According to the SaaS Sales Statistics from 99Firms, software companies with an annual growth rate of 20% have only an 8% chance of surviving.
And while offering a freemium version is great for drawing interest in your product, a strong SaaS email marketing strategy may be the best tool for boosting your growth rate.
Especially when it comes to SaaS, email marketing supersedes other channels because it enables you to educate users so they get more value from your product, send targeted messages at the right time to increase conversions, and reduce churn with retention strategies.
Use this method and you will convert more freemium leads into premium customers, upsell to higher tiers, and increase customer retention.
At InboxArmy, we guide SaaS companies in creating email marketing campaigns that convert customers and reduce churn. Talk with a member of our team to see how we can improve your email marketing results. Get in touch now.
Gone are the days of one-size-fits-all drip campaigns and autoresponders.
To convert and retain customers, you’ll need a targeted email marketing strategy that nurtures users from the very first interaction and never stops providing value.
First impressions are everything. Start your relationship with each customer right by helping them get up and running smoothly, collecting info that will help you deliver the best experience, and helping them get immediate value from your product.
Before they convert into paying customers, freemium users must see the value in your product and develop a good working relationship with your organization. You can assist this process with your email nurturing campaigns.
The goal of nurturing is to make users fall in love with your product and prime them for your conversion campaigns.
Once you’ve buttered them up, it’s time to hit users with your conversion campaigns. Make it easy for them to convert by removing friction and sending them offers they can’t refuse.
It’s easier and cheaper to retain and upgrade paying customers than it is to get new ones. In Stage 4, you’ll keep your existing customers happy by continuing to provide value through your emails, reduce your churn rate with a few email marketing tricks used by the best in the industry, and create upsell offers that convince users to upgrade their accounts.
Before you create your email marketing strategy, there are a few key steps you must take to ensure your campaigns are successful.
Obviously, since the ultimate goal is to increase conversions and reduce churn, you’ll need to know what your current conversion and churn rates are, and track them over the course of your campaign.
But there are also important saas and email marketing metrics to track that’ll tell you how well your strategy is working at each stage of the campaign.
Your organization may also have KPIs that are important to you or specific to your product.
Regardless, the point is to identify the key metrics that you can use to gauge how well you’re doing and whether or not a specific email, sequence, or strategy had the intended effect.
For example, to learn whether your customer retention campaign is working, you’ll need to measure whether your Churn Rate is decreasing and your Average Customer Lifetime is increasing.
Or to see if you want to A/B test two different offers, you’ll want to check which has the higher Click To Open Rate.
If you’re still sending the same emails to all of your customers, you might as well stop doing email marketing altogether.
To bring more value to your users and increase conversions, you’ll need to send targeted emails that address their specific needs and pain points.
Some customers may be more price-conscious. In which case, you should send them discounted memberships to get them to upgrade or renew their subscription.
Or you can create action-triggered emails that are sent to users depending on how they use your product. When they use a certain feature, they’ll receive an email that teaches them how to use the feature even more effectively.
First, you’ll need to determine how to segment your audiences.
While this guide segments email campaigns by the user’s stage in the sales funnel, you should also segment your customers even further to make your campaigns more effective.
The best way to determine how to segment is to take a look at your customer data, brainstorm segmentation strategies, then test them.
Among other segmentation strategies, Vero segments their users based on how the user first signed-up with the company.
Some of their users first joined Vero via a discounted membership promotion. To get these users to renew their accounts, Groove sends them an email offering another membership discount. These price-conscious users are more likely to renew when offered another discount.
There is no universal best way to segment. It depends on a combination of your product, customers, data available, and actions you want users to take.
Now that you’ve segmented your customers, it’s time to figure out how to guide them through the stages of the sales cycle with your email marketing campaigns.
For each stage in the email marketing funnel, you should identify an action that you want customers to take that will move them to the next stage (aka Goal Completions).
During the Onboarding stage, the goal is to get the user set up and ready to use your product.
