Email automation is every busy marketer’s ally.

When you automate your email marketing campaigns, you can build lasting relationships with your existing customers and even attract new prospects with emails personalized specifically to them. If you want to sell more products and grow your business quickly, you should leverage email automation.

In fact, 35% of small businesses are already using email automation as part of their marketing strategies. Others are even taking things a step further with even more advanced technologies.

email automation

But how do you use email automation? What kind of automated emails can you send to promote your business? If you have these questions, this detailed guide is for you.

It’s a primer on how to get started with email automation. We’ll also take a look at different email automation workflows along with some examples.

Disclosure: This content may contain a few affiliate links, which means if you click on them, I will get a commission (without any extra cost to you).

How to Use Email Automation: A Step-by-Step Guide For Your Business

If you want to succeed at email marketing, you need to leverage email automation. The biggest benefit of email automation is that you can let your campaigns run on autopilot, giving you more time to work on other areas of your business.

Once you set it up, you don’t have to worry about manually sending your email campaign to each subscriber on your list. Plus, you can even schedule emails in advance to get all of your work done at once. In a nutshell, you can run your email marketing campaign like a well-oiled machine with automation.

In this section, let’s discuss how you can set up email automation easily for your business.

Step 1: Pick an Email Marketing Software Program

The first step to automate your email marketing campaign is to pick a powerful and reliable email marketing software program. There are a number of such marketing and automation programs like Constant Contact out there.

So, how do you decide which one is the best for you? There isn’t a definitive answer but you should consider the following factors:

  • Availability of email templates
  • User-friendliness of the interface
  • Integrations
  • List segmentation and personalization options
  • Customizable methods for signing up
  • A/B testing option
  • Reporting capabilities
  • Ecommerce capabilities
  • Marketing automation features
  • Tech support
  • Email deliverability options
  • Scalable pricing
  • Availability of free trial

Take some time to list the best email automation software programs available out there and then compare them based on the above-mentioned criteria. Pick the one that suits your requirements and budget.

Step 2: Identify Your Audience

Success with email marketing only comes when you truly know what is important to your unique set of customers. Each email marketing campaign should be tailored specifically to the target audience in mind. That’s because you’ll need to create content based on the needs of those subscribers or customers.

For instance, you might send online shoppers emails about the latest discounts for an upselling campaign. On the other hand, you might focus on your brand values and mission for a welcome email campaign aimed at new subscribers to your list.

Once you have identified the target audience, segment your email lists using your chosen email marketing software program. You can segment your email lists based on different types of criteria, including location, lifecycle stage, age, interests, etc.

Step 3: Decide on the Campaign Goal

What are you trying to achieve through your email marketing campaign? Why are you reaching out to them? Answer these questions concisely. To run a successful campaign, you should be clear on the “why” even before you start.

Once you figure out your campaign goal, you’ll be able to work on the messaging. You’ll get clarity on what action you want your subscribers to take. It could be visiting your website or making a purchase.

And what happens if they take the action that you wanted them to take?

Let’s say you plan a 5-email series to boost your conversions. When prospect A sees the first email, they are convinced that they want to make a purchase. After they’ve purchased your product, you can’t continue to send them emails persuading them to buy from you.

Wouldn’t that be pointless and even counterproductive?

To avoid this, you can set criteria to take off contacts from the workflows when they meet the desired goal. In every email marketing platform, this option will be provided under a different name. You’ll have to use your software to figure out how to do that in it.

Step 4: Plan Your Workflows

At this point, you get to design personalized workflows based on your campaign goals and target audience. You can make personalized workflows that get triggered in multiple ways — whenever a new contact is added to your list, when they submit a form, click on your ad, or become a qualified lead.

Alternatively, you can also set up workflows based on other criteria, including

  • Page views
  • Content downloads
  • Social media clicks
  • Contact properties

… or other such factors

Step 5: Determine Processes to Automate

If you were reaching out to your subscriber base manually, what would you do at each step in the workflow? Define it just as you would even if you didn’t have email marketing software at your disposal. You should know the exact number of emails you want to send along with the type of messaging you want in each one.

