8 Steps to Creating an Effective Email Onboarding Sequence

January 23, 2021

Converting visitors into subscribers is fairly straightforward. You need engaging content as well as a signup form that collects email addresses and personal information.

Now, if you want to turn these subscribers into loyal customers, you'll have to provide a bit more value. You need to show that your business is worth their time and money and an effective email onboarding process is one of the first places where you can exceed their expectations.

When your subscribers join your mailing list, they want to see the benefit of using your products and services, rather than just reading a list of features. While email can show subscribers the perks of doing business with you, sending random or purely promotional messages isn't going to turn them into loyal advocates.

According to Nick Dimitriou, Head of Growth at Moosend,

"If you want more opens and clicks you better give your subscribers exactly what they want. Because the fact is, most emails go unread." - Nick Dimitriou, Head of Growth at Moosend

This means that if you want to engage new subscribers, you'll need an email sequence that nurtures them towards conversion.

Read on to learn how you can create effective onboarding emails that not only entice subscribers to open them but generate a delightful customer experience as well.

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Benefits of Email Onboarding

Businesses are constantly working to convert leads into customers, and an engaging email sequence can be one secret weapon to long-term success.

Not convinced? Below are two important reasons why email onboarding can be significantly valuable to your business.

It engages new subscribers.

Email is an extremely popular communication channel as research shows that 4.3 billion people will use it by 2023 — that's more than half of the world's total population.

Customers love email because it gives them promotional content from their favorite brands, a channel to reach out for support, and notifications that keep them up-to-date on product- and service-related news.

One study found that 80% of marketers have reported increases in email engagement, while email marketing ROI has shot up to $55 for every $1 spent on it.

An onboarding sequence will boost email engagement and help you get to know your subscribers. Email can act as a noninvasive, proactive conversation starter that can lead to valuable interactions and foster customer success.


It increases lifetime customers.

If you want your business to succeed, then you need to have loyal customers who stay with you throughout their customer journey. Loyal customers minimize your churn rate and customer retention is less expensive than acquisition.

Greeting subscribers is one of the first steps to turning them into loyal customers. And, a well-designed email onboarding sequence can make a great first impression on every new lead.

If you don't greet subscribers after they sign up, you give the impression that you only wanted them to fill out your form. Greeting them after their submission shows that you're dedicated to building a long-term relationship that isn't solely transactional.

Now that we've established the need for email onboarding, let's dive into some best practices that you can use to create your sequence.

Creating an Email Onboarding Sequence

Creating an email onboarding sequence isn't difficult. Making it successful, on the other hand, is the real challenge.

If you're creating an onboarding sequence for the first time, there are some fundamental steps you can take to ensure it's received well by your customer base. For starters, personalizing your messages and delivering a warm welcome email are a great way to kick off the onboarding experience. You should also have a way to monitor inactive users and come up with ways to re-engage them should they stop opening or responding to your emails. Don't forget to optimize your emails for mobile, too, as more 70% of people read their emails on a mobile device.

If you're finding that customers aren't engaging as much as you had hoped, don't fret — all you need to do is continue testing your emails. A/B test new designs, write different copy, and reconsider the timing of your emails as well. This will help you create an unforgettable email onboarding experience that turns subscribers into loyal customers.

If you're looking for a few more tips, read on to the next section to learn how to design the perfect email onboarding sequence.

8 Best Practices For The Perfect Email Onboarding Sequence

1. Start with a confirmation email.

The first step for a successful onboarding sequence is to ensure that your subscribers are real people with legitimate email addresses. The easiest way to find out is to send a short confirmation message to validate the new subscriber's email.

This is a fundamental process that the majority of your subscribers will complete immediately, but there are always some who will miss or forget the email entirely. To make sure they complete confirmation, you should send a follow-up email to remind any absent-minded subscribers about the signup process.

Confirmation emails don't need to be fancy but they do need to have a clear call-to-action that helps your audience validate their email address.

Here's a real-life example from Hubspot:


This confirmation email has all the necessary elements to get new subscribers to verify their email address. Hubspot adds a touch of personalization to greet its new subscribers, giving a clear explanation of what the new user needs to do next.

