For any business in any industry or country, each marketing dollar is precious. Marketing teams everywhere are looking to stretch their budget and get the maximum returns on their investment.
And this is especially true of email marketing teams attempting to:
- Get their audience’s attention in an increasingly noisy digital world
- Educate, inform, and inspire customers
- Deliver unique content that subscribers demand, enjoy, and appreciate
- Nurture long-term, trust-based relationships
- Build credibility as a business and brand
For every $1 spent on email marketing, you can expect an average return of $42.
- What is email marketing automation?
- Automated Event-based Trigger Emails vs Automated Drip-feed Emails
- Benefits of Email Automation
- Email Automation for Transactional Emails
- The Use of Behavioral Triggers for Email Automation
- Email Automation and Dynamic Content
- 7 Must-have Email Automation Flows to Increase Revenues
- Email Automation for Re-engagement Emails
- Email Automation Tools: Key Features and Our Top 5 Recommendations
- How to Set Up Email Automation
- Email Marketing Automation Best Practices
- B2B Email Automation
In this guide, we will cover everything you ever wanted to know about email automation and why you should consider incorporating it into your brand’s email marketing strategy.
What is Email Automation?
Email automation is a powerful way to reach your target audience with the right message at the right time, using automated workflows, processes, and tools.
Using this strategy, you can automatically email your subscribers based on specific factors like their:
- Special occasions like birthdays or anniversaries
and much more.
Here’s what you need to know about this powerful email strategy:
Automated emails are…
messages sent by a brand in direct response to some specific action made (or not made) by an individual, or some specific behavior of an individual.
These user behaviors or actions could be made on the brand’s…
website, store, app, sign-up form, or any other customer-facing channel.
Automated emails are sometimes known as…
triggered emails or behavior-driven emails.
Automated emails are automatically sent from…
an email marketing automation platform like HubSpot, ConvertKit, MailChimp, etc.
By automating your busywork, you can focus on what really matters: having one-to-one conversations with subscribers and nurturing meaningful relationships with them. You can also avoid the hard-sell approach (which most people hate), and improve your ability to inform, educate, persuade and convince them.
Moreover, you only have to plan your campaign once. Figure out your goals, choose the order and frequency of your message, create relevant and meaningful content, set it up in your automated mailing tool, and you’re done! Then the tool will keep the campaign going for as long as you want it to. It will even help you test your campaign before sends and analyze it after so you can review campaign performance, and make any tweaks as necessary.
For all these reasons, 53% of marketing influencers say that email marketing automation is one of the most effective uses of technology for marketing purposes.
Email automation is the #1 application of marketing automation.
Automated Event-based Trigger Emails vs Automated Drip-feed Emails
In general, automated emails are of two types:
- Event-based trigger emails
- Drip-feed emails
I. Event-based trigger emails are sent automatically in response to a specific triggering event. They go out to subscribers when they take a certain action – or don’t. Automation eliminates the tedious manual process of creating and sending these emails, and also ensures that every subscriber receives the right email at the right time, regardless of the behavior that triggered it.
Triggered email messages get 74.9% higher open rates and 161.9% higher click-through rates than traditional bulk messages.
7 Types of Event-based Trigger Emails
ii. Onboarding and Account Creation
iii. Milestone emails (birthdays/anniversaries)
iv. Abandoned cart
v. Product (inventory) updates
vi. Event announcements
II. Drip-feed emails deliver a set of messages sequentially in a particular timeframe.
A drip campaign enables you to stay in touch with groups of subscribers based on events like when they sign up for an account, request a free report, visit your site, etc. You can reuse content, and personalize each email with your contact’s name, company info, etc.
Drip campaigns that send automated, scheduled emails during a specific time period have an 80% higher open rate and 300% higher click-through-rates than regular emails.
Suppose someone just subscribed to your blog newsletter. You can set up an automated drip campaign to send them a welcome email immediately. Two days later, you can send an email that contains a curated list of your most popular content. After another few days, you can send another email with some other kind of useful content.
Drip emails can increase your click-through rates by 119%.