What actions do users need to take during onboarding so that they’re ready to rock? Do they need to create a profile? Do they need to upload their email list? Do they need to add a tracking code to their website?
Before you move them into the next stage of your email marketing funnel, they’ll need to complete those actions.
You should measure how effective your emails are at getting users to take the desired actions, and test different actions for each stage to see which are most effective at moving users through the funnel.
Again, this is all specific to your product and customers. But the best way to identify these actions is by using customer data.
For example, you should look through your customer behavior data to find any behavioral correlations among freemium users who convert to a premium plan. Then contrast that to freemium users who churn.
What actions do users who convert take (or take more often) that churners don’t? This is sometimes referred to as the “Aha” Moment (more about this later).
You’re not going to come up with the perfect email marketing strategy right out the gate.
The path to success lays through trial, error, and optimization.
You’ll need to use the data you’ve collected about your customer segments to create targeted emails and strategies that move them through the funnel.
Then turn those strategies into automated email sequences that users receive depending on where users are in the funnel.
Email sequences can be time-based or trigger-based.
Time-based emails get sent at different time intervals after a user signs up.
The email templates shared below contain both time-based and trigger-based email examples. They’ve all been used by real SaaS companies to successfully move users through the sales funnel.
Use them as a starting point to brainstorm your own email sequences. Then test out different emails and sequencing strategies, and optimize what works.
The goal of your onboarding email sequence is to get your relationship with the user off to a good start.
A strong introduction will make converting and retaining users much easier later on.
With your onboarding sequence, you should:
The Welcome Email is an absolute necessity for any users who’ve started a free trial, freemium account, or purchased your product.
Remember, the goal of onboarding is to build a relationship with users and help them get value from your product immediately. A Welcome Email helps you accomplish that.
Groove’s Welcome Email accomplishes all of these goals. It establishes a connection with the user by addressing them by their name and explaining the value they’ll get from using the product.
It asks the user a question that Groove can use to segment them and deliver the best possible experience.
It tells the user to expect more emails over the next couple of weeks.
And it includes a link to a video tour of Groove that helps the user get started and get results quickly.
One of my favorite things about this email, though, is how customer-centric it is. It grounds every section of the email in how it will help the user.
And even where it asks the user to answer a question, it explains that the answer will help Groove deliver the best experience to the user.
While I don’t have access to their data, I’m sure doing so increases their response rate.
The First Step Email is another type of Welcome Email.
But instead of focusing on establishing a relationship, the focus is on getting the user to start using your product as soon as possible.
In this email, you’ll outline the first steps the user should take. To make things easier and reduce friction, you should include links directly to the section of your product where users can take those first steps.
So what are the first steps you should direct users to? There are three types:
iDoneThis keeps it even simpler. They send the user emails each day that allows them to use their product right from the email itself.
Box helps users get set up with their product by giving them directions on the steps involved in getting started (with links), and including a CTA to visit their Admin Console.
Users are going to experience problems when using your product. There’s no avoiding it.
When it happens, you need to be there to help them solve it.
If they get stuck, they’ll get annoyed and will be much more likely to churn. If they have to work too hard to find a solution, they’ll get annoyed and be more likely to churn.
But if a user experiences a problem and your team quickly helps them resolve it, they’ll be grateful and have more trust in your company and product.
With a We’re Here To Help Email, you’ll show users exactly how they can connect with your support team to troubleshoot issues. When a problem arises, they’ll immediately know how to get help to resolve it.Click to preview
Wistia sends this email to let customers know how to contact them if they have any questions or need help.
They share the best way to connect with their support team (via email), and link to more resources in their learning center.
It’s important to give users options for how to contact you so they can do so in the way they most prefer.Click to preview
Vero sends this We’re Here To Help Email to their customers. They make contacting them super easy by allowing customers to reply to the email itself.
