In this episode, Nikki Elbaz, founder of nikkielbaz.com and unmassmarket.com shares the secrets to data-driven onboarding email sequences that get more products in more pockets.
Some topics we discussed include:
- What businesses don’t know about email copy and how it can fuel their brand marketing
- How to decide on which is best – long emails or short emails
- What place does email still have in onboarding people on to SaaS products
- How to structure your onboarding emails
- How to determine the best email frequency and set the right expectations
- Onboarding email best practices you need to drive business growth
- PLUS: How to test and optimize your onboarding emails
- and much more
- Some topics we discussed include:
- The potential impact of onboarding email best practices
- 1. Avoid template-like emails. Be personal.
- 2. Share tips on the best use of the platform
- 3. Go beyond features and focus on a topic
- 4. Connect with storytelling
- 5. Personalize your onboarding emails in creative ways
- 6. Ask why they don’t convert
- 7. Ensure your brand voice resonates with users
- 8. Send onboarding emails based on behavioral triggers
- 9. Engage with inactive users
- 10. Send a confirmation email that connects
- 11. Use transactional emails to re-engage even if the trial is over
- 12. Reduce churn
- 13. BONUS—Create mobile-friendly emails
- Implement your onboarding email best practices
- Connect with Nikki
The potential impact of onboarding email best practices
Knowing your way around email marketing can be extremely important for your business to grow and to continuously achieve profits. You’d be surprised at how much email onboarding best practices can significantly affect your conversion rates and keep new users happy enough to become regular clients.
In fact, according to Statista, the number of email users in 2018 alone was 3.8 billion, and this is set to grow by more than 15% by 2023. In addition, the number of emails being sent and received every day is a whopping 293.6 billion. This has been growing each year, and it is expected to continue growing.
What does this mean for B2B onboarding email best practices?
According to marketing experts, email ranks third among sources of information for B2B audiences, right after colleague recommendations and industry-specific thought leaders.
Not convinced of the power of onboarding email best practices yet?
Well, another eye-opening fact is that if you invest a single dollar on email marketing, you will receive an average of $42! That means $100 will get you $4,200 and $500 will get you $21,000, and… Well, you get the idea.
But what if you already have a successful business and you’re just trying to figure out how to keep your customers from running off to the competition?
In that case, you should also know that more than 80% of SMBs rely on email marketing for retention, and there is a lot you can do with a simple onboarding flow combined with nurture emails personalized for your brand’s customers.
Here is a list of the 12 onboarding email best practices to boost business growth.
1. Avoid template-like emails. Be personal.
Your onboarding email best practices should be based on the feedback and data you get from your audience.
One of the key elements of every sale, no matter which field your business operates in, is to understand who you’re selling your product to.
A great way to do that is to segment different user groups according to their needs, pains, motivations, and other behavior triggers. This process can take some time. Collecting relevant user data requires a lot of patience, but once you hit that sweet spot and you figure out what type of user engagement works best, you will start to see a spike in your numbers.
It is important to avoid what everyone else in the industry is doing, whether it’s in terms of email length, style, or copies.
Some marketers are trapped by the notion that shorter emails are better, which isn’t always the case. A better approach is to think of your onboarding emails as striking up a one-to-one conversation with the user where the only concerns are utility and value.
2. Share tips on the best use of the platform
New users need support when they’re starting off with your software. You want to ease them into the process, make them feel like you’re there for them at every step of the way. That means keeping them engaged through their inbox. Sending them important pieces of information they would otherwise have to spend a lot of time searching for, get discouraged, and never sign up for the paid version. Successful brands always look at their product from the user’s point of view to make sure the users get the best experience possible.
A proven strategy for sending daily emails while keeping the users engaged is to share tips on how to use the platform. Even if you’re operating the most intuitive SaaS platform, it helps to soften the learning curves for the users.
An email subject like “Tip 1 Of 6…” prepares the users for getting an email each day, at least for the next six days. Here’s an example:
When you focus on sharing tips, particularly those that address users’ pain points, you’re building trust. Building trust is an important process that leads to better conversion.
Consistency is key. If you offer new users a 30-day trial, don’t just disappear until the end and ask them to upgrade. You have a much better chance of them upgrading if you keep the onboarding flow constant and helpful.
3. Go beyond features and focus on a topic
A common misconception is that you have to keep onboarding emails short. In fact, getting your message across is the most important part of the process, and it sometimes takes a longer email to do that.
Don’t be afraid to use all of the compelling arguments for using your product. After all, if your new customers don’t understand what they’re signing up for and what it means for them, why would they want to stick around?
In other words, don’t use onboarding emails to harp over the features. Focus instead on how users are deriving benefits from the platform.
The underlying messages in the emails should revolve around topics that are relevant to the users. For example, talk about the common pain points that the users could relate with, and lead the conversation to the features.