Here are 7 types of drip campaigns that are particularly useful!
i. Lead nurturing
iii. Product recommendations
iv. Limited time offer
Benefits of Email Automation
When planned well and executed correctly, email automation is a great strategy to deliver relevant, personalized, and timely experiences that will convert new leads into customers and existing customers into loyal fans. But this requires good planning and flawless execution. It also requires:
- Not sending the same message to every subscriber
- Not sending irrelevant messages to subscribers
- With two-way conversations, not one-way monologues
- Providing value with every email
As long as automated emails align with these must-haves, they get good results – even if they are sent as plain-text messages with no bells and whistles. In fact, a recent study found that 87% of the most successful emails sent out by marketers were entirely plain text!
Here are some of the key advantages of email automation.
i. Requires less effort and helps you save time
Email marketing is very effective if you are trying to reach new customers, engage with current customers, grow your brand, and boost your revenues. As of early 2021, every day, 306 over 293 billion emails were being sent out. This number is likely to grow to over 347 billion by the end of 2023. Clearly, email is not going anywhere. Moreover, at least 80% of professionals believe that email marketing drives customer acquisition and retention. And 60% of consumers say they have made a purchase as the result of a marketing email, compared to just 12.5% who say they will consider using the ‘buy’ button on social media.
However, sending emails manually takes a lot of time and effort, and is not sustainable in the long term. But with email automation, you just have to set up a campaign once, and it will then run by itself with very little or no additional effort from your side.
ii. Automate different types of emails
Like the respondents of a 2018 GetResponse survey, you can take full advantage of email automation to send all kinds of emails including:
- Multi-step welcome emails for new contacts
- Promotional sales-focused campaign emails
- Event or webinar invitations and reminders
- Blog updates
- Upselling messages
- Product follow-up emails
- Event-triggered emails
- Birthday and anniversary emails
- Reactivation emails
iii. Increase page traffic to generate more leads
Email marketing is the biggest source of landing page traffic, which in turn helps with lead generation and profiling, especially if the landing page includes a newsletter signup form. Leads can also be generated from landing pages by:
- Offering free downloadable resources like eBooks, whitepapers, or guides
- Promoting product launches
- Inviting readers to webinars
- Including social login links
You can also nurture and qualify these leads to grow your subscriber list with quality potential buyers by adding a data-coop to your email automation lineup.
iv. Share engaging and relevant content with a captive audience
Create and share interesting and unique content that increases subscriber engagement with your website, store, or app. If you already have a lot of great, timeless content, say on your blog, you can share it through a newsletter to engage with newer customers, and to build stronger relationships with existing customers.
You can also set up automation to teach new users how to use your products or services.
vi. Improve retention of existing customers and boost loyalty
Automated email is so powerful because it targets users who have already engaged with your brand. So when someone receives an automated email, it’s usually in response to some specific action that they have taken. So, they are more likely to open it, engage with it, and take the action you recommend in the message. This has an impact on customer retention and in the long-term, on loyalty.
Timely, valuable, and relevant automatic emails also tend to garner more replies. This makes for better, richer two-way conversations that build and strengthen relationships, and enhance your brand’s value.
v. Personalize customer experiences with 1×1 messages
With automated emails, it’s easier to provide personalized assistance and real-time 1×1 communication to users, which makes them feel more valued and appreciated. Personalized emails can convert to a 6X higher purchase rate than a generic approach.
Your platform’s automation technology will even take care of those subscribers who have unsubscribed by automatically un-enrolling them so you won’t keep sending them unwanted emails. Personalized messages go a long way towards showing subscribers that your brand sees them as unique individuals that deserve your time and attention. This often translates to “sticky”, consistent, long-term users whose loyalty you can count on.
vii. Build your brand’s value and create brand ambassadors
With automation, you can do more than grow your subscriber list or drive user engagement. You can even strengthen the connection with them by assisting them with cross-sells or upsells, by sharing timely updates about features or products they have not tried yet, and even by communicating thought leadership.
