12 User Onboarding Email Best Practices for SaaS Companies

Since the beginnings of email, it has been the best way to
contact and onboard users. To this day, there’s no other tool
that can replace it. Some have tried to replace it on the internal
level, but still not a mission completed (sorry Slack!)

User onboarding emails are the first step in the onboarding UX and
signup
flows
. Once a user signs up, an email is sent to that user.
Each company has their own approach, but they all have one purpose
– to educate and guide new users.

There are certain requirements to ensure a successful onboarding
process. Personalization, education and user behavior tracking are
the keys for effective onboarding emails.

Every user’s like a baby learning to walk. A lot of education
is down the road. In this article, I will shed light on 12
different user onboarding email best practices & approaches.
Hope you’ll find it useful!

1. Make it personal

Humans want to buy from humans, not from companies. Writing in
first person is what I recommend. Funnelytics have chosen their
Founder and CEO to give a warm special welcome to their new
signups. This leaves a good impression and gives the personal touch
needed to kick off this relationship.

Funnelytics’ onboarding email is a less formal and a very
delicate choice. A choice to admire and consider one of great
examples.

Funnelytics user onboarding email.

Why it works?

Funnelytics’ CEO introduces himself in the email and writes in
first person, making it feel like you’re having a one-on-one
conversation. Using phrases like ‘to be honest’, the email
connects with you on a personal level, because it’s almost like
sharing a secret. It focuses on your new-built relationship,
emphasizing the ‘you’s’ and ‘I’s’. Also, at the end, it
asks you to whitelist the email address, and it works as a seal of
trust.

I feel connected to the brand and the CEO of the company. I find
him reachable. I know whenever I have a problem, I could simply
respond to his emails. How can adopting this strategy benefit you?
You’ll get to see customer problems, feature request- and
support-related content to address it quickly, and perhaps create
customer stories and content out of it.

And how can you implement this kind of personalization in your
email sequence? Start the email with your CEO/any customer-facing
person’s name, imagine you’re having a one-on-one conversation,
share some social proof, like how many users are already using your
product, make them feel the ‘we’ feeling showing them that
they’re part of a movement or a community of thought leaders, and
give them a very simple call-to-action. Last but not least, do let
the user know that there will be more emails coming on his/her
way.

2. Give tips on the best use of the platform

Accompany the user along the journey. Follow up frequently and
make sure the user’s on track.

Onboarding emails should provide the user with the product
knowledge they need. Mixmax have definitely succeeded on that
level. After I signed up, Mixmax shared their usage tips with me.
How did they do it?

They created a series of nurture emails which are useful to get
to know their platform.

For example, they chose 10-15 features critical for a user to
adopt. Later on, they sent gif examples with it. That way, if I
missed a feature, I’d still learn about it. Below’s one of
their emails on how to use their reminder and goal features.

Mixmax user onboarding email with usage tips.

These were all the emails I got from them, from the welcome
email to all the the nurture tips ones:

Mixmax's user onboarding emails and a welcome email.

A crucial element of these nurture emails is reiterating the
value proposition. They do it well by highlighting it in the
beginning.

I asked the CMO of Mixmax, Loretta Jones, about how such kind of
onboarding email is helping them. She said:

Everyone who signs up for a Mixmax trial gets the nurture
series, so our goal is conversions from trial to paid. Right now we
are seeing an overall .6% conversion rate from our nurture series.
While that percentage may seem low, given that we’ve sent out
over 1M emails, the overall number is pretty good. Originally we
only sent nurture emails to our base during the 14-day trial.
However, having seen success with paid conversions from the nurture
series, we’re now sending ‘business/thought leadership’
emails after the 14 day trial ends. We send these emails out weekly
and we’re also seeing the same .6% conversion rates from these
post-nurture emails.

So what’s the key takeaway from Mixmax’s example? Have a
nurture campaign during the first few days/weeks with use-case tips
and a nurture campaign after that to educate the user on a bit more
than your software. You could use webinars, feature updates, and
product updates to do that as well.

3. Educate the user on the topic (not just on your features)

You have a great software, but your users are still not adopting
it the way you’d want them to?

It might be because the users need education on the topic,
rather than on the software.

Education should start on day one, then you could send daily
follow-ups. Also, onboarding emails shouldn’t be just product
manuals. They’re a journey!

Like I mentioned before, you could use this approach in your
post-nurture series. Instead of educating users about your
features, you can focus on free resources, such as webinars,
industry best practices and interesting articles to help them be
great in their field.

4. Focus on storytelling

Did you know that the human mind forgets almost everything other
than stories?

Storytelling is a powerful marketing tool that is often
underused. Storytelling involves a deep understanding of human
emotions, motivations, and psychology to truly move an
audience.

How to tell a story in an email? With your welcome email,
introduce your story with a vision, problem, or motivation, sharing
why you started working on this product and how it makes the world
a better place. You can do it by writing a nice copy or making a
short video.

You can make the onboarding emails fun and interact with the
user for a better result.

Funnelytics are giving another great example here with their
storytelling. It ensures the user’s attention is always caught.
They made a video (as you can see in the email example below) to
show you their office and how they work.

Funnelytics storytelling email.

