How to create an effective welcome email series

McKenzie Gregory

There are lots of good things about new subscribers. They're more engaged, they haven't seen your content before, and they're statistically more likely to click and open your emails. And, hey, they give you that warm-fuzzy feeling that your email program is working.

Trouble is, the story you're telling your long-time subscribers in your main marketing emails may not make sense to them yet. Think of it this way... when someone walks into your store, do you immediately ask for their credit card number?

Nope. First, you craft an experience that creates connection and warmth: a helpful associate, a gorgeous product display, a cool video tutorial.

The email equivalent? A welcome series.

A welcome series puts you in control of how your subscribers are introduced to your brand. It creates trust and helps you establish a relationship with your customer. First impressions are crucial, and sometimes, a single welcome email isn't enough to set the stage. 

Instead, you need a welcome series. But it doesn't have to be overwhelming! This plan will take you 45 minutes this week, so block the space on your calendar now, followed by time to create and set up the emails. 

Here's your step-by-step guide to creating a welcome series.

Subscribers who receive welcome emails show more long-term engagement with a brand.


Step 1 – Decide the key messages for new subscribers.

A common mistake to avoid: Don't start with the number of emails and then decide what goes in each one. Start with what you need to say, and then determine how many emails it'll take to say it.

If someone is new to your email list, what do they need to know about your brand?

If you sell a product or service, it might be this:
1. How our product or service works
2. How we're different from our competitors
3. People rave about us
4. A special offer

If you're a nonprofit, it might be this:
1. Our history and mission
2. Stories of impact we've made
3. Exclusive perks for donors/members
4. A calendar of this year's events featuring Instagram photos 


Step 2 – Create a framework for those messages.

Next up: Set the number and cadence of your welcome emails. The key messages you outlined in Step 1 will be a big facto in those choices. For instance, you might send 4-6 messages over the course of several weeks, so it feels random. For more structure, try a daily tip or email the same day every week. 

The length of your sales cycle matters, too. If people are most likely to buy in the first 48 hours, you may want to front-load your series. If your sales cycle is longer (which is often the case in the B2B world), make sure you're creating touch points over the course of a few weeks.

Using your welcome series to provide a special offer is a great way to boost sales.


Step 3 – Decide whether to keep new subscribers off your main list until the series is complete.

The next email on your list may mention campaigns or promotions your newest subscribers aren't ready for yet. You can create a handy search that segments out everyone on your list who joined in the last, say, 14 days so they don't receive your main emails. There are several ways to do this depending on how your list is structured and which ESP you use. 


Step 4 – Create and set up the emails.

What gets scheduled gets done. Depending on the scope you've laid out, set aside the time to create your emails. Chances are, you can repackage existing content and save yourself some time.

When you've created them, use this article from the Emma Resource Center to put our trigger feature to work. It's how you'll actually set up the series.


Step 5 – Watch your results. 

Your welcome series is an incredibly important part of your email strategy, so it's crucial that you continually monitor your results and refine your series based on what you learn over time.  

For instance, Emma customer Thistle Farms initially set up this 4-part welcome series. It offered new subscribers a nice welcome note, explained their mission and brand a bit more, and gave great testimonials. 


As they watched their results, however, they saw engagement dropping on the 3rd and 4th emails, so they decided to refine the series.



In their second iteration, they simplified the content of the series and added an email asking people to manage their preferences to help prevent the drop-off they were seeing on Email #3.



By explicitly asking people what they want to hear about, Thistle Farms is effectively allowing their audience to segment themselves for future email sends. This enables them to send more relevant, targeted emails and get better results overall:

• The newer version of the welcome series averages a 58% open and 24% click rate.

• Now that they’re able to segment their list from the beginning of the subscriber journey, their average open rates have nearly doubled, rising from 15-20% to 30% across the board.


Step 6 – Where should they go next?

Customer communication shouldn't end with a welcome email—Oh no, you're just getting started. Now that you've seen what it's like to automate and trigger emails, you can do the same for other behavior, such as thanking them for a purchase or letting them know when something they've been eyeing goes on sale. 

The best way to do this is to map your subscriber's journey, which can be illustrated in this infographic


Step 7 — Receive a high-five. 

After all that hard work and testing, you deserve it! 



This article is was updated from its original content in December 2018.

About the Author

McKenzie Gregory

McKenzie Gregory is a senior content manager on Emma’s marketing team. A Nashville native, she can be found covering all things email on the Emma blog, debating hyphenation rules, and watching obscene amounts of Netflix without a trace of shame.

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