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Engage New Subscribers with a Welcome Email Program

By Loren McDonald, Vice President, Industry Relations 

In a recent article on welcome emails, I explained how a structured series of emails will help you develop a solid relationship with your subscribers, which in turn should bring you higher revenue and deliverability.

The welcome email launches the process immediately after opt-in. Unfortunately, that's also where many marketers drop the ball. In fact, the work is just beginning.

Now, it's time to send out a series of follow-up emails, all designed to introduce newcomers to purchasing with your company and discovering different parts of your Web site and services.
This does not mean you bombard your newcomers with a relentless flood of sell-sell-sell offers. The whole point of a good welcome follow-up program is to give each message a unique and logical purpose, one that draws your prospect or customer ever deeper into your company. All of these emails are part of an automated program and sent out either at a set interval or triggered by customer actions or inaction.

A few rules to remember:

  • Coordinate your welcome emails with your regular emails or initiatives.
  • Time your welcome emails so that it doesn't look as if you are sending more email than your subscribers would expect.
  • Generally, the longer your buying or publishing cycle, the longer your welcome program should last.
  • Refer to your welcome program in the welcome message that goes out immediately after opt-in so that it's expected.
  • Differentiate your welcome emails from regular messages in the subject line.
  • Preview the next welcome email in the current one so readers know to expect it. Don't get too specific, because you might change copy or offers at some point; just hint: "Next up: A list of our readers-favorite articles."

Here are prototypes for three common kinds of email programs:


Example: Multichannel retailer with online and brick-and-mortar store that opts in subscribers at point-of-sale and online.

Goal: To bring new subscribers back to your Web site, motivate them to make an initial purchase early in the relationship, order regularly from you and increase their order sizes.

Email examples:

  • Email 1:
    Remind them of the discount, free shipping or similar offer you extended in the initial Thanks/Welcome email. This email should be triggered after X number of days and sent to those that have not purchased, clicked a link, etc.
  • Email 2:
    Email that is focused on current top sellers. Idea is to get the new subscriber to make that initial purchase, so leveraging what is driving the most transactions may increase their purchase intent.
  • Email 3:
    This next area could introduce another area of the site - closeouts, clearance, new products - or special offers or services they may not be aware of. These might include the different shipping options, return policies, refer-a-friend programs, etc.
  • Email 4:
    Invitation to fill out a customer profile with demographic information, product preferences, postal address and alternate email address in case the primary address bounces.
  • Email 5:
    Targeted email based on their preferences and profile - or better yet, their update based on the previous email. "Loren, thanks for updating your profile. We noticed that you prefer Zinfandels from California. As a thanks, take 10% off your next order of any California Zinfandel."
  • Email 6:
    Special offer for subscribers who have not opened or clicked a single email after receiving X number of messages.
  • Email 7:
    An invitation to complete a quick survey on the email program - and Web site and catalog experiences. Inactive subscribers might receive an incentive to complete the survey.
  • Email 8:
    Invitation to join an exclusive buyers' group, club or other program for those who clicked/converted from emails.

Online Service

Example: Web site that allows consumers to create their own content, such as organizing and displaying photos or book self-publishing.

Goal: To encourage new users to learn about all aspects of the service and to get them using both basic and advanced features as quickly as possible; long-term goal to retain as users and upgrade to premium if offered.

Email examples:

  • Email 1:
    Reminder of key value propositions.
    Account information as appropriate.
    Quick-start instructions for setting up an account.
    Discount or gift for upgrading to premium service if offered.
    Links to resources and how-to for getting started.
    Opportunity to offer feedback or post questions.
    Company satisfaction guarantee.
    Message and signature from CEO or leading customer representative.
  • Email 2:
    How to get started.
    Step-by-step tips.
    Where to download guides/templates/help documents.
    Link to wiki/blog/support center/fan page.
    Invitation to refer friends/family for incentive including discount or upgrade.
    Repeat of account set-up instructions.
  • Email 3:
    Personalized email from an account rep offering up help if they have any questions, etc. Provides a face to the company, particularly helpful if people are not moving forward.
  • Email 4:
    Ideas for more advanced use of the service
    Incentive for setting up an account (triggered for users who have not set up accounts or opened previous welcome or regular emails).
  • Email 5:
    Examples of what others have done with the service, testimonials. Provide them with the encouragement to take the leap and get started.
  • Email 6:
    Limited time offer to upgrade to "Premium" program at discounted price.
  • Email 7:
    Quick survey that is targeted to the level of activity or account level. 

B-to-B Newsletter

Example: B-to-B corporate email newsletter with monthly or weekly frequency.

Goal: To establish the company as a reliable and necessary information source, thought leader, softly promote products/services and ultimately drive leads. 

Example emails:

  • Email 1:
    Greeting from editor.
    List of topics covered.
    Invitation to provide comments or submit questions and ideas if appropriate.
    List of other messages to come in welcome program.
    Invitation to fill out a detailed reader profile.
  • Email 2:
    Send the most recent issue prior to subscriber opting in.
  • Email 3:
    Summary of most popular articles with links to complete articles at your Web site.
  • Email 4:
    Apprise subscribers of other valuable content you provide - white papers, Webinars, special reports - and that as a subscriber they get free access to these resources.
  • Email 5:
    After a few newsletters, solicit feedback on what they've liked/not liked so far. Obtain input on future articles, features, etc.
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