There’s no denying that email marketing for SaaS companies offers huge opportunities for growth. So, whether you love it or hate it, you’re missing out if you don’t take advantage of the benefits SaaS email marketing brings. That’s why we’ve put together this handy guide of everything email marketing for SaaS to help get you set up for success with your campaigns and communications. And, we’ve included real-life case studies of how the product marketing teams right here at SureSwift have succeeded with email marketing so you can learn from our in-house experts!
Keep reading to learn more about:
- What SaaS email marketing is exactly
- The types of SaaS emails you can utilize
- Tips to grow your business with SaaS email marketing
- Email marketing tools and lists
What is SaaS Email Marketing?
SaaS email marketing is the way in which you use email campaigns and marketing to achieve your goals and help you promote and advertise your product, in the hopes of more sales conversions down the road. It’s more complex than email marketing for other industries, with marketing, lifecycle, and transactional strategies and emails based on customer data that all take marketing, data, and engineering skills to create. Your audience or subscribers are well-versed in the approach and process you’re using to win their business, so you need to be savvy about what you’re saying, how you say it, and the lessons you take away from your campaigns and other marketing efforts.
You’ll likely have different goals, target audiences, layouts, and writing style or tone in each email campaign. But they will all be a big piece of your SaaS digital marketing strategy since you can interact individually with each target throughout the customer journey. Email campaigns support business growth by combining all of your marketing efforts across the sales funnel – including lead generation, lead nurturing, customer retention, and customer support.
Types of SaaS Emails
There are many types of SaaS emails you can integrate into your digital marketing strategy, like the ones described below. The key is knowing where to start and how to choose the right types of emails for your business and target market. This will depend on many things, including your customers’ pain points and the goals of your business. Above all, never send emails that aren’t useful and meaningful or relevant to your user base – remember, they’ve subscribed because they believe you have something valuable to offer. If you let them down, you could lose them.
Onboarding emails are automatically sent once a new user signs up for your product and their email address is added to your list. They help with ensuring new users finish signing up and activating their account so they can start getting value from your product smoothly, right away. This is much like an account manager or customer support person would do manually, but the automation saves time and resources. Your onboarding might be fairly straightforward or quite complex, depending on the design and nature of your product. Regardless, when you don’t onboard your users properly, you’re literally throwing away sales & marketing budget, while good onboarding can help grow your revenue. It’s your job to make the process as easy and fast as possible for your users.
SSC Case Study #1: LeadDyno – Affiliate Marketing Tool
The team at LeadDyno puts a lot of effort into their email marketing efforts, and it’s paying off. In November, they enjoyed well above industry average performance with a 48% open rate, a 5% click rate, and a 7.7% conversion rate. Here’s how they did it.
1. Success with new user onboarding sequence
LeadDyno sees a lot of success in its email campaign for 30-day trial customers. The team has found that getting 5-7 emails out to these new users in their first 30 days is critical in getting someone new engaged and onboarded to the product.
For example, they send subscribers a welcome message to say hello and let them know how to reach out with questions or feedback – reassuring them the team is available to help. Then, three days later, they reach out again with information on specific settings and tools and how they can be really beneficial. It’s something like a mini tour to help users get comfortable. These emails include guides, links to video demos and tutorials, and technical docs. Along the way, trial users get another check-in email just to see how they are doing and remind them the customer happiness team is always available to help.
If users sign up for a paid plan once their trial is up, the team sees their next 30 days as prime opporunity to guide them and show them the value of what the product offers. At this stage, emails are focused around customer testimonials and case studies. When people can see themselves in others and understand how something has worked for them, they have a much easier time imagining the same thing for themselves. As the saying goes, “If I can do it, you can do it.”
2. Demo and webinar pitches target larger audiences
The team also sends out invitations for their weekly demos, which help to really get into use cases and details of the product that users may not discover on their own. When they sign up, they’re automatically put into another marketing funnel with case studies and tips. Then, the team sends follow-up emails with recordings to those who didn’t make it to the live session. This is a great reason to engage with another product touchpoint.
