You Had Me at Hello

We focus a lot of energy on developing regularly scheduled email communications how to write copy to wow (and woo), how to segment a house file in order to find the cream of the crop among your customers, and how to optimize design, testing strategies, and more.

Nothing wrong with that. But, after receiving a recent inquiry from a reader, I realized that since these communications are designed to build those all-important relationships with our customers over time, we may have neglected a very critical contact point that we have with our customers, prospects, and subscribers. That is the very first message that we send to them, a.k.a. the “Welcome Letter.”

Most customer development models include a “welcome” strategy of some sort for greeting first-time subscribers, buyers, and prospects. If you send an email, what do you include to not only inform, but also keep people interested in and excited about the initial offer that they signed up for?

We’ve all received a warm and inviting “welcome” message by email at some point in our online lives. As marketers, we’ve probably received hundreds of them. But what makes up an exceptional introductory message? What necessary components do you include to truly make your new list members and customers feel, well, welcome?

Here are a few must-haves:

  • Personalize and humanize. Depending on your audience, keep the tone of the email friendly. If appropriate, make it sound as if it’s coming from someone within your organization. Begin by welcoming, congratulating, or thanking the recipient no matter what your offer is. And depending on your audience, you could even start out with something somewhat humorous to grab attention, such as I-Advertising’s welcome message:

    “Someone, you or someone pretending to be you, has just requested that we add you to the subscriber list for…”

  • Tell recipients who you are. Immediately tell them the name of your company and what you do. Remind them why they signed up, bought, and/or registered to begin with (because they can save money, get great design tips, take advantage of exclusive offers, etc.). Position it so that recipients are well aware of what rewards, or benefits, they’re about to reap. Remind them how smart they are for finding you.
  • “Introduce” your key products, services, people, and/or departments. If people are the backbone of your company, introduce a few of your key players to your new audience. Or, if your online store has multiple departments, present a unique introduction and link for each one of them. CDNOW does this very well. It sends an exceptional welcome message that’s perfect for its audience of music lovers. Included in CDNOW’s introductory email are brief “teaser” messages that describe things such as how members can set their music and artist preferences, create a wish list and gift registry, and register for rewards based on purchases. Each brief description includes a link to that specific area on the CDNOW site.
  • Sign it. Conclude the message by having it signed by a real live person with a real live signature file (and make sure the email address actually works).
  • Offer an “unsubscribe” option. This goes without saying. Yes, people may change their minds upon receiving the very first email, and if they do, you don’t want to tick them off by making it difficult for them to unsubscribe if they want to. On that same note, be sure to also make it easy for them to change their email address.
  • Keep it simple. That means short and to the point, while at the same time keeping the above in mind. The thing to remember is that your welcome message is not a novel, nor is it just a set of instructions on how to unsubscribe. A happy, inviting medium is what you’re striving for here.

Common sense? Sure. Just remember that first impressions really do make a difference, especially at that precarious time when you and your new subscribers and customers are just becoming acquainted. So be sure to make that first encounter count: Welcome them with open arms and knock their socks off at “hello.”

Related reading