Hi & Goodbye: The Two Most Valuable Components of Your Email Program (Part 1)

There is a pretty common expression that I’m sure you have heard: “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Whether going on a first date, walking into a job interview, or that dreaded meeting of the maybe-future-in-laws, making a good first impression is critical.

To dig a little deeper, though, why do we want to make a good first impression? While there may be slight variations to that answer, the reason is simple: someone you don’t know is taking the time to meet you, because he or she is interested in you and what you have to offer.

The same logic applies to  new customers who sign up to receive your emails. They checked out your website, they like what they see, and now they’ve decided they want to engage with your company. The ball is in your court, and you want to show your new subscribers who you are, what you’re about, and introduce them to your company with a clever balance of information and personality. This is your welcome email—the “Hi, nice to meet you” of your email program.

“Hi”: The keys to your welcome email
Some sophisticated senders actually employ a welcome series (rather than a single welcome email), which provides more detailed information and maybe even special offers for the new customer, spread out over several emails. While this approach may prove valuable and worthwhile, it is possible to start your new relationship on the right foot with just one well-constructed welcome email.

  • Timing. In today’s world, as technology continues to advance and accelerate, instant gratification has become the norm. We can Google anything imaginable but it takes more than five seconds on a weak wifi connection, we’re already annoyed. Once customers opt in to your emails, you have their attention and they are willing to listen… but not for long. Ideally, your welcome message should be an automated or triggered email that new subscribers receive almost immediately. It shows you recognize their subscription, you’re  grateful for their interest, and you’re excited to have them on board with your program. If your welcome email doesn’t arrive until hours or even days after the opt-in, there’s a good possibility the subscriber has already forgotten why they were interested. This is exactly what you want to avoid, as it can easily lead to user complaint, which can put you on the road to deliverability disaster.
  • Subscriber expectations. This is a missed opportunity for many marketers. Since your welcome message is the first email your subscriber will read, set the stage and be very clear about what they can expect to receive from you. If you’ll be sending emails once a week, tell them that—and if you always send on the same day, let them know which day of the week they can expect to hear from you. If you send several emails per week, be honest about it. Reassure them they can change the frequency of emails they receive (which ties into the second most valuable component of your email program, coming tomorrow). You want to build a sense of trust and let them know exactly what to expect so there are no surprises—and no reason for someone to report your emails as spam.
  • Call-to-action. Now that your subscriber has opened your welcome message, here is your chance to boost that click rate! Give your customers something to click, to further increase engagement and drive website traffic. Whether it’s a button or text, your call-to-action should be clearly visible and stand out from your normal text. I’ve seen plenty of welcome emails come through with great content, but there’s just nowhere to go from there and nothing to click. The last thing you want to do is leave your subscriber saying, “Ok, now what?” Nobody likes an awkward hello, so be sure to give your new opt-in some direction. Including a special offer or coupon never hurts eitherit’s a great way to incorporate call-to-actions, and also rewards your customers for opting in to your subscriber list.
  • Mobile-friendly. Another important factor to keep in mind, for your welcome email and all others that follow, is the increasing presence of mobile technology. One of the data points we provide at Return Path is this breakdown of email opens across multiple client platforms. Very often, mobile is the most common way emails are viewed. Since a sizeable portion of your audience is doing everything from their cell phone, including opening your emails, it’s imperative to optimize for mobile. The email should automatically adjust to the screen of the device being used (responsive design), images should render flawlessly, and the overall user experience should be a positive one. Cater to this audience, and let your welcome message be a prelude to the mobile-friendly emails that are coming their way.
  • Stand out. Your welcome email has all the information it needs, it’s being sent within an appropriate time frame, it looks good/feels good, and it even offers a nice 10% off discount. Now that all the technical pieces are in place, be creative! Show some personality that reflects the image of your business, and set the tone for future communications. There are lots of brands jockeying for position in the inbox, so do something interesting and make your customer look forward to receiving your next email.

Want to find out more about how welcome emails can impact your business? Check out our research report on this topic, How America’s Top Retailers Set the Tone with Welcome Emails.

In part 2 I will discuss the other side of your email relationship: The goodbye.

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