In this session Étienne and I discuss email onboarding strategies with Product and marketing consultant Étienne Garbugli.
Étienne helps entrepreneurs & innovators leverage customer insights to build and grow businesses.
Why is onboarding difficult?
Their might have different roles especially if you are in B2B or enterprise because you might need to sell to multiple stakeholders. Some people might just be curious to check out what your product is all about.
When you are starting up, it is easier to appeal to one target which is actually a group or a subset of people.
As your product grows, you will inevitably end up targeting different profiles which makes everything complex because you will need to consider their different worldviews and their different ways of understanding the value that your product provides.
The reality is that Averages creates imperfect solutions, so the idea of trying to create an onboarding process that works for everybody doesn’t work because people come in at different speeds with different expectations, understanding and goals.
This led to the creation of the train track approach which is a way of figuring out the most appropriate station where people can get on your email program and how you can get them to their objective.
To create the train tracks, two things are required:
1. You need to understand the product
2. You need to understand the specific people you are targeting your product for
You need to understand the natural cadence of use. If you are building tax software, you can expect people to use it once or twice a year. An invoicing software might be used two to three times a week. Different kind of cadence will create different kind of onboarding and expectations in terms of engagement.
You need to understand your “Aha moments”, you need to understand what causes people to realize the value that your product provides.
It is important for you to focus on the must have experience which is commonly referred to as the minimum path to awesome and front load that experience.
The idea is to be able to understand the behaviors by creating different points where you assess the performance based on what people have done and not done. After you have done assessed their performance, you will then send them on different paths.
The Objective of Onboarding Emails
You can use case studies or customer stories that show the value people get from using your product to encourage other users to increase their engagement with your product.
The image below is a welcome email that gets people excited about the product, gives people an overview of the actual value of the product, provide a clear call to action, get them to complete their actions in the product and get them their first win with the product.
This email opened at 70% and about 20% click-through.
We ended up resequencing this email sequence a couple of time just to make sure that we got the right wins at the right time in the right sequence.
It is really important to ensure that what you are putting in place is actually driving the results that you want to get. If you are just sending emails and they don’t have an impact on what people do in the product, then you are just sending emails that are not doing anything.
That is why I recommend you to start with one sequence, keep it simple and progressively get the impact. When you setup the first email, you see the difference in terms of behavior, do people that open this email and click on the link behave differently than the people that do not. Based on this are you actually having an impact on your activation metric or whatever it is that you are initially checking against.
Best Practices for Onboarding Email
If your welcome email is pushing in so many different directions, when people read the emails, they won’t know what the next step is and they will get confused.
When users click on the links in your onboarding emails, it should set them on the right modal window with the right information already populated so that the friction of starting to use the product is reduced.
It can be a good idea to initially look at your chords and try to overcome the drops, in that case you could send emails on the first day, second day, fourth day and seventh day. Alternatively you could just test it out and see what happens as well.
That is the basic setup of your onboarding process where you tried to figure out the minimum action that you tried to get people to do within your product and see how people react while addressing the behaviors to make sure you reinforce the right behaviors.
As you move forward you can get a lot of value by understanding the subsegments within your onboarding.
Once you start getting enough volume, and you start getting some performance in terms of your onboarding sequence, you need to address more of your need to get more people to perform with your product.
One way of doing this is by looking at what is the main segmentation criteria you use in your product.
You want to be able to split your user base in a way that makes it easy to understand that these group has a different behavior than that other group and by speaking to them differently, you are going to get different performance and different behaviors.
One of the ways MailChimp segments people is by list size, the behavior of someone with 5 subscribers will be very different from someone with 3 million subscribers. They will most likely have different expectations from the product and be interested in different functionality. At Slack they differentiate based on company size and at Landr we differentiated via job profiles.
To improve the performance of your onboarding sequence, make sure your communication caters to the realities of the different user segments.
A major issue this approach brings up is complexities multiplies quickly. If you start with your first onboarding sequence, you split it up into five different personas then all of a sudden you end up with 25 emails and then suddenly 50 emails so it is not something you should use lightly however there is a lot of value in it.
One of our examples from those days is when we broke up our onboarding sequence by persona, we had one email that jumped to 78% open rate with 25% click rate. This is just by splitting up the right behaviors and speaking to the right words that people are using. Research shows that 80% of conversations in SaaS will be within the first 40 days so the first 30 to 40 days are very important. This is part of the reason why MailChimp sends 11 emails for onboarding specifically.
The important thing is to get people off your train track, your onboarding sequence. Once they have activated, once they become buyers, you need to get them to their next win. You need to create the right structure so you can actually keep on growing and pushing people to the right goals within your email program
MailChimp – Marketing smarts for big ideas
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