How to Stop Your Welcome Email From Being a Dead End

By , July 29th, 2014 in Email Marketing | 12 comments
welcome email
A dead-end welcome email is a wasted opportunity. Image source.

Your landing page rocks and leads are pouring in. Great! But what’s next?

Before that first email newsletter or promo, your subscribers receive a welcome email – the beginning of a new relationship.

Welcome emails get leads acquainted with your brand and set expectations for what you’ll give them and how often. They should get people excited for what’s to come. And like your landing page, they play an important role in your growth funnel.

Growth funnel diagram
Landing pages guide leads from acquisition to activation. Welcome emails are the next step.

Welcome emails continue the story you started on your landing page and carry that momentum forward toward making that first purchasing decision.

A poorly-crafted welcome email is a huge missed opportunity; welcome emails generate 4x more opens and 5x more clicks than regular campaign emails. Because people are opening and engaging with these emails, the goal should always be to getting the lead to take action.

Welcome emails are fertile places to cross-promote, upsell or gather more information. With all that potential, let’s take a look at five ways to be sure your welcome email inspires leads to take action.

1. Follow the 3 principles of subject line writing

If you can’t convince subscribers to open your welcome emails, then you can’t convince them to take further action.

And with so many companies still using the dull, “Welcome to Company X” format, it’s not hard to stand out. Your subject line should offer something compelling and remind leads why they signed up in the first place.

Daniel Pink - To Sell is Human

There’s actually a proven science to writing effective subject lines, which Daniel Pink shares in his book, “To Sell is Human.” Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University found that people were most likely to open emails with subject lines that fell into one of two categories: utility or curiosity.

Subject lines with an element of utility were opened because they were directly relevant to someone’s work and the benefit of reading was clear. Emails that appealed to curiosity were opened simply because they piqued interest. If you have 90 seconds, check out Pink’s short video on the subject.

In the book, Pink adds his own (third) rule for writing great subject lines: specificity. He found that vague subject lines like, “Improve your golf swing” were opened less frequently than ones offering a specific promise: “4 tips to improve your golf swing this afternoon.”

Next time you’re writing a subject line, ask yourself if you’re being specific and if you’re conveying utility or appealing to curiosity.

2. Encourage interaction

Welcome emails aren’t sign up receipts. They should follow through on the excitement or interest created on the landing page.

The blog Upworthy does this particularly well. After subscribing, leads receive a welcome email that carries the brand’s personality forward into their inbox starting with their subject line, “Turn On Your Images And Buckle Your Seatbelt.”

Upworth welcome email example

Let’s look into what they’ve done right with this quirky welcome email.

Ditch the “do-not-reply” receipt

Don’t be a robot. Interact with new subscribers.

Right off the bat, Upworthy says, “Want to say hi back? Reply to this message.” Welcome emails are a great opportunity to interact with your subscribers, so make it easy for them to reach out.

Set a conversational tone and sign the email from real people

We all know the kinds of emails that we like to read – funny ones, short ones, ones from friends.

When you’re writing your welcome email, try to tap into that genuine person-to-person interaction. Make it conversational.

Upworthy uses lots of humor in their email, but clear and concise language is all you need to get your reader’s attention. Write an email you would want to read and sign it from a real person, or with love from your team, like Upworthy has done here.

Upworthy email signature example

Make it relevant for your reader

There are lots of ways to gather email addresses: through events, purchases, lead gen campaigns and much more.

If you segment your subscribers using information about how and where they signed up, you can tailor your welcome email to provide relevant information. This increases the likelihood of engaging your reader and adds a nice personal touch to your email.

Shutterfly, an image publishing service, had the right idea when they created a welcome email targeted at customers who had just purchased one of their birth announcement cards. Their email used segmentation to recommend a product that spoke to a specific group of customers – in this case, thank-you cards from expectant couples.

Shutterfly email example

Unfortunately, they took it one step too far and accidentally sent the email to their entire mailing list (oops!). Nevertheless, Shutterfly’s email is a great example of a company leveraging information they already have to make their emails more relevant to their subscribers.

3. Include a (simple) call to action

Because you heard that open emails have better open and click rates, you might be tempted to stuff your email full of CTAs, like HP’s welcome email below.

HP welcome email
What exactly do they want me to do here? Image source.

Don’t fall into this trap with your welcome email. Once you have your subscriber’s attention, you should know exactly what you want to do with it.

Making your welcome emails more purposeful could positively impact your click through rates. When Whirlpool reduced the number of CTAs in one of their emails from four to one, they found that their CTRs increased by 42%.

Whether you’re sending a promo email or a welcome email, you should inspire your subscribers to take action. Focus on a specific goal and make it clear what the next step is.

Here are a few examples of welcome emails with clear and strong CTAs:

Path welcome email example
The intended action in Path‘s welcome email is very clear: Watch this video.
Quora welcome email example
Quora‘s welcome email enumerates the next steps subscribers should take.
Vimeo welcome email example
The big blue CTA in Vimeo‘s welcome email makes the next step crystal clear.

Your welcome email shouldn’t be a dead end, but it also shouldn’t overload subscribers with CTAs. Have a specific goal in mind for new users and include a CTA to inspire new signups to continue engaging with your brand.

4. Show, don’t tell – take your emails out of plain text

HTML emails allow you to provide a branded experience and persuade subscribers with conversion centered design. Consider Fab‘s welcome email below:

Fab welcome email example
Fab’s minimal welcome email uses lots of whitespace and large CTAs to inspire the subscriber to click.

