Your Guide to Welcome Email Best Practices

Chanelle Smith
Chanelle Smith

Last updated on

March 17, 2023

Your email strategy is essential when looking to increase conversion rates and boost your sales. In fact, 73 percent of senior-level marketers believe email is a critical step in the customer’s journey. If you’ve already attracted subscribers to your email list, congratulations! But there’s more work to be done -- to achieve maximum ROI from your list, you need to build solid relationships with your new leads.

We polled email marketing pros from across the globe to help us build this comprehensive guide to writing welcome emails! Here’s what you need to know to connect with new leads and generate engagement right away.

Send a Welcome Email in the First Place

send a welcome email - welcome email tips

Failing to send a prompt welcome email means you risk losing important opportunities to sell. Welcome emails are 320 percent more efficient than other promotional emails. If you hook your subscribers with an appealing email to confirm their subscriptions, you can increase open rates, click rates and transaction rates. But if your first email arrives too late, there’s a high chance the subscriber doesn’t even open it because they no longer care about your offer.

But how soon should you send it? We asked the experts, and they unanimously agreed that sooner is better, though had varying opinions about just how soon. Some, like Dave Shrein and Kristi File, suggest sending the welcome email right away:

The moment that someone opts in to your email is the best possible moment to contact them. If it's the first time they've ever interacted with your brand they are 'hotter' than they have ever been, meaning they want to hear from you as long as it is in relation to the reason why they gave you their email address in the first place. Take advantage of their interest and attention and reward them with a pleasant, friendly welcome!

-Dave Shrein

Keep your new subscribers focused on you by sending your initial welcome email to them immediately -- as in, right after they hit that subscribe button. Your new subscribers are at peak engagement when they first sign up to your email list. So, take advantage of their attention and send your welcome email immediately after they subscribe.

-Kristi File

Others said sending the welcome email within several hours of subscribing -- up to a day -- is the way to go:

My good rule of thumb is in 45-60 minutes. Sending an intro (welcome) email right away seems incredibly automated and may come out as off-putting. An hour later appears more genuine. It's not too late and the subscriber still remembers the initial interaction.

--Mario Peshev

I recommend sending your welcome email between one hour to one day after subscribing, depending on whether they’ve downloaded a lead magnet or not. I like to wait a day if they’ve downloaded a lead magnet so I don’t clutter their inbox.

-Janelle Allen

Justin McGill at LiveAgent even shared some stats from some of the welcome emails LiveAgent uses:

We have a couple emails that actually go out on the first day.

One is a welcome email that also has the demo tutorial video inside it. This gets a 49% open rate and 9% click through to play the video. This one is a few paragraphs before the video. Our whole goal is to make sure they're educated.

And Mike Donnelly suggests customizing the timing of your first outreach based on how the subscriber opted in:

This depends on the offer that the subscriber converted on. For example, if it was a content offer, you should send an email with a link or the content offer almost immediately (within 5 minutes). If it's not a content offer, I would wait until you have something valuable for the user. I'm not a fan of getting an immediate email around "Here's what you should expect from us..." If you don't have something of value to provide, don't send it.

Optimize the Subject Line

Optimize the subject line - welcome email tips

Before your welcome email can influence a subscriber’s purchasing decision, you have to get them to open it. That’s where an appealing subject line comes in. The subscriber has given you an email address, and now you have the opportunity to give them something small in return.

Big brands, like Amazon and Airbnb, use this first line to thank their subscribers and to welcome them to their community. Something as simple as “Hello and Welcome” could be enough to convince a subscriber to open the email since they’re likely already be expecting to receive an opt-in confirmation.

You can use language to create expectations, such as “What’s next?” or “Important info inside”, but make sure you meet these expectations! A call to action can also encourage opens -- something light, like “See what you can do with Dropbox” or “Get started with Evernote”.

Here are some other suggestions from the pros:

You have to remember that you are one of hundreds of emails in their inbox - and probably one of the most unimportant emails at that. You're in competition with family, finances, health, romance - so you need to make sure to provide just enough information with a little bit of mystery in your subject line. A welcome message subject line such as "Really quick, this is the follow up to your request" might be an appropriate subject line if they requested information from you, the received that info and now you're following up quickly with a welcome! Compel them to open up your email and before you send it say, "if they don't care about this message, what do I need to change to compel them to care?"

