What Are Onboarding Email Sequences? 9 Tips For Creating Your First Onboarding Email Sequence

August 29, 2022
Ammar Mazhar
What Are Onboarding Email Sequences? 9 Tips For Creating Your First Onboarding Email Sequence

Table of contents

As a product manager, you might be working on a groundbreaking product. Still, if you aren't able to court users for it, then your product will only have a niche user base which won’t bring you any significant revenue.

Therefore, prospects showing interest in your product must get all the information they need to understand what your product is about and whether or not it is for them. But it’s easier said than done. 

The problem with SaaS products is that they are all unique and have different value propositions. Therefore, users need to be guided for them to understand the product and engage with it.

Onboarding email sequences are an effective weapon in the arsenal of any SaaS marketer. They give marketers flexibility regarding how much information they want to divulge to their users based on user actions.

So, this blog will cover all you need to know about the onboarding email sequences and what best practices you can adhere to create your first onboarding email sequence.

What is an onboarding email sequence?

An onboarding email sequence is a chain of emails that helps users after their initial engagement with your product. 

Onboarding sequences provide a more meaningful engagement experience to users that couldn’t be provided with a single onboarding email. These emails are designed by considering the user’s data, and based on their interactions, the following emails in the sequence can also be determined.

Also, these emails are personalized for each user and are targeted to reach them at the initial stage of their relationship with your product or company.

An onboarding email sequence allows marketers to reach out to even those users who aren’t actively using your product or interacting with your company. Marketers use 4 to 6 emails to engage with new subscribers in their onboarding sequence. 

These emails strategically guide the users on how to use the product and build trust and relationships between the brand and them.

3 Benefits of onboarding email sequence

Here are a few reasons why SaaS product marketers should create onboarding email sequences for their products.

3 Benefits of onboarding email sequence

1. Reduces the churn rate

User retention is a big challenge for SaaS marketers. In fact, 8 out of 10 people delete an app if they don’t know how to use it. Therefore, onboarding sequences are the need of the hour. Onboarding sequences provide users with the product education and insights that they need to keep using the product. Thus, reducing the churn rate.

2. Helps in leveraging initial engagement

Onboarding sequences help in leveraging initial engagement with a product. Each email in the sequence is an opportunity to reward the user by sharing information that keeps them interested in the product and also encourages them to use it.

3. Creates loyalty

An onboarding sequence can deepen the understanding of new users and help them become a loyal customers. People prefer brands with which they can align their values. So, don’t just tell your users what you do; show them and build a stronger foundation for your relationship.

Types of onboarding email sequence triggers

Two types of triggers can activate an onboarding sequence:

Types of onboarding email sequence triggers

1. Action-based

Also known as triggered emails, action-based emails are sent based on the user's activity. Action-based emails can be made more personalized and can fit different user personas.

Besides that, action-based emails can help brands map concrete journey paths for their users. The users only receive the information when they are ready to engage with it the most and only receive what is relevant to them. Consequently, open and click-through rates increase.

2. Time-based

Also known as autoresponder sequences, time-based onboarding emails is a sequence that sends emails when a certain period of time has passed. 

Though not as personalizable as action-based triggers, time-based triggers fit all user personas and can be used to send general announcements or updates. 

The most obvious use case for time-based emails is the welcome email. You want to welcome your customers as soon as they subscribe to your list. For example, you can set a time-based welcome email to go after 1 hour of the user subscribing to your email list. 

Moreover, if you want to segment the users and send more personalized welcome emails, you can use the user's attributes for this purpose.

A trial period expiration reminder is another use case of time-based emails. You can remind your users about the expiration of their trial by sending a time-based email 2-3 days before the expiration day.

4 Goals of onboarding email sequences

Before you start creating your onboarding email sequences, knowing what you want to achieve with them is prudent. Here is a checklist of all the goals you can accomplish:

4 Goals of onboarding email sequences

1. Increased engagement

There’s no point in sending out emails if your subscribers don’t respond and engage with your product. Therefore, you must remind your users, again and again, to engage with your product, and emails are the best way to remind them.

