The Welcome Email -- Your Chance To Make A Positive First Impression

You never have a second chance to make a first impression. This holds true in our personal lives as well as our professional lives. And as marketers it definitely holds true with our relationship with our customers.

From the time someone walks into our store, visits our Web site or talks to one of our customer service representatives, their experience molds their opinion of us. Creating positive experiences is key to driving positive opinions -- and positive opinions lead to both valuable and loyal customers.

So how does this idea of making a good first impression and molding and managing customer experiences and opinions translate into the email space? Two words -- welcome email.

A few months ago I wrote about the importance of the welcome email in creating a contact plan: A welcome email should come immediately after sign-up. It's important to capitalize on a user's attention and no better time to do that than the present. The welcome email should thank users for opting in, explain what they can expect from your email program and get them excited to receive the next one. Some advertisers find that asking additional profile questions during this time too is helpful. This is something you should test to determine its viability in your program.

So let's expand on where I started and talk about successful components of a welcome email.

Personalization -- Starting off your relationship with a personal tone is key to driving great experiences and a good first impression. Utilize as much known information as possible. It may be as simple as "Dear Whitney," but that can create a conversation that's much more engaging than not.

Benefits of Sign-Up -- Highlighting the benefits of your email program and creating a sense of exclusivity can make your customers feel part of a privileged group. Highlight these benefits and exclusive offers via bullets or call-out boxes within your creative to make sure they are noticed.

Welcome Offer/Prominent Calls to Action -- Providing a special welcome offer can immediately make users feel special. Additionally, it's important to get the user to make that first purchase -- so anything you can do to get them over that first hurdle will pay off in the long run. Include clear and prominent calls to action throughout your email. Don't go overboard but make sure it's clear to people who want to make a purchase exactly how to do so.

Easy Navigation/Site Introduction -- The welcome email can introduce users to your site navigation (via header navigation that is consistent with your site) and also encourage them to click through and explore your site on their own.

Utilization of HTML -- Many marketers are still using plain text to deploy their welcome message. In my opinion, text feels impersonal and doesn't create a good first impression. Try HTML, and use this message to introduce people to your brand's look, feel and voice.

Tapping Into the Subject Line -- If possible, include your welcome message and offer into the subject line.

Account Confirmation -- For some, it makes sense to confirm certain aspects of a user's account. A welcome email can be a good vehicle for this. You should encourage users to save the email in order to access this account information in the future.

Some good examples across the industry -- sign up and experience these for yourself:
Neiman Marcus: showed up immediately after sign-up with a big welcome message, both in the subject line and body copy. Included standard site navigation and call-outs to explore the site and site features in more depth. The look and feel of the HTML email was warm and engaging and consistent with the Web site. included a big welcome message, as well as a very enticing new-member offer  of 20% off the entire order. Included products by category as a way of driving traffic to the site, along with strong and clear calls to action throughout.

Shockwave: showed up immediately after sign-up with a big welcome message. Included account sign-up details and a way to edit one's profile. It highlighted the most popular games as a way of driving traffic to the site, and provided strong calls to action throughout the email.

I encourage you to evaluate how you're beginning your email relationship with your customers. Utilize the tactics above, and try and improve that first impression.




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