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SaaS Onboarding Email Blog

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Real Example of SaaS User Desired Customer Action Map

Last week I introduced the concept of a “Desired Action Map".”

DAM email example.png

In case you missed that post, here’s a high-level summary:


Desired action maps help you plan out all of your marketing messages across channels. They make it easy to stay on topic and convert more free trial users into paid customers.

Ideas are great, but I realize they don’t mean much if you aren’t sure how to actually use them. So, I’ve rounded up an onboarding series that I’ve written in-depth breakdowns for, and I’ll show you how we can reverse-engineer a desired action map.


In Grammarly’s case, they’re so confident in the value and ease of use of their product that their focus is just getting you into it. To be fair, it is a pretty straightforward app. Based on the full email series here, I can work backwards and create the desired customer action map below:

Grammarly DAM (1).png

Let’s break it down into primary actions and secondary results. Then, I’ll show you how the emails align with the map.

Primary Actions

The “primary actions” of this map appear in bold on days 1 and 8. They are in bold for two reasons:

  • I received an email on that day prompting that action

  • That set in motion a chain reaction of results

The first primary action is “Add a Grammarly Extension.” Grammarly prompted me to do this on days 1 and 2. Here’s an example of a Grammarly email inviting me to download an extension or app.

There are a few “new features” mentioned in the email, but it’s really all about putting out as many fishing lines as possible across their different platforms to get you to bite the one that’s most useful for you.

The second primary action in the Grammarly onboarding sequence is “Upgrade to Premium.” When I first received the email below on Day 8 I was caught a little off guard. After all, I didn’t receive any emails between days 2 and 8. So it was essentially radio silence and then Grammarly asking me to pay more.


I even mentioned in my full breakdown post that I wasn’t so sure about this strategy. But, after taking the time to understand what Grammarly was hoping I was doing, I can see the method behind the strategy. The tricky thing with time-based onboarding sequences is that you can never be sure what a user is (or isn’t) doing. That inherently means that sometimes your assumptions will be wrong. However, approaching a time based sequence with a well-thought out plan boosts your chances of success.

Secondary Results

If primary actions are the steps that Grammarly outright asks me to complete, then secondary results are the outcomes that they hope I achieve from those steps. In Grammarly’s case I put two on the map: have my writing checked automatically and log in to check writing manually.

Here’s how these secondary results fit in between the primary actions:

  1. I receive an email prompting me to download a Grammarly extension (P.A.)

  2. I download an extension, such as the Chrome extension. Without me having to do any extra work, my writing is checked automatically. (S.R.) By carrying on with my day and typing an email, I get to realize some value from Grammarly.

  3. After being impressed by how the Grammarly extension helped me edit an email, I navigate to Grammarly’s site and edit a new document manually. (S.R.) By manually I just mean that I consciously sought out Grammarly.

  4. A few days have passed and I’ve had a handful of emails and docs checked automatically or manually from Grammarly. I then receive an email asking me to upgrade for more features. (P.A.) I have run into a few scenarios where I wanted to use advanced editing in the past few days, so I cough up the dough for the full version.

By looking at the free trial in terms of these primary actions and secondary results can you see why the Day 8 upsell email isn’t so random? Their email series may not be set up in a way that tracks what I’m actually doing, but they’ve designed the sequence to prompt very specific value-oriented actions.

The desired customer action map in this scenario is really simple, as is the sequence as a whole. Part of this is due to the fact that Grammarly is a fairly simple product. You can still apply these principles to your product, though. Circle back to my 5-minute process to boost free trial conversions here.

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

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