Don’t get me wrong, we here at Sendwithus love drip campaigns. But when we sat down with our friend Noah Kagan of AppSumo to talk onboarding emails, it became very clear that – especially for startups – a drip campaign to address the pain points in your product might be presumptuous. To heal your users’ pain, you must first experience it.

“But how do I experience the pain of something that’s not happening to me?” The same way you do in real life: ask, listen, and be available. These are the tenets that guide us through our latest installment in the How to Send Email Like a Startup Guide: The Onboarding Campaign.

One of the most harmful things a founder can do is make assumptions about what users want from their product without testing and verifying those assumptions. It’s incredibly easy to get caught up in the excitement of a new feature that you think is really cool, only to lose sight of how it fits into what brought your users onboard in the first place.

Early in the life of Sendwithus, for instance, we got really excited about the ability to A/B test the scheduling of email campaigns. As we progressed through the development of the feature, however, it became clear that it was an answer to a problem people didn’t really have. As a small team, getting that feedback before we sank too many resources into it was hugely important because it meant we were able to focus entirely on making the core of Sendwithus better at the things our customers were actually using it for.

Rob Fitzpatrick wrote a wonderful post a while back suggesting that the CEO should personally email your first 1000 customers and this is actually a really great strategy for a number of reasons. Not only do you discover the problems you should be addressing in your onboarding campaign, but you also get direct access to a pool of early adopters and potential evangelists for your product.

This process can certainly still be automated and even personalized, and with that, we can help. Of course, that plan will eventually hit the limits of scale, and it’s at that point you can truly craft an effective drip campaign – when you’ve felt the pain, addressed the problems, and developed really great resources for new users.