Do you know what will be the first transaction most people have with your business?
Signing up to your email list.
Don’t think of that as a transaction?
You’re not alone.
But in the online world, emails are a form of currency. And, as the first transaction most will have with your business, emails matter as much as sales.
Find that hard to believe?
In a world where money is infinite, but time is limited, an email address is a promise of something far more precious than cash: a person’s attention.
For a brief moment, an email address gives you a chance to turn a stranger into a lifelong fan who will buy from you over and over again.
That brief moment of opportunity comes when they first sign up. New subscribers are at peak interest. They are interested in your content, trust you enough to give you their email, and are most receptive to whatever you can offer. If you don’t engage them during these critical first moments, they’ll ignore you and your future emails.
But there’s only one way to take advantage of this sign-up momentum…
With a welcome email series.
That’s right: a series.
You see, one little welcome email isn’t going to cut it. Just like in real life, if you want to turn a stranger into something more, you need to build a relationship with them.
Ever heard the phrase “the money is in the list”? Well, it should be “the money is in your relationship with that list”. And you just can’t build strong relationships with one measly email.
But it’s not easy to do. A perfect relationship-building welcome email series must juggle several objectives at once. It should:
Sound like a lot?
And on top of that, you’re fighting an uphill battle. You must overcome your subscribers’ short attention spans, overcrowded inboxes, and informational overwhelm.
I told you—it’s not easy.
But, there are a few special strategies that make it simple.
In this post, we will examine the 5 powerful strategies that create kick-ass welcome emails that kick-start great relationships. You’ll also see practical examples of how they work taken from real welcome email sequences.
Want all the most important tips from this epic blog post in a quick ‘n easy reference guide? Get your Perfect Welcome Email Series Cheat Sheet.
It doesn’t matter how good your welcome email series is if nobody reads it.
And the first step to getting someone to read your welcome email series?
Getting them to read your first email.
Luckily, your subscribers’ sign-up momentum gives you an advantage here. Subscribers are most interested in you when they first sign up. That’s why welcome emails consistently have an average open rate between 50% and 80%!
That’s insanely high. To put it in perspective, that’s 3-4 times as many opens as all other types of emails.
But don’t let that fool you…
Super-high open rates don’t change the fact that people only spend about eleven seconds reading the emails they open.
So, just because people open that first email doesn’t mean you’ve won their attention.
After all, 74% of people expect a welcome email. It’s like expecting a receipt when you buy something. People are looking for some kind of confirmation. Or, they might just be looking for that lead magnet they were promised.
So, think of the first email in your welcome sequence as merely a chance to capture your subscribers’ attention. And, if you want to successfully capture attention while taking advantage of the huge open rates, there are two things you should do: arouse curiosity and transition smoothly.
From the moment your new subscriber sees your first email, you need to arouse curiosity. Your email’s subject line should compel your subscribers to read your email.
And I mean read, not just open.
We already know most people will open that first email anyway, so the job of the headline is to arouse curiosity that can only be satisfied by browsing the email.
Have a look at these subject lines:
Each one arouses a bit of curiosity in the contents of the email.
When done properly, your open rate will be sky high and you’ll force readers to spend a little more time reading the body of your email. But how you make use of those extra few seconds is crucial.
That’s why you need to find an effective way to transition.
This article is mostly written with the assumption your subscribers have signed up to receive some kind of lead magnet, opt-in offer, freebie, etc.
This is the best time to send a welcome email series since your subscribers are at peak interest and will be actively checking their inbox for your lead magnet.
So can you guess the single most important thing your first email must do?
Give them the lead magnet, duh!
But don’t stop there.
Too many welcome emails simply hand over the lead magnet, then say c’ya later:
Don’t do that.
Your subscribers are at peak interest and are almost guaranteed to open that first email. The open rates and engagement for follow-up emails are usually much lower. So you need to strike now.
To help you do that, use a compelling transition between the lead magnet and some additional content. A good transition keeps interest high, so readers won’t just grab the lead magnet and bounce, never to be seen again.
There are two ways a transition can happen:
Here’s an example of how Mary Fernandez of Persuasion Nation transitions from her lead magnet:
Now that you know how to get your first email read, next we’ll look at what you should put in that email.
Nobody likes getting generic marketing emails from dull, faceless corporations.
But we do like getting emails from people we know. I bet you’d read any emails your friends sent you, right?
