You really can’t say enough about transactional email! These bread-and-butter messages are some of the most powerful emails you can send. The headline on our recent Infographic tells you why: “Received, Read and Remembered.”

My blog post “The Anatomy of Good Transactional Email” dissected emails that took everyday transaction messages from “okay” to “incredible.” How? They considered the key elements of each message and revamped them to make them more meaningful and valuable to their recipients. (Go ahead and check out that post first if you want. I’ll wait.)

You can do this, too. A little thought, a little copywriting, some branding strategy, and boom – you’re on your way to creating a stronger relationship with your customers than you would get with a plain old “thanks for subscribing” or “your package is on its way” email.

I can hear you now: “This all sounds great, but seriously, how do I get started?” Right off the bat, I can think of three transactional emails you’re probably sending already but not building up for maximum potential:

  1. welcome or on-boarding email series to new customers, clients, members or accountholders.
  2. An abandoned-process email series (or “abandoned-cart”) to customers who exit your site without finishing what they started – purchases, downloads, account registrations, payments, forms or whatever. (Granted that you know whom they are when they come to your site).
  3. post-transaction email series that sends relevant, information-based messages following a successful transaction—think reviews, similar products, surveys about the entire purchase and shipping process.

These three represent three key points of your customer lifecycle. But did you see what I did there? I’m not talking just about beefing up one email and letting it go. Just as one purchase does not a loyal customer make, one email isn’t going to build an entire relationship bridge to that customer. Upgrading a single, simple transactional email into a value-added series gives you more opportunities to build brand trust, remove FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt), encourage repeat transactions and extend the relationship.

Why three emails? It’s not a hard and fast number. But, three messages, strategically spaced, will deliver key information without making them feel hounded and give them more opportunities to take the actions you want. I’ll talk about the welcome/on-boarding process here and cover the other two in a future blog post. So, stay tuned.

Warming up your newbies with an on-boarding program

A welcome/on-boarding program lets them knew they engaged successfully and builds trust in your brand. It’s also a way to stand out from your top competitors. A 2015 Return Path study found 75 of the top 100 Internet Retailer brands send welcome messages. But, only three of those 75 companies send a series. An email series is a good way to get people hooked on your email. People who read three emails in a welcome or on-boarding program will go on to read 69% of that brand’s emails over the next six months according to the same study.

The content in your welcome email series will depend on what best serves subscriber needs and your business goals. Look at your business model. What must your customers do to get full value from your products or services, and which actions drive your business?

Below are some suggestions:

  • Confirmation of transaction details (email address used, name, account details, etc.)
  • Instructions for taking the next step (creating or logging into an account, filling out preferences, completing the next transaction, etc., connecting other accounts, etc.)
  • Sign-up incentives or bonuses
  • Links to customer support, FAQs, video how-tos or troubleshooting info
  • Invitation to join a loyalty program or to connect on social media
  • Links to interesting or helpful places on your website
  • Mobile app links and download instructions

By the end of the series, you’ve moved beyond the initial transactional email and warmed up your customers to receive your promotional emails. That’s better than dropping them into the fire hose of your promotional email program.

Testing can show you which information combinations get the most clicks and conversions, and whether you should list them in the beginning, middle or end of the series.

Welcome email best practices:

  • Send the first email as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the less likely your customers will be receptive, remember, out of sight, out of mind!
  • Use layout, navigation and brand elements that reflect your regular emails.
  • Limit the scope of your emails and ensure the content is closely related to the recent transaction or customer interaction to ensure maximum relevancy.
  • Track activity (opens, clicks and conversions) on each email. Watch for customers who don’t open or who drop off during the series. Segment them for early-intervention messages, such emails that restate your brand value or USP.