As the leading marketing agency for SaaS, we spend a lot of time analyzing email marketing strategies.
Email is a powerful channel when executed well. According to a report by Salescycle, 59% of respondents say that marketing emails influence their purchasing decisions. Moreover, 50% buy from marketing emails at least once a month.
While SaaS email marketing is a little more complex than email marketing for other businesses, many brands have used it to their advantage. For example, Hugo, a meeting notes platform, doubled its daily active users within a month, all because of a well-crafted email strategy.
In this guide, we’ll share all the strategies and tips (along with real-life examples) to help you create an effective SaaS email marketing strategy. Let’s get started with the basics first.
What we’ll cover:
What is SaaS Email Marketing Strategy?
SaaS email marketing strategy focuses on promoting and growing your SaaS business through emails sent to prospects and customers. These emails could have different purposes (brand awareness, upselling, product adoption, etc.) and target several sales funnel stages (consideration, interest, and retention).
Here are some email campaigns that SaaS companies generally focus on:
- Welcome email
- Milestone email
- Free trial ending reminder
- Retention/reactivation email for inactive users
- Newsletter email
- Product email
- Discount and promotional email
- Survey email
Depending on the complexity and type of the product, different companies will follow a different mix of email campaigns to reach and persuade their target audience.
Why is SaaS Email Marketing Important?
Below are seven reasons you need to have a SaaS email marketing strategy in place:
- Preferred channel for business communication. 74% of baby boomers, 72% of Gen X, and 64% of millennials find email to be the most personal channel to receive communication from brands.
- Send personalized and targeted content. Email allows you to create a segmented list and send targeted messages to these groups.
- Increase brand awareness. You can provide valuable content and insights to your target audience and increase brand awareness and engagement.
- Build valuable customer relationships. Regularly keeping in touch with your paying customers via email helps create a bond with them.
- Costs less than traditional methods. You do not need to pay any advertising, printing, or media space costs when it comes to email marketing.
- Gives a high ROI. Email marketing has an average ROI of $36 for every $1 spent. That’s an ROI of 3600%.
- Helps create excitement about new features or updates. You can create hype around new features or service additions with strategic email marketing campaigns.
What Email Tools Do You Need?
With proper tools in place, you’ll be able to create better email marketing campaigns and even see the results they bring.
There are many email marketing software like Mailchimp, Sender, Omnisend, and CampaignMonitor. How do you choose from them?
Here are some features you can shortlist to select the best tool(s) for you.
- Provides you with readymade templates to design your campaigns
- Has an in-built CRM or integrates with one to have a centralized contacts database, organize that in lists, and track and manage performance.
- Sends automated email sequences according to behavioral triggers, like when a prospect or email performs a certain action.
- Has robust analytics features that let you track metrics such as open rate, click-through rate, engagement rate, and so on.
- Send time optimization to send emails at the optimal time (when recipients have opened your email in the past)
- Ability to personalize emails with different subject lines and more.
You can even start with a free tool and then move on to a paid one as and when your email marketing campaigns start becoming more robust.
What are the three types of emails?
Your SaaS company will require three kinds of emails to move the audience through the customer journey, from leads to free trials to pay customers.
You’ll need different strategies for these types of emails, even if you follow a consistent style and tone.
Let’s drill into each one.
#1 Marketing email: This is sent to your leads. It’s a kind of email that SaaS companies use to talk about their product and educate and nurture prospects. These kinds of emails are generally consent-based. It could include lead nurture campaigns, lead magnets, newsletters, and sales campaigns.
HubSpot is one SaaS brand that makes use of lead magnets a lot. Their marketing email is unique too. Not only do they share the resource via email, but they recommend other HubSpot resources, too, followed by a CTA to subscribe to their free trial.
#2 Lifecycle email: These email campaigns are sent to users after subscribing to your product. It includes user onboarding, free trial to paid subscription campaigns, and customer loyalty campaigns.
These SaaS email marketing campaigns aim to activate and retain your customers, turning them into loyal customers for your brand and referring others via word-of-mouth marketing.
You can even upsell your premium plans, collect feedback and customer data for your customer success stories, reactive dormant users, and share referral links to your most loyal customers.
#3 Transactional email: This focuses on service emails such as account recovery emails, billing and invoice emails, and product activity emails.
These types of emails need to be delivered instantly and need to be handled separately from your other email campaigns. This is usually done using direct API calls from your product.
These emails have the highest open rates as they include valuable information for the user, so you can even embed product tips or event announcements into these emails.
Best SaaS Email Marketing Strategies
We know email marketing offers incredible ROI. So, here are some strategies to set you on the right path.
#1 Plan lifecycle segments first
Have you ever been on a receiving end of an email marketing campaign that was completely irrelevant to you? What did you do next? Click on the “Unsubscribe” button or, worse yet, block the sender.
You don’t want your audience to do the same with your email marketing efforts. A reason why it’s so crucial to gather customer data and build segments, especially if your tool caters to different audiences.
For example, if you’re introducing a new template for software teams, you want to send that email to IT firms or software engineers, not event companies.
Not only will you get a low engagement rate if you send this email to everyone, but your audience will likely not pay attention to your future emails.
