One of the many benefits of email marketing is email automation. With email automation, you can set up campaigns to automatically email your subscribers when they register to your list or when they perform a specific action.
In this guide, you’ll learn what email automation is, how it works and the most common email automation tasks to use today and utilize your email list better.
- What is email automation
- Email automation benefits
- How email automation works
- Most common email automation tasks
What is Email Automation
Email automation is the process of sending automated email messages to your subscribers based on pre-defined rules. The rules might be related to actions your subscribers take while interacting with your emails or when visiting your website.
Email automation is a very powerful process because it can help you send the right message to the right audience without manual interaction.
The most popular email automation tasks are:
- Welcome emails
- Cart Abandonment emails
- Customer follow-up messages
- Automated email sales funnels (Email sales funnels and autoresponders)
Email Automation Benefits
The benefits of email automation to small business owners are a lot. The most important are:
Email marketing is about communicating with a large audience through email messages and the only way for this process to become scalable is to remove or eliminate manual tasks.
Email marketing without automation is a nightmare. It’s impossible to manually send emails to your subscribers or to have people monitor their activities and take action.
When you set up your email automation campaigns, you don’t have to worry about the size of your list or to check if messages are sent out on time, everything is automated and scalable.
Another benefit of email automation is personalization. Sending personalized emails to your subscribers can increase email open rate and this brings additional benefits.
Personalization in an automated campaign can be achieved by:
- Requesting the name of the subscriber upon signup and not just their emails.
- Through email segmentation lists
- Triggering emails based on actions your subscribers take or don’t take (opened a specific campaign but not clicked a link etc).
Keeps subscribers to your list for longer
One of the most challenging parts of email marketing is to get more email subscribers and equally challenging to keep them to your list. When someone joins your list, it is not granted that they will stay on your list forever.
Email automation can help you improve subscriber retention by sending emails to your subscribers in pre-defined periods i.e. immediately after they join your list, after 10 days, 20 days, etc.
This way, you keep your subscribers engaged and stay on your list for longer.
If you have a big email list, the cost of maintaining a subscription with an email marketing tool will be high. One of the ways to cover your costs is to use the email automation features and makes more sales.
Without using automation, email marketing can easily become a non-profit activity so it’s wiser to utilize the features you are paying for.
How Email Automation Works
For email automation to work, you need to have three things in place:
A subscription with an email marketing platform that supports email automation features
Some platforms offer automation as a separate package so you need to make sure that your current package allows you to set up automated campaigns.
Connect your website with your email marketing software
In order to send campaigns based on actions your subscribers take on your website, you need to connect your website with your email marketing tool.
If you run an eCommerce store (for example WooCommerce or Shopify), you need to make additional configurations to pass the customer and order details to your email marketing software.
Connect Google Analytics with your email marketing platform
Besides connecting your site with the email software, you also need to link your analytics with the email marketing platform to be able to target your subscribers on their behavior and preferences.
(Optional) – Connect your website and email marketing platform with a third-party provider such as Zapier and IFTTT
This is an optional step but recommended if you want to take your email automation to the next level. Tools like Zapier and IFTTT allow you to trigger actions on different systems based on user activity on your website or email platform.
For example, you can automatically add a user to your CRM application if they click a link in an email campaign that is the last step of the funnel. That user can be considered as a lead and can be added to your CRM so that a member of your team can call them.
Email Automation Overview
Here is a high-level overview of how email automation works:
- A user completes the email signup form (can be a simple form on your site, an exit-intent popup, etc).
- An email is automatically sent to the user to confirm their email address (this is called double opt-in and it is highly recommended)
- Once the email is confirmed, the user details are added to a pre-defined list along with other data such as the signup source, reason the user subscribed (if you have multiple entry points, etc).
- A ‘Welcome Email’ is automatically sent to welcome the subscriber to your community and give them what they asked for (a free download, a coupon code, etc).
The above process is executed automatically within minutes and from that point onwards, the subscriber is part of your list.
You can then choose to enroll them into one or more email automation tasks (see below), based on a number of parameters like:
- The date they signed up to your list
- Whether they opened a specific email campaign or not
- Whether they have clicked on a link in an email or not
- A product they purchased from your store
- Specific pages they visited on your site
- Specific actions they took on your site like add to cart, clicking a button, etc
- Personal data you have about your subscribers (wishing the subscribers that you know their dob a happy birthday)
- Demographics data (sending different emails to people based on their country, gender, and language).
