As email marketing evolves, the first interaction you have with a (hopefully long-term) customer of your brand is becoming more and more important. With dozens of companies constantly competing for that precious inbox position on any given day, the significance of engagement with the welcome message can be overlooked far too often.

As one of the Delivery Consultants here at SendGrid, I want to provide you with a strategy that can increase the odds of your customers engaging early in the customer lifecycle, and even improve your list quality.

As simple as “1, 2… maybe 3.”

We know that at the time of subscription, a user’s interest in your brand is at one of the highest points in their lifecycle; we call this the “honeymoon” phase.

During the honeymoon, it’s crucial to nail your first impression. (We’ve covered what it takes to make a killer welcome message in another blog post if you need assistance.) But what happens when, for whatever reason, they don’t interact with that welcome message? Email addresses that don’t engage with a welcome message shouldn’t just get added into the regular pool of recipients. Instead, I suggest marketers test and build a staggered, structured welcome series strategy.

Like most promotional email optimization, testing is paramount to a successful welcome email series. It requires testing things like:

  • Different day intervals for subsequent messages
  • Sending time of day
  • Promotional offers and incentives
  • Number of messages in a series

In my experience, any more than three welcome emails can be overwhelming for a subscriber, and could cause them to unsubscribe from your list or mark it as spam. I’d be remiss if I didn’t strongly suggest senders remove any addresses that bounce the first welcome message back. Not being hyper-vigilant to these bounces risks hitting different types of spam traps and deny lists, and a high bounce rate itself can also be detrimental to your IP and domain reputation.

To increase the likelihood of users engaging with the series approach, testing methodologies are instrumental. Some elements you could test include:

  • Different subject lines to find what compels your new subscribers to open the email
  • Varying content pieces that make them want to click through to your site

Conversion rates are also likely to be increased during this honeymoon phase. In order to help encourage conversion with these messages, I see companies have a lot of success with introducing a promotional offer on the second message that increases slightly for the third and final email. If subscribers don’t engage with the first welcome, another message can be triggered a short time later containing an offer. If they don’t at least open that message, another email can be sent some time after containing an increased offer.

For non-retail or e-commerce senders, alternatives to offers could be articulating different value propositions of the content. Use this as an opportunity to highlight different features or information, and the benefits you provide users. This waterfall technique of reaching out to your customers can not only help encourage the initial interaction with your brand, it also helps you understand their habits as a subscriber.

The point here is that in this rare case, you may actually have a few chances to make a first impression with new subscribers:

  1. Your first message is an introduction to your brand, a “thank you” for subscribing, and a value proposition for what the user can expect from being a recipient of your mail.
  2. If they don’t interact with that first message, you can up the ante by providing another perspective of why they would want your mail moving forward, perhaps with an introductory offer.
  3. If there’s still no action taken by the user, you can try one last time to compel engagement, whether that means providing an increased offer or one last effort at communicating value.

It’s not me, it’s you.

Finally, let’s say that despite your best efforts (and offers), a new subscriber hasn’t interacted with your welcome email series. This might be disappointing, but there’s still a positive: You know this email address may not be interested in your brand anymore, and perhaps didn’t even intend to subscribe to your list in the first place.

Now you should consider suppressing this email address from receiving any other messages, or at the least relegate it to a lapsed segment of your list. Many ISPs consider user engagement heavily when filtering mail. By only sending to  email addresses that have actively demonstrated interest in your email, you’re indicating that you employ list hygiene best practices and this will increase your overall list quality.

To learn more tactics to growing a healthy, engaged recipient list, you can download SendGrid’s guide: How to Authentically Grow Your Email List.

An email nerd at heart, Seth has been working in the deliverability and marketing space for six years. He loves solving problems, helping educate SendGrid's customers, and being a part of the email community. As a sixth-generation Coloradan, he always enjoys being outside (especially if it means getting a round of golf in), and thinks John Elway should be the Emperor of Colorado.