Onboard Your Customers for Better Email Marketing Engagement

If you’re operating a business, chances are that you are collecting a customer mailing list. If you aren’t, you should be. With the ever-rising cost of advertisement and the ever-changing algorithms of social media platforms, owning a list of customers who have volunteered to receive your marketing messages is an excellent way to help boost repeat sales and keep your business at the top of your customers’ minds.¬†However, if you’re collecting emails with some vague intention of running a promotion in the future, or only using it to broadcast sales and news, you’re likely leaving money on the table. The longer the interval between the time of sign up and the first message, the less likely the customer is to respond positively to your messaging and the more likely they are to mark it as spam.

Implementing an onboarding series overcomes this hurdle by closing the gap of time between the sign-up and the first message or offer, catching the customer when your business is still at the top of their mind. It also allows you to follow up in a timely manner, especially important if you used a lead magnet like a coupon or free item to make sure that the customer is still interested in receiving your messaging. These initial impressions are an easy way to do lead qualification to make sure that you’re sending future messages only to those customers who are really interested in hearing about them. Best of all, most email marketing service providers include automation tools, making the process easy and after the initial investment of time for set-up, completely hands-free.

The most effective combination and quantity of messages for an onboarding series will vary by business type and industry, but most businesses will benefit from sending three to five messages drawn from the following categories:

Confirmation and Delivery of a Lead Magnet

If you’re using a free or discounted offer to entice customers to sign up for the mailing list, make the message by which you deliver that offer count! In addition to giving them their coupon, voucher, or download, tell them what they can expect to receive from you in future messages. If you frequently send out coupons, freebies, do giveaways, or have special mailing list only offers, be up front about it–it increases the chance that the customer will open your next email with anticipation.

Follow-Up Email

Many businesses, particularly ones that utilize a lead magnet, follow up a day or two after the first message to confirm that they received their item and they’ve had no technical difficulties. Make it easy for your customers to ask for help by sending this email from a monitored account. You can also ask them to hit reply and let you know they’ve gotten their freebie, which tells their email server that your messages are not spam and helps increase future deliverability.


People like to talk about themselves and their likes and dislikes. At some point during your onboarding series, preferably within a week of them getting their freebie while their good will toward your business is high, ask them a couple of quick questions. You can do this by asking for an email reply, linking to a Google form, or using a survey tool that integrates with your mailing list service. Limit multiple choice questions to no more than five and questions requiring more extensive answers to no more than two.

Special Invitation

Have a focus group, a frequent buyer program, or other special “club” beyond the hook you used to entice the sign up? Wait a week after your last contact and send a special invitation to join.

Follow-Up Coupon

If your business coupons frequently and finds that it increases sales or foot traffic, consider adding another, different coupon late in your onboarding series to encourage repeat visits. This one can be a bigger “ask.” For example, a percentage off a larger purchase or a coupon for a different product than the one they signed up for. Your goal is to incentivize the customer to open your emails and to experience the full range of your products or services.

Use your creativity in crafting your onboarding messaging to fit your business. As an example, a dentist will use a different onboarding campaign than a smoothie shop. Watch your campaign analytics closely to see what encourages engagement and tweak your onboarding series accordingly.

Keeping yourself visible in your customer’s inboxes early in the e-mail marketing relationship. This strategy will help you keep yourself at the top of their minds and increase the likelihood that they will continue to respond to your marketing messaging for months and years to come.

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