Automated emails are now an essential part of any effective email marketing campaign. Thanks to automated emails, you can now reach your audience whenever they need it, and when they are more likely to convert.
The value of automated emails is increasing the response you receive from email marketing activity. Automated emails are neither replacing traditional emails nor setting and forgetting a workflow, but growing the number of positive actions taken by your subscribers, from visiting your social media channels, website to making a purchase.
Broadcast or traditional email campaigns go to your entire subscriber list or the segment you choose. A coffee seller might send email to their entire subscriber list to announce a new product launch, or a footwear brand message their “parent” segment to promote kid’s T-shirts.
Automated emails are triggered in response to a customer’s action.
Example; when anyone joins a list, or purchases something, or submits a quote form.
Your purchase of pencils on an office supply website may trigger an email to be sent after a week asking for your feedback or a review, or your birthday might trigger an email that lands in your inbox with a special discount. Inaction can be a trigger, too, like when you leave some items in your cart, or when you open an email but don’t click anything.
Many email service providers (ESPs) preset email automation have pre-defined triggers, and you can also set-up custom email automation of your own for more flexibility.
And the good news is that you don’t need a robust piece of software or a huge marketing budget to take advantage of automated emails. Email marketing automation software solutions are both affordable and easy to set up.
So, if you are planning about adding email automation to your digital toolset, then this blog post will come in very handy.
What are automated emails?
Quite similar to the way you set-up your “out-office” replies, you can send your email campaigns automatically.
You can send automated emails as a sequence, with specific time intervals in between them.
Example; you could easily use this approach if you want to send an email course where each email would include an individual lesson.
Email marketers generally call this follow-up sequence or drip campaigns.
Alternatively, you can send your emails in response to the actions of your customers.
Example; when someone registers for a demo of your product or webinar, and you instantly send them a confirmation email including a personalized message saying thanks.
Why use automation?
While one-off email campaigns and newsletters will always have a place in any email marketing strategy, savvy organizations are using automated email campaigns that trigger off a customer’s action(s).
Because these emails are personalized, timely, and highly relevant to the subscribers. And as a result, these emails are opened more frequently and also drive more visits and generates more revenue for your company.
40% of brands in 2008 sent a welcome email to their new subscribers. And today, 80% of the brands send this kind of emails to their new subscribers.
- Deeper relationships with customers and better response rates
- The right content delivered at the right time to the right people
- Higher levels of brand recognition
- Better responsiveness to prospect and customer needs
- Easier nurturing of customers through sales and support cycles
Defining the customer journey
What engagement looks like depends on your business.
Example; for an e-commerce brand, a customer who has just logged into their account, or visited your website, or abandoned their cart is engaged. And for a spa, engagement could be defined as booking an appointment or showing up to an appointment.
Savvy marketers refer to a customer’s “digital body language”- their interaction, however small, with your company. Begin with simple things that work effectively. Just target your audience who responded in any way to any of your broadcast emails.
Example; is someone clicked on a link in any of your non-automated emails for a special discount; you could easily set-up a trigger to send an automated email moves the conversation forward.
It’s important to discern the customer journey. The best way is to begin at the decision to purchase and work backward- from purchase to sign-up, not the other way around.
Many business owners have a quite good understanding of the habits of their customers. They almost know it in their bones and that’s how they grew their business from scratch.
Savvy marketers also recommend a more scientific method: using Google Analytics to interpret your website data. Analyze the web pages of your website that are visited most frequently, what web pages people went through, what clues you can collect about their history. Find out what it was that made up their mind.
Example; if you find that most of the people who watched a specific video on your website moved forward in their customer journey, you could easily set-up an automated email trigger based on video plays.
Quantity versus intent
The two criteria to select your top-value email triggers: quantity and intent. Frequent email triggers that that prompt marketing automation to people who are highly motivated earn the most money. AS a birthday email is only sent once a year, so this is a low quantity trigger. On the other hand, an abandoned cart happens all the time. Anyone who clicks “Buy” is more likely to buy from you than someone who just read your press release, which makes the uncompleted purchase a high-conversion trigger.
The top-value email triggers for you will meet both of these requirements.
The best way to start using email automation to increase the amount of marketing conversation is with the people who are already engaging with your company. A welcome email series is a very good example as the customer has just engaged with your company in a strong way, entering the customer journey and also clearly indicating their interest. Lapsed customer email campaigns or re-engagement email campaigns are intelligent but not the best place to start. You’re talking to people who may be defecting rather than people who have actually engaged actively.
