I recently attended a Lyris email-marketing conference in Chicago, and there was a critical theme that threaded through a number of the presentations – the power of a welcome program. I’ve talked about welcome emails before (see “9 Ways to Make the Most of Your Welcome Emails”). If you haven’t thought through the entire welcome experience, however, you’re missing one of the most critical elements of building your email list and the resulting email-marketing ROI.
So, here I describe the architecture and elements you don’t want to miss for your email welcome program.
At the Lyris conference, James Meers from the British Museum did a great job of laying out the six steps of an email program. I’ll borrow some of his structure and also add a bit of my own elaboration and clarification based upon FulcrumTech’s experience with our many clients over the years.

Step 1: Website Email Signup Form

This is where it all begins—the signup form. Interestingly, though, companies typically have many questions about email sign-up forms:

Where should the form be?
How should it be presented? (Should it be a pop-up box that blocks the entire home page of your site, for example, requiring the visitor either to complete or close the box?)
Where should it go if it’s on the home page? The top, side, bottom?
Should there be an incentive for signing up?
What information do you request in the sign-up form?

What may appear to be very basic decisions are actually not so straightforward. How do you decide?

My general recommendation is to do what you believe makes the most sense given your goals, your audience, and how badly you want to get sign-ups. All of these choices will impact how many sign-ups you get, as well as the quality of those you get. Whatever sign-up box strategies you decide to start with, though, immediately begin implementing testing. For example, start modifying variables relating to your sign-up box (size, location, color, prominence of, etc.), and then conduct statistically valid tests to determine which delivers the best results for your situation. It’s amazing how many people fly blind when it comes to this critical element of an email program.

I’ll finish this topic with one interesting point. For those companies that had deep, heart-wrenching, internal discussions about whether to use a pop-up sign-up box on the home page, a strong executive often dictated their decision. The executive would simply say, “Just do it!” Those who did, appear to be ecstatic about the results achieved…interesting. Sometimes we have to put our own emotions aside and try what may not be so comfortable.

Many people are reticent to provide an email address, as they’re not sure what you’ll do with it. So, be sure to include a link to your privacy policy or a short statement that you don’t rent, sell, or trade emails with others (if that’s the case). Again, test the impact of what you do.

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