Welcoming recipients to your mailing list isn't just polite - it's potentially lucrative. And there's no time like the welcome program to gather important demographic and preference information from your visitors. But what information should you capture, when is the right time to ask for it, and what do you do with it once you have it?
Understanding how to capture and make use of customer data sets the tone for your relationship. Here's how to ensure you make the right impression.
What Is A Welcome Program?
A welcome program is simply a program containing email messages, specially customized landing pages, and data capture forms. It is triggered by a specific event - typically, a customer's first online engagement with your company. As soon as the customer fills in their email address in the opt-in form on the home page, the welcome program should kick in.
Within many organizations, email marketers make use of automated welcome programs. These automated programs help marketers:
•Create immediate engagement with interested prospects: Interested visitors receive a positive brand experience via email within moments of sharing their address.
•Collect important data that can be used for segmentation: A well-thought out welcome program can provide you with a steady stream of visitor data. By segmenting your email list based on recipient-provided information, you can provide offers and calls to action that are more relevant and targeted.
•Streamline response process and save time: Automating the welcome process allows marketers to focus on mission critical priorities while ensuring that the critical role of making a positive impression is still handled.
•Maximize revenue opportunities while spending less: Welcome programs are proven to increase conversions. By setting the program to run on autopilot, your IT investment can continue to pay dividends into the future.
List Segmentation Using Welcome Program Data
As a savvy email marketer, one of your main goals is to improve your conversion rate by improving the relevancy of the campaigns you send. After the visitor has indicated that they're interested in hearing more about your offerings, use your welcome email to capture further demographic info and preference data. By actively listening to what your recipients want, you're putting them in the driver's seat and avoiding email deliverability issues and communication fatigue. Creating more targeted, relevant mailings will help you avoid email sender reputation issues, build stronger customer relationships, and ultimately, increase conversions.
Welcome Program Trigger Types and Segmentation Opportunities
We’ve mentioned that a welcome program is primarily triggered by the initial engagement with your company. However, there are other trigger events shown below that trigger more advanced welcome programs. The role of the welcome program in these cases is to welcome the recipient to the new level of relationship with your brand. Examples of these advanced welcome program trigger events include:
•Email capture at point of sale
•Subscription reactivation or re-opt-in campaign
•Email sign up on specific points of interest
- Trade shows/events/webinar
- Product updates/releases
- Related news and information
Each welcome program will have a specific tone of voice, message content, and data capture goals. After all, you wouldn't want to send a 'We've Missed You' campaign to a customer who made her first purchase yesterday, nor would you want to send a 'Join Our Newsletter' campaign to a person who arrived on your mailing list via a newsletter subscription form. Even in the early steps of your welcome campaign, take advantage of list segmenting to offer recipients the customized welcome they deserve.
Segmentation Events Throughout the Welcome Process
Most welcome programs have the same basic elements - an easy-to-fill-out sign up form, a thank you page, a confirmation email and an opt-in/preferences page. Smart marketers look for opportunities within and beyond the traditional welcome program to gather data that can be used to better target your lists. Let's take a look at some of the segmentation opportunities hidden within the welcome program process:
a) The Sign-up Form
Design your forms to allow visitors to quickly and easily add their information, and determine which high-level information is truly vital to request on this first communication. Certainly, requesting a person's name and email address are expected, but think about the one or two big picture questions that will help you start your segmentation process.
For example, if your site sells clothing, knowing your visitor's gender would be extremely important, whereas if your site sells technology services, knowing the number of people within their IT department may be an extremely helpful piece of info. Aim to capture the most important data in as quick and elegant of a fashion as possible, and keep your forms short.
b) The Thank You Page
When you take the time to thank your visitors for sharing their email address with you, also take the time to invite them to add the From address to their email address book. Making this request is really preparing the ground - you're saying, "Watch for our email. If for some reason it goes into the junk folder, make sure you add us to your address book." That’s the right way to start off this email marketing relationship. Resist the temptation to try and gather more demographic information here - it's too soon in the process and may be viewed as being pushy.
c) The Confirmation Email
After the visitor has signed up, the next stage in the welcome program process is that the confirmation email is sent out immediately. And with this simple step, you will experience an immediate brand benefit because you have successfully fulfilled their first expectation - they signed up for email from you and they have received an email from you.
Take the time in your confirmation email to set the expectation that visitors will be able to customize their preferences at the end of the opt-in process. Don't ask for demographic or preference information within the email, but simply mention that you're looking forward to getting them exactly the information that they're looking for.
d) The Opt-In Thank You Page with Preferences
When the recipient has clicked through to confirm that they do want to receive email (thereby confirming the opt in), you have the opportunity to gather more demographic and preference information to make sure that you’re going to be sending the best quality and most relevant messaging to those recipients. In this phase of the program, your form can be a bit longer as long as your questions are highly relevant and express an understanding of the information you have already provided.
For example, in the clothing store Web site example we used earlier, you may take the opportunity to inquire about your recipient's dress size if she's female. And your technology company may inquire about the number of servers within an organization. The key here is to develop a list of preferences that show you've received and are mindful of the information they've already shared with you.
Want Higher Open Rates? Welcome Programs Can Help
In our experience recipients who have been through a welcome program have significantly higher email open rates than those who have not. I've seen some cases where the welcome program made a difference of 25% to 40%. But why do welcome programs have such an impact on open rates? Here are the theories I've developed:
•Because recipients are new
•Because the welcome program started the relationship on the right foot
•Because the recipients are double opted-in, ensuring no invalid email addresses
•Because the company is capable of sending more relevant email because we know the recipients' interests and demographics.
Welcome Programs Set the Stage for Campaign Success
Welcome programs offer a great opportunity to make a positive impression and gain your customers' trust. Done poorly, a welcome program can alienate customers and waste opportunities to get to know them better; done well, your company may very well have a customer for life. By using welcome programs to establish a strong relationship and gather important preference and demographic information, you'll be setting the stage for email campaign and conversion success.