SaaS Email Marketing Strategies + Examples

“If planned and executed properly, email marketing can be one of your SaaS company’s biggest drivers of growth. Here’s how…”

Written By Simon Alcott: Published Feb 21st, 2020 | Updated Feb 21st, 2020.

Simon Alcott is a growth hacker and the driving force behind WhalePages, a SaaS marketing agency ⚡. Today, he focuses on teaching you more about his favorite SaaS email marketing strategies. 

14 Minute Read

“For Every $1 You Spend on Email Marketing ✉️, You Can Expect an Average Return of $42.”

Email marketing has the potential to be a huge driver of growth for your SaaS company. Recently, we wrote a blog post about how a well designed content marketing strategy can help you drive substantial traffic to your site. We’ve also previously wrote about how SaaS companies should intelligently approach SEO (another huge driver of growth). 

However, an effective email marketing campaign can act as the third pillar to a well designed and powerful SaaS marketing trifecta.

Research shows that many consumers (61%) enjoy receiving emails from brands they known, like and trust, at least weekly. At WhalePages we’ve signed up to many email newsletters in the marketing space. For example we subscribe to the Indie Hackers email. They send us emails almost every day. How can they produce that much content you ask? Most of it is UGC (User Generated Content) with a focus on stories (see the example below). In the last 21 days we have received 11 of these emails. Roughly, one every other day. It’s an email we glady open and read through each day. These provide so much value to use as a SaaS marketing agency.

SaaS email marketing value

We love opening these each day to see what other marketers are up to. This also helps us stay up to date on trends within the marketing industry and helps ensure we’re on top of things… always.

Of course, each and every day we receive a lot of junk from advertisers as well. However, we receive just as much digital gold. The purpose of this article to teach you how to use email to become a gold dealer (and not a junk dealer) 🏆. We’ll talk about the process of creating well thought out email journeys that will not only delight your readers, but also inspire them to buy from you. 

sample email journey map

However, in order for email marketing to be one of your growth levers, a few things need to be in place first.

1. 📧 Begin by Planning the Journey You’d Like to Experience If You Were Your Subscriber

When planning your SaaS email campaign, I suggest that you begin by thinking about yourself as your subscriber and map out the ideal journey you’d like to go on with your own company.

Don’t get caught up in thinking about sending frequency, triggered emails, transactional emails, deliverability, spacing between emails in your drip campaign or other technical details. Similarly, at this point you shouldn’t be spying on your competitors’ email campaigns to get ideas either. Just think about yourself and what you would want as a subscriber. What would bring you the most value? What type of content would help a company earn your trust? What voice or design details would make the emails stand out?

The first step should be to approach your SaaS email marketing campaign as creatively as possible. Just think about your email campaign strictly from an experience standpoint.

Put yourself in your subscribers shoes 👞. How would you like your experience to unfold?

During this process you’ll likely think about all of the great experiences you’ve had with businesses who you receive emails from. What made those experiences great? What value did they provide you that you preferred to extract through email as a medium? What types of emails do you like receiving? Using a sheet of paper begin brainstorming by writing down all of your ideas as they come to you. Remember… think EXPERIENCE.

2. 🗺️ Study Email Journey Maps

One of the things we love doing at WhalePages is studying the journey maps of other emails marketers. 20 years ago we would simply sign up for our competitors’ email lists and then try to make sense of them by placing everything in dedicated folders within our inbox.

You can still do things that way if you want. However, there are now companies in the competitor email journey mapping space that do the heavy lifting for you. There is seriously a SaaS for everything now!

For example, if doing things manually isn’t your cup of tea ☕, MailCharts offers a comprehensive suite of tools for monitoring your competitors emails. They also offer a suite of analytic tools which you simply don’t get if you do things manually. It’s a pretty powerful email spying solution.

For example, through MailCharts, if we wanted to study a SaaS like Shopify we could simply login to see if their campaigns are already being tracked and logged by MailCharts. As you can see below, MailChart’s system is already logging historical emails from Shopify, meaning that we don’t have to wait to figure out their email journey planning strategies. It’s already all been logged for us.

email marketing examples for SaaS

If the competitor you want to track isn’t already being logged, you can start following their emails within the platform and you’ll be able to keep everything neatly organized as you start monitoring your competitors’ emails.

Diving deeper, we can click on each email within the sequence to try to better understand the logic of each email within a our competitors’ drip campaign.

What you’ll notice in a lot of the best SaaS email marketing campaigns, is that many of the best SaaS companies focus on providing value first.

There are many reasons for this. However, one often overlooked reason is that having your subscribers open your emails and engage with your content is a great way to improve your email sender reputation.

Providing value not only helps you build up trust and likability with your audience, but it also helps you ensure you develop a good relationship with ISPs who are trying to figure out what they should do with your emails. They look at engagement metrics to figure out if your email should get blacklisted, put into the junk folder, promotions folder or actually make its way into your subscribers inbox 📥.

Let’s dive deeper and take a look at a Shopify email within their drip sequence. As your can see, the email is primarily focused on proving value.

SaaS email marketing example

3. 🥊 Automate: Plan Your Jab Jab Jab… PUNCH

Many SaaS entrepreneurs feel uncomfortable selling through email. Many of us are bombarded with countless sales focused emails each day and we don’t want to be included in the group of people who contribute to the world of unwanted junk mail.

However, there is nothing to feel uncomfortable with when selling through email. The first step at creating an email campaign that converts is to know when to throw a jab, and know when to throw a right hook. Plan out your campaign within a calendar and sandwich sales focused emails in between value focused emails.

Many emails marketers use the 3:1 ratio when sending emails. That is, after every 3rd value focused email, they will send an email with sales focused messaging.