With the right automation tool, you can select a template for each type of email, create unique, on-brand copy, and even add your unique branding elements like colors, logos, visuals and taglines. Moreover, since automation takes care of scheduling and segmenting each email to a specific audience, you can spend more time crafting the perfect message, and focusing on brand consistency.
vii. Get them at just the right time
Give users timely cues to follow through on desired actions that benefit them as well as you. For instance, a welcome email can help new customers start using your product, re-engagement emails can bring disinterested customers back into the fold, and nurture series emails that help guide customers to the next step in the sales funnel.
viii. Build trust and credibility to increase conversions and revenues
Educate your audience with useful information tailored to their needs or challenges. This will promote your credibility and build trust in your brand that can increase conversions and ensure their long-term support.
ix. Clean up your email list and keep it up-to-date
Email automation helps you remove email addresses that are invalid, bouncing, out of date or not responding. You can also find the subscribers who have not taken action in a given timeframe, and decide whether to try to re-engage them, or remove them from the list entirely.
Email Automation for Transactional Emails
Transactional emails, say, in response to purchase, are a type of event-based triggered email that can be automated. In this case, once someone makes a purchase from your online store, a digital receipt is automatically sent to their email address, acknowledging their purchase and thanking them for it.
Transactional emails are often time-critical, because recipients are waiting to receive them in response to a particular transaction. And email automation can help you get the timing just right so you message the right person with the right information exactly when they need it.
Here is an example of a Welcome or Onboarding transactional email.
Here’s an example of automation flow you can use to deliver Welcome emails to each new customer:
- A new subscriber receives a welcome email.
- 3 days later, they receive an email with a list of new in-stock products or a product tour video.
- If they click on any product or watch the video, they receive an email 1 week later with a discount coupon they can redeem on your online store.
- If they don’t click on any product or watch the video, they receive a different email or set of emails to get their engagement and re-engage them early.
Some other common use cases for transactional emails are:
- Thank you
- Account activation/confirmation
- Password reset
- Event confirmation
The Use of Behavioral Triggers for Email Automation
We discussed email automation for event-based triggers earlier. You can also set up automated trigger emails to be sent based on certain actions taken by the customer. This is known as behavioral email marketing. Behavioral triggers are easy to use and can produce great results. Moreover, the customer themselves tell your system what messages to send them, which not only ensures relevance and timelines but also places no additional demands on your limited resources.
In many email automation tools, behaviorally triggered emails are trackable (opens, clicks, etc), targeted, sent in real-time, and scalable. You may also be able to:
- Use auto-forward and auto-reply with messages
- Change content over time
Product inventory updates are a good example of email automation based on behavioral triggers. If you find that a particular user pays more attention to a sold-out product, you can set up an automated trigger to email them once the product is available again. Users that showed no interest in the product will not receive this email.
Email Automation and Dynamic Content
With the right automation tool and an experienced email marketing team like Email Uplers, you can easily set up email automation for virtually any kind of campaign. To further speed up the process and get personalized automated emails out in a hurry, dynamic content can be very useful.
65% of marketers rate dynamic email content as their most effective personalization tactic.
With dynamic content, you can create one email and then quickly customize different parts of it, depending on your audience. It provides each of your subscribers with easy access to relevant information that creates personalized experiences. You can even send dynamic, personalized emails to hundreds or thousands of subscribers in one go with little or no coding or technical sleight-of-hand.
Use dynamic content and email automation to send new product or service updates to a specific group of your subscribers, instead of sending a generic email out to all subscribers.
Here are 7 dynamic, personalized elements you can incorporate into your email automation program:
- Countdown timer (“sale ends in 24 hours!”)
