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Boost SaaS Free Trial Conversion with a Desired Action Map

You can’t control users, but you can strategically direct them.

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Sort of like the saying “you can guide a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink it.”

However, that doesn’t mean we should leave free trial conversions to fate and toss a random collection of emails at new users.

After all, uncertainty and randomness are a few SaaS onboarding sins.


What is a desired action map?

The name “desired action map” sorta says all it needs to, but there is a little more we can elaborate on.

A desired action map is a set of steps a new user needs to take to maximize their chance of success and converting to a paid plan.

The map includes a few actions, tools to be used, or milestones to unlock that get users to their “aha” moments sooner. Not only does it make onboarding easier for users, but it also helps you guide all of your messaging.

These few “desired actions” are the guiding light for all of your marketing and in-app onboarding. They give you a common goal to point to, and in turn, it helps create a more focused experience for people on the receiving end. More focused onboarding -> achieving goals faster -> getting hooked and converting to a paid plan.

How to create a desired action map (the short version)

We could go a lot more in depth about creating a desired action map, but let’s instead start with a quick 5-minute version so that you can put this to use this week.

1) Start with a user’s end goal in mind. What does success look like to them? It’s way easier to work backward when you start with a clear end goal. For this example, let’s say you have a booking and client management app for hairdressers. Success to them means more clients booked for consistent income with less time input from them.

2) Pick 3-5 action steps that move users toward that goal the fastest. Ideally, you would have some data to back up your decision, but you’ve gotta work with what you got. To use data, look at feature adoption and work habits of your most engaged and long-term users. To use your gut, imagine a user is asking you in person what they should do to be successful. A few key actions for our example would be syncing their current contacts or calendar with your app, setting up appointment reminders for their contacts, and logging in three times in the first two weeks. Desired actions aren’t limited to features - any activity that has a positive effect on retention is allowed.

3) Create an email to direct each desired action. Part of the beauty of the desired action map is that it can be used for your omnichannel marketing strategy. However, for this 5-minute version, we’re just looking at email. Create one email for each feature you want to highlight, along with additional reminders/motivation to get users to log in multiple times.


I kept this post short for a reason - I want you to focus on action and avoid getting gummed up in the details. Simply picking a few focused objectives makes all of your subsequent decisions easier. Still not sure where to start? Send me an email at steph@stephknapp.com and I can help get you started.

Want to know when to send SaaS emails and what to say?

I’ve got 30+ free email templates in the SaaS Email Marketing Toolkit here.

Stephanie Knapp