First impressions count.
That’s why I wear a suit and tie 24 hours a day, seven days a week, even when I’m in bed. You never know when a networking opportunity might come along.
And it’s also why you need to nail your welcome email series.
Welcome series is a type of automated email marketing sequence. They’re triggered when a new subscriber signs up to an email list.
As such, you can use them for a range of purposes, such as:
- Setting the right expectations.
- Providing further information on your product.
- Sharing testimonials and case studies.
- Gathering feedback to improve your product or marketing.
Whatever the immediate purpose of your welcome email series, the “big picture” goal is almost always the same: to drive sales.
Now, let’s look at how to get it right.
What should a welcome email series include? 7 key elements
No two welcome email series will look precisely the same.
But in our experience, the best welcome series contain these seven elements:
1. A timely hook
A welcome email series is a classic example of striking when the iron’s hot.
In virtually all instances, a prospect’s interest in your product will never be higher than when they first sign up for your email list.
So why would you wait to reach out to them?
Delay your welcome email series by even a day or two, and you risk missing out on that peak window of engagement.
That might sound like an obvious point, but a surprising number of businesses are getting it wrong.
Analyzing dozens of email marketing programs and millions of individual emails, Return Path discovered that three-quarters of marketers launch their welcome email series on the day someone subscribes to their marketing list.
That means one in four wait for a day or more to reach out to new subscribers.
Even more surprisingly, one in 20 delay their welcome email series for more than three days!
What’s the holdup?
Those leads aren’t going to get any warmer.
2. A clear, engaging subject line
I doubt I’m telling you anything new if I say that subject lines are kind of important.
According to OptinMonster, nearly half of recipients decide whether or not to open an email based solely on the subject line.
And two-thirds use the subject line when deciding whether to report an email as spam.
Remember, your welcome email message is (probably) the first time you’ve ever emailed this person.
That means you’re a new and somewhat unfamiliar name in their inbox.
So it’s vital you craft a clear and engaging subject line — especially in the first email of your welcome sequence.
Let’s take a look at some real-world examples, courtesy of the Email Drips archive:
- Digital Marketer: “Welcome to Digital Marketer: Here’s Where to Start”
- ContentMavericks: “[ContentMavericks] Case Study Delivered”
- Adobe: “Welcome to the Creative Cloud Photography plan”
- Typeform: “Welcome to Typeform”
- HubSpot: “Ebook Download: An Introduction to Lead Nurturing”
As you can see, several of those examples actually include the word “welcome”.
And they all include either the brand name, the name of a specific product or piece of content or both.
So there should be no room for confusion here.
Pro tip: Struggling for subject line ideas? Take our free, AI-powered email subject line generator for a spin!
3. The subscriber’s name
Again, we all know personalization is essential in email marketing.
One study discovered that 9 in 10 leading marketers say it significantly impacts business profitability. At the same time, another revealed that emails with personalized subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened.
You don’t need to personalize every single element of your welcome email series.
But as an absolute minimum, you should refer to your new subscriber by name.
4. Your best content
I don’t like sweeping statements.
But in most instances, people don’t spend months or years lurking on your website before subscribing. They sign up shortly after discovering you.
That means they likely haven’t seen much, or any, of your older content.
And I bet you’ve got some absolute bangers lurking in the depths of your vault.
It’d be a shame to waste them, so why not resurface them in your welcome email series?
If you think that sounds lazy, don’t, because it’s a tactic used by plenty of big names.
For instance, here’s an example from HubSpot:
5. A persuasive call to action
Every email you send should have a clear purpose.
Otherwise, it’s just unnecessary noise.
If you’re a SaaS business, you likely want new subscribers to start using your software as soon as possible.
Whatever the purpose of your welcome email series, you should spell it out clearly with a persuasive call to action (CTA).
It needn’t look like a “traditional” CTA (i.e., a big, eye-catching button).
It could be some hyperlinked text or even just a clear instruction within the body copy.
Either way, give the recipient a clear idea of how to get started like Typeform does here:
6. A request to be added to their “safe senders” list
Typically, your welcome email series isn’t about closing the deal in one or two (or even five or six) emails.
If that happens, great!
