The Ultimate Lifecycle Marketing Guide: Welcome Programs

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1 WHITE PAPER OCTOBER 2011 Best Practices in Marketing The Ultimate Lifecycle Marketing Guide: Welcome Programs Proven strategies for implementing, testing and optimizing an effective welcome program

2 PUBLISHED BY US Headquarters StrongMail Systems, Inc Island Drive, Suite 200 Redwood City, CA P: +1 (650) F: +1 (650) UK Headquarters StrongMail Systems UK Ltd. St. Clements House Clements Lane London EC4N 7AE United Kingdom P: +44 (0) APAC Headquarters XCOM Media Unit 1 15 Lamington Street New Farm Queensland 4005 Australia P: Copyright 2011 StrongMail Systems, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of the contents of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without the written permission of StrongMail Systems, Inc. STRONGMAIL and the STRONGMAIL logo are registered trademarks in the United States, other countries or both. All Rights Reserved. StrongMail Systems UK, Ltd is a company registered in England and Wales at 5 New Street Square, London EC4A 3TW. Reg. No VAT # GB Trading Address: St. Clements House, Clements Lane, London EC4N 7AE.

3 Table of Contents INTRODUCTION... 4 WHAT IS IT?... 4 WHY IT S A GOOD IDEA... 4 GETTING STARTED... 4 Five Steps for Launching an Effective Welcome Program...5 OPTIMIZING THE EFFORT... 6 Five Optimization Best Practices for Welcome Programs...7 ANATOMY OF AN EFFECTIVE WELCOME PROGRAM REQUIRED TECHNOLOGY... 9 THE PAY OFF ABOUT STRONGMAIL... 10

4 Welcome programs are the first exposure an subscriber has to your program. Starting the relationship effectively can set you up for greater success and more engaged customers in the long run. INTRODUCTION This handy guide for getting started with an effective marketing welcome program is the first in a series of "Ultimate Marketing Guide" whitepapers focused on lifecycle marketing. In the pages that follow, you will learn the insights, strategies and tools that are necessary to implement, test and optimize an engaging welcome program that properly lays the foundation for a mutually rewarding customer relationship. WHAT IS IT? A welcome program is your first opportunity to set expectations with your newly acquired subscriber or customer. Welcome programs typically consist of one or more messages that are initiated immediately following subscription conversion. These critical messages serve as confirmation of the online subscription as well as introduce your brand and its unique value proposition to the customer. Welcome messages are among the most opened (and kept) communications a marketer can send, and if you are not leveraging one today (or applying it ineffectively), implementing or optimizing should be a high priority effort for your marketing team. WHY IT S A GOOD IDEA Welcome programs are the first exposure an subscriber has to your program. Starting the relationship effectively can set you up for greater success and more engaged customers in the long run. According to the "2011 Lifecycle Marketing Survey" conducted by StrongMail 1, of those marketers leveraging lifecycle messaging, 78% had a Welcome Program in place. 67% of those marketers have realized increased customer engagement and 55% see lift in metrics like open and click activity. Capitalize on these opportunities. Going beyond the fact that welcome messages are effective, they have come to be expected. Confirmation messages for actions taken online have become the norm and are an anticipated part of the conversion experience online for customers today. Forgoing this opportunity is not only a missed communication point for your brand, it could also disappoint or offset the customer experience, and that is not a good way to start any relationship. GETTING STARTED With welcome programs, determining the right place to start is easy the beginning. The start of any customer relationship gives you the opportunity to make a positive first impression, but there is more to it than just triggering a message following a subscription. Before you put your program into place, you need to build a foundational strategy to drive the program and baseline performance, which will ultimately allow you to measure incremental behavior driven by the effort. 1 StrongMail/Zoomerang, "2011 Lifecycle Marketing Survey," June The Ultimate Lifecycle Marketing Guide: Welcome Programs

