Whether a company falls in the B2B, B2C, or DTC space — or anywhere in between — a thorough email marketing strategy is non-negotiable.
The COVID-19 pandemic expedited ecommerce growth by at least five years, so shopping habits and communication preferences are skewing heavily digital. According to eMarketer:
“U.S. ecommerce sales will reach $794.50 billion this year, up 32.4% year-over-year. That’s a much higher growth rate than the 18.0% predicted in our Q2 forecast, as consumers continue to avoid stores and opt for online shopping amid the pandemic.”
Email has been around for quite some time so people tend to forget that it is, at its core, a digital marketing channel.
It’s a channel, too, that has mass influence on nearly half the world’s population.
Over the last decade, as digital marketing channels have come and gone, email marketing has remained a strong performer. That’s because it allows you to contact your leads, develop key relationships, and transform those leads into customers.
In fact, email marketing is so successful that the newsletter business has recently exploded.
Journalists are leaving publications to start their own Substacks. Operators like Web Smith and David Perrell publish their own newsletters – to the tune of more than a 6-figure salary.
This doesn’t come without its own set of challenges, of course.
Email marketing is often misused, and as a result, it can cost brands more than they see in return. How often, as a consumer, do you find yourself unsubscribing from spammy or irrelevant emails?
Brands tend to forget to consider their own individual preferences when creating an email strategy. This produces high unsubscribe rates, or results in poor email deliverability for the organization. Yikes.
One smart way to mitigate subscriber attrition and build a sustainable, profitable email list is by creating a welcome email.
This initial communication, the first email you send to a subscriber, is pivotal to establishing a relationship with the new subscriber and to eventually converting them into a customer. After all, it sets expectations, communicates value, and shows respect for the reader's time and attention.
Let’s discuss the importance of creating a welcome email (or a few emails for a welcome series, in drip-style) in the context of email marketing as we know it today. With plenty of examples to boot, you’ll be making the best first impression to your new users right out of the gate!
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What does email marketing look like today?
Let’s start with the obvious: we all get a lot of emails.
Between our personal inboxes, work correspondences, and sales emails from brands we subscribe to, there’s a lot going on in the email world. A lot of us even have emails we use with inboxes that we never check. Whew.
With the number of daily email sends increasing as time goes on, it’s going to become a lot more important to set your particular campaign up for success. This starts with the welcome email (more on that below).
And yet, despite the noise, email continues to be one of the main conversion channels for brands who are selling goods, products, or a service.
In fact, around the holidays, nearly a quarter of all sales are made via email marketing.
Here are some other important stats about email marketing today you should know:
- There are just under 4 billion daily email users globally.
- Nearly half of all email opens (46%) happen on a mobile device.
- 35% of professionals check email on a mobile device.
- 73% of millennials prefer business communications to happen via email.
- Marketers who segment their audience for campaigns note as much as a 760% increase in revenue.
- 35% of marketers send their customers 3-5 emails per week.
- 78% of marketers have seen an increase in email engagement rates over the last 12 months.
- 80% of business professionals believe that email marketing increases customer retention.
- 59% of consumers say marketing emails influence their purchase decisions.
Needless to say, email is THE digital marketing channel that generates leads and drives sales. And that’s a good thing, because generating leads and driving sales are the two main reasons marketers cite email marketing as an important and vital digital channel.
Email marketing isn’t just about making sales, though.
- It’s a vehicle for promoting meaningful content.
- It helps create social proof by seeding value.
- It’s often the first channel considered in marketing automation practices.
- It builds community, fosters loyalty, and developers brand credibility.
All right – so, how do you set yourself up to hit the goal above by building an email list? Well, you have to properly set expectations for your subscribers, honor those expectations, and respect the time of your readers that they may dedicate to your newsletter.
All of that starts by creating a great welcome email that lets those subscribing know what you’re all about.
What value does a welcome email create?
Welcome emails, in the sales funnel, are probably the most crucial part of the entire sequence.
The welcome funnel within a sales funnel can differentiate you from the throng of other emails the prospect has received. Use this to give them another idea of why they signed up to your platform, add a link, and elaborate on what they’ll receive from you, and why.
This is your chance to really drive home why your brand even exists, and with this list even exists.
- What kind of content do you create?
- What kind of products do you create?
- Why do you even do it?
- Why should they care?