That’s why you should use your welcome email series to become someone your subscribers feel like they know. You’ll seem more like a friend than an anonymous company. So, your emails will be more welcome in their inboxes instead of just something else to ignore.
And there’s a very powerful, yet simple way to do this in your first email…
Tell a story.
As professor Robert McKee famously said: “Stories are the currency of human contact.”
And deep down, we all know it.
Think: when was the last time you repeated an infomercial to a friend? How often does sharing a pie chart make you the life of the party? Do you ever find yourself curling up in bed with an industry white paper?
From our earliest recorded history, storytelling has always been a fundamental part of the human experience.
And to hear or tell a good story is to witness the power it has over people.
Stories suck us in and captivate us. They unite us and drive powerful, deep connections.
So what better way to create a connection with your subscribers than with a story?
But, if you want to develop a relationship with your subscribers, you can’t tell just any story…
You must tell your story.
Share an “origin story” that your subscribers can relate to, or even better, place themselves into.
And it’s best if this story is told by a person — ya know, like a story in real life would be told.
Remember, we’re trying to avoid being another dull, faceless entity gathering dust in the inbox. To do that, you can’t hide behind your brand. To build genuine connections, you need to show the person/people behind the brand.
Here’s how Anissa Holmes of Delivering WOW uses her story to relate to her target audience:
OK, now quick question: do you know what your friends look like?
So, if you’re trying to build a friendly relationship with your subscribers, shouldn’t they know what you look like?
Even if you have pictures of you all over your site, you should still find a way to include a picture of yourself in your welcome emails.
Because people forget (and fast!). The moment they exit your website, they start forgetting about you. But if they are repeatedly exposed to your face, the familiarity makes you more than “just another company” — you become a person, maybe even a friend.
Here’s how Ruth Soukup uses a powerful story along with personal pictures to connect with her audience:
A good story is the start of a great relationship with your subscribers. It lays a solid foundation for you to start building trust and authority, which is a big part of the next strategy.
A lot of people struggle with finding what to say in their welcome email series.
And it’s shocking how many people think it’s OK to send a half-dozen promotional emails that only talk about their business.
But that’s not what friends do.
Friends help each other out and share content that matters.
So, as the newest BFF to your subscribers, you need to find a way to help them. If you focus on helping, you’ll never run out of things to say when building a meaningful relationship.
And helping has a big added benefit: it gives you credibility and your subscribers will come to view you as an expert in the niche. This builds authority and keeps you top of mind when your subscribers are looking for goods/services in your market.
In the context of a welcome email series, you should start helping right after you create a connection.
There are two good ways to do this within your first few emails: Goal Content & Discovery Content.
Ideally, you should have a mix of both in your welcome email series. So, let’s have a look at how they work:
This should make up the bulk of your helpful content in the emails you send.
This kind of content helps your subscribers achieve specific goals in order to see results.
Don’t overthink this. If you’re feeling stuck, just ask yourself three questions:
For example, let’s say you help people start profitable blogs.
In this case, the goal of your subscribers is to make a part-time or full-time income from blogging.
The steps to do that include: choosing their niche, creating their site, driving traffic, learning SEO, building an email list, affiliate marketing, product creation, etc.
Each step by itself is far too broad to try and tackle all at once. So, you must break each step into smaller mini steps. Focusing on these mini steps is how you create problem-solving content that’s actionable, valuable, and ultimately, truly helpful.
Continuing with our example, a mini step of “creating their site” is choosing a website hosting company. So, you could provide: a story about how you came to find and love your current hosting company, a comparison writeup of the top 10 web hosts showing pros/cons of each, a list of the most important things to look for in a good web host, etc.
As you can see, every major goal has tons of steps, each of which has tons of mini steps, which in turn, spawn tons of content ideas.
So, there should be no excuse for not providing truly helpful content to your subscribers!
Let’s look at how email strategist Meera Kothand executes this in her welcome sequence:
I chose this example because it’s easy to see how Meera’s emails help her audience achieve their goal of mastering their email marketing strategy. Even the emails that don’t appear to be directly related to email marketing still move her audience towards their overall goal of improving their online business.
But even though goal content is the easiest and most abundant, there is another way to create really effective helpful content…
Unlike goal content, discovery content doesn’t necessarily move subscribers toward a specific goal. Instead, it changes their way of looking at a problem, an industry, or even the world.