Most Common Email Automation Tasks
The most common and effective email automation tasks are:
Double Opt-in – Asking users to verify their email address before they sign up to your list
Welcome Emails – Sending a welcome email to users as soon as they register to your list (after double opt-in)
Cart Abandonment emails – A user adds a product to your shopping cart but does not complete checkout. You can send them an email with the product they added to complete checkout.
Feedback / Reviews – An email can be scheduled to be sent X days after a user completes a purchase and remind them to add a review or provide feedback.
Cross-selling / Upselling – Sending emails to customers based on their purchase activity. The emails can suggest new products to buy or upgrades.
Subscription renews reminders – If you are selling software or run a SaaS business, you can automate emails to remind users to renew their subscription before it expires.
Win customers back – If a customer does not renew their software license or subscription you can automate emails with additional discounts to win them back.
Recommendations based on the user’s actions – If you’re a Netflix subscriber, you most probably received a few emails from Netflix suggesting movies based on your recent activity.
Email Sales Funnels (Autoresponders)
Besides the above automation tasks that are easy to implement and straightforward, you can also implement email sales funnels.
Email sales funnels (also known as autoresponders) are very effective in generating more sales from your email list.
This is an overview of how it works:
- A subscriber signs up for your email list confirms their email and receives the Welcome Email.
- Two days after they subscribe, you send them an email with your best content.
- You wait for one day and send it to those that opened your previous email, more personalized content.
Here is another example of an email series to convert people that sign up to download a free resource (such as an ebook from your website).
- Visitors confirm their email
- Send subscribers their free download
- Wait 1 day
- Send those that opened your previous email, more valuable content related to the ebook they downloaded
- Wait 2 days
- Send those that opened your previous email, a personal email with more information about your company and products
- Wait for 2 days
- Send to those that opened your previous email, a sales email with a CTA (call to action)
The opportunities are endless. You can use the data you have at your disposal in any way to want to design an email sales funnel that works best for your case.
Some things to keep in mind:
Respect your subscribers – Don’t over abuse their trust by sending them too many promotional emails. First, try to win their interest by sending them emails with extremely valuable content and then try to pitch them your products or services.
Segment your list – List segmentation is a very powerful way to send your subscribers messages that they want to read. Don’t assume that everyone signed up to your list for the same reason.
The best way to segment your list is by asking your audience. A good practice is to send them an email (early on in the process) with two-three options and let them select (by clicking on a link), what kind of emails they want to receive from you.
Then based on their action, you can segment your list.
For example, if you have a blog for coffee enthusiasts you can send an email to your list with the following options:
What kind of messages, you want to receive from us:
- New Product Reviews
Those that clicked on Everything will get all your emails but those that clicked on Recipes, most probably don’t care about new product reviews because they already own a coffee maker and they are looking for recipes to make their coffees better.
Re-send to non-openers – It is normal that not all people will open your emails.
What is very surprising though is that if you send a second email (with a slightly different title), to the same people that did not open your first email, you’ll get a lot more email opens.
There are many reasons why this is happening but it’s a fact that re-sending your emails to non-openers will dramatically improve your email open rate. So, in your autoresponders, add a rule to re-send your emails to those that initially received it but did not open it.
A/B Testing – Don’t forget that A/B testing is a necessary step for email marketing automation to work. Before you fully automate your campaigns and let them run on ‘auto-pilot’, you need to do enough tests to find out what messages and flow work best for your list.
What is working for others may not generate the desired results for your list so it’s important to allocate the necessary time to test different kinds of campaigns (subject lines, email copy) to find out what works best, and then you can let the automation campaigns running and enjoy the benefits of email marketing for your business.
If you want to take advantage of the benefits of email marketing and use email as a sales channel, you need to use email automation.
The process is not hard to implement. Most email marketing platforms have ready-made workflows you can use out-of-the-box.
Automated messages like cart abandonment emails, follow-ups, upselling and cross-selling are easy to set up and don’t require a lot of time.
What will take time and effort is to find out what kind of messages to use to approach your audience. Things like your subject lines, email copy, and CTA messages need a lot of A/B testing and effort.
The good news is that once you figure out the best workflows to use, you can let your campaigns run and you can concentrate on other tasks to grow your business. That’s the beauty of email automation!