99 Newsletter Project No. 1

3 keys to an effective Welcome Email

Welcome Emails benefit from open rates 2-3x your regular emails. If you don’t send a newsletter subscriber a Welcome Email, you’re making it harder to build loyalty right from the get-go.

99 Newsletters by the Numbers:
Welcome Emails

1

Newsletters

1 %

Of the 99 Newsletters sent a Welcome Email

1

Sent a template without customizing the message
(A missed opportunity!)

Why Welcome Emails are important

Your Welcome Email is your opportunity to roll out the red carpet for your new subscribers. Perhaps they have heard of you, but this is your chance to make the right first impression.

Experian research showed a 57.8% open rate for welcome emails. That’s 4x the open rate for other emails in the study. (Source: PDF link, 16 pages). 

The 99 Newsletter Project welcome email has a 77.6% open rate as I write this. 

What’s the open rate on your main newsletter? Somewhere around 20-30%?

Mailchimp says 22% is average for media and publishing.

Think about the last time you started a new job. You’re excited, but probably a little nervous. You clicked with the people in the interviews, but there’s still a leap of faith involved.

The best companies roll out a red carpet for you on the very first day. When you show up, you know exactly where to go. Your login credentials work. HR emailed you the paperwork you need to sign so you can bring it with you on the first day.

Maybe there’s a notebook or stationery on your desk. “Welcome to [your new job]. We’re glad to have you here,” it says. Handwritten.

You think to yourself, “Wow, they really have it together. I can’t wait to get started”.

That’s how a great Welcome Email should make a reader feel, so let’s get started! 

3 keys to a great Welcome Email

1. Be human.

Nobody likes being treated as a nameless, faceless record in a database. Just because technology makes things easier doesn’t mean you need to turn into a robot.

Think about how many impersonal emails you send straight to the archive folder. You don’t even have to open them to know what they are. Do you like those? Do you want more of those? No way! Neither does anyone else.

Let your new subscriber know you aren’t one of those obnoxious emailers. Above all, let them know they made the right decision.

Set clear expectations

The less conventional or traditional your newsletter is, the more important this is. Logan Jaffe of ProPublica Illinois has one of my favorite welcome email subject lines: “Welcome. Now let’s set some expectations.”

Subject: Welcome. Now let's set some expectations from Mail app
Welcome email for ProPublica Illinois, annotated

In this email, Logan lets you know that you will receive a newsletter each week, and (1) it’s written by a real person. This newsletter won’t be “a lonely, skeletal feed of headlines in your inbox. We’re all people here.”

Secondly, if you – an actual person – reply to this Welcome Email, (2) an actual person from ProPublica Illinois will read it and reply. They want to hear from you, they aren’t just broadcasting at you. This is important. If you want to build a relationship, you’re gonna have to give. These small messages are more than courtesy. The value accumulates over time. As an added bonus, Logan also adds the subscription page link to the P.S. section of the newsletter. The P.S. section is often a very valuable piece of newsletter real estate, but we’ll talk about that later.

2. Put the reader first.

Each new subscriber gave you their email address. They probably also gave you their name. Show them they can trust you with that information. Put the reader first.

First and foremost, this means don’t hit them with the hard sell. 

We want to put new subscribers at ease, and get them excited for what they signed up for. 

Think of it this way: If you meet a complete stranger, and in the first few minutes this person says, “Trust me” — do you? Or is that a weird red flag? And why are they so insistent this “unique business opportunity” absolutely isn’t a pyramid scheme?

We don’t want to do that. Demonstrate value on their terms.

Give 'em something special

Sarah Baker Hansen’s Welcome Email from Omaha Dines (Omaha World-Herald) is a great example of putting the reader first. Check this out:

Welcome email from Omaha Dines

This email shows, it doesn’t just tell. It’s focused on what you, the reader, are getting out of this free newsletter. Let’s look at it closely: (1) “You’ll get clued in on the latest new and hot restaurants in the city and on the best patios, best new dishes and best cocktails around”.

That’s specific, relevant and useful. It’s much better than something like “We cover the local restaurant and bar scene”. That’s not specific enough, and the value isn’t immediately obvious to the reader. 

