We all know that word choice has a lot to do with getting someone to take a desired action. From a very early age, we knew “please” was the best word to use when asking for something and saying “thank you” was the likeliest way to earn future favor. Similarly, in the business world, the right word in a subject line, for example, can increase email opens—while the wrong word can get you flagged for spam.

Putting SaaS onboarding copy together that gets sign-ups and keeps users engaged can be particularly tricky. It is much more than using the right words in a single email to sell a pair of sneakers or a vacation in Rome. SaaS onboarding requires round after round of strategic word choice that shows you have a sense of a buyer’s shifting moods and needs.

What is SaaS Onboarding?

SaaS onboarding is similar to employee onboarding. Both have the same goal:  to get people used to, excited about, and singing the praises of their new environment as quickly as possible.

But, the similarities end there. Employee onboarding activities are driven by what the employer needs or expects their employee to be able to do in a certain amount of time. Essentially, a new employee is given a map and directed along a prescribed path to productivity.  Successful SaaS onboarding, however, is driven by the user—a user who has their own objectives and timeline. Successful SaaS onboarding plans can’t rely on the user to take a prescribed path but rather must provide a personalized onboarding experience that caters to the customer’s habits. It must move with the customer along their own journey up, down, around, and through the product.

Why do words matter?

The series of emails, landing pages, and other prompts you create as part of your onboarding package are all part of a “flow.” A good flow stimulates the sense of satisfaction and happiness a user must have to stay engaged. But flow can be interrupted by “friction.” Friction creates the “just forget about it” attitude a customer gets when they can’t move forward through the onboarding flow because of minor irritations (“You didn’t tell me my password had to be 8 characters long!”) or major disappointments (“You want a credit card NOW? I thought this was a ‘free’ trial!”). In short, friction is anything that interrupts a user’s flow and makes them think twice about the effort and time they want to invest in the relationship with a product.

It’s not what you say but how you say it.

Whether you are starting from scratch with your SaaS onboarding program or have been working away at it for some time, here are the kinds of words you should be using to keep your users engaged and in a state of onboarding Zen:

Succinct and Action-Oriented

Your goal is to keep your customers in the flow. They are busy. Point them exactly where you want them to go. Tell them exactly what you want them to do. Avoid having too many words or instructions on a page. If you must, be sure to make the most important action the most prominent on the page by using different size fonts or other design elements.


What challenges does your customer have? What are they trying to achieve? When you use words that are empathetic you show your customers that you are sensitive to their needs. Not only should your words be brief and action-oriented, but they should also speak to a very specific need your user has.

How does empathy relate to flow? First, empathy that is genuine keeps people engaged with your message. Developing strong customer personas is critical to finding the exact words and phrases that show genuine empathy. Creating artificial empathy by simply throwing a whole bunch of “we know how you feel” statements into your emails will eventually fall flat, giving customers cause to question how invested you really are in their wellbeing and success, causing friction and interrupting the flow.


Getting elbow deep in new technology can be uncomfortable to users—especially if the onboarding experience becomes complicated. Any kind of friction or frustration can cause them to click away. By using optimistic, encouraging phrases, like “don’t worry” you are showing them that the journey is worth it and that they are fully capable of making it through.


SaaS sales cycles can vary dramatically. This means that SaaS onboarding must engage with users who are eager to dive in and others who are more hesitant. Letting the first group find information fast while encouraging the latter to take things at their own pace is important. Remember, not everyone you reach is ready to buy now. Your words must exude a patience that keeps customers that are on the fence both comfortable and engaged while they are in the information gathering phase of their buying decision.

Of course, you should always work with the mindset towards continuously improving and refining your onboarding emails and overall onboarding strategy. Take a look at how we improved our own onboarding processes here.