We’ve seen a lot of the good (and bad) side of sending email after sending millions of emails for SaaS startups. We’ve distilled that knowledge into the guide you’re about to crack into.
Forget Facebook Ads, Twitter ads, SEO or any other channel. Email is simply the best way to re-engage existing users, convert new ones and prevent churn.
Email is the proven way to connect with the desired audience for your SaaS business in a way that is both guaranteed to get results while also being respectful of their time and attention.
If done well, a timely email will yield better results than pouring countless hours (and dollars) into Facebook, Instagram and YouTube but if you end up spamming users, you’ll be in for a world of pain.
In our experience running Loops, we now bucket email into 3 groups:
We’re not going to go over outbound Sales (unsolicited emails) in this guide, but we will review how to send effective Product/Marketing and Transactional emails for your SaaS company.
Here’s a quick explanation of those groups of emails:
- Sales: Outbound email to non-opted-in users. If they haven’t agreed to allow you to email them, we consider that Sales and it’s not something we’ll cover in this guide.
- Product/Marketing: All the non-critical to the usage of your app emails that you send your opted-in users. This includes things like newsletters as well as event-driven emails like onboarding, retention and reengagement. They are typically managed by Product or Marketing teams.
- Transactional: The critical, timely emails that need to be received and acted upon for users to continue using your app. Some common transactional emails are 2FA (Two factor authentication), forgot password and payment failures. They’re typically managed by engineering.
First, a quick celebration of email. It's inherently free for 1:1 communication, open source and just generally a Cool Internet Thing™.
Beyond its Cool Internet Thing™ status, in our experience as an Email Sending Prodivider (ESP), email is the most effective way to engage with your users after they have left your app.
SaaS audiences are savvier than most, so your email strategy needs to be best-in-class in order to see results that matter.
This guide is designed to cover everything you need to know for SaaS business specifically — what emails to send, when to send them, and how to send them.
Continue reading below to learn or jump to the section most relevant to you and bookmark the page to revisit anytime:
Goals & KPIs
It’s important to have specific product goals in mind so that you can successfully define and measure the success of the email.
We believe in treating our user’s inboxes with respect, so the first step before sending an email is figuring out why it actually needs to be sent.
Goals like increasing revenue, building awareness and engagement around new features and reengaging users are all great reasons to send an email.
If you don’t have a goal set for each email you’re sending, you’re just throwing emails into the wind and hoping they perform. Not great.
A quick sanity check and way to figure out if you should send the email is by asking yourself “What product related goal do I hope to achieve with this email?”.
If you’re sending an email just to send the email, it’s probably one you don’t need to send.
Looking for a starting point? Choose from one of these product-related goals to get started:
- Aha Moment
The individual importance of each of these can vary based on your business. Ideally, whichever goal you choose should move the needle for you or serve a tangible need.
For example, if you’re not trying to convert a user, you should be trying to serve another purpose like sharing your latest updates or improvements that may lead them to increased usage of your product.
Product goals like those above should take precedence over the outdated email marketing KPIs you are probably used to such as open and click rate.
Traditional KPIs like open rate are no longer as reliable as they once were. This is a hot take coming from an Email Sending Platform, but it’s true.
New initiatives from some of the largest email gatekeepers (Apple specifically has been focused on this with their MPP initiative) are quietly removing email senders ability to successfully track metrics like open and click through rates in the name of privacy.
Other platforms will likely follow suit and other platforms like Outlook may block external images (aka tracking pixels) by default.
The variability in email sending platform’s privacy tracking will have immeasurable impact on your open and click tracking, so make sure to set a product goal as your KPI.
You can also skip tracking altogether and disable open/click tracking in providers like Loops. Definitely consider this option if you have privacy centric users or a very technical audience. Calling this out may even be a selling point to some of your potential users.
Apple is leading the charge with their new “Mail Privacy Protection” that allows users to opt-in to having Apple pre-load their email upon receipt. This will artificially inflate open rates for users using the Apple mail client as their emails will automatically show as opened whether they truly do or don’t.
These changes to open and click tracking are out of your control and won’t be reversed anytime soon (ever), so instead of focusing and stressing on open rates, redirect your time and effort into the metrics and product goals that you can control.
And remember to track these goals against your current baseline (prior to taking action) so that you have quantitative data that can shape future goal setting and email initiatives. It’s likely that your first or even second courses of action will have minimal or even no impact on your product goals. Continue to measure and tweak as needed until you begin seeing positive results.
Building your audience
Now that you’ve (hopefully) set actionable goals you’re probably wondering how to build your audience.
If you’re a SaaS company, email addresses will likely correspond to leads or users.
Leads are contacts that have not yet signed up for your platform and users are contacts that have signed up for your platform.
This section will cover the most important ways to acquire qualified contacts for your SaaS, but most of the time your opted-in emails should come from users who have signed up for your product, waitlist or newsletter.
Never send to users that have not opted in to receive email.
Not only is it bad karma, but it is also against the law.
Organic vs Paid Acquisition
Organic acquisition is when you acquire a new customer through “free” marketing channels such as Google Search, word of mouth, or through the circulation of your own published content.
