If you want your business to grow you can't ignore email marketing.
Email is one of the few marketing strategies that you can build once and leverage forever.
And it isn't just about sending monthly newsletters or automated welcome emails.
It's about creating a cohesive, well-thought-out journey that captures your website visitors and eventually turns them into long-term customers.
As an email marketer and MailerLite Certified Expert, I’ve seen firsthand the impact that a well-executed email marketing strategy can have on a SaaS company.
So, sit back and get ready to learn the secrets of email marketing that most SaaS companies overlook.
I’ll even share some quick wins you can implement today to see fast results.
Let's get started!
How can email marketing help your SaaS business grow?
Nurture your leads: A strong email marketing system allows SaaS businesses to nurture leads by providing them with valuable content, updates, and insights, gradually guiding them down the sales funnel. Remember, not every website visitor is ready to make a purchase, let alone hand over their email address.
Retain your customers: Regular updates, tips, and new features will keep your users engaged. Not only will this reduce churn and increase customer retention (i.e. increase lifetime value) but it creates more trust and authority in your niche.
Collect feedback: Collecting user feedback is critical. Leveraging your list is one of the easiest ways to do this. The more subscribers you have the more likely you’ll receive helpful feedback.
Upsell and cross-sell: By collecting emails and segmenting your list, you can target specific users with offers for premium features or complementary products. It’s cheaper to upsell existing customers than to acquire new ones.
Send core updates: Maybe it’s a price increase, a feature, or a bug update that you need everyone to know about. Email is the easiest and least disruptive way to do so.
Build a community: Regular newsletters can build a sense of community among users. This encourages brand loyalty and advocacy (it's why you see Facebook and Reddit communities dedicated to saas tools). I personally subscribe to saas newsletters like Beehiiv, Lemlist, and Semrush because I find them helpful but I also take part in their community discussions. You could do the same with your brand's newsletter.
Increase your valuation: This shouldn’t be the only reason you create an email list but it’s definitely one to consider if you plan on exiting the business. In my eyes, an email list is an insurance policy that could help drum up more business in a period of slow growth. At the end of the day, you own your email list and it’s a valuable business asset.
9 SaaS email marketing strategies to increase conversion and retention
1. Get clear on your customer persona and marketing persona
In my experience, this has been the most important step in creating a SaaS email marketing strategy.
And it’s equally important to delineate the difference between your ICP (ideal customer profile) and marketing personas.
You’re never going to be emailing faceless corporations, instead, you’ll be sending valuable emails to specific people with similar attributes.
Ideal customer profile (ICP): This is a description of the ideal organization or company that would benefit the most from your SaaS product. It's generally a high-level overview of factors like company size, industry, revenue, geographic location, technologies in use, etc. The ICP is used by sales teams to qualify leads and by marketing teams to segment the broader market. It is not as critical as marketing personas when running SaaS email campaigns but it is still important to be across.
Marketing personas: This is a semi-fictional representation of a decision-maker or influencer within the target company. Personas typically include demographics, job responsibilities, goals, problems, preferences, and buying behaviors. I like to think of it as drilling deeper into the ICP. Within an ICP, there could be multiple personas representing various individuals involved in the purchasing process such as CEOs, CTOs, Growth Managers, and even end users.
P.S. This is just a start. Try to go even deeper than this if you want to see better results. I’m talking specific goals, roles, and responsibilities of the marketing personas. This will help you customize messaging even further.
2. Create the customer journey map
A SaaS customer journey map is a visual representation that outlines the different stages a customer goes through while interacting with your product. The aim is to capture the entire customer experience, from the initial point they land on your website to becoming a long-term, loyal user. If you’re not sure where to start duplicate this Miro template.
This includes any point of engagement, emotional experiences, and possible pain points across various phases of the customer lifecycle.
When it comes to email marketing, this is particularly important since it will shape the email marketing strategy. You won’t know which emails to create or when to send them unless you have a clear customer journey.
The stages can be broken into the following.
- Awareness: The customer identifies a need and discovers your SaaS product, either organically (perhaps SEO) or by referral (perhaps word of mouth).
- Consideration: The customer compares your solution with competitors, and reads reviews. This is the stage where they do the most learning. You’ll be sending a lot of emails at this stage.
- Decision: The customer tests the product through a free trial or freemium version. No amount of email marketing wizardry will convince a new user to pay for a product that doesn’t meet their expectations.
