The Simple Method For Creating an Irresistible Email On-Boarding Sequence

By Chris Shaffer •  Updated: 03/12/20 •  17 min read

What Is an Email On-Boarding Sequence?

An email on boarding sequence or an indoctrination sequence, as you'll sometimes hear it called, is an automated series of emails that you send to all new subscribers on your email list.

It can be as simple as a single email telling people “thank you” for signing up or like one of the ones that we've created you can send 20, 30, 40, or even more emails over a series of days, weeks, or months.

For example, one of the sequences that we created for one of our brands sends 26 emails over 52 days.

While that may sound like a lot (especially considering that these people are ALSO getting the “broadcast” emails that we are sending), it averages over a 30% open rate and a 6.5% click-through rate and is one of the most consistent sources of traffic to our site for new users.

These emails are each designed to HELP the people on your list, to teach them what your brand is all about, and to help them get to know you and your products.

When done correctly, these emails can easily turn a passive website visitor into a raving, life-long fan.

Why You Need to Create an Email On-Boarding Sequence

Generally speaking, when someone first gives you their email address it means that they're in research mode. They're trying to learn as much as they possibly can about your topic or your industry or they're researching to buy the product/products that you offer.

When you create a good email on-boarding sequence, you're able not only to actually help that person make their decision, purchase additional accessories, or just simply give them the single piece of information that they're looking for,  but it's also the best time for you to position your brand as an expert for all of their questions moving forward.

When you do this it means that you're able to create that connection without having to manually send email to each and every person that joins your list,  but you can still create a great “personal” relationship with them.

How To Create An Irresistible Email On-Boarding Sequence

What Not To Do To:

Before we dive into the process that we use to create irresistible sequences, I wanted to take just a second to counter  an objection that we get all of the time.

People will often tell us that it's impossible for them to sit down and write 10, 15, or 20 emails at a time and most people want to try to build this sequence from day one, because of how powerful it is.

Please do not sit down and try to write 20 + emails without using the steps below. not only will you want to pull out your hair, if you still have any, but you'll be wasting your time and creating a sequence that is much less valuable than if you use the steps below.

Remember, you don't need to have this from day one and in fact it's much more powerful if you wait a few weeks (or months) until you can use the process below.

Knowing what your customers and potential customers want and need is ALWAYS better than guessing!

Creating an Irresistible Email Sequence Step-by-Step:

Creating an irresistible email on-boarding sequence is actually an extremely simple process once you have all of the pieces.

However, in order to do this correctly you will have to have content on your website (we need a place to send people from the emails and to know what’s working and what isn’t), if you don’t currently have any content, you should focus on that FIRST, before creating your sequence.

Take a Look At What’s Working:

Before we sit down to write ANY of our emails, we first need to look to another tool, our trusty friend, Google Analytics (If you don’t already have Google Analytics installed on your site, stop what you’re doing and get that setup right NOW, then…bookmark this article and come back in a few weeks to follow the rest of the steps).

Since Google Analytics tracks every single page that people see on our site, it can be the absolute best source of data to discover exactly what types of content we should include in our email sequence.

Side Note: If you’ve never used Google Analytics before, all of the options can be overwhelming. Fear NOT, I’m going to show you exactly what you need to do in order to get to the data you’re looking for.

Finding Your Landing Page Report

First, you’ll need to go to and login to your account.

Once you’ve logged in, you’re going to need to use the menu along the left-hand side of the page. Click on Behavior, then Site Content, then Landing Pages

This will show you the “landing page” report which offers a look at all of the top pages that people first saw when they arrived on your website.

This report is an absolute GOLD MINE of information for what is bringing people onto your website and the perfect place to get started to find the content that is going to work the best for our on-boarding sequence.

Setting Your Report Date Range:

Next, we will need to select a date range.

Move your mouse to the date selection box in the upper right-hand corner of the analytics window. This will open a drop-down calendar, and allow you to select a start and end date.

I typically like to select at least a 60 day range, like the one shown below (but the more data you have the better!)

Finding Your Top Content

Once you have selected your date range, the report will auto-populate with  the most popular landing pages (the pages people saw first, when they came to the site).

By default, the report will show you the top 25 pages, which should be MORE than enough to get your sequence started.

Excluding things like the homepage of your site, find 15-20 content (or product pages) from that list. Grab a pen and paper, and write each one down.

Once you have your list of 15-20 pages, it’s time to start writing those emails!

Side Note: You will also want to make a list of any products you sell or lead magnets you have. You’ll want to include those in the email sequence as well.

