SaaS Email Marketing: 12 Strategies for Successful Campaigns
Getting paying customers for your SaaS business can be a challenging and complicated endeavor. However, the time-tested strategy of SaaS email marketing has proven to be a reliable method of driving product growth.
In this guide, we’ll go over the reasons why email marketing is important and showcase 12 SaaS email marketing strategies that you can use for your own email marketing campaigns. Let’s dive deeper!
- Email marketing can be used to acquire new customers, retain existing customers, increase conversion rates, and continuously nurture customer relationships until they become advocates for your brand.
- Software companies need to use targeted emails instead of sending the same message to every user.
- It pays to collect data after a user signs up for your mailing list. Getting insights into their job-to-be-done, role at the company, and ultimate goal will make it easier to send automated emails that actually provide value.
- A/B testing your landing pages, email subject lines, and CTAs will help you fine-tune the messaging. For instance, you might find that version A of a landing page has double the conversion rate of version B.
- Don’t neglect trial or freemium users. Targeting them with personalized, contextual, and valuable emails could get them to upgrade from the free plan to a paid subscription.
- Setting behavioral triggers for certain email flows can help ensure that they reach your user’s inbox at the ideal moment. This is especially important for time-sensitive emails that require an immediate response from the user.
- You should keep a consistent brand voice and tone across all channels. If your emails sound boring compared to your in-app guidance (or vice versa), then the brand personality will feel disjointed and forgettable.
What is SaaS email marketing?
SaaS email marketing is the practice of advertising SaaS companies through email campaigns with the goal of acquiring new customers or increasing customer retention with existing customers.
Email marketing campaigns are also a powerful tool for SaaS companies to nurture relationships with their user base, cross-sell or upsell, and promote customer loyalty and advocacy. To achieve these goals, email marketing efforts must stay contextual and span the entirety of the customer journey to maximize conversion rates.
Why is email marketing important in SaaS?
There are many reasons why a SaaS email marketing strategy is important to SaaS providers. Below are the main ones:
- Engagement. It leads to more feature discovery and higher product adoption rates, thus increasing the number of engaged users for your SaaS business.
- Retention. Email marketing increases retention by regularly reminding customers of the value your product provides, collecting feedback on what you can improve upon, and streamlining the product adoption process.
- Conversion. Email campaigns maximize conversion rates by nurturing users throughout every stage of their journey from lead to customer (or advocate).
- Insights. SaaS email marketing campaigns provide insight into key customer data like behavior, preferences, and touchpoints.
- CRM. Email sequences can be used to build a stronger relationships with both existing and new customers.
Understanding customer journey stages
A boilerplate email marketing strategy won’t work in the SaaS industry since users go through different stages throughout the customer lifecycle. With every new stage comes new challenges that require a different approach to SaaS email marketing campaigns.
Here’s a brief look at each of the five stages, so you can create a more contextual SaaS email marketing strategy for each:
- Reach. People in the reach stage are aware of your product but haven’t signed up for a free trial or paid subscription yet. Email marketing can be used to engage with these leads until they convert into a paying customer or sign up for a free trial.
- Acquisition. Once you’ve acquired new customers, you can use a welcome email to guide them toward the point of activation. Email sequences are one of the most effective ways to streamline the onboarding process.
- Conversion. Getting new customers in the door is only the start; next, you need to encourage feature discovery and product adoption. Using email marketing to bolster your customer education efforts will reduce the time-to-value for that segment, thus cutting down the time to conversion.
- Retention. SaaS companies know that new users are the most likely to churn as they don’t have as much loyalty to the brand or product. You can use email marketing for SaaS retention by regularly sharing tips that help users get more value out of the product.
- Loyalty. The final stage of the customer journey is loyalty. If your SaaS company is able to nurture loyalty by incentivizing users with referral campaigns or other methods, then you’ll likely find yourself with plenty of customer advocacy.