Another great example is Val Giesel’s newsletter. Val Gielser
starts the drip campaign with “10 Things You Didn’t Know About
Me” – that way I learned a little bit about the email sender
and felt a personal connection. This kind of storytelling can give
the perfect personal touch to your emails.

Val Giesel's newsletter – storytelling.

These emails are effective if you want to show your brand is
more than just great software. Also, if you want to make your users
feel attached to the brand, its story and the community around
it.

5. Personalize in creative ways

To make your user onboarding emails stand out in the crowd, you
should think of new, creative ways to personalize them.

Barmetrics went an extra mile in the personalization of their
onboarding emails sequence. A demo recorded for each user – no
obligation, just flexing their muscles. That’s a winner move!

Video marketing is the biggest trend in 2019. You could make a
personalized video after a user signs up and show them the key
features from their dashboard. Wouldn’t that be amazing? The
email below was sent by Corey Haines (Head of Growth at
Baremetrics). See what a smart move they made!

Baremetrics personalized demo email.

Baremetrics video email.

He personally made a video for me. (Since there are key numbers
in it, I had to make it private.)

I went ahead and asked Corey about the effectiveness of such
emails. Below are the rough numbers for you:

Personalized demo email stats:
~60% open rate

~20% reply rate

If your reply rates and open rates are below these, you might
just want to tweak your onboarding emails in a fun, innovative
way.

6. Ask “Why” for the trials that didn’t convert

Churn is the greatest enemy of all, for any SaaS. Understanding
the reasons behind it is extremely important. But, user onboarding
emails are a fantastic weapon to fight churn!

Many SaaS companies are losing tons of users because they
don’t know why churn happens.

a why email to understand churn – baremetrics.

Getting feedback from customers who didn’t stay to the end of
the free trial is a problem for a lot of SaaS companies. But
Baremetrics have figured this part out. I also asked Corey to share
the effectiveness of this above “why” email to know how well
people responded.

The “Why” email stats:

– 50% open rate

– 15% reply rate

This email was sent after 14/30 days of the trial period, when
the user didn’t convert. You can ace the copy for such an email
when you follow these tips while writing it:

-Be personal

-Be empathetic

-Be non-salesy.

Why is this email effective?

It’s non-intrusive, not pushy/salesy, honest and humble.
It’s humanly. I’ve tried a similar email myself and I had a 33%
response rate.

It could help you understand your target personas, their
onboarding problems, and how can you serve those customers better.
There are a lot of benefits, but you need to use the right language
to make your prospect customer respond. I’ve used this email, I
thought you could too.

7. Make the brand voice resonate with your audience

Brand voice plays a huge role in the way users react.

How can you establish your own brand voice? Review your
company’s ideal buyer persona, research your current audience on
what language they use in their daily life, try to figure out what
you’re not as a brand, take the three to four words that best
represent your brand, decide on a tone that fits your brand and
document it for consistency.

For example, Zest has decided that it should be more fun and
less formal. It’s very important to put the user in the comfort
zone. And this will make the user interact better with your
onboarding emails.

I personally enjoy emails from Yam Regev. Zest has demonstrated
personalization at it’s best through the sample emails shown
below.

Yam Regev brand voice in emails.

Yam Regev brand voice in emails 2.

Yam Regev brand voice in emails 3.

I asked Karolis Vangas (Head of Partnership at Zest) to share
their opinion on why they choose this way of working. He said:

In onboarding, tone of voice can repel or attract like magnets.
Humans want to belong, feel welcome and successful. It’s awkward
to say that we just pour our hearts out because it doesn’t sound
so special, but we love to spread authenticity, enthusiasm,
informality and positivity. It’s important for us that our
members experience and share this feeling with their new friends at
Zest. It’s a big family and every new member is a celebration
moment for everyone! 🍾🥂

8. Use behavior-triggered emails

As I mentioned earlier, it’s really important to track the
users’ behavior. Understand how your users behave in-app and then
trigger events based on it. For example, if your software is a CRM,
see if the user has imported contacts or not. This is one of many
events you can track and react to.

For example, Albacross is a product that requires a JS code to
be installed. If a user hasn’t installed it yet, that will
trigger an email to push this user to the next step.

Behavior-triggered emails will increase the amount of
personalization in your emails and will enhance the onboarding
process for sure.

albacross behavior-triggered email.

These conditional and behavior-based emails are highly
personalized, and move the user along the journey. Why it is
recommended? The chances a user gets “activated” and convert to
become a customer are much higher with this strategy.

9. Reconnect with the lost user

Let’s define who’s a lost user. A lost user is someone who
started a trial and engaged with your product but did not buy it.
Also, the lost user has not come back to your application, for 15
days after the trial ended. You can define the non-engaged user as
you want, but general opinion says that it’s someone who hasn’t
come back to your app for 15 to 30 days after the trial.

For lost users, onboarding emails can be turned into a weapon to
fight churn.

Every business loses users every day, and it wouldn’t be
possible to follow up with a phone call. Another way to reconnect
with a user who hasn’t become a paying customer yet is to keep
demonstrating your product value with demo videos.

Drift is setting an example here. They’re showing a quick demo
video to make the user understand the value of their software.

why don't we reconnect email for drift.

Source: FS – Email Marketing Blogs!
12 User Onboarding Email Best Practices for SaaS Companies