There is also a monthly SaaS webinar on an industry topic that’s advertised on social media. When people sign up, they’re put into a similar email campaign and then, eventually, introduced to the product in the hopes of getting them to convert.
3. Win-backs for the win
What about those who don’t sign up for a paid plan? The team sends a win-back email 30 days after the trial is up to remind them of the opportunity. It’s a final chance to reach out and remind people about the product and how it can help them. (You’ll learn more about win-back emails below).
Promotional or marketing emails are a great way to educate your prospects about your product and nurture leads at whatever stage of their journey. For this to pay off, you need a decent-sized list of subscribers who have granted permission to be contacted by your business. This could have been given at any point, such as via lead magnet signup or joining a webinar you’ve hosted. Plus, it’s always a great idea to sign up your product’s current users (both on paid plans and free trials) for your promotional emails – they can opt-out at any time if they wish. To do well and stay competitive, on an ongoing basis, you need to grow your list and turn leads into trial customers.
Promotional emails can consist of campaigns including the following:
Lead magnets are incentives to encourage visitors to sign up for your email list, and can eventually help you convert them into a lead. Lead magnets can be anything of use to your readers – including ebooks, case studies, or templates on topics relevant to them and their work. Once they sign up, they’ll get an automated email from you with a link to that resource. From there, you’d typically have a series of timed emails intended to follow up with them about using the resource and to engage with them about their pain point or problem (which your product can help them with!)
Lead nurture campaigns
A lead nurture campaign is meant to onboard new leads to your list by informing them about who you are, what your company does and stands for, what its culture is like, and any other key information about your brand.
The jury is out on whether you should try and sell your product through this type of email campaign. Some experts feel you should first provide your leads true value before selling to them, through informational or educational content. Others feel that since people’s attention peaks as soon as they opt-in to your emails, you should take advantage of that and send them your highest-converting (i.e. sales) content sooner than later. So, think about your brand and its communication style and how you think your audience will react, and use your best judgment. You can always A/B test both strategies and see which one performs best.
A single broadcast is a one-time email sent to your leads, paid users, or another group. It’s focused on that recipient group and contains messaging for a specific reason or purpose. This can be anything from a seasonal promotion or featured blog post, to a product feature announcement or webinar or demo invitation. Be sure you’re not overloading people’s inboxes – if some subscribers are already receiving other email sequences (e.g. lead or user onboarding), consider excluding them from your single broadcasts during that time rather than emailing your entire base.
Evergreen sales campaigns
Evergreen sales campaigns are a sequence, or drip campaign, of several sales emails that go out to your most qualified leads. The campaign focuses on the problem or pain points of your audience and positions and promotes your product as a viable solution.
To close the gap between your free content or product plan and your paid plan, clearly state why your solution is the simpler, easier answer to their problem and find a reason why they should buy now. Anticipate questions and objections and overcome them ahead of time by sharing that information. Each of these points should represent an independent email in your drip campaign.
SSC Case Study #2: MeetEdgar – Social Media Management Tool
This year for Black Friday, our team at MeetEdgar saw some great success with getting standard plan subscribers rolled over to the tool’s annual plan, with a 40% off incentive. Here’s how they made it happen.
The team sent three emails to churned customers: 1 two weeks before, 1 one week before, and 1 the day before to warm people up to the sale. It was a simple email with the 40% off offer to upgrade to the annual plan, along with a 40% off per month offer for monthly subscribers – they didn’t want to leave anyone out during this huge annual shopping event. Sending the emails separately like this also gave the team the opportunity to work out any kinks that arose and improve the messaging.
The team’s strategy was a success. Their revenue remained consistent, and they saw a significant increase in re-activations. Weekly re-activated subscribers are usually around 5-7, but this jumped to 14-24 reactivations during the sale weeks. They saw a 53% open rate on average, and the day-before email was most successful with a 5.66% click rate.