They explain what kinds of support issues customers can reach out about. They even tell customers to contact them with “anything at all”, and do so in a funny way (“ask us for a word that rhymes with wolf”).
They tell customers how important support is to their company. And they promise to respond quickly. If they deliver on that promise, customers will be very happy.
In each stage of your email marketing strategy, you need to identify what factors contribute to moving users to the next stage and what factors prevent them from doing so.
You must eliminate the road blocks and create campaigns that encourage conversion.
Some of your freemium users will elect not to upgrade their accounts. It’s unavoidable. Your job is to figure out why so you can increase the number of users who do upgrade.
The best way to do this is to simply ask them.
Groove accomplishes this with a very concise email that asks users why they didn’t upgrade after their free trial expires. And they make responding easy by allowing users to reply by email.
While most users won’t respond, some will. Look for commonalities among their answers and strategize ways that you can increase the number of users who do upgrade.
If the price of your product is preventing them from converting, then perhaps you can offer discounted price promotions to get these users to convert.
Or, like some companies, you can offer users the opportunity to unlock only the features that the user wants to use for a fraction of the cost.
The point is: find out why freemium users haven’t upgraded and use that info to strategize and test campaigns that will convince them to.
The goal of the nurturing stage should be to educate the user on how to use your product to get the most value from it. If users can get results with your freemium product, they’ll be more likely to upgrade to a premium plan to get even better results.
The primary goal of nurturing SaaS leads is to help them get value and results from using your freemium product.
The more value they get from your product, the more they’ll realize how much they need your product.
And if they’re getting results from your freemium product, they’ll see even more value in a premium plan.
Help them get results from your product by sharing your valuable blog content.
While your blog subscribers will get email updates on every piece of content you publish, you’ll get more results from freemium users if you share targeted content with them.
Sending relevant, targeted emails is critical to helping freemium users find value in your product.
You want your email sequences to guide users to take actions that will show them how to use the product in a way that is tailored to their needs. Otherwise, you’re just wasting their time and clogging up their inbox.
Zapier shows us a perfect example of how to accomplish this in the email above.
Since the user signed up using a Gmail account, Zapier sends them an email showing them “a few popular ways people integrate Google Apps with Zapier.” The user is more likely to find this relevant and useful since it likely applies to them
Furthermore, Zapier makes things super easy by including a CTA button that the user can click to to perform the integrations straight from the email.
And at the bottom of the email, they share even more ways the user can get value from Zapier and Google Apps through Zap templates.
Webinars and educational courses are a great way to onboard new users and teach users how to achieve their goals with your product.
It works well because, rather than giving them instructional materials they have to read and apply, you get to actually hold their hand and show them step by step how to use your product.
Users can follow along while they watch the webinar and rewind or fast-forward when necessary.
The more users know about your product and its features, the more likely they are to use it, and the more value they’ll get from it.
You can create webinars that show users how to achieve a specific goal, how to use a specific feature, how to get set up, etc.
The Mailchimp Webinar Email above is a perfect example of how to do this.
It shares 4 webinars that users can sign up for depending on what they want to learn.
Each webinar includes a few quick sentences describing what will be taught and why it’s valuable to the user.
Users can register for the webinar straight from the email by clicking on one of the CTAs.
And even if they can’t make the webinar, they can still register and receive a recording of it.
Activity/Progress Emails are emails that show users what they’ve accomplished using your product, usually in the form of numbers and stats.
They’re a great tool for demonstrating the value of your product and building your relationship with the user.
A freemium user who hasn’t yet converted to a premium plan may still be unsure of the value of your product. Activity/Progress Emails allow you to quantify that value to the user.
And by sharing the rate of change of their stats, users can see how they’ve improved over time.
If the user can see the value of your tool, they’ll be more likely to continue using it or even upgrade to get better results.
You probably know Mailchimp, the above email from them is an example of Activity/Progress emails done right.
The above email by Mailchimp is an example of Activity/Progress emails done right.
