Welcome emails are the one email you should be sending.
Because they have a 91.43% open rate, can create an 86% lift in unique open rate, and have on average 5x the click-through rate of a standard email marketing campaign. I’ve uncovered heaps more stats that I’ll share with you later in the post.
For this article I took the time to subscribe to 40 top tech blogs and applied quantitative research to categorize and break down their welcome emails. Hopefully, this article will offer some kind of insight into how to write kick-ass welcome emails.
If you’re asking yourself whether your welcome emails should include power words, links, emojis, rich formatting, or plain text, or what’s the best way to sign off a welcome email – then this post is for you. Specifically, I’ll cover:
- What are welcome emails & why are they important?
- How welcome emails have changed over time
- Welcome emails broken down
- A quantitative approach to welcome emails: The results
- Welcome email teardowns
- Email marketing & Process Street
What are welcome emails & why are they important?
According to Hubspot:
“A welcome email is the first impression a company makes with a new customer, blog subscriber, or newsletter subscriber via email. Welcome emails can deliver videos, special offers, a sign-up form, or just a friendly hello to establish a relationship with a new contact.” – Erik Devaney, 10 Great Examples of Welcome Emails to Inspire Your Own Strategy
When researching I was shocked at just how influential welcome emails actually are. As promised, here are some stats to demonstrate how they stand out from the everyday email campaign and how they help to generate revenue and click-through rates.
- The most effective triggered email types for e-commerce brands are cart-abandonment emails and welcome emails.
- Welcome email read rates are 42% higher than the average email.
- 84% of B2C welcome emails successfully reach inboxes worldwide and have a 23% read rate.
- Welcome emails have a 26.9% click-through rate.
- Welcome emails can create a 196% lift in unique click rate.
- Welcome emails with offers can boost revenue by 30% per email, compared to welcome emails without offers.
- Welcome emails on average generate up to 320% more revenue per email than other promotional emails.
- Welcome emails see more than 3x the transactions and revenue per email over regular promotional emails.
There are a couple of things to bear in mind before beginning the actual writing of welcome emails. The first of which is automation. Automating your welcome emails to go out will ensure that you are living up to your consumer’s expectations. A whopping 74% of consumers expect a welcome email as soon as they subscribe. There are heaps of tools you can use, such as Mailchimp or Aweber, which can trigger an auto-response welcome email.
*Pro-tip: To learn more about email automation check out this article.
Secondly, it’s not just about getting your welcome email out at the opportune moment. Welcome emails can help with deliverability but they will only be successful if you grasp the attention of your subscribers so they open your message and enjoy reading it. The aim of the game is to get your welcome emails right, so your subscribers want and look forward to receiving your future content.
How welcome emails have changed over time
Rewind back to 2016 and welcome emails were all about the feature image and a nice big welcome message as a header. Check it out:
This is just one example of many featured in a Hubspot post published in 2016. Judging from the examples provided in that post as well as others from around the same period, and comparing that to observations I made when surveying 40 tech blog emails, it appears that rich formatting has fallen out of style in recent times. I wonder what has encouraged this shift?
Perhaps, as we have become busier and our inboxes fuller we are less inclined to wait for a header image to load and don’t click through on welcome emails that have a longer loading time?
We know that a slow-loading webpage has a negative impact on conversions and click-through rates (pages that load in 2.4 seconds have 1.3% higher conversion rates than those that load 5.7+ seconds) so it wouldn’t be surprising if the same were true for email.
It could also be related to visual noise; sometimes, header images can be distracting and don’t really offer anything value to the reader.
If you have any theories on why this could be, let me know in the comments.
During my research I managed to find a welcome email template from 2016 in a Hubspot article. Funnily enough, the content in the template isn’t that different from the emails I received five years later (now). Sure, there are some changes, particularly around formatting and in the extent to which header images are used. But overall, much of the core composition is similar.
What makes a winning welcome email
Things to consider when writing welcome emails:
- Who will be reading the blog: If the blog subscribers could/should be segmented or not. How could welcome emails be tailored to accommodate each of these segments?
- What tone is used: Consider the tone of the email. Is it friendly or formal; light-hearted or serious?
- Don’t forget the subject line: Does the subject line grab your attention or promise something? If the latter, does it deliver on that promise?
- What’s the structure of the email: Is it easy to skim read or is there an overload of information?
- Consider the formatting of the text: Does the email have rich formatting or plain text. Are there images included and/or multiple fonts?
With these points in mind, I created a spreadsheet to break down each of the welcome emails I’d received from the 40 top tech blogs I’d subscribed to. As I mentioned in the intro, I took a quantitative approach to the research.
For those of you who don’t already know, quantitative data research quantifies a problem or addresses the “what” or “how many” components of a research question. The research question, in this case, was: “What makes a winning welcome email”.