Newsletters and broadcasts
Evergreen newsletters are a great tool to communicate educational information on a regular, timely basis through a drip campaign at intervals of your choice, e.g. every 7 days. The convenient thing about this type of newsletter is that, since the content isn’t changing or time-sensitive, you can do all of your planning, drafting, and uploading well in advance of when it’s sent, without feeling under pressure each week.
A broadcast, on the other hand, can be sent ad hoc whenever you have something newsworthy to say – for instance, an announcement about a new product feature, sale, or company update.
SSC Case Study #3: Plug in SEO – Shopify SEO Tool
Again for Black Friday, our team at Plug in SEO ran a Black Friday broadcast promoting the SEO services offered. This gave us a huge uptick in traffic and some SEO service requests. Specifically, in November, website traffic went up by 59% while the team completed more than double the SEO jobs.
Win-back emails are targeted to your inactive customers who have previously been engaged with your brand and product. This can mean subscribing, making a purchase, emailing, visiting your website, or a combination of these or other things. For whatever reason, they’ve remained inactive for a certain period of time – typically, about 3-6 months, but this varies for every business depending on its customer journey and purchase cycle.
Win-back emails are essential to boosting your brand loyalty and sales, and they encourage users to make repeat purchases – a huge advantage in business.
It’s good to plan and send your win-back email campaign earlier than seems necessary because you can offer options and incentives to stick with you and gather users’ feedback while their experience with your business is fresh in their minds. Whether they had a poor experience, switched to a competing product, or no longer have a need for what you offer, win-back emails can help you understand and address these issues.
Transactional emails are the simplest form of SaaS email you can send. They’re related to account activity and transactions and can include anything from billing reminders and failed payment alerts, to password resets, subscription renewals, and product activity updates.
Since this type of email has essential user information, it often comes with the highest open rates. So, transactional emails present a great opportunity to include marketing content, like product announcements and tips, alongside the main message.
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Top 7 Tips to Grow Your Business Using Email Marketing
Here are our product marketing teams’ top tips when it comes to growing your SaaS business with email marketing:
- Create a helpful user onboarding campaign.
- Offer & pitch webinars with industry insight.
- Don’t give up – send win-back emails as a last attempt to retain subscribers.
- Pitch your sales, offers, and events with the right promotional campaigns.
- Sometimes less is more inviting and simple is more impactful – leave room for questions & engagement.
- Segment your subscriber list and communicate thoughtfully with each group.
- Leave time gaps between emails – this gives readers time to digest information and you time to resolve issues that may arise.
Email Marketing for SaaS Tools and Lists
You won’t need many complex tools to handle your SaaS email marketing. While you can use general-purpose email service providers like Constant Contact, ConvertKit, or Mailchimp, they don’t handle customer data as well as dedicated SaaS email platforms. For example, campaigns for onboarding and other customer journey emails requiring a lot of customer data are best handled by dedicated SaaS email platforms like Customer.io, Intercom, or Userlist.
Here at SureSwift, we love Intercom and Customer.io for easily creating dynamic content, running A/B tests to see what type of content works best for our users, and quickly scheduling campaigns in any time zone. Intercom comes with many integrations and utilizes customer data to help.
How to build email lists
When it comes to building your email lists, you can keep your leads (marketing) separate from your customers (lifecycle) or merge them together in a single list. Often, SaaS businesses find that one list is best, especially those that operate a series of apps so they can cross-promote them and, in doing so, check which customers are using which apps. Customer.io and Userlist are great for having everything in one central spot. That said, if you have a single app or your marketing list is super long, you might want to keep it independent. For this, you can use a less expensive platform, like Mailchimp.
If you’ve yet to grow your email list, don’t worry – everyone starts somewhere. To help you out, here are some simple steps to build your list out fast.
1. Set up a personalized, targeted CTA (call to action) describing your value on each website, landing, & blog page.
When you take time to put thought into your CTAs on each and every page, rather than opt for generic, impersonal messaging, you stand to see an over 40% higher view-to-submission rate. The reason for this is people are seeking something specific and meaningful to them, so you need to demonstrate – in this case, through your CTAs – that your product offers them exactly that.
