SaaS Email Onboarding Teardown – HaloITSM

Kalo Yankulov

Kalo Yankulov

Co-founder and marketer at Encharge.

We recently had our first Live Email Onboarding Workshop in which I reviewed the onboarding emails of one SaaS company. The marketing team at HaloITSM was kind enough to let us take a glimpse at their onboarding and join us on the workshop.

You can watch a full recording of the workshop below or read a fleshed out written version if you are like me and tend to absorb posts better than videos.

Also, while we’re on the topic: if you’re struggling with converting free users to paying customers, book a call with us today so that we can take a look at your email onboarding, too 🙂

HaloITSM Overview

HaloITSM is a fully-fledged ITSM (IT Service Management) software that allows you to easily manage incidents and assets, as well as track, plan, and execute organizational changes of any scale. Think of it as a customer support system, knowledge base, team management, and a whole lot for IT organizations.

When HaloITSM approached me to review their onboarding emails, the marketing team had already applied some of my onboarding tips and had a good foundation of in-app onboarding and time-based onboarding emails. I went and reviewed their current onboarding setup, and proposed how they could use triggered emails to convert more trials.

This teardown is broken down into three sections:

  1. Brief in-app onboarding review.
  2. Suggestions and improvements to their current onboarding emails.
  3. Behavior emails — how I would set up behavior-based emails for HaloITSM using Encharge.

Let’s dive into the first section.

HaloITSM In-app onboarding

What I liked about the HaloITSM on-site onboarding is that the signup process sends me right into the tool after I complete my details, that way reducing friction and increasing their initial adoption rate. A lot of SaaS companies tend to “block” their new trials by creating an email confirmation gate, which drastically reduces the number of users that actually get to log in into the app at all.

HaloITSM still sends a confirmation email but at a slightly later stage, and without making it a mandatory requirement to access the platform.

In the app, I’m greeted with a personalized welcome screen that I quite dig!

Screenshot 2020 05 05 at 1.03.19 PM

Once Initiated the in-app onboarding, I was taken to a clear visual “Initial Setup” modal. The checklist and progress bar make it super easy to see how far along with the setup I am, as well as making it a bit more exciting to fill in the otherwise boring details. I also like how they’ve made it easy to get in touch with their customer success team right from this window. Nice job, HaloITSM!

Screenshot 2020 05 05 at 1.06.45 PM
Screenshot 2020 05 05 at 1.07.44 PM

Next, there was an onboarding screen that uses the product UX to onboard customers. I quite dig this! The “Incidents” on this screen need to be completed in order to experience value within HaloITSM. That’s a great way to introduce users to the product while you’re onboarding them. A little bit like computer games that make you get used to the controllers while you play an in-game walkthrough.

I still feel like this step would benefit from some visual clues that instruct me on what I should do first, and reduce the distractions like the long navigational menu on the left. All in all, a pretty well executed in-app onboarding.

Screenshot 2020 05 05 at 1.17.56 PM

Current onboarding emails

Welcome email

Screenshot 2020 05 05 at 1.19.10 PM

When I build onboarding emails, I absolutely need to have the main goal of the onboarding in mind. Do you want to get people on a demo call, help them self-serve in your tool, and experience value on their own or something else? This will greatly shape your emails moving forward.

The goal of this email is not really obvious as the “Book a free session” is overpowering the self-serve CTA to “Experience the HaloITSM effect”. Yet, a couple of hours later, I received a manual email from one of the HaloITSM sales reps, which indicates that they have a separate high-touch sales-driven cadence that goes along the automated emails. This means it’s best to keep the automated emails focused on getting people to experience value on their own and remove (or at least greatly deemphasize) the sales CTAs. Don’t forget, you want to keep your emails simple and have no more than one CTA per email!

Screenshot 2020 05 05 at 1.29.48 PM

Another pet peeve I have with this welcome email is the vague CTA to “Experience the HaloITSM effect”. I’m sure new users have no clue what that effect is. It’s best to keep your CTAs concrete and clear like Resolve your first incident”. And it’s even better if you’re able to align that action with a benefit “Start saving 2 hours of manual admin work today”.

Benefits Email

Screenshot 2020 05 05 at 1.38.37 PM

The social proof at the top of this email is powerful. The list of benefits is solid, too. However, I can’t say the same for the lazy, vague CTA “Find out more”.

You want to avoid uncertainty in your onboarding emails, as this will just create more friction and increase the dropout rate of your onboarding. If you’re not sure what CTA to use, always go with a clear action like “Set up your knowledge base” or the benefit-route that shows how your product helps people — for instance,  “Help your customers help themselves” or Give customers instant answers”.

Case study email

Screenshot 2020 05 05 at 2.36.37 PM

This case study email has a clear call to action, quantified benefits, and a testimonial. What is there to want more in a case study email?

My only recommendation is to make the emails more human. Put human faces to testimonials, and send all of the emails from a personal email.

