Email marketing is the main acquisition channel for most SMEs, and creating the right impression with a welcome series automation will maximise results and prevent leads from falling through the cracks.
So how do customers interact with email marketing? More people choose to buy shortly after receiving a welcome email than those that buy after being a subscriber for a while. This is probably because you’re already on their minds, and so communication at the start of their sign up feels natural and authentic.
Unsurprisingly, welcome emails also have the highest open rates, and so represent an opportunity to maximise your reach to your target market. But reach alone isn’t enough to increase sales; the content needs to be worth their time, too.
This means that welcome emails are important, and need to be moulded in a way that optimises the chance of new subscribers taking the relevant next steps on their customer journey.
It also means that you have to strike while the iron is hot. If a welcome email has gone unopened, there’s still a window of time to attract your subscriber’s attention with a reminder email. If an email has been opened, communicating the next steps with your subscriber will keep them on track to convert into a sale. But to do both of these things successfully, you’ll need an email automation sequence, or in this case, a ‘welcome series’.
If you’re interested in finding out more about the latest email marketing trends, read our article here.
What’s a welcome series?
A welcome series is pretty much what it sounds like. It’s a series of welcome messages that automatically gets sent out to new subscribers and it’s an opportunity to introduce yourself and make a good first impression.
These series usually use 4-6 emails to get new subscribers fully onboarded, familiar with the brand, and more likely to take action.
Here’s just one example of what you might typically expect from a welcome series:
- Welcome email
- Showing you’re aware of your customers’ problems and know how to solve it
- Specific product/ service introduction
- Detail about benefits customers can expect
- Creating a sense of urgency
But every business is different, and what you include in your welcome series depends on what you’re offering is as well as what your prospects expect from you.
Creating an automation
The first step in creating an effective welcome series is to create the foundation of your automation.
We’ll specifically be looking at automation on ActiveCampaign because we practice what we preach, and this is the platform that we use for ourselves and our clients.
The steps are as follows:
- Click on the ‘automations’ tab on the navigation bar
- Select ‘new automation’
- ‘Start from scratch’
- You’ll then see ‘start triggers’, which shows how contacts enter the automation
- Next, select the contact list you want to target with the series
If you don’t already have a contact list, you can create one by clicking the ‘lists’ tab on the home screen, followed by clicking the ‘add a list’ in the top right corner.
Building a welcome email
Once you’ve selected to start an automation from scratch, the next step is to set up an initial welcome email aimed at the list you’ve selected. To do this, you’ll need to drag the ‘send an email’ action from the toolbar into the first step of the automation. You can then create a welcome email by following the directions from there.
Note: If you can’t find an action you need from the toolbar, you can find it by using the search function under ‘actions’ in the toolbar.
Knowing your audience
The first step in creating your initial welcome email is to identify where your audience’s emails have come from. Perhaps you have a list of contacts that you’ve previously connected to on LinkedIn. In that case, your welcome email will look very different to one that’s targeting contacts who’ve signed up for a ‘lead magnet’ or newsletter via your website.
This is why your contact lists are so important- they allow you to segment your audience and send marketing material that’s relevant to them and in the right context (If someone’s signed up for a lead magnet, they probably won’t appreciate an email thanking them for connecting on LinkedIn).
What’s a lead magnet?
A lead magnet is some form of free offering as a means of gathering the contact details of qualified leads. However, it needs to be valuable enough to your audience to get them to part with their email (after all, no one wants irrelevant mail clogging their inbox).
Examples of lead magnets include:
- Free trails
- Loyalty programmes
- Free eBook
- And more
How to write a welcome email
Your initial welcome email should hit a few points. It should acknowledge where your audience has made contact, welcome them to your brand with a brief introduction touching on the context of your audience’s pains and the solution.
Here’s one example of how you can structure a welcome email:
It’s been great to connect with you on LinkedIn, and I’m looking forward to sharing ideas and knowledge through our network.
It might be useful if I briefly introduce [Company Name], we specialise in [Brief Description].
We’re seeing a growing concern in the sector over [Insert Problem Here]. However, [Insert Solution Here].
