Email newsletters and one-off email campaigns have always been and will continue to be a part of your email marketing strategy. However, setting up automated email marketing campaigns will push you ahead of the competition.

Whether a marketer, small or medium-sized business or a start-up, email marketing automation will help you in numerous ways: save time, decrease costs, nurture customers and attract new ones, improve conversions, increase ROI and more. Besides, 64% of B2B marketers use email marketing automation techniques and B2C marketers utilising email automation witness a 50% increase in conversion rates. 


“Automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. Automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.” –
Bill Gates

As an email marketer, you are certainly juggling a lot of different tasks. Crafting the perfect email campaign requires a lot of work and careful planning. Yet, if there is a way to save time, cut costs and still achieve the desired results, wouldn’t you take it? This is where developing an effective – and winning – email marketing automation strategy will help you make all the difference to your bottom line.

In this article, we’ll cover the following topics:

  1. What is email marketing automation?
  2. Why do you need email automation?
  3. How to develop an email marketing automation strategy?
  4. Email automation best practices

Ready to dive in?

How much time do you spend per day on crafting email campaigns? Aren’t you tired of doing the same tasks over and over again to create multiple campaigns for different subscribers? Do you know how to automate your email processes? Have you done it already? Or, are you struggling with developing an effective email automation strategy? There is a way to effectively handle all those repetitive email marketing tasks and processes – email marketing automation. All you need is a successful strategy and the right email marketing software.

Email Marketing Automation: Definition

Email marketing automation allows marketers to set up automated marketing emails that are timely, highly-personalised and uber-relevant to the recipients since they are triggered based on the subscribers’ actions and behaviour. 

Imagine you are Twitter and your goal is to send a “welcome” email to each new user. How would you possibly find the time to manually craft an email campaign for every single person to receive when they sign up? The answer: You will not! This is where email marketing automation comes into play. You set up the email only once, define the parameters (triggers) and afterwards, as more people meet the set triggers, the email will be automatically sent to them without you lifting a finger.

Essentially, email marketing automation allows you to remain connected with your targeted audience even when you’re out of the office. With email automation in your bag of tricks, you will send the right message to the right people at the right time – every time.

It’s important to remember that as much as email automation can bring positive results, it cannot replace your seasonal email campaigns, write content for you or intervene when a human touch is needed. It will do whatever you tell it and nothing more.

Why Do You Need Email Marketing Automation?

Email remains the most effective marketing channel for communicating with customers, subscribers and leads. Email drip campaigns are the perfect example of a pre-created automated email series that helps marketers build lasting long-term relationships with their audience.

Top 10 benefits of using email marketing automation – 

1) it works 24/7, rarely requires a human touch and it’s entirely automated
2) nurture subscribers (and leads) and ensures customer retention
3) increases brand awareness
4) offers better targeting and personalisation
5) reduces the potential for mistakes
6) saves time and money
7) boosts ROI
8) attracts new customers
9) improves conversions
10) increases productivity

Without email marketing automation, you will spend hours upon hours on technicalities and mundane tasks which will cost you not only time but also money. After all, email automation is all about working more efficiently and saving resources wherever possible to increase productivity and, also, have more time to focus on the creative and strategic parts of your email marketing.

How To Develop A Winning Email Marketing Automation Strategy?

Now, it is time to think about the kind of email marketing automation strategy you want for your business.

A good starting point would be to break your strategy down into three stages – 

1) Pre-conversion. This is the stage where you focus on capturing the leads’ attention and making them aware of what your company has to offer in terms of products or services and why you are better than the competition. Email marketing automation at this stage is crucial because this is the moment where you need to convince your leads to convert.

2) During conversion. Once you’ve done the legwork and captured your audiences’ attention by educating them what your products/services can do for them, it’s time to persuade those actively engaged leads to finalise their conversion to a customer. The most common type of emails you can see at this stage is cart abandonment emails. According to recent stats, the average open rate for cart abandonment emails is 45%. From the ‘welcome’ email through the sales nudge and re-engagement to the promotional and customer feedback emails, you can create an email marketing automation process that goes beyond only one type of email. 

3) Post-conversion. You’ve captured your leads’ attention, they’ve converted and now it is time to focus on customer retention. You might think that email marketing automation at this stage is not worthwhile since you’ve already caught and converted your leads. However, you’d be mistaken. Automation in the post-conversion stage is incredibly useful. It allows you to keep your customers happy by sending them relevant and highly-personalised email campaigns. All triggered by the recipients’ behaviour, preferences and purchase history. 

Developing An Email Marketing Automation Strategy

Not every type of email automation will fit your business. Therefore, before you even think about creating an automation process, you first need to outline the perfect strategy. How you’ll do that depends on your audience.

To create a successful email marketing automation strategy, you need to ask yourself four important questions – 

1) What is your goal? 

Outline how you want to engage your audience and how often they want to hear from you. The latter is only possible once you’ve already gathered enough insights about your subscribers/customers. A customer might want to hear about your product/service updates, but not receive weekly emails about promotions. The more you know about your audience, the smarter email automation process you’d be able to create; and, the better results you’ll achieve.

2) How ready are you to connect with your audience?

You have the database and you’re ready to create an automated email series. However, without the right email marketing software, you might as well have an Excel spreadsheet with data you can do nothing with. The right ESP will not only help with your automation but also deliver detailed reporting to help you improve your process and gather even more information about your audience interest, preferences and needs.

3) When will you be sending?

Establish the time and day you want your automated emails to go out. It could be immediately after the recipient triggers an action or at a specific time (like automated emails for birthdays or holidays). Remember, always take into account your customers’ and subscribers’ preferences. They will help you choose the right time frame.

