Recently, I had a shameful realization which confirmed, to my personal dismay, that even seasoned marketing professionals can lose touch with certain fundamentals. 

When I was in high school, I had the opportunity to take an IQ test, and when the administrator reported back on my number, my heart sank. Since I’m already airing some of my personal dirty laundry, I’ll confess… I’d expected to be in the general area of “genius.” (This is mortifying to admit.) And I’d landed squarely in the, “You’re above average, but not a genius,” category. The disappointment must’ve shown all over my face, as the psychiatrist rushed to comfort me. “You might not actually want to be at a genius level! The higher your IQ,the higher your level of thought, and the more disconnected you will be with the average, the normal, and the everyday.” 

I was reminded of this story, as I spend a lot of my time addressing COMPLEX marketing problems with Willow clients, yet had recently forgotten to be thinking about, let alone TALKING about one of the most basic marketing fundamentals that exists… 

Welcome emails. 

I’m ashamed to admit how many “strategic” email conversations I’ve had in the last year, with very few mentions of, “Hey… before we figure out all this complicated stuff, let’s check in to make sure you’re sending a welcome email, or journey, and doing it well.” What an epic #facepalm moment. 

So, my path to redemption includes this blog post. If you read this and think, “Duh, of course we’re sending smart welcome emails,” then I tip my hat to you, and invite you to skip the rest of this post. If you’re reading this and thinking, “Oh cuss words… I meant to address our welcome emails last year,” or, “What’s the big deal about a welcome email? We send newsletters.”… keep reading. 

Just in case you need convincing:

  • 74% of new subscribers EXPECT to receive a welcome email (and, let’s not forget, first impressions count). 
  • Subscribers who receive welcome emails show 33% more long-term brand engagement than those who don’t. 
  • Welcome emails have 86% higher open rates than other marketing emails (with an average of 50%) which is good for getting your message across AND boosting your sender reputation with the Gmails of the world. 

There’s even more value outside of the stats:

  • The welcome email allows you to create afavorable impression with your new lead. 
  • It allows you to set expectations about content types and frequency, which will drive better future engagement with your brand. 
  • It affords you the opportunity to collect more data about your subscriber (when paired with an active profile or preference center). 
  • It allows you to use a double opt-in, if that’s how your organization rolls. 
  • It reduces the pressure on your sales team by providing an automated lead-nurturing outreach activity.

So, why do marketers not send welcome emails? In my experience, it’s the headache of getting the automations set up. Or, in the absence of automations, the requirement for daily manual intervention to pull the new subscriber list and manually deploy the email to that specific set. The ideal state is setting up an automation (an API or an automated FTP drop) that feeds your new subscribers into the correct spot in your Email Service Provider (ESP).

If this circumstance describes you, or describes what’s held you up from sending welcome emails, reach out to us. We’d love to help you with the technical details involved in getting your systems communicating with each other. Which systems you are using today will greatly affect which configuration is most appropriate for your organization. 

If you’re in a good spot with systems talking to one another through an API or other method, and you’re looking for suggestions on how to write a great welcome email, here’s what you should be thinking about as you plan out your welcome email or journey: 

What do I want this communication to accomplish? Common goals include, but are not limited to:

  • Collection of additional data via a visit to a profile center or account page  
  • Reinforcement of brand and brand value 
  • Driving a certain action, whether that represents deeper engagement or an actual conversion 
  • Setting of expectations (for better future engagement) around what kind of content the new subscriber will get from your organization, and how often  
  • Encouragement of preference setting (only applicable if you have a preference center, which is usually different than a profile center, but different systems use different names) 
  • Being added to the “safe sender” list, ensuring future deliverability 
  • Gaining a double opt-in, if you’re aiming for a squeaky-clean and engaged subscriber list 

Quick tip: try to identify a single goal. The more focus you can establish, the better your chance at success. Many email systems that support email journeys will allow you to only set ONE measurable goal, for purposes of knowing when the journey has been “completed” (at which time, the subscriber can be dropped from the Welcome Email journey flow). And if you cannot focus down to a single goal, establish a STRONG priority hierarchy, and do not attempt to exceed 2-3 goals. 

The next thing to consider, once you’ve mapped out the goals for this welcome communication, is whether it’s reasonable for you to achieve your goal with a single email. Setting up a welcome journey often requires additional planning and configuration time, but can be very worthwhile, considering that only half of the people you send your welcome email to will open it. However, if the idea of a welcome journey feels extra overwhelming to you, starting with a single welcome email is still an awesome step in the right direction. It’s the handshake you might be missing right now. (That example doesn’t work quite as well in a COVID world, but you know what I’m saying.) 

I hope you’re feeling motivated to do this incredible, important thing in 2021. Just do it. It matters, it’s a marketing fundamental, and it will set your email program up for more success. 

A few more quick tips:

  • If you can manage personalization in the communication, do it. Even if it’s just the name. It makes a difference. 
  • Keep your copy short. Nobody wants a welcome dissertation. 
  • Take your time on the copy – make sure it is a STRONG representation of your brand personality. This goes back to that whole, “only one chance to make a first impression” thing. 
  • Make sure the email is accessible. Don’t put too much content in images, use alt-text, follow color contrast best practices, etc. 

How many of you are sending welcome emails? How are they being received? Are they driving performance? If you’re not currently sending welcome emails, what’s holding you back? We’d love to hear from you on this subject!

Leslie Lewis

Written by Leslie Lewis

I believe every client deserves our very best work and our most honest advice. Never anything less.