- Convenience features (e.g. add an event to their calendar)
- Special effects, animations, product scrolls
- Geo-targeting to redirect them to a brick-and-mortar store
- Social media feeds
7 Must-have Email Automation Flows to Increase Revenues
i. Invite to an event or webinar
Event announcements and invites are an excellent opportunity for sending automated email campaigns. You can either send these messages out to everyone on your email list, or give users a preference center (recommended). This way, subscribers can choose to receive notifications about upcoming events. So once an event announcement becomes available, the email is automatically sent to them.
ii. Wishes for important milestones
Treat your customers on their special days and let them know that they’re important to your business. When someone joins your list, collect their birthday (or anniversary) information. In your platform, create an email that auto-sends on their birthday or anniversary with a discount, small freebie, or helpful guide.
iii. A weekly or monthly newsletter with blog updates or other useful content
If you regularly update your company blog, a weekly or monthly newsletter is a great way to share the latest updates with your subscribers. You can also create newsletters containing beneficial content about business updates, new product launches, contests, collaborations, free resources, etc.
iv. Abandoned cart email
Sometimes shoppers change their minds about buying an item (or maybe about buying it now). Other times they find better deals on other sites. Often, the product’s price, taxes, shipping costs, etc. turn them off. To move site visitors towards purchase and payment, you can send automated abandoned cart emails.
You can set up automation to send abandoned cart emails with different kinds of messaging, such as:
- Still thinking about it?
- Need more time to decide?
- Tell us how we can help
- Here’s what you’re missing
- We miss you. Come back!
- Great news!
You can also send automated browse abandonment emails based on a category or product a user has browsed. Set up a behavioral trigger based on the amount of time they spent on a product category and send an email with product recommendations from that category.
v. Refer a friend
Referral emails are a powerful way to build your subscriber list and expand your customer base. Automation enables you to send out optimized referral emails that capture your subscribers’ attention and encourage them to bring someone else into the fold in a simple way in a simple way, while giving them something in return.
Here’s a sample automated flow you can set up in your email automation platform:
i. Email #1: First contact
State the benefits of the program to them. Include eye-catching graphics, show the benefits front-and-center, and include clear instructions on how they can forward the referral link, so both they and their friends can redeem rewards.
ii. Email #2: Gentle reminder
Remind recipients of the value they received from your products, and how others can also benefit. Don’t send too many reminders or you will come off sounding pushy and entitled.
ii. Email #3: Request for advocacy
Ask the user to become your advocate and share your referral code. Share links in your email, and provide clear instructions on exactly what they should say. Alternately, simply ask them to forward the email. Make sure you include an attractive incentive.
vi. Special discounts
Discount emails are a great way to nudge customers towards conversions. They are also ideal for rewarding loyal customers. Don’t send them too often though and make sure you identify the right audience.
vii. Request for customer feedback or review
Email automation provides a rich opportunity to engage in a dialog with subscribers, and involve them in your brand-building effort. One good way to do this is by asking them for feedback, or requesting them to leave a review.
Email Automation for Re-engagement Emails
Over time, subscribers may become inactive. But before writing them off completely, try to re-engage them and encourage them to return. This is where re-engagement emails play an important role – and email automation makes it easy to send them. All you have to do is set up a re-engagement campaign in your automation platform with a start trigger and a predetermined amount of time. The trigger is set off once someone stops engaging with your email content after the time has elapsed.
With re-engagement or “win-back” emails, showcase new products, offer discounts and smart recommendations, send event invites, or send updates about shipping and returns policies. Another good re-engagement strategy is to first send a sales notification and then follow up with a special discount. All these ideas can win customers back and encourage them to keep your brand top of mind. Plus you can give them the chance to continue the conversation with you without being overly pushy.
Email Automation Tools: Key Features and Our Top 5 Recommendations
There are plenty of email automation tools out there. Which one you choose may be determined by a number of factors such as your:
- Audience type, size and demographics
- Email marketing goals
- Email marketing automation goals
- Campaign type and frequency
- Team experience and skillset
You should also review the features you require.