But more often, it’s about starting a relationship with prospects so you can close the deal down the line when they’re ready to commit.
So it’s essential your prospects actually see your future emails — and that definitely won’t happen if they end up in the spam folder.
Prevent this from happening by asking new email subscribers to add you to their “safe senders” list.
7. An “unsubscribe” link
Hopefully, no one’s going to want to quit your marketing list at this early stage.
But regardless of that, CAN-SPAM requires that you always make it easy for people to unsubscribe, and GDPR has made it more critical than ever to respect consumer preferences.
So make sure you include a sentence or two at the bottom of your email that explains how to unsubscribe, like Typeform does here:
Not only will this satisfy your legal requirements, but it also makes you seem more trustworthy.
How long is a welcome email series?
There’s no definitive answer to this question.
A short welcome series might consist of just 2 or 3 emails sent over a week or less.
Or they could be much longer.
We did some quick math and found that the average length of a welcome email series in the Email Drips archive is 6.45 emails.
But that’s a pretty limited data set, comprising just 11 campaigns at the time of writing.
And the average number masks a broad range of results, with the shortest sequence including just 2 emails and the longest a whopping 14 emails.
This number would depend on many things, such as the type of the business (SaaS vs. content outlet, etc.), the business model (trial vs. freemium vs. only paid), etc.
As a rule of thumb, we recommend sending 4 – 6 emails in your welcome series. But it’s totally fine and in some cases even recommended to send more, as long as the emails are spread evenly.
That’s long enough to build some trust and showcase your product’s top-level features and benefits without leaving the prospect feeling like they’re being bombarded.
What emails should appear in your welcome email sequence?
Okay, so we know the key information you’ll want to include in your welcome sequences.
Now let’s dig into how that could look across a six-step welcome email series:
Email 1: Your welcome email
While every step in your email series is about welcoming a new subscriber, that’s particularly true of the very first email you send.
Email #1 is your opportunity to say hello and introduce yourself and your organization.
Beyond that, it’s also a chance to:
- Share the lead magnet you used to capture the prospect’s email address.
- Detail your brand story.
- Encourage people to explore your product.
- Provide useful information.
- Ask new subscribers what content or support they want from you.
This example from Sumo uses what’s known as “coaching decisiveness” to pave the way for a future pitch:
Coaching decisiveness is about praising your prospect for taking a decision (in this case, signing up for an email list).
It’s a subtle way to hype the value of your product.
After all, your product is smart, and they chose to subscribe to your email list. So your email list — and product — must be pretty great!
Email 2: Explaining the prospect’s “problem”
Your prospect must be encountering some sort of problem to have discovered your website in the first place.
Because no one spends their free time clicking around email marketing software or productivity tools for fun.
Presumably, whatever their problem is, your product solves it.
So the 2nd step in our example welcome email sequence is to detail that problem and (briefly) explain your solution.
In this welcome email series example, marketing guru Justin Jackson spells out a series of “problems” experienced by web developers:
Then at the end of the email, he provides the solution — developers need to learn marketing.
Justin makes this solution sound achievable, so as not to put anyone off:
But he also stresses it’s not so simple that developers can do it all alone (i.e., without his help):
Email 3: Empathize with your audience
You’ve already described the problem your new subscribers are encountering.
The 3rd email in your welcome email series is your opportunity to demonstrate your credentials.
This is a tricky step in your email sequence.
Because we humans are proud people, we don’t like to be told that the problems we’re facing are our fault.
And we definitely don’t want to be made to feel stupid.
So it’s your job to reassure prospects that they aren’t to blame while demonstrating your ability to fix their problem.
A little empathy can go a long way here.
Maybe you can explain how lots of other people experience the same problem.
Maybe you can even say that you’ve faced it yourself.
That’s what Chris from Content Mavericks does here (N.B. it’s a great email, but it’s pretty long, so I’ve highlighted the most relevant parts):
Because Chris has experience building a successful business, losing it overnight, and doing it all again from scratch, his audience feels confident in turning to him for advice on building an effective pipeline.
Email 4: Set out the short & long-term benefits
Your subscribers have one thing in common: they’re all imagining a bright future in which all their business problems are miraculously solved, allowing them to smash goal after goal.
