You wouldn’t ask someone to marry you on the first date, right?
By any standards, it’s coming on a little strong!
You’ve got to make a good first impression and build a relationship over time. Then you can pop the big question.
Internet marketing is sort-of similar.
You can’t force someone to buy products from you straight away. And if you try too hard, you might even drive them away.
That’s where the ‘email welcome series’ comes in.
It’s an email marketing trick that is proven to boost long-term engagement by 33% and generate 3 times as much revenue.
In this email marketing series part one and part two, I showed you how to boost your subscriber numbers. In this part, I’ll explain how to make the most of your subscribers, nurture them, and turn them into paying customers.
First, let’s answer the obvious question.
What’s an email welcome series?
When you subscribe to a website’s email newsletter, you’ll usually get an email confirmation. Some sites go one step further and send you a ‘welcome email’. You might even get a free eBook or something similar.
But that’s where it ends. After that it’s just plain old newsletters and promotions.
An email welcome series stretches out that first communication over five to six emails. Maybe more. Sent over a few weeks, the email series drip-feeds your information slowly to your new subscriber.
It gives you a longer period to build a relationship, and creates a higher likelihood of turning them into paying customers.
Why’s it so effective?
That first welcome email is super powerful. Statistics show that your first email has the potential to make 320% more revenue than any others.
So why not stretch it out?
Your newest subscribers are the most active, most switched-on, and most intrigued. They’re more likely to open your emails, and more likely to buy from you.
But after that first email, the open-rate tends to decrease. Subscribers forget about you, they’ve moved onto to other things. By contrast, the welcome series keeps nurturing leads while they’re still hot.
‘Nurturing’ subscribers in this way develops 50% more customers who are ‘ready to buy’. Nurtured customers make bigger purchases too.
Here are a few more reasons why the welcome series works:
- RepetitionThere’s an old-school marketing theory that says customers need to see your branding and message seven times before they’ll trust you or buy from you. A welcome series gets your name and brand in front of them repeatedly. It’s especially important if you’re a new business.
- A chance to tell your storyA big reason we gravitate towards certain brands (and ultimately buy from them) is that we connect with their story and their ethos. A welcome email gives you chance to tell your subscribers more about you.
- Builds trustCustomers are naturally wary of new websites or services. A series of emails builds trust, so when you do ask for the sale, they’re more likely to click through.
- More chances to sellWith one welcome email, the pressure is on to sell something quickly, which may irritate some customers. With six or seven emails, you can introduce your products slowly, starting with small, low-risk products and working up to the big guns.
- Doesn’t overwhelm new subscribersMarketers tend to squeeze as much info as possible into their welcome email, but that’s not always effective. When subscribers are faced with too many options or calls-to-action, they may feel overwhelmed. A welcome series removes this problem, allowing you to focus on just one thing at a time. Far more effective.
- Lead nurturingA welcome series gives you a chance to nurture a new subscriber slowly over time. In the long run, this is a much stronger marketing technique.
- Habit buildingAs you’ll see in my examples below, a welcome series conditions new subscribers to actively look out for your emails. Rather than ignoring your updates, new subscribers will get into the habit of looking forward to them. That’s a recipe for high open rates in the future.
A welcome series in action
The first website I found using the email welcome series was Pinterest (I’m sure others were doing it first, but Pinterest tipped me off). So let’s take a look at theirs in detail.
Pinterest uses their welcome series to drip-feed useful tips and tricks about the platform without asking too much of the subscriber. The first email looks like this:
You’ll notice their subject line says ‘Getting Started #1’. Straight away, you know there’s a series of emails coming.
The content starts off very basic: “What’s a pin?” It walks new users through the stepping stones, and ends with a call-to-action that isn’t too demanding:
‘For now, try logging in and finding content for yourself.’
It’s not pushy. It’s not overwhelming. And new subscribers have learnt a little about the service.
Best of all, they tell the subscriber what to expect next: “Over the next five days, we’ll send you more info…”
It’s a subtle way to tell the subscriber to look out for more emails in the coming days. The subscriber is actively looking out for the next mail. Genius.
The second email looks like this:
This time, it introduces you to a few more details and encourages you to start building your profile. Again, there’s a ‘what’s next’ section to remind you that there’s another one coming tomorrow.
Here’s the third email:
This one has a much stronger call-to-action. By now, Pinterest has covered the basics and you’re familiar with the platform.
But now it’s really pushing for the call-to-action that matters: adding a ‘pin it’ button to your website.
This is the first-date proposal all over again. If Pinterest had asked subscribers to add the ‘pin it’ button in the first email, it would have confused subscribers and scared them away.
Pinterest isn’t the only company who uses this trick.
Asos uses a shorter welcome series, just three emails. But, they don’t push for a hard sale until the third email.
The first tells you what to expect from the Asos newsletter and encourages you to browse the store. Nothing pushy or demanding.
The second shows you specific items you might like based on your gender and highlights the perks of buying (free delivery and free returns). But they still haven’t outright asked for the sale.
Only in the third email do they push the sale, offering a 10% discount and a stronger call-to-action – ‘shop now’.
It’s subtle, but powerful. It slowly reinforces the brand and nurtures the subscriber into a sale.