Email Automation Key Features to Look Out for
- Visual automation builder/canvas, templates, and a simple user interface: To easily craft powerful email automation sequences and get campaigns out faster
- Predictive sending: To ensure that you email subscribers when they’re most likely to engage with your message
- Predictive content creation: Create different versions of copy and select the audience for each; the tool will send the version that’s just right for each subscriber
- A/B testing: Let your automation sequence(s) optimize themselves with split testing
- Goal tracking and customer attribution: Trace customer journeys and use data to discover trends and see what’s working
- 3rd-party integrations: Integrations are especially useful for eCommerce email marketing. Look for a tool that hooks into common eCommerce platforms like Magento and Shopify
- Conditional content creation: This feature is useful if you need to include ‘IF X is true, show Y’ content blocks inside an email campaign. E.g. show $ in the USA, or show so-and-so articles in the UK.
- Smart content creation: Hide or display blocks of content depending on where a contact is in the purchase cycle, or which lists they are in.
- Subject line emojis: Emojis in subject lines can increase open rates by 45% or more. Look for a tool that provides an emoji button next to the subject line box.
- Progressive profiling: Accurate identify a lead to show them different offers or ask them different questions to learn more about them over time and improve your personalization capability.
- Campaign booster: Automatically resend campaigns to subscribers who have not opened it after a certain period of time has elapsed.
- Discount code generator: This feature connects to your online store and automatically generates unique discount codes to incentivize customers to buy again from you.
Top 5 Email Automation Tools
ActiveCampaign is an easy to use and affordable email automation platform. With its visual automation builder, users can easily build powerful email automation sequences. It also provides functionalities for predictive sending, predictive content, customer attribution, and A/B testing.
With ActiveCampaign, you can precisely target the right audience, and engage them with personalized messages, and tools like automation map, automation goals and subscription forms. You can also nurture and educate them with tailored guidance, dynamic content and event tracking.
Through automated workflows and a simple, visual interface, HubSpot makes it easy to streamline email marketing with zero coding required.
It provides dozens of triggers, conditions, and actions, so you can send the right emails to the right leads at the right time. You can create targeted, sophisticated (or simple) workflows, and tie in every workflow to a specific goal so you’ll know if your campaigns are working – or not.
Advanced segmentation logic enables you to determine who has enrolled in your workflow so you can send them personalized emails using specific details from your contacts database or CRM. You can also replenish your database and clean up your subscriber list to ensure that your efforts lead to the best possible results.
With OptinMonster, you can collect and automatically segment email addresses based on the user’s activity (or inactivity), cookies, location, and other factors. With its easy drag-and-drop builder, templates, you can quickly build different types of campaigns.
OptinMonster seamlessly integrates with multiple ESPs including Constant Contact, Drip and Mailchimp so you can exponentially grow your subscriber list and also send hyper-personalized emails to each subscriber at the right time.
With ConvertKit and its Automation Rules features, you can send targeted autoresponders to subscribers based on their interaction with your emails. You can also use its built-in blueprints to quickly create autoresponder sequences for almost any situation. segment your emails based on on-site behaviors with Subscriber Tags, and serve your audience with regular content.
Mailchimp helps you send drip emails to users so you can follow up based on their specific activity such as site browsing, cart abandonment, etc. Target people based on behavior, preferences, and previous sales, and send automatic campaigns to welcome new subscribers, and win back lapsed customers. With its pre-set automation features, triggers and timelines, you can streamline your communications and make sure that every contact gets the right emails at the right time. You can also add, remove, or reorder the emails in your automation, design content, edit tracking, or edit triggers or activity settings for individual emails.
How to Set Up Email Automation
Once you have selected the right email automation tool (see previous section), follow this step-by-step guide to automate your email workflows.
Step 1: Set your goal and formulate your strategy
Why are you setting up this automation? Do you want them to do something (e.g. make a purchase)? Learn something? Download something (e.g. a whitepaper)? How many emails will you send them? When you know this, you can figure out the messaging to nudge them to where you want them to go.
Step 2: Identify and segment your audience
Email personalization is critical so you need to know who you will be sending your email to. If your system is set up correctly, you’ll be able to send automated emails to targeted segments with the right content.
Step 3: Set enrolment criteria
Based on the data you have about your subscribers set the criteria that must be met for them to be entered into a workflow. This helps you create a personalized workflow that can get triggered based on specific conditions.
