I recently attended a Lyris email-marketing conference in Chicago, and there was a critical theme that threaded through a number of the presentations – the power of a welcome program. I’ve talked about welcome emails before (see “9 Ways to Make the Most of Your Welcome Emails”). If you haven’t thought through the entire welcome experience, however, you’re missing one of the most critical elements of building your email list and the resulting email-marketing ROI. So, here I describe the architecture and elements you don’t want to miss for your email welcome program.
At the Lyris conference, James Meers from the British Museum did a great job of laying out the six steps of an email program. I’ll borrow some of his structure and also add a bit of my own elaboration and clarification based upon FulcrumTech’s experience with our many clients over the years.
Step 1 — Website email signup form
This is where it all begins—the signup form. Interestingly, though, companies typically have many questions about email sign-up forms:
- Where should the form be?
- How should it be presented? (Should it be a pop-up box that blocks the entire home page of your site, for example, requiring the visitor either to complete or close the box?)
- Where should it go if it’s on the home page? The top, side, bottom?
- Should there be an incentive for signing up?
- What information do you request in the sign-up form?
What may appear to be very basic decisions are actually not so straightforward. How do you decide?
My general recommendation is to do what you believe makes the most sense given your goals, your audience, and how badly you want to get sign-ups. All of these choices will impact how many sign-ups you get, as well as the quality of those you get. Whatever sign-up box strategies you decide to start with, though, immediately begin implementing testing. For example, start modifying variables relating to your sign-up box (size, location, color, prominence of, etc.), and then conduct statistically valid tests to determine which delivers the best results for your situation. It’s amazing how many people fly blind when it comes to this critical element of an email program.
I’ll finish this topic with one interesting point. For those companies that had deep, heart-wrenching, internal discussions about whether to use a pop-up sign-up box on the home page, a strong executive often dictated their decision. The executive would simply say, “Just do it!” Those who did, appear to be ecstatic about the results achieved…interesting. Sometimes we have to put our own emotions aside and try what may not be so comfortable.
Step 2 — Thank-you page
Once your new subscriber completes the signup form, take him or her to a thank-you pop-up or page. It’s important that this page do two things:
- Include instructions to check their inbox for a confirmation email.
- Ask subscribers to white-list your sending email address. They just signed up, so they’re in the best mindset to do what it takes to make sure they get your emails.
The above recommendation assumes double opt-in, which will typically result in fewer names but a higher quality list compared to single opt-in. By requiring subscribers to confirm their email addresses, you’re making sure that they really want to give you permission to email to them. Plus, their confirmation lets you know that the email got delivered. The issue of single versus double opt-in is the subject for another article.
Step 3 — Confirmation email
Now it’s time to send a confirmation email, which includes a link for the subscriber to use to confirm that he or she wants to receive your emails. Typically, marketers like to make this email look good by designing and sending it as an HTML email.
If the new subscriber doesn’t click to confirm within a day, be sure to set up a trigger email to resend the confirmation email. And when you do, try a text-only version instead in case the HTML email got spammed or junked. Sending a text version may improve your chances that it gets through to the recipient.
In reality, we have seen that you may lose between 10% and 15% of those who sign up by requiring a double opt-in process, but in the end, your list will likely be of much higher quality.
Step 4 — Preference center
According to a recent study performed by E-Dialog, 64% of the consumers surveyed indicated they prefer that marketers know what types of products or services they’re interested in; those who desired non-targeted offers want marketers to know their communication preferences. In addition, 59% of those who stop reading a company’s emails do so because the email is coming too frequently (followed by 55% who simply indicated that they were no longer interested in the product or service). The bottom line is that you need to give your subscribers the opportunity to tell you what they’re interested in. And you do that in a preference center.
Once new subscribers have confirmed their interest in receiving your emails, take them to your preference center. Here you can collect any of a number of additional interests. Below are a few ideas:
- Email frequency (determine how much is too much email)
- Product interests
- Demographics that will help you improve the relevance of your emails
- Additional newsletters the subscriber may want to sign up for
- Other information they want to get from you (people who’ve just expressed interest in your company might also be interested in special promotional offers).
Step 5 — Thank-you page
Once the user completes the preference center options, present a thank-you page that confirms you have received the preferences. Reiterate any promotional offers, and include links to whatever you consider appropriate for meeting your marketing and relationship-building objectives.
Step 6 — Welcome email
The welcome email is one of the most frequently read emails. Be sure to design it well, provide confirmation of the subscription, include white-listing instructions, and add any relevant promotional offers. The welcome email is one of the most important emails in your email-marketing effort. So, test it adequately to determine what content and calls to action perform the best when you change different aspects of this email. Learn more about our recommendations relating to welcome emails in FulcrumTech’s resource center.
Don’t forget the analytics!
Setting up a complete welcome program for your email-marketing campaigns is only the first step. Measuring everything about your welcome program is key. Track opens, clicks, Web page views, and whatever way you may define the one or more conversion activities throughout your welcome program. Once you establish your baseline metrics, begin brainstorming every action you can take to improve every one of your target metrics. You’ll be amazed at what you can do once you focus on the right metrics.
FulcrumTech is a Platinum Agency Partner of Lyris, which is an enterprise-class email service provider. Clients sometimes struggle with implementing any of a number of the aspects described in our welcome program recommendations. If you need help, contact FulcrumTech for assistance or to gain affordable access to LyrisHQ, which can integrate your email and Web site analytics and so much more.