This method is much cheaper and effective than paid acquisition.
Paid acquisition is just what it sounds like: purchasing ads or other media in an effort to acquire users. Paid acquisition via channels such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter ads are on the rise. Google and YouTube’s CPM rates have risen 108% while Facebook saw an 89% increase and we don’t see that trend changing.
This has put a greater importance on organic acquisition.
Not only is it cheaper, but it also allows you to be more personable along the way. When a new customer feels personally attached to your company or content, they are less likely to churn or unsubscribe from future notifications or content.
Recent studies have shown that this “Emotional Connection” not only leads to reduced churn but increased profitability as well.
Adding an embedded form on your site or blog is the easiest way to acquire qualified emails for your SaaS. Users will typically join a waitlist or newsletter without much thought or pushback.
The potential customer is already on your site consuming your content. Assuming that they have found what they are looking for (and if they haven’t, here’s a quick resource on writing catchy headlines), a form embed offers them a one-click opportunity to receive future emails with similar content.
Write Unique Organic Content
This may seem obvious, but creating unique content that is both useful and compelling separates you from your competitors is still the go to way of capturing leads.
Here are a few examples we love:
ProfitWell was recently acquired by Paddle. Instead of simply sharing the traditional PR pieces announcing the acquisition, they also put out a documentary that gave a behind the scenes visual representation of all of the stress, triumphs, and tears that went into this grueling process. While this documentary had significant costs in both time and money instead of their main product offering, the hope is that the documentary will capture the attention of startup enthusiasts interested in the dramatization of a SaaS startup acquisition that sold for $200 million.
Y Combinator is most known for being a startup accelerator that has invested in more than 3,000 companies including Airbnb, DoorDash, Stripe, Coinbase, and many others. However, even they have additional content levers to pull in order to separate themselves from their competitors. They run the popular Hacker News message board that attracts an estimated 300,000 daily users as well as other projects like Work at a Startup which is a job board that helps you land a role at a YC company before anyone else. While YC has enough prestige that hopeful founders know who they are, these additional projects keep their brand front and center and provide ongoing value for the startup ecosystem as a whole.
Stripe is a nearly $100 billion dollar company that offers payment infrastructure for a large percentage of companies on the internet. They also have a publication arm called Stripe Press which has published numerous books that they feel highlight ideas that they think can be broadly useful. These books have become well known for both their content and their brilliant design. In an industry that values creative initiatives, these books help keep Stripe in the minds of people outside of “boring payment infrastructure”.
Mike Slaats publishes a YouTube vlog that covers multiple topics like how to be productive as a startup CEO, building habits for success, and even buying his dream car. Sprinkled in between these seemingly random or general topics are vlogs that cover insights tied directly to his own SaaS company, covering topics such as his monthly metrics including revenue. His hope is that by consuming content like him buying a Tesla or building out his $5,000 desk setup, you become curious as to how he managed this and check out his SaaS that made it all possible.
Matt Wensing and Peter Suhm produce a weekly podcast called Out of Beta that gives a behind the scenes look at what it takes to build an indie SaaS business. While they reference specific milestones and challenges happening in their specific businesses, the storytelling and lessons can be taken and used when starting your own startup.
At Loops, we publish a weekly newsletter that goes out to ~10,000 subscribers. The content is not “salesy” or even directly related to our main offering. In fact, it’s actually a newsletter that gives visual tours of remote desk setups from creative individuals. While the newsletter isn’t directly related to email software, it has proven to be unique and similar enough that it is a successful lead magnet and captures the attention of customers we would otherwise not get our messaging in front of.
Advertising with other Creators
Don’t have the time or expertise to start creating unique content of your own just yet? Advertising in places where others have already built up an audience is another option to quickly get your message in front of your target audience.
Similar to creating content of your own, there are many different channels that you can choose to advertise through.
Many content creators are looking to monetize their newsletters, podcasts, or courses.
Newsletter creators both big and small offer opportunities to be the presenting sponsor of the edition. This usually means a personalized message from you towards the top of the content letting the readers know that what they are about to read was made possible through your patronage.
Podcast creators will often include 30-60 second ad reads of your message in their own voice. This is powerful because the listener is already familiar with the podcast host and having them personally reading your ad is often viewed as a form of endorsement (whether it truly is or isn’t may not ultimately matter when converting their listeners into your customers).
Some online courses even have a presenting sponsor. This may be a good way to get your brand name in front of a number of potential customers who are attempting to learn a new skill in real time.
At Loops, we actually sponsored an edition of the Workspaces newsletter prior to acquiring it and bringing the publication inhouse. The relatively low one-time fee that allowed us to get our crafted message in front of thousands of engaged readers proved to be ROI positive within the first week.
So if creating content isn’t your jam, don’t fret. There are countless creators all around you who have already put in the work to craft unique content and build engaged audiences that may have a direct overlap in interests with what your product can offer them.
Don’t be afraid to tap into other creator’s audiences.
Host Webinars or Events
Hosting webinars or events where you are the industry expert is a great way to get potential customers in the same place listening to your unique insights and approach to a niche topic.
