Onboarding Experience is Product Management

Testing and learning is such a fundamental aspect of product management. Today’s users are so digitally savvy that they can sniff out poorly designed features very quickly.”

Sandra Lin, Senior Product Director for Northwestern Mutual, shares how the legacy company evolved to offer digital experiences to its customers and important strategies to use when converting prospects to clients.


When a prospect is invited by a Northwestern Mutual financial advisor to visit the company’s website, they see a guided digital experience that shows them a personalized snapshot of their financial picture and content relevant to their future financial, insurance, and investment purchases.

This was built by Sandra Lin, Senior Product Director for Northwestern Mutual, and her team.

Knowing that consumers can “often and easily drop off” between talking to financial advisors and making purchasing decisions, Sandra and her team needed to find creative ways to keep prospects engaged.

So, two years ago, they built an educational website where prospects can try before they buy.

“We know that a relationship with an advisor is ultimately very personal, very one-on-one. You really need to trust an advisor in order to share your personal financial information as well as your long-term financial goals for you and your family,” says Sandra. “As you work with your advisor, we’ve built out an experience where digitally you can interact with Northwestern Mutual.”

Since then, Sandra’s team has spent a lot of time conducting extensive user research to make product enhancements and further strengthen the relationship prospects have with their advisors.

To understand customer pain points, Northwestern Mutual combined traditional market research methodologies and research studies with a test and learn approach using Alpha. “We really wanted to examine what are their feelings at that point in time, what are their concerns, what are the things that could make the process better?” says Sandra. “And we’ve kind of taken all of that feedback and ultimately prioritized a list of features that we thought addressed those items.”

With Alpha, Sandra’s team has been quickly able to gather user feedback and iterate on product decisions large and small. “Testing and learning is such a fundamental aspect of product development,” she says. “Today’s users are so digitally savvy that they can sniff out poorly designed features very quickly.”

For example, they learned from research that prospects are generally overwhelmed by financial conversations. The solution? Launching an updated, more guided digital experience. Key features include downloadable sample financial plans, checklists to prepare for their next meeting with advisors, client testimonials, and personalized content for users depending on the stage of their buying journey.

“We’ve already started seeing more prospects connecting external accounts and uploading important documents. It’s providing more context,” says Sandra. “And by sharing deeper financial information, advisors will be better equipped to formulate an accurate and achievable financial plan to help their prospects achieve their financial goals.”

Here are the highlights: 

Sandra Lin

Senior Product Director

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