Why Send Welcome Emails to New Subscribers

I am so embarrassed. I have been producing and sending targeted emails (don’t call them email blasts, dammit) for 13 or 14 years using tools from service providers such as ExactTarget, Bluehornet, CreateSend, MailChimp and ConstantContact. Yet not once have I initiated contact with a new email subscriber by sending an initial email that welcomes them to the email communication.

Wait! Before you make me wear the Scarlet S (for spammer) on my chest. Let me explain.

Best Practices

I’m a good person. I adopt best practices. I believe in opt-in emails. I loathe unsolicited emails and the brands that send them. I hate it when non-profits, like WTTW Channel 11* and many/most others, share my contact information unless I tell them not to. So then why have I never sent a welcome email to subscribers who recently joined an email list?


In part, I’m lazy. Not lazy like I don’t give a damn. But lazy as in most of the lists I’ve worked include people who are already receiving communications. For example, email is just a transition from print. Adopting and sending communications by email was an evolution and not a traumatic surprise. The content being delivered was useful and informative, not promotional and annoying. Moreover, the proof was in the analytics. Very few people unsubscribed. Open rates of the emails were at or above what might be expected. The system seemed pretty healthy and it was all good. But the truth is, I was skating on thin ice.

The Dark Side

Lazy, ok. But I got sloppy. I have a client who acquires email addresses whenever customers sign into their in-house wifi system. To be clear, the customers voluntarily contribute their email address as a condition of using the wifi. And I imported these emails into my email service provider. Not exactly opt-in. OK, not opt-in at all. I had moved to the dark side without realizing it.

After the first mailing, I received an email from “Sander” who told me he loved the client’s business when he’d patronized it in Chicago, but he lived 4000 miles away and wouldn’t be back soon. But Sander was wondering how we had obtained his email address. He wasn’t angry. Just curious. But I was the deer in the headlights. I apologized to Sander. I told him I’d misbehaved and promised to fix things.

The Thing I Fixed

Today, I sent an email to 60 new subscribers whose emails I had acquired from their wifi connection. First, on behalf of the owners, the email thanked them for their business, stated the company’s mission and solicited feedback. Then I explained how their email address had been acquired, asked permission to keep them on the subscriber list, promised to never share their information and provided several links to unsubscribe to any further communications.

Imperfect Solution

In a perfect world, every email subscriber opts in to a list. However, I believe an honest and transparent appeal to “prospective subscribers” to continue to receive ongoing email communications is an ethical approach to the dilemma of securing a new email subscriber. For this purpose the “Welcome” or “Thank you for your business” first email is an essential tactic in the email marketing arsenal. I won’t be caught flat-footed again.

What do you think?

I’m interested to know what you think about sending one initial email to people whose email you have acquired but who have not given explicit permission to be on a subscriber list.

* Chicago Channel 11 WTTW’s privacy policy: “…from time to time we may disclose personal identification information about you as an individual user (such as, for example, your full name, street address, telephone number or e-mail address) to one or more third parties in order to expand our membership base and increase support for our programs.