REPLY TO ALL: What Are the Best Practices for Initial Emails After Sign Up?

We create shopping/advertising websites for media companies. People who register at the sites are invited to receive emails with special offers from the site. We start emailing each list after about 100 members sign up, but prior to hitting that threshold the only other email they would have received from the site is the confirmation email. I have been looking all over for some info on “starting from scratch”—a how-to or best practices for that initial email. Do the Voices of Email have any advice? —L.S.

The Voices of Email had this advice:

Rob Fitzgerald: Start the mental and marketing integration of your brand in that message—have it in the “from” line, the subject line, and in the email itself. Successful email marketing blossoms from consistency of message and consistency of branding. Also, be clear on the “what comes next,” what types of email offers will you be sending. Leave no chance for misunderstanding and your registrants will appreciate that. Be sure to present the person with the clear opportunity to opt-out from receiving any future emails from you. Lastly, don’t wait too long to send out marketing emails from the time the initial confirmation went out. There should be some immediacy to it or you risk disconnecting your registrant from your initial value-add.

Stephanie Miller: This is a great opportunity to launch an email conversation with prospects in order to engage early and lead them through the sales cycle. In fact, a conversation strategy on email is perfectly aligned with the goals of a newly launched shopping website—build the file over time, build relationships, optimize the early growth and leverage for future market saturation.

Today, you are “holding back” on sending email messages until you reach a critical mass of 100, and thus penalizing folks who join the list early. Rather, you want to celebrate these folks and “wow” them so keep reading and even tell two friends about your newsletter. Instead of thinking about it like a traditional publisher (where everyone gets the same content on the same date), think about it like a short-term email conversation—every subscriber gets the same experience. Email message one comes on day one, regardless if you signed up on June 1st or July 31st.

Offer something of real value for signing up—e.g., a free report or coupon—and use an auto-responder system that allows you to send brief, topical newsletters on a regular basis. If you have already built the website, send that content out in bite-sized, well-constructed tidbits to keep subscribers engaged. This will minimize the work and equalize the experience across all subscribers.

Once you set up this “series” of emails, you can trigger it for all new subscribers, regardless of the day they sign up, or their position in the queue. Using the same series for each subscribers ensure that each has a similar (and optimal) experience.

After you learn from this email conversation, active buyers can be converted to a more traditional promotional email program, where everyone gets the same promotion on the same day. But using a conversation in the beginning ensures that you engage fully with new subscribers, and optimize sales across the board.

Good luck!

Jeanniey Mullen: I would start with a strong subject line that includes the company name and something that indicates these are message they requested. For example: XYZ: Site special offers now available. Or: XYZ is ready to bring you special insights

I would also focus on the copy reminding people that they asked for this info, and VERY clearly giving them an opportunity to opt out of this section only.

Hope that helps!

Chip House: We’ve found that the Welcome email may in fact have the most impact of any email you ever send your subscribers. Opens, clicks etc. all tend to be the highest for an initial email, then can drop off from there if you don’t continue to engage your audience or follow-up on the promised content, education or offers promised when they opted in. My advice is to first put substantial effort into optimizing that email. Sure it is transactional in nature, but make sure you do things like:

– Reiterate what they can expect from you in terms of content and frequency.
– Ask them again to add your “from” address to their address books to “ensure good deliverability and rendering.”
– Don’t forget to make it compelling. Using HTML is best. And don’t be afraid to use the CAN-SPAM legitimized commercial content below the transactional introduction.

Getting off on the right foot will pave the way for your first set of campaigns. If you are speaking to their needs, no need to wait for a critical mass.

Chad White: Welcome emails are absolutely critical. Ideally, they not only quickly reassure subscribers that they are subscribed, but they also set the tone for the relationship and reinforce expectations that were (hopefully) established during the subscription process. Unfortunately, only about two-thirds of the retailers I track via RetailEmail.Blogspot use welcome emails, and then only a fraction use them well, missing the opportunity to promote their content, plug their services and tout unique and popular products. At the Email Insider Summit in May, Niti Chhabra, an email marketing consultant to BabyCenter, said: “Give them a reason to save the welcome email.” If you don’t feel like you’re doing that, then you should sit down and makes some changes.

Almost as important as that welcome email are the few that follow it. With each email they’re going to be asking themselves, “Was subscribing a mistake?” In some cases, you can increase your chances of keeping that new subscriber if you use an onboarding campaign, where you extend the introduction process. I just wrote a reportlet on onboarding emails that may help you, and in a few weeks I’ll be releasing the sequel to last year’s Retail Welcome Email Benchmark Study.

Have some good advice that we missed? Please add a comment and take part in the conversation.

Have a question for the Voices of Email? Email Chad your question at chad@emailexperience.org and we’ll REPLY TO ALL by posting the answers so everyone can benefit.

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