12 SaaS email marketing strategies to build your plan
There are many ways to leverage email marketing for SaaS businesses. In the interest of brevity, we’ve narrowed down that list to 12 crucial strategies that you can use in your own SaaS product marketing.
These strategies can be used throughout the entire customer journey to convert free users into paying customers, encourage users to try new features, and keep them engaged long enough to become customer success stories.
1. Know your goals
Before you can start bringing in new paying customers with an automated email sequence, you first need to establish what the goals of your email marketing campaign actually are. Your goal will determine the sequences, messaging, tools, KPIs, and audience of email campaigns.
A few common goals with an email marketing strategy could include:
- Brand awareness
- Trial signups
- Customer education
- Customer retention
- Expansion revenue (via upselling and/or cross-selling)
Once you’ve pinned down your goal, you’ll be better prepared to create a successful email marketing strategy with the right messaging for every old and new user. In essence, knowing the why will make it easier to find the how and get the what.
2. Have a solid lead-generation strategy
There are many lead-generation channels that SaaS businesses can use to build up their mailing list. Websites, landing pages, social media, PPC campaigns, webinars, gated content, and blogging are all viable ways to generate leads for your SaaS company.
The optimal lead generation channel will vary depending on who your target audience is. It’s best to combine a few lead-gen channels instead of relying on a single one to increase your chances of reaching the right people.
Regardless of the lead generation channel you choose, the goal always stays the same. The objective comes down to gathering marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) that have expressed interest in your brand by subscribing to your mailing list.
These MQLs can then be nurtured into becoming sales-qualified leads (SQLs) before eventually becoming paying customers.
3. Segment your audience
It’s highly unlikely that you’ll be able to meet the expectations of your entire audience with a single email campaign. This is where segmentation comes in. You could create audience segments based on:
- Which stage of the customer lifecycle they’re in
- What their job-to-be-done (JTBD) is
- Where they are in the sales funnel
- Which acquisition channel they came through
Regardless of which lead segmentation approach you take, you should create detailed user personas for each segment. These will represent the segments you’ve identified and make it easier to personalize email messages to their specific wants or needs.
4. Personalize your emails
Email personalization is essential to make your emails contextual and relevant to the user receiving them. You might be able to get away with a similar welcome email for multiple user segments, but this boilerplate approach gets less effective later down the line.
You should strive to send out personalized emails that specifically target the goals of that segment while at the same time taking existing user behavior into account. This could mean sharing relevant content for their use case or showcasing helpful marketing automation.
It’s important to remember that personalization doesn’t only apply to the content of your promotional emails but also to the overarching flows/sequences you plan. If your product offers a free trial, for example, you can create drip campaigns that are targeted to free trial users.
These sequences could include guidance on how to get the most value out of their free trial and contain content encouraging users to try out the stickiest features your product has. These early customer success efforts will pay off and increase the free trial conversion rate.
That’s exactly what Grammarly is trying to achieve with its welcome email:
5. Plan the triggers
Another way to make your email automation more contextual is to set up behavioral triggers that send users a specific email once a predetermined event occurs. This is especially useful for time-sensitive messages that require a prompt response/action from the user.
For instance, you could integrate Userpilot’s webhooks into your product to trigger a specific email (or email sequence) when a user clicks a button or completes a task. These triggers can help in various ways, including onboarding, educating, and upselling users.
Another example would be sending an onboarding email as soon as the user has completed the account creation process. This will give them a clear roadmap of the steps they need to take to start using the product (and therefore patch any funnel leaks).
6. Perfect your subject line
The subject line is the first thing users see upon receiving an email — which is why they have an outsized impact on the first impression your email leaves. Seeing as that’s the case, you should personalize the subject line and keep it short but memorable.
Most research has shown that 6-10 words are the sweet spot for a subject line — and that subject lines in this range garner the highest open rates. You should also opt for power words and simpler language instead of using jargon that your audience might have a hard time grasping.
