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5 Tips for creating more
engaging onboarding emails

1. Know Your Customers

Before you even think about drafting an onboarding email, you should have a clear understanding of who your recipient is.

Ideally, you need to be able to identify with their pain points, understand their goals, interests, and objectives, and determine the best way to receive all of that information.

Or in other words, you need to put yourself in their shoes to get an idea of what sort of information would be most valuable to them.

Studies indicate that 67% of customer churn can be avoided if businesses resolve the customer’s issue during their first interaction. Now imagine if you could resolve your customers’ issues preemptively – before they even asked!

To do this, you need to track user behavior before and after they purchase your product or sign up for your subscription service.

Find out:

Which landing page they signed up from? What product features were they most interested in? Are they subscribed to your mailing list?

Check out this helpful email from Google:

See how Google leverages the information the user provided (that they’re planning a trip to London) to provide helpful, visual information, and encourage them to take the next steps in the onboarding process i.e. Download Google Trips?

If you’re really serious about getting to know your customers better, you might even consider sending them a quick survey after they sign up for your subscription or purchase your product.

It’s a more direct approach, but hey, it works!

For example, you might ask them what their role is in the company, which features are important to them, and what they’re trying to achieve by using your product.

Once you’ve gathered this information, you’ll be able to develop a customer onboarding strategy that:

  • • Gets users to interact with your product multiple times within the first week.
  • • Helps them experience the solution your product offers.

The way we see it, that’s all you really need to retain existing customers.

2. Segment Users Based on Activity, Skills, or Demographics

It’s a common misconception that customer onboarding is a linear process. It’s not, nor should it be.

Think of it this way: if a contact who’s new to eCommerce signs up for your SaaS application, you wouldn’t send them the same email sequence as a contact who’s a proficient digital marketer.

Instead, you want to organize your contact database into smaller lists with specific categories.

You could segment customers based on their:

  • • Demographics
  • • Past behavior and interactions
  • • Purchase history
  • • Role or position in the company
  • • Skillset

Here’s how Shopify does it:

Notice how they’ve segmented users based on location. This way, they’re able to send out the Shopify in LA email to customers who live in Los Angeles and might be interested in getting in person support.

You can also segment customers based on their activity and interactions with your product:

When was the last time they logged into their account? How many times do they log in every day? Every week?

Here’s an example from Crew:


See how the email is directed at a user who started setting up a project on Crew but didn’t finish? Its messaging is based on the user’s recent activity and interaction with the product.

Once you have lists of segmented contacts, you’ll be able to deliver relevant and more personalized content to each list. And by sending personalized messages, you’re actively engaging them with your brand and product.

Better engagement = Higher customer retention rates

By segmenting your email lists, you’ll be able to get the right message to the right customer at the right time.

To kick things up a notch, you might even consider using the data you collect to create customer personas.

With Sendlane, you’re able to use Beacon, our enhanced behavior tracking feature to track user behavior from the moment they land on your site to when they make a purchase. You can use this data to create segments and trigger more effective messages in your onboarding emails. 

See how the headline immediately communicates the benefits of using Bitly and the step-by-step instructions clearly explain how users can customize their Bitlinks?

The messaging is clear, persuasive, and engaging.

Engaging onboarding emails direct users to take action that benefits them and gets them that much closer to their goals.

Let ‘em know that they made the right decision choosing your product!

The easier you make it for customers to take action, the higher the chance of them actually doing so. Which brings us to our next point … 

5. Focus on a Single CTA to Eliminate Decision Paralysis

Getting a new customer can be pretty exciting.

So exciting, that you may be inclined to send them links to articles, documentation, video tutorials, downloadable resources, case studies – the whole shabang.

Here’s the deal: sending new customers links to all these resources or information about upgrades is going to overwhelm and confuse them, especially if it’s all in one email.

When a user signs up for your product, you want to guide them slowly – not throw everything you have at them all at once!

In other words, instead of putting customers in a position where they have to multitask or make a decision, tell them exactly what they need to do.

Here’s how:

  • • Create a process that the customer needs to follow to achieve their first win with your product. This will be your main success scenario.
  • • Guide customers through your process, one step at a time.

By following this simple, two-step exercise, you’ll make it infinitely easier for the customer to learn more about your product and make a decision.

Check out how this email from Dovetail does it right:

Dovetail guides users through the onboarding process one step at a time – starting with uploading a custom photo. They’ve also used a screenshot to help users understand how it’s done.

Of course, it always helps to keep some best practices in mind so we’ve put together a few simple ones to help you get started with a step in the right direction:

  • • Use a high-contrast CTA button instead of text links to make sure recipients don’t skip over your CTA.
  • • Write persuasive CTA copy to clearly let the user know what it is they need to do next e.g. Watch the tutorial video or Download the browser extension.
  • • Make the CTA the focus point of your message since that’s the main conversion goal of your onboarding email.

Check out this single CTA email from Twist:

See how they’ve used a high-contrast CTA that’s clearly the focus point of the entire message?

When customers are onboarding, you don’t want to distract them with the other products you offer or make the onboarding process seem more difficult than it actually is.

Focus on a single CTA per email and you’ll be fine!

Bonus Tip: Keep Emails Short and Simple

One thing businesses get wrong about the onboarding process is that they explain the entire process – including multiple success scenarios – to customers in a single email.

Although painting a complete picture of everything your product can do and rambling on and on about its features may seem like the most effective approach to engage users, in reality, it’s the exact opposite.

The truth is it’s a classic way to confuse first-time customers and drive them away from your product.

Here are some quick tips to help you craft emails that are short and to the point:

  • • Instead of using industry jargon, adopt a casual yet informative tone that encourages users to take action rather than turn to Google to figure out what you’re trying to say.
  • • Try to get your point across in a few sentences as opposed to a few paragraphs. Remember, you can always link to blog posts on your website for more information.
  • • Make your email copy conversational and inviting by telling stories, using humor, and asking questions.

Check out how this email from Universe ticks all these boxes:

Ready to Onboard?

The customer onboarding process can be pretty tricky.

But with perfectly crafted onboarding emails, you have a clear shot at helping customers better understand how to use your product and see the value in the solution you’re offering.

Let’s quickly recap the key tips you need to follow to create engaging onboarding emails for your own customers:

  • • Get to know your customers better and develop an understanding of what success looks like to them.
  • • Segment users based on how they’ve interacted with your website and product so you’re able to deliver relevant, personalized messages.
  • • Keep track of where individual users are in the customer journey and make sure they receive the right message at the right time.
  • • Encourage customers to take action by making sure your copy is clear, persuasive, and goal-oriented.

  • • Focus on using one CTA per email to prevent decision paralysis from creeping in.
  • • Keep emails short, simple, and to the point instead of overloading recipients with information.

With a powerful and effective marketing automation platform, like Sendlane, you can easily create engaging onboarding emails to boost customer retention rates.

Do you agree that engaging customer onboarding emails can effectively help reduce customer churn? Share your thoughts and let us know!

Caitlin Hutchinson

Caitlin Hutchinson

Brand Marketing ManagerSendlane
A native of San Diego, California, Caitlin has a passion for developing creative and engaging marketing content. Primarily responsible for overseeing the development, execution and delivery of digital content across all of Sendlane’s channels while maintaining an online presence of Sendlane's team culture. Host of The Marketing Automation Hustle Podcast and Sendlane Youtube Training Channel. Works closely with the marketing team to manage creative projects and develop creative assets/solutions to enhance the brand. Collaborates at the intersection of marketing, product, content, and sales to develop powerful and memorable stories and interactive experiences that bring the Sendlane vision to life.
Caitlin Hutchinson