Invite ‘Em In: Onboarding for Authors

Welcome Mat

Do you know what onboarding is? It’s a term marketing folks throw around a lot, but not many authors I meet seem to be familiar with it. That’s a shame, since onboarding is usually the difference between losing e-mail sign-ups and keeping them.

While the term onboarding may be new to you, it’s not a difficult concept to master. In fact, I’m pretty sure you’re already familiar with it. So let’s start by defining it, then jump into how you can make onboarding work for you.

What Is Onboarding?

Have you ever signed up for an e-mail list and received a message welcoming you in? That’s a very simple form of onboarding. At its most basic, onboarding is all about getting your new subscribers comfortable with the thing they just signed up for.

Why does this matter? Well, let’s say somebody is just checking out your book and finds out they can get a free copy by signing up for your mailing list. (That’s how the popular NoiseTrade website works, and many authors are even doing this on their own site—it’s an excellent strategy, but that’s another post.) At this point, the new subscriber is really taking you as an author and your e-mails for a test drive. They’ll make a decision once they’ve received a couple of your e-mails about whether they really want to stay on the list. And that’s where onboarding comes in.

With a great onboarding plan, you can get your new subscriber comfy with the stuff you send out so that they begin to look forward to your next e-mail. This means they stick around and are there when you send out an all-important announcement that you have a new book for sale. And because this subscriber already enjoys your content, they are very likely to go check out you new title—and hopefully buy it!

Sound like something you could use? Great! Let’s check out some of the ways you can make onboarding work for you.

The Must: Provide Context

It’s absolutely key that you provide context for the very first e-mail. What do I mean by that? Well, think about this: Your subscriber is brand new to the mailing list, and if it’s been more than a few minutes since they signed up, they’ve probably already moved on. (They’ve already scrolled through a few dozen posts on Facebook!) They don’t remember signing up for your e-mails, so you’re going to need to jog their memory. (Don’t jog it too hard, Fezzik.)

This is where you provide the context. Your subscriber probably has some questions when they open your initial e-mail:

  • How did you get my e-mail address?!
  • What can I expect to receive from this list?
  • Is there any really cool stuff I get for being a subscriber?
  • [If they don’t like what they see.] How can I get off this list?!

Ideally, your welcome e-mail is going to answer all those questions right away. Let me give you an example so you can see how this works. Below is a screenshot of the e-mail I sent out to all the people who joined my mailing list by downloading my book Finding the Core of Your Story on NoiseTrade:

Welcome E-mail

Nowadays I might format it a little bit prettier, but the content is all there. Here’s a walkthrough of what I’m doing with this e-mail:

  1. First, I answer the How did you get my e-mail address?! question. Notice that I’ve included a short text blurb explaining how the person signed up for my mailing list. The picture of my book cover also helps a lot to provide context—visual cues are very helpful when you’re trying to remember something. The subscriber saw my book cover on NoiseTrade at the very least (ideally, they also cracked open my book and saw the cover in the process), so this serves to give them instant recognition of what this e-mail will be about.
  2. In my introductory blurb, I include details on how to unsubscribe if this isn’t something the subscriber wants, taking care of those who want to know How can I get off this list?!
  3. Next, I welcome them to the list and give them a few links to some articles that give a look at what kind of things I post. This answers the What can I expect to receive from this list? question. Notice that I also mention how often I send out e-mails. I’m already setting the stage for the subscriber to begin expecting and looking forward to my messages.
  4. Not in this screenshot, there’s another section of the e-mail where I provide access to my subscriber-only bonus section, answering Is there any really cool stuff I get for being a subscriber?.

But this is just the beginning. You can make this even better by sending a series of welcome e-mails instead of just one. We’ll talk about that next time.

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