Second, you get a special bonus. You are a person who likes to be in the know when it comes to the Omaha food scene. Sarah is going to give you a (2) “sneak peek at the newest weekly dining review” before it’s online or in print. 

But wait, there’s more! You’ll also get a story from the weekly home cooking magazine. All in one handy newsletter you can read on your phone. That’s all a hell of a deal for…free.

It’s really that simple. You have great work to share. Instead of saying “we cover all the restaurants and bars in Omaha”, dig one level deeper. Think about why people read these stories, and what they do after they read them. 

"If people feel grateful for your services, then that is the first step toward creating loyalty and engagement….

And if you can harness that and find ways to make people feel grateful for what you’ve done for them, they’re more likely to repay you with loyalty. "

Positive feelings lead to loyalty

Getting something special makes people feel good. Barbara Fredrickson, Ph.D, a research psychologist and Senior Scientist for Gallup, has done extensive work exploring positive emotions.

If people feel grateful for your services, then that is the first step toward creating loyalty and engagement. In fact, I’ve done a lot of reading about gratitude. Theorists talk about how one way of repaying gratitude is with loyalty.

And *if you can harness that and find ways to make people feel grateful for what you’ve done for them, they’re more likely to repay you with loyalty.*

Barbara Fredrickson, Ph.D

How awesome is that?

Here’s how to get started crafting impactful, reader focused email: Think about what your most enthusiastic fans and supporters absolutely love about you. Look at feedback emails and survey comments. Use their words as guidance. You want to find more people like them.

As we move forward, I’ll talk more about how to uncover these insights.

Remind people how often you will email them

This is crucial if it’s not a daily newsletter. Even if it is a daily newsletter, remind them anyway. People have bills and kids’ birthday parties and brunch plans. They forget things. Repetition is important.

Check this out from Natasha Del Toro and Lance Dixon with The New Tropic in Miami:

Welcome email from New Tropic (Miami, FL)

“We send out The New Tropic every weekday morning (except for some holidays) around  a.m.” 

Right there in the first bullet. They even link to the holidays! You know your inverted pyramid. Give your new subscribers the most important piece of information first.

What if you don’t publish on a traditional schedule? Check this out from Lorie Hearn with inewsource.org in San Diego:

Welcome email from inewsource.org

“We produce in-depth stories across multiple platforms including web, radio and TV. That takes time, so we don’t publish every day.” 

This is another example of setting expectations. inewsource is telling you upfront that you will hear from them when they have something important updates. You won’t get an email every day. 

This schedule won’t work for every newsletter. It depends on your goals and your audiences, so be prepared to do the research and testing to back up your ideas. 

3. Keep it brief.

Don’t overwhelm your new subscriber. Hold a little back. Don’t be pushy. Allow your new subscriber time to get to know you.

I know you are excited to show them what great work you do. You will get that opportunity. Trust me.

You have this person’s email address and attention. Rather than sending them one jam-packed email covering everything from the history of your organization to how to give you money to all your social links to all your top stories — take a breath.

Show, don't tell

Shelterforce Weekly is the all-star here. Rather than spending the whole email telling you they are your voice of community development, they let some of their biggest fans tell you.

In their Welcome Email, they include three testimonials from people raving about how valuable Shelterforce is to their work. This is a smart move, and I think more newsrooms should try it.

Welcome email from Shelterforce Weekly

“I love how you take a run at hard problems and show the messy debate and dialogue associated with reaching for solutions” (2). That’s a powerful endorsement for a challenging field. Their About page has five more testimonials. 

You biggest fans can be a highly effective at helping you get your messages across. Let them help you!

What's coming next from the 99 Newsletter Project

In the next installment, I have a special bonus for you.

If you don’t have a Welcome email, I’ll help you get started.

If you already have a Welcome email, we will look at how to make sure it’s getting you the most bang for your buck.

I’ll also share more detail from the Welcome Emails across the 99, so you’ll have lots of ideas to borrow from.

In the meantime, if you have questions or feedback, please get in touch.

 

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