The corner of email marketing of the internet- the corner where email marketing leaders praise the benefits of multivariate testing and designers geek out over the latest media queries- would have you believe that if you’re not automating some part of your email marketing operation, if not all of it, you’re doing it wrong.

I started using email marketing automation 4 years ago. And I just loved all the potential these new systems offered back then: We’d create databases of our potential customers with their name and other data fields and use automation to nurture them until they were ready to make a purchase.

We’d then segment them by product interest or industry to send them emails with offers, track their engagements like open and click rates, then finally score them to be sent to the sales team when they exceeded a specific score threshold.

While a marketer can’t start a war at the push of a button but they do have very powerful buttons at their fingertips. When clicked, those buttons can send 1,000,000 emails in a very short time interval.

What is email automation?

An automatic email campaign is set up once and then automatically sent to a particular subscriber when that subscriber hits a certain trigger, as opposed to newsletters and one-off campaigns that you create and send to a whole list of subscribers in just one go.

Example; let’s say you’re LinkedIn and you want to send an email to anyone when they sign-up for a new account. Your email will welcome them to LinkedIn and tell them how to get started adding new connections, adding professional details, and uploading a profile picture in an attempt to get them to become a frequent and active user.

If you manually build and send an email to every person when they sign-up, it would be a waste of your time and resources as well. So, instead, you could easily create an automated welcome email to be sent whenever someone gets added to your “Account Sign-ups” list.

That’s the power of email automation! You can simply set-up the email just once and the email will continue to be sent to people as more they continue to meet the trigger you defined, your email will continue to be sent to those people without you ever having to lift another finger. It basically “automates” your email marketing for you.

Are We Doing Marketing Wrong?

Author and marketing consultant, Mark Schaefer recently published a blog titled “Why Marketing Technology Is Sucking the Life Out of the Marketing Profession” where he noted that instead of what customers really want marketers are implementing tactics and strategies based on what statistically is supposed to work.

Mark Schaefer gives the example of pop-up ads: data clearly show that they generate leads, but most people hate them. This simple technology enables marketers to scales their leads generation process. And as the traffic grows, more leads are generated. On the other hand, we could also create more distrust, annoyance, and hate by showing pop-up ads.

Marketing today is best known for doing the stuff that people generally hate, Mark Schaefer described in his blog post. And as more marketers use tactics that people don’t like, the problem could easily become much worse, until we end-up creating consumer hate at scale, said Mark Schaefer.

Dial Back Your Reliance on Automation

The question that can easily put your content marketing in perspective is: If you don’t publish content tomorrow, would anyone notice? And the marketing automation version of this question is: if you stopped sending email nurtures and mass emails, what would prospects say?

Some of your prospects may even thank you for it!

So, try dialing back your use of automation in your email marketing. You can try to send 50,000 emails instead of 500,000 emails. Also, create some one-on-one emails. Example, you can send emails asking people to collaborate on one of your upcoming blog posts.

Yes, I’m talking about the kind of emails that you type yourself in your own email client.

As a result in 2019, I’d rather send just 25 personalized emails that result in one customer conversion rather than 200 emails that result in one or two e-book or white paper download.

Do Some Early Spring Cleaning

It is always a good idea to clean out your email list. Based on my five years of experience in emails marketing, for every 100 emails sent, marketers get the following results:

  • 7 hard bounces i.e., invalid email addresses.
  • 3 responses from people asking to be removed from the list.
  • 15 automatic responses, indicating that the recipients have left or retired their companies for some reason.

Apart from 5 people who opened your email and just closed without any action, we have 50 to 70 recipients who never open the email in the first place.

Majority of email marketing and marketing automation platforms are priced based on the total number of contacts you upload and total emails you send out. So cleansing your email list can not only result in improved engagements rates but also save you some money.

There are two methods that you can follow: the first one is to clean your email list by removing the obvious candidates like those mentioned above. The second one is a little extreme method in which you can ask your inactive recipients to subscribe to the list again.

If you have people on your list who haven’t engaged with any of your emails in a year, send them an email asking them to subscribe again to your list. And those who don’t respond to your email in a certain amount of time, then just remove them from your list.

Nurture your leads

According to research, 50% of the total leads collected by companies are qualified but not yet ready to buy.

The challenge here is, how do you help move those leads along to purchase without investing too much time on them? And how do you ensure that your company is at the top of their mind when they are ready to buy?

