Was one of your New Year’s Resolutions to get your bookkeeping straightened out once and for all?
I’m not just writing all of this free content because I’m loaded and it’s funzies (though it is really very fun and I’d probably do it anyways). This is a business.
I have numbers to crunch at the end of the day and those numbers, it turns out, don’t crunch themselves.
Over the years I’ve played around with different accounting software platforms (commitment probs) but the one I hear about again and again is Xero.
Heard of ’em?
I signed up for Xero‘s free 30 day trial recently. Since their tagline is “Beautiful accounting software”, I figured Xero would have beautiful email onboarding too.
Let’s take a look!
30 day free trial
5 system sent emails in that 30 day window
1 followup email 5 days after the trial ends
4 emails from a sales rep during the free trial
Now Xero is in a market with some tough competition. Accounting is a long-standing industry and the software options cover everything from personal accounting to hybrid solutions to low, mid, and horizontal markets.
It makes sense, then, that they want to stand out on the software side of things.
But do they stand out in an inbox?
Tell Me What I Want
(fighting the urge to finish that Spice Girls lyric)
I love a warm welcome. At a dinner party, from my family when I return from yoga class, and when I sign up for a new piece of software.
And Xero delivers on it.
In the subject line, at least.
But when I open that first email, it’s more like a greeting from an overzealous new acquaintance.
There’s just so much… information.
Here is my inner dialogue:
- Connect my bank. Yep, I wanna do that. How? Can you link me to it?
- Yodlee? What’s that? Will my bank *not* connect? Ack.
- Ah, here’s a link. Oh, the full getting started page. K.
- This sounds complicated all of a sudden. Lemme go check out my Quickbooks/Harvest/Freshbooks account I’m also trialing.
See what happened there?
In an initial onboarding email (and, well, in any onboarding email) you don’t want to introduce a concern your customer didn’t know they should have. Your job is to instill confidence, show then you’re here for them, and be a sherpa of your product.
Email onboarding is a fine blend between sales and customer support. It’s the Cabernet Savingnon of communication.
You want to use it to establish trust.
And understanding that your customers came to you to make bookkeeping easier, well, that’s the foundation of the relationship if you’re Xero.
How would I change Xero’s initial onboarding email?
- Tell me directly how to connect my bank. Link me to that exact page on your help site.
- Forget the reference to Yodlee. The help site page actually does that for you later. (It’s here if you want to check it out.)
- That’s it!
Xero’s in a good place with this email, it’s just TMI.
Stick with the basics up front.
It’s Jake, From Xero
We’ve talked in other tear downs about the difference between system-sent emails and other onboarding emails. You want to be sure there isn’t a ton of overlap.
And Xero gets this one right.
Two days after my initial signup, I hear from Jake, a “Small Business Specialist” at Xero.
It’s a friendly, almost too short email.
My biggest beef here is that non-specific question: “How is it coming with the software so far?”
Any version of “how’s it going?” is a weak question. Especially in a first encounter.
I just met you, Jake. I’m not sure “how it’s going” just yet.
Great questions to ask:
How can I help you with your bank import?
What questions do you have after doing your first bank import?
What surprised you the most about your first few days using Xero?
Are you currently trying out other accounting software?
Of course, these questions become even more powerful if you can personalize them based on the actual user’s experience with your software.
I can tell that this email from Jake is #1 not automated and #2 copy/pasted. This means that Jake had the opportunity to check on my account and notice that I hadn’t touched it yet. He could have sent me a note asking what bank I use and an offer to send the exact guide to importing my accounts for that bank.
He could have.
But he didn’t.
The next two emails are from The Xero Team, which, as a Sent From name really leaves a lot to be desired.
But can we take a second and talk about preview pane text, please?
Let’s look at it here:
Xero gets what’s going on with preview pane text. That’s those first few words you can read in your inbox before opening the email, ya know? It’s a preview of what’s inside.
These two emails in the Xero onboarding sequence have really excellent preview pane text.
The first one (on the bottom of the pic above) uses words that spin in my head all week long:
Better cash flow management
I want that.
And the second email?
Look how personalized it is!!!
👏🏽 👏🏽 👏🏽
Xero wins big points by sending me an email based on my inaction in the app.
Makes me wonder what I would have received if I had actually setup my account!
(If you’ve opened a Xero account recently and have that version of their emails, can you share a screenshot in the comments below? Wait… do other people obsessively save onboarding emails like I do? Actually, don’t answer that.)
Now the best part of all of this?
My first 4 emails happen within the first 6 days of opening my account.
How’s that for Early and Often?
Living The Dream?
Unfortunately, this is where the dream email onboarding sequence ends.
For the next three weeks, it’s all about getting me to convert to a paid customer:
…not even sure how to reply to this…
Then this horribly formatted mess:
(not even sure how the spam filters missed that “50% OFF” in the subject line)
And then another push to convert me:
“Final support”? You aren’t going to support me after this email?
Look, it is totally the job of onboarding emails to convert free trial customers into paid accounts.
It’s part of the package.
But that’s just it–it’s only part of the whole!
If you focus entirely on conversion and not a bit on education, you’re losing customers fast. Especially in a competitive market like accounting software.
Needless to say, Xero’s final three emails to me are focused on conversion:
Wanna see the buttons they used inside those emails?
^^^ already did that.
Button text (sometimes called microcopy) is a whole art form all by itself.
Conversion copywriter Joanna Wiebe puts it best:
The shorter the copy, the less time people think they need to spend on it – when, in fact, short copy is hard to write and should demand more attention from the copy hacker. Great buttons take time to write.
Did Xero put thought into this button text? Probs not.
In fact, Joanna has a big ol’ list of “high friction” words and BUY is Numero Uno.
Not to mention the fact that building a personal connection in button text is what moves a customer from “nah” to “yeah maybe!”.
Suggestions for button text for Xero:
- Continue My Xero Journey
- Discover The Power of Xero
- Check Out Your Options With Xero
Or more playful options could be:
- Show Me The Future
- Take All My Money (And Organize It)
- Gimme The Best
All of a sudden find yourself needing more button text reading? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll talk buttons with my email list (so be sure to join that too if you haven’t already)
So, after all that hot and heavy action as tried to convert me to a paying customer, they kinda just ghosted. Once I didn’t convert it was “bye, girl” from Xero.
They haven’t sent me a single email since.
Biggest lesson to take away from Xero here:
EMAIL ONBOARDING IS MORE THAN JUST A SALES OPPORTUNITY.
It’s your job to sell, yes. Or you have a hobby and not a business. But it’s also your job to teach, to listen, to learn. It’s your job to invite your new customers to get to know you/your product, to engage with you (beyond their credit card), and to feel connected to you.
That’s the secret to customers for life.
Xero failed to convert me.
How would you have faired?
- consistent communication without email overload
- great use of preview pane text in most cases
- subject lines and from names that say the brand name in them – easier to recognize that way!
- non-specific questions from the sales rep assigned to me
- poorly formatted sales emails (and what’s with no period at the end of sentences, Jake??)
- just one email with a brief moment of “figure it out yourself” education
- entirely focused on landing the sale
- basic boring buttons
- never heard from them again 😔
Say it with me now: onboarding emails do more than just sell.
Sure, coffee is for closers. But tasty mocha lattes with extra whipped cream are for educators, connectors, and empowerers.
Now it’s your turn.
What are your biggest takeaways from Xero’s onboarding emails?
How will you apply those lessons to your business?
Have a set of emails you want to see dissected here? Send me a note at heygirl(at)valgeisler(dot)com with the details of where I can sign up! If I write up the review, I’ll share a draft with you before anyone else sees it.
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