Convert & Retain More SaaS Users With Emails Based on In-App Behavior


If you’re marketing a SaaS app, you’re after that elusive solution for converting visitors and trial sign-ups into paying subscribers.

It would also be nice to have it be a repeatable, automated process, too, right?

That solution is now in view: marketing automation software that sends personal, educational emails, in a simplified process that’s highly effective.

Don’t believe me?

That’s okay; being a skeptic is not a bad thing.

Besides, there are “sexier” things like going viral, being featured on ProductHunt, Techcrunch, being tweeted by the “right” influencer, and so on.

But, is that really your marketing strategy? Hoping, wishing, pining for some feature – and competing against every other SaaS under the sun?

My friend, there’s a better, more results-driven, repeatable, approach to marketing that can do wonders.

I can see that you’re still skeptical – so let’s take a brief stroll through some numbers, yes?

“Marketing automation high performers have an average lead-to-sale conversion rating of 1.6x the average rate of all others. These high performers rate cost of customer acquisition (COCA) 1.4x stronger – PR20/20 “Marketingscore report” (2014)”

Companies that have adopted marketing automation perform well compared to companies that haven’t:

  • 45% regularly repurpose content for efficiency, compared with 28% of companies without marketing automation
  • 54% capture intelligence for the sales team, compared to 25% without marketing automation
  • 49% customize content to the Buyer Journey stages, compared to 21% without marketing automation
  • 59% can use intelligent targeting to trigger content, compared to 17% without marketing automation

The Lenskold Group, “2013 Lead-Generation Marketing Effectiveness Study” (2013)

“Companies using marketing automation see 53% higher conversion rates from initial response-to-MQL and a revenue growth rate that is 3.1% higher than non-users. – Aberdeen Group “Marketing Lead Management Report” (2012)”

“63% of companies that are outgrowing their competitors use marketing automation. – The Lenskold Group “2013 Lead Generation Marketing Effectiveness Study” (2013)”

“78% of successful marketers say marketing automation systems are most responsible for improving revenue contribution. – The Lenskold Group 2013 Lead-Generation Marketing Effectiveness Study, (2013)”

Marketers that have adopted MA say the main benefits of Marketing Automation are:

  • Taking repetitive tasks out of marketers hands, allowing focus on new/more exciting projects (36%)
  • Better targeting of customers and prospects (30%)
  • Improving the customer experience (10%)
  • Better email Marketing (9%)
  • Reduction of human error in campaigns (8%),
  • Lead Management(4%) and Multichannel marketing (3%)

Redeye and TFM&A Insights “The Marketing Automation Report 2014” (2014)

It’s hard to argue with those numbers and results.

So, what goes into having Marketing Automation help your SaaS reach success and increase MRR?

“Dear Art, Meet Science – Science, This Is Art”

The goal is to combine selling and programming to deliver information that informs and educates your potential buyers.

When you offer data that helps people make decisions, or a free trial to your SaaS app, or provide a crash course in the nuts and bolts of your software – you are making a friend.

Marketing automation helps you deliver useful content that dovetails with the concerns of specific customers; the right message at the right time. However, you still need to come up with the kind of info, visuals and wording that appeals to your potential buyers.

That’s the art of sales.

The science comes from marketing automation software that analyzes your customer responses, effectively checking out their “virtual body language”.

This software tells you when a consumer is ready for the sales process, and also if they still need some nurturing.

It can help you tailor content to a person’s role in their organization: executive, marketing or personnel. It can even determine when to send your message – and timing is everything.

As always with selling, the key is to develop a personalized message and relationship with your customer. Marketing automation software allows you to do that with hundreds or even thousands of potential buyers.

Make Selling More Effective – And Personal

Marketing automation software is an obvious time-saver for any organization, big or small.

Instead of watching your analytics and metrics all day, along with in-app activities, and then sending off a one-time email to see if “there’s anything I can help you with”, what if you could set a bunch of predetermined rules and triggers that would automatically handle your communications?

What do I mean by that?

I’m willing to bet cold hard cash that as a SaaS owner/seller/purveyor, you’re familiar with the term “Lifecycle Marketing”.

This the marketing that happens to free trial users, or paying users, in order to partly help them out with the app itself, but also functions to aid in selling and up-selling your product.

Normally, this would be the all-important “Welcome” email, sprinkled with some other emails that are sent out at a predetermined interval, aiming to guide and encourage your users to keep using your app.

Engagement, they say, is key to profit.

But what about sending smarter emails – the kind of emails that are simple, relevant, focused on a small action or conversion, and contextual?

That is, sending emails based on actions that users take inside your app.

Sending Emails That Matter – And Convert

No one wants to be creepy about these things, so it’s not that you have to create an email for any action or usage of your app.

You don’t need a lot of action to see results, just the right kind of emails, at the right time.

Or, as one smart marketer likes to say: “Little hinges swing big doors”.

So, at a minimum, you should have triggered emails going out based on important user actions.

What, exactly, makes something important depends on your app, but consider things like:

  • Looking at the paid plans and subscriptions page more than once within a few days.
  • Looking up specific FAQ or knowledge base topics.
  • Using particular features of your app, but neglecting others.
  • NOT using your app enough; engagement going down.

