Emails. We love them, but we also hate them.

We love to receive well-written messages. But we hate spammy non-personal emails.

That makes the job of marketers during onboarding extremely difficult. You need to send an onboarding sequence, but too many emails in a narrow timeframe and open rates fall dramatically – as well as your chances to onboard customers successfully.

Personalized email
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

1. The sender needs to be a person

You need to make it more personal. That's why pretty much every sender from onboarding emails are actual people working for the company.

Our control generated a 0.73% CTR, and the treatment generated a 0.96% CTR. [...] Since HubSpot's average visitor-to-lead conversion rate on landing pages is 45%, that means the treatment got us 131 more leads. (Hubspot)

There is a real difference as people will often check the identity of the sender before opening the email.

2. Write an enticing subject

Subject lines need to draw in people to open the email and read it. They need to feel welcome but also a little intrigued. If your welcome email has a simple "Welcome" as the subject, people don't expect more from the email, and you lose the first opportunity you have of telling them a bit more about how your product is fixing their pains.

More than 70% of new subscribers expect a welcome immediately after signing up. What’s more, welcome emails generate “four times the total open rates” than other forms of bulk promotions. (Klaviyo)

That's why you need to do more. If you have something to download or they can read, add something like "+ a gift" and it will boost open rates.

To activate new users, Ixigo automatically sends an email within 10 minutes of signing up on the app. Their compelling subject line teasing a welcome gift sees an impressive 54% open rate. (CleverTap)

3. "Plain text" emails perform better

Designing emails is hard!

Many different email clients only support a limited set of rules. And they need to be displayed properly on mobile...

After all these efforts, you would think people would love to read your emails. Except they won't.

For the plain-text vs. HTML template with images test, the HTML email version had a 21% lower clickthrough rate, and combined with the open rate the email had 51% fewer clicks. (HubSpot)

Plain text – but really, HTML emails without design – emails win over emails with designed templates. But they are not very unique, aren't they?

4. Add light design touches

You see, the problem with plain text emails is that they are not memorable. They deliver the message but doesn't feel personalized.

In this case, adding subtle design touches is going to be necessary. It shouldn't be overwhelming. Displaying something a bit unique about your brand is enough.

For the simple HTML template vs. HTML-heavy template, the simpler email had a 5.3% higher clickthrough rate, and combined with the higher open rate, resulted in getting 30% more clicks. (HubSpot)

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5. Keep CTAs simple

Make CTAs look like CTAs even if they are just links. Put them on a line of their own, not inside a paragraph, so it shows clearly what is the CTA. And don't put multiple CTAs in emails.

In this test, the email campaign that included only one CTA increased click through rate by 42%! (SuperOffice)

6. Explain the value customers get out of your product in all of your emails

Explain what your product does and how it fixes user pains.

It was a copy problem. Wistia’s email copy wasn’t acting like an online salesperson. It wasn’t closing. [...] A side-by-side comparison of how we optimized Wistia’s SaaS email copy to bring in a 350% lift in paid conversions. (Copyhackers)

You sell by explaining to your customers how they are going to get value out of your product.

But as selling isn't too attractive, you need to be friendly and personal.

Be specific. When you are talking about the benefits of your product, add facts to them. Do you have case studies? Extract their metrics and use them to show real-world benefits from a feature you are talking about.

7. Send a welcome email

The welcome email is the most important one.

More than 70% of new subscribers expect a welcome immediately after signing up. What’s more, welcome emails generate “four times the total open rates” than other forms of bulk promotions. (Klaviyo)

An excellent welcome email will have a significant impact on the onboarding. A lousy copy will ruin your whole onboarding.

The welcome email is the one thing you need to be the most careful about. So many products just send an "Activate your account" email and miss this opportunity entirely.

8. Don't overthink your onboarding sequence scheduling

There is no ideal timeline to send each email of your onboarding sequence.

Nor there is the perfect number of emails.

Each product is different and has more or fewer features than the other. The only important matter here is to provide value to your customers.

Repeat email after email the benefits of your product and how they can achieve their desired outcome.

9. Send emails depending on your customers' (in)actions

You absolutely need to personalize the content of your emails like you personalize your product tours. If you ask new customers for their role or industry, it is an opportunity to personalize your emails.

The ability to segment email lists and individualize email campaign messaging are the most effective personalization tactics for 51% and 50% of marketing influencers respectively. (Ascend2, 2016)

Let's take Canva, a service to create designs easily for posters, infographics, business cards, and more.

A customer creating posters isn't going to have the exact same needs as someone creating a business card. The product is going to be different to use, and your emails should reflect that.

50% of CloudApp's paid users converted after their trial has ended after they began sending personalized emails based on specific actions their trial customers took!

Define the triggers and personalize onboarding sequences for each of them. That's how they are going to be more likely to achieve their desired outcome.

Conclusion

With these best practices, you should be able to improve your onboarded rate tremendously.

Of course, you are going to have to do some A/B testing to optimize for your specific products and customer segments. There is no single truth.

If you use an email marketing automation tool, you probably have everything needed to craft great personalized emails. There is no more excuse not to do it.

If you are not, I beg you to use one. They are not very expensive compared to other marketing tools, and they will get you the best ROI.

Free Downloadable Bonus
Want More Customer Onboarding Optimization Strategies?
We’ve put together a checklist of 15+ data-informed cutomer onboarding best practices to turn more trial customers into buyers (organized for your convenience.)
Download Your Onboarding Checklist Now →
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