Also, it helps if you have a funny side that the users could connect with.
Don’t make onboarding emails a boring list of technical bullet points. Incorporate humor into the emails to keep users engaged while maintaining a serious side of your offerings.
Humor is a better way to showcase your value. Here’s one example of showing the funny-side in emails.
4. Connect with storytelling
When it comes to sales, one of the most persuasive techniques is to tell a powerful story. People always crave a good story. They want to hear about the values your brand is built on, they want to feel your brand, to connect with it. The psychological effect of a powerful story in terms of selling a product is uncanny!
But not just any story will do. There is a logic behind how storytelling works when it comes to email best practices. Keep your story close to the subject with a clear line that connects it to the benefits of using your product.
And not every type of story works.
You’ll need a compelling story that users can relate to. A great hook is to use events that probably occurred in their lives. Even an “about us” story can be effective if it’s relevant to the values and interests of the users.
Storytelling is as much of a skill as an art. Avoid veering off in the wrong direction with messages that sound disconnected.
Here’s an attempt by Windscribe as it tries to convert trial users into premium members:
You could also turn case studies into stories that capture users’ attention. Using case studies as part of your onboarding email best practices doesn’t just provide social proof. They also make great stories that showcase the real-life experiences of using your platform.
5. Personalize your onboarding emails in creative ways
Onboarding email best practices needn’t be all serious and matter of fact. Being fun and creative during the email onboarding process is a great way to deliver the message—your product’s key capabilities to answer the customer’s needs and treat their pain. Using the customer’s language and being aware of the way they think is the key to capturing their attention.
A great way to do that is to use a behavioral trigger instead of just using the common technique of addressing your client by their first name. When your users get a data-driven email that adds value to them, they will resonate with your brand in order to become part of something that will be helpful for them.
Often, creative personalization involves leveraging user data besides the conventional first name and company.
For example, a marketer promoting software that is incredible in mining data could show customers how their information can be easily obtained before selling the idea of how they could put the software to their advantage.
Such an idea may be daunting, but it breaks the norm of what personalization is all about.
Social Animal sends out this email to better get to know the use case of people who sign up.
6. Ask why they don’t convert
It is inevitable that some people who sign up for your free trial will not convert. But how do we minimize the lack of conversions in that group?
You could call them or email them or even use a survey.
A survey, with a combination of choices and open-ended questions, can help SaaS companies to gain better insights into the decision-making criteria of their users. Of course, such emails must be written in a friendly tone and say how valuable the user’s feedback is.
Tips when using a survey:
- The response to the survey will be better if it is embedded in the email instead of sending the users to an external site.
- Keep the email as simple as possible.
- Offering freebies can lead to a higher response rate.
7. Ensure your brand voice resonates with users
You should ensure that users are connecting with your brand right from the welcome email.
A brand is more than a beautifully designed logo or a catchy slogan. For SaaS companies, it’s about talking in the voice and tone of your audience.
In other words, you must understand the pain points of your users and the issues that interest them.
Again, surveys can help to gain a better idea of the user’s needs and challenges. Surveys that encourage open-ended answers are the best in getting accurate insights into the audience.
However, your brand marketing strategy should also involve other avenues, such as conducting interviews, checking forums, reading competitor reviews, or engaging in social space where the users are mingling.
It doesn’t matter if the conversation doesn’t revolve on your platform as long as you can better understand the pain points faced by the users.
Actively managed Facebook groups can be a great source of insight for brand strategy.
8. Send onboarding emails based on behavioral triggers
Emails are most appreciated and more likely to be opened when they are relevant to the task that a user is facing. Most SaaS platforms collect such data and send relevant messages in response. Compared to scheduled emails, which are part of the regular onboarding process, behavior-triggered emails allow you to offer value when it is needed and most likely to be appreciated.
Behavior-triggered emails also create greater personalization of your campaign to a particular user.
Only 20% of marketers include behavioral-triggered emails in their campaigns. The underrated use of behavior-based onboarding emails means incorporating this practice into your business will give you an edge over most of your competitors.
Here’s an example of an email sent after a user watched the free masterclass of Mindvalley but had not signed up for the paid course.
Fiverr, a platform for freelancing gigs, also sends behavior-triggered emails when clients fail to complete their orders.
Every marketing action in the onboarding process needs to be based on a specific outcome and to have a logical conclusion behind it. These should guide how you design your welcome email, the trial email, the activation email, and any other action you take in the process.
It can help to think about how milestones and behavioral triggers relate to each other. Milestones are usually reached by some sort of “trigger” behavior. So, it’s helpful to lay those two things out and then work with what’s most important—what could be combined and planning out how many emails you need to get there.
