Email for President: Welcome Emails

At Return Path, we’ve been analyzing data like open rates and read rates for the presidential candidates, but we’ve also been comparing the email strategies employed. Welcome emails are an important part of the candidates’ overall strategy. They set the tone for the subscriber relationship—and they’re important for any industry, whether it’s an email from TOMS Shoes or Ted Cruz.

In particular, there are a few parts of the welcome email process we like to compare:

Email signup
It’s interesting to compare the email signup experience between the candidates. Essentially, all three seek to accomplish the same thing, but they do so in slightly different ways.

Clinton, for example, has the signup front and center on her website. You’re asked for your email address and zip code—that’s it. After signing up, you’re presented with a donation page to contribute to her campaign.


Sanders’ signup is also front and center on his website. Again, you’re asked for your email address and zip code. After signing up, you’re presented with a donation page to contribute to his campaign.


Trump’s newsletter signup requires an additional step—clicking on the “Join Us” button from the middle of his website.


After you do so, you get a pop-up form that asks for first and last name, email address, state, and zip code. You’re also presented with the options to volunteer and/or subscribe for campaign updates (this box is already checked).


Unlike the Clinton and Sanders thank you pages, you are not presented with a donation link after signing up for Trump’s newsletters—you’re just thanked.

Which signup process is better? Well, that depends. A simpler signup process makes it more likely you’ll increase the size of your email list, but a longer list of questions enables you to personalize your emails in the future. (Though, for the record, we’ve not gotten anything personalized from the Trump camp yet.) It’s wise to collect data that allows you to segment your emails accordingly in the future—as Trump does on his website—to separate those subscribers interested in volunteering from those simply interested in campaign updates. That way, you can tailor your communications to those audiences at the start of your relationship.

Initial email
Ah, the first contact with subscribers. Rather surprisingly, the candidates’ strategies differed considerably with the first email they sent us.

Within an hour of our email signup, Clinton sent us a short email. There are very little graphic elements used and the text is plain and simple. The email is addressed to “Friend” because we weren’t asked for our name during the signup process. The calls to action included a donation link, a volunteer link, and a way to share Clinton’s website with your friends. We assumed this would have social links for Twitter and Facebook, but instead it takes the subscriber to the “Join” page. Though we’re focusing on the emails, this seems like a missed opportunity to us.


We waited… and waited… and we’re still waiting. No welcome email from Sanders. About 12 hours after our initial signup, we did receive an email from the local campaign office notifying us of events in our area—remember, we provided our zip code at the time of signup.


Trump sent us a welcome email within the hour of initial signup. The email has a header and is more robust that the other candidates’ emails, with links to social media outlets at the bottom (your eyes are not fooling you, the Instagram text and icon are considerably larger than Twitter and Facebook and the text appears stretched out). Unlike Clinton’s welcome email, Trump’s does not offer a call to action. The website on the blue bar is hyperlinked and the social links at the bottom are as well—but the copy does not urge the reader to take action.




Missing link(s)
If you work in email marketing—and we assume you do given the nature of this post—you might notice something missing in both Clinton and Trump’s emails. There is no “Unsubscribe” link! We didn’t crop it from the images, it’s not there. We were a bit shocked about this, but it’s not illegal or against CAN-SPAM since the email is transactional in nature.

But is it a good idea? We’re a fan of having clear, simple unsubscribe processes—in our opinion every email you send should have links to opt out from the beginning.

So what have we learned from the candidates’ welcome emails? A few ideas we like to see in practice:

  • Ask for information, but make sure you use it. Forms should ask for the bare minimum amount of information. If you can’t articulate why you need an address, for example, then your form shouldn’t include it. Don’t ask for it if it’s just nice to have.

  • Make it clear what you want the subscriber to do. Calls to action are important. Not including a next step or item you want the subscriber to complete makes your email easy to move to the trash.

  • Ensure that ways to share content are relevant and up-to-date. You don’t need to link to every type of social media there is, but if you offer opportunities to share content, make sure it’s relevant to your audience.

  • Provide clear ways to unsubscribe on every email. Transactional emails may not have to adhere to CAN-SPAM laws, but you can still include ways to opt out.

Emails received from April 25 – May 8, 2016. Screenshots taken May 5, 2016.

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