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Best onboarding email practices for SaaS companies
7 min read

Best onboarding email practices for SaaS companies

SaaS companies, otherwise known as software as a service companies, rely heavily on their onboarding emails to get new customers used to their services. Creating one of these emails may seem like a simple task, and in some regards it is, but it may not be as straightforward as you think.
Best onboarding email practices for SaaS companies

SaaS companies, otherwise known as software as a service companies, rely heavily on their onboarding emails to get new customers used to their services. Creating one of these emails may seem like a simple task, and in some regards it is, but it may not be as straightforward as you think. There are processes you have to follow and certain practices that you should implement, and others that you should avoid.

So without further ado, let’s talk about onboarding emails, why they’re important, and the best practices that you can use to make this process easier for you and the email recipients.


Why use onboarding emails?

The best way to start this off is to understand why emails are the best medium for onboarding. There are 2 main reasons for using emails.

The first is simply because people expect them. After all, when people sign up, they have to input their email. It’s only natural that some sort of email relating to their new signup would pop up in their inbox.

onboarding-email-inbox-1

The second and maybe not so obvious reason is because emails are an external channel for communication. Instead of having to rely on people signing on to use your software, and using an in-app message, they can get everything they need in their most used medium online: email.

Onboarding emails are typically the first email companies send after a user signs up. If you make their first interaction with your company via email, then they will slowly become used to seeing your subject lines, and maybe even look for them.

Now that we understand the importance of onboarding emails, it’s time to discuss the best practices. Take a look below.


Use a custom message

Everyone nowadays is after a personal experience with companies. In fact, some people prefer the customer service aspect of a company over their actual product.

Using a custom, more personalized message for an onboarding email is probably one of the best practices you can implement. Not only are you getting all the essential information to them, but you’re doing it in such a way that they feel special. This is the best way to establish that all important bond with customers and lay the foundation for a life long customer.

loyal-customer

How do you create a personal onboarding email? It’s easier than you might think. You don’t need to know everything about them in order to really make a good impression. But doing simple things like using their name really makes an impact.

Think about it like this: When you’re scrolling through your emails, which ones typically stand out the most? The ones with your name in the subject line, that sound like a personal, friend-to-friend email, and the ones that don’t flash some giant promotion right off the bat.

The key to a successful, personal onboarding email is to make it sound, look, and feel like you’re writing to a friend, not a stranger.


Make it fun

Think about your time in school. How hard was it to learn something that you didn’t have any interest in? For me, it wasn’t always a walk in the park. That being said, the moment something interesting came up, or the professor made an effort to make the lesson fun to learn about, it was easier to retain. Why? Because we want to forget the boring parts of our lives, and remember the times where we had fun.

Of course, this isn’t to say that you need to make some sort of game out of your onboarding emails, but you should definitely make an effort to bring joy to your new customer.

Making onboarding emails fun is all about the wording. Instead of corporate, boring talk, go for something a little more playful when greeting and explaining concepts. This can vary from company to company, but it is by far one of the best onboarding email practices.


Highlight your benefits

As important as features are to almost everyone, you shouldn’t dwell too much on them. What you should dwell on, however, are the benefits that your software brings. Will they save time? Will they be able to make more money? These are questions that people are asking themselves, and they are questions that you can potentially answer.

questions-and-answers

Ultimately, the user is most likely more concerned with what your software can do for them on a day-to-day basis. And while features are an important part of that, they’re sort of like a sub-category, rather than the main point.


Point out some helpful features

Only after you’ve explained what your software can do for them should you explain features. But, you definitely don’t want to list off every single feature. Try to highlight only a few of the most used features.

This, of course, isn’t 100% necessary. While it is a good practice, I wouldn’t necessarily name it as one of the best onboarding email practices. The only reason it’s mentioned here is to highlight the importance of the benefits over the features.


Optimize for mobile

Optimizing for mobile is probably on everyone’s list for best onboarding email practices, and will be for a while. The reason is because over half of emails are opened on mobile. And with the way mobile trends are rising, we can definitely expect that number to skyrocket.

mobile-emails

The best onboarding email practices, as well as any other email for that matter, are always optimized for mobile. How can you do that? There are a few simple things you can do. Check it out:

  • Find the ideal subject line length
  • Test different button sizes
  • Strategically place your CTAs
  • Keep the message simple (we’ll go over this one in depth next)

These are just a few of the most well known practices, of course. There are many more, some of which can completely depend on your audience. All-in-all, you should definitely have a mobile optimized onboarding email.


Keep it simple

Simplicity is a marvelous thing in an onboarding email. The fact is, people are busy. They don’t have the time to sit, read, and comprehend a lot of information at one time.

Your best bet would be to list the basics. Tell them what they need to know, get your message out there, and then give them the option to learn more through a strategically placed CTA.

What you could do is link them to a FAQ section, help center, or blog article. Often times, most of their questions can be answered with a brief explanation. But, you don’t want to clutter your beautiful onboarding email. That’s where those links come into play.

Keep it short, simple, and offer extra help outside of the email if they need it.


Send re-engagement emails

Unfortunately, just because someone downloads your app or signs up for a new account, doesn’t mean they will stick around. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that a good percentage of your customers aren’t as loyal as you’d like them to be. But that’s okay! Sometimes they just need a subtle reminder.

Companies have been utilizing this strategy for years now, and it’s because it works. We live in a world where technology moves fast. Sometimes people lose interest or forget about your service all together. In fact, around 40-60% of users download an app, log in once, and never use it again. This can greatly affect churn rates negatively.

What you could do is simply send an email to remind them of why they signed up or downloaded in the first place.

To do this, determine a time period that a user has to be inactive before you send an email. Once that time period has passed, shoot them an email offering some help.

The key here is to not be too salesy, but to be understanding and helpful. If all goes well, you’ll have a new(ish) and active user.


Test, optimize, and test again

As cool as it would be, you’re not going to get this whole onboarding email perfect on your first try. You will definitely need to test subject lines, CTA placements, wording, and so on. I would definitely say that this is a job that is never complete. Until your onboarding email metrics are 100% perfect, there’s always a way to improve and optimize.

email-optimization

You’ve probably heard us talk about A/B testing to increase email open rates before. It’s a great way to test emails against each other to see what works and what doesn’t.

The expectations of your users are always changing. Testing your onboarding emails as well as your other email campaigns is the only way you will be able to stay on top of things, get your emails opened, and ultimately increase conversions.


The conclusion

We’ve made it to the end. These are some of the best onboarding email practices you can use right now. There are many out there, but these have been proven to increase customer satisfaction, open rates, and even conversion rates tremendously.

The key take-away from this is that your onboarding emails don’t have to be complicated. Your users aren’t looking for an encyclopedia on your software. They’re simply looking for an introduction and a few tips to get started. Anything more than that will quickly take your onboarding email from simple to easily ignorable in no time. The customer effort should be little to non-existent. Keep it simple and informative, and you’ll do just fine.