From a branding perspective, welcome emails introduce who a brand really is. They seed value and introduce the type of content that potential customers can expect, be it new product releases, blogs and articles, or software updates.
With an average open rate of 50%, welcome emails are 86% more useful than the common newsletter or other ecommerce send.
In this way, welcome emails are the closest thing your brand might have to a receipt email (which are the most opened emails!).
So, how do you go about creating an effective welcome email? We’ve laid out the fundamentals, below, to penning the perfect greeting for your new (and future) customers so you get it right the first time around.
Beyond the basics, though, examples are incredibly helpful. It will show you what your competitors are doing in the space, and help give you ideas for your welcome email design, content, and more to make your email really stand out.
We’ve gathered a ton for ya!
The 7 components to a successful welcome email
As with any send, optimizing your welcome email is a must. Every component works in tandem to create an optimal piece of content that will garner opens and encourage folks to take action.
Let’s break down each element to your welcome email to ensure you’re including the necessary pieces and making the most of this crucial messaging moment.
1. Use a catchy, action-oriented subject line.
Ah, email subject lines: They can make or break a perfectly good email. If it’s provocative, enticing, or hyper-relevant, it will warrant an open. If it includes one too many emojis, a sales pitch for a headline, or it asks a question that could be misconstrued in any way, you may wind up with your stuff going straight to spam.
“Big brands, like Amazon and Airbnb, use this first line to thank their subscribers and to welcome them to their community,” says Mailmunch. “Something as simple as ‘Hello and Welcome’ could be enough to convince a subscriber to open the email since they’re likely already expecting to receive an opt-in confirmation email.”
Your subject line could also be a good chance to guide an action. Rather than going right for the sell, invite your new subscriber to learn about additional features, read a case study, or familiarize themself with a core brand belief.
Need help coming up with headlines for your email? ActiveCampaign has an email headline generator you can use.
2. Leverage preview text.
You know that little bit of content that populates under or next to the subject line? The one that gives you a little bit more of an explanation as to what this email will be about — or offers an entirely new thought?
That’s your preview text.
Preview text should complement the headline or the content within the email, but bear in mind that not every email service previews this text.
You can use preview text to expand on your welcome messaging, seed new user product discounts, or ask for feedback and input.
In fact, if you’re not actively rewriting your preview text, it tends to default to something like “View this email as a webpage”, “No images, click here”, “View in browser”, etc. and, to be frank, it’s hurting your open rates.
With over 50% of emails being opened via mobile, it’s important to write your preview text then how it looks on both mobile and desktop.
3. Create engaging content.
The welcome email is a potential customer’s first impression of you. You want it to be good!
By creating meaningful email content that helps them understand who you are as a brand and the value your product or service can add, they’re likely to stick around to hear what else you have to say.
Think of the content in this email as a means of onboarding your new users to future emails.
- What can they expect?
- Do you send a weekly newsletter?
- Can they look forward to discounts, promotions, and deals?
- Are there new releases or features they should be aware of?
Not only should the content be strong, the frequency at which subscribers can expect to hear from you should also be clear. This sets up a good user experience from the beginning and gives them the option to opt-out if the reader can’t meet these expectations.
4. Include relevant links.
Where else can folks find you? Those are important to include in your initial email send, too.
Whether you’re linking back to a fresh piece of content or including buttons to your social media channels, you want to use this email to drive traffic and awareness to other platforms, especially because the welcome email should not be sent with the intention of driving immediate sales.
5. Make a clear call-to-action.
Mailmunch interviewed expert Kristi File on the importance of a CTA in your welcome email:
“Open up the lines of communication with your new subscriber right away by including a call-to-action in your welcome email. Ask them a single question to encourage them to share their thoughts and converse with you.
Keep the dialogue going by asking them to hit reply and respond to your question. This will give you a better understanding of who your subscriber is and how you can help them going forward.”
Wistia does this in a really natural way by asking their new subscribers to fill out a survey in order to understand the types of content they may like to see in future emails.
Involving a direct CTA can also help you measure who’s actually taking action or who’s going on to explore more of your offerings. It’s important, too, to ask for feedback to see if the placement of messaging was a factor in your subscriber taking the action.
6. Have an unsubscribe option.
Nobody should feel like they’re locked into anything. The truth of the matter is, too, that some of your subscribers will sign up for emails to take advantage of an initial offer or benefit, then choose to unsubscribe after the fact.
