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FreshBooks Onboarding Email Series Breakdown Pt. 1

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FreshBooks makes accounting and invoices easier, but how does their free trial onboarding series add up? We’ll break it down, line by line.

Series Overview

The FreshBooks free trial spans the course of a month, which makes sense given its financial affiliation. In this post, I’ll be reviewing the first half of the onboarding email series.

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Day 1.1: Authentication

Immediately after signing up for a FreshBooks free trial, an authentication email is sent out. All you have to do is press the big green button, which is a slightly shorter process than Salesforce.

An authentication process obviously has its own security benefits, but it will also filter out the very uninterested. This, in turn, will lead to higher open rates and roll to pay rates, since only the ones willing to take a few steps to access the service will receive the followup onboarding emails.

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Subject Line: Please verify your email address for FreshBooks

Sender Name: FreshBooks

Send Time: Immediately after signup

Objective/Content: Have trial user confirm their account

CTA: Verify and Continue

Strengths:

All FreshBooks needs a user to do is click a button, so this email design is perfect. They also give the reason why they want you to take that action. As a user I most definitely want to keep my financial information safe, and am therefore happy to click on the button.

What to learn from it:

  • If you use an authentication process for security reasons, let users know! They’ll be grateful you take steps to protect them.

Day 1.2: Welcome

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Subject Line: Welcome to FreshBooks!

Sender Name: FreshBooks

Send Time: Immediately after signup + authentication

Objective/Content: Introduce FreshBooks at a high level, along with its benefits

CTA: Start learning now, Sign up for a webinar, talk to Support, or visit the blog

Strengths:

Similarly to the Evernote Basic onboarding sequence, this first email from FreshBooks is a smorgasbord of options. Along with outlining some benefits of the service, there are four different links out for a user to choose from. Unlike Evernote, though, I think this smorgasbord is well laid out.

First, the high-level benefits are laid out in a bulleted and bolded form. Easy to catch on and read. The call to community is nice as well.

Then, each resource is clearly positioned with an accompanying icon. The headlines are straightforward, and the descriptions are brief.

Overall, the options are set up so that no critical information is missed, and each CTA gets a fair chance at being seen.

The bottom of the email also features a testimonial from a FreshBooks user. The smiling photo and glowing review are a prime example of using social proof in a way that supports, but doesn’t distract from, the content.

What to learn from it:

  • Put benefits front and center with a bolded, three-point list

  • If you’re going to link to mutiple pages and actions, make sure they are clearly differentiated. Unique icons for each plus descriptive headlines make your choose-your-own-adventure style email actually useful.

  • Social proof is easy to add to the bottom of the email as a form of insurance

Day 2: Introduce the Building Block

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Subject Line: It’s Time to Make Your First Invoice

Sender Name: FreshBooks

Send Time: Day 2, 8:51 AM CST

Objective/Content: Outline how to create an invoice

CTA: Create My First Invoice

Strengths:

Unsurprisingly, the building block of the FreshBooks service is an invoice! It’s an element that will show up in a user’s daily or weekly workflow, and is the perfect baby step to engagement.

FreshBooks does an amazing job at introducing and familiarizing the building block. First, they lay out the process in 3 easy steps followed by a bold CTA button.

As if the step by step instructions weren’t clear enough, they also included an animation!

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The animation follows the same three steps as the instructions, followed by some celebration confetti. It really does make the process seem simple. Immediately after the animation, there’s yet another irresistible green CTA button. In case a user still wasn’t sure how an invoice is created, another informational email is linked.

One of my favorite features in the FreshBooks email, though, is the free trial countdown. This email lets me know that I have 29 days left in my trial.

What to learn from it:

  • The building block should be an easy feature for new users to tackle, so simplifying it into around three steps should be easy

  • The simplicity and ease of the building block can be reinforced with an animation following the same procedure

  • Let users know how many days are left in their free trial. This serves as a reminder throughout the trial, as well as adds a sense of urgency to act on a paid account towards the end of the trial

Weaknesses:

This email has a handful of sections and visuals at play, but it’s at least clearly laid out. The CTA buttons are also consistent and show up more than once.

What to learn from it:

  • Include the same CTA a few times if there’s a lot included in an email

Day 4: Use Case

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Subject Line: Want to Get Paid Lickety-Split?

Sender Name: Rachel Guloien (FreshBooks)

Send Time: Day 4, 8:51 AM CST

Objective/Content: Talk about two ways to make getting paid easier

CTA: Learn how, Enable online payments

Strengths:

So you’ve created an invoice…now you want it paid! FreshBooks sent a “use case” email on Day 4. This type of email combines different features and tools to show off a scenario. In this case, the scenario is getting paid faster.

This use case is presented as two benefits in bold letters — “say goodbye to late payments” and “get paid twice as fast with online payments.” By addressing a positive and negative scenario, FreshBooks is using a push and pull effect to inspire action. Their tools can help you avoid negative scenarios (late payments) while achieving positive outcomes (getting paid twice as fast).

FreshBooks also has a theme of support throughout their free trial sequence. Each email includes the option to email or call in to ask for help, as well as the picture and name of a real support agent.

What to learn from it:

  • Layout features and use cases as a user will encounter them in their workflow

  • Inspire users to take action with a push and pull method. Let them know how your product helps them avoid negative situations and achieve positive outcomes

  • If you have the Support resources available, let them be known! Even if you have a one-person support team, include their name and picture and welcome users to ask for help. Support tickets may seem like a bad sign on the surface, but someone willing to ask for help is more invested than someone who just writes your product off.