Let’s say you have recently launched an app that users can use to order food from local food joints. As soon as a user signs up for a trial, send them time-based emails reminding them of new food places you have added or about discount codes you are offering.

Monitor session duration, login frequency, and click-through rates to gauge user engagement.

2. Build relationships

Onboarding sequences can help foster relationships with users. By providing a concrete map of the user journey, providing how-to-guides on using the product, and rewarding user behavior along the way, you can retain customers for a long time.

As all businesses require loyal customers, thus, they help in making your business succeed. Loyal customers can help reduce the churn rate as well, therefore, allowing you to retain customers and spend less on new customer acquisition.

3. Feedback gathering

Onboarding emails can be used for gathering customer feedback. With a feedback email early in the user journey, you can identify your users' pain points and help resolve them. 

Resolving all the problems your users face helps them enjoy a seamless product experience but also helps establish lasting relationships.

4. Acclimatize the user with the brand

If your users face issues using your product and start doubting your value proposition, they might not remain your users for long. Therefore, in such cases, onboarding email sequences come handy. 

You can send newsletters, how-to guides, and eBooks to acclimatize the product to your users and show them how to use it properly. You can also reinstate your value proposition and make your users feel they made the right decision by choosing your product.

How to create an onboarding email sequence?

The first step in creating your onboarding email sequence is to choose an email automation tool. Once you have selected your tool, start building your onboarding flow by creating an event-based trigger,” Sign up.”

As soon as any user signs up, a confirmation email should go out to them, asking them to confirm their email address. The confirmation email should be the first email in your onboarding sequence.

If the user doesn’t confirm their email after a certain period of time, use a time-based reminder email to remind them to complete their signup.

After the user has completed their sign-up, the following email in your flow should be the welcome email.

Subsequently, add action or time-based emails to your flow, as per the need of your product, and add emails that you want to go out after each trigger is activated.

4. Don’ts of onboarding email sequence

As beneficial onboarding email sequences are, a few things can be detrimental to your efforts.

4 Don'ts of onboardiing email sequence

1. Not considering the buyer’s journey

As a product marketer, you should consider where your user stands on their journey. Sending promotional emails to a user who has just subscribed to your list is counterproductive because they are at the initial stage of their journey and are just trying to know more about the product.

For instance, a beginner subscribing to learn more about video editing won’t buy a highly detailed video editing guide.

On the other hand, if a prospect subscribed to buy a best practice guide of your product, they are more likely far ahead in their journey and are looking to purchase.

You can also score prospects based on their engagement level, so prospects with high scores are more likely to buy than those with low scores.

2. Sending generic emails

According to Epsilon, 80% of customers are more likely to purchase if their experience is personalized. But most marketers send generic content because of the less work involved. 

Sending generic content can decrease the conversion rate because only a fraction of the audience will find them appealing. 

3. Overemphasizing the features

Overemphasizing the features of your product can turn away prospects. Sooner or later, your prospects will wonder, “what’s in it for me?” 

Instead of focusing on features, strive to provide value to your customers and establish yourself as an authority within your area of expertise.

If your prospects see you as an authority, they will be more inclined to buy any products regardless of their features.

4. Limited to no personalization

Personalization isn’t just including the recipient's name in the email or the subject line; it’s more than that. Personalization involves segmenting prospects based on their activity and engagement level and then sending trigger-based emails at the right time and to the right person.

By leveraging segmentation and tailoring your emails, you can increase your click-through rate up to 100.95% and generate 18x more revenue (source).

9 Best practices of SaaS onboarding email sequences

Here are nine best practices of SaaS onboarding email sequences that you can incorporate into your sequences.

9 Best practices of SaaS onboarding email sequences

1. Define a goal

Each of the emails in your sequence should serve a single purpose. It can be getting the user to complete their profile or upgrade to a paid account.  Don’t try to accomplish more than one goal with a single email. Each of your emails should be connected to a defined CTA. 