-Dave Shrein

That’s really up to you as long as it fulfills three criteria: it’s friendly, welcoming, and enticing. For example, “Welcome to the family! (Read me)” or “Thanks for subscribing! Here’s what you need to know…”

-Janelle Allen

Justin McGill says that one of LiveAgent’s welcome emails uses the subject line: "Why Did You Sign Up?" and gets a 49% open rate. He goes on, “I ask them to reply and let me know what they expect LeadFuze to be able to do for them. That's it. This gets nearly a 20% response rate and gives us awesome insights in the expectations of our potential customers.”

-Justin McGill

Don’t take your subscribers by surprise. Come up with a message that stays in line with your style. ASOS, for example, writes “Oh, hey girl! Welcome to ASOS. It’s great to meet you!” While it may not be the classic way to say hello, it’s in line with the image ASOS has created among their customers. Find your brand voice and use it to personalize your email so that subscribers learn to recognize your messages right from the start.

A good subject line should be short (no longer than 10-15 words), clear and motivating. Avoid using words like ‘free’, ‘help’, ‘% off’, ‘perfect’, ‘deal’, ‘wonderful’, ‘report’, ‘webinar’ and other similar words, as they can negatively impact your open rates due to their spammy nature.

And, since we’re talking about the first impression, make sure your sender information is personalized, as well. No one likes to receive an email from [email protected]. Send from a person’s name or your brand’s name -- whichever will be more recognizable.

Respect Your Promises

Respect your promises - welcome email tips

It’s common practice to attract new subscribers with a promise, like by collecting their email address in exchange for access to restricted content, news updates, ebooks, or discounts.

As a welcome email best practice, you must respect this promise. So, in your first email, let your subscribers know how they can get what they were looking for in the first place. Include the discount code, coupon, or download link in the body of the email. Don’t let users wait for their rewards, or you risk losing them.

Include the Right Copy

Include the right copy - welcome email tips

What goes into your welcome email will vary based on what your subscribers have opted into. Mario Peshev gave some helpful and specific welcome email content suggestions that vary by type of publication:

For service-based newsletters, make sure you point the reader to the most prominent (and important) sections such as FAQ, archive, membership area.

For blog and magazine newsletters, the editor's pick (top 3 stories) is a great starting point, along with a personalized intro from the editor (or the owner of the blog).

You want to continue the conversation and ensure that readers can consume the right type of information - your go-to landing pages for your audience or your top resources.

No matter the type of publication, our marketing pros agreed that you should get right to the point and not waste your new subscribers’ time. Dave Shrein puts it this way:

No email can ever be too long: just too boring. Use as many words as it takes for you to convey your message and no more! Focus your welcome on them, their story, their pains, their hopes, their dreams, and whatever you do, make the the hero of their own journey. You're not here to save them -- you're here to help them save those they're trying to serve. Use enough words to convey that service to them!

And Kristi File created this killer list of welcome email must-haves:

Ask them to whitelist you. Ensure that all of your emails are landing in your subscribers’ inbox by reminding them to mark your email address as ‘spam-free’.

Direct them to a couple pieces of your best content on your website.

Provide links to one or two social media channels for them to follow you on.

Engage with them by asking them a question. Try to find their points of frustration or areas in which they need most help. Simply ask them to hit the reply button with their response.

Include a postscript (P.S.) with a sneak peek of what they can expect in your next email.

Don’t Stress Over the Design

Don't stress over the design - welcome email tips

Overall, our experts agree that for welcome emails, it’s not about the design, it’s about the content.

Some welcome emails can be minimalistic -- entirely text-based. Brands may choose to include their business logo, a screenshot of their website or a screengrab of the main section they want to lead readers to.

-Mario Peshev

The only design element I like including is a picture of myself, or my team. Other than that, design to match your brand. If you need visual elements to accurately communicate your message, add them -- if you don't, then don't feel like you have to add something. Folks can tell if you're being cool or being phony -- visual design elements won't mask either.

-Dave Shrein

This depends on whether you are a B2B or B2C company. It's much easier to get away with lots of image-based content in the B2C email marketing world. Highly interactive design elements that you create with a tool like Ceros can perform really well with the B2B world. Don't add an image for the sake of adding an image.

-Mike Donnelly

Design can be a great opportunity to show off the branding your typical email includes -- colors, your logo, a special email template. This will help people to become familiar with you and how you'll appear to them in the inbox.

Another trend I've noticed recently in welcome emails is GIFs. They're fun and attention-grabbing! Just consider your audience before defaulting to humor.

