Skip to content
Yeti Distro

Post-subscription Onboarding

Alfred Lua / Written on 16 September 2020

Hello there,

Three weeks ago, I wrote about updating a trial onboarding email campaign because our product and product strategy have evolved. Since then, I have been working on another email campaign to encourage product adoption.

Quick note: When I say "email campaign", I'm referring to a set of emails sent to a segment of users whenever they meet the conditions. Some people call this "drip campaign."

It's not just about the trials

Many product marketers spend most of our time at the top of the proverbial funnel. We try to get people's attention, get them to start a trial, and finally get them to "convert" into a paying subscription. For example, we do product launches, optimize our websites, and create an email or in-app trial onboarding.

But our job isn't done once the user subscribes.

For a SaaS product marketer, the job is never done because we want to keep engaging and educating our customers whenever the product improves or changes so that they would keep subscribing (and paying). Even after they stop subscribing, product marketers can also think about re-activating churned customers, such as informing them of new features that those customers wanted but weren't available previously.

Here's an example of why we should look beyond trials:

I discovered that 60-70 percent of new Buffer customers do not even visit their analytics in Buffer within the first 30 days. Yet we know that customers who do use analytics have a higher LTV because they get more value our of Buffer and stay as customers for a longer time. This shows that we can do a better job of educating new customers on the analytics. If we ignore educating them because they have already subscribed to a paid plan, they will eventually churn earlier than others because they are only getting about half the value they are paying for.

There are many ways we can educate our customers. We could create more content—webinars, blog posts, videos—about our analytics. The lever I chose to pull is emails. Why? It is more direct and targeted. I can choose who specifically should receive an email and when they receive it. At the same time, it is not as intrusive as in-app messages, which can be annoying when the user is trying to use the product. But of course, emails can be annoying, too. I recently signed up for a product and received way too many emails within the first week. So emails are great but they should also be controlled.

What was in my head

Whenever I think of new email campaigns, I like to think about the general flow before diving into the copy. Who should receive the emails? When should they? What do I want to tell them?

Originally, I wanted to make this email campaign based on the user's actions: If they have used a publishing feature, tell them about the respective analytics feature.

  • If they create many Instagram posts, send them an email about Instagram analytics in their account.
  • If they use hashtags in their scheduled posts, send them an email about hashtag analytics in their account.
  • When they create their first social media campaign in Buffer, send them an email about campaign reports.

Because I don't want to send our users too many emails, I would also need a few conditions. For example, if they have taken the second action in each criterion, don't email them. If they meet more than one of the criteria above, space the emails out by at least a week. But if they do take the second action within that one week, then don't email them. Confused yet?

While the emails will be very specific and targeted, it was too complicated to set up in our email tool I even had to call our contact at to figure this out together. Also, it would be hard to build on top of it in the future when we might want to add more emails. I generally like to future-proof my work so that I don't have to build things from scratch next time.

After much thought, I decided to simplify the email flow while making sure it is still targeted and relevant:

  • Only new subscribers will enter this email campaign. Anyone who has been a customer before this will not receive them. This is not perfect but good enough for me.
  • Instead of checking whether they have used a publishing feature but not the respective analytics feature, the email campaign will just check if they have used the analytics feature.
  • If the subscriber has used the analytics feature, the email campaign will check the next condition. If not, the respective email will be sent; then the email campaign will check the next condition seven days later.

This email flow is much simpler and allows me to add more emails to it in the future. It is also (hopefully) not annoying for new subscribers. They will only receive emails about features they have not used before, and the emails are spaced out by seven days. If they have used all three analytics features already, they won't receive any emails.

After I decided on this flow, the remaining steps were similar to what I described in detail in Rewriting Our Onboarding Email Campaign.

Part of the whole

While I worked on this and the previous email campaigns separately, they are not isolated projects. They are parts of a bigger strategy to highlight our analytics more. As I described in Strava's Unbundling and Bundling: Why Didn't It Work (and When It Will), we unbundled analytics from our flagship publishing product and are trying to combine them into one. The problem is most people keep thinking Buffer is only for publishing, even though our analytics and reporting features are comparable to, and in some cases better than, what's in the market.

To shift the perception and educate our customers, I have been working with the rest of the marketing team, especially Mike, the other product marketer on the team. Mike and I thought about it in three layers:

  1. Marketing site—for awareness
  2. Onboarding—for activation
  3. Lifecycle—for engagement and retention

From there, we came up with a list of projects to work on:

  • [Marketing site] Updates to high-traffic pages on our marketing site
  • [Marketing site] New case studies
  • [Marketing site] A video explainer on Buffer as a social media management solution, not just scheduling
  • [Onboarding][An updated trial onboarding email campaign](/rewriting-our-onboarding-email-campaign/)
  • [Onboarding] A new in-app onboarding (using Appcues)
  • [Lifecycle] This post-subscription onboarding email campaign

On top of those, we also have several product launches for our new analytics features that would help highlight our analytics and shift the perception.

We have been working on these in Q3 and will likely continue working on some of them in Q4.

If you have worked on projects on shifting product perception or increasing usage of a new product, would you mind letting me know? I'd love to learn from you. Thanks!