Meanwhile, if you’re falling short on resources and just have the time to invest in a couple of email automation, your best bet may be a welcome series, abandoned cart and, depending on your business, a quote request or other type of form submission.
And if you’re wondering whether to send a single email or a series of email, savvy markers says that two emails almost inevitably beats one email. It’s almost defying gravity for that not to happen. An email sequence can contain any number of emails, but there is a perfect number. They recommend starting with three and then increasing or decreasing this number based on the performance.
How to send automated emails
Majority of the marketers send automated emails using SaaS platforms they can easily access through their web browser like Google Chrome or Safari or using an app on their mobile.
Some of these platforms specialize in emails only, in which case you would call them an email automation platform.
Or it could be a tool that allows you to send your emails using different marketing channels. These are generally known as marketing automation platforms (MAPs).
The logic remains the same, irrespective of which tool you select.
To begin sending automated emails, you first have to specify a set of conditions and put them together into a workflow. Try to think of it as a scenario.
When any of you subscribers meets the conditions you’ve specified in the scenario, it automatically triggers the system to send out your email.
The good news is that when you complete setting up your workflow and hit publish- you’re done. And from that point forward, every time any of your customers meets a specific condition, they will receive your automated email.
Creating email automation workflows has both pros and cons as well.
The biggest disadvantage is that these automated email workflows require that you do a significant amount of work upfront.
And the main advantage of automated email workflows is that they save a lot of your time in the long run.
Just think about how much time e-commerce brands save by using automated emails just for cart abandonment.
And the best part is that this applies to other businesses, too.
Marketing automation best practices
If you’re new to email marketing automation, the following are some of the best practices you should keep in mind when creating your automated email workflows.
Start with a plan
Before you begin to build your automated email workflows, it’s better to start by writing it out.
So, begin by writing out the general plan- what you want to communicate, what you want to achieve, and to whom you want to communicate with.
Once you have all this, it’s much easier to add conditions to each step and begin to put all the pieces together.
Prepare all your marketing assets
Once you have the plan, you can then build an automated email workflow that has all the conditions and actions set-up.
And to finish it off, all you need to do is build your marketing assets like email copy, images, and everything else that goes into your emails.
Sometimes you’ll need to begin by preparing one or two emails, but it’s usually worth doing them all at once.
When you have all your emails lined up next to each other, it’s much easier to clearly see whether the style and tone the objective you wanted to reach with your workflow.
Store key information in a spreadsheet
Sometimes email marketers get confused, and as a result, they end up building many different automated email workflows, which they find quite tough to manage.
So, if you want to run your automated email campaigns with confidence, it’s better to store the key information in a spreadsheet.
Simple things like what automated email workflows you’ve created, , their objectives, reasons for using scoring points, target audience and tags- all of this information can help you make much better sense of your automated email campaigns.
This type of information will also be valuable if you want to inform your team about the types of email campaigns you’re running.
Consult and test
What seems logical to you as a marketer may not seem as such to others.
While automated email workflows are quite simple to set-up, it’s worth consulting the logic behind them with someone who is an expert.
And whenever you agree that the automated email workflow makes sense, just test it out. Add an email address into the automated email workflow or just draw over it, pretending that you’re taking the same actions your subscribers would.
Time to use the KPIs and objectives you have written down in your plan and calculate the success of your automated email workflows.
If you can’t measure it, you just can’t improve it.
So, ensure that you take time to analyze your automated email workflows and all the individual automated emails you’re sending to your subscribers.
Playing well together
Savvy marketers stress the importance of not ignoring your traditional marketing initiatives.
“Don’t turn your back on traditional email, as automation relies on a trigger. What would happen if the trigger never gets pulled? You will completely stop communicating with your subscribers. And if there’s no trigger, there are no automated emails, there’s no email marketing. That’s a missed opportunity. The objective of traditional marketing emails is to remind subscribers about your company and your offerings. It’s quite surprising how quickly people forget about you.
A better strategy?
Using automated emails to compliment your other marketing initiatives.
Triggers on emails themselves can be valuable.
Example, if you’re using traditional email to generate more demand, promoting a lesser-known product line to your existing customers, you could easily set-up a trigger for a forward, a form submission, or a click to encourage them to convert. Keep in touch with people who don’t need your offering at present and open their eyes to what your offering can do for them.
Triggered automated emails can run on auto-pilot and help to generate more revenue. Thoughtfully created emails can break new ground, better serve customers and increase sales. Especially, they work well for e-commerce brands. You can perform different experiments with triggered automated emails to find out what works best for you.