Avoid the Cookie-Cutter Approach to Email Marketing to Increase Conversions

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Early on in the life of StatusPage.io, their conversion rate from trial to paid sat at 5%.

When you’re a new company, no one knows about you. You move mountains to get 100 people in the door. Thirty days later, only 5 of them become paying customers, and you have to get back to mountain-moving to bring in another 100 people. That can hurt.

The bright spot for StatusPage.io was that when prospects did dig into the product and go through the somewhat lengthy setup process, they stuck around. In the life of the company, average monthly churn has never gone above 3%, and over the last 8 months, they’ve performed at 1% churn.

The StatusPage.io team knew that they’d built a useful product that filled a real need. They just needed to get customers to really try the product to get to that realization too. So they turned their focus to improving their trial onboarding, and those changes ultimately increased their conversion rate by a whopping 2.4x from 5% to 12%.

Here’s how they did it.

Quantifying Real Usage

StatusPage.io makes it easy to communicate your service’s server status to your customers and your team. (We use StatusPage.io for our own status page here at Customer.io.)

Customer.io's status page
Customer.io’s status page

The activation focus during StatusPage.io’s onboarding period is getting customers to set up this public-facing web page. In fact, you won’t get prompted to pick a plan and start paying for the service until this page is ready and you hit “Activate My Page.”

The team noticed that certain concrete steps taken during onboarding correlated highly with conversions from trial to paid. Actions like adding a metric to display on the page, adding a “chatops” room for internal communication on server status, and inviting several team members indicated that the user was actively using the product and integrating it with their systems.

This insight gave the team the idea that drove their subsequent onboarding design and 2.4x improvements.

They created an “activation score” for each user that tracks onboarding progress. When users perform specific actions in the app, their activation score increases. More significant setup like adding a team member is weighted more heavily than a smaller task. While the number isn’t incredibly scientific, it’s incredibly useful and lives in the company’s admin dashboard to provide context when chatting with customers and for lead scoring.

What’s most important about the activation score is that it gives the company a focal point — one single number that they aim to maximize for each user during onboarding.

The Drip Campaign that Drives 2.4x Conversions

To maximize their activation score, StatusPage.io’s created its drip onboarding campaign in Customer.io to focus heavily around video walkthroughs that show off just 5 features in the app.

  • Day 2 and then day 30 if no action: Add StatusPage.io activity to team chat
  • Day 3 and then day 45 if no action: Set up metrics
  • Day 5 and then day 60 if no action: Set up third-party infrastructure component status
  • Day 12 and then day 75 if no action: Create an incident template
  • Day 16 and then day 90 if no action: Create a component group to organize page

StatusPage.io onboarding drip email

When a trial user watches a video about a feature and then sets it up on their own page, their activation score increases.

In the past, StatusPage.io had included case studies and links to blog posts in their drip series. But switching to these more feature-focused emails made more sense for their trial users. Why? CEO and co-founder Steve Klein explains, “People who sign up have at least bought into the idea of having a status page or get why it’s important.” So the goal of the onboarding emails is to get people to try as many of the key features as possible, not necessarily to provide additional context, background, or philosophy.

Notice that even though their drip emails could amount to as many as 10 emails, the campaign isn’t scattershot. Each pair of emails corresponds to a single feature. And the second email in the pair is conditional, so that it only gets sent if the prospect didn’t convert and carry out the desired action.

StatusPage.io onboarding conversion setup

In general, people who have an activation score above a certain threshold within the first few weeks after signing up are significantly more likely to convert to paid. Nevertheless, the fact that they continue to win customers 90 days after first signing up to try StatusPage.io speaks to the power of steady communication around your product’s value prop.


Perhaps what’s most motivating about what StatusPage.io accomplished is that it isn’t terribly complicated and didn’t involve complex regressions and statistical analysis. It’s knowing your customer, making simple and actionable objectives, and experimenting to find out what works.

Not only does increasing your conversion rate 2.4x mean that you’ve massively boosted your revenue, you also gain some precious breathing room. StatusPage.io team doesn’t need to worry about conversion rate as much, and that’s a freeing feeling, especially compared to those mountain-moving days.

“We feel [that our conversion rate] is really great so we’ve been able to concentrate on other things,” Steve says. With that, the StatusPage.io team is able to put more love and value into the core product and keep growing their business.

Do you structure your onboarding emails around features? Share your thoughts and experience with us in the comments!

Photo: Raimond Klavins/Flickr

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