However, there are no hard and fast rules about perfect value to sales ratios. We’ve seen SaaS companies use 2:1 ratios, 8:1 ratios, and some SaaS companies never send sales based emails unless a user’s activity “triggers” a sales focused email to be sent (more on this below).

However, it should be mentioned that all of your value focused emails can also include sales CTAs. However, your value focused emails should prioritize the value your providing (to build trust and likability) while the sales elements should be very soft. Essentially, the goal early on is to ensure your subscribers are product aware. You don’t want to be sending them emails and have them not even know that you have a SaaS solution for sale. You need them to be product aware so they keep your software solution in the back of their minds at all times. Later when you send emails with stronger focus on selling (up-sells, cross-sells etc), you’re more likely to get them to open the email and take your desired action. 

When sending automated email campaigns, it’s incredibly important to focus heavily on your first email within your drip campaign. This email will likely be the most widely opened email in your entire series. Use this email as an opportunity to over-deliver. Use this first email to set the stage and get your readers excited about the type and quality of content they can expect to receive from you. Use this first email to train your audience to appreciate your emails.

Next, plan out where each of the emails in your inventory will fit into the bigger picture within your subscribers’ email marketing journey.

When going through this process, I strongly suggest studying other niches as well. Don’t get stuck in the SaaS industry. While there is a lot of innovation in this space, it’s not the only innovative industry. You want to stand out. You don’t want give your users the same experience they are getting with every other SaaS company.  Explore the email campaigns of zoos, real estate agents, high-end car dealers, internet marketers or kids toy retailers to name only a few examples. Each of these niches are doing their own experiments. Mashing up strategies and ideas from unrelated industries into the SaaS space will help you design your emails as pattern interrupters, which will help your emails stand out in an increasingly noisy digital landscape.

Once you have cemented your email marketing campaign ideas, it’s time to start producing email content and then spreading out your inventory within a calendar.

Email marketing journey map

4. 😉 Plan Triggers & Personalize

Previously we talked about the use of time-based drip email sequences to help you keep your SaaS company brand front and center in the minds of your subscribers. However, there is another type of trigger you can use to ensure your message comes through at exactly the right time.

Action based triggered emails are great way to personalize your SaaS’s email relationship with your users. In fact, it’s estimated that action based triggered emails have a 70.5% higher open rate than regular time based email marketing campaigns (source).

An action triggered email is simply an email that is triggered to be sent when a user takes a specific action within your SaaS platform or on your website.

The most famous triggered email is the notorious abandoned cart email. If a registered users is logged in and visits your checkout page, but then leaves the page without purchasing, you can simply trigger an email to be sent to this user reminding them about their abandoned cart. These emails, in both the eCommerce and SaaS worlds, are known to have one of the highest Conversion Rates (CR) of all marketing emails. Many SaaS companies include a coupon code within these emails to help push a user into decision and inspire a purchase.

Abandoned carts are the low hanging fruit in the world of triggered emails. However, you can get much more creative than this. You can send triggered emails to people who login or visit specific pages within your website such as your FAQ page, pricing page, a free tool page or demo page. You can also send triggered emails to users who watch a video on your site or download some other digital asset such as an eBook.

Triggered emails can help tremendously with your SaaS onboarding efforts since they respond to activity rather than an arbitrary pre-determined time. For instance, you could email your users a video tutorial if they visited a certain page within your site’s FAQ section.

More and more AI is making its way into the email marketing space which allows SaaS founders to preemptively solve problems. Action based triggers allow you to provide assistance to your users, without them having to ask for it.

Similarly, you can send triggered emails based on your users engagement with your marketing email campaign or drip email campaign. For example, you could setup a trigger to send a specific email to users who clicked on a link within your last email and then setup another email to send to users who didn’t open your last email.

Likewise, you could setup triggers to respond to inactivity. These triggers are part of your re-engagement campaign and can help greatly reduce churn.

As you can see, time and action based email triggers can be a powerful way for you to engage with your email subscribers.

5. 🔬 Data Analysis & Refining Your Approach

Once you have your email campaigns running, you need to to spend time each month analyzing your data and then making adjustments to your email campaign based on your findings.

For example, you’ll want to experiment with the days of the week you send emails on. For instance, most companies send emails on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. So even if you don’t have the in-house resources or large enough data sets to analyze your primary data sources, you can use 3rd party tools to look for the sending frequency, times, days of the week of other SaaS email marketers.

You can be sure SaaS companies like Shopify aren’t ‘guessing” which day of the week to send emails on.

So even if you don’t have your own in-house dataologist or analytics team, you can analyze publicly available information through services like EmailCharts to piggyback off the decision making patterns of successful SaaS companies in your space.

Notice below for example, that Shopify is sending almost 70% of their emails on only three days of the week (Tues, Wed, Thurs).

email marketing trends in Tech

You’ll also want to study which devices people are looking at your emails on. Almost 50% of people now check their email on their phones (source). This means you need to have mobile optimized emails with the most important information or CTA above the fold.

5. 📝 Wrap Up

Don’t overcomplicate your SaaS’s email marketing campaign. The most important thing is to start getting people into your funnel and then delighting those people for having made the decision to opt-in.

If you’ve enjoyed this article and you’re kind of into things like traffic and sales growth, head over to our main page to learn how our SaaS marketing agency can help you skyrocket awareness about your SaaS.

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Written By Simon Alcott: Published Feb 21st, 2020 | Updated Feb 21st, 2020.

Simon Alcott is a growth hacker and the driving force behind WhalePages, a SaaS marketing agency So, if you have a SaaS company and you’re kinda into things like website traffic and increasing your MRR, then be sure to check out our homepage. 

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