Got new subscribers? Start here to build a relationship with them.
If you adopted the three quick-win tactics for email acquisition I outlined in my previous column, you should have a whole group of new subscribers by now. This is where your real work begins.
Post-acquisition represents your most critical time. New subscribers are more likely to respond to email and present a huge opportunity for engagement, data collection, and conversion.
The first email from your brand should be a "welcome" email (ideally, one in a serious of welcome or warm-up messages). This email sets expectations, is relevant, and ensures that you stay top of mind in the inbox.
If your first email falls short, your newly acquired subscriber could unsubscribe or disengage, becoming part of the segment that never responds to email.
Create a Great First Impression
My top optimization tips will help you create an effective and engaging welcome email and welcome series.
1. Send the first email immediately (or as soon as possible) after sign up.
When subscribers sign up, they expect a welcome email. Especially if the welcome email contains a discount or offer. Try not to wait longer than 24 hours to send the welcome email. Sooner the better. The longer you leave it, the more chance the subscriber will forget they signed up and forget your brand.
2. Set email expectations.
Don't send just a text-only message, or one with just one big image. Set expectations by sending a beautifully crafted, optimized email that highlights what the subscriber can expect from future emails.
3. Use easy personalization.
If you have different acquisition sources (Facebook, in-store, etc.), personalize the greeting to reflect where your customer signed up. This is a great way to add relevancy and drive engagement: "Thank you, Matt, for signing up to email through our recent Facebook sweepstakes."
4. Drive engagement.
New subscribers are more likely to respond to email. Therefore, the welcome email or welcome email series should be optimized for the following levels of engagement:
Getting engagement early can ensure inbox placement (such as with Gmail's Priority Inbox) and will help with ongoing deliverability.
5. Collect preferences.
You have a great opportunity to ask these highly engaged new subscribers what they are interested in. Have a strong call to action encouraging them to visit your preference center, complete progressive profiles, or both.
6. One welcome email is not enough.
Why stop with one welcome email? A series of three to four welcome emails is a great way to drive conversion. Think about sending a series of three emails over five days after sign-up, targeting the new subscriber that has not converted.
To optimize this further, dynamically version components of the email series based on the date you already have about your new subscriber. You can use previous purchase data, preference data or indirect and direct profiling.
Exclude new subscribers from other promotional email as they go through the welcome series.
7. Why give the offer away so soon?
If your welcome email includes an incentive that you didn't promote during sign-up, remove it now. Provide the incentive on the second or third email in your welcome series. Give subscribers a chance to shop without it. Add the incentive back in to the second or third email in your welcome series.
8. Think cross-channel.
The welcome series is also a great place to encourage social following. Include links to your Twitter account and Facebook page. If you have an app, give your subscribers the option to download it in this email.
These and other tactics will help you optimize your welcome email and welcome series to drive conversion, engagement, and data collection from your new, highly engaged subscribers.
Final Note: Test and Track
Testing is crucial. Elements to test include different versions of your email creative and the offer and timing of an incentive in the welcome series.
Also, track overall performance by data source to see which acquisition source performs most efficiently.
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Matt Hayes is the director of services strategy at Lyris. With experience in the e-mail industry both in the U.S. and in the U.K., Matt has deep knowledge and experience working with clients in the strategy and development of welcome programs, lifecycle campaigns, list retention and growth, Web behavior segmentation, and e-mail design. Matt started his e-mail career at a U.K. agency that became Lyris UK and was instrumental in managing e-mail marketing campaigns for some of the biggest brands in the U.K. Matt's background is specialized in high-end fashion retail where he set up revenue-driving campaigns. In 2009, Matt moved to San Francisco to manage a team of campaign specialists and drove e-mail marketing strategy for clients in the U.S.
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