There are not many other methods where you are able to gather large numbers of qualified leads in the same place while they listen to what is essentially a pitch from you on why they need your SaaS product for their business.
While you have their attention, show (and tell) why you are the industry expert for your topic and allow time and opportunities for the audience to ask questions. This will allow your presentation to stretch beyond your script to not only engage with your audience but also prove that you are the expert by thinking on the fly.
While webinars may seem outdated and a thing of the past, COVID-19 and the rise of remote work has again boosted the importance and usefulness of them. Not only are more people comfortable with interacting with others online in a professional meeting setting but they also offer a few benefits that in-person events do not.
If webinars just aren’t for you (Zoom fatigue is very real), live events are still a viable option as well. The discussions may be less evergreen and the potential customer pool may be smaller, but you will have an opportunity to have direct and intimate conversations that a computer screen simply cannot offer.
Regardless of which method you ultimately choose, be sure to get the contact information of your attendees so that you can follow up with them for feedback on the event as well as with information regarding your product offering.
Okay, you’ve got your email list and it’s continuing to grow.
That’s great! But now what?
Not everyone on your list should receive every email. It’s important to be selective about who is receiving which email. This is called segmentation. Segmentation is the dividing or bucketing of your entire email list into smaller groups — or segments — so that they are receiving the emails most personal and timely to them.
Applying a segmentation strategy to your email marketing campaigns will help keep your list engaged and contributing toward the product goals you outlined above.
There are plenty of ways that you can segment your email list to improve the results of your campaigns. Here are a few examples to kickstart your brainstorm:
- Send a marketing campaign to a certain gender or age
- Job title within a company
- Nudge a new customer to complete their onboarding
- Send an email at 10am regardless of what timezone your customers are in
- Company Size
- Offer a special offer to some of your biggest customers
- Company Spend
- Send an email to nudge a customer onto a more expensive plan
Segmenting your email list to fit your user is a surefire way to see better results.
Email deliverability is the process of making sure that your emails are delivered to your recipients' inboxes. What’s the point of sending an email if it can’t be read? Shrodingers email is every email in your spam folder.
Deliverability is tricky but we’ve done our best to sum up the ways that it can be impacted.
One of the most important factors in email deliverability is your DNS records. DNS stands for Domain Name System, and it is the system that converts human-readable domain names (like google.com) into IP addresses (like 18.104.22.168). Your DNS records tell email servers where to find your email server, and if your DNS records are not set up correctly, your emails may never reach their destination.
If you're unfamiliar with these terms, think of a DNS record like a phone book. When you want to find someone's phone number, you look them up in the phone book. Similarly, when an email server wants to find your email server, it looks up your DNS records.
If a DNS record is a phone book, then consider your IP to be your phone number. When someone wants to call you, they look up your phone number in the phone book (DNS record). Similarly, when an email server wants to find your email server, it looks up your IP address in the DNS records.
DNS records have several different types, but the two most important for email deliverability are A records and MX records. A record points to the IP address of your email server, and MX records tell email servers where to find your email server. If your DNS records are not set up correctly, your emails may never reach their destination.
Another important factor in email deliverability is your SPF record. SPF stands for Sender Policy Framework, and it is a system that helps to prevent email spoofing. Email spoofing is when someone sends an email that appears to come from one email address, but is actually coming from another. This can be used to trick people into thinking that an email is from a trusted source, when it is actually from a malicious actor, so it's important to ensure these are properly set up.
Additionally, we highly recommend DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail) and DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance). These systems help to further prevent email spoofing and improve email deliverability.
DKIM is a system that uses cryptographic signatures to verify that an email was actually sent by the domain it claims to be from. This helps to prevent email spoofing, and also allows email providers to more easily identify and filter spam emails.
DMARC is a system that builds on top of SPF and DKIM, and provides a way for email providers to give feedback to senders about whether their emails are passing authentication checks. This feedback can be used to help improve email deliverability.
You almost definitely do not need a dedicated IP. Shared IPs are fine, and in fact, many email providers require that you use a shared IP. A dedicated IP is only really necessary if you are sending a very large volume of email (more than a few hundred thousand per day). If you're not sure whether you need a dedicated IP, just ask your email provider (hopefully us!).
Landing in the "Primary" tab in the inbox is always a concern to our users, but in general, it's not something to worry too much about. If you send promotional material (a sale, a promotion, bragging about an achievement) and it ends up in the "Promotions" tab then that means the system is working! That's a promotion and it's accurately labeled.
Typically, product updates, especially if they're explicitly labeled update in the text of the email will result in the email being placed in the "Updates" tab of the inbox as opposed to the "Promotions" tab.
Finally, another important factor to consider when trying to improve email deliverability is mail warming.
Mail warming is the process of gradually increasing the number of emails that you send from a given address, in order to improve the chances that those emails will be delivered. This is because some email providers may consider a sudden increase in email volume from a sender to be suspicious, and may mark those emails as spam. By gradually increasing the number of emails that you send, you can avoid this issue.
