Running a small business requires your constant attention to many tasks. Email marketing automation can make it easier and more efficient to manage your workload while still growing your business. With email automation, you can increase your revenue without having to increase your work.
Think about it: Just a few of the many tasks on your plate include marketing, customer service, communication, and nurturing leads and new prospects. Each of these can quickly monopolize your time and leave other critical aspects of your business unattended. Marketing automation software enables you to manage those tasks more effectively.
And it works. The average ROI from marketing automation is $5.44 per dollar spent, according to Nucleus Research, and email is the most frequently utilized form of marketing automation, with 65% of marketers taking advantage of it in some form.
Use this guide to learn all about email marketing automation – what it is, how it works, and the steps you can take to grow while opening up more time for other parts of your business and life.
What is email marketing automation?
In essence, email marketing automation tools allow you to send out messages without you needing to be involved each and every time. You create an email once, and through the use of triggers that fire when a visitor takes certain actions on your website or in response to other emails, your email automation software sends that message automatically.
When you hear about people running businesses online in their sleep, email automation is part of what they’re talking about. You could be on vacation, out for dinner, or sleeping at 2:00 in the morning, and if a website visitor takes a particular action, they’ll receive an appropriate email from you right at that moment.
That’s email marketing automation.
It’s a trigger-based approach to email that enables you to stay in touch and respond to customers across a vast array of situations, all without having to lift a finger – once your automation structure is in place. And that part does take some work on the front end. But once it’s set up, it just keeps running.
What is the difference between automated and broadcast emails?
Broadcast or batch emails are marketing emails that go out to your entire email list. They usually get sent out in batches, not all at once, to improve deliverability. Segmented emails go out to portions of your customer base. Both these types of emails are typically created by an email copywriter, and perhaps a larger marketing team. If you own a small business, you may do this yourself or hire a freelancer.
Then, these broadcast-style emails are sent out or scheduled manually. If it’s to a segment of your email list, your team will have to identify and create that segment if it doesn’t already exist.
These have their place in your email marketing strategy, but are separate from true email marketing automation – a person still has to do the work in order for that email to go out.
With automated emails, they go out even if no one is working at your entire business. They’ll go out even if the power is out, because your email servers aren’t located at your business, but through an email service provider such as MailPoet.
Examples of automated emails
Here are a few of the most popular and effective types of automated emails that just about any business can use to nurture leads, engage customers, and make more sales.
When new customers visit your website and fill out a form to join your email list, what happens? In addition to being added to your list, they should receive a welcome email, or even better, a welcome series.
The welcome email introduces new leads and prospects to your business. It should offer them some type of reward for signing up, such as a coupon, a free guide, a video, or some other quick win. Your welcome series could also introduce your brand, products, and services, connect them with your social media accounts, send them helpful information such as popular blogs or useful web pages, and make them feel welcome and valued.
A good email welcome series will make sales on the spot, or engage and nurture the new customer so they make purchases later. And it goes out automatically to anyone who joins your list.
Webinar registration emails
When someone signs up for a webinar, they should receive an immediate confirmation email in their inbox. This reassures them you know what you’re doing, for one, and that their registration didn’t get lost in the abyss. More importantly, it increases the chances they will actually attend the webinar.
The best webinar automated emails will again be a series, not just single emails. You will create a series of messages before the date of the webinar, and they will get sent out automatically, as the date gets closer, to everyone who registers.
Free gift or download emails
One way to grow your email list is to offer something free that’s useful or desirable to your target audience, in exchange for their email address. While this might seem like just another version of a welcome email, it’s a little different because this automated email will be written specifically to ‘re-sell’ whatever free item they just requested.
If it’s an eBook, a guide, a video, a podcast, or a report, you’ll want them to actually read, watch, or listen to it. So this email will promote the benefits of your content and get your new prospects excited to consume it.
If it’s a promotional offer like a first-time customer coupon or special deal, the email will encourage them to use it. Again, just because you send out a coupon doesn’t mean the recipient will buy something. You still need to make the sale. The automated email series motivates that purchase.
Quiz or survey completion emails
If you run a quiz or a survey on your website or through another service, everyone who takes your quiz should receive an email once they have finished. This email might share the results of the survey. It might include a reward of some sort for completing it, and should connect them to other resources on your website.
It should also just say “thank you,” because they took time to participate.
Post-purchase follow-up emails
After a customer makes a purchase, they need to hear from you. You need to thank them. You also want to give them the chance to send feedback or write a review about the product, or about their customer service experience. For some products, you may include a tutorial PDF or video.
You can create a post-purchase email that’s specific to every one of your products.
Email automation like this can be set up to send follow-up emails if the customer doesn’t respond to the first one. This type of email series can also be used to promote a subsequent purchase by offering them new deals or informing them about other products related to what they just bought.
Emails to lapsed or inactive contacts
You can also set up email automation that attempts to engage customers after they have been inactive for a certain amount of time, such as a year. These pre-written emails will offer some kind of deal or opportunity for the customer to re-engage. This could be a free offer, such as a video, interview, new report, or something of that nature. Or, it could be a coupon or one-time promotional offer.
