifetime value.

Stop the onboarding death spiral

I mentioned “Clippy” in an earlier paragraph and, thank your lucky stars, probably 80 percent of you read right past that name without knowing that it refers to an animated paper clip that served as an interactive assistant baked into past versions of Microsoft Office.

Clippy was the jump-the-shark moment of overkill onboarding, the cartoon culmination of software companies shoving way too much complexity into their software.

Clippy was despised but was also seen as necessary, at least by Microsoft developers (obviously). The only thing Microsoft Office users hated more than the frustration caused by using the overly-complex software was the frustration of sifting through pages and pages of “help” documentation to try to figure out how to do what they wanted to do.

Flash forward to current day, and if I’m using a new software-as-a-service (SaaS) product, I am…



Joe Procopio

I'm a multi-exit, multi-failure entrepreneur. NLG pioneer. Building TeachingStartup.com & GROWERS. Write at Inc.com and BuiltIn.com. More at joeprocopio.com