Planning Your Campaigns: Start Simple and Improve Gradually

Email campaigns are one of the best ways to build relationships with your users at scale — the possibilities to deliver value and build trust are endless. However… endless possibility can be overwhelming. You might be thinking, where should I even start? My to-do list is so long, I’ll never have time to tackle something this ambitious.

There’s good news: the foundations don’t need to be complicated.

We strongly recommend that you put just 1-2 simple campaigns in place first, then layer on more sophisticated campaigns gradually — making your overall communication strategy more engaging and effective, bit by bit.

There are three main levels of lifecycle email setup:

  • Plan your first campaign
  • Plan additional campaigns across your customer journey
  • Optimize your campaigns for happier customers and better results

We recommend to plan your campaigns alongside properties and events. Download these free worksheets to speed up the process.

Level 1. Set up your onboarding campaign

Once users signed up for your product, they need to be “activated.” Your activation goal is to help users get value from your product as quickly as possible (also known as reaching the “Aha” moment).

Your Basic Onboarding campaign should include the following:

  1. An email that welcomes the new user, and gives them the resources needed to take the first step.
  2. Subsequent emails that guide the user, step-by-step, toward the “Aha” moment by promoting individual features.

We recommend to send the first 1-2 welcome messages to everyone, and then skip individual messages if your customer is already using that feature.

If you’re not sure what “Aha” moment you should guide users toward, you may want to spend some time simply viewing your user activity and identifying key patterns. What paths do your most successful users take? Where do people get stuck?

Level 2. Add more campaigns across your customer journey

Sending an onboarding campaign is a standard practice in SaaS. But many companies never communicate with their users after onboarding, leaving tons of opportunity on the table.

It helps to use Dave McClure’s AAARR pirate metrics (Acquisition, Activation, Retention, Referral, Revenue) to determine what campaigns you should send to nudge users toward each stage of your customer journey.

Here are some campaigns to consider sending post-onboarding, to nudge more of your users toward the remaining pirate metrics (Retention, Referral, Revenue).


What do people need to do to keep coming back?

  • Send a Newly Upgraded campaign to users who’ve just upgraded to a paid plan, and could use some help getting the most out of your premium features.
  • Send a Cancellation Survey to users who’ve just canceled their paid plan, asking if something went wrong and whether your team can help.


How can successful customers help spread the word?

  • Send an NPS Survey campaign, asking users to rate their satisfaction with your product.
  • Send an Ask for Review campaign to accomplished users, asking them to write a review of your product or refer a friend.


How can you increase a customer’s LTV?

  • Send an Upgrade to Paid campaign to users who never upgraded to a paid plan after their trial, demonstrating the value your premium features could provide.
  • Send a campaign to users on low-tier plans, demonstrating the value a higher-tier plan could provide.
  • Send a Switch to Annual Billing campaign, letting users who pay monthly know about the benefits of paying annually.

Level 3. Optimize your campaigns for happier customers and better results

Once you’re sending email campaigns across the entire user lifecycle, you’ll start seeing which emails work, and which fall flat. At this point, it’s time to tweak and test your campaigns to improve open rates, click-through rates, and ultimately, increase your count of successful customers.

Below you’ll find a few ways to start optimizing your campaigns.

Create different versions of a campaign, tailored to different segments

  • Do you have customers across very different industries?
  • Do customers have multiple use cases for your product?
  • Can different types of users interact with your product (e.g., an account owner vs. an account team member vs. an account guest)?

If any of the above are true for you, consider swapping out one of your general campaigns for a series of separate campaigns, each tailored to a particular customer segment, use case, or user type. This will allow you to make each version of the campaign much more relevant, specific, and useful to the user reading it — ultimately increasing the likelihood that they’ll take action.

Survey your customers to better understand their needs

Writing emails that resonate with your users requires a deep understanding of how they think and feel, and the words they use to describe their situation. Once you can mirror a user’s language, you can write an effective email.

To do this, consider sending a short survey to your customers to learn…

  • What was going on in their world that led them to your product
  • The pain they expected your product to eliminate for them
  • The happy surprises they’ve found while using your product
  • The words that keep occurring naturally

Once you’ve gathered some survey data, you’ll find tons of ways you could tweak and improve your campaigns: new subject lines, new body copy, new CTAs, and potentially even new delivery timing.

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