Having a poor onboarding experience for your customers can pretty much kill your growth and potentially your business.
The first experience someone has as a potential customer sets the tone for your relationship. If the onboarding process is confusing or overwhelming, you risk driving the customer away permanently.
What is onboarding?
Customer onboarding is the process a new user goes through to become acclimated with your product. The onboarding process starts from the moment a new visitor begins your signup funnel. It continues as they tour your product for the first time and never truly ends.
You should continue to use onboarding as you educate your user base about new product functionalities and features. No matter when it happens, great onboarding quickly and effortlessly answers several key questions for your customer.
Why use email to onboard?
Email is a great supplemental onboarding tool that can further educate users about your product’s features and benefits. The process should always start with a welcome email, and can then go on to include emails with followup and additional information.
Welcome emails have four times the open rate of other types of emails, and are shown to perform even better when they include video. A good way to incorporate that is by using short looping videos in a welcome email. This adds interest and movement to an otherwise static experience.
You can use email in other ways to enhance your onboarding experience. Remind new users to access the product during their free trial. Dig deeper into product benefits. You can even share social proof to build value.
What should the email series include?
An email onboarding plan can look different for every company. But time has shown that there are best practices for how many emails to send, and how much to space out the send dates.
Once you get the welcome email out to the customer’s inbox, what comes next? For additional insight into how the Post and Courier onboards its brand new subscribers, I spoke with Digital Marketing Manager Stephanie Dill.
“Currently our onboarding process is a series of 6 emails sent over 30 days,” Stephanie points out when asked how many emails and how often the company sends.
“We start with a welcome letter from our Executive Editor, putting a human face behind the subscription, and then the following emails highlight different benefits you receive as a subscriber.”
Explaining benefits that customers receive as patrons of your business is crucial to the email onboarding process. When customers walk through your store, or browse your catalog of products or services, they get the basic idea of what they’d be paying for.
Present exclusive customer benefits in your emails
The email onboarding process is your chance to present the deeper value of your business, outside of what the customer already knows on the surface.
“These [benefits] include newsletters, access to apps and our digital replica E-Paper, our podcasts, exclusive subscriber-only Facebook groups, etc.”
For customers using the newspaper’s E-Paper service, videos have been made available to walk them through the service’s interface and show them how to navigate the digital newspaper replica.
Great onboarding can decrease your customer service requests. If you do a great job teaching new customers how to use your product, they’re less likely to have questions down the road. In fact, 47% of businesses say using video as an FAQ tool has helped them do just that.
“The onboarding series is a way for us to help our new subscribers make the most of their subscription and form a relationship with them that we hope will last for a long time,” Stephanie said.
How often should you send emails?
Your business should decide whether it wants to send out a burst of many emails in a short period of time, or if it should send a series of fewer emails over a longer period of time. There can be ways to meet in the middle, but you should find the right balance for your business and its customers.
“I think a blend of the two is ideal for us,” Stephanie said. “Right away, we want people to know how to use their subscription, so we send quite a few emails in the first 10-12 days. After that we back off, giving more time between sends, but continuing to check in and have little touch points for the first 30 days or so.”
Adapting the plan to your business model
The message behind your onboarding emails can and should look different depending on how you sell your product or service. Are you a business that simply sells your goods, and then hopes customers return to pay you again? Or is your revenue built upon subscription services, or other forms of recurring payment over a long period of time?
Stephanie gives valuable information for how the onboarding process should differ for these two business models.
“I think for an already paying subscriber, you already know they are committed to their purchase, and you are working to show them additional benefits to keep them long term,” Stephanie said.
“For a marketing qualified lead, they haven’t made that commitment to your brand yet, so your relationship is in a different place. You are still building and nurturing the relationship, and it is still very sales focused. You are offering things they want and need, but trying not to overwhelm them.”
For these types of customer leads, you should offer them discounted access to your product. You already know they have shown interest in your brand. They just need a little extra push to dedicate their time and money to you.
Finding the right balance of email frequency and regular communication with customers is the key to keeping customers invested but not overwhelmed. You never want to drive anyone away if they feel their inbox is becoming cluttered.
So always make sure your emails are valuable and informative. Treat your potential customer well, and talk to them like a person, not just a piggy bank.