31 Email Marketing Tactics to Boost SaaS User Retention

Retention is the biggest issue facing most SaaS companies – now that you’ve gotten users to register for your platform, how do you keep them engaged and coming back to use it?

Whether it’s for free trial users, freemium users, or fully paid premium customers, your retention efforts should first and foremost be focused on quality.

That is, do you actually have a good SaaS product? Does it work as advertised? What are your users, both active and unsubscribed, saying about it?

If that’s not the case, this article isn’t for you. Get your team on enhancing your product offering before you try other retention tactics. Because if your product isn’t good, no amount of effort will keep people coming back.

If your product IS stable, useful, and getting good feedback from users, then you can use email marketing tactics to boost retention with users across the board.

From proper onboarding to reactivating users that have dropped off, the right email in an inbox at the right time can keep your new and existing users happy and eager to use your platform.

Below are 31 of those email tactics.

Each tactic includes:

  • A detailed description of what the tactic’s intended result should be.
  • An image depicting the tactic in action.
  • A link to test this tactic yourself in the Ladder Planner with a 14-day free trial.

Onboarding

An onboarding email flow, with emails that teach people how to use the most important and most useful features of your SaaS platform, can help you familiarize users with your product so that they know what they’re doing from day one and beyond.

Confusion is one of the main reasons people stop using SaaS platforms. From not knowing how to use key features to not understanding your UI/UX, this might be why your users aren’t active and engaged. Fix that with these email tactics:

Educational Onboarding Email

This tactic doesn’t require media budget

When onboarding new users, sending an educational email that explains how others have used and found success with your app is a great way to get them engaged with your product.

Educational Onboarding Email

This can be targeted specifically at users that have bounced early in their use of your app. It can help get them past a “how/why would I use this?” dilemma.


Tutorial Email

This tactic doesn’t require media budget

Many people who sign up to use your product will not be fully aware of the value it can provide. Ensure these people do not become lapsed users simply because they don’t understand what your product can do for them. Nip that problem in the bud by sending a tutorial email.

Tutorial Email

A great example of this: Asana designed their tutorial email to teach users how to use their product for their projects and maximize their productivity. While you should include multiple resources that display the full power of your product, focus on the one thing users must do to understand the value of your product.


Expectation Email

This tactic doesn’t require media budget

For new subscribers, it’s important to let them know what they can expect out of you in terms of frequency of contact, speed of response for support requests, what time to expect emails, and what content to expect.

Expectation Email

Setting these expectations in a welcome email builds anticipation for your future contact efforts while ensuring that they’ll know to expect your emails in their inbox.


First Action Welcome

This tactic doesn’t require media budget

When a user first registers, send them a welcome email explaining the first action they should take. This prompts them to immediately return to your platform and start using it in a guided manner.

First Action Welcome

You can combine this with a mandatory onboarding process for your platform to properly teach new users how to best use the service.


Delay Welcome Email

This tactic doesn’t require media budget

If your welcome email comes immediately after someone signs up for your app, you’re automatically drawing them away from it and distracting them from taking their first actions.

Delay Welcome Email

Instead, delay your welcome email by an hour or two. They’re already in your app – they just signed up! – so give them the time to go through onboarding and their first few use cases before giving them the official welcome.


Start Here Email

This tactic doesn’t require media budget

Provide a list of your top content for new users who have just joined your list.

Start Here Email

This type of ‘start here’ email gives them a good idea of what you’re about and what your content can help them with. This should increase engagement with your content and help long term retention by providing more value up front.


Founder Welcome Email

This tactic doesn’t require media budget

In general, welcome emails result in 320% more revenue per email than normal bulk marketing emails. Make sure to get the most out of this first email by asking for feedback with an open-ended question from a founder.

Founder Welcome Email

This will both let your new subscriber know you care enough to engage with them one on one and also allow you to discover if and how your product or service fits the subscriber’s need, increasing the potential of starting the sales cycle.


Top Tips Welcome

This tactic doesn’t require media budget

Send a welcome email with top tips for getting the most out of the product.

Top Tips Welcome

This type of email can educate your customer right at the time they need it most and can help them reach that ‘aha’ moment which makes them stick around.