There are quite a few services that offer mail warming but they all seem to generally produce similar results. I would personally recommend approaching them with a bit of caution as their goal is to actively manipulate Gmail and other companies spam filters. There's a chance that you may be penalized in the future for using services like these. The best way to warm an inbox is by slowly sending relevant mail over time and gradually increasing volume.
There are a few other factors that can affect email deliverability, such as whether you are using a shared or dedicated IP address, and which email bucket (sales, product, marketing, application/transactional) your emails are being sent to. However, the factors listed above are some of the most important to consider when trying to improve email deliverability.
Open Rate and Click Rate Optimization
Tracking open and click rates will continue to become more and more unreliable over time. It's still possible to track open and click rates for the time being as not all providers have yet stripped open and click tracking from emails.
This will likely continue to be a metric that degrades in accuracy and performance as time progresses.
Keep in mind that the best way to increase open rates over time is to send relevant content to users at intervals that are in line with their product usage.
For example, if a user joins your newsletter or waitlist, it is completely reasonable to expect an email confirming the action taken. You can expect a high open rate.
If you send emails every few days with a promo code, you can expect a low open rate and likely a decreasing open rate over time.
In our experience, these are the best ways to increase your open rates:
- Require double opt-in
- Ensure you’re only sending emails to an audience that truly wants your content by adding an additional confirmation step for customers/readers to begin receiving your emails.
- Ask customers to ensure you are moved to their primary inbox during the initial onboarding email flow
- As mail clients like Gmail aggressively move emails to their version of a “Promotions” or “Updates” tab, users will often miss the send if it doesn’t arrive in the “Primary” tab. For more on this subject, see the Deliverability section.
- Create an intriguing subject line and preview text
- Give your readers a reason to open your email in an inbox with hundreds (thousands?) of other emails fighting for their attention. This is not an open invitation to send “click-baity” subjects. Respect your user and send subject lines that accurately reflect the content within.
- Send emails at a relevant time to your audience
- Send when your target audience is available. Sendinblue has found that for SaaS businesses specifically, sending during the week (specifically Tuesday-Thursday) during the hours of 2:00-3:30pm will often see the best results.
- Note: With increasingly global user bases, as well as inaccurate IP data and blocked tracking pixels, you may find that location sending time is getting less effective. It doesn’t hurt to try to time your sends, but keep in mind they may not be 100% accurate even with the best systems.
- Segment your email list
- Sending relevant content that provides value is easier when you’re sending to the right users. See the Segmentation section for more.
- Write great content
- If you wouldn’t find the content useful yourself, there’s a good chance your intended audience won’t either.
A/B testing, or split testing, is a method of testing in which you compare two or more versions of something — in this case, email — to see which performs better. With email split testing, you can test different subject lines, calls to action, images, copy, and more to see which version of your email achieves your objective at the highest rate. Why would you do this instead of simply crafting what you think is your best email and hitting send to your entire audience?
Because humans are often wrong! I’ve consistently been on the wrong side of a split test. What you think is the best email you’ve ever written might not resonate how you expect it to.
A/B testing is a surefire way to ensure you are sending the most effective emails to the majority of your audience.
Keep in mind that the best way to implement split testing is actually by using the end goal of the email (conversion, sale, signup, lead, etc) as the testing KPI you’re attempting to optimize. You don’t need to test strictly based on email first metrics like open rates and click through rates.
It is considered best practice to set up your A/B tests with noticeably different outputs and your end goal should always be top of mind when setting up your different versions of the test.
Simply A/B testing for the sake of A/B testing is unlikely to deliver you the true results you are seeking.
You will be able to refine your A/B tests even further over time as patterns and trends begin to emerge. What may have started as testing based on a hunch or theory will begin to take a more scientific and creative approach.
While you can (and should) A/B test all kinds of factors, we suggest starting with just these three items. They're likely to deliver the biggest impact for your campaigns.
This is the first thing your audience will see related to your email. It’s important to pull them in with an intriguing, but honest, subject line. Maybe your audience is drawn to emojis 🤷♂️ . Maybe they are drawn to something more serious.
Example 1: 🔥 New Loops features!
Example 2: Loops Update: New A/B testing features & more
Which one do you think will perform better?
Call to Action
A call to action or CTA, is the primary goal you’re intending to have a user complete when they interact with your email. While focusing on click rate and conversion rate to achieve your product goals, the call to action in your email campaigns is extremely important. It’s important to test various calls to action to see what encourages users to take the desired action most effectively.
You’ll usually see a CTA represented as a button or text link in an email. This could be a button asking your customer to finish their onboarding, a push to have your customer invite additional team members to the account, or links to social media accounts to follow.
Regardless of what the call to action is, you need to be sure that it is enticing to your reader.
Example 1: Simply adding an inline link to text within an announcement.
“Head on over to Product Hunt to show us support and start daydreaming about the new workspace setup you never knew you wanted (needed) until today.
We will be there all day answering comments and questions! 😸
Example 2: Add a colorful button that asks your reader to support you.
Using images to pull your reader in is a great idea but not all images are created equal.
A/B testing may help you decide whether your audience gravitates towards images of your product’s new feature or abstract unique sketches that roughly highlight the idea.
