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How to Onboard New Customers with Welcome Emails

10 min

“You had me at hello” – said Dorothy to Jerry, after his slightly long but heart-warming speech in the Jerry Maguire movie. Now tell me, which of us marketers doesn’t crave such a reaction to their welcome message?

Well, things don’t look bad at all. In fact, welcome emails outperform most marketing messages, achieving average open rates of 60-80% and click-through rates of around 20-30%.

What’s interesting, though, is that only 26% of marketers run multi-step welcome campaigns for their new subscribers.

Did we just become best friends? Yep. Step Brothers movie

Onboarding new customers using email marketing isn’t a complex process.

It just takes a bit more time and analysis than your typical email campaigns. Once you choose the topics and the strategy you want to follow, it’s easy to develop and even A/B test your campaign to achieve best results.

If you’ve read this far, it’s probably because you either haven’t developed an onboarding campaign just yet or would like to see if you’re doing it right.

Whichever the case, this article will help you clear your doubts and hopefully convince you to go beyond using a simple autoresponder for your welcome email campaigns.

Why onboard new customers?

First things first. So let’s answer the Why?. Whether you’re using a series of welcome emails or in-app marketing communication, there are a number of reasons why onboarding campaigns are useful.

Some of them are:

  • They can help you explain the benefits of using your product or service and the problems it can solve.
  • You can answer questions and overcome potential concerns that your customers might have developed.
  • You can motivate them to log into your platform or service and get them instantly hooked.
  • They’re great for setting the tone of the conversation and establishing a relationship.
  • They can help you build expectations towards the upcoming communication and its frequency.

Onboarding campaigns are also a great opportunity to learn more about your subscribers. Finding out their preferences and objectives right from the start will help you build a long-lasting relationship, and keep their CLV high.

How to welcome your subscribers the right way

In one of her previous articles, Pam Neely talks about 11 great welcome emails and what makes them so effective. Her examples and explanation will prove useful if you’re trying to find the perfect recipe for your own onboarding campaign.

Pam also mentions some of the most popular tactics marketers use in their welcome messages.

They often start the conversation with one of these:

  • Welcome and thanks for signing up.
  • Here’s your free gift.
  • Here’s our best content.
  • What do you want to know?
  • Whitelisting instructions.

These are some ideas you could consider when developing your own email program.

One thing that should be added here is that your welcome messages should also provide an easy way to contact you.

You could do this by adding your phone number, a link to the “Contact us” page, direct email address to the account manager or a sales representative, functioning reply-to address, or links to social media.

Anything else that you feel is important should also be added there. For example, the information that you provide free next-day delivery or that you’ve got a satisfaction guarantee program.

Another approach worth taking into consideration is to start off by telling your brand story. If your company was founded years ago, and craftsmanship and attention to detail runs in your blood, then nothing should stop you from appealing to emotions in your message.

Learn more about how to use email for customer onboarding straight from our customer onboarding expert:

Now let’s take a look at a few examples how popular brands welcome their new subscribers.

1. Dropbox

Here’s a message from Dropbox sent to people who’ve just created their very first shared folder.

onboard new customers with welcome email

The email is short and sweet. It has a clear headline that explains what’s just happened and goes straight to the benefits – Working together just got easier.

Then what follows is a list of bullets. Each includes another benefit or aims to overcome potential concerns a team may have when using a file-sharing service. Such as security issues or file-transfer speed.

There’s also a single call to action button (CTA) that lets you log in and start sharing files straight away. The design stands out, and the copy is clear and simple.

Finally, the email ends with a subtle hint that you can expect more emails like these in the next days to get started in no time.

So what does this email do? It sets the tone of the conversation. It aims to get you to log in and hooked on the service. It also establishes a relationship, overcomes concerns, and prepares you for future communication.

Good effort for such a short and simple message.

2. MeUndies

onboard new customers with welcome emails

This one is fun and playful. The welcome email from MeUndies starts with their mission statement. It explains how they are changing the “boring” underwear industry e.g. by focusing on the highest-quality fabrics and collaborating with various artists to make their products something you’ve not experienced before.

After welcoming you to the family and making a promise that you’ll love their products, they direct you straight away to the best places to start. The essentials (for women and men) and lounge pants.

Then there’s the highlighted offer. Your chance to save some cash by joining their subscription plan. No commitment and you can skip a month or cancel online anytime.

Last but not least, 100% satisfaction guarantee. If you don’t feel convinced by now, what MeUndies is offering is your first pair for free, no questions asked.

What makes this email special? First of all, the mission statement. They aren’t just selling you on underwear, they are selling you on their brand and their plan to revolutionize the industry.

Then are the best places to start. Through this approach the brand can show off their best products and help you begin what’s likely to be a great journey. They can also use the information about clicks to segments their email list afterwards – males, females, customers potentially interested in the subscription plan.