These types of emails accomplish more than just re-engaging lapsed customers. They also help you keep your email list clean. When customers don’t respond to these emails, you may want to remove them from your email list, as they may have abandoned that account.
Abandoned cart emails
This is one of the most profitable types of email marketing automation. According to Experian, customers who receive abandoned cart emails are 2.4 times more likely to complete their purchase than customers who hear nothing.
These emails can be set to trigger automatically after a shopping cart gets left with items in it for a certain amount of time. Here’s more about how to use abandoned cart emails.
Personalized automated emails
Customers appreciate personalized marketing because it’s relevant to them. You can personalize emails based on a number of factors, such as:
- Categories of products they’ve purchased
- Demographics like age, gender, or family status
- Birthdays and anniversaries
- Past purchase dates
For example, you might have a couple of automated email campaigns built around each of your product categories. Each year, you can send out those campaigns to any customer who has made a purchase of something from that category. They’ll see this email as relevant to them, and be more likely to respond. See how to set up category-specific email automations.
Likewise, you can set up emails to go out automatically on birthdays, with special promotional messages and offers to make your customers feel special.
Triggered automated emails
More complicated email automation systems may include workflows that involve a series of triggers that go out depending on what a customer does.
For example, suppose you send out an email asking if a segment of your customers wants to receive a video that will be coming out soon. Each customer who clicks ‘yes’ will be added to an email sequence built around that video. And within that sequence, you could have another sequence that goes out to anyone who watches the whole video, and a separate one that goes to people who only watch the first few minutes.
This sort of email marketing automation is much more complicated than most of the other types listed above. But once you have it set up, it can play a big role in growing your business. Not every email automation platform offers that level of complexity.
How email automation helps small businesses
What are the benefits of email automation? Here are a few of the biggest wins for small businesses that use email automation software.
What you can achieve with email automation, you simply could not do any other way without abandoning all of your other important responsibilities. Imagine having to track all the shopping carts and send out emails to each customer manually, listing the items they left in their carts. That simply isn’t going to happen.
Or imagine having to send out a welcome series every time someone joins your email list, or every time someone buys anything from your online store, if you have one. For businesses with consistent levels of traffic, you’d need a whole team of people to keep up with all this.
Marketing automation software allows you to serve customers immediately in ways that matter to them, regardless of how small your business is or how much it grows. Scaling your business has little effect on how hard your email automation has to work.
Back to the abandoned cart statistic we mentioned earlier – you make more sales by sending out automated emails. Welcome series and other emails that trigger when a customer requests something simply lead to more revenue. Promotional emails that go out based on product categories or other personalized information will help you make sales you would’ve otherwise missed.
You’ll be selling to more people, in more situations, and more frequently than you ever would if you tried to do all of this manually.
Keeps customers engaged
Customers are bombarded with communications and marketing. You have to stay on top of their minds or they’ll eventually forget about you. Email is the single best way to do that because it costs so little to send messages out.
Automated email marketing enables you to keep existing customers engaged without you having to do all the work. They are reminded of your business and their past involvement, and you stay relevant to them.
Improves retention rate
Engaged customers are more likely to make second purchases. Email marketing automation thus increases your customer lifetime value. First-time customers become second-time customers. Members stay longer.
Encourages word of mouth
When customers feel well-treated, they’re more likely to write positive reviews and testimonials. With automated email campaigns, you can not only more consistently ask for reviews as part of your post-purchase email series, but you’ll get more good reviews because your customers feel important and valued.
How to get started with email automation
At this point, you’re probably pretty excited about adding email automation to your marketing strategy. Or if you already are using email automation, perhaps you’ve discovered a few new ideas to add to your existing efforts.
Either way, here’s a step-by-step blueprint for how to create an automated email marketing campaign.
Step 1: Choose an email marketing automation platform
Lots of people wonder if you can automate emails in Gmail or Outlook. The short answer is “no.” Those aren’t designed for sending out mass emails for businesses, and you can’t set up triggers based on particular situations to individual customers.
You need to use an email service provider that offers marketing automation, such as MailPoet. Different platforms offer different levels of automation, and you need to find one that has the capabilities that you’ll need.
For example, for an online store using WooCommerce, MailPoet works very well because it fully integrates with the platform and offers many of the automated emails you’ll want to use. And even if you’re not an online store, MailPoet works seamlessly with any WordPress-based website.
Other email marketing platforms may specialize in the more complicated automated workflows and trigger-based sequences that some businesses desire. The one you choose depends on the type of automated emails you want to send out, as well as cost, learning curve, and convenience.
Step 2: Upload your email list
If you’re starting email marketing for the first time, you’ll need to upload your email list – whatever you have on hand at the time. The sooner you get your existing customers engaged with email, the sooner you can create automated email campaigns that will benefit them.
What if I don’t have an email list?
That’s okay! Email automation actually makes it much easier to grow and maintain an email list.