2. Send an impressive welcome email.

Now that your subscribers have confirmed their email, it's time to set the onboarding gears in motion. The welcome email is, undoubtedly, the most important part of your sequence as it will set the tone for your onboarding process. It should be a powerful impression trigger that convinces new subscribers to open the rest of your emails.

Failure to create a strong impression trigger will result in low open and click-through rates. If you want to create a process that turns subscribers into customers, your company needs to create a high-value welcome message.

Here's an example from Shopify:


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This email should focus on offering guidance. If your subscribers believe that you can help them succeed, then it's more likely that they'll open the rest of your emails.

3. Create different sequences for engaged and disengaged users.

One challenge you may encounter is having subscribers with different levels of engagement. Some will rush to your content, others will sign up, but remain inactive. To account for this, you'll need different sequences for active and inactive users.


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Segment your audience based on the actions they take and target them with different emails. For inactive subscribers, you should highlight your value proposition in a way that attracts their attention and offers further information and assistance for re-engagement.

4. Leverage personalization.

When it comes to email engagement, personalization can drive higher open and click-through rates and enhance your customer experience.

But there's a catch. To personalize content, you need data about subscribers. The more data you have, the easier it'll be to customize experiences.

Consider leveraging both simple and advanced personalization techniques. For example, your onboarding sequence needs to address your new subscriber with their first or last name to make the email more personal and friendly. You can also send your emails from an employee or company email rather than a generic address.

An awesome example of personalization comes from Bonjoro, a company that personalizes its onboarding sequence with a unique video message.


5. Optimize emails for mobile-first users.

With the popularity of mobile devices, more people use tablets and phones to check messages and interact with companies. Mobile accounts for 46% of all email opens and neglecting to optimize your onboarding sequence for mobile devices will result in low engagement.

Mobile-optimized campaigns aren't rocket science. But, you need to keep in mind some of the most important mobile-optimization practices.

First, you need a responsive email template that makes your emails look good regardless of device and screen size. Then, you need to pay attention to your visuals and copy. Use simple images that load fast and be careful with your subject line as most mobile devices will display a limited number of characters.

For instance, Zapier has a simple and responsive email template that shows mobile users information about the application.


6. Center content around your call-to-action.

Setting goals for each onboarding email will help you achieve greater click-through rates. However, without the right call-to-action, your new subscribers will simply read your emails without navigating to your offers.

CTAs capture your subscribers' attention and incentivize them to take action. To create the perfect CTA, you need to use the right copy and visuals to boost its performance.

Highlight your offer's benefits rather than its features to give your subscribers a taste of what they can gain by using it. At the same time, an image will make the message easier to digest and lead them one step closer to clicking on your content.


This example from Airtable shows how interesting copy combined with a CTA work together to incentivize users to check out the product's benefits. Also, the company allows its subscribers to contact them directly and offers additional information about what happens if they don't upgrade their plan.

7. Test your messages.

Since each subscriber has different expectations, testing your messages will allow you to deliver better content that engages them more effectively. One way you can do this is with A/B Testing, a common test that determines which elements lead to higher opens and clicks.

To run an A/B test, you need to create a variation of your initial design (also known as a "control"), then send both versions to small groups of subscribers.

For an effective test, you should create not one, but numerous variations of your control and send them to different segments. When you collect enough data, you can conduct a behavior analysis to optimize your copy, visuals, and CTAs to boost your sequence engagement.

8. Show subscribers how to use your product or service.

First-time users who have no experience with your products or services will need help getting started. Doing so will boost their confidence and help them avoid roadblocks.

Businesses like Webstarts use their onboarding sequences to deliver short lessons that help new users get familiar with the platform and the basics of website building.

onboarding email examples

By taking advantage of video tutorials, the company delivers well-designed emails that include everything new users need to know about the software. Educating newcomers helps them discover the value of your product or service, builds stronger relationships, and drives long-term engagement.

If you're a subscription-based business, check out these SaaS onboarding best practices.

Source: 8 Steps to Creating an Effective Email Onboarding Sequence

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