Content

Your content marketing efforts can be extremely useful in enhancing your user retention efforts. From emails that give relevant content that’s useful in the industry to giving out best practices around using certain parts of your platform, emails that share long-form content can help bring people back to your platform.

Content also helps you position yourself as a leading voice in your space, increasing trust and creating the impression that, because you share your knowledge, your product is equally valuable.

Editorial Email

This tactic doesn’t require media budget

Try sending an email that is less sales-y and more editorial.

Editorial Email

Give your customers relevant content they look forward to reading and view as less promotional. Increase open rates + reduce unsubscribe rates!


Top Tips Drip

This tactic doesn’t require media budget

Set up an email drip campaign to regularly share top tips for your industry. This typically works best as a 10 part series with one tip per week, or a five part series with one per day.

Top Tips Drip

Exclusive Content Email

This tactic doesn’t require media budget

Sending out emails with exclusive content to your business’ VIPs is a great way to reward them for their patronage with discounts and gifts. It helps build loyalty to your brand and will make VIPs more likely to talk about you to their friends and family.

Exclusive Content Email

Personalize Subject Line

This tactic doesn’t require media budget

Personalize your email subject line based on user info. Experian, MailerMailer, and Mailchimp have done studies showing that personalized a subject lines results in a 22.3 percent increase in open rate over emails without personalization. Many companies choose not to collect any personal data with email addresses to keep their sign up forms as frictionless as possible. If you want to send emails with personalized subject lines while keeping your sign up forms simple, you should at least collect first names with email addresses.

Personalize Subject Line

Archive Email

This tactic doesn’t require media budget

If you have a really popular piece of content that you sent in a newsletter a while ago, consider re-sending it to your email list again. Most of your users, especially ones you’ve attracted since you sent the newsletter, have probably never seen it. Since the content already worked so well in the past, it’s likely to perform again, driving up click and open rates on your email.

Archive Email

Top Content Email

This tactic doesn’t require media budget

Many subscribers to your email list have never seen the best content you’ve produced. Therefore it makes sense to send out an email showcasing your top content, with links to each individual piece. This should drive retention as you show your best side to people who haven’t seen it, and even those who have seen the content get reminded of your value.

Top Content Email

Email Drip Course

This tactic doesn’t require media budget

Provide an email course on a relevant topic over a series of days.

Email Drip Course

Include high quality content each day in separate lessons, teaching best practices and imparting expertise while building interest for your product. At the end, add an upsell for your product to sell to a qualified audience of readers who went through the course.


Tools Email

This tactic doesn’t require media budget

Send an email explaining all the tools that you use to do your job – it will be relevant and helpful to some of your user base.

Tools Email

People are always interested in what type of tech allows you to do your job, and therefore this type of email has a high open rate. It also positions you as innovative, forward-thinking and productive.


Helping Email

This tactic doesn’t require media budget

Send an email asking your subscribers for help on what to write next. Ask them about challenges they’ve faced, recent successes they’ve had, or what they think of specific topics.

Helping Email

Use the responses you get to guide your writing and tackle new topics. You can even use direct quotes from their replies to add extra meat to your content.


Best Customers

Do a solid for your best customers every once in a while. These are the people that log in every day. They’re the ones with hundreds of sessions on your platform. They use and love the product you’ve built. Show them some love with clever exclusives, from content to giveaways, that reward them for their engagement and keep them happy and active.

Best Customers Email

This tactic doesn’t require media budget

Improve your retention and LTV by sending an email or series of emails to acknowledge and reward your best customers.

Best Customers Email

Bonus: include a “special” offer to reward them.


Webinar Upgrade

This tactic doesn’t require media budget

Try offering webinars to paying customers only. This has the effect of increasing retention from existing paying customers by providing extra value for free, and helping them learn how to use your product better.

Webinar Upgrade

You can also email the invite to all of your users, including free users / those who haven’t paid yet. This can prompt large volumes of upgrades.


Founder Calls Email

This tactic doesn’t require media budget

Try emailing to set up a call with your best customers to ask for feedback. You only need around 15 minutes per call and you can do it via Skype.

Founder Calls

The feedback you get through talking to multiple customers will make an enormous difference to your trajectory, and you’ll see a huge retention boost purely because you’re showing you care. Make sure you use a block meeting system like Calendly to schedule.


