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5 Proven Best Practices To Power Your Brand’s Email Marketing Automation

5 tips to help you get started with email marketing automation, save time, and get great results ...

Email marketing is a powerful way to nurture leads, delight customers, boost loyalty, and drive more sales.

With email marketing automation, you can do all of the above – effortlessly, cost-effectively, and at scale.

Email marketing automation is about automatically sending emails based on specific triggers or schedules that can be easily set up in your Email Service Provider (ESP). Automation simplifies the process, saves time, and ensures that the right person gets the right email at the right time.

By leveraging email automation, you can:

  • Create highly-segmented mailing lists
  • Nurture leads
  • Improve conversions
  • Maintain healthy engagement with subscribers
  • Build a positive brand impression

You can automate many email types including:

  • Welcome

This well-designed, visually-rich email welcomes new users, and encourages them to start engaging with the brand right away by exploring its various articles.

  • Browse abandonment

Browse abandonment indicates that a visitor was interested in some products, but left the site before filling their cart. This email provides a gentle reminder and an opportunity to continue shopping.

  • Abandoned cart

This email from Objective gently nudges the user towards completing their purchase. The ‘buy now’ link takes them directly to the product page so they can complete the transaction quickly and with minimum friction.

  • Special occasion, e.g. birthdays and anniversaries

This quirky birthday email fits well with Nintendo’s gaming brand. Attractive colors and free points make the user feel special.

  • Event promotions

This email provides all the relevant information about the event in a well-structured, easy-to-read format.

  • Product recommendations

This longish email includes a mix of text and graphics so the user can quickly see what’s available, and choose their preferred films or shows from within the message.

  • Online webinars

This email is low on graphic content. However, it provides all required information to encourage a user to sign up for the webinar.

  • Blog updates

Unlike many blog update emails, this email from goop includes a short introduction to each blog to pique the reader’s interest. A read more link is also included to encourage further engagement.

  • Newsletters

This newsletter about training courses includes a graphic plus a short introductory text about each course. It also includes a blog link and a link to the library subscription store.

  • Unsubscribes

This simple Unsubscribe email includes text that can be easily replicated. At the same time, it includes personalization in the form of the unsubscriber’s name. It also includes a reactivation link to discourage the subscriber from leaving permanently.

Setting up email automation requires a one-time only effort. Once you build a strong foundation, all you need to do is analyze and measure your campaigns, and tweak them as necessary. It is suitable for both B2C and B2B subscribers/messages.

For great results from your automation efforts in a short period, follow these 5 best practices.

#1. Create email templates

One of the best ways to implement email automation is with reusable, on-brand templates. Almost all ESPs provide built-in templates and a drag-and-drop template designer. Leverage these features to choose your preferred templates. Then customize them to make your automated emails stand out with content blocks, custom fonts, and your brand’s colors, logos, etc. Some ESPs also allow you to create templates with custom HTML.

Before adding any template to your automation workflow, send out a test email with that template, and preview it in different email clients.

Create mobile-friendly, responsive email templates with the right text blocks, images, buttons, layout, and other design elements.

You can create different templates for each email type, and then reuse them every time you send out that email. Create one template for welcome emails, one for abandoned cart emails, one for birthday emails, etc.

#2. Segment your mailing list

Segmented campaigns get 14.37% more opens and 64.78% more clicks than non-segmented campaigns.

When you segment your subscribers, your automated emails will reach the right subscriber with the content that’s relevant and timely for them. Otherwise, they may stop opening your messages, and even mark them as spam.

Think about your subscribers, and what kind of information they would find most useful based on different factors:

  • Age, gender, location
  • Personal interests
  • Behavioral data
  • Historical data
  • Sales funnel position 

Most ESPs offer user-friendly tools and data models for audience segmentation. You can create data filters or SQL queries; you can also create customer journeys, drag customer data into each journey, and add emails to it. Thus, you can create a journey for welcome emails, birthday emails, and so on.

Another segmentation strategy is to add a link to your Preferences Management Center in your welcome emails. Users choose the frequency and type of emails they want to receive. Subscribers with similar choices will be automatically added to those segments, and you can auto-send different emails to each segment to improve engagement and open rates.

Tweak your segmentation strategy over time with progressive profiling. This will enable you to collect more data about subscribers, build a richer profile about them, and keep improving your automated email campaigns.

#3. Optimize timing and volume

You can send two types of automated emails: event- or behavior-based trigger emails and drip-feed emails.

Triggered emails can produce great results in terms of opens, conversions and revenues. And automating them removes most of the tedium of setup, creation, testing and sending. Examples include:

  • Welcome
  • Abandoned cart
  • Abandoned browse
  • Refer-a-friend
  • Special occasion
  • Rewards
  • Special offers/bonus

It’s critical to send trigger emails at the right time. So, a welcome email should be sent immediately after a subscriber signs up to your website, makes a purchase, etc. A birthday email should be sent on their birthday. Similarly, an abandoned cart email should go out within 1-2 days of the subscriber abandoning the cart. Send them too early, and the subscriber will ignore them. Send them too late, and the message won’t have the same impact.

