What it Means to Have a Successful Onboarding Email Series
Metrics don’t matter unless they’re rooted in habit creation.
First of all, let’s take a moment to realize that onboarding doesn’t happen in a vacuum. In this post, we’ll mainly be talking about emails. Just know there’s a whole world of onboarding that you can add within your product, but that’s a topic for another time.
Let’s get started. The effectiveness of future onboarding is rooted in your sales process.
Success in the SaaS sales process is learning customer objectives first and making the sale second.
There are many ways to learn what a customer wants to achieve, such as:
A sales team member straight up asking them
Seeing which lead magnet, piece of content, or page they signed up from
Identifying which product or product level they chose
Even after the sale (or free-trial sign up) is made, you can ask a user what they hope to accomplish. If you can’t ask them or know for certain, then start with an assumption to test.
So before the emails go out, we need to know how the user hopes your product will help them. We also have to know what can realistically be done in a two-week trial.
The goal of an onboarding series, whether during a free-trial or in a period after becoming a customer, is to establish your product as a worthwhile habit. You have to show that any learning curve is worth the long-term benefits of the partnership.
Therefore, your onboarding emails need to cause a lifestyle change, not a New Year’s Resolution.
We do this through:
Working to understand what motivates customers in two directions: seeking positivity and avoiding pain
Introducing one new task or feature at a time (have you ever tried adding 10 new habits at once? How did that turn out?)
Driving small, consistent action
The execution of these goals and the metrics you’ll use to measure them occur in three phases.
Phase 1: Exploration (try)
What to track: Click through rate
Your goal: Your first objective in an onboarding series is to get users through the email to play. I don’t care if you’re a super serious B2B SaaS, there needs to be a low-pressure start. Point out a single feature at a time, and let them know why it’s useful for them. You can even pull a Mailchimp and list how long each task you present will take them.
How to do it: Tap into those pain and positivity motivators to get them to click through the email and to your product. Simple, yet powerful, levers need to point straight to that CTA button.
Phase 2: Engagement (grow)
What to track: Number of logins during trial or number of email engaged with throughout series
Your goal: First you got users to explore the available tools. Now, you need to get them to do that over and over. You can build on what they’ve learned to have them completing longer (and more valuable) tasks. All of these actions should be moving them closer to their goal. A two-week trial may not be a realistic timeframe to completely overhaul their workflow but aim to get some quick wins.
How to do it: Build emails around your desired customer action map. This is simply the steps a new user needs to take in order to reach the 14-day goal. Keep messaging focused on a task at hand, and send reminders and resources consistently.
Phase 3: Adoption (buy)
What to track: Conversions — who rolled to a paid subscription
Your goal: Finish strong! End the series with valuable content, an outlook into what they could accomplish with more time/paid account, or case studies. FreshBooks includes an upgrade offer and the headline “Your Future Self Will Thank You” to seal the deal.
How to do it: Bring forward anything that will get a trial user excited for the future and optimistic about what they can achieve. If the main series doesn’t work, this is also where you might implement some winback emails.
What now, you say? Here’s a checklist of how to use this info to assess, realign, or redo your onboarding emails:
Do you have a list of customer motivators (seeking positivity and avoiding pain)? If not, ask or brainstorm with your team.
Do you know what customers want to achieve during their time with you? If not, ask or brainstorm with your team.
Do you have a desired customer action map? You need this to prioritize the features you’ll call attention to. Cut out the white noise, and focus on the highest-impact tasks (in regards to customer goals).
Start tracking your click-through rates on onboarding emails. For the sake of engagement and adoption, CTR is more important than open rate.
Analyze CTR and conversions by email and customer segment
Add an email to your winback series that asks customers why they didn’t convert — you have to identify a problem before you can fix it