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Why Email Automation Is Key For Business Growth

December 16, 2022

email automation

Ever noticed how top brands always seem to drop extremely relevant emails in your inbox at just the right time? 

The email with a discount on your birthday? A perfectly curated list of recommended products after you’ve been browsing a website? The invitation to write a review days after you've worn your new shoes (and lived to tell the tale)? 

You may be thinking, “These companies probably have a huge marketing team that curates lists, remembers birthdays, and sends out these emails.” Or “They have such a small customer base that they can take the time to care and get to know ME!”

Or even “Magic email elves take care of it, silly!” 

Well I’m sorry to tell you, folks, but there are no elves. The real answer? Email automation.

Whether email automation is something totally foreign to you, or you’re looking for some ideas on how to harness your shiny new email marketing tool, keep reading as we run through the ins and outs of email automation, its importance, examples, and some top tips from my experience building automated email journeys and campaigns.

Why is email automation important?

As marketers, we want to provide the most relevant, informative, and personalized content to our customers. Each and every person who interacts with your brand should encounter a dynamic 1:1 experience according to their own needs, preferences, and buying patterns.

Email automation allows us to do just this efficiently and at scale.

You set up email automation to trigger emails by creating rules based on a customer’s behavior, like signing up for a newsletter or adding something to their cart. The messages are then delivered in a timely manner with content tailored to that particular user’s behavior. This enhances your brand’s messaging by becoming super relevant and consistent across all email communications.

Not only that, it also saves your team time because no one has to send these campaigns manually. There’s also less room for human error. And the whole process is totally scalable; once the rules that trigger your campaigns are in place, they apply to all users that follow them, regardless of how many there are.

Simply, email automation is key if you want to do more with less, provide personalized content, and maintain the relevance of your messaging.

Identifying custom events and triggering emails from them is key to sending relevant and valuable information to your audience

How to set up automated email campaigns

Now that you know what email automation is and why it’s important, learning how to set them up is next!

1. Choose an email automation tool

Choosing the right email automation software for your needs is important, so let’s run through a few things to look for when selecting your tool.

  • Trigger emails based on custom behavior. It may seem obvious, but some tools out there don’t let you do this. The more granular you can get when building the rules that trigger your automated email campaigns, the more relevant they’ll be to the recipient.
  • Dynamic, customizable emails. Tailored content goes hand-in-hand with automated emails; it’s critical to campaign success and company growth as a whole. To really make your automated emails relevant, you have to display content dynamically adapted to each recipient.
  • Integration with your software stack. This plays off of the above point around personalization. Email automation software that allows for dynamic content isn’t helpful if you can’t get the necessary data about each recipient into the email. It’s common to have customer data stored in customer relationship management (CRM) software or a database of some sort. Being able to plug this data straight into your email automation software using a native integration means you have access to all the information you need to populate your email.
  • Analytical and reporting capabilities. You need to be able to view campaign analytics and reports to track performance. The most basic, yet critical, stats to look at are open rate, click rate, click-to-open rate, delivery rate, and unsubscribe rate. Conversion rate, revenue, and dynamic content reporting are worthwhile bonus stats that help provide a more holistic view of campaign performance.

2. Set up custom actions or behaviors in the email automation tool

This is the point when you think about which behavior will prompt the start or continuation of an email campaign. Consider the behaviors that you’d like to highlight, reinforce, or celebrate.

How do they fit in with your bigger marketing strategy? How do they reinforce values presented by marketing leadership? Which customer touchpoints could be enhanced by an email? How can you provide value to your customer experience? This could be after a page view, a download, a form submission, or even a visit to your store.

3. Create rules or triggers based on the custom behaviors

This is where you can put your saved custom behaviors into action and start to send automated email campaigns! You use these saved behaviors to trigger email campaigns or workflows by creating rules.

For example, if somebody has just created an account with you, you decide to trigger a welcome journey with a series of emails that introduce them to your brand, products, or services.

However, you may want to be a bit more tailored and trigger different welcome journeys for recipients depending on their sign-up source. You could also choose to wait to send the first email for a certain period of time after the recorded sign-up event.

4. Build automated email campaigns

Now that you know your customer and you’ve decided which behaviors you’re going to react to via an email campaign, you can start to build! Think about the story you want to tell, the level of personalization to use, the cadence of your automated campaigns, and the value you’re bringing to the recipient in each email.

How to use email automation

To enhance customer experience with your brand, product, or service, automated email campaigns are best used when they react to customer touchpoints. Your ultimate goal is to nurture your recipients through to conversion.

By providing a fun, valuable, engaging, and informative experience, you’re helping to do just that. Remember not to talk about your products or services, Always focus on how your products and services can be used to improve your customers’ lives, eliminate pain points, and solve problems.

Let’s get into a few examples of how you can use email automation.

A welcome series

Trigger: account created

What is it?

A welcome series is probably one of the first email automations you’ll want to set up. A great way to become familiar with the entire process, a welcome series is a sequence of emails sent to customers after they’ve created an account with you.

This is usually the first set of email communications customers receive from you, generally employed to make your new customers feel welcome, remind them of the value of having an account, and introduce your brand.

How do you personalize it?

  • Tailor messaging for different sign-up sources
  • Consider using a “complete your profile” email with tailored content based on what’s left for them to fill out
  • Recommend products or services based on customer details provided
  • Offer different gifts, vouchers, or discounts for different types of customers

In this example, automation is used to add users to a welcome series, check whether they’ve consented to marketing, add them to a list, and then send them an email after they create an account.