How many users to include for testing?
You’re probably wondering how many subscribers you need for A/B testing to be statistically significant and be worth your time.
The more subscribers you have in your audience, the more statistically significant your A/B tests will be. The common recommendation we like to make is that you should have at least 1,000 contacts before beginning to expect accurate results from an A/B test.
It is recommended that you A/B test with 10-20% of your total subscribers. That way, you are able to send the better performing campaign to the remaining majority of your audience. If you only have 100 subscribers, A/B testing an email to 20 recipients will not yield accurate results.
Reducing List Churn
List churn is when an email subscriber unsubscribes from receiving future emails from you and your company. List churn is not necessarily a bad thing and in some cases, you may want to consider proactively removing users from your list if they don’t engage with your product or emails.
In terms of a SaaS company, this may mean that they simply no longer wish to receive product updates but it also may mean that they have stopped being a customer altogether which is when a user churns from your product entirely.
Keep in mind, a user can wish to no longer receive a newsletter or product update emails, but still wants to use your actual service!
Running successful A/B tests as outlined above will help reduce overall churn as your overall audience will be receiving more relevant emails. However, that is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to reducing churn. There are plenty of additional ways to ensure your subscribers remain engaged and happy to continue receiving your content.
After working so hard to grow your subscriber base the last thing you want is for them to opt-out of future communications. Let’s dive into a handful of proven strategies to help reduce list churn.
No one truly loves email. Ok, well, only a very small percentage of us! Remember that your customer’s inbox is a sacred, often stressful place, and only send them emails that matter to their business and interests.
Send emails when your audience is online and able to immediately benefit from receiving them. Did your new SaaS customer just sign up? Send them an email with the next steps necessary to complete their onboarding before they get confused and leave the page.
Consistent publishing schedule
Whether it’s a monthly product update email, a weekly newsletter highlighting the news in your industry, or a daily product usage summary, it’s important to maintain a consistent publishing schedule to help build and maintain the trust and expectations of your readers. If your audience is anticipating a monthly email and you begin sending them something 5x per week, they may become annoyed and less likely to continue receiving future emails.
The same goes for the timing of the email. If you traditionally send your product update emails during the workday, avoid randomly sending one at 11pm when your customer is sleeping.
Consistency builds trust. Trust reduces churn.
Respect your customer’s inbox and time
Keep your emails succinct and authentic. You are not only competing against every other vendor’s email that day/week but also the recipient's family and colleagues.
Avoid overly salesy copy and be sure to have a clear ask or call to action that your customers can perform without hesitation.
Consistent content and design
Right alongside a consistent publishing schedule in importance is a consistent design and content expected in your emails.
This includes consistency with your branding, length of emails, the use of images, header and footer designs, etc.
Why is this important? You want your reader to know what they are getting into before even opening your email and you want them to recognize your unique content before it gets lost in the sea of other emails.
Product Marketing and Lifecycle Automation
It is crucial for a SaaS company to regularly communicate with their customers at key moments throughout their lifecycle of using and integrating with the product.
These communications, specifically emails, should be sent based on specific events or triggers. Doing so will not only keep your users engaged but also perform the anticipated actions that will drive them towards your product goals.
This is often referred to as “Lifecycle Automation”. Lifecycle automation is the programmatic sending of emails after a customer has signed up for your product.
The automation aspect of these messages are key as it helps with customer retention and engagement while also limiting the manual work or intervention from your customer success and sales teams.
There are so many key moments or triggers that a SaaS customer will come across throughout this “lifecycle” that are worthy of these timely prompts or emails.
At Loops, we have ready-to-go (and proven to work!) templates for you to integrate throughout your SaaS email flow to ensure that your customers are always up to date and using your product as intended.
While your SaaS may not necessarily need all of the prompts above, here are some of the key emails you should be sending to your customers to ensure that they remain active and engaged with your product.
At Loops, we organize these emails around the six essential stages of the user lifecycle.
- Aha Moment
We’ll dive into each of these sections below, along with the relevancy of the stage and the types of emails you should send.
This is your first interaction with a user. This is before a user officially onboards on to your product, so they can enter this stage by joining your newsletter, waitlist, a webinar, event, lead form or any other acquisition channel that’s not your platform.
It's best practice in this stage to send users confirmation emails to show that they joined your list along with product updates and occasional prompts to join your platform.
Waitlist management / welcome email
An email that welcomes a potential customer to your waitlist or a new customer to your product is likely the first official communication they will receive from you.
This is a great opportunity to let them know what to expect going forward, introduce yourself as a face of your company, or let them know the next steps needed to fully use your product.
Experian has found that welcome emails have a staggering 57.8% open rate and “five times the click rates compared to other bulk promotions”.
From personal experience, I can confirm that number and it might even be on the low end! Typically your users will expect to receive an email from you when they join and in the next few days at a minimum. This is a great chance to make a first impression for your users.
We’ve had a ton of success at Loops by sending an email directly from one of the founders of Loops with a call to action to reply to the email to get early access to the product. It starts an early line of communication with your end user while also serving to improve open rates and deliverability as Gmail learns that the email is valuable and should be delivered since users often respond to it!