Step 4: Identify the right actions
Map out the sequence of events, and what actions need to be taken and when.
Step 5: Create content and design assets
Create the relevant assets and load them into the platform. Include personalization to the best extent possible.
Step 6: Implement the workflow logic
Outline each action in order to set up the workflow.
Step 7: Test your setup
Check everything from enrolled contacts and use cases, to send settings and email order. Make use of your platform’s A/B testing functionality to ensure that you send the best possible version to your audience.
Step 8: Launch
Once you’re happy with the workflow, make it live. Do monitor progress and make adjustments as needed.
Step 9: Analyze metrics
Analyze campaign performance by collecting information about each campaign, and tweak as required.
i. Get the timing right
Figure out the best time to send your messages based on your audience, triggering events, and content. For series emails, space them out so that you get your message across without overwhelming your customers.
ii. Optimize the volume
More is not always better. Send relevant messages but not too many messages. Focus on meaningful opportunities that are most likely to yield value to your customers (and to you).
iii. Allow opt-outs
You will always have subscribers who want to leave. Make every effort to keep them on-board, but if they have decided to leave, let them go. Include opt-outs in every email and make sure the link is clearly visible.
iv. Always test
At the very least, test your subject lines, content, CTAs, layout and timing. This will help you optimize your messaging.
v. Adhere to relevant laws
In the U.S., all marketing communications are required to comply with CAN-SPAM and CASL laws. Make sure your automated emails comply with these laws as well.
vi. Keep an eye on responses
With every automated email, you have the opportunity to gather key information from each recipient. Use this information to understand opens, click-throughs, purchases and browsing behaviors, and to improve your campaigns.
vii. Be strategic with discounts
Don’t overuse your discount or special offer strategy. And always honor each offer.
viii. Encourage conversations
“Automated” does not mean “robotic”! Use your automated emails to encourage customers to get back to you, ask questions, and provide feedback. And when they do – make sure you respond promptly!
B2B Email Automation
59% of B2B marketers say that email marketing is most effective for revenue generation.
Email automation is not just for B2C brands. B2B brands can also leverage it to:
- Improve lead management
- Move more leads down the sales funnel
- Set up auto-responders
- Set up drip campaigns
- Send targeted messages
- Educate and inspire to get higher engagement
Unfortunately, automation is underused in B2B email marketing, with only 17.8% of automated emails sent out for B2B campaigns compared to 82.2% for B2C campaigns. If yours is a B2B brand, email automation gives you a great opportunity to get ahead of your competitors!
7 Examples of B2B Email Automation
Here are 7 great examples of how you can make the most of your B2B email automation program.
i. To improve cold email outreach with video, GIFs or livestreams
ii. To provide an update
iii. To educate customers
iv. To improve conversions
v. To drive higher engagement
vi. To engage new users (e.g. before and after a webinar)
vii. To cross-sell or upsell
Tips to Enhance Your B2B Email Marketing Automation
- Gate your content by asking for email addresses first
- Host events or webinars
- Include a form on your webpage footer
- Include website pop-ups (e.g. “sign up to receive our newsletter) to know people know that you’re sending out useful content
- When collecting email addresses, explain what a subscriber could expect from your emails
- Always provide opt-out options
- Always comply with data protection rules like CAN-SPAM, GDPR, etc.
Ready to Get Started with Email Automation?
Email automation is a boon for any brand that’s serious about its email marketing program. With this strategy, you’ll know exactly who your audience is. You’ll also know what kind of email messages to send them, as well as the best time to send them. It can help you save time and money, and deliver serious results – regardless of who you’re emailing, or what kind of campaign you’re sending to them. Simply put – email automation works!
Nonetheless, email marketing automation does require some planning, focus, and attention to detail. The more experienced your email marketing team, the easier they will find it to implement email automation for your organization or brand. If you lack such a team, your best option is to outsource email automation to an experienced and highly-skilled team like Email Uplers.
Partner with the email specialists that are trusted by organizations all over the world for delivering memorable and scalable campaigns with advanced design, management, and delivery expertise. For more information, contact us today!