"Recommended for you" email

Trigger: page view or purchase event

What is it?

An email that recommends products or services matched to each recipient. This is a great way to cross-sell products and let your customers know that you understand their wants and needs.

How do you personalize it?

  • Tailored products and services based on the recipient’s location, previous purchases, and/or online behavior
  • Different numbers of recommendations
  • Discounts for certain customer types

Special offer emails

Trigger: customer milestones, period of inactivity, post-purchase

What is it?

These are emails that contain special offers for your customers. You can use them as part of a “surprise and delight” marketing strategy by surprising a customer with a special discount or gift card on their birthday or first anniversary with your company, for example.

Alternatively, they help re-engage people who haven’t interacted with your brand in a while. You can take advantage of a special offer email to convince them to make a purchase.

How do you personalize it?

  • Provide discounts on selected products or services depending on demographic info or previous purchase, or browsing history
  • Send them a summary of their activity over the past year on your website or with your app
  • Give them early access to certain products or services for loyal customers

Nurture or drip campaign

Trigger: page view, download event, form submission

What is it?

A nurture or drip campaign is a series of automated email campaigns that move recipients down the sales or marketing funnel, ultimately nudging them toward conversion.

How do you personalize it?

  • Send different email content based on where the customer is in the sales funnel
  • Modify content to the specific product or service the recipient has expressed interest in
  • Be proactive with emails with content that alleviates common pain points or roadblocks to conversion
  • Provide handy downloads, or access to podcasts or webinars about topics the recipient may enjoy

Update or summary emails

Trigger: online behavior, time since account creation, time-triggered

What is it?

A roundup of user or business-related activity within a certain time period.

How do you personalize it?

  • Provide summary of the recipient’s activity points or achievements over the past week, month, or year on your website or with your app
  • Send inventory updates for people who have been browsing out-of-stock products
  • Let the customers know about product releases, blogs, or company news that aligns with their interests

How to scale email automation

One of the great things about email automation is its scalability! Once you have your events and triggers set up, they continue to automatically send emails to eligible recipients, regardless of whether that’s 10 or 10,000. That being said, common traps can bottleneck your growth through automation. 

  • Lack of access to an accurate, diverse, and relevant range of data to use in your automated email operations
  • Lack of experimentation and A/B testing that allows you to continue to build upon previous success or address weak points
  • Not enough time is available to spend on the architecture and development of your automated email program

Elements to consider when creating an email automation campaign

As you can tell, automated email marketing is a great way to reach the right recipients with the right message at the right time. However, consider the following as you build out your email automation program.

  • Email cadence. This is the timing or pattern at which emails are sent to your recipients. It’s something you need to think about to avoid overwhelming your subscribers. As you build a larger and more complex automated email program, you may need to think about adding rules that dictate the rate recipients receive your messages. If a user is eligible to receive 10 emails from you in a week, do you send all 10? Do you delay or cancel some of them? Do you add breaks between each email to give recipients some breathing room? You have to answer all these questions, so you don’t annoy your audience.
  • Email frequency. Closely related to email cadence, email frequency is the total number of emails your subscribers receive within a certain time frame. If your emails are informative, engaging, and valuable, your users are more likely to have a higher threshold for the number of messages they’ll accept before feeling like they’re getting buried. However, sending multiple emails each day, every day, is a stretch. Again, you may need to create rules to limit the number of emails a single subscriber can receive over a certain time frame.
  • Email prioritization. Email prioritization is simply a system that decides which emails take precedence over others if a user is due to receive multiple or too many emails within any given timeframe. Think about how you and the recipient will find value in each email, as well as other factors such as relevance and time sensitivity.
  • Email entropy. It’s easy to set up an automated email campaign, stay on top of it for a month or so, pat yourself on the back, and then move on to the next project. Don’t do this. What works well now may not be so hot in 6 months or a year, as the expectations, needs, and wants of your customer's change. Automation is great for consistency and relevance when scaling your business, but you need to adapt your triggers, messaging, and content in line with the changing requirements of your recipients, which can only be done through experimentation and periodic auditing.

Email automation can help you reach the right people with the right message at the right time, but it can also get complicated!

Go forth and automate

Now that you’re equipped with all the know-how and how-to of email automation, take this knowledge and put it into practice within your own company. It has such a flexible and diverse range of applications that benefit all company types, industries, and audiences.

It’s always gratifying and edifying to see the new and inventive ways that email automation enhances the customer experience and empowers your business.

Check out these 10 email marketing strategy tips to elevate campaigns to the next level. 

email marketing software You've got mail!

Find the best email marketing software to assist in sending emails based on customer behavior.

email marketing software You've got mail!

Find the best email marketing software to assist in sending emails based on customer behavior.

Why Email Automation Is Key For Business Growth Email automation sends emails triggered by customer behavior or preset actions, instead of being scheduled. Learn how to set up an automated campaign.
Phil Newton Phil is a Senior Email Marketing Specialist at G2. As a full-stack email marketer and self-confessed email geek, Phil has years of experience designing, building and managing email marketing strategies for B2C and B2B businesses of all sizes. He currently heads up user-side email operations at G2 where he is committed to building the most engaging, joyful, and memorable email experiences to our users.

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