If you create some incentives for visitors to your website and social media pages to join your email list, you can use basic email automation like a welcome series to engage those new email subscribers and convert them into customers.
A study from VentureBeat found that automated emails produced 180% higher conversion rates than bulk or batch emails. Your welcome series, even if that’s the only email automation you use, will increase your conversion rate compared to what you’d achieve just by sending out regular marketing emails.
To grow your email list, start offering coupons, free guides or other valuable content, and various incentives that will make people want to join your list. Then, use a welcome series to engage and later convert them into customers.
MailPoet shines again here with easy-to-use email signup forms for WordPress.
Step 3: Determine your campaign goal
The goal depends very much on the type of email automation and who will be receiving it. The goal of an abandoned cart email is obvious – to lead to a completed purchase.
But what is the goal of your welcome emails? It could be to get new email subscribers to follow you on social media. It could be to encourage clicks through to your website, blog readership, video views, requests for a free guide, sign ups for a free consultation, or demo or trial registrations.
There are many more possible campaign goals for a welcome series. Decide what you want each of your automated campaigns to achieve.
Step 4: Create your email campaign assets
A successful email campaign of any sort, including automated emails, requires more than just the email itself. The assets for each email campaign may differ slightly, but here are the most common items you’ll need:
- Opt-in, registration, or other signup form on your website that triggers automated emails
- Landing page – the page you link to in your email
- Graphics – photos, charts, GIFs, other graphic design elements related to the campaign
- Free stuff like PDFs, eBooks, videos – whatever you promised that motivated the customer to trigger the automated email
- Call to action (CTA) text and buttons
- Coupon codes, if applicable
You have to think through what you’ll need for each campaign. When a customer or lead sees this email, what do you want them to do in response? What happens when they click on your links or buttons? Those are your campaign assets.
And if anything on your website needs to happen in order to trigger an automated email, those are also campaign assets.
Step 5: Outline your automated emails
Once your assets are in place, you can write the actual emails and subject lines. Some of these emails may be very short, such as last-minute webinar reminders or abandoned cart emails.
But whatever you create, remember that once these are done, they are done and you don’t have to write them again. You may need to update them from time to time, but for the most part, automated emails are known as evergreen marketing assets, because they never expire or get old.
Step 6: Create your emails
If you’re working with an email developer, they can custom code your messages and upload finished HTML emails into your email service provider (ESP).
However, for the most part, you’ll work within your email service tool to design and create the emails using some type of drag-and-drop builder. MailPoet, for example, has a number of WordPress email templates you can use as a foundation to make this process much quicker.
Depending on your ESP, you’ll likely be able to integrate shortcodes that automatically input information stores on their system – like the first name of a subscriber, the exact product the email recipient was looking at before they abandoned their cart, and more.
Step 7: Create the triggers for each email
Each email service provider has its own method to create automated email workflows. There will be some sort of process for setting up triggers.
For free downloads, registrations, opt-ins, and anything based on a button on your website, clicking that button must trigger email messages automatically. For automation based on something the customer clicks in the email itself, the trigger will fire based on that link or button.
Abandoned cart emails get sent out based on how much time has elapsed since they put the items in their cart. So you’ll need an ESP that interacts with your WooCommerce platform. Same with emails based on categories purchased.
Figure out the process for each automated email you create, and set up your triggers.
Step 8: Check your email automation setup and run a test
When possible, especially when you’re just getting started, run tests to ensure that your email automation is working.
Use a personal email address and sign up for your newsletter. Does the welcome series arrive in your inbox? Does it show up in your spam or promotions folders, or in your main inbox? Do the graphics show up? Do the links work?
Put some items in a shopping cart on your online store, and leave them there. See if the abandoned cart email shows up when it’s supposed to.
Category purchase emails and lapsed customer automated emails will be harder to test, but once you’re confident you’ve set up the simpler ones correctly, you’ll have more confidence you’ve done the other ones right, too.
Step 9: Sit back and watch it work
Every now and then, go in and monitor your automated emails to make sure they’re still working. You should see metrics such as opens and clicks associated with these emails over time, and that’s your best indication that they’re working.
If people start buying the things you’re selling through automated emails, using coupons, and returning to their abandoned carts, you’ll know it because the money will be in the bank.
Plus, most platforms have an option to track metrics for email engagement performance. MailPoet even has a way to specifically track the real-world ROI of your campaigns.
Get started with email marketing automation with MailPoet
According to the Direct Marketing Association, segmented, targeted, and automated emails account for 77% of the ROI from email marketing. So automated emails are one of the top three sources of revenue from email.
As you saw previously, some marketing automation platforms are very complex. Most small businesses and ecommerce stores aren’t going to need or want that, because those have steep learning curves and higher setup costs.
Sending out welcome series and abandoned cart emails doesn’t have to be that complicated. The faster you can start using email marketing automation, the sooner it will generate revenue that you’re missing out on right now. MailPoet blends seamlessly with WordPress and WooCommerce, is easy to learn, and you can have new email marketing campaigns working for your business fairly quickly. Want to try it?