Seven Steps to Optimize Your Welcome Message

A welcome message, sent after someone opts in to receive email from you, is part of a reader’s first impression of your organization and email program. Yet many companies treat this message as an afterthought; it’s viewed more as a technical requirement than an opportunity to get to know readers.

The welcome message should support your brand and provide the reader with information. It can also be a great marketing tool, an effective way to jumpstart a relationship marketing program (that’s how I view email, as relationship marketing).

If you don’t already send a welcome message, you should. If you do, use this quick checklist as a starting point to ensure it’s doing all it can, for both you and your readers.

Recommendations

  • Make reader information the primary focus. If your site requires a user name and password, include these in the email in a prominent spot. Be sure to limit copy to just the information readers need to log in; they don’t need a full reiteration of all the information they entered. A nice touch is including an overview of email they subscribed to.

  • Point readers back to your Web site. Provide a link and a reason. If you’re an e-commerce site, mention something special about your site in a feature/benefit manner to encourage them to visit now, and often in the future. A content site can discuss how frequently it’s updated and possibly how deep the archives are. Put your unique selling proposition front and center, and add a link to bring readers back.

    A recent client had a great, five-step “How Our Site Works” process in its welcome email. The information was good, but too long for the message. We made the name more reader-focused (“Getting Started With Us”), put the five steps on a Web site page, and linked to the page in the message. As a result the message is streamlined, more readable, and better at bringing people back to the site to shop.

    Another trick: Offer an incentive. Provide a link to get a special report at no charge or offer a discount on a purchase in the near future. The goal is to get readers back to the site and into the habit of visiting.

  • Highlight housekeeping information. “Housekeeping” is the basic information: how to unsubscribe, contact customer service, update personal profiles, and so on. I like to group this information in a “Helpful Links” section, rather than disperse it throughout the content. That way, readers can use the section as reference. They don’t have to read through a laundry list to get to the message’s meat.
  • Make it personal. Remember, it’s relationship marketing. People buy from people, not companies. Use the reader’s first name, if you have it. And don’t forget to personalize the sender. The message could be from a person, maybe your president or another employee, or a department, but make it from someone. Include a way to contact you (email and/or phone) if the reader has questions.
  • Consider HTML. Most welcome messages I receive are text. HTML aids readability (it’s just a better way to present information) and provides a branding opportunity. Including your logo at the top of the email, where it’s visible in the preview pane and is a recognizable trigger for readers.

    If you asked at opt in for HTML or text message preference, send the preferred format. If you didn’t, use this opportunity to send a multi-part MIME message. Readers will see text if their email client doesn’t support HTML.

  • Provide an unsubscribe link. This is not just critical, it’s the law in most cases. You must allow people to get off the list immediately. I usually include a brief sentence and link in the footer to accomplish this.
  • Use CAN-SPAM components. If you send a “transactional message,” your postal address and an unsubscribe link aren’t legally required, but it would be good to include them. If you send commercial messages, readers will receive these anyway in future mailings. I like to include both in the footer.

Properly planned and executed, your welcome message can serve as not only a reference point for readers but also a marketing tool. Give these tips a try and let me know how they work for you.

Want more email marketing information? ClickZ E-Mail Reference is an archive of all our email columns, organized by topic.

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