This highlights the importance of a well crafted welcome email as it may be the email that pulls a potential customer into your product for good.
The onboarding stage is when a user starts using your product. This could be the first time they log in, start a trial or start paying for your product. Once a user hits this stage, it’s important to engage them with content that’s relevant to them.
Now that your customer has officially signed up for your product it is important to highlight the key features of your product that will benefit them as they navigate unfamiliar territory.
Onboarding your new customers with a personal touch as an early SaaS company is a great way to develop a personal relationship with the customer which will help reduce early churn and wasted efforts on acquiring the new customer in the first place.
These emails should be educational, showing the user how to use your product and what value they can get from it.
Intro (ex. to your new CSM)
It is a great time to introduce your customer support options while your new customer is fully integrating themselves into your product, especially if they will have a dedicated CSM or Customer Support Manager that they will be able to reach out to. While this email should definitely have a personal touch as it will be the start of an important relationship between the customer and your company, it can be automated in such a way that the initial outreach happens without taking away from the CSM’s time.
New feature updates / company news
It’s important to keep your loyal customers in the loop (pun intended) when it comes to new feature updates and company news. New features may pave the way for additional usage from the customer or even require them to upgrade their account in order to take full advantage.
There are plenty of other reasons outside of a new feature that may require a customer to upgrade their account. Whether they have reached their usage limit, pageview limit, team member limit, etc… setting up an automated email ready to inform them of the need to upgrade saves your CSM time as well as prevents the customer from being shocked at a new dollar amount on the invoice or certain features being paywalled going forward.
Invite team members
If your SaaS is made for teams, having a trigger for the first team member onboard to invite the rest of their colleagues will increase the stickiness of your product throughout their organization. Be sure to clearly inform the recipient who is inviting them to use your app and why it’s in their best interest to join.
No one wants to be shocked when it’s time to renew their paid account for your company. Setting up an automatic reminder x days out is a great way to ensure that your customer is aware and prepared to make the necessary payment in order to keep their account in good standing.
Sending a renewal reminder is also a great way to ensure the customer has updated their payment information if needed to prevent any issues going forward.
Unfortunately, payment issues do happen. When they do, promptly send an automatic email to attempt to resolve the issue with hopes of retaining the customer.
This is also a good time to offer any personalized help if the customer needs it in order to keep their account in good standing.
Request feedback / testimonials
Social proof is a great way to convince potential customers that your product is as good as advertised.
After a current customer has shown heavy usage of your product, send them an automated email asking for a testimonial of why they love the product.
Outside of the social proof that a testimonial will bring, asking for periodic feedback is a great way to see what you are doing right and wrong as well as generate future product ideas from your current customers.
The Aha Moment is that moment when a user realizes the value of your product. This could be the first time they achieve a goal with your product, or when they realize how much time and effort your product can save them.
Aha Moment emails should be sent to users who have hit that milestone in your product.
These emails should be celebratory, showing the user how they’ve benefited from your product and what else they can achieve with it.
Double-tap / Congratulations
Your customer just completed the first important step in becoming a power user of your app. Take this opportunity to encourage this sort of use as well as offer tips and tricks to improve their experience going forward.
The Retention stage is when a user is actively using your product on a regular basis. This is when a user is engaged with your product and deriving value from it.
Retention emails should be sent to users who are actively using your product.
These emails should be focused on providing value, such as tips on how to use your product, new features that may be relevant to them, or case studies on how other users have benefited from your product.
Encourage additional use
It is likely that your new customer heard about your product through someone else other than yourself. Use the social proof of others to highlight what your product can be used for to encourage your new customers to push the boundaries and up their overall usage of your product.
The Reengagement stage is when a user has stopped using your product. This could be for a variety of reasons, such as losing interest, not finding value in your product, or simply forgetting about your product.
Reengagement emails should be sent to users who have stopped using your product. These emails should be focused on getting the user interested in your product again, such as highlighting new features, case studies or special offers.
When a user has stopped using your product either altogether or simply less than they once were, take a moment to check in with them. Not only could this be a great way to bring them back into your product but it may also spark a conversation that leads to valuable feedback on what you may need to improve for them to increase their usage.
The Reactivation stage is when a user has started using your product again after a period of inactivity. This could be because they’ve received a Reengagement email or they’ve heard about a new feature that’s relevant to them.
Reactivation emails should be sent to users who have started using your product again. These emails should be focused on providing value, such as tips on how to use your product, new features that may be relevant to them, or case studies on how other users have benefited
You successfully reactivated a customer and they’re thrilled to give your product another shot. That’s great! Take a moment to show them your recent updates through a monthly update. This will not only show updates that they may have been requesting in the past but also provide some comfort that these updates will be a regular occurrence and that your product will continue to improve and that the customer’s feedback will be heard and taken seriously.
Outside of the handful of Lifecycle Automation emails highlighted above are another group of automatic emails called Transactional Emails. A transactional email is an email that is automatically sent to your customer following a specific action (transaction) that they perform within your app.
