You’re getting a lot of website visitors, and your visitor to trial conversion rate is north of 10%. Yet, it’s too early to pop that champagne bottle you’ve kept in your cupboard since your prom.

To your dismay, the majority of your trial visitors are not returning to your site!

To prevent user drop-off at this sensitive stage in your funnel, you must nail down your onboarding emails.

This guide is all about onboarding emails and helping you increase your trial to paid user conversion through emails.

As always, strategy beats growth hacks. Apart from a list of example onboarding sequences, you’ll get plenty of concepts and frameworks so that if you decide not to use a carbon copy of these email templates, you’ll still walk away feeling like you learned something about onboarding.

Who is this guide for?

This guide is for SaaS (Software as a Service) companies with a free trial or a freemium model that want to convert more users into paying customers.

People with products and services that want to nurture leads into customers are also going to find practical application.

So, without further ado, let’s get it on and convert some of those trials into paying customers!


The whole guide, along with plenty of examples, is long and comprehensive. I’m including the table of contents here, for you to see if it has what you’re interested in.

I’ll include a few examples here as well but for the full guide follow the link at the bottom.

  • Get Started With Onboarding Emails
    • 1. Do You Need to Focus on User Onboarding Now?
    • 2. What’s the Goal of Your Onboarding Email Campaign?
    • 3. What’s the Desired Outcome of Your Onboarding Emails?
  • Understand Where Onboarding Emails Fit in Your Customer Experience
  • Design Your Email Onboarding Campaign
  • Onboarding Flows
  • The Welcome Flow
    • Welcome Email
    • Product Tip Email
    • Case Study Email
    • Call to Action Email
  • The App Usage Flow
    • Motivate users
    • Highlight the progress your users have made
    • Provide Proactive Support
    • Push Unfinished Registrations to Complete Signup
  • Expiry Warning/Trial Extension Flow
    • Expiry Warning Email
    • Trial Extension Email
  • Sales-touch Flow/Customer Success Onboarding Flow
    • Personal Introduction Email
    • Demo Call Email
  • Post-Trial Flow
    • Post-Trial Survey Email
    • Post-Trial Discount Email
  • Further Reading
  • Onboarding Email Resources

Interesting excerpts

Longer trials don’t lead to more conversions

In other words, giving people more time to test your product would not make them more likely to convert. Based on a report on 600 SaaS companies.


There are a few conclusions that we can make drawing from these stats:

  1. Shorten your trial length – 7 to 14 days is the golden range. Trial length doesn’t alter conversions, but shorter trials create a momentum which leads to higher % of your trials converting faster.
  2. Send more emails at the beginning of your onboarding – Recency in your emails is crucial. To accelerate sales, and increase conversions, you have to be aggressive with your email marketing in the first days of the user lifecycle.
  3. Engage your users after the trial ends – Pursue post-trial sales and expand your email campaign beyond your trial period.
  4. Employ action-based emails – Time-based emails are useful but are not going to do much for that fraction of your trials that don’t convert within the trial period. Target users based on qualification and behavior and pursue them aggressively with trigger-based emails. For example, when a user logs in after a long absence, re-engage them using a trigger-based email.

Welcome email example

Goal: Train your users to open your emails and clarify what they expect in the trial period.

When to send: As soon as a user signs up.

 Your welcome email is going to be the email with the highest open rate in your onboarding campaign.  It’s realistic to expect 30-60% open rates.

Given the high engagement of that email, you might be tempted to include a lot of information and multiple aggressive CTAs in it. This is the wrong approach.

The purpose of the welcome email is to set the right expectations and introduce people to your software.  It also needs to have just one CTA . Welcome email

Subject line: Welcome to Encharge, Name!

Encharge welcome email

It’s currently getting a 46.3% open rate and a 6% click-through rate.

🔥 What’s good about this email:

  • Personalized subject line. (It’s also using liquid tags to avoid awkward blank spaces for leads with missing names)
  • Benefit-oriented overview of the product. Just because people have signed up for your product, don’t expect they understand or remember what it does. The welcome email is your opportunity to reaffirm your product’s value.
  • Sets the right expectations.
  • A simple CTA that gets users back in the product.

💩What can be improved:

As a new company, maybe Encharge should focus on collecting feedback in their very first email and ask people why they’ve signed up for Encharge.

Call to action email example

Goal: Get people to pull the trigger on your trial.

When to send: 1-3 days before the trial ends or on special occasions

Every email you ever send needs to have a call to action (CTA)! You should sprinkle in upgrade CTAs anywhere from the middle of your welcome flow until its end.

Yet, your onboarding is no time to be shy. A bit more aggressive ask for commitment is not going to hurt your conversion rates.

Headspace Call to Action Email

Subject line: 3 ways to make your summer better


DraggedImage-4Headspace CTA onboarding email

🔥 What’s good about this onboarding email:

  • Gorgeous graphics! Headspace has one of the most beautiful set of animated GIF illustrations in your inbox.
  • A distinct and clear call to action (this is the whole purpose of the email after all?)
  • Solid social proof – “Join the 50 million people”
  • A straightforward summary of what I’m getting with Headspace Plus

💩What can be improved:

From a user’s perspective, it would be beneficial to somehow see this is going to be an upgrade email. Also, a mention of their pricing would help make up the recipient’s mind if they wanted to click on the email.

Trial extension email example

Goal: Provide one last opportunity for people to test your product before they get locked out of their free trial

When to send: Send 24 – 72 hours before the trial expires

You can create a trailing segment of people that have been inactive in your app and offer a special extension for them.

Squarespace Trial Extension Email

Subject line: Your trial ends tomorrow

96f78af4-c1fe-4afc-bb3a-97c2fdb5a222Squarespace extension email

🔥 What’s good about this email:

  • A little touch of personalization – Squarespace has included the name of the website
  • Squarespace doesn’t assume the user knows what SquareSpace is just because he reached the end of the trial sequence. The second paragraph describes what Squarespace is while also describing some of its top features.
  • Without putting too much pressure on the user, Squarespace reassures that it’s totally OK to give the tool some more time.

💩What can be improved:

Squarespace could break the trial extension and trial ending emails into two separate emails, and send the extension email only to inactive users. With your trial ending email, you want to keep it simple and close the deal ASAP, not provide an excuse for the already active users to delay the purchase. The old sales axiom “Time kills deals” is also true in SaaS.


For the rest of examples and templates, see the full article 👇

The Unrivaled Guide to Onboarding Emails

 Fail the proper onboarding and you will fail converting your visitors. You should be constantly improving and testing the onboarding flow to make it as effective as possible. It’s one of the most effective tools at your disposal.