Trial expiration emails

Screenshot 2020 05 05 at 2.40.14 PM
Screenshot 2020 05 05 at 2.40.28 PM

If you’ve read any of my posts on trial expiration emails, you already know how important it is to stress what your trial users lose by not upgrading. The HaloITSM team could quantify the benefits of the tool by emphasizing how many incidents and tickets have been resolved, and roughly how much time their users are saving per ticket.

Another tip is to illustrate how life would look for users if they fail to upgrade: tons of manual work, spending hours on manual tasks, missing critical incidents, and so on. Contrast that with the easy, carefree life of upgrading to a robust incident-management platform like HaloITSM, and there you have, your trial expiration emails would sound less pushy, and more relevant.

Behavior-based onboarding emails

The emails that HaloITSM currently sends are not bad, but they are all time-based. We want to send action-based emails that align with the customer journey, in order to provide a personalized onboarding experience and lead people towards their personal success path in our tool.

In this section, I’m going through the step-by-step process that I would use to build effective, behavior-driven emails for HaloITSM. Let’s unpack the process!

Step 1: Define the critical value moments of HaloITSM

Based on my onboarding experience with the tool, I came up with the following value moments.

Core events

  1. Signed up
  2. Sent the first email.
  3. Invited a team member.
  4. Created a new ticket.

Additional events

  1. Logged into the self-service portal
  2. Downloaded app

Step 2: Create an event tracking plan

With the list of the events, I put together an event-tracking plan for the developers. The developers can now clearly see what events they need to integrate with Encharge.

These events will be used by the marketing team of HaloITSM to trigger behavior-based emails in the next step.

Screenshot 2020 05 05 at 3.09.29 PM

Step 3: Build the emails in Encharge

With the events integrated and ready for use, I created two flows in Encharge.

Tags flow

This is a simple flow that tags users when they complete an event in the HaloITSM app. For instance, when a user creates a new ticket, this flow will add the “created-new-ticket” tag to their profile.

Tags essentially tell us what activities have users done in our app. We need tags to create sophisticated flows with filters.

Screenshot 2020 05 05 at 3.16.20 PM

Behavior-based flow

This is the bread and butter of our behavior-based marketing automation. There’s quite a lot going on here, so let’s unpack the flow.

Screenshot 2020 05 05 at 3.20.57 PM

There are a few different types of behavior emails that I’m triggering in this flow:

  • Reward email.
  • Nudge email.
  • Trial extension email for passive trial users.
  • Trial expiration/upgrade email for activated trial users.

The goal of the reward email is to get your users hooked on your product. The reward emails are little dopamine spikes you send in your users’ inbox every time they complete an activity in your app. They are also a great instrument to get people back to the app and guide them towards a critical action that they haven’t completed. Yet.

Screenshot 2020 05 05 at 3.27.56 PM

In the example below, I decided to send a reward email whenever a user submits their first ticket.

The next important behavior-driven email in this flow is the nudge email, also known as push email (not to be confused with push notification) or re-engagement email.

We track when a user signs up for the tool, wait for 3 hours, and check if they’ve created their first ticket. If they haven’t created a ticket, yet we send the nudge email.

Screenshot 2020 05 05 at 3.30.19 PM

The goal of the nudge email is to reactivate the user while getting him back on his success path. Users get distracted easily, especially in complex tools like HaloITSM. I wanted to make it super clear what they need to do in the app, but also show WHY they need to do it — i.e., what’s in for them, why they should submit their first ticket.

Screenshot 2020 05 05 at 3.36.03 PM

Last but not least, we have the trial expiration and trial extension emails. The biggest mistake SaaS companies make with trial expiration emails is that they send the same pushy upgrade email to all of their trials. This approach rarely works with inactivated users.

Encharge allows you to take a smarter approach here:

Screenshot 2020 05 05 at 3.36.35 PM

This is what happens in this flow:

  1. A user signs up.
  2. We wait for 23 days (the HaloITSM trial is 30 days).
  3. We check if the user has completed the critical value moments using filter steps and tags (remember the tag flow).
  4. If the user hasn’t completed the 3 critical value moments in the onboarding process, i.e., doesn’t have the tags — we send him a trial extension email.
  5. If the user has completed all of the 3 value moments — we send him the trial expiration/upgrade email.

This approach allows us to start a conversation with our passive trial users and give that necessary push to our active users to upgrade.

Trial extension email for HaloITSM:

Screenshot 2020 05 05 at 3.44.57 PM

And the trial expiration upgrade email:

Screenshot 2020 05 05 at 3.46.16 PM

Want to get your trial emails reviewed?

That’s all, folks… For now. We covered a lot of ground in this hands-on workshop, so you probably have questions. Reach out to us to answer your questions, help you fix your onboarding emails, and increase your trial conversion rates.

I’m looking forward to chatting with you!

More resources on onboarding

Ready to convert 24% more users to customers?

15-min review of your onboarding emails