An email is considered transactional when it is a communication that the recipient has already agreed to via their ongoing relationship with your company.
These emails typically include critical information pertaining to the use of your product that the recipient is already a customer of.
Previously, these emails were an afterthought for most companies (and still are for some - use this to your advantage!). With incredibly high open rates, these emails now offer another chance for you to build brand awareness, improve relationships, and increase revenue.
Some of the most common transactional emails that you have likely seen before and should implement into your product are:
- Free trial invite
- Account verification
- Forgot password reset
- Subscription confirmation
- Order confirmation
- Account upgrade confirmation
- Account downgrade confirmation
- Account activity (comment from team member, new likes on your post, etc)
These emails typically need to be sent immediately after the specific action is taken. The urgency behind these emails adds increased importance to both the customer and the company sending them. For example, if a customer has forgotten their password and has requested to reset it, any delay in this email will result in them closing the browser tab and forgetting about the issue altogether.
Timely and accurate transactional emails help build trust with the customer as they are receiving the most needed information at the exact moment they request it or need it.
It is important to note that these Transactional Emails are exempt from the majority of the stipulations around the CAN-SPAM act.
Email’s unique ability to communicate with a user in a personal 1:1 setting is a superpower that other marketing channels could only dream of. This is increasingly important as consumers grow annoyed (and angry) with online advertisers using their data to follow them around the internet with retargeted ads.
Email personalization is when your SaaS is able to use your basic customer data in order to send customized emails to your customers.
Remember, your email is competing with countless other emails at any given time, any personalization that reminds your customer of your relationship with one another (for lack of a better term) just might give them the nudge needed to open yours before the sea of others.
In fact, “just might” is actually “will”. According to a study from Experian, emails that contain a personal touch in the subject line are 29% more likely to be opened and 41% more likely to have your CTA clicked.
A separate study from McKinsey discovered that 71% of consumers expect personalization in their emails and that 76% of consumers are actually frustrated when they are messaged without any personalization.
The tiny personalization that drives these results and sentiment are as simple as adding a first name to your email subject line.
“Happy birthday [Chris]! Enjoy 50% off our annual plan!”
“A special offer for you!”
Another place that you should consider adding personalization to your emails is in the actual body of the email itself. Addressing your customer by name in the first sentence of your promotional email is a gentle reminder that they have invited you into their inbox and that you take that privilege seriously.
These personalized emails are as simple as adding a merge tag with an email provider like Loops. As long as you have previously tied the customer’s email address to basic data such as their name, it’s as easy as a single click to customize all of the emails in your campaign.
It might not seem like much, but the truth is that your customers now expect this extra touch. As competition in consumer’s inboxes continues to increase while they also grow warier and warie of online advertising, spending the time and effort to personally address them will be well worth it for your brand’s sentiment and bank account.
Now that you’ve started sending a series of emails to your customers you’re probably wondering how you can tell if these emails are having any noticeable impact on your business. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to measure the performance of these emails in order to gauge their success (or failure) and tweak them as needed in order to increase their success towards your product goals.
Email tracking is when you monitor the delivery of your email to your intended audience. The most common metrics tracked tend to be if the email was opened and if any of the links inside were clicked. This is done by adding an image pixel to the email that is not visible to the recipient. However, as we have touched on multiple times throughout this guide, recent changes to various email clients have made this method of email tracking to measure performance less reliable than it once was.
If you still wish to track these metrics or work for a company that heavily values them, here are some industry averages that might help you benchmark your own performance.
Open rate: 21.5%
Click rate: 2.3%
[Note: these averages are an overall average across all industries. Campaign Monitor has crunched the numbers and has more detailed breakdowns by industry as well.]
There are additional metrics that will paint a clear picture of the success of your email marketing campaigns with increased accuracy.
Tracking internal product goals are a surefire way to track if your email campaigns are working as intended.
What are some key product goal examples worth tracking?
- Upgrading from a free trial to a paid user
- Inviting a new team member to your account
- Completing your profile in an app
- Sending your first email campaign (in Loops)
- Make a purchase
Regardless of what product goals you plan on tracking, these are tangible actions that will ultimately improve your bottom line and how your users use your product. The importance of prioritizing these over unreliable metrics like open rate can’t be overstated.
Is your audience growing?
Comparing your overall subscriber or customer size over time is a solid way to tell if your email content is resonating with a broader audience.
Is your audience unsubscribing?
Do you see a drop in total subscribers every time you send an email? Are longtime subscribers opting out of receiving future emails? If you see these trends it may be time to reevaluate your current email marketing strategy to ensure you are providing real value to your customers through the communications you are sending.
Are your emails being marked as spam?
Using a service like Sender Score you are able to track how various mailboxes view your emails to see if they will land in spam. If too many of your emails get marked as spam you run the risk of your sending reputation dropping (meaning less emails landing in someone’s primary inbox) as well as your email service provider potentially limiting or blocking your account from sending future emails.
What is the ROI?
This is the metric that truly matters. Are these emails moving your SaaS toward the product goals you outlined earlier in this guide? Whether that is more trial customers, trial to paid conversions, or simply more readers of your publication… are the emails you are sending moving those numbers up and to the right?
