First Impressions: How Your Welcome Email Sets the Tone for New Subscribers

Imagine being invited to a party hosted by someone you thought was interesting, deciding to attend, and then not being greeted enthusiastically when you got there. You’d quickly conclude that the host didn’t care that you came, and you’d certainly think twice before going to the next event you were invited to.

The online equivalent of such poor etiquette is when a brand fails to extend a proper welcome/thank you email to new subscribers and buyers. As we’ve said before, being able to communicate through email with readers is a huge advantage (check out the stats) and welcome emails – sent automatically and immediately after a subscription or transaction – are key to keeping people opted in. They set the right tone for the relationship.

A survey by Return Path, a New York-based email marketing firm, found that respondents read welcome messages 42% more often than other emails, and further revealed that,

“Those that read at least one welcome message went on to read more than 40% of their messages from the sending brand during the following 180 days; those that didn’t read a welcome message went on to read only 10% of the brand’s email. The contrast is even greater for brands that send a series of welcome emails. People who read three messages in a welcome series usually became loyal subscribers, reading 69% of the brands’ email; people who read none continued to ignore the brand’s messages, reading only 5%.”

Welcome emails must be designed to increase the chance that your audience will want to hear from you again. They should deliver great content, be sent immediately after someone subscribes or buys a book, and generate new interest in your books and publishing program.

Best practices in sending welcome emails

1.    Remind subscribers why they opted in

The welcome email that prompted this post in the first place was one from an excellent Ottawa restaurant called Riviera. In this case the transaction that triggered the welcome email was a reservation I made.

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Image #1: Riviera provides details of the reservation.

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Image #2: Tantalizing pictures to whet the appetite.

What did the welcome email accomplish?

  1. Helpful: It reminded me of something I needed to know.
  2. Polite/warm: It set the table, so to speak, for me to look forward to receiving similarly polite and prompt service at the restaurant itself.
  3. Evocative: It evoked all the yummy food, ambiance, and top chefs Riviera is known for, and it convinced me anew that making the reservation was a good idea.  
  4. Intriguing: The quality of the email ensured that I’d be just fine with another email from Riviera (hopefully with a promotion next time!).

These characteristics – helpful, polite, evocative, and intriguing – are not category specific. Book publishers’ welcome emails can incorporate these qualities as well.

2.    Include a strong call to action
A call to action helps to nudge things along in your relationship with readers who’ve let you into their inboxes. Providing an explicit cue for readers to click for more information – e.g., “What’s new,” “Take a peek behind the scenes,” “Click here for a free recipe from [author’s] book” etc. – is an opportunity to have readers engage with you again.

3.    Offer something valuable right off the bat
Subscribers to any kind of newsletter are conditioned to expect something in return for having opted in, such as a discount or free shipping on their next order of two or more books. The welcome email can be used to offer such a gift immediately as a thank you and as an indication that subsequent emails will also have valuable content.

In the image below, West Elm furniture store’s welcome email offers a 10% discount on anything in their catalogue. Note, too, that the image is evocative of the brand.

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Image #3: West Elm offers an immediate perk for new subscribers.

4.    Make it exciting
Welcome emails are a perfect opportunity to create suspense and intrigue around your brand and make readers look forward to future emails from you. In the image below, Puma creates anticipation with the copy, “Check your email. You’ll have a little something from us soon.” This strategy reduces the chance that subscribers will unsubscribe from emails because they are curious to find out what’s next. Ensure that the next email delivers well on that promise, otherwise the strategy will backfire completely.

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Image #4: Puma creates anticipation for their next email.

5.    Invest in design
Your readers expect nothing less. Books are beautiful and their design motivates a significant number of buyers. Don’t miss the chance to evoke their beauty through the welcome email, both in terms of strong copy and visual design.

That said, many readers’ email clients will suppress images by default. The following advice from Comm100 is helpful:

“While images do have unquestionable visually compelling results … the more you use images, the more that the vast majority of your email subscribers will see blank white space. While you certainly want to include some images for those who can see them, don't rely on images alone to sell your product or convey your message. Be sure that any information that it is critical that your subscriber knows is not trapped in an image. Always use alt and title text behind images to ensure that there is still copy appearing even when your images do not load.”

In short, make sure your welcome email will be effective whether or not its images show up in readers’ emails.

In short, re: welcome emails: just do it! (And well.)