Much as we hate to admit it, first impressions do count. This is no less true when it comes to marketing email, starting with that all-important welcome email. Ignoring or deleting an email is even easier than ignoring a phone call, and in this article we will guide you through each of the critical steps involved in creating a welcome email that won’t be ignored.
It Must be Mobile Friendly
Yes, mobile friendly is a phrase you see in almost every marketing article, but no, it is not a meaningless buzzword. While plain text email is, by default, mobile friendly, marketing email often includes HTML, images, and other components that are, by default, not mobile friendly.
Most of the top email marketing software providers, such as AWeber, MailChimp and Campaign Monitor, already offer responsive templates and drag-and-drop email builders that are also optimized for mobile devices.
However, if you have designed your own email marketing, you can test it for mobile responsiveness in a browser such as Chrome: open your HTML newsletter in Chrome, then select View>Developer>Developer Tools. This will allow you to test how your email displays on a variety of devices.
The rule here is simple: if your welcome email does not look good on a mobile device, nobody is going to bother opening any of your other email marketing.
It Must be Sent Immediately After Sign-Up
There is only one acceptable time to send out your welcome email, and that is immediately after the customer has signed up. You have their attention; they have clearly expressed interest, so send your welcome email before they are distracted by the latest tweetstorm. This applies regardless of whether you send out a single welcome email, or multiple emails as part of a welcome campaign.
The Sender Must be Easily Identifiable
It is important to remember that email marketing is permission-based marketing, and that it is not unreasonable for your customers to expect it to be a two-way conversation. Avoid sending your email marketing from:
- An unattended mailbox, such as firstname.lastname@example.org (AWeber specifically block you from using variants of the “Do No Reply” addresses).
- A free webmail address, such as Yahoo, Gmail and Outlook.
- Multiple different email addresses.
You can personalize the “From” name according to the type of marketing email you are sending out, but make sure it is always easily linked to your company. Additionally, make sure the “From” email address is always a valid one; the reason for this, and for not using “Do Not Reply” addresses, is that even if you include actual contact details in each of your messages, customers will sometimes make contact by simply replying to your marketing email messages. Having your messages sent from a valid email address helps ensure these replies are always received, and attended to.
The above screenshot shows a variety of brands doing a great job of clearly identifying themselves in the “From” field, with only COS resorting to the completely vague “info”.
It Must Have a Clear Subject Line
Depending on how you verify new additions to your marketing list, it is possible that new customers might receive 2-3 emails immediately after subscribing. Make sure the actual welcome email stands out from the rest by having a clear subject line: something simple along the lines of “Thank you for subscribing”, or “Welcome to YourCompany”. There are many great articles on how to create subject lines that convert, but save those for the rest of your marketing campaign. Keep the welcome mail subject simple, and clear.
The same screenshot as before, this time focusing on subject lines, with most brands using the preferred “welcome” or “thank you” in the subject. Bird, Kisua and Otte combined the subscription confirmation with a welcome message, which is not ideal since the message can easily be ignored.
It Must Easily Link to Your Brand
There is always a chance that a new customer doesn’t open your welcome email immediately, only doing so hours, or even days later. Having the look and feel of your welcome email closely mirroring that of your actual website can help them to link your message to your brand, while also showing that you are a professional business. Focus on the following:
- Use your business name in the “From” section of the email.
- Use your business logo in the body of the email, preferably right at the top.
- Use the same colors and typeface (where possible) of your website in the email.
- Mimic your website’s navigation in the email, preferably right below your logo.
Something that can easily be overlooked is the tone of the copy, which should match the tone on your website, and your brand as a whole. If your target audience is young and trendy, your website and your marketing communication should reflect this, right down to the language used.
Fab’s welcome email includes the company logo, a navigation bar (top and bottom) that closely resembles that found on the actual website, while the text and images used also reflect the same style as that found on the website.
It Must Set an Expectation
At the very least, your email signup form should specify the frequency of your marketing email: is it daily, weekly or monthly? Space permitting, you may also give some indication of what type of content the email will feature, but regardless of whether you are able to do this, your welcome email should still include the following:
- A brief introduction in which you thank the customer for subscribing, or welcome them; this is over and above anything similar in your subject line. You could also remind them how frequently they can expect email communications from you.
- A concise breakdown of the type of content they can expect in each communication. You are able to go into more detail than your signup form allows, but avoid writing a wall of text.
That said, what you deliver should match the expectation you have set; if you state that subscribers will get exclusive offers, or early access to new arrivals, then be sure to deliver on this promise.