If you’re interested in learning more I’d be happy to chat about our work and hear about your experiences. Feel free to drop me an email to schedule a catch-up [Add Hyperlink to Email].
All the best,
[contact details, additional information, and footer]”
All of your emails, including your initial welcome, should have a call-to-action (CTA) to drive leads through to the next step of the customer journey. In the example aboved case, the CTA is the last sentence before the sign-off.
Setting up a response
After you’ve sent out your first email, the recipient either will or won’t open it, so there need to be two separate actions to address both outcomes. If a contact opens the email, they can be placed into a new list that takes them onto the next stage of their customer journey, which could include another automation for new contacts who have already been onboarded.
If they haven’t opened the email, you still have a chance to engage your contact by sending a reminder email. But before that, there needs to be a cool off time (e.g. 7 days)- so insert a ‘wait’ action under the welcome email.
Automating tailored responses
Then to automate the two potential responses. Drag an ‘If/Else’ function onto the plus sign below the ‘wait’ action. The purpose of this is to create two commands that depend on your contact’s interaction with the email. You’ll need to assign ‘conditions’ to split the automation, such as the condition of whether or not the email’s been opened.
Here’s what you can expect from the ‘If/Else’ function.
Once added, the ‘If/Else’ function will create a ‘yes’ and ‘no’ option:
In this case, the ‘no’ option continues the welcome series automation for those who’ve left the message unopened, while the ‘yes’ condition will move onboarded customers into a targeted sales automation.
What are the steps after the initial welcome?
If new contacts don’t open your initial welcome email, the series works to increase your chances of engaging them.
After a wait, the next step is to send a ‘reminder email’. Because your contacts haven’t opened the initial message, the reminder could be a carbon copy of the original. However, you could also write a line that’s demonstrating you’re trying to help your contacts out, e.g.:
“Hi [First Name],
I noticed that you didn’t get the chance to read our welcome email, so I thought I’d share some more information with you… [insert original copy here]”
Then, add another shorter wait, such as 4 days. If the contact opens the email within that time frame, they can finish the automation like the contacts who opened the first message. You then have the option to move them into a subsequent email automation series to increase conversion.
However, those that haven’t engaged within the preset wait time need to be moved onto a ‘dormant leads’ list and unsubscribed from the initial ‘sign up’ list that included them in the welcome series.
B2B and B2C welcome series
There are plenty of guides and templates for email automations, including welcome series options provided by ActiveCampaign, but what you ultimately include as content needs to reflect your brand and the needs of your target audience. This will differ for B2B and B2C businesses.
For B2C welcome emails, the content needs to be aesthetically appealing and eye-catching, with a clear offering and CTA. Your offering could include something like free shipping, a new customer discount, a free trial, or something else of value that will nudge your new signups to convert.
Think hard about what offering will be most effective as new signups are primed to buy. This is because they’ve already made it at least halfway through the sales funnel, awareness and acquisition (acquisition is where they submit their email), and only the engagement and conversion steps are left (for engagement, they’ll open your email and for conversion, click through to your CTA).
The same applies to B2B in terms of where prospects are up to in the sales funnel, but there are some key differences in what needs to be included in the content of the emails.
B2B emails should also contain some kind of offering, although this is more likely to be something like a free trial, a free course, a whitepaper, or something else that’s aimed about educating your audience about your solution.
B2B customers are much less likely to be emotional buyers, so your content needs to be clear about your product/service benefits and showcase your credibility. For the aesthetic, it’s a good idea to keep plenty of whitespace with the text as clear as possible. Generally, it’s a good idea to keep the branding clear but simple and not too busy- for example, a footer at the end of the email could contain all the branding you need.
to avoid coming across as too- But don’t forget to also include clear branding. This could be in the form of a footer at the end of the email.
An effective welcome series can function as an incredibly valuable and cost-effective asset for your business. It’s often the first point of personalised contact and so showcasing your worth and making the first impression count is essential.
However, it’s worth noting that email marketing won’t work alone- after all, visitors from your website or connections from your LinkedIn won’t provide their details without a strategy that usually involves a strong website, as well as robust social media and lead generation. As a result, your welcome series will need to be integrated as part of your broader marketing strategy to work as effectively as possible.