The good thing about quantitative research is that it’s numerical and draws hard-and-fast conclusions that are less ambiguous than its counterpart, qualitative data. Quantitative data can either be counted or compared on a numeric scale and is easy to measure. To understand more about different types of research methods, namely quantitative vs qualitative research check out this article: How Chocolate Can Teach You All You Need to Know About Qualitative Research
Welcome emails broken down
With quantitative research covered let’s return back to the research in question: writing kick-ass welcome emails.
To break down the welcome emails I subscribed to into something quantifiable and measurable I used the following categories:
- Opener: The opening phrase, sentence, or word, minus any text included in the header image/ not in the body of the text.
- Sign off: The closing phrase, sentence, or word, minus any calls to action, or widgets.
- Total word count: Total number of words excluding any text included in the header image/ general images, calls to action, and signatures (such as email addresses and contact details).
- Power words: Any writer knows that a good title should contain a power word. Is the same true for welcome emails? Let’s see.
- Tone: Is the email: friendly, professional, or informative?
- Tense: Are the welcome emails being sent by “we, the company” or “I, the CEO” (for example)?
- Structure: Are the emails structured like any old email, or do they take a specific format?
- Formatting: Do they use rich formatting or plain text?
- Subject line: What is the subject line?
- Amount of links: You guessed it… how many links are included in the email?
- Number of emojis: Are emojis included in the subject line and the email?
- My score: What is my opinion on a scale of 1 (poor) 💩 to 10 (very good) 🤩?
I then scoured my way through each of the welcome emails and broke them down according to the categories.
Before I get to my findings there is one thing worth mentioning: According to Hubspot, a welcome email is technically the first impression a company makes with a new customer. However, roughly 40% of the blog posts I subscribed to first sent out a “confirm subscription” email including a link, before the welcome email itself.
So, technically speaking that would’ve been the first impression the company made to me, its customer. Here’s an example from Ahrefs:
I performed my research on welcome emails, rather than the first point of contact, which, in some cases was the “confirm subscription email”. I guess this could mean that the definition of a welcome email needs to be reconsidered (queue Hubspot 🙊). For the time being, perhaps this definition posted by Campaign Monitor is more accurate:
“Welcome emails are messages sent to new subscribers, users, and customers. By providing company highlights and store information, welcome emails are a great way to personalize and inform the customer journey.”- How Effective are Welcome Emails?
A quantitative approach to welcome emails: The results
I took some time thinking about how best to portray my findings in a way that is actually useful to you, the reader. So I opted for an approach that combined simple charts and diagrams with a straightforward Q&A section based on some of the most common queries I found people seemed to be asking.
Question # 1: To emoji or not to emoji? 😎
Not to emoji. Out of the 40 welcome emails, only four used emojis in their subject line or the email itself.
Questions # 2: How many links should I include? 🧬
The majority of the welcome emails I received avoided loading up the text with links. The number of links included ranged from 0 to 12, although only one site (Catalyst.io) was this link happy. The average amount of links ranged from 2 – 4 and tended to link to the blog’s top content. The top content was often listed either numerically or in bullet points, which leads me to my next question…
Question # 3: To list or not to list? ✍🏼
If you’re planning on including links to existing content, or you plan to give instructions in the welcome email then yes, you should use a list. 80% of the welcome emails that included calls to action and links did so via a list, be it a bulleted list or a numbered list.
Question # 4: Rich formatting vs plain text? 🍫
Ok, so this is a hard one because in many ways this particular category comes down to personal preference. But the data suggests that plain text performs better than rich formatting as the majority of the emails kept things as simple as possible. I’d say Trello’s welcome email was the most “richly” formatted and I have to admit, I kind of liked it:
Question # 5: How powerful are power words?⚡️
While power words (like awesome, outstanding, best, etc.) are crucial for a winning title to a blog post or article (check out this post as an example), it would appear that they do not have the same standing when it comes to welcome emails. That said the word “cool” did appear frequently and in many emails, a list of recent blog posts and their titles were included and the titles contained power words.
Question # 6: What is the average total word count of a welcome email? ⚖️
The welcome emails ranged from 24 words (Next draft) and 337 (Catalyst.io) and the majority of them were around the 150 words mark.
Stand out findings from my quantitative research:
I know I promised to hold off overloading this post with charts and diagrams, but, who doesn’t love a pie chart? There are only two I promise and the reason I’ve included them is that they help you gauge which openers and sign-offs are most popular.
Opening to welcome emails
When it comes to the opening of your welcome emails the key is to be friendly. As you can see from the pie chart each opening sentence or phrase is informal and welcoming. But, “Hey” and “Thanks” seem to go down well, whereas “Hi” or “Welcome” do not. The location could be a factor here, the majority of the tech blogs I subscribed to are US startups and I’d argue that in the US, “Hey” and “Thanks” would be considered friendlier than the alternatives.
Sign-off to welcome emails
I have to admit, this one surprised me. I tend to associate the use of “P.S” with love letters, or even the rom-com “P.S: I love you”. Perhaps the reason why it’s included so frequently as sign-off to welcome emails because it pulls on our heartstrings?