The welcome email from East Dane does a great job of setting expectation (the large Step No 1 at the top suggests this is the first in a series of welcome emails), and then clearly explains what to expect in future
It Should be Personalized
Personalization is an important focus of marketing nowadays, but there are many ways in which to personalize your marketing. In its simplest form, personalized marketing communications address each recipient by name, while more complex forms of personalization will take into account each recipients past interactions with your business, and their personal interests. Most personalization is only relevant to your normal marketing communications, but there is a form of personalization that must be considered for welcome email messages: the welcome message must be relevant to the context in which the user joined your mailing list. The two most common paths to joining your mailing list are:
- New subscriber who has never registered on your site before, nor made any purchases before, and
- First-time buyer who has also never received any of your emails before.
Your welcome message for both should differ slightly. In the first instance, your message and content should be focused on welcoming them, and trying to convert them into a buying customer, while in the second instance your copy should focus on welcoming and thanking them (for making a purchase), while also trying to retain them.
The ability to build rich profiles of your customers based on their history on your website mean that the need for mailing list preference panels is almost unnecessary. However, they aren’t quite obsolete, and can still benefit smaller businesses. Lazy Oaf is very polite in the way they ask users to provide a bit more information, and as an added bonus, they’ve even incentivized it.
It Should Include an Introductory Offer
Offering new subscribers a welcoming gift in the form of a discount off their first purchase leads to higher conversion rates, but this does come at the expense of your return on investment (ROI). However, the purpose of a mailing list for online retailers is not simply to have a large number of subscribers; it is intended to convert people who have expressed interest in your brand into buying customers, and to retain existing ones. With that in mind, a slightly lower ROI, with higher conversions, is better than the inverse. Look at what is most affordable to you, and most likely to appeal to your audience: free shipping on first orders versus a percentage discount. Additionally, when offering a percentage discount, smaller businesses could consider limiting the discount to first purchases above a certain value. When including an introductory offer remember to:
- Clearly state when the offer expires. The norm is one month after date of receipt, though some retailers limit it to 7 days.
- Clearly state any exclusion to the offer: for example, sale merchandise, other promotional offers or the purchase of gift cards.
- If your business has both a physical store, and an online store, specify whether the offer can be used in either store, or only for online purchases.
Soludos presents their introductory in a bold, visual manner early in their welcome email, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t also quite clear with what limitations apply to the offer.
It Must Have a Strong Call-to-Action
Like all your marketing communication, your welcome email should include a clear call-to-action (CTA): what do you want the subscriber to do next? The obvious response is that you want them to return to your website, but you now have the opportunity to direct them to a specific section or category, ideally your latest arrivals, or your most popular items. Remembering that too much choice can be overwhelming, try to stick to one focused CTA, and one micro CTA. The primary CTA will lead subscribers to a specific section of your online store, while the micro CTA links to your social media accounts, prompting subscribers to follow or like you on Facebook, Twitter and any other social networks you use.
The welcome email from 2020AVE is relatively simple, with minimal use of HTML. They have a focused call to action in the form of a “Shop Now” button at the bottom, but in the body of text they have cleverly included a micro CTA, and another subtle CTA that directs you to their new arrivals. The minimal design of the email is the reason they can get away with two focused CTAs.
It Must Stay Out of the Junk Folder
It is surprisingly easy for your marketing communication to be redirected to a subscriber’s junk mail folder by overly aggressive filters, and one way to minimize the risk is by asking subscribers to add your email address to their address book. This is also another reason for always sending your marketing communications from the same address. In order for your email marketing to also be compliant with most communication regulations, include a footer with the following:
- The full postal address for your business.
- An easy way to unsubscribe (or opt-out) from future email communication.
- A reminder of why the subscriber is receiving your marketing communications.
Finally, ensure that any requests to unsubscribe are processed as quickly as possible. Email marketing software providers can automate this process for you, but you should also check the email address that your marketing communications are linked to – there is always a risk that some subscribers will send an unsubscribe request to that address, instead of using the link in your footer.
COS not only asks you to add them to your address book, they also explain why, which is a nice touch.
Bonus tip: A/B Testing
You should be conducting regular A/B tests on all your marketing communications, including your welcome messages. A/B testing can be done on almost every single aspect of your other marketing communications, in order to see what performs best, but when it comes to your welcome message you should avoid doing A/B tests on the following:
- Time sent. As stated in the second point of this article, the only acceptable time to send out a welcome message is immediately after a user subscribes.
- Welcome offer. Although you can conduct A/B tests on your welcome offer, you should only do so if you are fully aware of, and comfortable with, the risks involved. These include customers unhappy that someone they know received a welcome offer, but they did not, or that their welcome offer was inferior to someone else’s.
A/B testing is especially important if you find that subscribers are not opening your welcome message, or that conversion or click-through rates are particularly low.