- Purchase/subscription: The customer decides to transition from a free to a paid user if the product solves their needs.
- Onboarding: The customer learns to navigate and utilize the product's features.
- Regular use: The customer integrates the product into their routine and workflow.
- Support and maintenance: The customer interacts with support for issues or questions.
- Upsells and/or downsells: The customer buys advanced features or moves to a higher plan. In some cases, they move to a cheaper and less advanced plan.
- Advocacy: Satisfied customers refer others and may even provide testimonials (another reason to email them).
- Renewal or churn: The customer decides to renew a subscription or discontinue use.
If you’re interested in working with me you can book a free audit or email me at email@example.com.
3. Create engaging educational content
Helping your website visitors learn more about a topic or solve a problem is an easy way to generate leads. However, you can only educate users once you’ve identified your marketing and buyer personas.
For instance, if your SaaS business is a CRM for freelancers you might create a free course on building a freelance pipeline.
And if your product is a social media scheduling tool you might want to teach your users how to grow their Twitter or Youtube channel.
Both of these courses would be especially valuable to the customers in the awareness and consideration stages of the customer journey. It could also increase retention and prevent churn since it's education the user on how to make the most from your product and reach their goals.
Keep in mind that this will change depending on whether you’re a B2B or B2C SaaS company.
Below are some of my favorite B2B SaaS examples.
If you’re not sure what sort of educational content would benefit your audience consider running surveys on the website or reference your product’s jobs to be done. This will give you a clear indication of the problems your audience experiences.
Even on this website, I ran Tally surveys on copywriting pages to determine what my audience wanted help with the most and why. This shaped the emails I sent them moving forward.
4. Create drip campaigns
Now that you know who your ideal customers are, the problems they face, and the stages they tend to go through you can create hyper-targetted email automation.
I personally use Canva Whiteboard or Miro to map out emails connected to the customer journey. This gives me a high-level overview of where and when I should be sending emails. It’s also an easy way to identify opportunities and bottlenecks since it’s visually mapped out.
However, if you’re not sure where to start, I suggest referencing Drip Scripts and customizing one of the templates to suit your needs. Not only will this save you time, it will point you in the right direction.
P.S. I specialize in creating high-converting email sequences for SaaS companies. Book a free audit and I’ll show you how I can increase revenue for your SaaS company.
5. Personalize your emails
If you’re collecting data from your subscribers there’s no reason not to personalize the emails as much as you can.
At the very least address your subscribers by their first name. Doing so demonstrates an appreciation, leading to increased trust and credibility.
According to Sender, 80% of consumers are more likely to do business with a company that offers a personalized experience. I do this for almost every email I send my subscribers.
Tailored messages capture attention faster and increase engagement.
And if your users aren’t opening and engaging with your emails then it’s impossible to leave an impression let alone convert them into loyal customers.
At the very least, ensure your subject line is relevant to the subscriber.
6. Write emails in a conversational tone
This might be one of the best ways to improve the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns.
Writing in a conversational tone and including storytelling can help brands build better relationships with customers.
Especially if you want your company to seem relatable and approachable.
I generally use the slippery slope method to help me write engaging emails.
The idea is that each word (or sentence) entices the reader to continue reading the next one and so on.
Right up until they finish your whole emails and click a button or take an action.
At the end of the day, you’re writing to people.
So a conversational tone makes the brand feel more human, approachable, and relatable.
Using everyday language will help your efforts convert into long-term results. A good copywriter can help you achieve this.
Related article: Email copywriting guide
7. Apply proven copywriting formulas and heuristics
You’re already going to the effort of building an email marketing system. Might as well ensure it’s optimized.
There are various email copywriting formulas and heuristics you can apply to guide your work.
- Before After Bridge (BAB): This is where you highlight the current problem, show the improved scenario, and then bridge the two with your solution.
- Problem Agitate Solve (PAS): Identify a problem, intensify its emotional impact (I like to use statistics), and then present a solution. The solution usually involves your product.
- Attention Interest Desire Conviction Action (AIDCA): This is the formula used for sales pages that can be applied to emails. First, you want to capture the reader's attention, pique their interest, create a desire for the product, instill conviction, and prompt them to take action.
Cognitive biases and heuristics:
- Liking Bias: People are more likely to agree with those they know and like. When referencing a well-known figure, choose someone universally liked, avoiding controversial figures. Better yet, build a relationship with your readers so they take a liking to you instead.