The subscription plan itself and how it stands out are also great. The supporting copy helps to overcome concerns and points out the benefits users will get from it. Add the satisfaction guarantee to that, and you can be sure that new subscribers will most likely make their first purchase.

…but what if they don’t? Here’s another message sent to those subscribers who haven’t made a purchase within the first two weeks.

how to onboard new subscribers with email

This email’s great. The message not only sets the tone for the conversation, which is informal and playful, but also motivates subscribers to become buyers.

A few elements worth noticing: message looks as if it was sent by an individual, which makes it seem more personal; the number of current happy customers acts as strong social proof; the satisfaction guarantee and additional discount code together help lower the already low risk associated with making the first purchase.

3. Local Guides

onboard new customers with email

Just like the emails mentioned before, this welcome message from Google Local Guides has a few strong elements.

The most important one is gamification. The headline, badges, and subheader make it clear that this is like a MMORPG game (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) – you’re starting with level 1, limited access to some features, and to unlock them you’ll need to complete some quests, e.g. add reviews, photograph places, edit their descriptions, etc.

Once again there is only one single CTA button, which along with the headline and images in the background reemphasizes that this is not a mere welcome email. It’s the beginning of a great adventure.

Finally, the beauty of this email lies in the fact that it’s short and fun. You can understand what it’s about in just under 15 seconds. You know what’s expected of you and what’s the next action you should take. Its design and copy make you, the reader, feel excited that you’ve just become a local tour guide and are about to go on an adventure.

Different levels of welcome emails

You’ve seen what other brands include in their welcome emails and probably even noted down a few ideas for your own campaigns. Before you wander off, it’s important to know that there are different levels of onboarding campaigns.

These campaigns often vary by the level of sophistication and complexity. You could divide them into 4 distinctive levels.

  1. Single welcome email
    One individual message
    that’s sent to every new subscriber. This is by far the most popular approach you’ll see.It’s good for the beginning, especially if you monitor the results of this campaign and use the data to segment your lists or create future emails.However, you’ll usually want to go with more than just one message, even if it’s just to follow up with a survey or an invitation to follow you in social media.
  2. Welcome email series
    More sophisticated marketers often go for a whole email series. You’ll see those especially with SaaS products and bigger ecommerce companies. A sequence of preset messages, each of which is usually focusing on one single topic (e.g. product feature or best-rated products) and contains single CTA motivating you to click through to the site.This is a good approach as it’s easy to setup and A/B test. You can also use the information on who’s opened or clicked in your emails. However, in most cases, if you want to create segments or plan future communication, you’ll have to do this manually.
  3. Welcome email series with tagging and scoring
    A slightly more complex approach towards running an onboarding email campaign involves using tagging and scoring. Thanks to those, you can measure the engagement of your subscribers or get to know them better, automatically.You’ll need to prepare a lead scoring system in advance and note down and share the tagging strategy with your team. But once that’s ready, you’ll be able to direct your subscribers into different funnels and allocate your time to other business activities.
  4. Welcome email series with tagging, scoring, and behavior-triggered messages
    The last level adds one more element to the equation – behavior-triggered messages. The point is to create an entirely different experience for each individual subscriber.Based on their activity, such as clicks and opens, you should not only be able to tag and score your subscribers accordingly, but also send them messages that reflect their choices.The drawback of this approach is that it requires more work upfront, e.g. to prepare the individual messages, automation workflows, lead scoring system, etc.The good news, however, is that you can expect high results from such campaigns. Timely and personalized emails are known to drive the highest user engagement. And marketing automation as a whole is an area which marketers will be focusing more on in the nearest future.

Don’t be afraid to experiment

Onboarding email campaigns are just as effective as they are important. Given the response rate they generate, they should become an essential part of any marketing campaign that you’re launching.

At the same time, they are simple to get started with. All you need is a couple of paragraphs of copy that show your gratitude and welcome the new subscribers to your list.

Add a link to your site, your best content, or top-reviewed products, and then follow up with a survey. You’ll quickly notice that you’ve just run your first onboarding program.

Then have a quick look at the engagement you’ve generated. You’ll see that it’s worth the effort.

And don’t be afraid to experiment! Every time you launch a new list or landing page, try out something new. Change the images, alter the copy, or the time of the sendout.

Continue to learn and share your results with the rest of us in the comments section. Perhaps you’ve already got some good ideas you’d like to share? We’d love to hear them. 😊

Michal Leszczynski
Michal Leszczynski
Meet Michal Leszczynski, Head of Content Marketing and Partnerships at GetResponse. With 10+ years of experience, Michal is a seasoned expert in all things online marketing. He’s a prolific writer, skilled webinar host, and engaging public speaker. Outside of business hours, Michal shares his wealth of knowledge as an Email Marketing lecturer at Kozminski University in Warsaw. You can reach out and connect with Michal on LinkedIn.