You know the famous line, “you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression”? Well, that line should be changed to fit today’s customer attitudes. The updated version should read, “If you don’t make a good first impression, you don’t get a second chance, period.”
Consumers have the power to delete and unsubscribe, eliminating any chance of a second impression, good or otherwise. Yet marketers continue to underwhelm with their first emails to new customers, new loyalty members, and new subscribers. If a customer subscribes to receive email, that’s the beginning of a journey with a brand. The brand should treat the opening series of emails almost like a movie trailer that will hook that person for the longer experience. Provide a feel for what to expect, with lots of juicy parts that get them excited for what’s to come.
Let Customers Pat Themselves on the Back
Email is a unique marketing channel because people actually raise their hands to receive communication from a brand. What’s more, it's a relatively captive audience. Sure, you can say “thanks” for subscribing, but that’s not nearly enough. Saying thanks in that first email without much else can close the door on that relationship. They signed up, you thanked them. Done.
The first thing a great email welcome series should do is reinforce the smart decision that person made by signing up and get that long-term conversation going as soon as possible. Headspace, a lifestyle app, says in its welcome email “Well done. By signing up, you’ve taken your first step towards a happier, healthier life.”
Headspace also explains why it was such a good decision, explaining that the company will do whatever it can to help that person learn the skill of meditation. In just a quick few sentences, Headspace has reinforced the customer’s recent decision and reminds them of the value they’re going to get over time.
Showcase the With a ‘Mini’ Brand Experience
Just like you create a media plan with seasonal changes, or a content plan for content, create a welcome series plan as well. Look at all the factors that matter, like how engaged customers should be early on, what type of product journey they’re taking with you, and what information you need to provide for success to occur.
For example, charity:water doesn’t just say, “thanks for donating.” It has planned an automated series of emails to update a new donor on where their money has gone and what impact it’s having. This early engagement increases personal connections with several relevant emails, and the likelihood that people will come back to charity:water when they want to donate again.
Your customers are unique, but so is your brand! Give customers a sense that what they get from you is really unique. Preview cool types of content that you offer, like “how to” videos or early discounts. Explain the special quirks of your loyalty program that make people love you. Use language that’s not all “email” but more conversational or true to your own brand. Or use email to enhance the product experience, send a message that includes answers to frequently asked questions, or a have contest to snap a photo with a new product and share on social media.
Learn Fast, and Change
Every interaction with a customer is an opportunity to learn and improve the next interaction. You might not have much data on a customer yet, but what can you learn quickly? Perhaps they've searched for products on your site, or you can access social data from influencers they follow. Bring in third-party data that’s relevant. Brands from tree cutting services to hotel chains change their messages based on seasons and people’s locations, for example.
You can also incorporate data gathering into emails themselves. For example, Uber asks if customers want to sync their calendar with the app. TopShop uses a detailed quiz to get style preferences early in a journey with a customer. Plenty of brands have also tried asking how often people want emails, and what kinds. However, be careful — asking that too early might cost you opportunities to surprise people with a variety of messages.
Be purposeful. These data-gathering opportunities set consumer expectations that you’ve learned more about them, and your messaging will be more relevant as a result. If they tell you they love black and hate pink, you’d better have some personalized images if you plan to show them previews of the new season’s merchandise. This goes for all the details of your customer relationship. If they already returned an item, don’t email them asking them how they like it.
A welcome series isn't a “nice to have” element in a good email marketing strategy. Brands need to connect right out of the gate, and need to show consumers that they take the relationship seriously, responding to what they learn as the customer engages. While someone did sign up, it’s still a two-way street with give and take on both sides. The first few emails set up that relationship successfully, keeping more people engaged longer.
Related story: 3 Steps to Stop Using Email Like a Billboard