First impressions are a big deal, especially in email. Most subscribers will only ask to join an email program once. As senders, though, we have schedules to keep… emails going out the door every month, week, every day.
With those operational demands, it’s easy to consider triggered or transactional messages to be necessary evils compared to the “real” program. In reality, they’re among the most important messages we send: the messages customers specifically expect, even look forward to receiving.
Welcome emails are my favorite piece of an email program. They’re an introduction, a chance for a program to say “here’s who I am!” Despite this opportunity and the wealth of data on the benefits of welcome messages -– high open rates, great revenue per message, etc -– I still see many programs with very basic, haphazard, or missing welcome messages. There are several places on the web to find visual examples, but we also want a solid foundation of content. To that end, let’s dive in to welcome emails –- goals, signup, and content.
What Do You Want To Achieve With a Welcome?
The signup process and welcome email are your chance to set expectations, educate subscribers and immediately prove the value of your email program. It’s a time to talk about yourself, yes, but engagement isn’t a monologue. To understand a successful welcome, we need to think about subscriber motivation through the signup and welcome process.
With that perspective, a welcome possesses a set of shared goals for both senders and subscribers:
- Establish common expectations for interaction
- Understand the tone of the relationship
- Explore the current interest and energy of discovery
- Transition an excited subscriber into the program
Glance at a few email program signup forms and you’ll see they run the gamut from a single “join our email list” form field to comprehensive subscription centers. The best email programs aim the signup process at conversion, just like the emails themselves. This ranges from a simple signup like that at the bottom of the Threadless homepage, to fabfitfun’s dedicated signup page. When crafting that signup call-to-action, quickly include the following points:
- Value proposition: Why should I sign up?
- Content: What will I receive?
- Frequency: When will I get it?
Next up: the confirmation email. Double opt-in is a long-standing list quality best practice, and its necessity can range from smart to imperative based on the number of people on the list and the nature of your data source(s).
When followed, it’s usually seen as obligatory, and confirmation messages commonly reflect this: little-to-no branding or content and a system-generated message. I advocate for simple, direct and helpful confirmations, quickly re-iterating the signup rationale:
- Basic HTML message with recognizable branding and voice
- Identify where the message came from and why
- Clearly state the desired action
- Quickly explain the results of the action
Confirmed! Welcome time. Again, that energy of discovery is fleeting, so real-time responses to subscriber action always see the best results, for both the confirmation and actual welcome. If senders decide against a real-time response, they’re actively choosing to push away a subscriber who’s asking for more!
There’s a multitude of content choices and tactics to employ in a welcome message. At the core, though, are several key points a subscriber needs to understand regarding the message, its value, and why they should engage.
Senders should keep the following 6 ideas in mind when developing welcome messages:
- Who I am (the sender)
- Restate your identity with brevity and clarity. This is accomplished in the from name, subject line, and immediately in the message body.
- Clarity requires a recognizable identity, meaning it matches the signup. If your homepage is the only signup source, that’s easy. With multiple points of origin, though, subscribers may not instantly connect the signup activity to the message (especially if there’s a delay between signup and receipt).
- Time to rock the value prop. Remember the “why” back in the signup call-to-action? We need to connect back to that idea and potentially expand on it.
- Acknowledge the point of origin and/or incentives — it may have been a big part of the reason for signup and subscribers will be looking for it.
- Explain how often you’ll interact with subscribers. It’s especially important if there are lots of touches or messages with a crucial timeframe — daily senders and alert messages need and deserve special messaging here.
- If applicable, explain why you communicate with this frequency and if the subscriber has an option to change it.
- Show why the subscriber will stay interested in your brand and the content of the email program. Give specific examples.
- For lots of subscribers, this is all about the coupons or other incentivized interaction. Engagement doesn’t have to be traded for a cookie, though. Show examples of the brand/product value proposition that brought the subscribers here in the first place.
- Suggest, recommend and share popular content with new subscribers as a way to introduce them to the brand. I don’t just mean popular in the sense of social media, but think about your web analytics — what’s the most purchased or best reviewed product, or the most popular page? This is great content to draw in a new subscriber.
- Share unexpected or uncommon benefits. The welcome is the perfect time to touch on differentiating or unknown aspects of your brand.
- This point serves two purposes: raising awareness to encourage greater interaction, and acknowledging that subscribers interact with brands in multiple ways and multiple channels.
- Elements to consider:
- Preferences the program will use: allow subscribers to help you deliver content closer to their interests.
- Additional email programs: to expand their interaction or find content in which they are more interested.
- Social channels: to begin exploring while interest is high.
- Store locations: to create a bridge between online and brick & mortar.
- Contact methods: email, phone, support, and so forth, for subscribers who want or need additional contact.
- Add to address book: to ensure seamless future delivery.
- At the most basic level: never leave a subscriber or user at a dead end.
- For many brands, signup has been incentivized and the offer naturally translates to a path of engagement and conversion. Studies have shown that incentivizing signup does lead to a short-term performance boost.
- For others, content will be building awareness or the brand, but the two don’t have to be mutually exclusive. As above, think about approaches like popular content as a way to promote without a hard sell.
We’ve established a concise signup and a healthy welcome message. Still looking for more? There are still plenty of places to grow.
- Welcome Series: there’s lots of info out there on benefits of a welcome series, and a stream of messages can present a fantastic and thorough introduction to the program. At the same time, remember the idea of a welcome “series” is very brand-centric. The subscriber only receives one first message, and that’s their introduction to the brand — every other message is about retaining and growing interest.
- Unexpected pleasures: welcomes can come in many formats and bending the idea of a traditional welcome can yield unexpected results. This could mean a new approach to content and technology, like Style Campaign’s mobile-friendly welcome series, or welcoming subscribers via email to a new device, software, an app, or even a big update.
The signup and welcome process looks like a microcosm of the entire email lifecycle — acquiring, retaining and growing. Like subscribers, welcome programs start in one place and evolve over time, but their focus should always be viewed with respect to the needs and motivations of a new subscriber. Initial impressions are fast, strong and shape the subscriber’s view of your program. When you send that first message, make sure they really feel welcomed.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.