Great onboarding emails don’t need to have impressive design. They should provide a clear path for new users to follow to get as much value from your product and as quickly as possible. While creating Palabra’s onboarding, we went through our favorite plain text emails. Here’s what we learned.
Plain text is the way to go 🚀
Writing HTML emails takes a lot of time, even with image based builders. As an early stage company, we simply didn’t have enough time to design and mark our emails.
We also have a lot of reasons to go with plain text instead of image-based. It helps deliverability, accesibility and looks much more real and important than ad-looking emails.
That’s why we decided to go with plain text emails all the way. We explored different email sequences that used plain text (or simple styling) to understand what they did best. And where better to start than our very own inbox?
We noticed a few of the onboarding email sequences we got were really helpful for us as users. They kept simple a simple design and used mostly text to share their best features.
And we found some awesome examples of onboarding sequences that use little to no HTML styling:
- Notion’s awesome and personal onboarding (simple styling).
- Superhuman’s daily bits of information on its greatest features (only text and images).
- Zest.is drips using only plain text and images or gifs (our personal favorite).
Here’s what we discovered.
Welcome emails are more than a confirmation
Every SaaS company must start their onboarding sequences with a welcome message that is sent when a user joins the platform. This is a must by now, since everyone who signs up will expect some sort of confirmation of their transaction.
I mean, it is essentially a welcome message, but it can be so much more.
For example, SuperHuman sends you a warm welcome message that immediately teaches you how to use their Command.
Another excellent example of welcome email is from Zest:
We love these simple but catchy lines. They nail the exact effect that plain text should achieve: make you feel among friends.
Both Superhuman and Zest suggest a next step you should follow after receiving that first email. This gives a clear path for people to follow if they want to get value from their products. And that’s the best thing you can do with a welcome message.
A name and a face
This is a great tip to increase engagement. I always feel awkward when I don’t know who is writing on the other side. Is it the CEO? Someone from Sales? Is it a super intelligent baby? Who knows.
We can see this information clearly in Notion’s emails. Ivan is not only a name, he is Notion’s Co-founder. It’s flattering to receive a direct message from a co-founder, it also gives the impression of commitment from the very roots of the company.
At Palabra we do the very same thing. Our emails are sent by Paula or Karen, who are the founders (and the heart) of this project.
A photo is not a requirement in itself, yet, the clearer the image we have of the person who sends and receives the emails, the more engagement we can generate.
Even if you have hundreds of people working in your business, you can create an identity to address your users.
Emojis in the subject (use with caution)
This point is more to talk about email subjects, a very important topic that sometimes is forgotten.
If every email is a gift to your users, the subject is the wrapping paper. You want it to be shining, flashy, stunning so the reader has no other option than to open the email.
Definitely, most of the plain text onboarding sequences than we observed have emojis (at some stage) in their subjects.
Remember: emojis are important, but they have to reinforce the idea of the text in the subject. Otherwise you’re gonna look cu-cu or, even worse, desperate.
Zest win the contest of better subjects seding thing like:
- you here -> 💗
- make yourself at home 🍋
You can also include them in the body of the email to generate a greater visual impact and a neatear appearance.
Email ’til you make it
Yes, we received tons of emails per week. In fact, Superhuman mentioned it in their onboarding email sequence.
(this is simply genius)
But preciscely for that reason you have to be present. The first days are critical to impress your users.
Zest has the strategy of sending an email the first day a user joins. And then three more during the second day, another 4 days after and another one 10 days after.
Imagine someone you’re dating sends you 4 emails in 10 days (well, in that case, you’re probably Meg Ryan, so maybe it’s not so bad).
This could sound excessive, but it can take a while until people understand your value. Just make sure the value you’re providing is clear, and that each email you send has a reason to be in people’s inbox.
Thank yous matter
Far from recommending you stalk your users, we want to encourage you to use emails as a tool for a meaningful exchange of information. You can learn one thing or two about your own service or product.
The Superhuman sequence puts feedback as a priority, using sentences like:
“We love hearing your feedback: please reply to this email and say hello :)”
“We love hearing from you! Please reply and let us know what you think 😃”
In the email sequence that we mentioned from Zest, at the 10 day after the user joins, they ask for the thoughts and feelings about the platform and for the likes and dislikes.
