Instead of making a plain useless list, I have grouped the tools you need to improve customer onboarding depending on the stage your startup is at.
This way it's way more useful, and you don't have to scroll for ages to find the tool you are looking for, click on the stage you want in the table of contents above.
But first the essentials. Some tools are going to stay with you during the whole journey.
Zapier is such a tool. When you start, and you don't have investors, you might not be able to afford tools that provide automation. Zapier has a free plan. While small, it can be useful enough to save a few bucks here and there. And as you grow, you will always need Zapier for automation.
Another tool can also adapt to your needs as you grow, Intercom. They have a wide range of tools: live chat, chatbots, product tours, knowledge base, targeted messages, customer activity, etc. It is expensive, but there is a special offer for startups.
As you build your product, you might need Auth0 and Gravatar to save development time. The first one allows you to have an authentication system with minimal coding and add social logins, two authentication factor, and more really quickly. The latter adds avatars without the need to write the code for the avatar uploading.
You can grow with these solutions for quite some time, but you might also feel limited by them.
A changelog is a great way to keep your customers informed of changes, and Headway is the application you are going to need.
For your marketing site, you can start with Wordpress even if you don't have any money and keep it for a long time as you scale.
High-Touch Contact Points.
Emails and Notifications.
That's a vast field, but there are some tremendous freemium apps. Mixpanel, for example, is easy to use and gives you the insights you need to improve your customer onboarding.
Segment is quickly going to be needed to consolidate customer data.
ProfitWell is also going to be very helpful to analyze engagement and financial metrics like your trial-to-paid ratio.
Early-Stage (Pre-Seed, Seed, Self-Funded)
Without a lot of funds, most tools are out of reach. And paradoxically, losing customers because the onboarding isn't perfect has a much more significant impact. You don't generate a lot of leads yet, and every single conversion matters.
Everything that is cheap, adds value, and reduce the amount of work is going to be a gift from heaven. Most tools you need are already in the essentials.
But there are other tools specific to early-stage constraints.
Support, Live Chat, and CRM. For proper support, there are no good free tools. Kayako is a great paid option and one of the cheapest support tools out there. If live chat is enough for you, Crisp, Drift, and Hubspot CRM have free plans.
Your product has enough money to afford to spend more on tools. You are starting to see product/market fit, and the goal now is to improve the customer experience to have a definite product/market fit.
Personalization. UserPilot will be very useful to personalize your onboarding process. And UserList is going to allow you to personalize the messages you send your customers depending on the actions they take. It's a valuable tool that you absolutely need.
Public Roadmap. Now you need a product roadmap that's going to accurately gather insights. Canny can help you with that. Product Board and ProdPad also have public roadmap features, but they come with a whole product management tool.
Analytics. ProfitWell is excellent, but at this point you might want to more features and Chartmogul delivers that. Baremetrics can also be an alternative as their cancellation insights are handy to reduce churn.
CRO. RightMessage is a tool I absolutely recommend to improve conversion.
Series B (and beyond)
At this stage, you should fully have product/market fit. Now you need to be able to scale. And for that simple growth hacks won't cut it. You need tools with depths.
Product Tour. Appcues allows you to change product tours without the help of developers. It's great when you scale.
High-Touch Contact Points. Conversational marketing is great to drive your marketing and sales efforts. Drift is the best solution once you have the means to afford it.
Analytics. While there are many freemium analytics tools, there is another class of analytics tools when your product reaches a certain maturity. Amplitude for product intelligence, Qualaroo for user research, FullStory for user recordings, and Optimizely for A/B testing.
All-in-one. If you need an all-in-one solution for your marketing and sales efforts, Hubspot is what you are looking for. It includes many features that are all in the same place. It is a great productivity booster! But it's expensive, very expensive.
Remember that tools are not going to do your work; they are just assisting you to do it.
You are going to need to invest time to learn to use them correctly. Do the proper research before investing in one to be sure it's the right fit for you.
But if you have the right tools, you will accelerate the growth of your product quickly. The investment will be worth it.