5 Five Steps for Launching an Effective Welcome Program The following five tips will help get you started on the right track. 1. Determine How Many Messages You Need and How Long the Program Should Run Not every welcome program should consist of a single message that is triggered when your subscribers join. Depending on the complexity of your product or service offering, you may want to run a program that consists of two or more messages to educate the subscriber on your offering. Your welcome program should recognize customer behavior that is occurring outside of the channel and should be technically smart enough to recognize those moments and respond. When looking at a welcome series, the first message should confirm the action of subscribing and set some level of expectation for the customer relative to the experience. For example, highlight how often you will be communicating, what type of content they can expect and how to unsubscribe. Yes, how to unsubscribe. The worst thing you can do for your program is to make it difficult for subscribers to remove themselves which can have long-term, negative effects on your deliverability driven by lack of engagement or high spam complaints. 2. Identify the Flow and Build of Those Messages Break out the markers and let the white boarding begin! The next step in building out your welcome program is determining how the content is going to build over time and identifying the cadence of the communication. In the first step, you will determine how many messages are appropriate to clearly communicate the value proposition of your program so you should have some idea of what you want to message. The next step is to make it all flow together. Typically this flow follows and encourages a natural progression through the lifecycle of engagement with your brand. To establish the proper flow, conduct some testing. Randomly select a group of new subscribers to be part of a single message welcome versus a multi-message welcome campaign to determine the incremental lift. Once that has been identified, you have the chance to optimize the multi-step welcome to establish the proper mix and cadence. Should you send one message a week for three weeks? Or perhaps it s a message per day for five days. The flow of your messages may also be dictated by the recipients engagement with your previous message. The complexity of the flow is going to be driven by the nuances of your product or service. As long as the program paints a clear, concise and digestible message, you should generate positive results. 3. Are There Actions that Could Occur that Would Cease the Program Your welcome program should recognize customer behavior that is occurring outside of the channel and should be technically smart enough to recognize those moments and respond. For example, if the end goal of the welcome program is to drive an initial purchase, and that purchase occurs before the welcome program concludes it would be irrelevant to send a message incenting a customer s first purchase. Alternately, if a customer has a negative encounter with customer service, you would want to prevent sending a message as part of a series that highlights your organization s stellar customer service organization, which would only serve to anger them further. 5 The Ultimate Lifecycle Marketing Guide: Welcome Programs

6 While it might be difficult for marketers to admit, life happens outside of the they send. Sometimes the engagement is positive, sometimes it is negative, but either way it has a profound impact on how the consumer will receive and interact with the you send. Being able to identify, monitor and leverage those instances can help increase the relevance of your on-boarding program as well as enhance the customer experience. A word of caution don t get discouraged if you cannot get your hands on the data you need. Instead, recognize the data elements you do have access to and adjust your plan accordingly. 4. Find All the Data You Need Once you have identified all the trigger points that will drive the messaging, it s time to find the data to make it all happen. If you re lucky, it is sitting in a data warehouse that has some level of connectivity to your deployment system; however, that is often not the case. The reality is that most organizations have data stored all over the place, so you need to do some investigating to find out where it is all stored. Finding it is only the first step. Once you have the data in your sights, you need to expose it in some way to your deployment system. In order for the infrastructure to know when to send the messages in queue, it needs to be able to read the data elements that are driving it. Most times this is easier said than done, which is why this is probably the most important step in the process and often takes the most time to complete. A word of caution don t get discouraged if you cannot get your hands on the data you need. Instead, recognize the data elements you do have access to and adjust your plan accordingly. Some may tell you to find the data first, but if you don t know what you are looking for, you may not know you have it, which would do your program a grave disservice. It is only a minor frustration if you have to adjust your strategy and will provide you a natural migration plan to advancing your program once those missing data elements do become available. 5. Establish Metrics and KPI s for Success Measurement How can you know how well your program is performing if you don't have a baseline with which to measure the performance against? The answer, quite simply, is you cannot. Define your hypothesis and the long-term goal of the program first and then make sure the metrics you need to prove your theory are attainable. For example, maybe you want to reduce the amount of time between subscription and purchase from an average of 21 days to an average of 7 days by providing more actionable advice and education relative to getting the most out of your brand. In order to prove you ve achieved this, you need to have the data available. So keep it realistic and make sure what you are trying to accomplish is a goal that the organization as a whole can get behind and support. OPTIMIZING THE EFFORT Once you have the map for your welcome program, it is time to get it up and running. These programs can vary greatly in frequency, content and purpose but there are some key points to consider that are applicable across the board. Testing these best practice tactics during the implementation process will help you get the most out of the effort, while simultaneously learning what works for your unique customer base. 6 The Ultimate Lifecycle Marketing Guide: Welcome Programs

