Fact #1: First impressions count. Fact #2: You never get a second chance to make a good first impression. Put those two facts together in the world of Email Marketing and what you get is a no-brainer conclusion: Welcome Emails play a very important role in any professional email program.
Welcome Emails aren’t just polite email marketing etiquette, they also have the potential to set the tone for your whole email program since the Welcome Email is the first encounter between your subscriber and your brand via email.
Some marketers believe in a minimalist approach to their Welcome Emails, figuring that the simpler, the better, and while there is certainly merit to keeping it simple, it doesn’t necessarily follow that it should also be boring. Sure, you could send a plain, mostly text-based Welcome Email (yawn…), but if your competitors have taken the trouble to make their Welcome Email as enjoyable and as representative of their brand’s persona as possible (especially if it’s targeted at a B2C audience) while yours appears to have come from someone who isn’t capable or willing to apply even basic design or a shred of creativity, whose email do you think will be more memorable and conducive to a great first impression?
So in addition to following standard Welcome Email best practices, think of your Welcome Emails not just as “administrative correspondence”, but also as an opportunity to for your subscribers to get to know your brand and hopefully enjoy the experience. There’s no reason why Welcome Emails can’t be as memorable as any other type of email you send. In fact, some might argue that it should be the most memorable.
Here are some examples of standout Welcome Emails that are not just effective in saying “welcome” but also in establishing brand personality:
(Click on the individual links below the animation to get a better view of each example):
- American Apparel Welcome Email
- Upworthy Welcome Email
- Bonefish Grill Welcome Email
- MAC Welcome Email
- Moosejaw Welcome Email (this is one of the few B2C Welcome Emails I’ve seen that is an exception to the “mostly text is mostly boring” rule, but that’s because Moosejaw is renowned for outstanding copywriting.)
And here’s a demonstration of 10 Welcome Email best practices, as applied in The Best of Email’s Welcome Email:
1) Make your email’s preheader count.
In some email clients, like Gmail, the first few bits of text (including “ALT” text associated with images) are displayed immediately following the subject line in the preview pane, so instead of using those first words for something mundane, you might want use them to highlight something important relating to the content of the email itself.
In The Best of Email’s Welcome Email, I chose to welcome subscribers (by name) to our email program and remind them that it’s the first in a series of seven emails about “Email Marketing in Action”. I purposely omitted “ALT” text from the first image in the email (which happens to be the logo) in order to allow priority for as much of the preheader copy to appear instead.
2) Provide an option to view your email online.
You never know what kind of problems people might encounter while attempting to view your email, so it’s always a good idea to provide a link to an online version, and it makes sense to place it at the top of the email so that people who need to use it can find it right away. And ALWAYS make sure that the link works properly! A “view online” link that doesn’t work or expires after a certain amount of time is a major turnoff.
3) Branding is important…
…so it’s a good idea to include your brand’s logo in the email.
4) Enhance the subscriber’s ‘welcome’ experience with visual appeal.
To say that Welcome Emails should be visually pleasing doesn’t mean that they need to be heavy on images, but visual elements are a great way to break up the monotony of the text, plus they can help ‘tell a story’ or at least reinforce the message you’re trying to get across in the copy.
Also, since about half of all emails are now opened on mobile devices where visual appeal is especially engaging, it’s especially silly not to put some effort in the design of the email (which should be mobile-friendly of course).
5) Make it personal.
I’m a fan of personalization even at its most basic. I’d much rather be addressed by my first name than the salutations of “Dear Subscriber” or “Hi there”, both of which confirm that the sender has absolutely no idea who I am. Despite the “First Name” detail being about as basic as they come for email personalization, it implies that the marketer behind the email is at least making an effort to make the email experience as personal as possible.
6) Say ‘thank you’!
Many people subscribe to newsletters with great trepidation these days because they feel ‘oversubscribed’ as it is, so the fact that someone chooses to subscribe to your email program shouldn’t be taken for granted. Being allowed access into a subscriber’s personal inbox is a privilege that you will need to keep re-earning with every subsequent email, so a ‘thank you’ is certainly wouldn’t go astray. Some brands even offer a ‘treat’ as a way of making the subscriber feel both welcome and rewarded for signing up, like a discount, coupon or free download.
7) Set expectations about what type of content your future emails will contain.
It’s a good idea to remind subscribers about what they can expect to receive in your emails moving forward, plus it’s a great way of plugging highlights of what’s to come to add to the anticipation of future emails.
8) Encourage new subscribers to whitelist you.
Encouraging your subscribers to add you to their ‘Safe Senders’ or ‘Contacts’ (a.k.a. whitelist your emails) can be done regularly in every email you send, but the Welcome Emails is an especially appropriate time to do it (even prominently) since it may help your deliverability efforts with subsequent emails.
9) Take advantage of the signup momentum and give your subscribers something to do.
Welcome Emails needn’t necessarily require the subscriber to perform some sort of action. Sometimes it’s just enough to convey a warm and fuzzy feeling about their new relationship with your brand and leave it at that. However all emails are an opportunity to get subscribers to interact with your brand, so if you manage to make a great first impression with your Welcome Email then your subscribers will be even more amenable to performing an action and engaging with your brand, even if it’s just clicking on a link directing them to an article back on your website.
10) Take care of some general housekeeping.
Since the Welcome Email is essentially an introduction to your brand’s email program and your subscribers are expecting a certain level of ‘housekeeping’, it’s also a great opportunity to encourage them to connect with you through your social channels and update their email preferences.
There are other important elements to consider that add to the effectiveness of a Welcome Email. One of these is the subject line. The jury’s still out on what types of subject lines are most effective for Welcome Emails. Some marketers opt for a straightforward approach while others go for something more creative so the best way to get an idea of what appeals most to your email audience is simply to test a variety of approaches and lock in the winner based on proven results.
Another factor that may affect the performance of a Welcome Email is whether or not you give your new subscribers a heads up that a Welcome Email is in fact on its way so that they know to look out for it in their inbox. The most logical place to mention it is in the signup confirmation page, which is another potentially engaging step in the signup process that many marketers often forget to optimize.
Curious to see how other brands do their Welcome Emails? Check out some choice examples in our Inspiration Gallery.