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Making the most of automated welcome messages

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One of the simplest e-mail automation tools is often the one that people think about the least, said Josh Nason, inbound marketing director at Manchester, N.H.-based e-mail service provider SendLabs. “We get really busy and forget about creating welcome e-mails,” he said. “[The automated welcome message] is probably the most underused function of an ESP’s software that there is today.”

Even those marketers that do have welcome messages are not using them to the fullest extent, he said. Such messages often fall into the “set it and forget it” category because they are almost always triggered automatically when a customer or prospect opts in.

There are several things marketers should consider when it comes to welcome messages, Nason said. First and foremost, these messages should be viewed as part of the traditional e-mail marketing program, following all the same design and style best practices as any e-mail newsletters or one-off e-mail campaigns, he said. “The layout should reflect what your current e-mail marketing looks like,” Nason said. “First impressions mean a lot, so it should be more than just a text-based ‘Thanks for signing up.’ It should have the same look and feel, and set expectations for future messages.”

Marketers should also let recipients know what to expect from a content perspective. How often will e-mails be sent? What kinds of articles or elements will they contain? When did the last e-mail go out, and when will the first one hit the recipient’s inbox? These are questions that any welcome message should answer, Nason said. “You might want to provide a link to a web-based, dated version of your last e-mail newsletter so people can see what they will be getting,” he said. “Explain your program, what they can expect, and how they can change their preferences. You want to reinforce the positive—the reason they signed up.”

Some marketers see great results by providing a roundup of links to their most popular e-mail newsletters, Nason said. “You can say, ‘Have you seen some of our classic newsletters?’ and include links to three or four of the best-read newsletters,” he said.

The welcome message is also a good vehicle to introduce your RSS feed and links to your social offerings. “You can even highlight a recent blog and provide a link to it,” Nason said. Of course, you should make sure you’re not including too much. “You don’t want to make it so heavy that people say, ‘Oh, God, is this what I am going to get every week?’” he said.

Segmentation is also important. For example, a tech marketer might want to send one welcome message to CIOs on its list and completely different messages to end users and purchasing agents, Nason said.

Finally, take the time to do A/B and multivariate testing with welcome messages, he said, both in the short term and long term. You might want to offer a special welcome code for a discount and see how valuable that is over time. Does it make the customer more loyal over his or her lifetime? “It’s definitely a good idea to test and see what’s working,” Nason said.

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