34: Email marketing audits part 1: For the love of understanding your audience

Educational series, product onboarding, upsell sequences… regardless of where you look in your funnel, there’s marketing emails to be audited. 

Like any investigation, an email audit combines thorough observations, deductive reasoning and extra points for style and bold decisions. 

Our hope with this 3 part series is that you can add another feather in your detective hat. Whether you’re consulting and want to offer email audits as a service or you’re in-house and you want to level up your company’s email game. 

We’re going to cover research and questions you should ask yourself before the audit, what to look for in your actual audit, tips, tactics and finally what improvements to suggest and experiment with.

Today’s main takeaway

Users have ideal paths to discovering your product or service, understand these moments deeply and use email to guide users along this path. 

Alright JT, email onboarding is close to my heart, I’ve built many of these in-house but I’ve also had the pleasure of consulting and auditing the onboarding series for a few SaaS and tech companies.

It’s fascinating to get to see all the different ways you can welcome users to your product via email.

Before we talk about what order to tackle things, let’s talk about great email onboarding.

What’s great onboarding?

Great email onboarding consists of guiding/helping users through a series of “aha” moments as they interact with your brand and product. Users receive units of value for each step as they gain confidence in the product’s ability to complete their jobs to be done.

In a product-led company, this should be corroborated by the product/ux team. What wow moments exist in the ideal path, and use email to guide them along this path.

Data is part 1, story is part 2 and where marketing shines. What are some examples of aha moments?

Aha moments example

I’ve been thinking through what an “aha” series of steps might look like for a free Convertkit user:

  • A close friend recommends Convertkit as the ideal place to start for my newsletter
  • I have a quick read through backlinko’s guide to convertkit and get a real good sense of what the product can do
  • I’m able to quickly signup and import my subscribers from Mailchimp
  • I’m able to build my first signup form and connect it to my WP site
  • I watch a 20 minute video tutorial on intro to advanced automations in Pro plans
  • I successfully connect my signup form to my WP site

What email onboarding should and should not be

Ultimately, great email onboarding convinces users to stick around and boosts overall engagement and retention.

Email onboarding should be used to:

  • Tell the company’s story
  • Answer questions/objections
  • Demonstrate how the product solves user’s pain 
  • Nudge users to specific common conversion actions
  • Show the art of the possible
  • Tie what the user has done in their account

Email onboarding should not be used to:

  • Get everyone to buy immediately 
  • Send the same call to action
  • Seem cold and impersonal

An extension of your brand and product

  • Coordinate with product experience to be integrated with it
  • Doesn’t trip over the feet of product-based emails or sales emails
  • Build trust/rapport
  • Be referenceable down the line when user needs info, point of contact, etc

Understanding your customers and users

Before diving into any email audit, it’s important to get into your users’ headspace. 

Obviously this differs whether you’re leading this audit in-house or as a consultant. 

Often when you are contracting, you won’t have a ton of customer research data available to you. In spite of customer research/interviews and jobs to be done insights, here’s a few places to spend a bit of time reading:

  • Review sites on G2, capterra
  • Tutorials on getting started with the product from the community
  • Searching on twitter @company threads

These spots really give me a sense of the language used and what problems are being solved as well the steps users need to take to be able to “hire” the company for a specific job. 

Gimme some JBTD examples with something like Convertkit?

Jobs to be done example

Users signup for Convertkit probably because they want to grow their personal brands, sites and businesses. Not because they want an email marketing tool. 

Some of the common themes and jobs that were highlighted throughout reviews and tutorials were:

  • How to build an email list
  • Send automated email reminders
  • Sell services/contact or products/ecommerce
  • Build a personal brand, start an audience, build a web presence

The predominant themes and categories of use cases were:

  • Artists, designers, filmmakers, photographers
  • Athletes, coaches, influencers
  • Marketers, bloggers, podcasters, makers
  • Youtubers, streamers, musicians

Diving deep into a few tutorials highlighted a few prerequisites for hitting what are likely common conversion actions or moments of delight in the early web building journey:

  • Having a subscriber base
  • Having a form connected to your site to accept new subs
  • Share a link to your new landing page on social
  • Send a broadcast email to subs

Understanding the customer pain point precisely the moment before they start looking for you.

So we just covered part 1 of our 3 part series on email audits, we talked about what great email onboarding should and should not do, we gave you spots to look for user research when there’s a whole lot to start with, and we chatted a bit about jobs to be done and user pain points.

Part 2 next week dives into the email audit itself, specifically what you should be looking for in the first two emails.

Catch you next time.


Intro music by Wowa via Unminus
Cover art created with help via Undraw

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