Welcome Email Best Practices: How to Be a Good First-Time Guest in the Inbox

welcome email best practices

One of the most iconic components of Saturday Night Live is the guest host. It’s almost an oxymoron. Each week, the host is the ringmaster who guides the show and its guest audience through the madness of a live performance. Unlike many “guest" hosts, it’s no substitute role. The SNL host is the main draw.

At the same time, hosts are also guests themselves. And as guests, they have to behave. When the cast and crew enjoy the guest host’s company, they invite them back. If they act up, well…there’s a reason you don’t see Steven Seagal on SNL, and it’s not because he hasn’t made a movie lately.

The email relationship is similar. As an email marketer, you’re the audience’s direct link to your brand, and you’re responsible for guiding those audiences towards a conversion. But you’re also a guest in the reader’s inbox, which means you have to act like it.

That’s why getting the welcome email right is so important. The welcome sets the whole tone for the email relationship. It shows readers whether the sender is someone they wouldn’t mind seeing again, or if they’re in for a trainwreck that’s over before the first commercial break.

Like a live show, the welcome email takes a bit of planning, but once it’s time to send, you have one shot to get it right. Fortunately, there are ways to make sure your welcome email is a hit with readers. Here are a few welcome email best practices that can help get you invited back to the inbox.

Make sure your welcome message is on brand.

As soon as the local news is over, SNL kicks things off with the cold open. They grab the audience’s attention by leading off with familiar characters, such as well-known political figures or a popular recurring character. This past season’s viewers knew to stick around when they saw Melissa McCarthy, much the same way that viewers in the early 90s felt about seeing Mike Myers and Dana Carvey rocking out on a couch.

When you send email to a first-time recipient, it’s nice to show them that same familiarity. Ensure the email gets opened by making it clear who sent the message. Then, when they open it, be sure to show them an on-brand email, both in messaging and appearance. This can provide a little subtle assurance that they’re getting what they signed up for.

one-tap email capture box

Set expectations for your future email newsletters.

Still, it’s not enough only to hint at what you’ll send. An effective welcome must tell readers exactly what they’re getting.

SNL’s opening credits show you what familiar people (or if you haven’t watched in a few years, complete strangers) you can expect to see during the show. That doesn’t mean you have to list every person involved in sending your emails, but you should tell readers what to expect of your emails.

Are they daily newsletters? Weekly? Every once in a while? Are you sending email-exclusive content or a roundup of your site’s best articles that day? Is it a quick read or should they get nice and comfy before digging in? If they know what’s waiting for them, they’ll know to keep tuning into your emails each week.

Make them informative, but don’t be afraid to have fun.

The welcome email is responsible for getting a lot of information across. You can lighten the mental load by keeping things lighthearted.

At the middle of each SNL episode is their “news” segment, Weekend Update. Even if you hide under a rock all week, the jokes can give you a brief overview of the week’s biggest stories. Well, the first half of every joke, anyway.

Don’t try to force the funny where it’s not appropriate, but if humor or breezy tone is a familiar part of your brand, keep it up! Humor helps people digest information more easily, and it also clues readers into the kind of voice they can expect from your email messaging. That way, when they see your name in their inbox, they know they’re in for good nights and pleasant tomorrows.

Try automating your welcome email (or emails).

Welcome emails perform 86% better than the average email newsletter. Is that because everyone is sending amazing welcome emails? It could be. More likely, it’s because the email audience is at their most engaged right after they sign up for your email list.

To make sure you catch the reader when you have their full attention, try automating your welcome email to send right after they sign up. Welcome emails confirm that the signup process was successful, so readers will be quick to open these types of messages.

You can even automate an entire welcome series. Sony Card set up a series of informative welcome messages for their email program. Not only did they see a 157% increase in their click-through rate, they also won a MarketingSherpa Gold Award for Best Automated Email Campaign. You can see how they did it for yourself.

As their award-winning campaign shows, automation might save you time and effort, but it doesn’t mean you can phone it in with the material. SNL’s pre-taped sketches aren’t performed live, but they make up for the lack of studio energy with their high production value. Many of these pre-taped segments are beautifully filmed, well-acted, and quietly insightful.

Then again, some of them are Laser Cats (which, of course, is great in its own way).

Always include a Call-to-Action.

If you’ve spent any length of time in the industry, you know that one of the most important rules of email marketing is to never send an email without a purpose. That means including a compelling call-to-action in every email, and the welcome email is no different.

During some SNL commercial breaks, they squeeze in some information between the sketch and the commercial (the real commercials, not their fake ones). This is where they announce future hosts and musical guests. They also let you know about their online presence and where you can watch the sketches again tomorrow morning.

Viewers might not be able to click-through during live television, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be called to act. SNL keeps diehard fans engaged by letting them know what to look forward to and what they can do next.

It’s only the first email: don’t make the hard sell just yet.

The project promotion is an all-too-familiar part of most SNL episodes. It’s usually quick and painless, but that doesn’t make it any less tedious.

Guest hosts tend to host because they have a big new movie or a hit TV show. And they make it a point to promote this new project. They occasionally turn it into a good bit, but it usually just results in a shoehorned reference during the monologue. It makes the suits happy, but it’s boring to watch.

Remember: you’re a guest in the reader’s inbox. Give your reader a call to action, but don’t make the hard sell in your first email. You can use email marketing to nurture your audience, increasing the chances that they convert later on. For now, focus on the welcome part. After all, if you get the first email right, it definitely won’t be the last.

Don’t forget to thank the reader!

They took the step to sign up for your emails, so repay your email audience with respect. As a first-time visitor in their inbox, it’s the polite thing to do.

When each SNL episode comes to a close, the host appears one last time to thank the cast, crew, friends, and family. If a week went well, you can hear it in the host’s elated voice. After a rough week, you can tell everyone is just glad to be going home.

At any rate, the thank you is an important part of your welcome messaging. A little thanks can go a long way to leave your readers with a good feeling about opening your next emails.

Now that you’ve got a great welcome email, it’s time to show it off to new subscribers. The best way to grow your email list with onsite capture. Check out our Audience Development Lookbook to see how PostUp clients are winning over subscribers with sticky footers, sliders, one-touch subscription boxes, and other intelligent capture widgets.

Editor, PostUp PlayBook