How to Create Email Nurture Campaigns for Your Startup

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If you’re like any founder or marketer with a growth-based mindset, then you want to maximize your results when you get leads. Who wouldn’t? And that’s because numbers matter for a startup, but it’s having the right kind of numbers. One of the best ways to do this is through email campaigns, or sequences. But it goes deeper than that and you also need the right types of email campaigns. So in this post, we’re going to show you how you can create email nurture campaigns that convert.

If you don’t know what they are, you’ll learn what these campaigns are and why it matters, as well.

Did you know that having large numbers of registered users who actively use your software’s free trial can sometimes be less important than amazing conversion rates with fewer overall users?

It may be counter-intuitive to some, but it’s true! ‍♂️

One shows that you’ve managed to acquire users, but the other shows that you are able to actively convert users into paying members.

And if there’s one thing investors are looking for, its traction.

Therefore, it’s important that an investor is able to see a startup’s potential impact.

If investors help increase your brand’s footprint by funding you, then will you be able to actively convert prospects into new customers? 

Converting leads into customers are what matters the most to a startup, whether there’s an investor involved or not.

So before you jump headfirst into growing your “registered” users numbers, let’s talk FREE TRIALS and EMAIL.

The Importance of Converting Leads in Your Email Nurture Campaigns

Everyone knows that free trials are the key to SaaS success because it’s a great way to introduce your product to new people.

However, most pre-seed or seed stage SaaS startups focus too much on customer acquisition and too little on optimization.

But it’s a simple equation.

Prospect -> Free Trial User -> Paid Member

Put yourself in the shoes of the investor.

Let’s say you have two businesses.

Business (1) has shown the following results:

100,000 Prospects -> 10,000 Free Trial Users -> 1,000 Paid Members

Business (2) on the other hand, has less paid members.

10,000 Prospects -> 2,000 Free Trial Users -> 500 Paid Members

Considering everything else is equal, in which two businesses would you invest?

Any sane investor would put their money in the second startup.


It’s all about the conversions!

The first business converts 1% of their prospects into paid members.

The second? It has a whopping 5% conversion.

That means an email campaign reaching 1,000,000 leads will have VASTLY different results, even though on the surface, Business 1 might seem like a better investment due to the number of active paid customers.

Now, let’s talk about how you can skew the numbers in your favor to get higher conversions of leads into customers.

Creating Automated Email Nurture Campaigns

Investors are usually far more interested in the second stage of your lead conversion funnel.

They want to know that once you have leads and/or free trial members, you’ll be able to convert them into paid customers.

And how do you achieve it?

That’s right! Email nurture campaigns! 

Paid advertising and re-targeting can usually help you achieve amazing numbers of free trial users.

However, if you are running a SaaS you’ve probably been highly disappointed in your conversion to paid users from paid ads and may experience a high monthly or annual churn rate.

If this is the case, you really have to do email nurture campaigns.

The Two Types of Automated Email Campaigns (also called workflows or sequences):

  1. Drip campaigns. These are timed automated emails that are sent one after another, with each being sent 24 to 48 hours after the previous email. But sometimes the following email is sent sooner. Aside from that, there are no other conditions that prompt the next email to be sent.
  2. Email nurture campaigns. These are campaigns that operate on conditions, such as whether the previous email was opened, whether they clicked on a link in the previous email, how often they log in, or whether they took a specific action in your app. These campaigns are also called behavioral campaigns because they change based on a user’s current activity level.

Compared to drip campaigns, nurture campaigns help you boost your startup’s conversion rates far better.

However, they’re more time-intensive to implement and often require a more expensive plan from your email service provider. In addition, they require your developer to add event tracking code for each behavior into your app so it can be accessed through your email provider via an API.

Because we want to show you the most effective email marketing strategy, this post focuses on automated email nurture campaigns rather than drip campaigns.

Moreover, the sequences you create will be the core introduction to your product or service and set the stage for your users’ whole customer experience.