Drip-feed campaigns, which deliver sequential emails based on a particular timeframe (that you specify) are a great way to:

  • Generate more leads
  • Increase conversions
  • Deliver personalized experiences
  • Maximize marketing ROI

Like triggered emails, the timing of drip campaigns is important. Figure out the best time to send them based on your audience and triggering events. Space them out to get your message across without overwhelming subscribers. For seasonal or holiday campaigns, start a strong drip email push just before those dates, and schedule the remaining emails at regular intervals.

You can also automate newsletter emails to drive consistent audience engagement, and event-driven campaigns specific to your industry or organization, e.g. trade shows, conventions, etc.

Best practices when scheduling automated emails: 

  • Research email open rates in your industry to determine optimal times and schedules
  • Map customer journeys to understand how and when they interact with your brand, and schedule automated emails accordingly
  • Use your ESP’s throttle feature to spread out email sends

#4. Use compelling subject lines, copy and CTAs

Automating email campaigns does not mean taking shortcuts with content, layout, subject lines and CTAs. Since you will do the setup only once, you must actually pay more attention to these aspects. To impress subscribers, and encourage conversations – even with simple, automated thank you or shipping notification emails – create tailored content that appeals to them specifically. Also personalize each email by addressing subscribers by name. Or include real-time content with product recommendations, bundles, or promotions based on their specific account or previous history.

You can also incorporate dynamic content so different subscribers will see different emails depending on their actions.

Create a responsive, well-organized design with comprehensible content blocks, a neat F-layout, and clear headings/subheadings.

Craft compelling, unique and concise subject lines for each automated email. Use power words like “introducing”, “special” and “offer”, pronouns like “you”, and precise personalization with their name, birthday, location, etc.

Experiment with emojis. They can increase open rates by 4.2%.

Also add incentives within the subject line to increase open rates by as much as 50%. But use them strategically, and don’t overwhelm the reader. And always match the emoji and incentive to the tone and purpose of your email. For instance, it’s not a good idea to include smileys or exciting discounts in automated messages like:

Create different subject lines for the same email, and perform A/B testing to identify the one that performs best.

Finally, clear CTA links or buttons are critical in automated messages where you want the subscriber to take some action. Make sure the link (or button) is clearly visible. Place at least one link above the fold. Add urgency, include white text, and use contrasting colors. As with subject lines, use A/B testing to determine the “best” version.

A quick note about A/B testing: You can A/B test many elements of your automated emails, not just subject lines or CTAs:

  • Content
  • Images/visuals
  • Personalization
  • From name
  • Links in copy (e.g. social media)
  • Closing text
  • Offers

Read more about A/B testing here.

#5. Measure, improve, repeat

Automation is a great way to save time and effort. But it is not a replacement for learning and improvement. Measure the results of your automated campaigns regularly. Most ESPs provide comprehensive data on metrics like opens, clicks, spam complaints, bounces, etc. Review this data to find improvement opportunities.

Also look at key numbers that matter to your business: site visits, conversions, purchases, revenues, etc. The more you learn about your subscribers, the better you can target your automated emails. So, if recipients are not taking action on your abandoned cart emails, marking your discount emails as spam, or not clicking on product recommendations, you can try different tactics.

Measuring metrics can also guide other actions. So if your deliverability rates are low, it means that many emails did not arrive in your subscribers’ inboxes, but in their spam folders. This could indicate that your emails contain spammy words, or that your server is blacklisted. Remove such words, and establish a good reputation with ISPs as a legitimate email sender. Other possible reasons include:

  • Your “from name” does not sound human: Instead of noreply@mybrand.com, use a name like joe@mybrand.com.
  • Subscribers have not explicitly opted in to receive your emails: If you are in the U.S., this will also get you into trouble with the law (CAN-SPAM, CASL, etc.). Always include a visible opt-out link in every email.
  • You bought an email list instead of growing it organically. Don’t do it!

Wrap up

Your time, budget, and resources are limited. Use them strategically to get great results from your email marketing program – with automation. By automating your campaigns, you won’t have to waste time on repetitive tasks. Plus, you can improve audience targeting, and connect with them in meaningful ways to boost loyalty and grow your revenues.

Our experts can help you with setting up automated email campaigns for your brand.

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Kevin is the Head of Marketing at Email Uplers, one of the fastest-growing email design and coding companies. He loves gadgets, bikes, jazz, and breathes ‘email marketing’. He is a brand magician who loves to engage, share insights with fellow marketers, and enjoys sharing his thoughts on the latest email marketing best practices.

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