“But email is dead!”
People have been declaring email dead for years and years now but that couldn’t be any further from the truth. In fact, email marketing has never been more crucial to the success of SaaS businesses everywhere. Not to mention how much more efficient and personal than shouting into the void of social media.
As of 2020, there were 4 billion email users across the world. This number is expected to increase to 4.6 billion by 2025 according to Statista.
And according to OptinMonster, 58% of email users check their email before logging onto social media or checking the news. Add this to the fact that 61% of users also prefer to be contacted by brands (your SaaS company) via email vs other methods such as social media.
If that wasn’t enough and the social media kool-aid still has you believing that the best place to reach your customers is on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, the overall engagement rate across those platforms is only 0.58%. When comparing that to the average 21.5% open rate of email, you can clearly see that should be the preferred method of staying in touch with your customers.
Engagement rates aren’t the only metric that see a boost with email, so does your bottom line. According to Delivra, email campaigns extract a $41 ROI for every $1 spent. This is a 28.5% ROI compared to just 7% for direct physical mail.
It’s easy to get caught up in the new #trends and social media platforms, however, email is still king and is not going anywhere. Instead of creating content at the mercy of someone else’s always changing algorithm, your time and money will be better spent crafting and tweaking content for the tried and true channel of email.
Your customers are already there, checking their inboxes more times than they’d like to admit. Just hit send.
When doing email marketing, there are legal requirements to consider for each of these strategies above. We suggest talking with a lawyer to ensure you are always in compliance with the latest regulations. Here are a few of the major laws that most likely pertain to your company that you should look over before implementing any of the strategies above. Also, please talk to a lawyer, this is not legal advice. :)
If your company collects data from citizens in the European Union you will also need to comply with their specific data protection laws called General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR. This includes their email address for email marketing purposes.
You know those (annoying) cookie banners that you now see plastered all over the internet when you’re trying to browse the internet for your new favorite meme or recipe? You probably know that those can be credited to GDPR. However, there is much more to the newish set of regulations that you need to be aware of if you don’t wish to pay massive fines.
Consider the following GDPR guidelines when performing your email marketing:
- Consent. Your customers must provide consent to receive your marketing emails. This consent must be given through a clear action. They will only be able to receive marketing emails that they consent to.This even means that adding a pre-ticked checkbox to sign up for your emails would be a violation. The customer will need to click this checkout themselves.
- Your company must keep a record of this consent. The customer is able to withdraw consent at any time.
- Opt-out. You must make it just as easy for your customers to opt-out of receiving marketing messages as it was for them to originally opt-in.
If these requirements seem overly vague and open to interpretation it is because they are. We recommend speaking with a lawyer to ensure that you are in full compliance with GDPR.
customersThe CAN-SPAM act is r“a law that sets the rules for commercial email, establishes requirements for commercial messages, gives recipients the right to have you stop emailing them, and spells out tough penalties for violations.”
This law is in place to ensure a handful of requirements are met when sending emails for commercial purposes.
- Don’t use false or misleading header information
- Don’t use deceptive subject lines
- Identify the message as an ad
- Tell your recipients where you are located
- Tell your recipients how they can opt-out of future messages from you
- Honor opt-out requests within 10 business days
With each violation of this act resulting in fines of up to $46,517, it is absolutely critical that your company is compliant.
It is important to note that Transactional Emails do not fall into this category of “commercial content” and are therefore exempt from the majority of the requirements of the CAN-SPAM act. This is because the primary purpose of Transactional Emails are not promotional in nature and instead are communications based on updates to a current customer with an already agreed-upon relationship.
The Canada Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) “protects consumers and businesses from the misuse of digital technology, including spam and other electronic threats.”
Much like GDPR, these regulations do not only apply to businesses operating in Canada. They also must be followed by any company that is sending marketing messages to residents of Canada.
Consider the following CASL regulations and please contact a lawyer if you believe this regulation will affect you and your business:
- Obtain express or implied consent. Expressed consent is when your recipient has taken a direct action to allow for your marketing messages. Implied consent results from an existing business relationship such as existing customer or suppliers, family and friends, or potential customers who have opted into other communications from you such as a newsletter. Implied consent is only allowed if you have had a documented relationship with the recipient within the past two years. It may be best to require express consent to avoid any trouble.
- Unsubscribe/opt-out. Your communications must offer a way for the recipient to unsubscribe from future marketing communications and also display your company information with relevant contact information.
- Send accurate messages and subject lines. Sending misleading marketing messages is a violation of CASL.
Loops has you covered!
Each step covered in this guide is equally important as you plan and execute the email marketing strategy for your SaaS.
At Loops, we know and appreciate the importance of this and that is why we have thoughtfully crafted a modern approach to email software. Email made easy, specifically for your SaaS.
While we can’t lie and say that using Loops won’t make email marketing easy, it will definitely make it easier. Let us do the heavy lifting behind the scenes while you craft messages that will reduce your churn and lead to a higher ROI.
Create, send and track beautiful email campaigns your users will love.
Are you ready to send better emails? Join Loops today.