7 Five Optimization Best Practices for Welcome Programs 1. Use Your Template or a Variation of It This may seem obvious, but many companies send the initial welcome message off of a different platform than the standard marketing communications, which can translate to a disparity in the creative elements of the messaging. This can cause a disconnect for the customer and affect future engagement with your communications. Your welcome message or series should leverage creative that's indicative of the experience that the recipient should expect with future communications. In the end, that is the point of the welcome program to set expectations for the customer. Your welcome message or series should leverage creative that's indicative of the experience that the recipient should expect with future communications. 2. Don t Bury Recipients in Copy Keep It Short and to the Point As marketers, we have a lot to say. Often, we can be very self-important, believing that our customers cannot wait to read the amazing copy we've created. This is not the case. Your recipients don t read your , they scan it. If you cannot clearly discern your point in a 3-to-5 second glance at your message, then that message is lost. Use well-crafted headlines, short, bulleted statements and clear call-to-action buttons to piece it all together. It is for this reason that multi-stage welcome programs are more effective for advanced or complex offerings. Keeping everything digestible and scanable will driver greater success for the program over the long run. 3. Speak in the Voice of Your You never get a second chance to make a first impression so make your welcome program great! Be sure to carry the voice and personality of your brand into your welcome messages. The subscriber has likely requested to be added to your list because of fandom for your brand don t disappoint by not delivering on their expectations. If you have a quirky and informal tone, then make it apparent. If you have a persona or personas that your customer is familiar with make the messages come from them. Whatever it is that makes you unique put it on display in your welcome messages. 4. Send from the Same "From" Name There are two points of view when it comes to sending "From" names. Some marketers believe that your From name should vary by program, for example Brand XYZ Newsletter, Brand XYZ Offers, etc. Then, there are others who believe that you should send from a consistent and recognizable From name. There are pros and cons to each, and it is something you should test, but first and foremost, your welcome program should come from a name that the recipient will see in the inbox again. The welcome messages set an expectation for not just how your creative is going to look, but also what the experience in the inbox will be and establishing a recognizable From name at the beginning of the relationship can go a long way in driving increased brand recognition in the inbox over the long term. 5. Set Expectations for How Long the Welcome Program Will Run If your welcome program spans more than a single message, then it is important to set expectations with the very first communication. Let recipients know they will receive a message a day, or a week, for a specified period of time. Also give them the opportunity to remove themselves from the welcome series and enter directly in to the regular communication stream especially if the welcome program is more than three consecutive messages. 7 The Ultimate Lifecycle Marketing Guide: Welcome Programs

8 ANATOMY OF AN EFFECTIVE WELCOME PROGRAM The following welcome from flash commerce site zulily provides a good example of a simple yet effective initial communication that explains how the recipient can take advantage of their site, as well as providing links for starting the shopping experience and earning rewards for inviting their friends. Effective and balanced use of pre-header space helps ensure future delivery and provides mobile users with a quick link to the daily sale. Referral reward program is featured prominently to introduce new users to this benefit. The main focus of the explains how their site works in 3 simple steps. Featuring one call-to-action button places emphasis on starting the shopping experience. preference center link enables new members to set the desired frequency of s they receive. 8 The Ultimate Lifecycle Marketing Guide: Welcome Programs

9 REQUIRED TECHNOLOGY Unlike traditional outbound batch-and-blast marketing campaigns, an effective welcome program needs to be triggered by your sign-up process, dynamically assembled based on the information provided and then immediately delivered to prevent "where's my " calls to your customer support department. This entire process requires a transactional or triggered solution that not only ties into your registration process, customer databases and other internal systems, but that also provides you with in-depth reporting to gauge deliverability and engagement, as well as full HTML customization capabilities to ensure visual consistency with your other communications. Multi-stage welcome programs also require lifecycle marketing capabilities that allow the marketer to trigger a series of communications based on criteria relevant to the customer onboarding process for your company. If you aren't currently able to dynamically assemble and send event-triggered s with full tracking capabilities, you should look at upgrading your system to ensure that your new customers have a positive experience with their first communication. Marketers should also seriously consider a system with lifecycle marketing capabilities that will allow you to easily create a flow that maximizes engagement with your brand. Below is an example of multi-stage welcome program designed with StrongMail's drag-and-drop lifecycle marketing solution. As illustrated below, a welcome program can integrate wait steps and actions that generate different flows that can be tested for maximum engagement. If the first in a welcome series is an " confirmation" message, a lifecycle welcome program can help prompt the new registrant to complete that process and start receiving the other elements in the welcome series. Create multi-stage programs with drag-and-drop simplicity Trigger messages via real-time integration with external systems Control message flow via rule or split-based routing Proof programs by sending test messages for every possible path Schedule data exports to enable enterprise or partner integrations Customize delivery schedule for optimal impact Test multiple offers to maximize performance 9 The Ultimate Lifecycle Marketing Guide: Welcome Programs

10 THE PAY OFF While welcome programs require a bit of effort to get established, a proper welcome program can increase customer loyalty, brand engagement and lifetime value over the course of the relationship. Setting expectations at the onset of the relationship, while providing valuable and timely education to your customer base, sets you up for continued success. The consequences of not investing in a compelling welcome program include lost subscribers, frustration with your brand and negative word-of-mouth publicity. By carefully outlining your unique benefits and how to get the most out of your brand, you can set a customer down the right path to become a profitable customer and outspoken advocate for your organization. ABOUT STRONGMAIL Every day StrongMail is empowering leading companies to connect and grow their customer base through and social media. From the world's largest retailers to the hottest daily deal sites, StrongMail is helping smart marketers boost the performance of their programs with cutting-edge lifecycle marketing capabilities and the ability to deliver millions of personalized messages in 10 minutes or less. Our products and services provide end-to-end solutions for such notable brands as Travelocity, Netflix, Macy s, McAfee, Viacom and T. Rowe Price. To find out what we can do for your company, visit or contact us today. StrongMail Toll free U.S. +1 (800) Toll U.S. +1 (650) Toll U.K. +44 (0) The Ultimate Lifecycle Marketing Guide: Welcome Programs

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