9. Engage with inactive users
There could be different reasons that users decided to quit on your product. The key to getting them back, though, is to understand which of the five stages of awareness (as outlined by Eugene Schwartz in his classic book Breakthrough Advertising in 1966) they were in so that they can take the final step of purchasing your product.
You need to know what they need to see to get to that point of “A-ha.”
And there is no harm in reaching out and asking, creating that human connection, and really balancing the product-led approach with actually putting your sales team to good use.
10. Send a confirmation email that connects
One of the biggest mistakes in user onboarding is sending a welcome email or a confirmation of sign-up with 20 different actions a user can take. Instead, you should have one goal and you should be driving them to a specific milestone.
Welcome emails can be very powerful. In fact, according to Invespcro, they generate four times more opens and five times more clicks than regular user engagement campaigns.
Also, welcome emails that contain an offer can boost revenue by 30% per email compared to welcome emails with no offer.
Because quite often, a confirmation email is the first form of communication in the user’s inbox. It’s also the best opportunity for your company to make a good impression.
Template-like emails, which carry the vibe of an official corporate notice won’t endear users to your brand.
Instead, take a more personal approach, and show how excited you are to have them on board.
A jovial and helpful confirmation email like this may just do the trick.
11. Use transactional emails to re-engage even if the trial is over
Nikki says that another aspect of onboarding email best practices are to ensure that your emails are structured a lot like a nurture sequence. Afterall you’re nurturing them to use your product.
While multichannel onboarding is necessary in many instances, email is a powerful medium because you’re in the customer’s own space. Your users are likely to be checking their email every day. You are where they hang out.
A successful onboarding campaign is about having a long-term strategy. For example, a user who’s used up the trial period but chooses not to opt into the paid plans is still a worthwhile customer.
Having said that, it’s your job to re-engage users who have decided not to financially commit to the platform with emails that offer value.
Canva, for example, offers an extended 14 days of trial after the initial trial period ends. The email focuses on the premium features that users are likely to miss by not taking up the offer.
Bear in mind that re-engaging inactive users, in the hope for conversion, isn’t a one-off process. Canva continues to send helpful emails on a weekly basis even when its offer is not taken up:
Remember that you’re sending emails to users who have tried out your service. Chances are, one of the follow-ups will pique their interest and result in conversions.
12. Reduce churn
Reducing churn starts with implementing onboarding email best practices. While churn is almost unavoidable for most businesses, there are proactive steps that can reduce the rate of churn and prevent a loss in revenue.
These include doing churn interviews, exit interviews, interviews of customers, trial users, all different surveys, just talking to the people that are using your software or have used it and finding out what the pain is and what leads to the “A-ha moment.”
Nikki says that once you have that information you must connect the dots from their pain to that “a-ha moment.” That could be as simple as “Here’s how you use these features.” Or it could be a little more complex where you’re building up their pain. It depends on how they’re experiencing things before you lay out the solution.
To get the information you need, you can use strategies like getting survey data before writing your copy. Just make sure you are friendly and approachable when you make the ask and that you tell the people how valuable their response to the survey is.
Nikki recommends making churn surveys short because you don’t want people to hesitate. Also, it’s great if you can embed the survey in the email itself so they don’t have to click off into the survey. You could use Typeform, which has now integrated with ActiveCampaign.
This is where a behavior-triggered email can very useful. When a user clicks the “cancel account” button, the system could send a quick email thanking the user for trying the service.
Here’s a great example of an email to create a positive impression for a user who’s just hit unsubscribe.
13. BONUS—Create mobile-friendly emails
More users are browsing the internet on their mobile phones compared to desktops. It only makes sense if the emails that you’re sending out are mobile-friendly.
If an email is cluttered with images or if it requires a user to pinch-zoom, the engagement factor will nose-dive.
- Stick to smaller images and larger fonts to make emails easier to read on a mobile.
- Send plain-text emails, they work very well for some companies.
- Unless you’re feeling adventurous, keep the message short and preferably within the “no-scroll” area. Time is precious and distractions aplenty. Not all users have the luxury to scroll through volumes of text in an email on a mobile device.
Implement your onboarding email best practices
Crafting your onboarding emails is not a “done and forget it” process. In fact, at first, you’ll want to be keeping tabs on what you are doing. Check on it every three months or so and monitor your stats.
Are people opening your emails? Are they opening and reading but not clicking? Are they clicking but not converting?
You want to correlate what they’re doing—and not doing—with what you want them to do. So, if they’re clicking but not converting, either there’s something wrong with your product or they’re not seeing its value.
Explore different things like that and put two and two together. See what you can do differently and read the replies that people are sending to you. Again, replies often come from vocal people who are unhappy or people who are very happy, so there can be a wide variety of diverse responses. The only way to guide you in terms of what to pay attention to from those responses is the numbers related to the responses and the topics.
Connect with Nikki
- Connect with Nikki on LinkedIn