Keep in mind here, you want to send messages at key moments in the “lifecycle”.

The goal is to be as helpful as possible, and not a nagging bug that you want to swat away.

Think road signs, not billboards.

Being able to accomplish all of this, though, requires that you’re collecting data.

Is your current email marketing platform letting you gather the required data points and act on them?

Tracking, Tagging, And Segmenting User Behavior

The name of the game is data.

Your marketing automation execution will only be as strong as your data and metrics are.

The process of collecting data points you can use is:

  • Tracking in-app key actions, events, and user behavior.
  • Tagging users with appropriate tags.
  • Segmenting your user base according to tags and criteria.

You’ll essentially end up with different “lists” of users, whom you should also divide your list with filters and tags. For example, create a sub-list of everyone who recently completed your crash course, a sub-list of people who signed up from a particular traffic source, display similar behavior and actions, and so on.

Tagging is critical in order to both gather meaningful data but also triggering the right emails.

This also allows you to optimize your human resources by focusing the efforts of those with marketing skills, instead of whoever is available during crunch time during a campaign.

Marketing automation tools also allow greater scheduling consistency, which is important to maintain users’ attention.

In addition, it allows you to effortlessly set up campaigns on multiple channels, giving customers multiple ways to interact with you – something impossible to do manually if your list is even moderately large. And, generating reports with detailed data to help you keep track of every post on every channel, with easy-to-understand graphs, statistics on the real-time effect your current campaign is having, is a must-have.

Turning On The Selling Autopilot

Marketing automation has revolutionized the process of finding the right potential customers and converting them to paying subscribers.

Good marketing software helps qualify users and leads for your sales team, and then identify and track qualified prospects, streamlining your sales team’s efforts.

With marketing automation you can use a lead scoring system to prioritize which prospects to concentrate on with your email efforts. Based on prospects’ demographics and specific actions they take, you can automatically assign points to certain behaviors. You can then track and keep score of a prospect as they progress through the sales funnel.

When they reach a certain score, you’re notified that the time is right to contact them about your paid plans.

You already know from their behavior they’re extremely likely prospects, and you can ignore those who are only marginally interested and focus your attention on people looking for a solution you can provide.

The purchasing cycle doesn’t end when prospects become paying subscribers: after you get a subscriber, you can sell add-on products and up-sell. This is how smart companies grow their business – and what you should be doing, too.

A Quick Primer On Additional Sales Automation

Aside from users in-app actions, behavior, and events, you should make sure you have the fundamentals in place:

You will convert more customers to subscribers after they take a free trial if they’re already convinced you’re an expert in your field.

Sales are driven by trust, loyalty and the overall utility of your product or service.

Your free trial might last anywhere from five to 28 days, and it’s that much more valuable to a potential subscriber when combined with a short course on the nuts and bolts.

During the trial period, send emails that describe the benefits of signing up as a subscriber and that deal with common concerns and questions. Send tips and techniques to help them get the most out of the trial period.

Toward the end, automatically send looming expiration emails, welcome messages and congratulations, all of which helps nurture the relationship.

With automation you can deliver focused emails that convince prospects you know what you are talking about, are interested in their success as much as your own, and will be there for the long haul.

You can schedule emails to arrive at specific, critical points in the crash course, and in the free trial period, making them extremely targeted and effective.

By the time the trial ends, your potential customers have received useful information to make the most of what you and your SaaS offers.

It has been personalized to resonate with the particular needs of each customer. The process has built loyalty and trust, which leads directly to sign ups.

As you know, content is key: the automation process is useless without interesting, useful, informative copy. So you need to strike a balance with your emails.

You want to keep prospects interested, but you don’t want to reveal everything you have to offer all at once. You need to drip feed during the course of your campaign.

Also, your users need ongoing nurturing – keep them updated about new products and upsell them.

This might sound like it’s getting complicated, but it’s actually a description of the purchasing cycle.

As stated earlier, this is an art as well as a science, which requires intuitive appreciation as well as training and expertise.

They Actually Want To Hear From You

You need to send out multiple emails to be effective, but you need to be careful to not be perceived as spamming or boring your users.

Again, it is an art and a science in figuring out the ideal number of emails.

With experience you’ll figure out the quantity that works best for your customer base. During the first week, you might want to send three or four after signup. For the rest of the free trial perhaps one or two a week.

Then when nearing the trial expiration, go back to three or four, and send feedback emails in subsequent weeks.

If you’re gathering data points about your users along teh way, you’ll automatically get to know more and more about each contact as they progress through your app and free trial, creating an increasingly accurate customer profile throughout the process.

Let Marketing Automation Do The Heavy Lifting

With the right marketing automation platform, you can not just increase conversions of free trial to paying user, or up-selling other plans, but it should also help you increase engagement of your app.

Automation lets you monitor the actions of your customer base and further refine your technique.

The more data you have about your audience’s online habits, the better chance you have of delivering relevant content that will convince them to either stay or sign up as new subscribers.

Tracking, tagging, and segmenting will help you with sending triggered emails, based in in-app events and behavior.

You don’t need a lot of emails to see results, just the right kind of emails, at the right time.