A “thank you” at the end of every email leaves a good impression. Of course. It’s also a good idea to make a special thanking email. When a business is growing, every user is something to thank, so let them know that in your own words (or emojis!).
If you read this far, ping us at Twitter and tell us who sent you your favorite onboarding emails.
Plain text sounds boring? Well, let me tell you that plain text is more important than you can imagine. At Palabra we love plain text to send every email, specially our onboarding sequences. And in this article we’ll share why we think you should start using it too.
Isn’t plain text for grannies?👵🏼
Plain text has been around since the beginnings of the Internet. So it is understandable that some people think it is obsolete. Maybe there was a time where HTML emails were on a boom, but plain text today is more functional than ever.
Before we continue we’d like all of us to be in the same page about what plain text is:
The term Plain text, when we talk about an email, refers to the composition that consists of the copy within the style. Which means that it does not include complex formatting or styled fonts. Although it can have images and links.
Even if plain text could sound boring at first compared with HTML emails, you will discover that their use can bring many benefits in general, and especially for onboarding sequences.
Use plain text for onboarding sequences 🏆
When you have a service or a product that depends, on a large portion, of having a constant flow of users, you might want to apply an onboarding sequence in order to avoid the churn rate and to connect with your community.
If you’re still in the early stage of your strategy, we recommend to read our article about 5 questions to ask yourself before creating an onboarding email sequence, it will guide you in the process.
Over the years, new technologies have risen in the field of user experience. We now have many tools to call the attention of customers. This means people are getting a bunch of emails that now look like ads delivered right to your inbox.
Onboarding should look nothing like ads. That’s when you start a close relationship with early users, you educate them about how to use your product better, and open communication channels.
5 reasons why plain text is always a good idea
📩 It ensures deliverability
The number one thing that you need to do to engage with someone is to get their attention. And for that, you need to get them to open your emails.
As we said before, HTML emails have images, links, GIFs, all sorts of things that attract the attention of email filters. So they’re more susceptible to being redirected to the spam folder if they have broken links or suspicious behaviours.
Since plain text emails don’t contain much more information than text, it’s much more likely that they will not alert spam filters.
Also, plain text emails seem more “real” to your email filters. And that’s also handy for your readers!
📜 It feels more personal
Once your customers open your emails, you don’t want them to say “ugh, another stupid corporative email. DELETE”. That’s probably the worst case scenario.
Plain text has been proved to have higher click-through rates. Not just because they can pass spam filters, but also because they feel more personal. They look like something a real person sends, to offer information instead of driving sales.
Then, when you receive a plain text email, it is more associated with a regular person, someone who just wants to talk and know about you as an individual (and not as a target). Your users can perceive you more relatable, human and trust-worthy ✨.
🗣️ Starts 1-1 conversations
As you can see, there’s a progression. And with plain text you help your emails to be delivered and opened. Do you know what is even better? If your users answer the email!
We like plain text precisely because of this. Through this kind of emails, we’ve received feedback from our users that was very valuable for us to grow as a company and as a team. They respond because there’s a real email address from a real person to answer to.
We send onboarding emails that appeal to conversation. Having a dialog is the fuel to power the relationship with the users. We try to build a space where the user can feel part of the process and can say something to improve the use of a tool that is so necessary in his life.
👩🏼🦽 Is more accessible
Now we want to highlight something that usually goes unnoticed. Plain text is readable for accessibility systems. This kind of emails has an ethical benefit, because they’re reachable for people with different needs.
When you send an HTML email, you’re making it more difficult for a blind person, for example, to understand your message.
At this point, it is good to ask ourselves if our emails can be accessed by a blind person using a screen reader.
🔮 Adapts to new technology
From the previous point it follows the fact that plain text is more readable. I personally was surprised to discover that you can read your emails in smartwatches and smart assisters,or that you can obtain a more comprehensible preview of the content.
I know, it is super obvious when you think about it. But we do not always have in mind that there are other kinds of displays where people read their emails or notifications. And that we have to be ahead of the new possibilities, because we don’t know what type of devices will be developed in the future.
In this case, keeping it simple will ensure you that people can read your messages.
So, now you know, don’t be shy and start sending those emails and talking to your users. You may be pleasantly surprised with what you discover.