-Maddy Osman

Gather Subscriber Information for Customization

Gather subscriber information for customization

Around 80 percent of marketers see emails as the best drivers of customer retention because it’s easy to customize messages and personalize copy to meet your followers’ expectations.

For the best results, you need to segment your email list, based on subscribers’ preferences and online habits. To gather this information, your welcome email could include a survey or link to a subscription preferences page, which subscribers can use to give you more information about their interests. Having this information gives you the power to give each subscriber the information they’re looking for, which could increase your open rate by 244 percent and boost revenue by as much as 330 percent!

Mario Peshev recommends “asking customers to answer a specific question by replying to your welcome email”.

Kristi File agrees:

Open up the lines of communication with your new subscriber right away by including a call-to-action in your welcome email. Ask them a single question to encourage them to share their thoughts and converse with you. Keep the dialogue going by asking them to hit reply and respond to your question. This will give you a better understanding of who your subscriber is and how you can help them going forward.

This step needn’t be intrusive or time-consuming; even just getting their answer to one question could be enough to help you segment your list effectively.

Tell Subscribers What’s in It for Them

Tell subscribers what’s in it for them

Besides giving them the reward they initially signed up for, you should make sure your new subscribers understand the benefits of being part of your community. Will they be regularly receiving news, special discounts, premium content, or VIP membership benefits? Give your subscribers a solid reason to open future communications from you.

Google starts its welcome emails with “Thank you!” before brief blurbs about their catalog of product and service offerings to give subscribers a chance to explore their features. Google, and in fact most brands, emphasize a customer-focus by using ‘you’ liberally throughout their emails and limiting the usage of ‘I’ and ‘we’.

Amazon’s welcome email shows subscribers its latest features and services and doesn’t promote sales at all, instead focusing on creating a great user experience.

In addition to laying out the kinds of content your subscribers can expect from you, your welcome email should make clear the frequency with which they’ll hear from you. Creating expectations among your subscribers -- and then meeting them -- is the best way to keep them on your list.

Insert Clear Calls to Action

Insert clear calls to action

The best way to get people to do what you want is by telling them exactly what that is. That’s exactly what calls to action, or CTAs, are for.

Keep in mind that not every CTA must be a direct sales plea. Ikea uses simple CTAs like “join now”, “get inspired”, and “read our blog”. Simple, effective messages like these serve to guide subscribers towards the parts of their website that best match their interests. Other great examples are “download app”, “explore”, “get started”, or “sign in”.

You can also simply ask your new lead to confirm subscription to get them to engage right away and ensure their form submission wasn’t just a mistake. This technique is a best practice for keeping quality leads on your list and avoiding a high unsubscribe rate.

Whatever CTAs you choose, make sure they take subscribers to optimized landing pages that are easy to read and offer opportunities to navigate to other pages. The longer they stay on your website, the closer they get to making an eventual purchase.

The more actionable you make your content, the more people will remember it. Are you trying to drive traffic to a landing page? Then you need a CTA link. Want people to share your latest post? Then provide a link to it regardless of whether you publish the entire post in your newsletter. Have an email series or course that focuses on education? Add links to worksheets. It’s also important to note that a CTA doesn’t always have to be a link. It could be a request for people to hit reply and share their thoughts w/ you.

-Mario Peshev

This is a great time to invite your new subscribers to follow you on social media, check out some of your popular blog posts, or even segment them further with link triggers and other automation rules.

-Shaylee Smith

There should be at most one major call-to-action in every email and your welcome email is no exception. This is a great time to invite your new subscribers to follow you on social media, check out some of your popular blog posts, or even segment them further with link triggers and other automation rules.

-Dave Shrein

Jazib Zaman’s advice is to include CTAs that will lead subscribers to complete actions that your paying customers usually take:

The copy for a welcome email should be all about getting the end user to perform the major action in your app that gets them to an "onboarded" state. Could be completing setup, adding a project, inviting a user, or reading a manual. Whatever steps you find that the majority of users who become paying customers perform. Those are the things you push towards in the welcome email.

The Takeaway

Getting new leads is the easiest part of the process. Keeping these leads, converting them into customers, and maintaining a consistent retention rate is the real challenge, and it all starts with a welcome email.

Want more content like this? Keep up with the MailMunch blog by subscribing below!

Author Bio

Don't forget to share this post!

Related articles