So, how do you create segments? Here are some ways to get started.
- By industry and company size (firmographic)
- By age, gender, or income (demographic)
- By sales cycle (funnel stage)
- By values or interests (psychographics)
- By feature use or lifecycle stage (behavioral)
- By region or country (geographic)
#2 Choose the right time
I subscribed to a blog some months back because I liked reading their articles. But I always missed out on their articles. Why?
Because they used to send me an email very late at night. I’d tell myself, “I’ll read it tomorrow.” But I’d mostly end up forgetting about it.
Even though their articles were great and their email subject line drew me in, it all went in vain because they didn’t send the emails at the right time (at least for people who live in my time zone)
So, how do you choose the perfect time to send emails to your audience?
One way is by looking at your past data and email marketing metrics to see which day of the week and time of the day results in more opens and clicks.
This may even differ from segment to segment. For example, people in the UK may open their emails at a different time than in Canada.
Here’s what HubSpot’s research found out.
#3 Review email data regularly
To create a better performing email marketing campaign, you must review your data regularly. This could mean studying your email list weekly. Observe where your subscribers are coming from, what is the majority niche, why they signed up for the list or trial, what they expect from you, and where they come from (your blog, website, lead magnets, or social media).
Depending on these insights, you can create additional segments or make changes to the existing ones.
You can even review the types of emails performing well in conversions and engagement and double down on those marketing activities. For example, if you find that people like your “Weekly Product Tips” email, you can even create a form where users can share unique ways of how they are using your product and create a campaign around that.
#4 Focus on simple campaigns first
When you subscribe to email automation tools, you’re tempted to build complex email automation and use them.
But this might not be the correct way to start if you’re just beginning your email marketing journey. After all, you don’t want to swamp your target audience with emails all of a sudden.
So, start with simple campaigns first. Here are some ideas you can start with:
- Welcome email campaign. This signifies the foundation of your relationship with the customer, and it’s a great chance to lay the foundation for future email campaigns. Here’s a simple welcome email from a popular SaaS company, Shopify.
- Onboarding sequence campaign: You have to assume that the person who has subscribed to your tool needs some help to get familiarised with the tool. A great onboarding email will give a clear direction to new customers on which first steps they should take and which features will be available to them. Calendly shares a great onboarding email with a solid starting paragraph.
- Newsletter campaign: Newsletters are a great way to build a community and share important updates and the latest content. CoSchedule’s newsletter is one of our favorites.
#5 Combine promotional and educational emails
Promotional emails help you improve conversions and increase your user base. On the other hand, educational emails help you build authority and guide your users.
Many SaaS companies pick one above the other, but it is crucial that you aim at both of these kinds of emails in your campaign. Because if you aim at just promotional campaigns, your users might get frustrated, and if you aim at educational campaigns, you might not generate sales.
A good ratio to follow is 3:1 for the educational to promotional-email ratio.
#6 Engage your list with contests
Most SaaS companies follow a passive email marketing strategy. If you want to find that edge over your competitors, you can create campaigns that motivate your audience to interact with your emails.
Wondering if this strategy is effective?
When Starbucks launched the #WhiteCupContest that encouraged customers to draw on their Starbucks cups, the brand received almost 4000 entries in just three weeks. This showed that customers might like your emails, newsletters, or social media content, but they love getting involved too.
Can you replicate this for your SaaS brand?
Canva does that quite often. Here’s an email by Canva that promotes their #CanvaDesignChallenge.
Not only does this encourage their users to showcase their creativity, but with the help of these contests, Canva also pushes users to use their tool.
If you are just beginning your journey, you can first start by asking simple questions or asking about their challenges to engage your email list.
#7 Use “smart unsubscribe”
Your SaaS email marketing strategy may involve a lot of different campaigns, from promotional campaigns to educational campaigns and contest campaigns.
While some users would like to receive every email from your brand, many would prefer a select category of emails.
For example, someone may like your newsletter emails but not the product tips emails you send every week. Instead of having them unsubscribe from every email, you can give them a choice about which emails they’d like to receive.
This is a win-win as the users get only those emails they love, and you don’t lose out on users who would’ve liked to stay.
#8 Send emails based on feature usage
If you’re seeing low open rates and conversions for your SaaS emails, the reason might not be in the type of content you’re using for the emails. It could be that you’re sending the wrong emails to each subscriber.
When it comes to SaaS email marketing strategy, you need to remember that not every subscriber will want the same kind of email. You could either set up behavior-driven emails in your email automation tool that sends targeted emails driven by the user’s actions, or you can dive into your past analytics to see which kind of customers engage with what kind of emails.
One way is by sending emails to customers depending on the product features they mostly use. For example, if someone uses the video editing features the most in Canva, Canva can send them emails about video marketing and tips for the same.
#9 Personalize your emails to increase open rates
Marketers have seen a 760% increase in revenue from segmented email campaigns.
So, is it enough to just include the recipient’s name to make your email campaigns personalized? With many spam emails doing that, you need to go beyond this strategy.
