Freemium Onboarding: How to Convert Free Users into Paying Customers


Freemium onboarding forms a critical stage in users’ path to becoming paying customers. The email sequences you use to onboard freemium users can directly determine whether they upgrade to premium buyers or they become inactive users. In this blog, we’ll cover what freemium onboarding email sequences are before we take a closer look at what types of emails go into successful onboarding campaigns. We’ll also consider the importance of strategic timing for onboarding emails and the role that technology plays in optimizing email delivery schedules.

What Is a Freemium Onboarding Email Sequence?

A freemium onboarding email sequence is a series of emails sent automatically to new freemium users to provide an orientation to your SaaS product and your brand. Sending this email sequence serves several important functions:

  • It welcomes new freemium users, expressing your gratitude for their decision to use your product and laying the foundation for a relationship with your brand
  • It lets users know that you want to help them derive value from your product
  • It provides information about how to complete basic, essential tasks necessary to begin using your product, such as choosing passwords and setting up profiles
  • It introduces new users to key product features
  • It introduces new users to your support process so they know where to go if they have questions or problems
  • Creates a routine of using the product whether this be once per seven days, 15 days or even 21 days

These functions help ensure that freemium users begin actively using your product and deriving value from it. This reduces the risk of their activity dropping off because they didn’t understand how to use your product. It enables them to experience the value of your product, laying a foundation for a decision to upgrade to your premium product.

This makes a well-designed onboarding email sequence critical for an effective freemium marketing strategy. A strategically planed email sequence can guide your freemium users smoothly through the onboarding process to a point where they will have a natural desire to unlock more value from your product by upgrading. A poorly executed email sequence can undermine your freemium marketing strategy, failing to bring upgrades to fruition.

Different Types of Freemium Onboarding Sequence Emails

So what should be included in a freemium onboarding sequence? There are several different types of emails you may incorporate into your sequence. Some types may be sent to all new freemium users. Others may be sent only to users who meet specific criteria, such as low usage levels indicating failure to complete basic onboarding tasks. Here’s a rundown of some of the most common onboarding emails and their uses.

Welcome Email

A welcome email lays the foundation for the rest of your email onboarding sequence. It welcomes customers to your product and brand, thanks them for their purchase and provides basic information on next steps they should take to begin using your product. For example, it may provide a link to a portal where they can go to set up a password or log in and start setting up a profile. Alternately, it may alert them to be on the lookout for follow-up emails with how-to information.

Welcome emails normally are sent to all new freemium customers.

Quickstart Tutorial

This type of email provides the user with an embedded file or link where they can access a quickstart tutorial in a format such as a video, a PDF file or a page with online instructions. This provides information that is essential for freemium users to begin actively using your product and deriving value from it, making this type of email vital for an effective onboarding sequence.

Quickstart tutorials may be sent as separate emails or integrated with welcome emails. They normally are sent to all new freemium customers.

Information on Features the Customer Has Started Using

This type of email is triggered in response to monitoring of a freemium customer’s in-app behavior or patterns. When a customer begins using a product feature, the email is sent with tips on how to make best use of the feature, a link to a tutorial or similar information.

Reminder Email

This type of email may be triggered in response to low usage. For example, if a customer is taking a long time to complete their profile, they may be sent a reminder with tips on how to complete their profile.

Spotlight on Premium Features

This type of email highlights premium features that may be of interest to freemium customers. It may be sent in response to usage patterns that indicate the premium feature would be useful to the customer, or it may be sent to all customers after a set interval or after certain other criteria are met, such as after customers have begun using a specific feature.

Upgrade Invitation

This type of email extends a formal invitation to upgrade to your premium product. It may feature a discount offer or other special offer designed to serve as an incentive for upgrading now. It may be sent to users who meet certain criteria, such as users who exceed a certain threshold of usage, or to all users after a set interval or other benchmarks, such as being users for 30 days.

Using Strategic Timing for Freemium Onboarding Emails

As a number of the email types above illustrate, strategic timing can play a significant role in the successful deployment of email onboarding sequences. Monitoring usage patterns can detect when the right moment has arrived to trigger emails highlighting specific features, reminding users to perform certain actions, or extend an upgrade offer.

Exactly how to time your emails for optimal effect will vary by company and product. Create your own customized criteria for when to send specific emails in your sequence.

Follow Freemium Onboarding Best Practices to Promote More Premium Upgrades

Freemium onboarding email sequences are series of emails sent automatically to new freemium users to orient them to your product and brand. They serve a vital role in ensuring that freemium users begin unlocking your product’s value so they have an incentive to upgrade to your premium product.

Freemium email sequences may include welcome emails, quickstart tutorials, information on features the customer is using, reminders to complete onboarding actions, spotlights on premium features or upgrade invitations. Some emails such as welcome emails and quickstart tutorials should be sent to all users, while others may be triggered by specific usage patterns. Set up customized criteria which determine when you trigger emails in your own sequence.

Totango’s Convert Freemium SuccessBLOC provides all the tools you need to set up optimized email sequences for onboarding freemium customers. It includes automatically triggered workflows that you can segment based on how likely an account is to upgrade as indicated by usage patterns so that you can design different email sequences for different freemium customer segments. Try it free to experience how efficiently you can convert freemium customers to premium buyers.

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