This approach will allow you to gather the metrics for each CTA's performance. This way, you can fine-tune your approach and see what resonates the most with your users.

2. Keep your branding consistent

The design elements such as fonts, layout, and logos should be consistent throughout the onboarding email sequence. Also, the tone of voice of your emails should be consistent. It will signal the user that they are engaging with a unique and original brand with its own identity.

Look at one of the emails from Pinterest’s onboarding email sequence. At the top left corner of the email, the Pinterest logo is the same cherry red color with an italic font. Next, the tone of voice is consistent throughout the email, and the overall design layout is kept simple.

Keep your branding consistent - Pintrest example

3. Keep your content digestible

You don’t want to keep your subscribers scratching their heads, wondering what they have just read after reading your email. Your content should be easy to read and understandable for your target audience. 

Use infographics, GIFs, and eye-catching visuals to guide the user through the CTA. Moreover, use minimum jargon and keep the content short, crisp, and to the point.

4. Personalize the emails

Each user journey is different. Some users might visit your app through social media, and others might discover you on the app store. Some will find your app intriguing and interact with it for a long time. In contrast, others might just download the app and forget about it. Thus, the latter need to be reminded why they should be using your app.

Use a personalized nudge email to convince the user to take action. Guide the user through to the CTA with personalized content and offers.

5. Show the next onboarding steps

Use your onboarding email sequence to tell the user what they can expect next in their user journey. You can tell them about additional features of your product and show them how to use these features by including a video, or you can create infographics that show a step-by-step process of using them.

Grammarly does a great job of showing the next onboarding steps. The image below shows that Grammarly is showcasing the steps for “Streamline Your Editing Process.” Below that, you can see “Other Great Ways To Use Grammarly.”

Show the next onboarding steps - Grammerly's example

6. Don’t forget the “Ah-ha” moment

Identifying the core value of your product can lead to that “Ah-ha” moment. After determining your product's core value, the goal is to lead the user as quickly as possible to that “Ah-ha” moment. Your user’s unique experience will produce a better customer experience leading to the growth of your business.

Guide the user through your onboarding email sequence by sending them prerequisites the user must complete to reach that core value.

7. Add helpful resources

Taking the idea of core values forward, user success depends not only on providing a one-time solution to users about their issues but is a continuous process. Users will always face issues, depending on the complexity of your product, and would want solutions for them. For example, users may want to ask for additional help in using your product's advanced features.

You have likely created tutorial videos, FAQ pages, and blog posts highlighting best practices for using the product. Include this helpful content in your onboarding email sequence and provide your users the tools they need upfront so they don’t have to search for solutions after the problem arises.

8. Test your emails

No two emails will ever perform the same. That’s why testing multiple variations of the same email can help you clinch the perfect email you can subsequently use in your email sequences.

You can A/B test two emails with different subject lines, email copy, CTA and even design creatives to see which one has the most open rates and click-through rates and brings in more conversions.

9. Use a call to action

Finally, you want your user to take your desired action. But first, you have to pave the way for it.  You can do this by centering all of your content around the call-to-action. After you have provided them with the core value of your product, the users will be eager to start using it. 

Therefore, make it easy for them to start using the product by including a call-to-action button at the end of each email so that they come one step closer to using your product.

The CTA should be in a place where it is visible. Moreover, use colors that make the CTA more prominent. Although you can use more than one CTA, one CTA should be enough if done right.

7 Top onboarding email types to use in your sequence

Now that you have learned the best practices to use in your onboarding email sequences, you should also learn about the types of emails you should include in your sequences.

1. Confirmation email

Sending a confirmation email is essential as it can help validate which users are genuine and which ones are fake. It’s a fundamental process that the majority of your users will complete. 

A confirmation email should have a clear call-to-action that helps your audience validate their email addresses, and they don’t need to have a fancy design either. 