It shows the user weekly stats on how their audience has grown since using Mailchimp.
It keeps track of the rate of change to better demonstrate how much their tool is helping.
And it includes a tip for how the user can do even better.
They also have the potential to introduce gamification into the mix.
Canva sends the email below when a user has created 10 designs. The email congratulates users on their achievements
(10 designs) and prompts them to share it with their friends.
It also shows them that the next milestone is 20 designs, so the user will feel motivated to reach it.
And by sharing it with their friends, they get to display their badge proudly and compete against each other.Click to preview
Action-Triggered Emails are one of the best ways to segment your email campaigns. These emails are targeted toward how the user is actually using your product.
And when nurturing users, you want to get them to use more features so they can see the full capabilities and value of your product.
You can do so by sending Action-Triggered Feature Introduction Emails.
Rather than sending emails that introduce features users may not be interested in, you can introduce features that are directly related to how they’re using your product. You can show them even more ways to use your product and how much more value they could be getting.
Autopilot sends an Action-Triggered Feature Introduction Email after users publish their first “Journey.”
It prompts the user to add the Autopilot tracking code to their website so they can gain more insight into their contacts and capture leads directly from the website.
Now that they’ve fallen in love with your freemium product, it’s time to convince the user to upgrade to a premium plan.
Sometimes users need a test drive of the premium version of your product to convince them to upgrade. Once they get a taste of the full features and capabilities, it’ll be harder for them to let go.
Canva’s Free Trial Email is a perfect example of how to execute this email strategy.
Rather than just offer the free trial, they share a feature of Canva Pro that the user may be interested in. Then they invite them to try it out.
Enticing the user with a cool feature piques their curiosity, making them more likely to take the Pro version for a test drive.
Because they’ve never actually seen the premium version of your product, users don’t know what it does or how to use it.
This is one form of friction preventing users from upgrading to a premium plan. And it can be easily removed with a Product Demonstration Email.
Sometimes you need to educate users on the features and benefits of your product. Not in a general way, but in a way that’s tailored to their business and their goals.
Vero’s Product Demo Email is a great example of how to pull this off.
It allows users to pick a time that works best for them. And it removes objections by telling them the demo will only take 15 minutes (even if it goes longer, it gets them in the door).
The importance of incorporating case studies into your marketing strategy can’t be overstated.
92% of online shoppers look at a product review before making a purchase.
And according to LinkedIn’s 2018 Demand Gen Report, 79% of B2B buyers choose case studies as their preferred content format when making a purchase decision.
Every business promises that their product will get results. But a case study proves it.
It grounds your promise in real-world results while simultaneously educating the user on how to get those results with your product.
It also works as a form of social validation.
Vero’s short Case Study Email shows you how it’s done.
The Subject Line is straightforward and connects to a problem the user may have – onboarding.
It connects the user to a similar company – ContactMonkey (the business mentioned in the case study) – by mentioning that they used to share similar problems. But with Vero, ContactMonkey resolved those problems.
Then it briefly describes a few Vero features that make onboarding easier, further piquing the user’s interest.
At the end, the email connects the subject to the ultimate goal of any business – driving revenue.
A common problem with the freemium software model is that many users will be too satisfied with the features of your free plan to upgrade. But they’ll be more likely to upgrade if they know the capabilities of your premium membership.
So share those possibilities with a Premium Features Email.
CloudApp uses a simple Premium Features Email to entice their users.
Users are already using CloudApp for fast screen grabs and file sharing. So CloudApp tells them that they can do even better – or “faster and morerer” – by “unlocking the true power of CloudApp” with their Pro plan.
They also share the specific aspects of a Pro plan that enables them to do so – increased upload speed and the ability to upload 6GB files. Short. Sweet. Effective.
Converting users to premium plans is only half the battle. Now you have to keep them.
You should continue to send users nurturing emails that educates them on how to use your product (especially the specific features they use the most) to achieve their goals and eliminate their pain points. All of the emails templates from Stage 2 still apply in Stage 4.
