Most marketers worth their salt spend a long time honing and crafting an ideal customer retention strategy. If they didn’t, their churn rate would skyrocket.
As effective as your customer retention strategy is, though, it’s nothing without a successful onboarding campaign to go with it.
Proper onboarding isn't done to prevent churn; it's done to ensure the customer achieves their Desired Outcome. Retention comes from that.
— Lincoln Murphy (@lincolnmurphy) April 21, 2016
Consider this: between 40%-60% of potential customers who open a particular app will never log in again.
The right onboarding experience helps customers move effortlessly between the moment they sign up for a product and the moment they achieve success with said product. This is the power of customer onboarding, and a lack of regard for it will hinder your growth significantly.
So, if you want your customers to make a second, third or even fourth purchase, you need to take them by the hand and guide them to where you want them to go.
Benefits of Onboarding
- Highlights the value of your product or service
- Increases consumer trust in your brand
- Helps you understand your customer’s needs and adapt those for the future
- Higher customer retention, creating lifelong relationships
The best way is to implement a lifecycle email strategy. The “lifecycle” refers to the various milestones dotting the customer purchase path. Lifecycle emails are typically automated to assist customers at these milestones and help them get the most value from your business.
Remember, the key with onboarding isn’t to reduce churn (although that is the end result of a successful strategy) but to ensure customers achieve their desired chosen outcome.
In this article, I’m going to show you eight lifecycle emails you can use to successfully onboard your new customers.
Let’s get started.
The welcome email is usually the next point of contact a customer will have after they’ve made a purchase.
First impressions count, and you only get one chance to make a good one. So make sure you craft a welcome email that provides value. Doing so will start that customer moving effortlessly down the sales funnel.
The role of the welcome email is to primarily thank your customers and outline expectations for what’s to come. You can use this as an opportunity to break down the use of your product or service into manageable chunks, so they can focus on one area at a time.
Like this email from Sprout Social:
Not only do they thank their customers, they provide tips on how to get started right away, whilst still keeping the email brief. They also outline a number of different contact points for customers.
This is the power inherent in educating those who interact with your business rather than overwhelming them with information.
Think back to when you were at school. How great was it to have another sticker on your reward chart? The milestone email operates on the same principal.
It’s a valuable email because it gives you an opportunity to recognize the action the customer has taken and encourage them to do more.
The goal here is to reiterate the value they get from you and recognize their accomplishment.
This email from Refined lets a customer know they have reached a milestone (when they have a new subscriber) and what it means for them.
When we think about upselling, our first thoughts go to fast-food restaurants, right? Do you want to go bucket-sized on that soda? Maybe extra ginormous fries? How about adding dessert to the meal?
The idea of an upsell is to offer a customer a more—more upgrades, more costly items, more add-ons, etc. The whole point is to increase profits during a sale.
Now, to make this work for our purposes, your customers should have already been using your product before you send an upsell email.
Like this example from Spotify:
The immense amount of data they have about their users means they can disseminate mass targeted upsell emails based on user preferences.
If this particular user had never listened to LCD Soundsystem, for example, the above upsell email wouldn’t work.
But because Spotify segmented their customer base they have the ability to fine-tune their email offers to suit their customer’s specific needs– in turn increasing brand trust. .
One thing to keep in mind when thinking about your customers is they’re lazy. Well, to put it more diplomatically, there is a direct correlation between how much effort a customer has to spend and their unhappiness level.
Most customers will not spend extensive time browsing through your website to find the perfect product. Often you need to do the browsing for them.
One way to do this is through curation emails. Curation emails compile a selection of product and/or content options specifically geared to your customers’ established interests.
Here’s an example from Kid & Coe, who put together an email outlining the best five-star getaways in America:
They’ve done the legwork, so now all the customer has to do is read through and click on whatever catches their fancy.
Or how about this email from Hem, who have put together a selection of furniture they think a customer might be interested in:
These emails are effective when you send them out after a lengthy time has elapsed since your last customer interaction.
It allows you to show off your best and most relevant products to them—or to simply remind the customer that you still exist.
By guiding the customer in this manner, and offering straightforward calls to action, you can greatly increase your revenue while moving the customer effortlessly along the lifecycle.
Nothing can supercharge a business’ customer base faster than positive word of mouth.
Because in the age of TripAdvisor, Yelp, Amazon product reviews and YouTube,, consumers trust other consumers more than anyone else.
To this end you should be asking for referrals in your email campaigns. If you focus on providing value to your customers through the product or service you offer, you’ll begin to see these referrals increase organically as you create a stable foundation that will support your business for years to come.
It also helps to offer something in return.
Setapp does this really well. They offer one free month for every customer who signs up for a Setapp account using the customer’s link:
If a customer loves using Setapp and has friends or colleagues who might also benefit from using it, then they have every reason to send their link out to people in their network.
DigitalOcean follows a similar approach. When users get their friends to sign up, their friends get $10 free credit and the referring customer gets $25 for each new client:
What’s more, when your customers send out referrals in their networks, they effectively become brand advocates.
Transactional emails are any that relate to a customer transaction. Getting these right will go a long way to increasing customer trust.
Chewy sends an email to their customers once they’ve started their first auto-ship:
They set expectations and let them know they should receive a further email with the order number.
This educates the customer and prevents them questioning or wondering what the next steps are.
Chewy also sends an email once the customer’s order is on the way. It contains all relevant data such as an order summary and a message that order tracking takes 24 hours:
The penultimate email in the lifecycle email campaign is the reengagement email. This is where a customer has previously engaged with your business but for some reason has stopped.
Maybe they were browsing and got distracted, or maybe they abandoned their digital shopping cart because they weren’t sure whether they wanted the item or not.
A reengagement email is useful to gently nudge the customer to take further action.
J Crew takes a similar approach with their re-engagement emails, but highlight the fact the items are now on sale:
They add a sense of urgency to the purchase, meaning customers who were on the fence more likely to take action. The email is simple, straightforward, and with a clearly visible call to action.
What you don’t want to do is distract your customers with re-engagement emails featuring a lot of visual noise. The call to action should be front and center, prompting them to make a purchase immediately.
Thank You Email
Thank you emails aren’t limited to simply thanking customers for a purchase.
You can thank them for being a long-term customer and provide them with some sort of discount or reward, or you can simply thank them for being taking part in the journey.
If you want your customers to become repeat evangelists, appreciation is key.
Fitbit sends a thank you email to their customers who have used their products for 10 years:
They recognize that these loyal users have goals they want to achieve themselves, and Fitbit framing the email as a milestone plays right into that mindset.
The email then becomes relatable to the user.
They also highlight the achievements of the company. By doing this, users feel proud to be part of their journey.
EiQ, on the other hand, thanks their customers for attending events. To prevent disengagement after this single meet-up, they provide links for customers to access resources regarding anything they might’ve missed:
There’s no blueprint for the perfect lifecycle email, but there are best practices you should follow:
- Focus on the value
- Don’t just list the features, talk about the benefits
- Take your customers by the hand and guide them along the journey
- Set and meet your customer’s expectations. Don’t make promises you won’t be able to keep.
It all harkens back to one central fundamental rule of commerce: customers will only stay customers for as long as you are providing them with value.