4) Does your email sound human?

Your automated email series shouldn’t sound… robotic. Since you’ll only create automated emails once, make sure you’ve taken into account your brand’s tone of voice and craft email copy that sounds authentic, personalised and speaks directly to the recipient, not at them.

The Strategy

The best email marketing automation results come from a carefully thought-through strategy focused on achieving the business’s goals and objectives. Recent data shows that 64% of marketers state that the top priority for optimising email automation is creating a successful strategy.

With all the knowledge you’ve gained so far, are you ready to build your strategy? It’s quite simple. Just follow these five steps – 

1) Choose the right email marketing platform

The most important thing for you to remember is that the latest software is not necessarily the right software for you. There are a number of ESPs out there (you’re probably already using one); but, do they offer you all the features you need without having to break into a bank to cover the costs? The right email marketing software will make all the difference to the success – or failure – of your email marketing automation strategy.

2) Take care of your data

The most important part of your entire email marketing strategy is your data and its integrity. The worst mistake a marketer can make is to neglect it or use bought/rented email lists. Therefore, make sure you are periodically cleaning up your email lists and updating the subscribers’ and customers’ data (when possible). The success of your entire email marketing strategy relies on the accuracy of your customer data. It’s essential to creating relevant, highly-personalised automated email series.

3) Segment your email lists

You are well aware that all your customers are different and at different stages of the buying cycle. Therefore, make sure you will not send them all on the same customer journey. Sending newsletters and one-off email campaigns in this competitive market is no longer enough. This is where email list segmentation will make all the difference. Once your email lists are segmented, you will be able to set up very specific triggers that once well… triggered, will set off highly-targeted, hyper-personalised, relevant and useful automated emails.

4) Define your email automation type

With the right email marketing software, you can create four types of automated emails – 

1) Triggered emails. Triggers are automatic reactions based on subscribers’ or customers’ particular actions. Triggered emails can help you increase open rates exactly because they will release automated emails at the right time following up on a specific action taken by the recipient.

2) Autoresponders. Same as triggered emails, autoresponders are automated emails sent to a segmented email list triggered by specific actions taken by the recipient like filling in a contact form, buying a product, signing up for a webinar, etc. The most commonly seen types of autoresponders are welcome and confirmation emails.  

3) Drip campaigns. An email drip campaign is a sequence of pre-created, automated, perfectly-timed marketing emails that work together to lead prospects towards the end-goal – a conversion. The main objective of drip campaigns is to give the recipients a little nudge; and, engage them by delivering interesting, helpful content. This type of email marketing automation works best combined with behavioural emails.

4) Behavioural emails. As the name implies, behavioural emails are a type of automated emails triggered based on the recipients’ behaviour sent after the recipient has already interacted with your business. Examples of such emails are when recipients –

  • open an email but don’t click on anythingPro tip: you can adjust your automated email by tweaking the content to spark their interest beyond simply opening your email
  • clicked-through but did not complete a purchasePro tip: create a triggered email follow-up with a discount or a free trial of your service

4) Write compelling subject lines and great copy

Despite automated emails being triggered by the recipients’ actions, you still need to craft a great subject line that is attention-grabbing and compelling email copy that will make the recipient want to complete a conversion. But, be careful, there are certain subject line mistakes you should avoid at all costs. 

As for your email copy, remember four important things – 

  • it must be clearly-focused and promoting only one call-to-action (CTA)
  • it must include power words to stand out
  • you must emphasise the benefits, not the features of your product/service
  • be concise and to-the-point

Remember, do not overwhelm your audience with content, imagery and too many CTAs. You wouldn’t do it normally, so don’t do it with your email marketing automation series either.

5) Track, measure and optimise

Understanding your audiences’ interest, needs and goals as well as responding to them accordingly is essential to nurturing and retaining them. Therefore, accurate tracking and measuring your results is vital.

The right email marketing automation tool will give you a comprehensive report on email marketing KPIs. Yet, to truly understand, develop and optimise your email marketing automation strategy, you need to go beyond just email KPIs. Look at cornerstone metrics such as website visits, revenue, customers’ journey, etc. A powerful and free analytics tool that can help you track all that is Google Analytics

Remember, the more you know about your audience, the better you’d be able to fine-tune and optimise your email marketing automation strategy, the higher results you’ll achieve.

Email Marketing Automation Best Practices

I’ve given you enough food for thought. So, let’s summarise all of this into three very important best practices – 

1) Keep your automated emails clear and concise and ensure your point is made in the quickest and most straightforward way.

2) Make sure you keep your subscribers and customers engaged and active by crafting automated emails that encourage recipients to take action be it watching a video tutorial, downloading a report or simply reading a blog post. 

3) Certain things like CAPITALISED LETTERS, red font colour, a slew of links in the copy and spam trigger words can make an email look spammy. Thus, keep it spam-free

Final Thoughts

I’m sure there are a number of things vying for your attention and limited time. However, as time-consuming developing and implementing an email marketing automation strategy may be, you will only have to do it once (and do it properly). Afterwards, all you need to do is observe how your automated emails are performing; and, if necessary, tweak them a bit to ensure you are serving your customer base to the best of your ability.

Email marketing automation allows you to nurture leads, boost brand awareness, retain customers, reduce costs, save time, re-engage inactive subscribers, build stronger long-term relationships, boost conversions and increase your ROI.

So, are you ready to make a name for your business as a powerhouse as well as reach customers and subscribers on a whole new level?

Highly recommended further reading – 

1)  Busting Email Automation Myths
2) 27 Irresistible Email Subject Lines
3) Writing Marketing Emails 101
4) 12 Call-To-Action Examples That Convert

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