How to create your own email series
To create a welcome email series, you’ll need an account with an email marketing service. This walkthrough will use MailChimp, but email services like Aweber, Constant Contact or Emma all offer a similar option.
A welcome series uses ‘email automation’. Automation allows you to send emails that are triggered by a certain event. Like triggering a welcome series when someone signs up for your email list. (It’s also useful for super tricks like reminding customers about an abandoned cart, sending them a discount on their birthday or using a customer’s purchase history to promote similar items).
Automation is a paid feature on MailChimp, so if you’ve only got the standard package, you’ll want to upgrade. If you are totally new, do read our MailChimp tutorial first – How to build an email list from zero & send your first newsletter
Here’s how it works:
Step 1. Log into MailChimp and click on automation
MailChimp calls the automation campaign a ‘workflow’, so we’re creating an automation workflow.
Step 2. Choose the subscriber list that you want to use
If you’ve got more than one list, choose the correct one!
Step 3. Choose the type of workflow
Hit the ‘welcome series’ option. You’ll notice there are lots of other emails you can automate here. You can come back and check some of them out later.
Step 4. Give the workflow a name and insert the name and email address the welcome series will come from
Pro-tip, some bloggers think it increases the open rate to use a real sender name and the company together. For example, ‘Daren from Bitcatcha’, rather than just ‘Bitcatcha’.
Step 5. Assign the trigger
In this case, our trigger is ‘when subscriber joins’. That’s when we want to start sending them the welcome series.
Step 6. Set when the email is triggered
For the best results, set the first trigger to ‘immediately’. In other words, your subscriber gets the first email in the series straight away. They are much more likely to open the email if it arrives immediately after signing up – before they get distracted!
Step 7. Design your first welcome email
Now for the fun part. Fill your first welcome letter with content and use MailChimp’s templates to style it. (Stuck on what to put in the email welcome series? We’ve got more tips coming up below).
Step 8. Set the schedule
How soon do you want the subscriber to receive the second, third, and fourth email? This will differ for each one of you. In some cases, like Pinterest, one per day works very well.
For others – particularly retailers and those selling software or digital products online – you might want to use longer gaps to give subscribers chance to get to build trust.
To get this part right, read more about ‘customer lifestyle marketing’. Essentially, this is all about understanding when in the lifecycle your customers are most likely to buy from you, and how long it takes to build trust.
Step 9. Test, test, test
Now that your welcome series is up and running, keep a careful eye on the analytics. Look at the open-rates and click-through-rates. Could you improve them? Tweak the subject line, content, and schedule until you get it just right.
Before I go, let’s run through a few bonus tips to make your welcome series perform at its best.
1. What are your goals?
Before you start, what are your three main goals? That’s how you decide what goes in your email series. If you’re an online store it might be awareness, Instagram followers, and sales.
In that case, your first email will be about your story, the second will include encouragement to follow your Instagram, and the third will push for a sale.
2. Who are you?
Make sure your first email establishes exactly who you are.
3. Reinforce the perks of being on the list
Use this opportunity to remind them exactly why they signed up. Give them a good reason to keep looking out for your emails. Is it a discount or exclusive information?
4. Tell a story
One of my favorite welcome series was 20 emails long! It was a financial company, and they used the welcome series to tell the story of how they helped one of their clients.
Using an engaging story, they managed to completely sum up who they are, what they did, and how they add value. Along the way, they introduced various products, starting with a low-price e-book all the way to their bespoke consultation service.
5. Get a quick first sale
The earlier a customer buys something (anything) the better. Once they buy from you, there’s a connection. They’re much more likely to open emails in the future and purchase from you again.
Use the welcome series to secure a small sale as early as possible.
6. Decide what you want to say first
Don’t just decide on a series of five emails and then figure out how to fill them. Decide what you want to say, then split it into individual emails.
7. What’s next?
Always leave them with a cliff-hanger, and let them know when to expect the next email. Make sure they’re looking out for it.
8. Keep the emails consistent
Try to keep the design and layout consistent throughout the series. Keep a consistent subject line too using a numbered system or constant theme. It’s a little trick that reinforces your brand.
9. Ask for more data
On your initial sign-up form, it’s best to avoid too many questions. A name and email address is all you need to get subscribers through the door quickly.
However, a welcome series gives you chance to ask for more information later on. You could ask for gender, location and other preferences in the third or fourth email. That will help you segment your subscriber list and send more appropriate emails.
10. Wait until the welcome series is over before sending your standard newsletter
Make sure your new subscriber doesn’t get your normal newsletter or promotional emails until after the welcome series. It’s a little confusing and disorienting.
In the last email of the series, let them know it’s over and transition them smoothly into the regular newsletters.
11. If a subscriber uses a promo code, don’t send it again!
If you’re using a welcome series to push a promo code more than once, make sure you track the sales. You don’t want to keep sending a subscriber the same promo code if they’ve already used it.
The welcome series is the perfect way to build brand loyalty and create a stronger customer relationship for the future. The messages give you more opportunities to sell while your subscriber is most engaged and excited about your product.
Is anyone out there using a welcome series or other forms of email automation? Are you planning to in the future? Let me know your thoughts and ideas in the comment section!