- Spark Effect: People are more inclined to act if it seems easy. In your copy, present actions as low-effort. Using microcopy like “only takes 21 seconds” can boost the chances of a reader engaging.
- Picture Superiority Effect: The principle suggests that images are more memorable than text. In emails, adding GIFs or relevant images can boost conversion rates. For example, in my email sequence, I include captivating screenshots for clarity along with relevant GIFs.
8. Optimize your site for smart email collection
This is one of the most critical parts of building a successful email marketing campaign.
If you can’t even collect emails then nothing else you do will matter.
Email capture forms like this do not work 👇
They lack context, they’re hidden, and they don’t seem trustworthy.
I recommend creating custom email capture forms for high-intent pages.
Full-screen popups have worked best for me but I know most businesses like to avoid them.
Below are some examples of smart lead capture forms.
9. Send emails from a human rather than a company
This might seem a bit controversial but stay with me.
I’ve subscribed to many emails and newsletters over the years and I always forget the faceless brands that send generic blasts.
But I tend to remember emails from companies that send them from an individual like the founder or head of marketing.
For example, Austin Distel, the CMO of Jasper sends personal emails to his subscribers.
Tyler Denk, Founder of Beehiiv also personally signs off on his emails.
What kinds of emails should SaaS companies send to their subscribers?
There are many different types of emails you could send your subscribers.
But at the end of the day, the email should be focused on selling to new email subscribers or keeping existing customers for longer.
Anything outside of this won’t move the needle.
But don’t get it confused, you’re not here to blast people with sh*t they don’t want.
You need to give value as often as possible.
Again, I like to reference Drip Scripts whenever I’m stuck.
Alternatively, take a look at the most successful competitors in your niche for ideas on what’s working.
Either way, here are some common emails you can should send your subscribers.
1. Welcome emails: This is an obvious one, whenever someone new subscribes send them a welcome email and thank them for trusting you. It’s also a good idea to let them know what they can expect. Drip does a great job of welcoming new subscribers.
2. Onboarding emails: These are sequenced emails designed to help new users familiarize themselves with the software. They might include step-by-step guides, videos, and tips to get started. It’s a good idea to speak to the product team and figure out how long it takes before a new user is actively using your product or when they’re most likely to churn. This will help you address common issues early in the onboarding emails. The goal is to prevent churn here.
3. Sales emails: This could include testimonials, case studies, and even educational content that serves the purpose of selling to the subscriber. It also includes any upsells, down-sells, or cross-sells. This isn’t a green light to be pushy but rather to prove to your subscribers that your product is going to solve their problems. Remember, show don’t tell.
4. New product updates: Whenever there's a new feature, enhancement, or significant update to your product, letting your users know is a good idea. Beehiiv is an email marketing platform that does a great job of this.
5. Value emails [most important]: Your subscribers sign up to your mailing list to get as much value as they can, you need to honor this promise. This is where you want to invest 80% of your time and attention. Without giving your subscribers a reason to open your emails consistently you’re almost certain to lose them and the potential customer will be gone forever. At Ticker Nerd, we send our free subscribers as much value as we possibly can even if they don’t convert into paying customers. More often than not these value emails will prime your subscribers to take action when they receive a sales email.
6. Billing and transactional emails: These are essential for informing users about subscription renewals, payment receipts, or any billing issues. Make sure these are set up correctly, without them you’ll create a poor experience and your customers will complain, or worse, churn.
7. Feedback emails: Periodically seek feedback about your software or services. This not only provides valuable insights but also shows users that you value their opinions and you’re trying to improve.
8. Newsletters: This is a much more involved style strategy but it can be highly lucrative. Email newsletters will allow you to keep frequent communication with your subscribers indefinitely. I read the Acquire.com and Flippa.com emails regularly since the newsletter contains updates about their marketplaces and any new deals that might interest me.
Related article: How to start a successful email newsletter.
9. Cancellation or churn emails: This is critical for SaaS companies. When a user cancels their subscription or downgrades, try to find out why by sending a feedback form. If a user wants to cancel their account completely you can offer discounts, one-time offers, or other incentives to retain them.
Four high-performing SaaS email marketing examples
Jasper is an AI copywriting tool that helps marketers produce compelling copy. I included them because their emails are frequent, helpful, and written by the CMO. This is a great example of how to write in a conversational tone and keep your subscribers engaged.