Just take a look at what Ellevest does with its confirmation emails. The overall look and feel of the email are simple, with a clear call-to-action in the middle saying,” Confirm Email Address.” Also, the body text directs the reader toward the CTA.

Confirmation email - Ellevest example

2. Reminder emails

Some users might forget that they have signed up to use your product. Hence, they need to be reminded about the confirmation email they received. You can use a time-based reminder email to set it to go out after a specific time period.

You don’t have to go over the top in terms of the design of the reminder email. A simple design will also suffice. However, make sure that the user is effortlessly guided to the CTA.

Rdio, a music app, has sent a reminder email to a prospect. The design of the email is simple. The CTA, “Finish Signing Up,” is in the middle of the email. Moreover, the branding is also consistent throughout the email.

Reminder emails - Rdio example

3. Welcome emails

Your chance of making a lasting impression comes with the welcome email. Welcome emails are sometimes considered apart from the onboarding sequence, but it’s too important to be considered excluded from the entire sequence.

The key to nailing welcome emails is to make them fun, engaging, and not be sales-y. Show your gratitude to the user for choosing your product. Also, welcome emails should be simplistic in terms of design and can be used to highlight the significant features of a product.

Recurly’s email is an excellent example of what a welcome email should look like. The design of the email is simple yet effective. Moreover, right after it says “welcome”, there are three blocks with links that redirect the user to the account home page, features page, and documentation page. Below that, the link to the email support team is also provided.

Welcome emails - Recurly example

4. Next step email

After welcoming the user, it is time to further their onboarding process and guide them on what steps they should take next. For this, use next-step emails in your onboarding sequences.

Rather than showing the benefits of a product, next step emails show how to reap the benefits.

MacPaw thoroughly explains all the steps its users can take to clean their Mac computers in its next step emails. They showcase steps for clearing purgeable space, decluttering trash bins, uninstalling unused apps, and deleting old and large files using MacPaw.

Next step email - MacPaw example

5. Community building email

Sometimes people aren’t just looking for an app to use. They are looking for a community to build and foster relationships with people with similar interests. They want a sense of belonging.

Community building emails can be used to spur a user to join a tight-knit group. Many brands use a sense of community to build loyalty. These users can then become loyal advocates for the brand.

Riverside’s email is a fine example of a community building email. At the start of the email, there is a CTA, “Join now.” Immediately after that, the user is thanked for joining Riverside and is asked to join a community of content creators. After that, there is another CTA, “Join Now.”

Communit building email - Riverside example

6. Gamification emails

Engaging with users doesn’t have to be about making money. Having fun can help you in connecting with them on a deeper level. That’s where you include gamification emails in your onboarding flows.

People like to play games that take their minds off tedious tasks. Therefore, send a gamified email, and you will surely grab your recipient's attention.

An example of gamification emails is Gwynnie Bee’s scratch card game. By scratching the card, the recipient can win a mysterious prize. This email is multifaceted; it also helps engage the recipient with the brand and works as a reward email.

Gamification emails - Gwynnie Bee example

7. Rewards & recognition email

Rewarding users who engage the most with your emails can help induce a sense of loyalty and make them feel that their favorite brand recognizes them. So, make rewards & recognition emails a part of your onboarding flows.

Take a look at how GrubHub offers rewards to its users. The email below provided a $5 discount to the user on their next $15 order.

Rewards & Recognition email - Grubhub example

Start onboarding users seamlessly with AppFlows

Each SaaS product is unique and, thus, has different core values to offer. Therefore, product marketers need to define the goals they want to achieve with their product and translate those goals into their onboarding email sequences.

Also, by continuously monitoring the user’s interaction with the product, they should determine the next emails in the flow. To create these emails, they can adhere to the best practices highlighted in this blog.

Author Bio

Ammar Mazhar

Ammar Mazhar

Content writer by day and a book nerd by night, Ammar Mazhar has been writing for 3 years for B2B and B2C businesses. As a wordsmith, Ammar knows how to write SEO-optimized content that your users will find insightful, igniting results for your business.

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