Marketing automation sounds like a startup founder’s best friend. Whatever you can do to save time while interacting with potential customers, right?

Not so fast.

Just take a moment and think about all the marketing emails you receive in a day’s time. If you’re vigilant, you’ll notice that peak delivery times are so saturated with competition for your attention that not only do you receive a batch of emails, for example, right at 10:00AM—you now get a few at 10:02, then 10:05, and so on.

Now take those marketing emails you encounter and add them to all the operational emails you send and receive on a daily basis. It’s fair to say that the average professional suffers from email overstimulation. Even the most well-crafted marketing emails can get lost in the mix.

And if top-notch marketing copy is getting passed over in your potential client’s inbox, imagine how little attention an automated email is likely to get. Unless we’re talking about an online order confirmation, chances are that that auto-response you spent less than a minute writing is getting less than a second’s consideration.

And nowhere is this more costly than your welcome email for newsletter subscriptions. Let’s assume your startup only has a little bit of traction right now, and most of your newsletter signups arrive because of some sort of offer, whether it’s a product discount or a free download in return for contact info. Of course, your potential client is probably only opening that automated email to get what you offered. But why should the exchange end there?

Regardless of how likely a new subscriber is to read your welcome email, anyone that does read it has a special opportunity to connect with your brand. And, rather than using this email as an info dump of what your brand is about and all of the topics subsequent newsletters will contain, you should be creating chances for potential clients to speak to you directly.

So, below, we’ve listed some tips on how to skyrocket the engagement rates for your newsletter welcome email.

Write Like You Actually Want a Response

Take Vital, a digital marketing agency, as the perfect example of auto-response gurus. They had hundreds of new signups each month on their email list but were using a cookie-cutter welcome message. The sheer volume of their monthly signups led them to realize that every signup till that point had been a missed opportunity.

“You can’t just set it and forget it,” says Doug Ridley, director of consulting. “What we realized was that we could use that first automated email to ask our subscribers about their biggest pain points and explain how we could share useful content that speaks to their problems.”

From that point forward, Vital dedicated themselves to getting a reply to every signup confirmation. They adopted a motto of speak TO the people, not AT them. After making these changes, their welcome email open rate jumped to 41%.

And for every automated email that gets a reply, the copywriter who wrote the original email is tasked for responding, which helps to sustain a continuity of voice.

Even if you’re not the most savvy copywriter in the world, by merely adopting the same motto as Vital, your welcome email is bound to receive higher engagement.

Subject Line: What Would Make You Open an Automated Email?

Consider the research you’ve done (or still have yet to do) on writing the perfect subject line. It’s almost guaranteed those articles were talking strictly about newsletters or offer-based emails. That doesn’t mean some of those tips don’t directly apply to automated emails as well! Be sure to:

  • Personalize the subject line. Your first and last worry should be about sounding like a machine, and addressing someone by their name adds some serious humanity to the equation. Let’s not forget that emails with personalized subject lines earn 50% higher open rates and 2.5 times the unique click rates of impersonal emails.
  • Keep it simple and straightforward. Remember, this isn’t the actual newsletter. It’s the introduction to the newsletter. Find a way to say Welcome! while piquing the reader’s curiosity enough that the stage is set for this auto response to serve as something more than typical.
  • Use emojis wisely. As goofy and overdone as emoji subject lines can get, it’s undeniable that they grab your attention amidst an inbox that’s mostly text-only subject lines. Keep in mind, however, that this is an automated email, so the emoji has to be completely pertinent to the welcoming sentiment and/or your brand.
  • Always test your strategies. Chances are your email marketing platform doesn’t allow you to A/B test your auto responses. So what! Give each iteration of your welcome subject line a uniform number of deliveries, compare results, then optimize. But don’t tweak your subject line every other day. Give them enough time to garner legitimate metrics.

Content: Let The People’s Voices Be Heard!

The nature of your company and industry are really going to determine the content you create, but here some parameters for crafting email copy that begs for engagement:


  • Consider a welcome series. This is a slight roll of the dice. One school of thought is that your initial welcome email should (1) confirm subscription to the newsletter and (2) give an overview of topics to be covered in future newsletters. Another school of thought is to split (1) and (2) into separate emails: the person signs up, then receives (1); after confirming subscription, person receives (2). With a single welcome email, you risk info overload. With a welcome series, you risk the person ignoring the second email. The power is in your hands.
  • Give an overview that doesn’t read like an overview. It’s smart business to provide the subscriber with an idea of what your future newsletters will contain, but the ultimate sense your welcome email should impart is the interactivity of your newsletters. And by interactive, we don’t just mean a slew of clickable links. We’re talking about fostering individual relationships with your subscribers, so much so that the feedback they give not only influences future newsletter content—it’s actually addressed within the content.
  • Encourage a reply. Per Vital’s strategy, encourage the subscriber to share personal pain points as well as what type of content they appreciate most. Try including open-ended questions in your email so that, in their reply, the subscriber is able to answer in free form. This generates honest feedback while immediately establishing an intimacy between the subscriber and your brand. But be sure you have a system in place for responding to these replies in a timely and genuine fashion.
  • Mention anything they can act on right now. You might’ve already offered the subscriber a free download (webinar, white paper, etc) to get their email address in the first place. But if you haven’t, or if you’ve got other enticing free content, be sure to mention how they can get to it.
  • Give them a Call To Action! But keep it simple. You’ve already given them a lot of info, so it’d be foolish to try to lead them any further down the sales funnel. Just let them know where they can find you on social media—it’s a simple icon click, and it deepens your relationship with them further.


Marketing That Matters

Over the years at tekMountain, we’ve seen startup after startup turn the corner on their email marketing strategies once they stop trying to sound like marketers and start speaking to the individuals at the other end of their emails. No matter how niche your target demographics are, every person in that demo has lived a complex life, and your brand messaging should cater to that essential humanity. And this isn’t just a psychological sleight-of-hand on your part. When you genuinely show how much you care about your target customers’ pain points, you’re much more likely to get a genuine response in return.


Contact tekMountain today to learn more about how you can take your email marketing to the next level.




This blog was produced by the tekMountain Team of Sean AhlumAmanda SipesKelly Brown, Elyssa Miller and Bill DiNome with lead writer Zach Cioffi.

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