Day 6: Feature Spotlight

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Subject Line: Organized Expenses: An Easy Trick for a Magical Life

Sender Name: FreshBooks

Send Time: Day 6, 8:52 AM CST

Objective/Content: Introduce features that help users track expenses so that tax time is easier

CTA: Track My Expenses

Strengths:

First comes invoice, then comes payment. Then comes the state and federal government seeking your tax filings. On day 6of the onboarding series, FreshBooks is showing of the expense tracking feature. Their reasoning for doing so is that by tracking expenses, filing taxes will be simpler. Once again, they use the push and pull method to underline the importance of the feature.

This email follows a similar layout to their day 2 email. This flow is:

  1. Summarize the feature or use case

  2. CTA button

  3. Animation showing the feature in action

  4. Additional info

  5. CTA button

  6. Video resource

  7. Testimonial

  8. Free trial countdown

  9. Support team CTA

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What to learn from it:

  • The same layout/ organization can be used in different ways to make email creation easier

Day 10: Feature Spotlight

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Subject Line: Hey There, How’s Your Business Doing?

Sender Name: FreshBooks

Send Time: Day 10, 8:52 AM CST

Objective/Content: Track invoices and business success easily when you mark an invoice as paid

CTA: Mark an Invoice as Paid

Strengths:

This is a good example of taking a small feature and making it worthwhile. Marking an invoice is paid is one of the probably hundreds of buttons or options you can click in FreshBooks, and yet their explanation made it seem like your secret to success.

After introducing a useful feature, FreshBooks links relevant resources. The same person that wants to track expenses and payments cares about cash flow and improving it.

What to learn from it:

  • Portray the largest possible impact of features big and small

  • Share related content and resources

Day 12: Use Case

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Subject Line: Alakazam! Expenses that Organize Themselves

Sender Name: Rachel Guloien (FreshBooks)

Send Time: Day 12, 8:51 AM CST

Objective/Content: List a few features that make tracking expenses easier

CTA: Try Them Now

Strengths:

The Day 12 email from FreshBooks featured a cute subject line and an explanation of some tools to make expense tracking easier. The subject line is also accurate to what’s inside.

I also think the bullet points are impactful and easy to read. Someone who's just skimming would still be intrigued to click through, while additional information below each headline is provided.

What to learn from it:

  • Accentuate critical information so that even skimmers see it

Weaknesses:

I’m a firm believer that the sender name for an onboarding series should always be the company name. While “(FreshBooks)” was included at the end of the sender name, it was cut off when viewed on a desktop.

While I think the body copy is effective, the CTA button is lacking clarity. I assume “them” is referring to the available features. However, I think the button copy could have been clearer about what a user could do after they clicked.

What to learn from it:

  • Users should know where a CTA button is redirecting them. Make sure that CTA copy is specific and succinct.

Day 14: Case Study

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Subject Line: Alakazam! Expenses that Organize Themselves

Sender Name: Rachel Guloien (FreshBooks)

Send Time: Day 14, 8:51 AM CST

Objective/Content: List a few features that make tracking expenses easier

CTA: Try Them Now

Strengths:

FreshBooks has shown themselves to be fans of social proof, and this email kicks it up a notch. Instead of just including a customer quote at the bottom of the email, Day 14 teases an entire case study.

The email, featuring thriving Jake, gives hope to trial users. Sure a company can talk about how amazing they are, but seeing a peer achieve the results you’re after is empowering.

FreshBooks also uses this opportunity to re-introduce a few key features and use cases. After seeing Jake’s success, a trial user will likely be more receptive to hearing about the tools to use.

What to learn from it:

  • Share case studies if you have them! Seeing a peer achieve a result is more powerful and reassuring than hearing its possible from the company alone.

  • Leverage a reader’s open-mindedness post-case study to sell the tools and steps to achieve a similar result

Day 15: Mid-Point CTA

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Subject Line: Find the perfect plan for your business

Sender Name: Rachel Guloien (FreshBooks)

Send Time: Day 15, 8:51 AM CST

Objective/Content: List plan features and encourage a trial user to upgrade to a paid plan

CTA: Upgrade Now, Select

Strengths:

First of all, yes I can do math. I count this email as day 15, but FreshBooks is clearly telling me there are 16 days left. This puts the trial at 31 days instead of 30. However, I consider the day I sign up and receive a welcome email as Day 1, not Day 0. Nonetheless, both I and FreshBooks consider this the mid-point of the trial.

As such, this email is a great reminder of the time left. There are a few places in the email where the days left are noted, and this is used to increase the urgency to select a plan.

The email also does a good job at offering a high-level view of the plans. If the bullet points weren’t enough to help someone decide, they list a phone number and email address where a customer can discuss with a rep.

What to learn from it:

  • Give trial users updates at the halfway point and near the end of the trial

  • Provide the resources to help customers make a decision on their own, but extend a lifeline for those who are still unsure. Even if a trial user doesn’t take advantage of the help email, it’s nice to know it was an option

Part 1 Series Overview

At halfway through the trial, FreshBooks has sent 9 emails. The emails that stand out most to me are the case study email from Day 14, as well as the Day 1 welcome email.

Which email is your favorite from Part 1? You can also check out Part 2 here.

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