It’s always validating when you get a stream of subscribers coming onto your list. “Hurrah” you say, “I’ve optimized, I’ve got the right messaging and my lead magnet works.”
Getting them there is one thing, but arguably what’s more important is what you do with them next.
This is where having a well-constructed welcome email series comes in – emails that help your subscriber get to know you and start to build a connection; even encourage them to purchase from you in the end.
How do you create an effective welcome email series? We’re digging in to take a look.
Need content ideas for your welcome emails? Check out some of ours here.
Why Do You Need Welcome Emails?
It can be tempting to think that email marketing must be on a death slide, especially if you think about the average person receiving 121 emails per day and having nowhere near enough time to deal with them all. However, research tells us that email still brings a remarkable return on investment (4300% ROI according to the Direct Marketing Association), it still converts well, and it is a relatively simple strategy for businesses large or small to put in place.
The role of welcome emails is important as part of effective customer lifecycle marketing, which means delivering messages to customers at the right time in accordance with where they are in their journey with you.
Build Recognition Early
How many times have you subscribed to something, then completely forgotten about it? This often happens if you haven’t received any kind of communication directly after subscribing. When the site you subscribed to eventually sends you something, you are more likely to ignore or spam it because you can’t remember who they are.
Research from Bluehornet finds that almost 75% of consumers expect to receive a welcome email when they subscribe. This means something personable and engaging, not an automated “you’re subscribed” or something like the image below.
Besides the fact that your new subscribers are expecting to receive welcome emails immediately, further statistics show that welcome emails generate more revenue than blanket promotional emails. They capture the interest of new subscribers while you are still fresh in their minds and are vital for building a connection before their interest dwindles.
Source: Easy SMTP
Your welcome emails set the tone and impression the prospect has of your business. This is your chance to hit them with something super interesting, engaging, and professional in appearance early to help generate that trust in your brand.
These emails can lay the foundation of their entire relationship with your business. They can set expectations (for example, how often they can expect to hear from you), encourage connection through social media channels, and point customers back to your website for any offers you may have going.
What Makes A Welcome Series Effective?
#1. Timing and Frequency
For starters, as indicated in the previous section, you need to be timely with that first email going out. That means sending out an email immediately while the customer is still engaged with your business; don’t go for options like batching of emails to send out later.
As far as the number of emails and timing between them, that will depend upon what you decide a new subscriber needs to know about your business (which we look at under “content” below). Some people suggest a series of 6 to 8 emails, spaced a couple of days apart, others will say to send one email per day for the next five days. This is something you’re going to need to test for yourself, but the key thing is not to send out emails for the sake of emails. If you’ve really got something to say across 8 emails, go for it, if not, the prospect will appreciate you not wasting their time.
Another timing consideration is whether or not you want new subscribers to immediately be receiving what your regular list gets. If not, tag them so that they only go into the main newsletter list once the welcome series is over.
As a side note for those sending out regular newsletters or other email communications to their list, the 2015 study by BlueHornet on Consumer Views of Email Marketing revealed that a weekly frequency is the sweet spot.
#2. Getting Opened
Obviously the first thing you want people to do is actually open your emails, though this is one of the trickiest things to achieve in crowded inboxes. There are really two elements that encourage (or not) the prospect to open the email:
- Trust – does this look like spam?
- Relevance – is the subject line compelling?
When you’re beginning a relationship with a new prospect, trust elements are quite simple. You need to be sending from an email address which appears trustworthy and your subject lines shouldn’t scream out “spam” with excessive use of exclamation marks, dollar signs, or spam trigger words such as “free”, “affordable” or “cash.” Your subject lines are an element you should set up for split-testing to see which are the most effective. There is some research out there to suggest which words are more effective than others to use in the subjects of welcome emails, but there will be variations depending on your business type.
Source: Easy SMTP
Research presented by Easy SMTP shows that generic “from” email addresses should be avoided. People are more likely to open an email from “Charlie@” rather than “info@.”
“Noreply@” is even worse because it implies that the email is being sent by some kind of robot that doesn’t allow the customer to engage with your business. The idea is that you want to keep those lines of communication open.
The first thing you need to decide before writing a single line of content is which actions you want your subscriber to take. What are the goal outcomes? What should a new subscriber know about your business?
No matter how many emails you decide to put together as part of a welcome series, there should be a cohesive story and clear actions to take with each email.
For example, you might want subscribers to:
- Learn about your brand story.
- Provide their subscription preferences (a great way to ensure they are put into the right segments).
- Connect with you on social media.
- Use a coupon code or offer.
Calls To Action
Calls to action are a must if you want your emails to be effective. You could use any or all of these goals throughout your series, but if you want people to take action, then you should limit your calls to action to one type per email, as found in research by Which Test Won? (You can repeat it more than once, but if you ask people to take more than one kind of action, you may overwhelm them and get none).
Deliver Value Immediately
What content should you include in your welcome series? The answer to that lies in the reason that people subscribed with you in the first place. You will have made some kind of promises to entice them to subscribe, so start delivering on those ASAP.
If you offered an incentive for sign-up, deliver that in the first email. For anything else, live up to your promises, whether that was helpful information or awesome deals. Keep it relevant to what the customer signed up for: If it was deals, they probably don’t want an email that’s purely about your brand history (give them your story but include the deals!).
Delivering value early is about building trust with the prospect. From the beginning you want to train them that your emails are relevant and worth their time opening. For this reason you may also want to consider segmenting prospects according to how they signed up and preferences they expressed, then sending out different welcome series accordingly.
Another point to remember is that even if one of your big goals is to sell, if your emails all come across as a sales pitch they are not likely to be effective. The point of your welcome series is to build the relationship, not make them feel like they’re meeting up with the classic, oily salesperson.
Constant Contact did some research recently looking at the relationship between the length of emails, the number of images used, and the click through rates that resulted. Their overall finding? Less is more.
Specifically: “Emails with about 20 lines of text and three or fewer images received the highest click-through rate.”
This is another element for you to test within your own business, however. As they point out, general findings can give an idea of best practice, but may vary between businesses.
Need content ideas for your welcome emails? Check out some of ours here.
A welcome email series can be a very effective tool for your business if you spend a little time developing it well. It allows you to start building a relationship with your prospect early while your brand is still on their mind, and to set the standard for what they should expect from you.
This is why it’s worth your time. Generic “thanks for subscribing” emails are uninspiring and don’t deliver any kind of value to the customer. A well-planned welcome series engages them and helps them to realize the value you can deliver.
Make your welcome series effective by building trust, being responsive, and delivering relevant, valuable content.