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New Customer Onboarding with Stuart Balcombe at Arrows

Arrows is an onboarding tool for HubSpot and their product marketer, Stuart Balcombe, joins us. Topics include gaps between sales, marketing, and service; successful/failed onboarding; and how to implement new customer onboarding in HubSpot.

Show Description

Where marketers come to talk about sales. Ideal for heads of marketing and founders who support a sales team.

Topics include lead qualification, sales-marketing alignment, cold outreach, and more. Learn from B2B growth leaders like HubSpot, Refine Labs, Powered by Search, and Close. Hosted by Harris Kenny, founder of Intro.


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Show Notes

Stuart shares incredible insights into the new customer onboarding process, topics include:
  • Sales-Marketing-Service Alignment: Gaps in this area aren't because of your internal teams per se, but because of not knowing your customer. And they feel it. He shares valuable advice on how to avoid this trap.
  • Failed Onboarding: This has proven controversial online, but the Arrows team is opinionated about it. Onboarding can be considered either a success or a failure. What does this mean in practice? Stuart breaks it down.
  • Cost of Failure: It's easy to think about new customer onboarding as a short-term concern. However, there are long-term financial ramifications of failing to retain customers. And it could cost you your business.
  • Who Owns Onboarding: This is a tricky one. Stuart talks through the nuances of sales or service teams owning new customer onboarding, and in particular, what that looks like in HubSpot (in deals vs. tickets).
  • Onboarding Velocity: This is the one metric that Stuart is thinking about right now. He explains what it means, how they think about this at Arrows, and why it matters.
Learn more about Arrows:
Find Stuart on LinkedIn:


Welcome to Pipeline Meeting, where marketers come to talk about sales. Whether you're the head of marketing or a founder who's supporting your first sales hire, we'll talk about qualifying your inbound leads and finding new ones with cold outreach. Learn more at

[00:00:20] Harris Kenny: Today, we've got Stuart Balcombe, who is a product marketer at Arrows. Arrows is an onboarding tool that integrates with HubSpot and allows you to get new customers set up quickly.

[00:00:29] Let's just get right into my first question.

[00:00:32] As a product marketer, where do you feel like these gaps are between marketing, sales, and service, and how onboarding addresses them?

[00:00:41] Stuart Balcombe: The biggest cause of gaps doesn't have anything to do with your internal teams. I think the biggest cause of gaps, or at least the biggest impact of having gaps, is felt by the customer and comes as a result of not knowing the customer.

[00:00:56] And that goes wherever you are in the process.

[00:00:58] There is an outcome that your customer is trying to get to by signing up for your product. That outcome may be something that they are feeling themselves, or maybe something that they are connecting the dots with because they saw something in your marketing message, it might be something that they are realizing through sales discovery.

[00:01:15] But ultimately to reach that goal you need alignment between the things that you are doing to help them get there, and that goal.

[00:01:23] Most companies don't know what the goal is in the first place, because they never asked.

[00:01:29] Even if they asked at one point in the journey, they didn't then communicate that outcome throughout the rest of the journey.

[00:01:36] Which means that you have people re-asking the same question, which creates a bad experience. Re-asking instead of being able to verify that that is still true. But not knowing the goal is sort of problem, number one.

[00:01:47] And then measuring or doing activities, which are not aligned with the goal, but are instead aligned with like, this is just the way that we do this at this company. And maybe that gets you to your goal, but more than likely it doesn't, and it's just sort of pushing you down a pre-defined path.

[00:02:05] The thing that becomes really problematic when you think about onboarding and your ability to successfully deliver customers to the outcome that they ultimately want is just trying to be good at getting customers from where they are to too many different outcomes.

[00:02:21] You see this at all stages of the journey and marketing sites that don't really talk to any specific group. Sales teams that don't really qualify, or say yes to be able to close the deal and meet an unrealistic quota. And then that shows up in onboarding and success later on as failed onboardings, really long time to value, really custom implementations.

[00:02:41] Whereas if you align throughout the journey on, this is the outcome that we are really great at getting customers to, or this is the selection of outcomes that we're really great at guessing customers to.

[00:02:52] And we align everything that we do, and the customers that we serve to that, you have a much better chance of actually getting customers to that outcome, which ultimately, especially if you're in a recurring revenue business, is going to be the name of the game for retention and expansion.

[00:03:09] To tie it to onboarding, if you are waiting until onboarding like the stage in your journey that you're calling onboarding implementation.

[00:03:17] If you are waiting until that stage to talk about onboarding, to start onboarding, you're way too late.

[00:03:24] Your customers already have expectations. They already have budget that they've carved out, priorities that they've moved around. They already have things that they've done, knowing what's actually going to be required of them to get to the outcome.

[00:03:39] I see onboarding as the path to making customers successful. How are you getting customers to the outcome that they want? And that's not just the responsibility of the onboarding stage of the journey.

[00:03:49] Harris Kenny: I want to go back. You said, results in a failed onboarding. I saw somebody giving pushback. I don't know if it was with you or Daniel or someone else on LinkedIn. Just the term failed onboarding. I remember they were like, well, that seems harsh.