This type of content is probably the most effective way to build authority.
In fact, exceptional discovery content is how industry “thought leaders” emerge — the ultimate title of authority.
But you don’t need to create groundbreaking discovery content to have an impact with your readers. You simply need to tell them something they don’t already know. And that’s much easier.
Still, discovery content isn’t as easy to do well as goal content, but it also has a bigger payoff.
Content that changes your subscribers’ perspective even just a little can have a big impact on your authority and influence with them. It positions you as a guide that really does have “the answer”. It makes you seem like someone with valuable insights that are hard to find elsewhere.
To create this kind of content, you must ask yourself:
Since these questions are bit more abstract, let’s look at a couple of real-world examples.
Here’s a great example of discovery content from Podia’s welcome email series:
Both examples challenge their readers’ existing beliefs and go against expected conventional advice. They present a new, eye-opening perspective. And they demonstrate the author’s unique expertise.
Using helpful content in combination with the next strategy will have readers hanging on your every word.
Curious what our welcome email series looks like? Go ahead and download our Perfect Welcome Email Series Cheat Sheet to find out!
Every email you send is entering an extremely hostile environment.
The typical inbox is a battlefield. People, on average, receive about 100 emails a day. And those people are busy, strapped for time, probably scanning emails on their phones, and have shorter attention spans than a goldfish.
That means your emails have just seconds to capture your subscriber’s attention.
As mentioned in strategy #1, a useful tactic to capture attention is to use subject lines that arouse curiosity.
The idea is to hook the reader with an intriguing thought that will be discussed in the email.
Here’s how Jasmine Star masterfully uses curiosity in her subject lines:
But, if you want your welcome emails to get read, just relying on your subject lines to capture attention isn’t enough.
You should also make sure your reader’s anticipate each email.
And there’s a certain strategy that top marketers use to do this.
But this special strategy isn’t just for marketers…
It’s used by best-selling authors.
It’s used by high-paid screenwriters.
And it can make your welcome email series downright addictive.
But I’ll reveal this unbelievable strategy in my next blog post.
Just kidding — it’s called an open loop, and I just used it.
An open loop is when you start a thought, idea, or story, but don’t finish it. This creates unresolved tension in the mind of the reader and stimulates a desire for the conclusion.
In more familiar terms, it’s a cliffhanger.
That’s right — the same thing that makes it so hard to watch “just one” episode of your favorite Netflix show is what will keep people coming back to your emails.
But how do you use blockbuster cliffhangers in your email series?
By leaving an open loop near the end of your emails.
Tease some critical info coming soon, with the mystery to be solved in the next email.
This builds anticipation. And, thanks to the Zeigarnik Effect, your subscribers are more likely to remember an open loop, so they won’t just completely forget about it when they close their email.
So, when subscribers see your next email with an intriguing headline and recall the previous email’s cliffhanger, they’ll have no choice but to open your email.
This is how you create a “must-watch” welcome email series that slices through the noise, grabs subscribers by the shirt collar, and keeps them coming back for more.
Let’s look at how Mary Fernandez of Persuasion Nation uses open loops throughout her welcome email series to build anticipation:
Not only does Mary build anticipation between each email, she often sets expectations by telling readers when they’ll get the next email. Doing this trains your audience to anticipate your emails at certain times — just like how you anticipate the air time of your favorite TV shows.
And there’s one more little “trick” we can borrow from the entertainment industry: episodic content.
TV (and books, movies, and even radio) have trained us to watch a series in order, from episode 1, to episodes 2, 3, 4 etc…
If you miss episode 2, you don’t just skip to episode 3, you go back and watch the missed episode. Otherwise, you risk missing critical plot points.
We can take advantage of this trained behavior by branding your welcome email series with a specific name and giving each email an “episode” number.
For example, Mary names her welcome email series Your Signature System (YSS, for short) and labels emails as “Part # of 4”:
So, when subscribers see [YSS], they instantly know what it is. And labeling the series by Part # lets them know what “episode” they’re on.
This makes it a heck of a lot easier for subscribers to keep track of your emails and ensure parts of your series don’t fall through the cracks.
The goal of these first four strategies has been to get each email read, have each email naturally lead to the next, and provide enough value and intrigue to keep readers coming back.
However, all of that is pointless if it doesn’t ultimately sell your products or services. We’ll cover that in the next (and last) major strategy.
