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This article was published on October 16, 2014

Humans send the best welcome emails, not robots

Humans send the best welcome emails, not robots
Sandi MacPherson
Story by

Sandi MacPherson

Sandi is the Editor-in-Chief of Quibb.com. Sandi is the Editor-in-Chief of Quibb.com.

Sandi MacPherson is the Editor-in-Chief at Quibb. This post originally appeared on the Quibb blog.

When you welcome a new user to your product, don’t put a robot in control. The welcome email is your best opportunity to develop a relationship with someone who’s already interested in your product. It’s extremely valuable and you only get one shot, so it needs to be fully controlled by an actual person (preferably the founder).

At the beginning, when you’re trying to learn what’s working in your product and what’s not, a founder can welcome every new user and develop that relationship. Eventually, this won’t scale – but when you’re just starting out, it’s the best way to learn.

Being human and being authentic is something that I’ve strived for while developing Quibb (a new product that I’m working on to revolutionize professional news. I’ve started with the tech/startup vertical, with members from Google, Microsoft, EA, and companies out of 500 Startups and YC).

Here are some examples of a few things I do that get replies:

  • Send from my personal email account
  • Add a casual sentence up front
  • Follow-up quickly, but not instantly

Now, let’s get into the details…

[email protected] vs. ‘sent via pm.148.ef23c0f7b440fd.sailthru.com’

People use gmail. Robots? Not so much. I send every Quibb welcome email from my personal gmail account. This makes it very obvious that I’m an actual person, and conveys the fact that I care enough about any responses that I’ll immediately notice when anyone replies.

Also, no distracting logos, unfamiliar fonts or layouts, etc. Keep it simple and clean. The email should look like it could have come from a smartphone.

Casual intro + details

People talk in sentences, not paragraphs and bullet points. The first welcome emails I sent out explained how to use some features, showcased some great content that had been created on the site, introduced who I was and ended by asking for feedback and telling them I would answer any questions, etc.

The formality was meant as a way to express the professional context of the product. But now I recognize that it was a bad email.

The reply rate was not great, so I started acting more like a person. I shortened the email, cut out any and all fluff, and focused instead on highlighting a few parts of the product, making it obvious how to reach me. Most importantly, I added a couple of short, casual sentences on top of this improved paragraph, separated by a dashed line:

Hey Josef, a quick email to welcome you to Quibb. Let me know if there’s anything I can help you with – Feedback is very welcome during this early stage!

(standard welcome email below)

product and contact details here

Adding this made the email much more casual and welcoming. If people actually wanted or needed more information, it was there. The fact that Quibb was meant for professionals was still conveyed, but leading with a couple casual sentences felt friendlier.

T minus 120 minutes

Robots are triggered by events, and will typically send an email based on that event. I don’t send the welcome email immediately, but wait and send it 30 minutes to two hours after a person signs up (I usually aim for under an hour).

I want the new member to see the email when Quibb is still near top-of-mind, and they’re able to easily recall the product. I don’t want this personalized welcome email piling up with any other automated emails that arrive due to interacting with the product.

Being quick (but not automatic) also offers you the chance to really dig into any issues they might tell you about (i.e. a great time to ask for screenshots, confirm error message they saw, etc.). Again, it’s about taking advantage of the fact that your product is fairly top of mind, and gives you a chance to start (what feels somewhat close to) an actual conversation.

A couple things I haven’t tried, but have considered:

  • Add ‘Please excuse the short reply, sent from my iPhone’ or something similar
  • Include a typo

Gmail + Casual intro + Timing = I’m not a computer

I believe this is why a lot of people respond to my welcome emails – all of these cues attempt to make it obvious that I’m actually a person, maybe even a nice person – and definitely not a robot.

People have come to expect automated welcome emails. If you’re able to break this expectation, you can start a real relationship with the people using your product. I’ve yet to auto-send a welcome to any new members and have developed some great relationships because of it. What will you gain?

Read next: Email etiquette for entrepreneurs: How to get busy people to care

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