[00:04:01] Why do you use the term failed onboarding? What does it mean to have a failed onboarding?

[00:04:05] Stuart Balcombe: To define failed, you have to define success, right?

[00:04:08] Success may mean, you know, activated, reached some certain number of actions taken in your product. Maybe some certain amount of money spent that could be all sorts of reasons why you are deeming a customer to be successfully onboarded.

[00:04:21] Failure is sort of not reaching that milestone, which, I was also surprised that there was that much pushback on that point, because it seems like if they don't reach that point within a reasonable amount of time, within a reasonable amount of resource expenditure, you are going to kill your business by trying to onboard that customer.

[00:04:42] You have to pick and choose battles. And that's where failing onboarding, yes, it is absolutely a waste or a wasted opportunity to have a customer fail onboarding.

[00:04:54] But the problem usually doesn't start in onboarding. It usually started much, much earlier than that.

[00:04:59] Talking to somebody about this this morning, a segment of their customers who have been inactive, they're paying customers, but they're inactive.

[00:05:05] To what length are you willing to go to bring them back?

[00:05:09] If our goal for onboarding, let's say it's 30 days. If a customer goes beyond 60, maybe we just call it a fail. And that's up to every company to define that. But knowing what is the path that, what is the point that we see as our baseline?

[00:05:24] And we're trying to always be. Uh, iteratively improving that baseline, but also what is the point that we say, okay, like that's just the line it's sunk cost.

[00:05:35] Harris Kenny: It's thinking longer term, right? Because I mean, short term, you could say, oh, well having a bunch of customers who are paying us money, for whom we're not expending resources serving, it's great. They're super profitable. They're just paying us and we're not dishing out anything to serve them.

[00:05:48] But obviously at some point, you become a zombie company, right? At some point the music stops, they get that next receipt or invoice, or they reconcile their books and they're like, wait, hold on, is anybody using this anymore? So you're kind of delaying the inevitable.

[00:06:04] Stuart Balcombe: Yes, absolutely. And you're also not realizing, and again, talking more specifically about SaaS and recurring revenue models here, but you're also not realizing the benefit of the business model.

[00:06:17] The revenue that you close on day one is just a starting point. Like if you are making customers successful and truly successful, not in like, oh, they used our product more, right?

[00:06:29] If you're actually helping them achieve the outcomes that they want to achieve, they will start asking. They will start coming to you with new problems. They will start coming to you with new challenges. If you can prove that you solve problems, they will go find budget for you to solve more problems that are impactful for their business, right?

[00:06:48] And they should still be adjacent problems. Obviously you should still be, you know, differentiated and, well equipped to solve those problems. But it, that is a much better position to be in than, we've gotta figure out how to close a whole bunch of new customers this month, because otherwise we won't replace the ones who were leaving because we didn't make them successful.

[00:07:07] Harris Kenny: Yeah. Going back to your controversies though. Because I feel like I don't understand why, but this topic of onboarding does seem to be controversial on LinkedIn.

[00:07:16] The customer that never onboards, that sale shouldn't count. I mean, to me, this is kind of an extension of the failed onboarding thing.

[00:07:23] And I think this is where maybe sales people get a little territorial because they worry about like, if they should get commission on a deal that closes, if they can't control the outcome of the onboarding. I guess there's a difference here, right?

[00:07:35] Stuart Balcombe: There's a line in there, right? Yes, it gets complicated when you start talking about comp and you start talking about like, what are the metrics that sales is held to, when they don't have full control over, over that experience.

[00:07:47] But I do think that over time you need to look at, are there particular segments of customers that we are closing that do not onboard at a higher rate than others?

[00:07:57] Is there a particular salesperson, or a particular team, particular region, that closes customers that do not onboard at the same rate as other customers?

[00:08:08] You can say closed won is the, the start of the journey. And there's, you know, there's much more of the journey before that, but closed won is sort of the start of the commercial journey with the company.

[00:08:18] But if the revenue that we close on day one is just the beginning, we wanna look at future revenue potential.

[00:08:23] The customer that never on boards never has any future revenue potential.

[00:08:29] You're weighing the cost of acquisition against just that first sale, not the ongoing benefit. And if you look at SaaS, like what are you willing to acquire a customer in SaaS? often pretty high because the business model is built around ongoing revenue and expanding revenue.

[00:08:47] Depending on your model, there can be implications of a customer not onboarding that if you look longer term, beyond just offsetting that initial sale.

[00:08:57] Harris Kenny: Okay, let's jump into the weeds that on this sales versus service workflow.

[00:09:00] I'm on board with Arrows, no pun intended. I want to onboard customers. Now I'm wondering, does this a sales thing, is this a service thing?

[00:09:08] And in HubSpot, you know, you specifically, you have to answer this question because you have to answer whether or not you wanna track deals or tickets.

[00:09:15] So for the HubSpot folks out there, or people who are considering switching the HubSpot, how does this play out? How does this tension between sales versus service play out? Ultimately it's a team sport, but there is like a literal decision that needs to be made.

[00:09:29] Stuart Balcombe: Yeah, can I say it depends and walk away?

[00:09:31] Harris Kenny: Yeah, yeah, totally.