So far, the main focus of your welcome email series has not been making sales.
It’s been about establishing a relationship with your subscribers. Then, building and developing that relationship to create trust.
Because we’re playing the long game.
Gartner Group statistics indicate that 80% of revenue is generated by just 20% of your customers. These loyal members of your audience are much more receptive to your offers, highly likely to buy from you again, and spend a lot more money than everyone else.
So, instead of an aggressive hit-and-run sales style, we’re focusing on creating genuine connections that drive sales over the long term by cultivating loyalty.
No more trying to sell whatever you can, however you can. Instead, narrow your focus to a single paid offer during your welcome email sequence.
The offer should be relevant to the content you deliver throughout the series
If you have multiple products or service levels, your offer should be one of the cheapest options. A low-cost offer is a small barrier that makes it easy for subscribers to take their relationship with you to the next level.
When, how, and how often you pitch the offer can vary, but usually you can find a couple opportunities to naturally bring it up or integrate it within the content.
Let’s look at how Hayley Fedders of Three Feathers Design integrates a soft pitch into a couple of her emails:
You could even invite them to participate in a separate funnel that will provide specific value on a particular topic, and pitch them later.
This is especially useful if you have different sales funnels for different products/services. In that case, you can use your welcome email series to guide your subscribers into separate funnels where you can convert them. That’s what Amy Porterfield is doing here:
Ultimately, how you pitch your offer will depend on a bunch of things like personal preference, audience, type of offer, etc.
Just remember: you’re playing the long game.
So, your pitch and offer should be for your subscribers benefit, not just yours.
The 5 points above should guide the overall strategy of your welcome email series. The 3 points we’ll discuss in this section are fundamental tactics that should always be applied.
Providing proof that you know what you’re talking about is a big boost to credibility.
And there are lots of ways to do it, such as:
Honestly, the more elements of proof you can sprinkle throughout your email series, the better.
But in the context of a welcome email series, a case study is the nuke in your arsenal.
If done poorly, case studies can come off as overly promotional and self-serving.
But when done properly, they are extremely powerful. Not only do they show how one of your customers solved a specific problem with measurable results, but they also tell a story.
A good case study forces your audience to actually take part in the story. When your audience hears a story about someone like them, who had the problems they have, they can’t help but place themselves in the story. They see themselves becoming your customer and achieving the same results.
This takes advantage of a well-known rule of sales psychology: that in order for anybody to buy anything, they must first imagine themselves using the product/service.
And when that happens, people become much more receptive to the product/service.
That makes case studies the perfect combination of compelling story and effective advertisement.
As long as it’s done well.
A case study is not a testimonial. And it’s not an ad for your business. It should tell a complete story with specific details.
Here’s an example from Dr. Anissa Holmes of Delivering WOW:
We’ve spent a lot of time making sure your emails win the battle of the inbox and get read. Now, we’ll look at making sure your emails make it to the inbox in the first place.
There are a lot of things you can do to improve your email deliverability, but one of the best, most natural tactics is to encourage your subscribers to reply.
When a person replies to your email, it signals to their email service provider that your emails are legitimate and important. So, future emails will be automatically sent to the inbox.
This is more natural and convenient than asking subscribers to take the time to manually whitelist you, and it has a huge added benefit…
Encouraging replies lets you directly engage with your subscribers.
Instead of being a one-way relationship that has you constantly talking at your audience, it begins to feel more like a two-way conversation with your audience.
A lot of marketers use this as an opportunity to learn more about their subscribers, which helps them further refine their products, services, funnels, and marketing.
For example, here’s this tactic being used by Carlos Aguilar from Conversion Surge:
If you haven’t caught on yet, here’s the thing: getting people to read your emails is tough.
So, you need every advantage you can get.
And you definitely don’t want something trivial to work against you. Things are hard enough as it is.
That’s why you should make readability a priority. After all, it doesn’t matter how well-written your welcome email series is if the way it looks scares people away.
Luckily, this is an easy problem to solve. A lot of the same considerations made for website readability also apply to emails:
Font Size: Whenever you send an email to a friend, relative, or colleague, you never change the font size, right? As a result, we’ve become used to small-ish fonts being used in emails. However, your welcome emails will have much more content than the emails you send to people you know. So, you’ll want to try slightly larger fonts than the defaults, like 14px or 16px in the body of your emails.