Take It One Piece At a Time:

Like I said before, sitting down to write 15+ emails can feel like a completely overwhelming task, even with all of the data we gathered in the previous steps. It helps to focus on 1 email at a time and to think about each email as 3 different parts.

Each email we send needs to do 3 things in order to properly connect with our audience and serve its purpose.

Take a minute, open the first piece of content you identified from your report above and think about the 3 following sections individually.

Subject Lines:

The first thing we need to do is to “sell the open.” Afterall, if no one ever opens the email, they can’t get any value from it!

As a general rule, subject lines should invoke curiosity or “conflict” with the audience, this will cause them to open the email in order to satisfy their curiosity or to “resolve the conflict”.

Creating Curiosity:

There are two simple ways you can use to make the reader curious enough to open the email.

Using a question

The first is by asking a question.

For example, if the email will be sending them to an article about the “5 Best Bass Fishing Tips Used to Win The Biggest Tournaments” we could draft the subject line “Are you Using these? 5 Tips REAL Bassmasters Use”.

Simply by inserting the question (in this case, “Are You Using These?”), we are able to increase the number of people who will open the email, because we’re increasing their level of curiosity.

Using an Open Loop

The second method is by leaving what’s called an “open loop”.

If you’ve ever watched the season finale of a TV show, you’ll have an idea of what I’m talking about.

For the first 50+ minutes of the show, they nicely wrap up all of the stories they’ve been telling over the course of the season….then WHAM, your favorite character gets kidnapped and everything fades to black….leaving you wondering what happened until the next season.

Your brain can’t help but wonder what happened and will spend the next few months pondering every possibility, as you wait….popcorn ready….for the moment the next season to start.

You have also seen examples of “open loops” if you’ve ever read the cover of one of the magazines at the grocery store cash register.

They’re always chock full of headlines like:

Be honest, even if you’ve never bought one of these magazines…if the line was long enough, you have at the very least open one of these magazines to check it tip #5 or flipped to page #35 to see what they really did with the cleaning solution.

You just HAD to satisfy your curiosity and their entire business model depends on making you curious enough to pick up the magazine and take it with you on a whim.

Your emails will do the same exact thing, if you use open loops in your subject lines. Keep those newsstand headlines in mind as you look at your content and you’ll be able to start coming up with your own, very quickly.

Causing Conflict:

Another way to create great subject lines is by taking a stand or creating a little bit of conflict within the audience.

For example, if we had a piece of content about the “13 health benefits of eating meat”, we could easily create a conflict by using the subject line “Why Vegans are Simply WRONG About Meat”.

Returning to the fishing example for a minute, if we were writing an email to drive people to the “5 Best Bass Fishing Tips Used to Win The Biggest Tournaments” that we mentioned earlier, you could create a little bit of conflict with the audience by using a subject line like “You CAN’T Win a Bass Tournament Without These 5 Tricks”.

The point here is to cause just a little bit of internal conflict with the customer, NOT to make them mad.

We want them to think “of course I can win without these tricks” or “there’s no way vegans are wrong about meat” when they see the subject line.

If we’re able to plant that little thought in their head, they can’t help but open and consume the content.

It works a little bit like if I say…….you can think about anything EXCEPT a big pink elephant. Each and everyone reading this blog is now thinking about a Pink Elephant (that’s ok, we won’t tell anyone).

Action Step:

Before you write any of your emails, take a few minutes to look over the ideas you have and write down AT LEAST 2 subject lines for each one (1 with a question or open loop and 1 that’s conflict/opinion based).

It may sound like a challenge, but after the first 3 or 4 you’ll get the hang of it very quickly.

Call To Action:

Now that you have your subject lines written, it’s time to make sure you craft a call to action for your email. If you’re linking over to a piece of content (like the ones you found in your landing page report), simply grab the link. 

If you’re choosing a product for your call to action, make sure you have the link to the product page and you write a few notes about WHY someone might be interested in the product.

Calls to action are not hard to include (in fact the easiest way is literally to include a line that says “click here” and link it over), and they’re critical to the email success, but I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen emails without them.

Don’t be that person!

Email Body:

At this point, you should have written your subject lines and know your calls to action for each email.

If you haven’t done that, do that now! Those two things will be the roadmap for making the actual writing process super simple.

Even now, people seem to get caught up in all of the things they “think” they should do when it comes to writing an email, but the truth is….the best emails are always the one written like you were talking to a friend.

Afterall, we’re trying to actually HELP the people in our audiences and we want the best for them, just like we do for our friends, so why not treat them that way?