While getting overly technical is a bad thing, using a subject line that’s too vague could be just as damaging. You need to find that Goldilock’s zone that will manage to grab the user’s attention without confusing them.
Airtable has plenty of SaaS email marketing examples that apply these tenets in their product release emails. In the example below, you’ll also notice an emoji at the very beginning of the subject line that sets the tone for the rest of the email:
7. Incorporate micro-conversions
Beyond the primary conversion that you’re emailing for, you should also create opportunities for micro-conversions along the way. Getting leads to agree to these smaller commitments will prime them for the “big ask” conversion at the end of the email sequence.
Micro-conversions could be any small user action like downloading an eBook, watching a tutorial video, creating their first project, signing up for a live webinar, or following your brand on its social media accounts.
Instead of haphazardly throwing in micro-conversions and hoping for the best, carefully plan them out to ensure that users have both the resources and knowledge they need to complete the bigger desired action later on.
In the example below, Mailchimp only asks users to create their first project. This is a five-minute task that will likely be viewed as a fairly small commitment. If the company had instead opened with an invitation to a two-hour product demo, then pushback would have been inevitable.
8. Align emails with your in-app messaging
Once an email has managed to get the user’s attention and bring it toward your product, you should continue this line of communication through the use of in-app messaging.
To keep things cohesive, make sure that both channels always use a similar tone of voice. If your emails sound a lot different from your in-app messages, then the entire brand personality will feel disjointed, poorly defined, and ultimately easier to forget.
You should also use logic to pick up where the other channel left off. If you just sent a product update to the user, then clicking the CTA should direct them to an in-app onboarding flow with additional guidance and messaging. These flows could consist of modals, tooltips, checklists, in-app notifications, and other UX patterns.
Here’s a look at how Kontentino welcomes users to their app and gives them a heads-up about the explainer emails they’ll be receiving (to ensure they anticipate + open them once they arrive).
9. Keep an eye on performance
Email marketing is an invaluable source of customer/marketing data that you can collect and analyze. Depending on which goals you set for your email campaign, the KPIs you track will be different.
That being said, some common metrics that you can use include:
- Open rates
- Click-through rates (CTR)
- Conversion rates
- Unsubscribe rates (+ the reasons they unsubscribed)
You’ll also need to find the right analytics tools to track the email marketing metrics of your campaigns (unless your email marketing software already has a native analytics dashboard).
10. Send surveys for feedback
Another effective way to gauge the performance of your email marketing efforts is to gather and look at customer feedback. You can do this by sending out NPS and CSAT surveys through email.
Wise is a prime example of what efficient customer feedback collection looks like:
11. Keep testing
A/B testing (also known as split-testing) is an effective optimization strategy since it lets you test multiple content variants of emails or subject lines to see what resonates best with your audience.
This experimentation is especially important for subject lines as they’re a huge determiner of the open rates you’ll get across the entire campaign. You should also split-test the CTAs, format, length, multimedia, and personalization elements of your sequences.
Split-testing also reduces the risk of failure since it allows you to spread your leads across multiple variants of a landing page or in-app flow — rather than putting all your eggs in one basket.
12. Re-engage inactive users
While you’re tracking open and bounce rates, you’ll probably notice inactive users. The best remedy here would be to create a separate segment entirely for these inactive emails so you can send targeted re-engagement sequences their way.
These win-back campaigns could:
- Highlight the features and benefits of your product
- Offer discounts and promo codes
- Request feedback through surveys
- Provide additional educational resources
Ryte takes a very personal approach to re-engaging inactive users:
As you can see, using email marketing platforms to educate users, send targeted messages to churned customers, and turn engaged users into loyal advocates is a worthwhile pursuit.
If you choose the right email marketing software, track the right KPIs, and make sure your messaging is personalized, then you’ll be one step closer to a successful email automation campaign.
Ready to start onboarding users more effectively? Get your free Userpilot demo today!