Font Color: You’ll want a font color that has a high contrast with the background color, but don’t immediately jump to black text on a white background. The contrast between black text and a white background is so high it can actually cause eye strain and make text harder to read. Instead try a slightly softer, but still high-contrast color like dark grey. Most people will never notice the difference, but their eyes will thank you.
Paragraph Size: Walls of text are intimidating to read. Make your emails more welcoming by keeping your paragraphs short — 1-3 sentences each.
Line Height: The line height is the space between sentences and the universal standard for web readability is to keep it in the range of 1.3-1.7, usually 1.5. Personally, I prefer 1.6 and some prominent sites use 1.7, so as with anything else, experiment with this until it feels right for you.
Line Length: Line length refers to the width of your paragraphs. You don’t want your paragraphs to stretch across the entire screen. Narrow paragraphs are not only easier to read, they make us better readers. The width of your paragraphs should be between 13-18 words wide.
Paragraph Spacing: There’s really no standard for the spacing between paragraphs and adjusting this isn’t strictly necessary. However, if you want full control over readability, a good rule of thumb is: paragraph spacing that’s big enough to notice and distinguish from line height, but not so big that paragraphs seem disconnected.
Do I need a product or service to have a welcome email series?
If you think it’s pointless to have a welcome series without a product/service, then you’ve missed the point.
The point of a welcome email sequence is to build a relationship with your subscribers. You don’t need a product or service to do that.
Sure, having something to sell gives you a clear objective to focus on, but it’s not the only good objective. You could focus on generating likes and follows for your social media channels, collecting surveys to learn more about your audience, or even pitching other people’s products as an affiliate.
Then, when you do have a product/service, you’ll have a great audience that will be ready and waiting!
How many emails should be in my welcome email series?
Your welcome email series has a lot of ground to cover. So, aim for 4-7 emails in your series. That should give you enough space to tell your story, deliver value, create trust, etc.
How frequently should I send my emails?
A lot of people over complicate this. You really don’t need any elaborate email spacing. Just keep it simple and send 1 email a day. This makes you consistent and predictable to your subscribers.
Also, people are at peak interest when they first sign up, but for every day that passes, they lose some of their initial enthusiasm. So, you can’t afford to wait 3 days between emails. You must take advantage of the sign up momentum and frequently engage with them while at peak interest. That’s your best bet for forming a strong relationship during the welcome email sequence.
After the welcome sequence is complete, you can tone it down to 1 email every week or so.
Can I use a fancy email template?
You can. But you shouldn’t. Most email providers view emails with a lot of HTML markup (that’s what makes the templates look pretty) as being promotional. That means they are less likely to make it to your subscribers’ inboxes.
Also, HTML emails have a history of being used to transmit viruses or phishing scams, so they are more likely to be intercepted by spam filters and antivirus software.
On top of that, HTML emails suffer from lower engagement, too.
So, stick with simple, plain emails. There’s a good reason why the pros do it that way.
What platform is best for sending my emails?
All of the major email platforms, such as MailChimp, Aweber, Active Campaign, and ConvertKit, feature email automation. However, every platform has many more features that differentiate it from it’s competitors, so its best to spend some time looking into each to see who can best fit your needs.
Should new subscribers still get my regular newsletter or broadcasts while in the welcome email sequence?
No. New subscribers should only be getting your welcome emails. Remember, these have been carefully crafted to start a strong relationship. You don’t want to muddle your message with unnecessary noise.
Every email marketing platform will have a way for you to exclude subscribers in your welcome sequence from getting broadcasts or any other irrelevant emails.
Now you know how to create the perfect welcome email series.
How does it feel?
Well, I told you it wasn’t going to be easy. But it is simple.
Writing your welcome emails comes down to: using the momentum that’s already there, getting personal, developing a relationship, and setting the foundation for a long-term customer.
If you keep that in mind while creating your welcome sequence, you’ll already be far, far ahead of everyone else.
And if you do it well, soon you, too, will be shouting “the money is in the list” to everyone who’ll listen.
There’s a lot to keep in mind when crafting a compelling welcome email series. We know it can get overwhelming. So, we’ve created a nifty Cheat Sheet for you.
Think of it as a quick reference guide for creating a knockout welcome email series. Use it to form strong bonds with your subscribers and turn strangers into long-term fans and loyal customers.