But in addition, you should:
We all get busy. We all forget. Your customers are no different.
And while some will never return to your product, you can convince others to return with a Re-engagement Email.
A Re-engagement Email is a simple reminder to the customer that you exist and you miss them.
MarkUp accomplishes both in a quick and painless email.
It’s not too pushy. It merely invites them to revisit MarkUp if they’re free.
And it also asks if there’s anything they can do to improve the customer’s MarkUp experience.
This kind of email shows the customer that you care about their business and want their feedback.
Don’t expect a large number of returns. But if even a few users revisit your product, you can chalk it up as a win!
If you want to reduce your Churn Rate, then don’t give users a chance to churn. Make them an offer they can’t refuse.
A Service Renewal Offer Email is sent to users whose plans are about to expire. Before they do, tempt them to renew their membership by reiterating the value of your product and giving them a great deal for sticking around.
Service Renewal Offer emails work well because they catch the user ahead of time – before they consider whether or not to renew – and give them a reason to stay.
Vero’s Service Renewal Email is a perfect example of how to execute this strategy.
It opens with the offer – saving $600 by renewing their membership.
It entices the user to stay by sharing 2 new, great features that were recently added to their product.
It makes the offer time-sensitive. Users have to make a decision “in the next 7 days.”
The email is also targeted toward users who joined Vero on a previous discount offer, so reduced pricing is likely to be important to them.
ISome users aren’t aware that their subscription will soon expire.
They don’t necessarily need to be tempted with offers. They just need a quick reminder.
A Reactivation Prompt Email does just that – it prompts users to reactivate their accounts.
The above Reactivation Email from Unbounce is short and sweet. It tells the user when their account is set to expire and what will happen when it does. Then it prompts them to reactivate.
And if the user has any questions, they’re invited to send them a message at the email provided.
IIt’s easier and more cost-effective to upsell existing customers than to get new ones.
And by upselling your customers, you’re increasing the value they get from your product and the likelihood that they stick around.
Buffer’s Upsell Email attempts to get users to commit to a longer contract by switching from monthly billing to yearly billing.
Upgrading to a yearly contract benefits the user because they save money. And it benefits Buffer by extending the customer’s contract. The longer they use Buffer’s product, the more they’ll want to keep it.
It’s a sad fact, but some users won’t fall in love with your product. Churn is unavoidable.
But, while churn can’t be eliminated altogether, it can be reduced.
To reduce churn, you need to understand why users churn.
Which is where a Churn Recon Email comes into play.
The goal of this email is simple – ask them why they’re leaving.
Most people won’t respond. But those that do will give you valuable insight into how you can retain more customers.
Look for common responses, both overall and within specific customer segments. Start by addressing the most common reasons. Then increase retention even further by addressing the segment-specific reasons.
Groove’s Churn Recon Email keeps things brief. Churners won’t have much patience for a long email.
It asks the user why they’re leaving and tells them their response will help make Groove better.
And it makes responding as easy as possible by letting them reply to the email. No clicking through to take a survey.
92% of SaaS companies fail in their first 3 years despite growth and funding.
Of those that survive, more than 50% of them are still expected to eventually go out of business.
Don’t be one of those companies.
The most successful SaaS businesses in the world recognize the fact that email marketing is one of the best channels for onboarding, converting, and retaining their users.
They’re using email marketing strategies just like the one described above to survive and thrive.
And now you can too!
So start right away by identifying your KPI’s, segmenting your customers, and understanding your sales funnel.
Then use the strategy we’ve outlined and the email templates we’ve provided to create an email marketing strategy that converts customers, retains customers, and leads to long-term growth!
At InboxArmy, we guide SaaS companies in creating email marketing campaigns that convert customers and reduce churn. Talk with a member of our team to see how we can improve your email marketing results. Get in touch now.
Get in touch to start a conversation.