Your email doesn’t have to look like Fab’s, but the design of your welcome email should reinforce the goal you’ve chosen for your lead. Using lots of whitespace and minimal design, the design of Fab’s welcome email makes it clear that the next step is to download their mobile app.

Speek welcome email example

Speek’s welcome email accomplishes the same task using a simple HTML template and a clear, contrasting call to action button. The green “Try a call now!” button stands out from the page and encourages leads to click – moving them one step closer to becoming paying customers.

On the other side of the spectrum, how likely are you to read this welcome email from Expedia?

Expedia welcome email example

Yikes. Not too likely, right? Not only do they pack way too much information into the message, but at a glance you’re not sure who it’s from, what it’s saying and what it wants you to do.

Plain text vs HTML

Do HTML emails really outperform plain text? To find out, we ran an A/B test for our client SuperRewards, a digital currency company.

Superrewards plain text vs HTML email
We A/B tested a plain text email against an HTML email (complete with brand imagery) for our client, SuperRewards.

Though they had similar copy, we found that the branded HTML email had a 10% higher click rate to Facebook than the HTML variant (click here for the full case study).

If you’re looking for ways to increase your CTRs, consider taking your email out of plain text and using conversion centered design to guide users toward their goal. Just remember that every audience is different, and while one may respond best to HTML emails, the other may prefer plain text emails for their simplicity. You’ll never know if you don’t test.

5. Optimize for mobile

According to a study by Litmus, 38% of all emails are opened on smartphones and tablets and that number is only going up. An even more startling statistic, from BlueHornet’s Consumer Marketing Report, is that 80% of consumers simply delete emails that don’t look good on mobile.

Mobile email statistics graph

If you’re not optimizing your welcome emails for mobile, more than half of your subscribers could be deleting your message before reading it.

Why is mobile important for conversion?

In a recent study from YesMail, 16% of sales by email now happen on a mobile device.

While the study shows that email click through rates are still higher on desktops than on mobile (3.7% vs. 1.3%), the value of a mobile click is nearly double than the desktop equivalent.

In other words, while mobile emails have lower click rates, they lead to sales much more often than desktop clicks do.

Yesmail study results

If you want your welcome emails to be read and acted upon, think of your leads who love mobile. For a head start on mobile email optimization, you can find a set of free responsive HTML templates, here.

Nurture new subscribers

When a lead receives a welcome email, the first step – and often the most difficult step – of getting them to buy into your brand is done.

People who receive your welcome email have self-selected as being interested in what you have to offer, so continue the conversation you started on your landing page and make the next step easy and obvious for your leads.

A friendly and clear welcome email will help you engage new subscribers and bring them one step closer to becoming happy customers.

– Wesley Yu


welcome email

About The Author

Photo of Wesley Yu

Wesley Yu is a digital marketing strategist working in Victoria, BC. He runs content for Sendwithus, an easy way for marketers to send and track transactional email. For more of his writing on email optimization visit the Sendwithus Blog. Follow him on Twitter @wesleycyu.
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Comments

  1. Emmanuel says:

    Hi Yu,

    The Call to Action is very important when it comes to email marketing. And the what you said is very important ”Specific subject lines with an element of utility/curiosity make your welcome emails more clickable”.
    Thanks for this.
    I found this shared on kingged.com

  2. Elita says:

    hi, your article was amazing . It was more informative.

  3. It’s weird useful and I m sure I will be updating my welcome and other emails accordingly. I however have a question. I recently have observed that Gmail sends mails from new domains to junk while other emails like yahoo and hotmail do not…. I first thought i might be an issue with the server side, but later I found it’s Google’s own algo to detect the junk…. my question is that the emails with activation links from a newly built domain cannot have extensive content…. how to make Google understand that it’s not spam?

    • Wesley says:

      Sending from a new IP (or new domain, as you mentioned) requires some “warming up” — you can’t just begin sending out transactional email. A good idea is to limit yourself to 2000-3000 emails a day to start. It’s also crucial to ensure that your new domain is properly setup to send email; you’ll need to figure your “DKIM” and “SPF” settings. If you’re using a standard provider like SendGrid or Mailgun, they’ll help with this process.

      • Toby says:

        Wesley, i’m wondering what is considered a “new” domain or IP. Does gmail/google look at the creation date or the dates of e-mail sendouts by that domain? If a site has existed for 6 years but hasn’t done any e-mail marketing up until now, would it still be considered “new”?

        • Wesley says:

          Hey Toby, creation date of the domain is small factor in email deliverability. They only way to “warm up” is to send email. It would risky to ramp up to 10,000 in a day without sending any email previously. It’s difficult to determine how google/gmail’s postmaster will handle your emails, so test it out with a few thousand at first. If they don’t get delivered, you can halt delivery, fix the problem, and start sending again.

  4. Wesley says:

    Hi there! Thanks for your kind words.
    I’m not sure what you mean by something I would recommend “that I made a few days in the past.” I’m happy to help, but what are you looking for exactly?

  5. I really like how you put everything together and made very quality and informative article. Nice job Wesley!

  6. Tom says:

    Excellent article Wesley, very balanced with great use of case studies – I think we could all learn something from it. Question though – I visited your blog and you dont seem to have a newsletter? Rather disappointing as it’d be great to receive regular updates from your blog

    • Wesley says:

      Hi Tom, thanks for your interest! If you’d like to sign up for our email newsletter, you’ll have to visit our homepage,
      sendwithus.com, and scroll down to the area right above the footer. Enter your email in “Stay in Touch” and we’ll do just that. Cheers!

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