By nurturing them with customized free trial email sequences, your startup will have more sales, happier customers, and will likely retain more users. What’s more, maintaining this type of experience will decrease your churn, increase profits, and help you show solid traction to investors when raising pre-seed, seed, or Series A capital.

If you’re looking for an email marketing service that can do advanced behavioral sequences, then check out The Best Email Marketing Software for SMBs and Startups by us. It’s a great resource if I do say so myself.

Oh, and if you don’t have an email list yet, here are some ways you can build yours.

So let’s walk through the steps you have to take to set up awesome free trial or lead nurturing campaign and show how to boost your conversion rates to bring in more sales.

Step #1 – Identify your Segments to Nurture

If you have a physical store, 5 people enter, 4 of them are talking to each other, while 1 is actively looking at the shelves, which one will you want to pay attention to?

The person shopping at the shelves, of course since he or she happens to be a prospect with high intent or interest.

It’s the same with your SaaS business.

You have to treat your free trial members and leads differently. You do this by using separate email flows based on their level of activity.

And you know what, this works! Sleeknote managed to increase their free trial open rates by 16.5% and further improved their conversions

Usually, you’ll have three categories of users, based on their activity.

  • Active Users
  • Partially Active Users
  • Inactive Users

To be able to build out proper sequence campaigns, you’ll need to think about the goals for each specific user category.

An Example of Two Nurture Campaign Sequences

What a good email nurture campaign looks like for automated email sequences
Click to enlarge. Source: Intercom


The above infographic shows two different sequences and journeys for two different types of users based on their interest and activity level in the app or with the product or service.

Step #2 – Consider the Goals for Each Segment

Here, you will have to make a few generalizations.

  • Active Users – Are actively engaged with your software. Focus on your value proposition. 
  • Partially Active Users – might be struggling with your software, training, and tutorials would be the way to go. 
  • Inactive Users – they might not realize the value of your software. Case studies will definitely help you out. 

Here’s a great example email of segmentation by activity level from Sleeknote.

Sleeknote plans example for goals used to segment email subscriber audience for email sequence nurture campaigns
Source: Sleeknote


Your goal for each segment should be to get them to each next action that you want them to take towards bringing them to a paid plan. But it helps even more if you focus on getting them to convert to a higher tier from the one they’re in at that moment.

For example:

  • Email subscriber to free trial
  • Free trial to plus
  • Plus to pro

Once you’ve done that, you can start building out your sequences.

Step #3 – Build Out your Emotion Sequencing

Let’s take a look at your usual email sequence campaign.

  1. Welcome Email
  2. Tutorial (Training)
  3. Case Study (Proof)
  4. Further Training (Tips and Tricks)
  5. Personalized Email (Offer to Help)
  6. Improved Value Proposition (Discount) Email
  7. Urgency on the Discount and Further Proof
  8. Celebration Email, if They Purchase

That sequence is a great place to start and almost every SaaS business does it.

However, you want to think about the emotional journey of each type of customer.

Consider the sequence of questions they might be asking themselves and how they decide to buy.

The Buyer’s Journey Shows the:

The infographic below shows the three stages of the buyer’s journey.

Consider the Buyer's Journey during free trial email sequence nurture campaigns - via Hubspot

  1. Awareness stage
    1. The awareness stage is where the potential customer is learning about your product or service and other potentially similar options out on the market.
  2. Consideration stage
    1. The consideration stage is usually where people will sign up for a free trial and it’s where you can win them over with a superior email sequence campaign during their free trial.
  3. Decision stage
    1. The decision stage will occur after the potential customer makes their decision about your product or service. A great one-time offer with of a few bullets of concise benefits the end of your email sequence can tip the scales in your favor.

And the different user archetypes we go through below shows examples of questions and thoughts that a user might have based on their interest and activity level.

A Very Interested Active User

  • This software is awesome. But what’s the right plan for my business?
  • How much will this software cost me in the long run?
  • Would this software help me be successful?
  • How can I utilize the software most?
  • How can I integrate this software in my existing process?

