Welcome emails are crucial. The moment after you first sign up for a service is when first impressions are made.
But what happens after your initial welcome email?
We’re all used to getting those chipper “Welcome!” emails from the services we sign up for. One touchpoint is easy to forget. Plus, almost everyone does a welcome email and repetitive patterns are easy to tune out. Post-welcome emails, which continue and develop a kind of conversation with your customer, can make you stand out.
After going through 50 post-welcome emails, we were able to classify each email into one of four categories:
You could categorize all of these emails by:
More specifically, you can place each type in a distinct quadrant along two axes — funnel position and technique.
Of course, within each kind of email, you’ll have variation and types blending into other quadrants. Quick conversion emails can look like casual checkups, and vice versa. The key is to understand what you’re trying to accomplish with every post-welcome email you send and then tailor them to that purpose.
Especially popular with small startups and lean operations, the “casual checkup” is almost always written in a plain text style. It comes “from” a company’s founder or CEO shortly after you sign up and receive your first welcome. It’s not about converting customers in that moment but about learning and building awareness.
Alongside the many GIF-laden, 10MB+ marketing emails in your inbox, the personal check-in is spare, designed to look like it was tapped out just for you. It wasn’t. However, and more importantly, you’ll often get a real person if you respond. Companies will hook up the casual checkup to send automatically and route all replies to a human. So feel free to reply, as Matt Bilotti from Drift asks you to do in this email:
You’ll notice the focus here is gathering information:
…why did you sign up?… Would love to learn more about what you’re working on.
The message isn’t trying to get you to sign up for a bigger plan or to share the product with all of your friends, and that’s very intentional.
The casual checkup is also used to get feedback on products that are in early stages of development. The plaintext format — approaching customers like a friend — can get you far better engagement rates than a standard company email that’s slickly designed and from firstname.lastname@example.org. At worst, customers gain a little more context on the product they signed up for. At best, you wind up with a productive conversation or feedback that you would never have gotten otherwise.
Sometimes post-welcome emails will combine the informality of the casual checkup with some of the marketing content of a value-sell email. They might send you blog resources or documentation to get started using the product, as in this post-welcome email from Infogram:
Or you might get a casual checkup that features a personal introduction from the founder or CEO, delving deeper into the mission and values behind the company, like this one from Modsy:
If email isn’t your primary channel for customer feedback, or you’re simply more focused on conversion than on conversation, the immediate conversion-style post-welcome email may be what you need. This type of message is always designed to get you to accomplish one quick thing, whether that’s taking an action within a product, inviting or referring a friend, or opening up your contacts.
Let’s say you have a social consumer product. You might send an email designed to make it super-simple to see if you already have connections on the platform, like LinkedIn does:
This spare interface and prominent call-to-action button are hallmarks of conversion-centric design. LinkedIn knows you’ve been to their site, they know you understand the value of the product, and this is their rigorously-tested vehicle for you to start fully participating.
Dropbox uses a quick conversion email to get you to download the Dropbox apps onto your computer and phone. They know that the more Dropbox apps you have around you, the more likely you are to start using Dropbox regularly.
The value sell is the opposite of the quick conversion. Instead of getting people to take an immediate action, you’re trying to motivate and inspire to seed a conversion, upsell, or cross-sell that’s coming down the line.
Often, you’ll see this type of email with a product that involves greater investment on the part of the user. After you receive your first welcome email from Airbnb, for instance, you’re likely to get a newsletter like this:
After registering your account, Airbnb will periodically send a curated list of places you could go. Each featured listing in the email functions almost like a landing page or a new conversion opportunity to make a booking.
You can also use the value-sell message to help new users get acclimated to a product or remove onboarding friction. Here’s an example from Airtable, a collaborative database tool.
Airtable’s post-welcome email provides useful templates for you to get started in their tool. New users will stick with or move to another tool that’s more immediately easy to understand if they don’t understand Airtable’s relational database capabilities. So the content isn’t designed to push a sale and upgrade from a free account but to help you get more out of the product.
The “close” is about converting evaluators into customers, used by companies with shorter marketing funnels.
For example, you might use a closing post-welcome email when your product has an extremely short trial or demo period, as with screen recording software ScreenFlow. When you download and use it, any recording you make has a large, obtrusive watermark. A bit later, you get an email thanking you for downloading the trial, pointing out the watermark, and prompting you to purchase a license.
The product can’t be used in its demo state, as the watermark is simply too pronounced. This is an effective technique largely because of the velocity at which new users move through their funnel. People try the product, see how it works, and then are soon prompted to buy. If they got a glimpse of the product’s value, they’ll be ready.
The closing email can be more subtle than this if you have a longer-term value proposition. In this example from the Wall Street Journal, signing up for a subscription triggers a post-welcome email that offers you “exclusive access” to the WSJ+ community:
As part of the WSJ+ community, you get access to opportunities like talks, getaways, and other exclusive offers. The Journal is riding that post-purchase crest of a wave to upsell you. While subscription revenue is nice, it’s the margin on vacations and getaways that can really drive bottom-line expansion for a publication like the Wall Street Journal, and post-subscription is a favorable time to show these selections.
It’s easy to send a clunky close-like email at the end of a lifecycle campaign (“Buy Now — 10% off!”) when it feels like everything else has failed and you may as well take the shot. But if your business model supports it, it might be worth moving it up to be the second arrow in your quiver.
When you’re looking at your own lifecycle campaigns in the context of the post-welcome email, consider the following questions:
Sending out a casual, plaintext greeting because you feel like it’s the “startup” thing to do, or sending an aggressive coupon code campaign every day because that’s the prevailing approach to building revenue — these are just different iterations of a grab bag strategy.
Instead, tailor your post-welcome email to your business model and what you’re trying to accomplish. You only have one chance to make a second impression.
It’s up to you! What successes or failures have you seen with post-welcome emails? Share with us in the comments below!