When it comes to writing the actual email or only job now is to connect the subject line that we crafted to the call to action, the same way we would to a friend.

We aren’t looking to rewrite the bible here, a few sentences is usually more than enough to connect them in a logical and powerful way, like in the example below.

Subject Line: A Hook, a Line, and a Floater?
Call To Action: Blog Post “3 Tricks To Finding The Biggest Fish In Any Body Of Water”

As you can see, the entire body of the email is designed to connect the curiosity created from the subject line to the call to action of clicking to see the blog post (in this case a link that literally says, “check it out here”).

Setting Up The Sequence:

Once you have written all of your emails, you need to actually add them to your email platform (I know, that sounds obvious….but you’d be surprised how many people make it this far and never actually get the sequence started.

Side Note: The steps below will be the same for any email platform you may be using, but what you’ll see is ConvertKit, our prefered platform of choice, so the actual look of the software and names may change a bit, depending on which platform you have.

Open Your Email Automation Platform:

If you’re using ConvertKit, simply go to and click the login button (currently located in the upper right-hand corner of the screen)

Find The Sequences Section:

Once you’ve logged in the platform, you’re going to click on the “sequences” tab, this will take you to a list of all of your existing sequences.

From there, simply click the “new sequence” button located toward the top right of the screen and you’ll be asked to Name your sequence.

I typically like to use something obvious for the name so it’s easy to find later….like “New email on-boarding Sequence”

Once you’ve named the sequence, click the “Create Sequence” button and you’ll be taken into the sequence editor. 

Add Each Email and Set Timing:

Inside of the sequence editor, simply add the subject line to the subject line area and copy and paste the body of the email into the body editor.

Double check that the formatting is the way you want it and that any links (especially in your call to action) are linked to the correct pages!

Repeat this process for each email in your sequence.

Once you have added your emails, you’re going to want to set the timing for each email.

This can be changed by clicking on the “When to Send” option in the top middle of the email editor.

Generally speaking you want the first email to go out right away (as soon as someone enters the sequence), so you would set this email to “0 days”.

Beyond that, the timing is up to you, but we typically like to wait around 2 days between emails in most cases. 

You can do that by setting each to “2 days” and the system will automatically know to wait 2 days before it sends the next email.

Lastly, you’re going to need to mark each email as active, by changing it from draft to active under the status option.

When you’ve marked all of your emails as active. Make sure to click SAVE ALL before you leave the page, to lock in all of your hard work.

Turn It On:

Now that our sequence is all set up and ready to go, we have one more thing we need to do.

Put People Into It!

This process should take about 2-3 minutes inside of your email platform and is very simple if you’re using ConvertKit.

In order to tell them WHO we want the emails to be sent to we need to setup an “automation” (it’s not as scary as it sounds, I promise).

First, click on the automations tab in the Menu bar, then Click the “New Automation” button.

Once inside, you’ll want to name your automation.

To do this, click on the pencil icon in the top right and add a name. Typically the best choice is something obvious like “Add New Subscriber to On-boarding”.

This makes it easy to find and edit later on.

Then, click the “Create Automation” in the middle of the screen.

You will then be asked to choose what you want as the “trigger” for your automation (the action a customer takes to make it happen).

Typically you’ll want to choose “joins a form” from the options below and then choose the form the person is filling out on your site, to let you know that they should be joining your on-boarding sequence.

Then click “add event”.

Side note: If you have multiple forms, you can add multiple triggers to this automation by clicking the + button to the right of the form you have chosen to add more forms.

Once you have added your form/forms, you will be asked to choose an action to happen when someone fills out the form. In our case, we want them added to a sequence, so we will choose “email sequence” and then select the sequence we just created from the dropdown menu that appears.

Then, click “add action” to confirm.

Lastly, we will need to “turn on” the automation. In the upper right-hand corner of the automation screen, you should see a “gray” button that says paused. If you click that button, it will turn green and the text will say “live”.

Once you have confirmed the automation is live, your sequence is ready to go.


Check Back Frequently:

The single biggest mistake I see with these types of sequences (and something both Scott and I are guilty of) is that business owners write them, set up the automation and then never look at it ever again.

Ideally, you should set aside 15-20 minutes each month for the following tasks:

Taking a few minutes each month to look at and tweak these things is really all it takes to turn a “good” sequence into an absolutely irresistible one.

Chris Shaffer

Chris lives at the intersection of business strategy and growth tactics. Having consulted with dozens of different businesses (as well as building several of his own), he brings a unique perspective on what's working across the eCommerce world in businesses of all shapes and sizes.