Now, you know that’s not going to happen overnight.
In reality, you know that continued success requires a long-term commitment.
But focusing on the big picture is a turn-off for new prospects.
They want results right now.
That’s why email #4 of your welcome sequence should be about detailing the individual steps that will eventually lead to that bright future:
Again, Justin Jackson shows us how this looks in practice:
This way, people can imagine the dream scenario of zero problems and constant success while also focusing on important short-term goals.
It makes the whole process seem a lot more real.
Email 5: Close the deal
Anyone with experience of running product launch email series will tell you that the lion’s share of sales comes at the end of the sequence.
It’s the same when you’re running a limited-time promotion. Announce a 10% discount, and you’ll get a few signups straight away, but you’ll see a lot more as the promotion draws to an end.
And it’s also the same with your welcome email series.
By email #5, you’ve already laid the groundwork by demonstrating your expertise, getting people bought into the value you provide, and explaining what success looks like.
Now it’s time to turn all that hard work into results.
Take a look at this example of a “closer” email from Sumo:
It relies on three smart tactics to close the deal:
- Clarifying the user’s goal: That is, to capture more email addresses.
- Clearly stating the benefits: That Sumo can help users build a following, grow traffic, and track success.
- Including a strong CTA: The big green CTA button is backed up by copy urging the user to “get more traffic and build a massive following today”.
That makes for a highly persuasive message, but you wouldn’t want to attempt such a “hard sell” any earlier in your welcome email series.
Email 6: Close the deal again! (With testimonials)
Sales takes time.
For instance, a Gartner study of 506 technology buyers found that buying teams spend an average of 16.3 months to complete a new IT purchase.
When buyer cycles stretch over weeks and months, you need to be persistent.
Don’t leave it all to a single step in your welcome email sequence to close the deal.
Instead, follow up on email #5 by reinforcing your expertise through testimonials, leveraging the power of social proof.
Social proof is a term coined by psychologist and academic Robert Cialdini, who described it as the phenomenon whereby our actions are influenced by other people’s behavior.
That’s why, when the coolest person you know mentions a hot new bar, you can’t wait to go there yourself.
It’s also why product reviews, case studies, and testimonials are such effective content types.
Well, 97% of B2B buyers say reviews and testimonials are more credible and trustworthy than other types of content, according to Demand Gen Report.
Here, Content Mavericks shows us how to send a second “closer” email incorporating social proof in the form of two glowing testimonials:
What is the ideal cadence for a welcome email series?
Sending one email a day will work best for the majority of the welcome email series.
That way, you’re not waiting too long between emails, which makes your campaign feel like a logical, joined-up sequence, with a clear progression from one message to the next.
If you leave a 4-day gap between your emails, that’s barely a sequence at all.
However, few things are black and white in the world of sales and marketing.
Fact is, it might make sense to give your prospects a little more time before following up.
Maybe you want to give them a couple of days to finish reading your 5,000-word ebook or get to grips with your product in a free trial.
In those cases, they’re still interacting with your content or product, so there’s less pressure to be in constant contact via email.
On the flip side, if your prospects are extremely warm, they might be poised to take immediate action — in which case, you might want to email them more than once a day.
As ever, the important thing is to build and maintain momentum throughout the campaign.
The more welcome email series you run, the closer you’ll come to finding the perfect cadence.
Build a more impactful welcome email series with Encharge
Creating an effective welcome email series isn’t rocket science.
Say hello, tell your story, demonstrate your value, share a glowing testimonial or two, and close the deal.
The hard part is going beyond emails to build campaigns that account for the entire user journey.
But it’s a whole lot easier when you use our Flow Builder.
Read next: How to Set Up a Trial Welcome Email?
Our simple drag-and-drop editor helps you create flows to welcome new leads, guide trial users, and nurture prospects until they’re ready to become paying customers.
Repetitive tasks can be automated in your CRM, such as notifying your team via Slack and email when users perform a specific action.
Sign up for a free 14-day trial with Encharge and see how sophisticated and impactful your welcome email series could be.
And don’t worry — we won’t even ask for your credit card details.