Photo by Brett Jordan
Ah yes, email. It is here to stay. It came with the arrival of the internet and odds are it’s going to be around for a long time. Email and onboarding work in tandem to help nudge users back onto the onboarding flow if they’ve forgotten it, need reinforcement, give a warm welcome or become distract-
Email is part of your holistic user onboarding experience. There are five important types of emails that need to be part of your email campaign for new users within a SaaS model.
- Welcoming users
- Feature adoption
- Trial ending
I should mention that I’m purposefully leaving out verification emails. They are not part of nudging psychology. They are a purely utilitarian email that rarely, if ever, informs or empowers users. You do need them as part of your onboarding process, but they don’t need to be the first email users see. Set them a little further down the user pipeline so users can experience the utility of the product before they are given a chore.
1. Welcome Email
Welcome emails are so standard that 74% of users for a subscription service expect one. This introductory email is ripe with opportunity.
All of your emails demand a high quality of attention but this particular type of email is going to be the one that has the highest open rates. With that, know that it will probably have the most attention out of all of your emails.
Avochato uses two tactics to make this welcome email stand out: a short 2-d animated video explaining the utility of their product and a checklist explaining how to get started.
It should be noted that this is a great place to start personalizing the emails. We all love hearing our own name (or is that just me?). But that personalization is a two way street. Having an email attached to a real person and not just [email protected] or worse, a noreply email. Let users know that there’s a living breathing person behind the email. This establishes that there is a person to reach out to.
2. Accomplishment email
One of the easiest things you can do for your users is give them the feeling of winning. This type of email is dependent on your product. A video content company and an estate planning company are not going to celebrate user’s accomplishments the same way.
If you have content that’s being created and shared, there’s nothing wrong with a little pat on the back. The more you connect the feeling of winning with your product, the more customers will want to use the product.
3. Feature adoption email
Feature adoption can be put into two different categories. New features and pre-existing features. New features are tricky since it will affect the UI of the product, and it essentially becomes a mini onboarding process for any user, whether they are new or existing. If your product is a complex, multi-layered experience, gradually introducing pre-existing features might be a good approach to not overwhelm the user.
Vimcal is pushing their chrome extension here. Their messaging is short and sweet and ends with instructions on how to easily get started. This type of messaging is also consistent for Vimcal, a lot of their emails focusing on specific features.
Feature adoption can be announced in a number of ways, the best being notified within the product. The second best being an email. Feature adoption has one primary purpose: to remain competitive. For instance, a driving app is no longer just a driving app. In ten years, Lyft has added delivery, car rental and scooter rental features to their app.
A close relative to feature adoption is release notes. Release notes are the technical documentation that are provided with the launch of a software update. These can be anything from bug fixes, new features and/or improvement of features. All things that improve the user experience. If this sounds like somewhat dry literature, it usually is. But it doesn’t have to be. Slack turned their release notes into an opportunity to entertain their customer base.
4. Trial abandonment email
Customers abandoning your product because they aren’t the right fit isn’t a bad thing. It’s inevitable. What is unfortunate is customers leaving your product because they can’t recognize the usefulness of it. Abandonment emails are one of the last few attempts to retain users.
Canny sends this message if you haven’t created any boards, one of their key features.
Abandonment emails don’t have to follow any particular guidelines. If you have the resources, it may be beneficial to offer a 1 on 1 call to guide through any concerns.
Automating this email requires a little bit of user segmentation since users abandon products at different points. The user who abandons a product just after signing up vs the user who has been inactive after trying the product for a few days is going to have a different message.
This is the message that Freshworks sends when users have started to check out their help widget but abandon it before using it. They use a link to their content library to nudge potential users. This example also can work for feature adoption, targeting specific users.
5. Trial ending email
In a way this is considered the ultimate abandonment email but it does warrant its own category. The last chance email is the last line of defense against user churn. A good rule of thumb is to reiterate what people are going to lose when their free trial is over.
Let’s take a look at Story Chief
Story chief likes to keep things simple with their messaging. They also follow it up with a “would love to see you again email.”
Last chance emails are an opportunity to also provide a deal to entice people back into the product. How much of a deal you want to provide depends on how badly you want to retain the customer.
Note: It’s critical to have these emails with Opt-out trials, where payment is asked upfront.
6. Bonus: Upgrading opportunities
Upgrading and upselling during the user onboarding experience is a hard process. Users haven’t fully transitioned to customers yet and the full utility of the product isn’t apparent. This is why the upgrade isn’t its own email category since the opportunity to upgrade can live in different emails, specifically feature adoption and accomplishments. This is where sales can come in and assist the onboarding experience, with helpful 1 on 1 calls.
Loom does a great job by using a sense of urgency and a single CTA to encourage upgrading.
How do you know an email campaign is being effective? Measuring it of course.
There are a number of ways to quantify the success (or lack thereof) with an onboarding email campaign but the top three are:
- Click Through Rate (CTR)
- Open Rate
- Post-email conversion
The last metric can be a number of things, such as end-goal conversions like sales and signups. Ultimately the metrics that you want to watch are the ones that best support your business goals.
These emails and examples live in the user onboarding phase, which also overlaps the free trial phase. This means they have an average window of two weeks to be the most effective.
There are a few universal rules for all of these emails that need to be followed, regardless of tone, product or pricing.
- The message needs to be easy to understand
- The message needs to drive users towards an action
- The action needs to be readily available
- The email campaign needs to be automated, where appropriate
- The emails will be more effective with user segmentation
That’s it. Follow these five rules and you have a solid foundation for developing the message for each of your onboarding emails. It is also a great way to fight against churn.
All of these emails are messages that need to be living in the product as well. It is simply continuing the message through a different channel.