How to Generate Great First Impressions With Optimized Onboarding

First impressions are everything and every digital publisher should be making a great one with new readers through carefully planned onboarding. The right welcome can engage readers and keep them coming back for more. Even for mobile app downloaders, who are by definition highly engaged, onboard messaging is critical.

Onboarding: What’s It All About?

Onboarding was originally developed as a human resources concept and then migrated to video games and online products and apps. As applied to marketing and publishing, onboarding can be used to organize the steps for registering on a site or subscribing to email, as two examples, and infuse them with a stream of emails that communicate value and benefit messages that stoke repeat visits.

During onboarding publishers take on the role of mentor or guide, communicating the value of their brand and content to get readers excited about both. Sailthru’s in-house strategy team cites onboarding as one of the most crucial tactics to put into place — and more importantly, test — in their marketing toolkit as it can have a tremendous effect on long-term engagement.

How to Use Onboarding To Increase Repeat Visits

Getting readers “onboard” through strategic, focused use of onboarding messaging is one of the strategies delineated in our strategy guide, Increasing Repeat Visits. The guide provides details on both foundational, or must-do, tactics for onboarding, as well as sophisticated methods for publishers looking to optimize onboarding. Here’s a quick snapshot of what’s included:

  • Foundational Onboarding Tactics
    • Simple welcome email focused on brand and content value
    • Mobile app welcome that highlights features
  • Sophisticated Onboarding Tactics
    • Personalized series of welcome emails
    • Welcome message tailored to acquisition source or referral platform, e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Google

Best In Class Onboarding Stream In Action

The guide also includes a detailed example of the Christian Science Monitor’s (CSM) five-part onboarding series that starts with account creation and ends with bonus offer for a print subscription. Starting with an email confirmation of a reader’s account creation, the series unfolds with an official welcome followed by the publication’s value proposition, which is stated as “unbiased professional journalism without slant or rant.” The fourth email encourages readers to follow CSM on social media and the fifth asks readers to subscribe to the print publication.


This five-step process encourages ever-deeper engagement in the form of repeat visits, whether via the app or social media.

Download your guide to increasing repeat visits for more details on how onboarding can be the start of a beautiful relationship.