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Really Simple E-mail Segmentation: Developing a Welcome Series

  |  June 30, 2008   |  Comments

How to develop a e-mail marketing welcome series to educate new people on your e-mail list about a complex product or service -- and drive them to the next level of the relationship.

New registrants have recently opted-in to receive e-mail from you. The ball's in your court. How will you respond to further the relationship? My last column talked about using a single welcome message; now we'll expand this concept to a series of welcome e-mails.

In "Really Simple E-mail Segmentation: A Framework," I introduced a simple segmentation model that relies on observed behavior; an overview appears below.

Segmentation Using Email Metrics

Any marketer tracking basic e-mail metrics can use this model to better target content and, hopefully, improve performance. This model isn't better than others that segment by interest, industry, or another differentiator; it simply relies on information that should be available from even the most basic e-mail marketing program.

The welcome series I develop for clients usually consists of three to five e-mails, which are triggered by registration and sent in sequence over a period of one to four weeks. A welcome series is a great way to educate readers about a complex product or service and drive readers to the next level of the relationship.

Sometimes this process is referred to as "lead nurturing" -- and the series of e-mails to accomplish this is often referred to as a "drip" campaign. The term comes from a method of crop irrigation that seeks to maintain a consistent level of soil wetness via a constant low-level flow of water.

Drip campaigns can actually start moving prospects along the sales cycle so they're more qualified once a sale representative becomes involved. Or, if you offer free registration but need readers to take action to generate revenue, drip campaigns can spur the reader to take the desired action that will contribute directly to your bottom line.

The examples below are from SparkPeople, a weight loss Web site that calls its welcome series the "Fast Break Strategy." SparkPeople uses the series to help people get started with their diet plans.

E-mail Welcome Series 1
click to enlarge

The first step in developing a welcome series is to identify the action you want the reader to take and the key information you need to convey to drive that action. Don't focus solely on the features (an element of your product or service). Also focus on the benefits (what's in it for the customer if they use your product or service) and advantages (why the customer is better off using your product or service rather than an alternative) of your product or service:

For example, let's say you want people to buy a pocket T-shirt with a button. The pocket is a feature. The benefit to the customer: a place to carry items, like a cell phone. The advantage: unlike other T-shirt pockets, this one can be closed with a button, so your cell phone or other items you're carrying in the pocket won't fall out if you bend over.

When you educate people about the benefits and advantage of this pocket T-shirt with a button over plain old pocket T-shirts, you're moving readers toward a sale.

Don't hesitate to provide small bits of content in the e-mail and then drive readers to your Web site to get the full story, as SparkPeople does here.

E-mail Welcome Series 2
click to enlarge

As a second step in determining welcome series content, identify obstacles to the action you want the reader to take, and include ways to overcome them. To do this effectively, put yourself in the shoes of a new registrant. Remember: these people likely don't have the depth and breadth of knowledge that you have about your product or service. Things that seem easy to you may be obstacles to them.

For example, one of my clients has a Web site that allows small businesses to register for free and then pay to have their news releases distributed to a variety of media and Internet outlets. When I started to work with them, I did a walk through of the service and even thought I might use it to send a news release of my own.

Although I consider myself an experienced and competent writer, thanks in part to more than six years of writing as a ClickZ columnist, I had trouble writing a news release. The rules and tone are different from anything I'd ever written before. It was daunting. I can't imagine what that experience would have been like for a small business owner who wasn't as comfortable writing as I am; it very well could have been a showstopper.

When I developed the welcome series for this client, I remembered this experience and focused one of the messages on how to write a news release, complete with links to helpful resources. This type of hand-holding is simple and inexpensive to accomplish via an e-mail welcome series.

E-mail Welcome Series 3
click to enlarge

Once you've identified the features, benefits, and advantages, as well as the obstacles to action and remedies, it's time to organize! See what types of logical relationships exist and then lump the content into "buckets," one to be covered in each e-mail of your series.

Although it takes time and resources to develop, a welcome series can really pay off. Since the welcome series is going just to the new people on your list, you can use it over a long period of time and it won't need to be updated or changed (unless your product line is updated or changes). You pay to develop it once, but can then reap the benefits of the series for months or years to come with little or no additional investment.

As with any e-mail program, you should be tracking the response from your welcome series and testing to see if you can improve performance.

Take a few minutes this week to think about how a welcome series could enhance your e-mail marketing efforts -- then start brainstorming on content, make it happen and let me know how it goes.

Until next time,

Jeanne

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jeanne Jennings

Jeanne Jennings is a 20 year veteran of the online/email marketing industry, having started her career with CompuServe in the late 1980s. As Vice President of Global Strategic Services for Alchemy Worx, Jennings helps organizations become more effective and more profitable online. Previously Jennings ran her own email marketing consultancy with a focus on strategy; clients included AARP, Hasbro, Scholastic, Verizon and Weight Watchers International. Want to learn more? Check out her blog.

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