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SurveyMonkey Onboarding Email Series Breakdown (Action-Based)

SurveyMonkey patiently (and persistently) waited for me to take action.


Series Overview

First, a bit of background. When I sign up for free trials to analyze onboarding emails, I take a step back and let the series run its course. I have no way of knowing whether or not the series has emails that will trigger based on my actions within the app. So, to maintain a consistent baseline, I take no action.

I signed up for SurveyMonkey and…did nothing. The emails trickled in and I logged them below like I normally would. I noted the day each email sent on, the subject line, and what worked/didn’t work. However, time kept ticking away and I was basically getting identical emails over and over. Something wasn’t right, and I wondered if I had come across my first stubbornly action-based sequence.

So, I logged in and created a survey draft. And, as expected, different emails started showing up. Instead of telling me to start a survey, the emails started telling me to complete and send the draft I created.

Typically, this is where I would put a series timeline noting when each email was sent. And below, I would list out send day and time. However, SurveyMonkey had different plans. Instead, below you’ll see emails grouped by action, with no mention of when they were sent.

In place of a timeline, we have a graphic from SurveyMonkey’s site, shown below. As I progressed through the actions they wanted me to, a circle was checked off. I never checked off the “complete profile” or “share survey” tabs, but those aren’t critical to using the site. There were never any dedicated emails for these actions, either, since SurveyMonkey would much rather you focus on the steps that are guaranteed to move you closer to your desired outcome.


Desired Action: Design a Survey


Headlines Used:

  • Steph, get started with your first survey

  • Steph, start your first survey

  • Steph, the Best Decisions Start Here

  • Create surveys right from Google Drive

What to learn from the emails:

  • If your building block is seriously important, don’t let anything distract users from taking that action

  • The amount of “why” you need to add and the importance of a new user developing a habit depends on how often they’ll use your tool and how soon they need your resources

  • Subtle changes in CTA copy can change the emotion and urgency behind an action

  • Test new angles when introducing your building block and use features to bring barriers to action down

Desired Action: Send a Survey


Headlines Used:

  • Finish your survey fast — here’s how

  • Send out your survey today

What to learn from the emails:

  • Try a variety of features and use cases to support a single action, if possible

  • Everyone learns differently — try video, diagrams, text, etc to get your point across

Desired Action: Analyze Responses


Headlines Used:

  • Your first survey response!

  • Your newest survey responses

What to learn from the emails:

  • Onboarding emails don’t have to be limited to user actions — they can also include the action of people in their network! For example, if a new user signs in for a team-based product

  • Straightforward subject lines can be effective, too

  • If you have multiple CTA buttons, make the most important one stand out more

Series Review

My very first action-based series breakdown! Subject lines and copy and CTA buttons aside, here’s what worked about this series:

  • It had three critical customer actions. Sure, there are more features to take advantage of, but SurveyMonkey remained focused on three.

  • The actions pushed in the emails matched the timeline on their site. I haven’t ventured into the world of on-site onboarding (yet?), but I can at least say it’s nice to see that continuity. It also gives you an idea of what a simple desired customer action map is.

  • They were persistent. If you’re going to do an action-based series, you better have plenty of backup emails ready. SurveyMonkey sent me “create a survey” emails for nearly a month before I logged in. I’m obviously in a slightly different scenario than a typical (actual) user would be in, but it’s still possible someone could sit on your free service that long. A time-based series is more predictable than an action-based one.

What are your thoughts on this action-based sequence?

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