Here are a few tips to help you with personalization:
- Send users reports, analytics, and performance data of what they are achieving with your product. This demonstrates the value of your product to the user. Here’s how Zapier does that while motivating the user to switch to the paid version.
- Send product tips and guides depending on the way the user is making use of your product. For example, send articles related to project scheduling if someone uses scheduling features.
- Remember the important days. For example, many brands now send birthday wishes to the user. Here’s how Hulu takes this greeting a step further with a special offer.
#10 Send NPS and other customer satisfaction surveys
Customer satisfaction is crucial for SaaS companies as they need to retain their customers to keep their revenue and product usage stable. It also helps you get feedback that can improve your product and service.
One way to do that is by emailing NPS and other customer satisfaction surveys. This helps you gauge customer satisfaction levels and determine your detractors, passives, and promoters.
You can create a different segment for promoters, as these users engage with your emails and product the most. You can then upsell to these existing customers or build referral campaigns.
Here’s one great customer satisfaction survey example by Slack. They not only make their recipients feel valuable with their exclusivity tactic, but they also share the time it will take to complete the survey.
#11 A/B test your emails
Have you noticed some of your emails doing great while some go unnoticed?
It may be time to test your emails, then.
Before you finalize email content, you probably work with different versions. When you are down to the final two versions, you can opt for A/B testing to determine which one provides the best results.
A/B testing involves sending two versions of the same message. These messages may differ from each other in terms of subject lines, tone of the message, content type (GIF or video), or the number of words. You can even use power words in one email to understand if it affects the bottom line.
After sending these emails, analyze both emails' open rates and CTRs to find out which performed better.
#12 Use branding in your signature
You can easily promote your brand by showcasing it in your email signature. This increases your brand awareness, recall and engagement.
When you use the same signature that is prominently visible, whenever your user opens your email, they will be certain which brand it came from.
To decide what your email signature should include, here are a few questions you can ask yourself:
- Which font do we majorly use in our email communication and branding as a whole?
- What aspects of our branding do we want to display?
- Do we want to use a photo signature or simple text?
- Do our emails all end in a similar fashion?
- Which colors do we majorly use? Do we want to use the same colors to have consistency?
Here’s a great example from SE Ranking that shows all the important details, like the company’s website, name, and contact information.
#13 Build nurturing emails for each stage
Whether your lead is in the awareness phase or the consideration phase, you need to keep nurturing them.
What does this mean? Let’s say your lead is in the consideration phase. They have subscribed to your free trial or have subscribed to your email list but haven’t yet purchased the product.
In this case, you need to engage them and move them down the funnel (push them to subscribe to your paid plan)
This is where lead nurturing emails can do the job for you. Here are four stages where you can use them.
- Free-to-paid upselling
- Guiding leads through your sales or marketing funnel
- Helping them onboard successfully
- Retaining your customers
Here’s a great nurturing email by Grammarly where they point out the benefits of subscribing to Grammarly Premium in numbers.
#14 Automate behavioral triggers
According to a report, trigger-based marketing emails are 497% more effective than batch and blast emails.
Despite such statistics and success stories with behavioral email marketing, very few companies are making use of it.
While you need to figure out which actions warrant sending an email for each stage of the funnel, here are some examples to get you going:
- When they view certain content on your webpage. For example, if they browse through your FAQ section, you can send them a behaviorally targeted email to see if they have any specific questions.
- Sending an onboarding email sequence when they sign up for your free trial
- Reminding them of the end of the free trial to motivate them to switch to the paid version.
- Congratulating them for achieving a milestone in your product, like creating 20 designs in Canva. Create this in such a manner that they can easily share this achievement on their social media.
15. Promote annual billing
Upselling isn’t just limited to persuading users to shift to a more expensive plan. You can even upsell yearly plans to them and show them how much they save with a yearly subscription.
This also helps your SaaS business lock in users for an entire year and helps you achieve stable revenue.
It’s important that in this kind of email, you talk about the value the user will get when they shift to your yearly plan. Buffer does just that with its email.
They also add the point about refunding the user’s money if they are unsatisfied with the product. This further builds trust in their tool and encourages users to switch to the annual subscription.
#16 Work on micro conversions
We all want our prospects to subscribe to our free trial or for our free trial users to switch to the paid version. But many micro conversions need to happen on the way to reach these stages.
These micro-conversions are smaller actions a person takes to engage with your tool or content.
Some examples of micro conversions are:
- Getting click-throughs on your case study or newsletter emails
- Webinar sign-ups
- Requests for demo
- Downloading another lead magnet
- Taking part in your survey
- Asking to share your content on their social media
- Watching your latest video
With each email, aim for a couple of micro-conversions along with a primary conversion to make it easier for your target audience to convert in the later stages.
Now that you know all the best email marketing tips and techniques to set up your SaaS email marketing strategy, it’s time to start.
While setting up email campaigns for each stage in the customer journey is important, make sure you get started with a few email campaigns first and then build up on them. You can even take inspiration from SaaS email marketing examples by famous brands and let your creative team do the rest.
Read more about SaaS:
60+ SaaS facts, statistics, & trends for 2023
The most critical stages of the SaaS sales process
19 best SaaS marketing strategies for 2023
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