The Welcome Email Is Dead!
I can hear you now: "What??? You always say I'm supposed to send a welcome message to new subscribers, and now you tell me it's dead? What gives??"
No, I haven't flip-flopped. A single welcome message is still better than no message at all if you want to build up subscriber engagement early and head off inactivity.
But the stakes are higher now for marketers who are under pressure to generate maximum value from their subscribers, and who would rather focus limited budgets and resources on retaining existing subscribers over acquiring new ones.
Think Onboarding Program Rather Than Welcome Message
An onboarding program evolves the initial greeting into a strategically designed, calibrated series of automated messages designed to convert your new subscriber into a regular customer in a highly personalized and systematic way.
These multiple-message email series can warm up new subscribers and provide a positive experience for the all-important initial phase of the relationship by doing the following:
- Answer questions and provide how-to info and FAQs on using your website, buying from you or setting up an account.
- Educate users on specific features of your service or website that they need to know in advance.
- Set email expectations.
- Present options for creating a highly personalized experience for each subscriber.
- Move subscribers closer to purchasing or becoming engaged users.
Onboarding can help you address specific challenges or objectives, especially when you incorporate data on subscriber behavior and demographics:
- Sort email subscribers into tracks and targets with specialized information based on the areas your subscribers visited on the site, or the demographics and interests they provided.
- Track potential user abandonment by triggering follow-up emails for subscribers who haven't completed account registration or taken other actions they need to do to become engaged customers.
- Educate users who sign up via one mode, such as a mobile app, in order to promote additional features available on your Web interface as well.
As a secondary benefit, these emails can become a handbook that users can save to a folder or print out and consult before going to customer support or an FAQ page.
Use Onboarding to Manage the New-Subscriber Experience
The 30- to 60-day period after opt-in is typically the most crucial in the email relationship, whether you're an online retailer or service provider, or a non-retailer that has moved offline operations such as account creation and customer service online.
Onboarding messages allow you to control which emails your new subscribers see first. If you drop newbies into your regular broadcast stream, the first few emails they see might get them off on the wrong note.
A few years ago an email marketer from an energy utility told me that volatile natural gas prices sometimes caused the utility to send rate hike messages more than once a year to customers.
“So, as a new customer, my first email might inform me that my energy bill is going up?” I asked. She immediately understood the value of a good welcome experience in that initial email contact.
Onboarding in Action
A publishing client collects opt-ins from multiple sources for email newsletters, each of which promotes one of its nearly 20 paid-circulation hobbyist and special-interest magazines.
Its three-message onboarding program aims to promote each magazine's reader benefits and its hobbyist community, and to sell subscriptions to the corresponding magazine.
Results: 35% of email subscribers register at their magazine's individual website, while 18% subscribe to the magazine itself, and 6% buy other program add-ons. These figures represent a 175% improvement over its previous welcome program.
Use a Phased Approach to Get to the Next Level
A single welcome message is better than none, but you can do much better.
Here's the simplest approach. Expand your single welcome message -- which treats every subscriber alike whether she opts in at your website or from a transactional email, mobile app or bag stuffer in one of your stores -- into a multi-message format.
Each message in this format warms her up with a different value proposition or call to action keyed to her point of entry, her interests or what she needs to do to become an experienced user of your product or service.
Then take your lessons from this approach and build a truly sophisticated onboarding program that responds to each individual's behavior and interests.
Until next time, take it up a notch.