It can be tricky for a more traditionally run company to start considering digital avenues for advertising and marketing. With the continually growing ubiquitous presence of social media, online ads, AI and online service fulfillment, it is clear that organisations could be easily left behind if they don’t pull their digital socks up.

A Sensible Inroad

Making the shift can be a lot easier than you think. There are plenty of online resources available that give step-by-step instructions on how to implement a number of different digital marketing channels. A great place to start with is email marketing. Email is something that you and your customers have likely been using for years, and so it is quite a natural form of communication. Email marketing has recently experienced a radical makeover and is much more trustworthy, valuable and relevant than ever before.

One of the fastest growing email marketing strategies is welcome emails, also known as onboarding sequences. This is when a company sends a few emails over a short period of time to new customers and subscribers. The primary goals are to welcome the new user, share your brand story, place tailored products in front of them and ultimately convert them into their first purchase.

You’ve probably received something like this from your own favourite brands. It is a popular strategy with e-commerce and high street brands, who lead the way in producing quality communications, that their loyal customer base is more than happy to receive. The value exchange here is that you provide information and incentive to your customers, with tailored product updates and vouchers. Your customers find out more and potentially get deals on their most wished-for items.

Hopefully, you will have a website or a social media platform set up for your company already, where you have collected your customers’ email addresses and have obtained consent for marketing. Without getting consent, you can only send servicing-type emails, like receipts for instance, and won’t be able to carry on with welcome email strategy. If you haven’t been collecting email addresses with a marketing consent opportunity, you need to start.

Start Taking Names

One of the easiest ways is to add in an email newsletter subscriber form into your website. It should ask for their title, first name, last name and email address so that you can populate the basic personalization into your email templates. A capture box like this is great for when customers come along to your e-commerce store, look around but aren’t ready to purchase. They want to see a newsletter and wait until they might get a newcomer promotion or money off code. You can get these types of email capture box plug-ins in many drag-and-drop self-build style websites like WordPress or Wix.

Newsletters can be quite a general term when it comes to email marketing, essentially in this case it means any marketing emails you send. An email newsletter is a standalone thing in itself, like a printed newsletter you might get from a company and is a great campaign to introduce to your new subscribers, further down the relationship line.

If you have been taking customer email addresses at point of payment and have been or plan to use them for marketing emails, you must first do a Permission Passing campaign. This is where you reach out to these users with a service-type email (no marketing jargon or brand promotion in any way) and ask them if they are wanting to opt in to marketing emails. You can team this with copy that lets them know the features and benefits of the emails, to keep them reminded as to why they were interested in you in the first place.

Finding the Key Audience

Expect to lose a lot of emails to this that you cannot market to because people haven’t decided to opt-in. This isn’t quite as bad as it sounds, though. Email lists that are smaller, but have loyal contacts are more profitable in the long run and trusting to your reputation than longer lists filled with non-openers. It is also the law under the Data Protection Act 1998 and the upcoming GDPR policies not to send marketing to people who have not explicitly opted-in for it. This all might sound daunting and put you off doing a welcome email strategy but re-per missioning only needs to be done once. Afterwards, you will have a solid customer base email list, that will benefit your ROI.

Now you have your email list gathered and have established who you can market to, you can get to work on your brand new welcome email series. This is quite an easy campaign for you to try at first and is a great one, because you are getting in touch with new interested users. Welcome emails have higher open rates than any other form of B2C marketing email, at a whopping 50-86%. They are also very powerful for generating ROI, with a lift of 320% in revenue compared to no welcome email.

To start making the emails and rolling them out in a way that is visually current and reportable, you need to register with an email marketing service provider (ESP), like Mailchimp, Constant Contact or iContact. These applications are often either free to use up to a certain limit (say 12k emails per month) or they are low cost in terms of ROI weigh-ups. It is in this online app that you can build your visually appealing HTML email using an intuitive interface, no coding we promise! You can plug in your brand fonts, colours and creative assets to really make it your own.

You upload your email addresses into lists, send through the portal and then measure KPIs like open rates, click through rates and more. You should identify your own personal KPIs against what is expected of your industry and try to improve the quality of your email marketing efforts to meet benchmarks, continuously driving ROI.

Getting Creative

Now it’s time to get the creative juices flowing! Look at the product that you offer your customers. Is it a tangible item you could physically pick up or is it a service or software product? Then think about how many emails you think it would take to properly onboard a new customer, showing them everything you offer and why they should become loyal to you without being overwhelming or boring. This number is usually around 3.

The first email is a thank you and confirmation of the subscription, you might want to include a small token of appreciation here with a small money-off code or free delivery. This can entice an already interested prospect into clicking through to the site and buying immediately. The second email is meatier, where you share your brand story and maybe introduce your blog, look book, previous 5-star customer reviews and competitions etc.

Tailoring Your Approach

The third email depends on what you sell. If you sell tangible products, you could visually display and link to a selection of your best-selling products, so consumers can see where the buzz is. If you have any new collections or edits, introduce them here. If you can, provide a very specific offer code for these items. To be sure that they pick something up from the store, that is confirmed by high review ratings – setting up a great first impression in the relationship.

If you sell software or services, in this last email you might want to send them a snippet of that product itself. Say for example you are an IT solution consultancy, you could offer a free 30-minute call or include a whitepaper PDF download of one of your most recent products. If you are an illustrator, include a download of something recent you have done, that adds value, like an illustrated weekly meal planner. Whatever you are offering, think of how you could include a small taster of that into your final email. Those who have stayed loyal throughout this email series journey will pick up on the high value offering and be even more likely to engage.

You can usually set your 3 emails up in advance within your ESP, so that they roll out to new email addresses each week without you having to manually push the send button every day. Email one typically goes out as an automatic trigger, email two is sent a week later and email 3 can be the following week or later. This isn’t a concrete timeframe, do what you think works for your company and product. The main thing to avoid is cluster sending the emails too close together, which could potentially result in annoyance and subscription.

All you need do to ramp up your company’s digital marketing strategy is to ensure you have gathered a substantial customer email list, sign up for a free email marketing platform, get your creative juices flowing and design your 3 email onboarding series (which is more fun than it sounds!). Then, schedule the emails and watch the opens, clicks and conversions roll in. Your first email marketing campaign is live and you have successfully created customer relationship goals. Go you!