Best Email Ever.

 In Cutting Through

8 Words. 70% Open Rate. 30% Response Rate. Made Me Millions of Dollars. No Joke.

We’ve been sending hundreds of millions of emails every month at Robly for the past five years.

Across our entire client base, the most successful, engaging, effective, and lucrative email I’ve ever seen was one we send internally to our customers.

Robly is a SaaS business. If you own (or work for) a SaaS business, you can probably do something nearly identical to this and see enormous, immediate success.

Even if you’re not SaaS, my hope is that with my explanation of why these emails have worked so well for us, apply the parts that make sense for your own business, and make it work for you. I’ll give you some ideas later in the post.

The Inspiration: Mixpanel

In 2013, we started acquiring our first customers at Robly. This was pre-Intercom and pre-automated, personalized sales emails. I knew nothing about how to run and manage SaaS companies and their revenues. But, I was reading everything I could get my hands on.

I read blogs voraciously and decided that I needed to start doing cohort analysis. We picked Mixpanel as the tool to use.

I set up some analytics the first day, then got distracted.

Hours later, I was hit with an email that looked like it was coming directly from one of their co-founders’ (awesome) Gmail inbox, and the guy just happened to be poking around my account and saw I had abandoned onboarding at a critical step.

It was incredibly informal. There was no email signature. It felt like a conversation between him, a guy who cared deeply about his product, and me, his new customer, about my success.

I replied to it with a question, and he then looped in one of his support engineers to take over.

Then, I realized what was happening:

  • They were a young company with a new product
  • The co-founder was triggering emails that looked like they weren’t automated to go out when people were onboarding and didn’t make it through the whole process
  • He wanted to see himself where people were getting tripped up, so he didn’t mind reading the responses, and passing people off to his support reps

I asked Tate, our CTO, if we could do something similar. He said we could (we didn’t know about Intercom at the time) program transactional emails that looked personal.

How We Adapted Mixpanel’s Badass Strategy

I had Tate set up a series of emails based on every possible path someone could take in our onboarding process.

There were 21 emails. We didn’t have analytics for the first couple of years, but I know the best one was the best one because all the responses were to me, and it got about 5x the responses of any other email.

We switched these messages to Intercom several years ago because it took Tate out of the picture. Our marketing team could set up all the behavior-triggered messages, and test and edit them.

To give you an idea of how much better this one email is than all the others we send out, this is the current stat line on the email, straight out of our Intercom interface.

best email ever

If this was a bulk email, we’d expect a 20 to 30% open rate. Instead, it’s going out at a specific time to a specific audience.

However, the response rate of 30% on this email is better than the open rate of almost every other email we send.

To give you an idea, our next best email has a 50% open rate and a 5% reply rate.

Let’s talk about why it’s so effective.

The Email: Less is More

Early on we identified that the single most critical point in our sales process is getting our customers to successfully send a campaign.

All our customers were switching from other services, and if we got them to successfully get their contacts in, hit the send button, and it worked, they’d switch almost 100% of the time.

We were a young company (like Mixpanel at the time), and people knew that.

At the time, I wanted and needed to be on top of all the issues our customers were having with the product, and I wanted to talk to as many customers as possible.

Here’s exactly what I implemented that led to this incredible result:

  • I created a segment of users who had sent their first campaign an hour prior
  • I sent this email, from me, with my email as the reply-to
  • Below is the current version of the email. It’s now sent from Quandra, one of our customer support reps. Responses now go directly to our support team and are handled as quickly as possible

best email ever

Here’s why it works so well:

  • It’s highly personalized. It not only uses a merge tag in the subject line to get the subscribers attention, it’s sent to the user shortly after their most engaged point, and referencing their most recent engagement
  • It feels intimate and un-automated. I believe that since all the text is in the subject line, it seems as if we happened to notice our customer sent their first campaign, and quickly dropped a line to check in
  • It has very strong but subtle CTA. “All ok?” means “reply if you had any problems or if everything went well”
  • It’s a win-win for the customer. They can either tell us about a problem they’re having, or update us on their progress with their campaign. Both are in their best interest of the customer
  • In the beginning, it came from the founder. It hasn’t come from me since we switched to Intercom, and still gets a 30% response rate. I think mine was closer to 50% when it was from me, but we didn’t have any analytics, so I can’t say that for sure. All I know is that people liked talking to me because I was the founder

The Benefits

Here’s how this email benefitted us, and led us to millions of dollars of recurring revenues:

  • We learned about problems our customers were having, and since the dialogue seemed so informal, they shared everything
  • We fixed almost all of their problems, and post-fix, closed the sale
  • It helped us determine product roadmap because we learned what features we didn’t have that were deal-breakers
  • People told us about bugs they may not have otherwise reported
  • It started an automated line of communication with our customers that feels like a conversation with real people

We’ve closed thousands more customers than we would have had we not sent this email. The proof is in the pudding: I know every problem that was caught and fixed that we never would have known about otherwise.

The Current Structure

As I mentioned before, initially the email came from me, and the responses were sent directly to me.

If you are a founder with a young product, I’d highly recommend this strategy for the first year or so.

I’m probably not the first to tell you that talking to your customers and understanding their pain is incredibly valuable.

Furthermore, a personal relationship with a founder will almost certainly lead to word of mouth.

When the time comes, you can remove yourself from the conversation and set things up so that customers you have a personal relationship with don’t take up your time with technical support.

As I mentioned earlier, the way we are set up right now, which is still very effective, is:

  • We send the message via Intercom from Quandra
  • The reply-to address is
  • Any replies land in Intercom, where it’s a jump-ball for support reps to field

It’s not quite as personal as when they were all from me and I was  the one to reply, but since we still make it a point to come from from a human being in a very personal way, the email is still very successful for us.

Great Email, But How Can I Use It?

For those of you in SaaS, I’d highly recommend implementing something like this at the end of your onboarding/sales cycle, whatever that point is. Intercom makes it really easy to implement.

For e-commerce companies, I’m sure something like this coming from support the day after delivery would would work wonders and earn substantial customer loyalty.

If you’re selling wisdom products, find the benchmark where 80% of your users stop watching. Try sending something like this that looks like a personal email and ask them what they think. You could get an employee to respond to the emails and give you feedback reports.

You’ll get amazing insight into what people think about your courses. You can probably respond on a personal level and get more people to do more training than they otherwise would have, and you’ll get ideas for other courses to design.

People Will Respond. Trust Me.

I know because it’s 70% more effective than any other email I’ve ever sent.

Do you have an email like this that’s worked well for you? If so, I’d love to hear about it.

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