Also, be sure to show the value you offer in your CTA without using language like “subscribe” or “sign up” – after all, this language doesn’t describe how your users can benefit from your product. Terms like “Learn”, “Access”, “Featured”, “Grow”, and “Exclusive” do a much better job of this and convey the idea that additional useful content is available upon signing up.
2. Add a timed pop-up survey to your site.
Once your visitors have had a chance to dive into your content and see how useful it is, they might feel inclined to answer a question or two related to the content they’re consuming. You can have this pop up on particular pages or blog posts and include a request for their email address as part of it. When readers are getting something from you, they’re more likely to give back in return.
You can also take this a step further by offering a pop-up discount or incentive offer to encourage email signups. This can be especially effective for first-time visitors who aren’t too familiar with your product and brand yet.
3. Make more targeted landing pages.
Individual landing pages targeted to specific users with certain needs and pain points helps you appeal to a much larger audience. Everyone has different needs and will therefore be drawn to different aspects of your product – and each page can target a different element with its message, including headers and CTA wording. For instance, traffic from Instagram might be looking for something different than those coming from LinkedIn, and certain events or times of year will trigger other needs. This strategy will, over time, help you get more email sign-ups, trial users, and sales.
4. Invite shoppers to sign up at checkout.
Just because you’ve got a converted, paying customer, doesn’t mean they should be excluded from your email list – in fact, this audience may be more interested than others in what you have to say, since it can help them make the most of your product. Plus, the customer journey doesn’t end at checkout. Your newsletter and other email communications are the perfect excuses to have future interactions with this group. And it’s easy to do this – you can add a checkbox, pop-up, or banner with an opt-in to your newsletter and a quick one-liner about what users will get out of it, whether it’s industry insight and tips, new product updates, discounts, or something else.
5. Promote your newsletter via social media and email.
Your network of social media followers and those you’ve emailed in the past is a great source of potential email subscribers. Include a link to sign up for your newsletter in your email signature, and mention it on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or other social media accounts. You can simply share the link in a post or embed a button or form directly in the platform for a more seamless experience. These are quick, simple ways to tell those who may not otherwise know you have a newsletter but could benefit from it.
Email Segments for Successful Email Marketing
To effectively send content that your email subscribers are actually interested in (and avoid annoying them or, worse, leading them to unsubscribe), you need to thoughtfully segment your email list. This will help you create personalized, targeted content that will inspire, inform, or encourage users to take another action like subscribing to your product. Here are just a few email segmentation ideas to get you started.
In your email signup process, try to collect as much information as reasonably possible (without getting too personal or asking for too much), since this will open up more email marketing options for you. Data like age, gender, income level, and company role can reveal a lot about someone. Then, using website forms, you can segment your list by demographic information.
Engagement with your emails
Your email open and clickthrough rates are the key engagement metrics you’ll want to track and use in email segmentation. You can use these stats to segment lists by active vs inactive users. Then, craft a targeted campaign to try and re-engage those who haven’t looked at your emails in a certain period of time. Or, take the reverse approach and engage with active subscribers even more by, for example, telling them about an upcoming promotion or sale. If they click through to learn about this, you know they’re interested and can then target them further when it gets closer to the event.
If you offer a product that is highly impacted by users’ geographic location, you’ll want to pay attention to this in your email segments. Time-based emails can make the difference between opening or ignoring for the majority of certain groups, while regional promotions and live webinar invitations are dependent on location and time zone to be effective.
Sales funnel position
Sales funnel position is a very useful way to segment your audience. Those at the bottom of the funnel should be getting much different messaging than those at the top. For instance, new subscriber emails should be more generic or general, with a high-level overview of the features or products you offer. These can be a set of welcome emails to get new users acquainted with your brand. Then, once they’ve been with you for a while and have clicked through on some content, you’ll know more about where their interests lie and, based on that, can move them within the funnel and send more targeted messaging.
With this complete guide to SaaS email marketing along with our proven tips and tricks, you’ll be launching converting campaigns and watching your business grow before you know it.