If that’s the case — let them. It’s more important to have a smaller list of qualified email leads and subscribers who care about your messaging than a large, unhealthy audience.
This is why Hubspot pruned nearly 45% of their email list just a couple of years ago.
The goal of email marketing is to convert customers. It’s not about solving for attrition. If your welcome email is successful, you’ll see new subscribers hang on for a few email sends. Should they start to drop off at that point, you can ask for feedback as to why.
A note on that: If your unsubscriber list is dropping rapidly, though, consider that it may be an issue from your end on email deliverability and poor segmenting.
7. Be intentional about email design.
The way you design your welcome email will depend on you industry. E-commerce brands tend to develop highly-designed welcome emails, whereas technology companies often send welcome emails that look like a regular email (almost no design at all).
Either way, you’ll want to do some research into what your industry does, and think through why that might be. We’ve included a ton of examples below from both e-commerce brands and technology brands to give you a visual of what these organizations do when it comes to email design.
Now that your welcome email is sent, too, be sure to measure important metrics and behaviors to further segment your email list for future sends.
Types of welcome emails (with the best welcome email examples)
A B2B SaaS company and an e-commerce DTC shoe brand are going to have very different welcome emails — with different goals and metrics to measure those goals by. Depending on what you’re offering or what that goal is, you can customize the emails you’ll send out or personalize emails for the different kinds of prospects. Take some inspiration from these tried-and-true formulas for creating the perfect initial email sends for your audience.
1. Express gratitude.
First thing’s first: Alongside welcoming the new subscriber, make sure to say thanks to them for signing up. This is a simple but kind gesture to show the prospects that you care about each of them.
Here’s a great example from Kiehl’s:
Showing appreciation is one of the things top brands use to retain customers. It could be a very simple one-sentence thank you, or you could get creative with special taglines, stickers, or GIFs.
Mixing up some interesting imagery with the thank you will get the contacts to keep reading without hitting back on the email.
Here’s another great example from Postable:
2. Seed a special offer or a discount code.
Want to grow your email subscriber list quickly? Make them an offer to purchase those products they were looking at anyway. Plus, with a unique offer code or a UTM-linked, CTA button via email, you can track who’s actually taking action and not.
Here’s an example from ThirdLove:
As aforementioned, though, don’t be shocked if your subscriber list takes a dip after sending out this offer. What matters is that you made a sale you may have otherwise would not have made, and now your subscriber list is pruned to those who explicitly want to hear from you.
Another example from Meet Blume:
3. Expand value.
Now that they’re here, what can your subscribers expect from your email sends, and at what frequency should they know to look for your sends?
Here’s a great example from BarkBox:
Let them know exactly why signing up for your email list will be meaningful to them beyond purchasing your product or service.
And another example from Dims:
4. Link to helpful resources.
While the subscribers look forward to your future emails, take this golden opportunity to share helpful resources and get them to interact and engage with your brand. If they’re learning more about the brand, they’re bound to be inquisitive about how you function.
If you have some blog posts, videos, guides relevant to the content they signed up for, make sure to link those out. It might feel like a shameless plug, but trust us, most people will click on it if you’ve managed to hold your attention for a certain time.
Here is a great example from Optimizely:
In case you’re offering products or services that need users to complete a registration or create a profile, your welcome email is the apt place to remind them to go ahead and fill in some boxes.
One more example from Shopify Plus here:
And then, one example for anyone not in the tech-space. Here is Chili’s:
5. Give tips, insights, and helpful product advice.
Love for small business has never gone by the wayside. Sure, Amazon can eat into sales, but there is one thing consumers get from SMBs that Amazon doesn't deliver: passion about the product. Just look at this trending bookstore sign:
Bring home that "we're passionate about this" feel in your welcome email, similar to what Haus does with their recipe tips in the welcome email:
Conclusion: Welcome Emails Create Fans
A welcome email is a necessary first step to your email sales funnel… and to creating new fans
If you want to get leads, creating an email campaign to do so won’t take hard work. Turning those leads into new customers and ultimately fans of your brand who will do a lot of the word-to-mouth lift for you is another story.
It all starts with nurturing. A welcome email kickstarts the nurturing process.
We don’t expect you to have all of the answers, though. If you don’t know where to begin with creating a successful welcome email strategy, we know experts that do.