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Email Marketing: Onboarding, Retention and Reactivation of ‘Zombie’ Customers

Updated: May 7

Email Marketing Onboarding Retention

Lifecycle emails are one of the most powerful items in your SaaS marketing toolbox. They are one of the best methods for engaging with your subscribers during onboarding, moving from trial to paid, and everything that lies beyond.

Want to help new customers to learn about your product, keep current customers in love with your business, or reactivate missing customers? Emails can tick all of these off your list.

SaaS Email Marketing: Segmentation and Personalization

SaaS Email Marketing: Segmentation and Personalization

A segmented list is crucial to the health and growth of your company. The moment a customer enters your list, they should be tagged accordingly so you know:

  1. Where they came from

  2. Which stage of the journey they’re at with your product

  3. Where they’re going next, and the best means of making sure they get there

  4. If they’ve stopped engaging with your product

By tagging your customers, you can move them easily through your different sequences and create a smooth email journey for them. This also helps you avoid the awkwardness of sending out irrelevant messages.

We’ve all had those emails appear in our inbox, and at that moment it feels like a company doesn’t particularly care about us as an individual who uses their product. For example, if a customer has just purchased an item – keep them out of the email segment that is sending special offers for 25% off that same item! Little oversights like this can make a huge dent in SaaS customer retention efforts.

Personalization is another way you can make your customers feel more like a human and less like a dollar sign.

With the right knowledge and the right messages, email personalization can give you great results. It’s not just about using a customer’s first name in your mailouts.

Onboarding Emails

Onboarding Emails

With 40 times the efficiency of social media for new customer acquisition, emails remain a winning part of your marketing strategy. No matter your sales model, it’s important that your early users are kept engaged once the acquisition has been made.

If you’re worried about sending too many emails to your new customers, don’t be. Emails sent during the early days of a customer’s relationship with you help them remember that you exist, and that they signed up for something with you. The first two weeks of customer engagement are critical to their success with your service.

How many of us find a cool new product, sign up, poke around a bit, and then leave – never to return? About 86% of us. We’re a forgetful and incredibly busy species, and we need those reminders coming in to help us remember to go back and log in again.

Helping new subscribers to actually use your product and understand why they need it (and why they signed up in the first place) is a good thing.

Encouraging your new customers to take small, manageable steps with your product means they will try it, use it, and come to love it. The customers that build a habit of using your product will be the customers that stick around.

Onboarding emails are the key to getting your customers to the Aha! moment and moving them successfully through the journey of discovery with your product.

If you get your onboarding emails right, it opens the window of opportunity for you to build patterns of use in your customers that will lead to long term retention. In turn, this means increased growth and predictable revenue for your company.

Retention Emails

Retention Emails

The humble retention email is often overlooked in SaaS marketing. Many companies are so focused on acquisition, they forget that once their customers have moved to paid they will still need some love to keep them engaged and prevent them from switching to a competitor. What’s the point of securing a new customer if you can’t get them to stick around?

Retaining your existing subscribers should be a top priority for your company. These emails can take many forms, including:

  1. Abandoned cart emails

  2. Customer education emails

  3. Promotional offers

  4. Consumer Research Surveys

  5. Expiring trial emails

  6. Dunning emails

  7. New feature announcements

If fewer customers cancel while you continue to sign up and engage new leads, it’s simple math that your business will have a faster growth rate.

Reactivation Emails

Reactivation Emails

Between onboarding and retention there is somewhat of a wasteland. It’s here that your zombie customers dwell. Roaming the dark corners of your database, these are the subscribers that were initially excited about your product but lost interest over time.

It’s these “forgotten” customers that either get bundled up for mass mailouts or never spoken to again.

By sending the right message, at the right time, with the right call to action, many of these zombie customers can be reanimated. With the cost of acquiring new customers being five times higher than retaining existing customers, reactivation emails can be a cost-effective way to increase your monthly revenue.

Inactive customers are typically people who:

  1. Signed up, but for some reason never started using the product

  2. Converted to paid for a short time and then left

Once you’ve identified what your inactive customers look like, you can create a segment to enable you to target them with specific reactivation emails.

These emails work especially well for people that have already been through the onboarding/paid phase with you, as the important groundwork has already been done. For this type of customer, framing your retention or up-sell emails to appeal to your zombie customers can help capture their attention and get them to engage with you again.

For example, they might have drifted away because your features weren’t right for them at the time. Your business may have expanded since they last engaged with you, and you’re now able to offer them what they were looking for in the first place. A specialized offer might be all it takes to get them back on board.

You can also reach out to inactive customers with a survey or some open-ended questions about why they decided to stop using your product. Even a quick call can help reconnect with these customers, and they may be able to share valuable insights about the parts of your product or processes that need improvement.

Reactivation questions could include:

  1. What was going on in your life at the time you signed up for our product?

  2. In the course of using your account, what happened that made you realize our product wasn’t the right fit for you?

  3. What’s the #1 thing you wish you were able to do with our product that you ultimately weren’t able to do?

Even if they don’t end up coming back, these customer answers will give you some solid ideas on how to improve your onboarding and retention strategies for current and future subscribers.

One of the greatest assets you can create for your SaaS business is an email strategy that covers every stage of your customer’s journey. With strategic planning and a solid customer focus, you can plan emails for successful onboarding, long-term retention, and reactivation of your forgotten subscribers.


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