How to Use Email Marketing Automation to Welcome Subscribers

by Etienne Garbugli one comment.

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We’re big fans of automation at Highlights.

We use Zapier to sync information between the tools we use, Clearbit to get a clearer picture of our customers, Buffer to schedule social media posts, and MailChimp to automate emails and communications.

Automation is like a superpower ⚡. If you work in a small team or as a solopreneur, automation creates leverage. It allows you to do more with less.

By automating marketing tasks, you have more time to run experiments, analyze performance (cut it even more with Highlights!) and strategize. Automation keeps you working on the machine without getting over-run by the work.

How to Use Email Marketing Automation

I may be a little biased, but I believe that almost all emails can be automated. In fact, at LANDR where Ludo and I used to work, we had even automated the newsletters.

You can automate:

  • Transactional emails (alerts, confirmations, receipts, renewals, etc);
  • Behavioural emails (referrals, abandoned carts, surveys, unsubscribes, etc);
  • Promotional communications (discounts, upsells, contests, feature updates, etc);
  • Engagement emails (welcome, drip, newsletters, etc).

The only emails that may not be automate-able are:

  • Time-based newsletters;
  • Seasonal and Holiday offers;
  • News and announcements (GDPR!!)

But even there, I’d be curious to give it a shot and see what can be done.

Getting Started with Email Marketing Automation

What we see from our users and customers is that Welcome emails – the first emails sent to subscribers after signup – are usually the best place to start experimenting with email marketing automation.

A good Welcome email helps set the relationship on the right path, creates momentum, shows pro-activity, and if you’re lucky, it can actually drive sales and conversions.

Because of unsubscribes and subscriber disengagement, Welcome emails are probably also the emails your subscribers will open and read the most. In other words, you can create a lot of value for your business with a Welcome email.

Examples of Welcome Emails by Industries

The messaging in your Welcome email will be dictated by your Website’s objective. Are you trying to close sales? Book demos? Drive user engagement for a software product? You need to know what metric you’re trying to move.

Let’s take a look at examples from a few industries:


Email Marketing Automation – Ecommerce Welcome Email
Example of an Ecommerce Welcome Email – Tattly

In Ecommerce, businesses want to drive sales and maximize their average order value. To do that, it can be a good idea to incentivize purchase by lowering friction. A Welcome email with a time limited discount can do that.


Email Marketing Automation – Software/SaaS Welcome Email
Example of a Software/SaaS Welcome Email – LANDR Audio

In Software/SaaS, retention is key. Users won’t pay for your software if they don’t use it. To that end, businesses will typically focus on user engagement and try to get the user back in the software as soon as possible. A Welcome email focused on a valuable action that the user can take with the software can help do that.


Email Marketing Automation – Blog Welcome Email
Example of a Media/Blogging Welcome Email – Andrew Chen

In media or in blogging, businesses try to create readership (loyalty, pageviews, engagement, etc). A Welcome email focused on the site’s best content can help cement the relationship and drive engagement. You can use your email to point them towards other content they might find valuable.


Email Marketing Automation – Agency Welcome Email
Example of an Agency Welcome Email – Aerolab

Agencies want to establish their credibility, showcase their expertise and communicate the value of their work. They also want to establish rapport, and ultimately land contracts. A Welcome email that showcases the quality of their work, and the depth of thinking behind it can help capture their subscribers’ attention.

Let’s see how:

How to Setup Email Marketing Automation With MailChimp

There are two ways to setup an automated Welcome email with MailChimp, and there’s only one of those two approaches I would recommend.

The first approach – and the way I have it setup on Lean B2B (Note to self: Change that ?) – is to select ‘Send a final welcome message’ from your subscriber list settings:

Email Marketing Automation – List Settings
List Settings can be found under ‘List name and defaults’.

If you select this option, your Welcome email will send right when MailChimp receives signup confirmation (Single or Double Opt-in). It’s good, but with this setup:

  • You won’t get any stats or reporting for your Welcome email.
  • You don’t fully control the email’s body content.
  • All of your subscribers will receive the exact same email (this can become an issue later).

? Not ideal.

Email Marketing Automation – Email Layout
MailChimp inserts this lovely section at the end of your email. ☝️

The Right Way to Setup Automated Welcome Emails in MailChimp

Now, a better way to setup your Welcome email with MailChimp is to use ‘Automated Campaigns’ (Campaigns > Create Campaign > Create an Email > Automation > Welcome new subscribers).

Email Marketing Automation – Automated Emails in MailChimp
Automated Emails in MailChimp – Welcome new subscribers

In a future post we’ll talk about how to use MailChimp marketing automation to create content upgrades. Sign up to our newsletter to make sure you don’t miss out.

Email Marketing Automation – Email List Selection

After selecting ‘Welcome new subscribers’, you’ll be asked to select your subscriber list. This time, you’ll be able to create segmentation if you wish to send different Welcome emails.

By clicking ‘Edit trigger’, you’ll be able to select the timing for your Welcome email. I typically recommend using ‘Immediately’ to capitalize on the momentum post signup (signup is still fresh in your subscribers’ minds!).

Email Marketing Automation – Triggers

You’ll get a few more options for your email:

Email Marketing Automation – Automation Options

  • Schedule allows you to send the email at specific times during the week. Think about your subscribers’ work or personal schedules and their geographies. What day/time would maximize opens?
  • Segment allows you to create dynamic rules and use list groups to create different versions of your Welcome email.
  • Action allows you to decide what happens once your subscribers receive the email. I usually use this option to track and modify subscriber statuses: Onboarded > Upsell Attempt > Bought, etc.

Once you click ‘Design Email’, you’ll be met with a setup screen. The subject line, preview text, From name and sender’s email address all affect your email’s open rate. You can use an email subject line tester to pre-test subject lines.

Email Marketing Automation – Email Setup
Subject Line, Preview Text, Sender’s Name and Sender’s Email Address Setup

Select a simple template. MailChimp marketing automation has a very flexible templating system that can work across many industries. It can help you create nice-looking emails:

Email Marketing Automation – Highlights Welcome Email
Our current Welcome email. Note the first name variable.

Once you’re satisfied with your Welcome email, and you’ve tested it in a few inboxes, you need to activate your automation from the Campaign page. Don’t forget to track the performance of your email. Highlights can also help you track the performance of your email campaigns and see how it’s trending over time.

Email Marketing Automation – Activating Your Automation Campaign

Welcome Emails Really Work

Below are the results for our current Welcome email:

Email Marketing Automation – Results Highlights Welcome Email
Welcome Email Performance of Highlights in Highlights.

The email drives user engagement and works nicely with the rest of our email marketing program.

Email marketing automation is high-leverage work for your business. You can setup basic MailChimp marketing automation that will increase the value of your future subscribers in less than 2 hours.

Start automating. We recommend you don’t go without a Welcome email.


Interested in building your own email program?

We just launched a SaaS Email Masterclass ? to help increase trial conversions with email.

Etienne Garbugli
Étienne is a three-time startup founder (Flagback, HireVoice and Highlights), and the author of Lean B2B: Build Products Businesses Want. At Highlights, Étienne is responsible for customer success.


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