Return Path's New Year Community Challenge: Week 1

This week’s best practice: Send a Welcome Message

Does this just seem too basic? We thought so too, until we studied more than 60 top-brand marketers and found that 60% of them didn’t bother to send a welcome message.

Welcome messages are an important part of a well-run email marketing program. Now more than ever, with inbox clutter at all time highs, they are an essential tool to keep your list clean, control complaint rates and, if done right, even get your subscribers to start engaging with you immediately.

Most marketers know the value of a welcome message. So what stops them? It’s usually a combination of inertia and budget. Isn’t everything? If you need help making a case for prioritizing a welcome message, know that you can tie welcome messages to real revenue.

1. By isolating your welcome messages on a separate IP, you can catch unknown users and mal-formatted addresses immediately (and remove any complainers from your file). This helps deliverability and eliminates any infection to your main IP address – which translates to a stronger Sender Score on the main IPs and more messages reaching the inbox every time. What would it mean if even 5% of your messages didn’t reach the inbox? Drop response and conversion by 5% on each message you send and add up the missing revenue. Ouch!

2. Track response to your welcome messages by source, and identify the highest performing partners, search keywords or ads. Allocate more money to the sources that drive the highest engaged users. More qualified subscribers drive more revenue. Hooray!

3. Use your welcome message to educate new subscribers about cool areas of your service/website – all of which may have been invisible to them if you just sent the next promotion in the queue. More engaged subscribers boost visits and conversions. One retailer boosted click throughs by 30% just by swapping out the image seasonally.

What makes for a great welcome message? Consider these 10 ideas for creating or improving your welcome messages:

1. Focus on the benefits to the reader. What is your email going to offer them that no one else does?

2. Thank them! Be sincere and genuine. If appropriate for your business, include a discount or whitepaper download.

3. Give them something to do. Your brand-new email subscriber spent some time on your site and signed up for your email program. Great! What’s the next thing they should do to further engage? Read a whitepaper? Download a demo? Set up a profile? Whatever it is, make that the key call to action.

4. Match the design of this message to the design of both the original source (e.g.: your website, the ad, etc.) as well as future messages. One way that welcome messages help you is by building an immediate factor of recognition – “Oh yes, I signed up for this email and wanted to get it.” Going forward, the more your welcome message looks like future messages, the better.

5. Send it fast. The ideal is real-time, but if you have to batch at least send it the same day as the sign up. The more time that lags between sign up and message, the greater the chance that subscribers will forget about you and misidentify your email as spam.

6. Create a welcome series. One message is great, but many companies would benefit from a few emails over the course of several weeks to introduce new subscribers to their email program. Think of these emails as “Your Brand 101.” What are the foundational materials that all readers need to make the best use of the emails they will be getting? What do they need to know about your products and services?

7. Include a survey. What do you need to know about your subscribers to really customize their experience? Put those questions into a survey tool and send it as part of your welcome while new folks are ready and willing to engage. Ask for feedback.

8. Be proactive about unsubscribe. Welcome messages often have the highest click through and complaint rates. Some subscribers are delighted, others are annoyed. I say, “Embrace it!” Make sure you have a prominent unsubscribe link near the top and encourage unsubscribing rather than reporting as spam.

9. Don’t forget the essentials. Remind the subscriber where and when they signed up and be clear about what they can expect in terms of content and frequency. Make it easy for them to add you to their “favorite senders” or address book.

10. Keep it simple. Despite all these ideas and recommendations, try to keep it very brief and simple. A series can help you accomplish more, as well (see #6 above).

Get inspired! See some great welcome message examples:

Start talking:

  • If you don’t send a welcome message, tell us why not (no worries, there’s no judging here – we all want to help!)
  • If you send a GREAT welcome message, brag about it – what makes it so good?
  • If you are doing something new, different, or really off-the-wall to engage new subscribers, tell us now!
  • If you have seen a really great welcome message, share with us!
  • If you want ideas for creating a new (or just better) welcome message, post your questions.

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