Show ‘Em Around: The Author’s Guide to Welcome E-mails

Welcome Series Image

Last time, we looked at how to onboard new subscribers to your mailing list by sending out a welcome e-mail. This technique helps new people understand what you’ll be sending and reduces the amount of unsubscribes. Today, let’s take this one step further with the idea of sending a series of welcome e-mails.

What is it?

Let’s start by defining what we’re going to do. The goal of a welcome series goes beyond simply making the new subscriber comfortable. Now we’re showing this person what content we’ve got. If a welcome e-mail is like inviting a new subscriber to your town, a welcome series is like showing them around.

Typically, you would send your welcome series over a period of one or two weeks, planning to have a new article land in your subscriber’s inbox every two or three days. This gives the person a chance to read each e-mail and act on what you’ve sent them.

We’re going to look at what kinds of e-mails you can send in your welcome series in a minute, but first let’s cover a big tip.

Setting up the series

It’s very important that you set this series up for success. There’s no sense in making the new subscriber feel welcome with the first e-mail if you’re just going to scare them away with an unexpected barrage of content in the next. But that’s what you might just do if you start sending your welcome series without any warning.

How can we avoid this? Well, an easy way would be to add a note to your very first welcome message explaining that you’ll be sending some neat content out in the next couple of days.

This puts down the breadcrumbs, so to speak. Promising more content in a couple days tells the subscriber that they will get an e-mail soon. Speaking from personal experience (I’ve subscribed to dozens of e-mail lists—and unsubscribed from 90% of them after one e-mail), this is often the difference between me staying on the list or instantly getting off. When the author promises to send something cool soon, I’m much more willing to stay on the list and find out what it is.

So that’s how to set yourself up for success with the first e-mail. You can use that same technique at the end of each e-mail in the series to continue to drop breadcrumbs and build anticipation.

What should I send?

Depending on what kind of content you’re creating, your options for an e-mail welcome series are huge. Here are some ideas:

A free e-book or short story. This is a great strategy. Your new subscriber will be excited to get something for free. This could be an exclusive story you write just for your mailing list subscribers, or it could be a book that you’re selling elsewhere. Either way, you will probably want to mention that subscribing gets you a free book—it’s a good way to increase sign-ups!

A coupon for a discount on one of your books. If you’re selling your books on your own website, or if you have a paperback available through a store like CreateSpace, you can send your mailing list subscribers a coupon code. This is probably best if you send it with some other content—don’t send an e-mail in your welcome series exclusively to plug a coupon code. You want this to be inviting instead of looking like you’re trying to grab your subscriber’s money. Try including it with the free book e-mail, or make it part of your first welcome e-mail as a thank-you for signing up.

A few of your best posts. Pick three or four of the best posts from your author blog and send them out a couple days apart. This could be a series of writing tips, some behind-the-scenes articles about your most popular book, bonus features for your books, and so on.

A round-up of your best posts. A variation on the previous idea is to send out a round-up or digest e-mail highlighting some of your favorite posts from your blog or some of the cool things on your author website. This has the benefit of allowing you to briefly explain why each item is cool, and it gives you the chance to offer a quick preview of the type of content you send out to your mailing list.

This sounds great! How do I do it?

You’re probably nodding your head by now, thinking that this is a great idea. But I’m also fairly certain that you’re wondering how you can make this happen. Usually what you’d be told is that you must set up an automatic e-mail series in your mailing list software, which is then sent to all new subscribers.

The problem with this advice is most authors I know are using MailChimp’s free plan or something similar, which means you aren’t able to send automatic e-mails. And since I know you’re probably going to hate me if I say you should buy a paid account, I have an alternative for you. This method is somewhat clunky and requires you to do some work on a regular basis, but it does let you send out a nice welcome e-mail or series of e-mails to new subscribers without buying an upgrade.

First, you’re going to need three mailing lists. One will be your main list where your subscribers live (Main List). The second is for people you’re welcoming on board (Welcome List). And then the third is kind of a “holding tank” (Holding List). Set up each mailing list with the same “from” e-mail and name so they all look like they come from the same place.

Next, make sure every place people can subscribe to your mailing list feeds into the Holding List. Now everyone who signs up will get put “on hold” for welcoming.

Now comes the part where you have to do some work. On a regular basis, such as every week, take everyone from the Holding List and move them to the Welcome List. You can usually do this by exporting from one list and importing that data into the other. Once you’ve moved the Holding List to the Welcome List, clear out everyone on the Holding List to reset it.

Send out your welcome e-mail or e-mails to your Welcome List, then when you reach the end of your welcome series, just move them all to your Main List to receive your usual updates, then clear out the Welcome List. From there, you can begin again from the top to welcome more new subscribers to your mailing list.

Extra tips:

  • Save your welcome e-mails as templates! That way, all you have to do is select the pre-filled template each time you send your series.
  • You can schedule each e-mail in your series all in one sitting so that you don’t have to think about it later.
  • If you’re only sending one welcome e-mail, you could skip the multiple mailing lists. Instead, create a list segment of everyone who signed up since you last sent a welcome. Then send the welcome message to just that segment of subscribers.

Of course, all of that takes up a lot of time that you could spend writing your next novel. You might think it’s worth paying for an account upgrade instead! 🙂

I hope this has inspired you to start sending out at least one welcome e-mail to onboard your new subscribers. It’s a great way to make people want to stick around and find out what else you have to offer.

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