[00:09:33] Stuart Balcombe: It really depends on how you see onboarding fitting into the rest of your customer journey.

[00:09:40] There are different points, depending on the types of customers you sell to, depending on your go to market motion, there are different places where you will be involving the implementation and sort of onboarding process.

[00:09:53] If you have a CSM involved, if you have some onboarding steps involved during the sales process, maybe it makes sense to keep it in deals and keep it in a place that is, you know, part of the same journey.

[00:10:08] You're gonna continue to track revenue. You're gonna have all the things that you get out of the box with deals like being able to easily see time in stage, keeping your onboarding in a place that the sales team already is using, and is already, uh, used to finding the information that they are they are looking for.

[00:10:26] One thing that I would suggest is having a separate pipeline for onboarding versus sales.

[00:10:32] This is where we get into a little bit of a conflict between deals and tickets because of how HubSpot works. You cannot associate a deal with a deal, right?

[00:10:43] You are associating deals with companies, whereas you can associate a ticket with a deal, which gives you some advantages of being able to associate the onboarding ticket.

[00:10:54] You see, you'd a separate pipeline for onboarding, which is in tickets with the sales deal, which especially if you have a handoff between different teams and there's different people responsible for the commercial side of the deal and the sort of customer value onboarding side of the deal it can be beneficial to have them in entirely separate places, uh, for that reason.

[00:11:16] Depending on the complexity of your onboarding, you're going to have more conversations happening on the onboarding side that don't necessarily include sales.

[00:11:23] You're gonna have more things happening, more automation, more workflows, more process happening on the onboarding side, that if you are leaving it in the sales side of the house, can just be confusing and create sort of more there, versus having a nice association between the two.

[00:11:41] Tickets do have some nice things like SLAs, which can be, can be helpful. Not that you can't set those kinds of things up, uh, a little more manually or a little more with a little more configuration, um, in deals, but there are some nice sort of out of the box things for tickets.

[00:11:56] So recently I've been leaning more to tickets. I do think that there are some advantages to tickets.

[00:12:02] Of course, the big question that this always comes down to for teams is what HubSpot hubs are you already using? What HubSpot hubs you already paying for? Do you have all the features? If the perfect state is, or the better state ultimately is tickets.

[00:12:20] Are you paying for that already? Or is that gonna be an additional cost?

[00:12:23] Ultimately it'll come down to, what are you using? What does your current process look like? And where onboarding fits in that customer journey.

[00:12:33] Harris Kenny: Last question, quick one. What's one metric, in terms of onboarding data, that you're thinking about lately or that you're seeing customers lean into.

[00:12:41] Stuart Balcombe: Time to value is the one that is often talked about in onboarding. Average time to value is a relatively easy metric to track. You just need to start an end date of every. Of every onboarding and then you can take an average of the difference.

[00:12:56] However, it does have some pretty serious holes when it comes to figuring out, what is actually happening during that process?

[00:13:03] It's a reasonable, directional measure, right? Like overall is our average getting better. It's okay for that purpose.

[00:13:10] But onboarding velocity is probably a better one.

[00:13:14] You don't need to track a whole lot more numbers, knowing start and end date of every onboarding, and then tracking the number of onboardings that are complete at each point along the journey will get you to that number.

[00:13:25] Those are both directional metrics. Overall, are we going in the right direction? Are there inconsistencies that we should be looking at?

[00:13:33] The other one that I would strongly recommend, which if you're familiar with running a sales process in a CRM, this one will be top of mind already, but it is time in stage.

[00:13:43] One of the nice benefits of running onboarding in a pipeline is you'll just, anecdotally, you'll be able to see, oh, there's more customers that are in this stage at any one time than another. Right.

[00:13:55] Are there particular choke points in your process that people continuously get stuck, right? What you're really looking for is, what is our current baseline? Where are we today? What are the points that we can have an intervention, that we can make a change, to try to improve the direction that we're heading in.

[00:14:12] And usually are the big reasons why, or the big causes of slowdowns are the customer doesn't know what they're supposed to do next.

[00:14:25] So they deprioritize it, leave it alone, and it sort of surfaces as like ghosting, but really they just like don't know what to do, so that wasn't clear.

[00:14:32] Or there's somewhere in the experience where you are blocking them.

[00:14:38] Especially in a human-led, or human in the loop onboarding. It's not as simple as, Hey, go complete all the things in this checklist.

[00:14:44] There's some back and forth, that needs to be lined up to enable that.

[00:14:47] Harris Kenny: That makes sense. Alright, cool. Stuart, thanks for your time. Where can people learn more about you? And where can they learn more about Arrows?

[00:14:55] Stuart Balcombe: Thanks so much for having me the best place to find me. I'm pretty active on LinkedIn. And then Arrows at I write a, a weekly newsletter Happy Customers, and we have a ton of free resources on HubSpot and running onboarding, optimizing onboarding programs, and running those in the CRM.

That's all for now. You can find show notes at The theme music for Pipeline Meeting is by Neighbourhood Vandal and it's shared under a Creative Commons-Attribution, or CC-BY, license. If you learned something, consider sharing this show with a friend. Thanks.