The “P.S” was often followed by a call to action, such as a16z newsletter’s example: “P.S: While you’re waiting for the next newsletter, check out one of our most popular articles of all time.”
Welcome email teardowns
You’re probably wondering where my findings on the best structure for welcome emails are, well, the issue is that there is no one-size-fits-all. Each and every one of the welcome emails was structured differently, some resonated with the standard email format, while others went all-in with video recordings and fancy visuals.
So, I’ve decided to share with you some of the most outstanding emails that caught my attention, and explain why.
The Hustle (Sam Parr)
This one from Sam at The Hustle takes the top spot. It checks all the boxes:
- Social proof (“…1.5 million…”);
- Simple, plain-text formatting that you can digest with a quick glance (nothing that will overwhelm potential readers);
- Straight to the point with all of the key info (schedule, what to expect)
- Clear calls-to-action that encourage further engagement and generate interest with a feeling of gaining exclusive information (“…early invitation to something we’re working on…”
The tone is friendly, but concise. It also remains personable with brief mentions of how fulfilling the CTA will “help a ton”.
So, what tone to use in your welcome email? I’d say you can’t go wrong with a personable and friendly approach, but don’t let friendliness degenerate into waffle and empty words. You have to respect your reader’s time, and more importantly, their attention span.
Backlinko (Brian Dean)
Backlinko leans harder into social proof and really tries to pack their welcome email with flashy stats and accolades to establish themselves as an SEO expert.
The formatting is also super simple; as I said earlier, it seems that plain-text is a tried-and-tested favorite, as opposed to over-designed, harder to parse emails with a lot of colorful and image-heavy content.
There are just three links, all of which are recommendations for starter content. There is no overt call to action asking something of the reader; instead, the email is offering something to the reader, with a promise of “more actionable content in the future”.
Interestingly both this and The Hustle’s emails are slightly longer than the majority of the other welcome emails I received and had a word count of around the 150 words mark.
Product Led (Wes Bush)
Another common theme is writing from an individual perspective; all of these welcome emails are from the CEO, founder, etc.
In this case, Wes Bush starts out with some more social proof (“bestselling book”) and maintains the friendly, concise composition.
Here we also have a promise made to the reader: “every email you get will help you build a world-class product-led business”. That’s a big promise, but it is certainly a good note to start off on.
That is followed by a few community-focused calls to action:
- Join a private Slack community;
- Take a quick survey to tell them what you, as a reader, want to see content about;
- Check out his book.
Incorporating community focus into a welcome email is a great way to start building closer ties with an audience, and even these three calls to action are framed in the context of how to “get the most out of the community”.
Finally, we have a gentle reminder that the reader will be getting a follow-up email tomorrow, which seems to be a trend that, while I don’t have any solid evidence to support this claim, seems to intuitively feel like it might help with open rates and engagement.
Our approach here was to keep things short & sweet; we wanted to use it as an opportunity to give the reader a taste of what they can expect to read on the blog. So we send them our round-up piece of our best content on the blog.
We’ve had good results with this approach, but it’s always worth remembering that it pays to keep things flexible and work to continuously improve existing systems. A less-than-perfect welcome email executed swiftly and improved upon iteratively will always be better than a perfect email you never send out because you “just need to make a few more adjustments”.
Experiment, track your results, and be agile where you can.
Email marketing & Process Street
The issue is there are 296 billion emails sent per day, meaning that there’s a lot of competition out there. This is why the team at Process Street has created checklists to help you to optimize your email marketing strategy.
That said, I think it’s high time for a brief introduction for all of you who are not yet familiar with what it is we do. Process Street is super-powered checklists. In simple terms, the checklists are documented processes designed to make automating repeated work (like email campaigns, employee/client onboarding, employee reviews, employee feedback) fun, fast, and faultless.
I’ll include a few checklists below that relate specifically to email marketing, there’s even one that takes you through writing a welcome email. But, for now, check out our explainer video to learn more about what it is that we do:
Now you know what we’re all about, allow me to introduce you to some checklists. The first is a welcome email template that guides you through writing welcome emails; the second helps you to filter out all of the unengaged subscribers from your email list; the third takes you through launching an email marketing campaign.
Welcome Email Marketing Sequence, New Customer Process
This Welcome Email Marketing Sequence, New Customer Process helps you get your welcome email marketing sequence right. Create a series of welcome emails that are engaging to new customers and reap the benefits that come by doing so.
Email Scrubbing Template
Use this Email Scrubbing Template to build a healthy email subscriber list.
Email Marketing Campaign Template
Use this template to build an email marketing campaign that will grab the attention of your email list subscribers.
If you enjoyed this content and would like to get your hands on future checklists we create, subscribe to our blog (it’s free, just like Process Street itself).
We’d love to hear your opinion on welcome emails in the comments. Who knows? You may even get featured in an upcoming article!