Get the most out of your welcome email

When I look at retailers' email programs, I am always surprised at the number of them who send a simple text email confirming that someone has been added to their mailing list.

I like to think of this first email, the "welcome" email, as a first date. Think about when someone you like asks you out (or agrees to go out with you). After doing a little dance and singing "they like me, they really like me," you would probably start to plan on how to make it a great date. Would you show up with bad breath and a stain on your shirt? I should hope not. You would get cleaned up, put on a nice outfit, and show up with roses. 

Similarly, if we think of that initial email as a first date, then we should take that opportunity to put our best foot forward, and send customers the best welcome email that we can. The email should represent your brand and your website, and set expectations for what the recipient will be receiving in the future. Here are a few tips to help you shine on that first date:

  1. Send the first email right away: The fact that someone signed up at all will be top of mind for a limited period of time. Don't wait; start to engage with subscribers as soon as you can.

  2. Use HTML formatting: It's difficult to do your brand justice with a plain text email. Create an email, using HTML best practices, that includes your logo and in some ways mirrors your website.

  3. Link to your website: Please, please, please give people an opportunity to link back to your site and shop. This is the first of many emails, and should have the same site navigation that you will be including in all future emails.

  4. Be as promotional as your brand: Don't feel that you have to offer a coupon in these first communications. However, if you are going to be sending out offers every week, then by all means, put one in your welcome email.

  5. Expand the welcome to more than one campaign: Evaluate how much information you would like a new subscriber to have, and then decide how many emails it would take to communicate that information effectively. If you have great shipping policies, terrific sizing tools, new merchandise daily, customer reviews, and a special offer for new opt-ins, it may be more effective to turn your welcome message into a series of emails rather than trying to fit it into one.

  6. Personalize your emails: If you have information available to you, use it. If you required the subscriber's name at opt-in, use it. If they signed up during checkout, thank them for their purchase. If they are a prospect, thank them for signing up. If you have multiple sources for collecting email addresses, acknowledge which source they came from.  

Lisa Harmon, co-founder and principal at Smith-Harmon, Inc., an email marketing company, says the welcome email is probably the single greatest opportunity that email marketers have to engage subscribers and drive action. Welcome messages generate superior open rates and, when done well, create a halo effect that boosts subscribers' engagement with subsequent promotional and triggered emails.

If you engage in an effective welcome email program with your customers from the start, chances are you'll have that second date.

Mary Kathleen Sullivan is senior strategic consultant for Responsys.

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Comments

Kelly Lorenz
Kelly Lorenz June 16, 2009 at 4:31 PM

Great article, Mary. I agree with all your points - the sign-up form is like the welcome mat and the Welcome message is like someone entering the foyer. The analogy has a point much like your dating analogy - much like you want the welcome message to mirror your website, you also want it to be a reflection of what subscribers can expect from you in the future. Matching the look and feel of your regular marketing emails will help ease the transition and begin to establish that recognition, and hopefully, interaction with your brand's emails. I would also argue that welcome messages should include a call to action to get them shopping with you right away, as you mention in point #3.

-Kelly Lorenz