Don't start your SAAS app with lifecycle emails

Lifecycle emails are not the holy grail for conversions.

Not when you're just starting out.

I just have a welcome email and one for 10 days before trial ends. So far 3/7 recipients open it, of which only one is still active. I guess next step is to set up a bunch more automated emails...

This is an actual message I just received from a customer.

It illustrates a very common idea: That spending a few weeks putting out a bunch of lifecycle emails will solve all your conversion problems. It’s exactly how I used to think.

One thing became very clear to me after interviewing successful SaaS companies for the Things That Don't Scale project:

Successful SAAS companies do not start onboarding customers to their new app by writing lifecycle emails

At the beginning, you're basically guessing what you should write, so writing these emails takes forever.

And because you're probably going to guess wrong, customers don't really read them... So they don't work.

All that time you spent writing? Wasted.

Yeah, you'll "learn" from it... You'll know your emails didn't work. But you still won't know what to do to increase conversions.

This is not how successful SaaS companies work.

Just starting? You're not supposed to know what to write in lifecycle emails.

You can't think your way through this challenge.

In fact, I'd go as far as to say that you do NOT "write" lifecyele emails.

The process of creating lifecycle emails is less thinking and writing... And more about talking to customers, documenting what you're learning, and transcribing them into emails.

Every company I've interviewed told me:

Absolutely. You have to do manual at first.

They say it like it's the most obvious thing in the world.

Like it doesn’t even occur to them to try to write a bunch of automated emails from the outset.

How successful companies figure out what engages customers

They formulate hypotheses, then talk to customers to validate them.

Nick Francis, founder of Help Scout, told me that for the first 6-8 months, they required phone numbers at sign up.

If you’re thinking this will lower the conversion rate, you are correct.

They weren't optimizing for sales at all. They just wanted to understand what business their customers are in, what their customer support processes are, their daily email volume, etc.

And they wanted to check on them throughought the process.

Rob Walling, founder of Drip, said that at the beginning, he spent 20 hours/week manually onboarding customers.

He sent emails manually from Gmail. He recorded one-off screencasts. He screenshared. He even did stuff for customers.

It was all manual.

A simple strategy for figuring out what to write in lifecycle emails

So if you're thinking of spending the next few weeks writing a bunch of automated emails?

Do something more productive: Manually onboard your customers by doing Concierge Onboarding.

Try this:

Aim to do this with at least your next 25 customers.

The more you talk to customers, the clearer the patterns will be... What to write in your lifecyecle emails will become obvious.

We'll get more detailed in a future post. But the point is you should stop feeling frustrated your automated emails are not working... It's impossible to get them right at the outset.

Instead, get your customers on the phone to manually onboard them, and document what you're learning.

What is Concierge Onboarding? Read about All Aboard!

Photo credit: Ed Yourdon