A Moderately Interested and Partially Active User

  • I’m interested in this software. But how do I get this thing to work?
  • Is this software truly worth it? What about its competitors?
  • Is this software proven to work

A Barely Interested and Inactive User

  • Why should I bother with this software?
  • Is this thing really worth my time/effort?
  • It seems too overwhelming to start/not exactly what I was looking for.

Based on the experience of each user, you want to build out a specific sequence addressing the journey of each free trial customer.

Here’s an example of an email sequence for an active user:

  1. Welcome Email
  2. Pricing Simplification (Explanation)
  3. A “wow”-ing case study
  4. A “Pro-Tip” showcasing specifics on certain features of your software
  5. A “Tips and Tricks” on integrating the software in an existing process (case study opportunity, discount offer opportunity)

Make sure to focus on the specific questions/thought journey you believe your customer is experiencing. However, this belief should be rooted in your qualitative data you’ve collected during your target customer interviews from your idea validation process.

Step #4 – Focus on Improving Your Content

Does your target prospect prefer a personal touch more than they do bureaucratic graphics? Knowing your audience and their needs will help you figure this out, but testing and experimentation will help you even more.

Once you have your email sequence, you should focus on improving your content. Remember that your content optimization should always be geared towards your target audience and their buyer persona.

There are multiple ways you can improve the effectiveness of your content, such as: including gamification tricks like contests or referral campaigns, in-app progress bars notify users of progress via email, adding images that evoke emotions that you want to portray, or making sure that you are “tough” with the content by only writing what’s needed and no more.

For readability enhancements, you can create more white space by using more paragraphs and shorter sentences so the reader doesn’t feel overwhelmed. And, you can write in what’s called active voice rather than passive voice to sound less boring.

You can use the AIDA copywriting formula to drive the user towards the next goal or you can focus on creating more value by offering freebies such as e-books or content that helps your users use your app better, or by sharing something else that’s helpful to them.

These are just some of the many tactics you can use to further boost the activation of your content.

However, let’s take a look at an example of a “tips and tricks” email that improves the overall effectiveness of the brand. The example below is short and powerful and targets the buyer persona because SEO PowerSuite’s users obviously want to get better results on search engines.

SEO Powersuite Tips and Tricks Email example of great content to improve the user experience when receiving email sequence campaigns
Example: SEO Powersuite email value add example

Let’s analyze this email so you can see why it’s so powerful.

Their header image has a title that creates curiosity on a highly relevant topic to the end-user with a call to action. The body of the email is demonstrating authority on SEO industry standards by sharing some quick tips on the topic. Then, it creates more curiosity and uses a call to action to make the reader want to click on the link to learn more information.


When it comes to email automation campaigns, email nurture campaigns will trump drip campaigns any day of the week.

The more you can personalize your email nurture campaigns based on your segments, the more effective they’ll be. However, while experimentation is key to any marketing campaign, you should first have a great foundation for your sequence. Once you’ve established your core automations and see their effectiveness over time with a good sample size, you can start A/B testing each of the emails in the workflow to see what works best. You don’t have to have long, drawn out emails. Often times, less is more.

I hope you found this post helpful and thanks for reading.

Did these email nurture campaign and sequence growth hacks help you and your startup learn how to boost your conversion rates for free trials or with your new customer onboarding campaign?

Let me know your thoughts or questions in the comments!

Houston Golden headshot - BAMF

This is a guest post written by Houston Golden, Founder and CEO of BAMF with contributions from Carl Potak.

Author Bio: Houston Golden is the Founder & CEO of BAMF aka Badass Marketers and Founders, where he led the company from $0 to $3M+ in revenue in its first two years and has built a proven process for turning clients into LinkedIn Influencers through viral content that has generated over 300M+ organic views. He enjoys yoga, running and surfing, along with playing his ukulele and dreaming of new business ideas and being a father is his favorite.



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