Beehiiv is a growing email newsletter platform. Some of the biggest newsletters in the world (like Milk Road) use them for sending emails. The reason they're on this list is that they send frequent emails tailored to every type of segment. I’ve become a customer and an affiliate which means I get all of their email communication and they communicate differently in each.
Firstly, they have a great email newsletter that I find helpful. On top of this, they’ve built out various SEO courses with expert input (such as Brian Dean). To get access users need to create a trial account which means they fall right into the funnel. They’re a huge company that still manages to send regular helpful emails worth reading. If you run a larger SaaS company then I recommend checking out the emails Semrush sends to their subscribers, especially if you prefer to keep a more professional tone.
Lemlist is a cold email outreach tool that I’ve used for my own campaigns and my clients. They have some of the best educational content that I find myself referencing often. I’ve included them since they capture emails and aggressively send value-packed emails. Most of them are now saved in another folder so I can come back to them when I need to.
5 quick wins you can implement right now
1. Create tailored exit intent popups on high-traffic pages
2. Use customer support questions to inspire lead magnets and courses
3. Re-write your emails with a conversational tone
I received an email from PhantomBuster that caught my attention. It’s a B2B SaaS tool that helps with marketing automation. The email was written in a conversational tone making it engaging and memorable.
4. Create an automated email sequence for new subscribers
When a website visitor gives you an email address what do you send them?
Saying thank you and delivering your immediate promise (i.e. a resource or lead magnet) isn’t enough.
Even one or two additional emails are better than none, so work backward and determine what your users (based on the segment) need help with most.
5. Ensure all emails pass the “iPhone test”
This is a test I coined when auditing a client's newsletter setup.
When a subscriber gives you their email address, the first email they receive needs to have context, fulfill the promise, and entice them to open it.
You can easily gauge this by taking a look at the notification card you receive on an iPhone.
Here’s a good example from Morning Brew.
I know who it’s from, why I’m getting it, and why I should open the email.
Although the preview text is a bit weird. I honestly struggled to find a good example.
So here’s a better example from Ticker Nerd.
Best email marketing tools and software for SaaS businesses
- MailerLite: Best for basic email marketing capture forms, segmentation, and automation.
- ConvertKit: Great for smaller companies or creators that want to use a robust tool capable of deeper segmentation. ConvertKit also integrates with Right Message.
- Right Message: Helps you collect leads and segment them based on survey responses. There’s a two-way integration with most email providers.
- OptinMonster: Great for collecting emails in a smart way and segmenting them. You can run exit intent popups, full-page pop-ups, and other sorts of smart lead capture.
- Hubspot: The best overall email marketing tool since it captures leads, segments them, and even sends automated emails in one tool.
- Tally Forms: If you want to collect more data about your audience or new users then Tally Forms will help you do this. The tool is extremely simple to use and helps collect data in a non-intrusive way.
- MailChimp: This is one of the most popular email marketing tools. It has a growing suite of products that can handle most of your marketing requirements from email to SMS.
- Intercom: All-in-one customer communication and support platform. Now leveraging AI to deliver a better experience.
- Glock Apps: This isn't the typical email marketing software you hear about although it's required. This is an email deliverability tool that will check your emails and flag any issues. Sometimes your emails might contain spam trigger words and end up in the promotions folder, or worse, the spam folder.
Frequently asked questions
How do I increase the open rates of my emails?
Improving your email marketing metrics is key to generating a profitable email marketing campaign. You can’t expect to convert free trial users for instance or keep paying customers for longer if they don’t even open your emails.
Here are some tips for improving your open rates:
– Keep your subject lines short
– Make sure you fulfill the promise in the subject line
– Personalize the subject line as much as possible
– If you have an option for preview text try to include something enticing or share the value packed in the email
What’s the difference between inbound and outbound email marketing?
Inbound email marketing (the focus of this article) refers to nurturing and engaging existing subscribers or leads, providing them with valuable content, and building a relationship.
Outbound email marketing, also known as cold emailing, targets potential customers who may not be familiar with your brand.
Inbound prioritizes organic growth and engagement, while outbound seeks to quickly reach a cold audience.
How important is marketing for SaaS companies?
A lot of SaaS companies get caught up in the product, which is critical.
However, without a stream of new customers, it doesn’t mean much. You need to strike a balance between product and marketing.
So in short, email marketing is essential for SaaS companies to convert and retain more customers.