Welcome emails get some of the highest rates of engagement of any emails. They offer the perfect chance to strike while the iron is hot to engage new subscribers and convince them to take action.

Why you should use a welcome email

Several recent studies have shown why welcome emails deserve our attention. Welcome emails have an average read rate of 34%. That’s 42% higher than the average read rate of 24% for all other types of emails according to a recent study by Return Path.

We recently wrote about how to use a welcome email to engage your subscribers from the start and today, we’ll break down 10 elements every effective welcome email should have, so each one you send can get the results you desire.

The 10 essential elements of an effective welcome email

1. It’s timely.

Sending welcome emails promptly makes a difference. A big difference. The whole reason welcome emails work so well is they arrive when a subscriber’s interest in your content is at its peak. Wait even a few days and their enthusiasm may wane, resulting in lower engagement rates.

To give you an idea of how important timing is, consider the chart below from Return Path’s study, The Email Subscriber Experience. It shows how many days after someone subscribes, that most marketers choose to send their welcome email.

10 Essential Elements of an Effective Welcome Email

As you can see, 75% sent welcome emails on the same day subscribers signed up. Time is of the essence when it comes to sending out your welcome email to give your subscribers the information they desire from the get-go. You can automate this process using or Automation feature, so each time someone new joins your list, a welcome email will automatically be sent to them.

2. A subject line that’s clear and engaging.

Welcome emails perform best when they are clearly identified, but make sure you also add a spark of interest to grab attention. To make welcome emails easy to identify in crowded inboxes, many marketers use the word “Welcome” right up front in the subject line.

Here’s a sampling of some welcome subject lines from our inbox:

10 Essential Elements of an Effective Welcome Email

To get additional tips to improve your subject lines, see our recent post, 8 subject line formulas to get your emails opened.

3. A greeting.

If you asked for your subscriber’s name or other information when they signed up, now is the ideal time to use it. And whether you use their name or not, it’s always nice to simply welcome new subscribers.

Of course, adding personalization can help any email. Emails with personalized subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened.

Notice how in this example the first and last name are pushed together? Remember to set up your sign up forms so people know what information to enter in each field. For example, if you want the first name, label the field “First Name”, not just “Name” or you might end up with both first names and last names together.

4. Tell recipients what to do next.

Don’t make new subscribers wait for your next newsletter. Instead, use your welcome email to recommend your very best content.

For example, if you’re a SaaS (Software as a Service) business, you probably want to get new subscribers to start using your software right away. So give them a clear idea of how to get started. That might mean a getting started guide. Or you could kick it up a notch with an explainer video like Noteagraphy has done:

If you’re an e-commerce business, your goal might be to get subscribers to make a purchase. So don’t be shy about offering products or services in your welcome email.

5. Give subscribers a gift.

Welcome emails are an ideal place to slip new subscribers something special. Usually, that’s a discount on their first order or some especially good free content. Here’s how RedBubble offers both a discount code and recommends some of their best products:

6. Ask subscribers to follow you on social media.

Including a few links to your social media networks in your welcome email is a good start, but it can be even better if you come out and ask new subscribers to follow your business. Here’s how Food52 does it:

7. Ask subscribers to add you to their “safe senders” or contact list.

This is a great opportunity to maintain your deliverability rates and make it easier for subscribers to find your emails in the future. Here’s how the Farnam Street blog asks people to whitelist them:

It might seem crazy, but even as you onboard and welcome subscribers, you always have to make it easy for them to unsubscribe at any time. Most email service providers – Campaign Monitor included – will automatically include an unsubscribe link. This is a requirement of CAN-SPAM.

This example from the San Diego Chargers welcome email incorporates a few of the tips we’ve shared. Notice the personalization in the first line, then the whitelist request in the second line. The discount code and call to action are right below in the third line. Then down in the footer there’s that one-click unsubscribe link.

9. Ask subscribers to refer-a-friend.

This can be a powerful email list builder. Just as referred clients and customers tend to be high-value, referred email subscribers tend to be far more engaged than subscribers from other sources. When someone we know recommends something, that recommendation usually carries far more credibility than an online ad or content we may have stumbled across online.

You may not get huge amounts of new subscribers from your referral requests, but the ones you do get will likely be high value. As you know, a small list of highly engaged subscribers is just as good – if not better – than a large list of less engaged subscribers.

Even Google uses this refer-a-friend technique. The example below is for their “Let’s Put Our Cities on the Map” program. They ask new subscribers to help just one business they think deserves it. Notice how Google tells you exactly how long it will take. Who doesn’t have 30 seconds for a great local business?

10. Find out what they want.

Sometimes information is priceless. To that end, you can use your new subscribers’ enthusiasm to find out what they want. You can get this information by using a survey like the ones offered by GetFeedback embedded right in your welcome email, or by asking a question in your welcome email.

You can also try progressive profiling. It’s sounds super-techy, but it’s not too hard. When a visitor comes to your site and carries out multiple actions (e.g., downloads multiple guides), they’re presented with different fields on each form. This enables you to get say, six pieces of information while only asking your visitor for two at any given time. You end up with a better user experience and more information you can use in the future. Most CRM systems allow you to do some level of progressive profiling.

Here’s how IKEA asked for more information:

This is actually the second email IKEA sent. They waited a day or two before they asked for this extra information. They also made their request in a way that feels helpful, not intrusive. By asking us to complete our profile and showing a percent complete measure, they encourage you to provide them more information.

Wrap up

Your welcome email can include all these elements, or just a few, depending on your business needs. The most important thing is to send an engaging welcome email to every new subscriber.

Read more: