Time is a precious resource, and while marketing automation delivers some of the greatest efficiencies of any tool in the modern marketer’s arsenal, it requires due diligence to be leveraged to its full potential.
In marketing, as in life, first impressions matter a great deal, and the Welcome Series—also known as an Onboarding Series, or Indoctrination Series—is typically the first personal touchpoint an inbound prospect will have with your brand.
An ineffective (or altogether missing) Welcome Series can significantly hamper future sales efforts, while a successful one will lay the groundwork for much lighter lifting down the road for your sales team. So, what exactly is a Welcome Series? What value does it offer? Why should I care?
When a new prospect joins your mailing list through a generic entry point such as the lead capture form in your website footer—you have a name and an email address, but not much else. The critical piece that’s missing? Context.
The goal of the Welcome Series is threefold: inform, indoctrinate, and segment. For prospects with no other existing historical data points, the Welcome Series offers the unique opportunity to passively gather intelligence about their interests to inform your future sales pitch, all while introducing the prospect to valuable information about your offering that will prove useful in their decision-making journey, making it a powerful component in the lead nurturing process.
If you’re ready to start growing your marketing automation program, follow these 7 simple tips to crafting the perfect Welcome Series:
1. Put a name to your brand
People like talking to (and hearing from) other people, not a faceless company. The difference between an opened email and a deleted email often comes down to just two things: the subject line and the sender name. This is the ideal opportunity to leverage a big name at your organization; someone that your recipient will pay attention to.
The more credible and recognizable the sender, the more likely your emails are to be read and remembered. For many organizations, the ideal sender for this front-line series is the CEO, or the head of a relevant department if you are segmenting your efforts by business unit.
2. Use a ‘first name’ merge field
Personalization is the cream cheese (or butter, whatever you’re into) to automation’s bagel. Without it, the experience simply isn’t that good. While the primary benefit of any automated series is the time-savings offered by a set-it-and-forget it approach, your contacts never want to feel like they are in an automation. To maintain the perception of individualized attention, you should make use of a ‘first name’ merge field in your salutation to mimic the style of a personalized email.
3. Validate their leap of faith and set expectations
Remember, the recipient of the Welcome Series has just opted-in to your email marketing list. They have raised their hand and said, “Yes! Send me more stuff.” Start by restating the exclusive benefits and relevant content they stand to receive moving forward to build anticipation.
It’s also important to set clear expectations for the types of communications they can expect to receive from you in future touchpoints. Together, this one-two punch will reassure your new contacts that they’ve made a good decision by signing up, and better-informed prospects are less likely to unsubscribe later.
4. Build trust first, sell later
The Welcome Series is not a sales-forward workflow, which is to say that its central objective should be to inform rather than persuade. Go for the hard sell too early and you risk putting off your prospect by coming across as opportunistic or over-eager. It is, however, a useful tool for building the necessary familiarity with a new prospect to warm them up for the ‘pitch’ in a subsequent series.
Use this opportunity to provide a more personal window into what your company is trying to achieve and why the recipient should be excited to be a part of it. The thrust of your message should be about what you do, why you do it, and (later in the series) how you do it. Leveraging a conversational tone in your writing style will go a long way towards building comfort and trust with your new prospect over the course of the series.
5. Create opportunities for micro-commitments
A powerful lever in the psychology of trust-building is getting your contact to take an action that you have suggested, no matter how small. The sum of these successful interactions increases comfort and minimizes suspicion between the two parties. The first micro-commitment you should ask for serves a very practical purpose and can be tied to the reminder of benefits you provided at the beginning of your Welcome Series: whitelist this email address.
Providing a closing ask to the first touchpoint in your series requesting recipients to whitelist your future emails is low-hanging fruit, and it will ensure delivery of all that great content you’ve gotten them excited about.
6. Structure your narrative
An effective Welcome Series should consist of 3-4 touchpoints over the course of 1-2 weeks. For each email in the series, you should provide a deeper dive into a single pertinent aspect of your company’s value proposition, as well as provide a supporting piece of complementary content to drive further engagement and assist in the down-funnel segmentation of that contact based on their interaction with your emails.
As the series progresses, the narrative should transition from a high-level overview to more specific messaging, opening the door to the subsequent, sales-driven campaigns that map to your individual product or service offerings. This inverted pyramid structure will help move the prospect through the funnel as the window to gather useful intelligence for future campaigns shrinks.
7. Open curiosity loops
Anticipation is a powerful motivator, and when it comes to communicating nuanced information across multiple touchpoints, you want your contacts to be excited to see what’s coming next. This begins with ensuring the content you intend to share is genuinely interesting to its intended audience and ends with leaving your recipient wanting more.
Each of the emails in your series should conclude with a teaser about what to expect in the next touchpoint. Think of it like a cliffhanger ending; when next week rolls around, you’re tuning back in.
Follow these simple steps to start improving your customer journey today, while setting your sales team up for success with a better qualified pipeline.
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