Email Referral Prompt

This tactic doesn’t require media budget

Write an email asking your customers for a friend referral. A study by Goethe University Frankfurt and University of Pennsylvania found that referred customers had 25% higher profit margins and were 18% less likely to leave the company. Successful referral programs not only give you more customers, they also give you better customers.

Email Referral Prompt

Reactivation

Once a user drops off your platform, it’s over… right?

Wrong.

Users drop off for many different reasons. Some didn’t know what to do on your platform and as a result didn’t find it useful. This is a failure in onboarding, but it can still be fixed (see: Step-By-Step Reactivation Email).

Others drop off because your platform is missing certain features they really need. This can also be fixed as you update your product.

Emails targeted at reactivating users that haven’t used your platform in weeks and months can have a huge impact on your retention stats.

Try these approaches:

Step-By-Step Reactivation Email

This tactic doesn’t require media budget

Inactive users and users who signed up but never used your app may want to come back but have no idea where to start. Sending them a step by step reactivation email where you guide them through the process of using your app can get them to come back and give you another try.

Step-By-Step Reactivation Email

You can leverage existing content – blog posts, FAQs, product documentation – to create a workflow for them.


Unused Feature Email

This tactic doesn’t require media budget

Try sending an email to existing users who haven’t used a particular feature. The vast majority of your users probably aren’t even aware you have that feature, so showcasing it can solve a problem for them and keep them using your product for longer.

Unused Feature Email

Unexpected Freebie Email

This tactic doesn’t require media budget

Give your subscribers a free gift unexpectedly to increase engagement. It doesn’t have to be anything too costly – an industry report, discount on complementary products or the chance to win a prize all work well without costing too much.

Unexpected Freebie Email

Seasonal Email

This tactic doesn’t require media budget

Try sending a seasonally themed email to your list. Seasonally themed promotions, events, new items, etc. are an easy way to reconnect/engage your subscriber list to keep your brand top-of-mind.

Seasonal Email

Feature Launch Email

This tactic doesn’t require media budget

When you launch a new feature for your platform, send out an email to your users to inform them of the news.

Feature Launch Email

This will reactivate many users whose use of your platform may have dropped off while informing your current active users of what they can expect when they log in next.

Highlight user-requested features to show responsiveness in development and attract users that may have dropped off due to a missing or broken feature.


Testimonial Email

This tactic doesn’t require media budget

Send an email with a testimonial from one of your clients to remind everyone how useful your product is. You’d be surprised how few of your user base is even aware of all of your product features or use cases. These types of emails can open up a whole new world of functionality for them and therefore improve retention rates.

Testimonial Email

Payment Method Expiration Notices

This tactic doesn’t require media budget

Automatically notify users if their credit card has expired or can’t be charged. Rather than allow them to churn, sending a notification via email or in-app that their payment method has failed will help to retain users that want to remain subscribed. Allowing their subscription to end without notifying them of payment errors can result in a permanently lost subscriber.

Payment Method Expiration Notices

‘At Risk’ Tagging

This tactic doesn’t require media budget

Start with data analysis on what leads to churn on your platform. Once done, automatically tag users ‘at risk’ of churning and target them with increased customer support, incentives, etc…

'At Risk' Tagging

By getting ahead of the problems that a user at risk of churning is experiencing, you’ll be more likely to retain them and alleviate their issues with your service.


Automatic Password Reset

This tactic doesn’t require media budget

If a user enters their password wrong 3 times, you should automatically send them a password reset email to make it easier on them.

Automatic Password Reset

This will make the password reset process a lot simpler and ensure that you don’t lose users because they can’t remember their passwords. The simpler the reset process, the more active users on your platform.


Send Email By Time Zone

This tactic doesn’t require media budget

When you send emails at 3pm, you aren’t really hitting your users at that time – for some people on earlier timezones it’s early morning, and late evening for others. Using something like Mailchimp’s Timewarp or Intercom’s advanced timezone feature, you can make sure it hits them at the right time.

Send Email By Time Zone

Try those 31 different email approaches to increase retention for your SaaS platform. Because retention is a huge part of growth – it drives referrals, it drives reviews, and it helps you increase your monthly recurring revenue at a steady rate. Keep your users happy, informed, and active with a few simple emails in their inbox.


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