Now, using email automation to set up a series of lead nurturing emails can be an effective way to do this.

If you are using a CRM solution like HubSpot or Salesforce to manage your sales and leads, you can easily tag specific leads that need more nurturing and then use any tool to integrate those lead into your email marketing solution.

From there, you can send a series of nurturing automated email messages over a specified period of time that educates them about the benefits of your product and how to use it to get the most out of it.

Patrick McKenzie, a popular marketing blogger recommends to start with a simple series of six emails to be sent over a period of 30 days, gradually increasing the “salesness” as time moves forward.

The email flow he recommends is as follows:

The problem email– the chances of replacing their current process with your solution. In this email, you should focus more on educating your prospects on the issues associated with their existing process and should barely mention your solution.

The benefit email– an overview of the benefits of using a solution like yours to meet their goals. In this email, you should focus more on the benefits for using your solution category like the benefits of using an email service provider (ESP) over mass mailing from services like Gmail, and highlight how doing so can help improve their efficiency and results.

The transition email– Just remember that each of your potential customer is currently employing some other solution to achieve what your solution could do for them, and the process of switching from that solution to start using your solution is the barrier that you have to overcome. In this email, you should focus more on outlining an easy and simple process for making the switch from their current solution to using your solution to solve their problem.

The tools email– Include an overview of the solutions available in the market to achieve what your solution achieves, similar to a buyer’s guide. This is the first time you should introduce your solution outlining why it’s better than the solutions offered by your competitors. Add a call-to-action (CTA) to buy or sign-up for your solution.

The case study email– Include a case study on how one of your customers uses your product to get the most value out of your solution. Ensure to highlight what problems it solves for them, related to the problems mentioned in the first email and what benefits it provides them related to the benefits mentioned in the second email. Also, add a customer testimonial and a CTA to sign-up for your free plan/trial in this email.

The resources email– So, the final email of the series. Include suggestion for some blogs, e-books, starter kits, templates, etc. to learn more about what your solution does. You can also try adding a special offer or discount code in this email as if you haven’t converted with your previous emails and a discount or a special offer could give them the required push.

While this is just an example, but as you can clearly see in this example that the focus is on educating the prospects instead of making the sale.

Once your prospects have been educated on the problems faced by them with their existing approach, and also about the benefits of making the switch with a solution like yours. Only then you should introduce your solution with an offer, at this point they are more likely to make a purchase or sign-up.

This type of automated email series, when sent to the leads your company produces through your website and other marketing channels as well, can be an effective way to nurture them through to purchase, and help grow your business.

Tips for Effective Automated Email

Even automated emails need to be optimized for conversion in order to be effective, just like the regular newsletters and campaigns you send out.

The following are some tips and resources to help you build high-converting automated email campaigns:

Write good subject lines

While automated email campaigns are too triggered by the actions of recipients, they still need to have a good subject line to get the attention of the recipients and ensure they get opened.

Structure your email for scanners

Research reveals that people don’t read emails marketing campaigns word for word as they read a book. Instead, they quickly scan the email trying to find elements that pique their interest. And in order to get your message across, you need to ensure that your automated email campaign is structured for scanners.

Use compelling copy

In your automated email series, it’s critical to create desire towards the conversion action, and there’s no better way than using a benefit-focused, compelling copy.

Use a call to action button

As opposed to just text links, including a CTA button increases the conversion rate by 28%. So, when creating your automated email campaign, ensure to include a CTA button to increase the chances of recipients clicking through and taking the desired action for conversion. On the other hand, it is also important to optimize your CTA buttons.

Measure your results

Most ESP will provide you comprehensive data on metrics related to emails like opens, clicks, etc. Some of those will even show you a real-time world map of people engaging with your emails. Although to truly optimize and measure the results of your automated email campaign, you need to go past these metrics and look at the fundamental numbers that matter most to your organization, things like customers, visits, and revenue. Google Analytics is a free and powerful tool that can be used to do this.


Finally, it comes down to doing the research to ensure that your organization is ready for email automation as much as email automation is ready for your organization. As is the case with most technologies vendors, the opportunity to do that research is being minimized by the industry’s thought leaders.

However, email marketing still remains one of the most impactful of all the opportunities available to you to grow your business, and setting up automated emails can help you drive significant results without having to spend much time working on them over and over again.

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