Founders and marketers suck at email.
Many of us still default to generic email sequences that we blast to everyone on our lists.
And email marketing, especially for SaaS, is just hard. We work around email automation tools, resort to ugly hacks, and even involve the dev team to send the right emails at the right time. But even then, things still break.
I've been a marketer for years, but I still mess up. A bug recently caused our system to send one of our old email broadcasts to everyone on our list. And it's not just me.
Now, it doesn't matter if it was an accident or not, sending the erroneous emails annoy the heck out of everyone.
That's why I built Encharge to help marketers do email marketing better.
In this post, I'll give you some practical tips to avoid sending the wrong emails at the wrong times. Like I did.
Sending emails at the wrong time results in unsubscribes. I don't need a statistic here.
So before you hit that send button, follow these 8 tips to avoid those timing mistakes and maximize the impact of your onboarding emails.
I'll start with the basics.
The customer journey is the path a customer takes when interacting with a brand or business. It usually involves multiple touchpoints and interactions from initial awareness to the final purchase and beyond.
It's not exact, but a simplified customer's journey usually looks like this:
However, what happens in real life is far more complex. Forrester has a good illustration that represents the average behavior of consumers.
Can you spot where the email is? It's scattered across the buying journey. They're in the Explore and Buy stages in this illustration, but if you ask me, they also play a huge part in the bottom-of-the-funnel stages, especially with conversions.
A customer journey map may seem unnecessary to some. But failing to understand your customer can result in messed up email timing.
Here's the ideal way to do this is:
You can throw social media content like spaghetti and you can get away with likes or new followers. But untargeted emails without a holistic game plan will lead to:
Segmenting by behavior is important because these emails have the highest likelihood of impacting the user. Of course, you can also segment by demographics and lead scores. And don't forget to consider:
Your segmentation depends entirely on you and your email strategy. But you have to plan your architecture early on so you can readily use these segments and triggers to fire your email to the right person at the right time.
Tip: One easy way to segment your users during onboarding by asking them questions that can sort them into buckets — just like how we at Encharge personalize the customer experience.
Don't stop after segmenting the email list.
Consider your triggers. Here are some good examples:
And track email metrics so you'll know how your email campaigns performed.
Lastly, for best results, do this:
A comprehensive email onboarding plan includes a series of emails that are designed to take customers through the various stages of onboarding, from introduction to education to activation.
But what emails should you send? How long should they be? How frequent?
Every product is different, but here's a quick framework you can use.
More or less, there are 6 types of emails you should send during onboarding:
You could play with layouts and graphics.
Or it could be in plain text.
They can tell you what to do next.
They can be resource emails with links to helpful guides and tutorials.
Or maybe they can invite users to a chat session about your software.
They can include important notifications.
Or a usage update email with a gentle hint to upgrade like this Todoist email.
And another one on the day the trial expires (depending on whether you have a 7, 14, 21, or 30-day trial).
Now that you know the types of emails, let's talk about the timing of when to send these emails.
In general, you send emails following the Fibonacci sequence — frequently at first, then gradually spaced out over time.
The Fibonacci sequence is a series of numbers where the next number is the result of adding the two numbers before it. For example: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13…
So for example, you follow this flow for a 7-day SaaS free trial:
Transactional emails will be scattered between these emails. And since they depend on the user's behavior, that's where it could get a little tricky.
There may be branches of flows that you should set up depending on the user behavior. For example, you might send a different email depending on whether the user opened their welcome email. And not all email marketing platforms have this capacity — this is the very reason why I built Encharge—to support the sophisticated email flow smart marketers want for their customers.
And remember, crafting a winning email onboarding flow is about finding a middle ground between too many emails and just enough to lead to the AHA moment. Balance the time-based emails and behavior-triggered ones.
Choosing the right email marketing platform will make or break your email campaigns. Here are some helpful hints to help you pick the right platform:
Once you've finished your email campaign, it's time to go live with it.
But before you do, make sure to do a thorough QA (quality assurance) check to avoid any mistakes that could mess up the flow and timing.
Send drafts to yourself, your colleagues, and even a few test accounts to ensure your emails look attractive and work correctly. Check for things like broken links, typos, formatting, and compatibility issues across different devices and email clients.
You can also use A/B testing to test different copy versions to see what works best.
Few things to remember:
If you don't do QA, you're gambling with your product. QA checks may take extra time, but they're well worth the effort.
Feedback, be it good or bad, is part of onboarding — and being open to it can help you improve your campaigns.
Always be on the lookout for the "Hey, I got too many emails!" or the "I got the wrong email. I already upgraded."
Yes, you planned it carefully. Yes, you have tested it. But in reality, you just don't know what could go wrong. Monitor it, especially during the first few days after launching your new onboarding sequence.
To find feedback, follow these tips:
Nimbus, a collaboration tool and organizer, uses feedback surveys to gather insights from its users.
QA doesn't end after a campaign goes live. It's important to regularly check for bugs and broken flows in your email marketing campaigns.
To be on top of this, you can:
Email onboarding flows are never truly finished. With constantly changing customer preferences and new features to introduce, you'll need to monitor that your email marketing remains effective—it's important to prepare for future optimizations and to get that email timing right!
Some key considerations to keep in mind:
Tip: Have a fear of disrupting a well-performing sequence? To mitigate this risk, consider testing any changes on a small segment of your email list before rolling them out to your entire audience.
Email onboarding depends greatly on timing. Sending the right message at the right time can make a great first impression. Failing to do so will lead to unsubscribes.
Here is a summary of my tips on how to NOT send emails at the wrong time:
Have you implemented any of these tips? Let me know how it goes in the comments below!