36: Email marketing audits part 3: Trigger-based behaviour segments FTW

Hey everyone, this is part 3 of 3 on marketing email audits. Whether you’re in-house or you’re consulting and want to offer email audits as a service, our hope is that you can level up your email game.

In the last 2 episodes (35 and 34), we covered research tips and questions you should ask yourself before the audit and we also covered the actual audit and what to look for, tips and tactics.

In today’s episode, we’ll cover what email improvements to suggest and experiment with, we’ll take a nice deep dive in behaviour-triggered emails.

So you’ve dived into the user’s world, you’ve gone through all the emails and suggested improvements on the first emails and how to avoid selling too early. Now you want to figure out what you should suggest in terms of improvements.

What are some of the highest impact experiments you’ve led?

One spot I like to start is inactive users. When it comes to reactivating users, B2C can be very similar to B2B. B2C calls them abandoned cart emails, and they don’t have to be treated too differently in SaaS B2B, but it’s easy to do this wrong.

Re-activating dormant users

By day 3-4 of your onboarding sequence, it makes total sense to sell but probably only to users who have gotten started.

50-70% of free users have either left the product or are kicking the tires on several other options. We call these dormant or inactive users.

They check you out really fast and give up. The majority of these are users you will never convert in the first place.

But amongst this group of inactive users there’s plenty who would convert if they get invited back into the product. The approach needs to be creative and helpful. We need to delight these inactive users, not sell them.

The angle should rather be showcasing similar customers who have completed similar jobs to be done.

Triggered-based behaviour emails

Most onboarding series are not tied to what users have completed so far in the product, it’s 100% time-based and not outcome-driven and assumes all users are ready to buy 15 minutes into their journey. 

Outcome driven trigger-based emails (instead of time), based on what users have completed and not completed in the product.

Here’s how I’ve approached implementing this as an experiment:

I would suggest starting with 3 main cohorts of users: 

  1. Discover
  2. Getting started
  3. Upgrade

Most series push users quickly past steps 1 and 2 and hammers step 3 for many emails to follow. 

(1) Discover

The first activity cohort (Discover) is all about getting users to their first unit of value. For Convertkit, that might be importing your subscribers from Mailchimp, or maybe creating their first form. This is all about getting users to a quick win, browse all the different signup form options and connect it to your site. 

Instead of waiting 15 minutes before the next email, a triggered email could send after sign up form creation congratulating the user on connecting Convertkit to their site, reminding them how easy it is to swap forms and pushing them to the next cohort of users.

If users who signup become inactive and are not able to create a signup form or do anything else after 15 minutes, it’s safe to assume we’ve lost these folks and instead of pushing them a discount or a promotion, we should be teasing them about existing customer signup pages, focusing on that first win. We need to re-activate these users before we worry about selling to them. 

Coordinate with the product team here for best results. What is the typical time to conversion event. 

Also, it is worth thinking about consequences and complexity of moving to an activated track or not.

(2) Getting started

Users enter the second activity cohort/group as soon as they complete their first unit of value. 

The stage is all about convincing users the product is the ideal solution and pushes them through the rest of the getting started steps. This is where email onboarding can help drive stickiness of the product by building/introducing habit-forming principles.

Over time, this section can grow with multiple onboarding steps, but we could start with two simple steps like creating their first email draft or their email footer settings. 

(3) Upgrade to paid plan

Now that users have had a chance to try out the product and see parts of their brand in the product, we can start nudging them to upgrade benefits and features. 
Okay so all 3 of those could be lists in your automation tool. Smart lists or dynamic lists, they update as soon as someone completes an action in the product. 

Yeah so let’s illustrate this. We have our 5 lists right?

  1. Signups
  2. Imported subscribers
  3. Created a form
  4. Connected form to site
  5. Created broadcast draft

User signs up, they get a confirmation email. As soon as they click that, send the Welcome email. So far, no segmentation.

Next wait step triggers when the user enters our second list, the getting started list. This is when users have imported their subscribers in Convertkit.

So we can wait until the user enters our second list, as soon as they do, they get a congratulatory email pushing them to enter list #3. We can add a max wait time on this wait step and send an email pushing users to import their subscribers after 2 hours if they aren’t on our second list yet.

Next wait step would be wait until user enters our 3rd list, created a form, congratulate them and push them to connect it to their site. If user is on list 2, send them another attempt at nudging them to the next product step, if they are on list 1, nudge them to import their contacts. 

Segmented emails by vertical / use case

Creating segmented journeys for free users and guiding them to relevant personalized product steps.

Most onboarding series are a one size fits all approach. With the volume of users signing up and the wide variance in use cases, there could be hundreds of micro onboarding journeys, all opportunities to personalize our CTAs. 

For Convertkit for example, I’d suggest starting with 4 segments, perhaps: 

  1. Artists; designers, filmmakers, photographers, musicians
  2. Athletes; coaches, influencers
  3. Marketers; bloggers, podcasters, makers
  4. Youtubers; streamers

Instead of sending the current onboarding series to everyone (control), we segment users into groups based on their use case. Someone trying to set up a newsletter for their photography classes has different onboarding tasks than an athlete trying to connect to their fans. In order to get users to a series of moments of delight, we can personalize our messages and call to actions for each segment.

Boom, that’s it folks, you survived our 3 part email audit series. Would love to hear from you if you found it valuable, if you audit emails and if you’re planning on starting it.

Here’s 3 of our top takeaways from the past 3 episodes

  • Users have ideal paths to discovering your product or service, understand these moments deeply and use email to guide users along this path.
  • Strike a balance between beautiful HTML design and sneaking past spam filters by not overloading users too early and sticking to a small amount of links and images in your emails to ensure deliverability.
  • Instead of selling to all your email subscribers, segment your users by behaviour. Your likelihood of re-activating dormant users increases tenfold with relevant personalized product steps.


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

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