Preparing a blueprint will help you gain a clearer understanding of what processes you want to automate. For instance, you may want to automate processes like scheduling emails and updating all contact data to your customer relationship management software program.

Step 6: Create All the Emails

You’re through with all the planning, so it’s time to step up and get some work done! You already know how many emails you have to create and the kind of content you want to include.

While searching for email marketing software, look for a solution that offers professionally designed templates that display well on mobile devices to help you finish the email creation process quickly.

Most software programs have a ton of these templates for different use cases. Plus, they are mostly customizable. If you are short of time, it’s the best way to go about creating emails for your campaigns.

Step 7: Set Up Your Campaign

You’ve got everything in order. The final step is to set up automation in your chosen email marketing software program. Some of the things that you should consider while implementing your workflow process include:

  • Check the list of enrolled contacts for any errors
  • Look at the workflow chart
  • Consider all use cases

If everything is in place, test the workflow to check if it is working correctly. Even if you are completely sure you’ve set it up right, don’t skip testing. Sometimes minor errors can lead to embarrassing situations.

Don’t be afraid to go back and change entire emails if you find any errors in the testing process. Just like other parts of any marketing strategy, this step is all about trial and error. You might not get everything right during the first go and that’s okay.

11 Best Tips For Email Automation

Now you've learned how to use email marketing automation for your campaigns. Very well done! These campaigns, also known as email drip campaigns, can help your sales and marketing teams get a consistent supply of warm leads

Isn’t that a great asset for your business?

But keep in mind that the lead nurturing process is not a set-it-and-forget-it tool, even if it is supposed to operate automatically. There's always something that can be done better. Start experimenting with open rates, conversions, and click-through rates to see how to boost them.

If you want to improve your email automation, here are some tips that you should check out:

1. Leverage Segmentation

Have you heard the saying, “Birds of a feather flock together?” It holds true in terms of email automation. People with similar interests, behavior, or any common attribute tend to gravitate towards similar things.

Why not create segmented lists based on these attributes to make your marketing messages more effective?

Here are some commonalities you can base your email lists on:

  • Geographical Area: For businesses where location can impact purchase decisions greatly, it makes sense to segment email lists based on geographical area. You can even use this option to send emails to a particular set of subscribers in their time zone.
  • Demographics: You can segment your lists based on information like age, occupation, income range, gender, or company position.
  • Survey Results: If you want nuanced information about your customers, you can set up survey forms that can provide insights into their tastes and needs.
  • Engagement via Email: You can also segment your email lists based on how engaged your subscribers are. Basically, you can send two different sets of emails for active and inactive subscribers.
  • Purchase Activity: You can send emails recommending similar items to something that a set of customers may have purchased before. You can also send replacement requests when you expect a product to run out.
Image via Litmus

Amount Spent: For businesses that sell a mix of high-range products and low-range products, this can be an effective segmentation strategy.

By checking past purchase history, you can gauge which customers are likely to spend money on expensive products. You can showcase offers to them in emails accordingly.

Position in the Sales Funnel: One of the most common and valuable segmentation strategies is via the position of a lead in the sales funnel.

You can send introductory emails to those who are at the beginning of the funnel. On the other hand, you can send the latest offers or exclusive event invites to those who are deeper along the funnel.

2. Customize Your Emails to Match Your Brand Experience

Consistency is central to maintaining your brand identity online. You will need to customize your email design and layout so your audience knows right away that it’s an email that you’ve sent. Add your logo, font, brand colors, and name such that it is prominently visible.

To foster recognition, you should use the same color palette across your emails, website, and social media. In addition to this, also add your address in the email if you have a physical store.

Here is an example of a well-branded email from Airbnb:

Image Via Airbnb

As you can see they’ve stuck to their native color scheme of red and white. Plus, they have included their logo right at the top so you can associate it with their brand.

3. Make Your Campaigns Easy to Read

While making design choices, you need to consider that some people may be viewing your content via mobile devices. Plus, there may be some people viewing your content who have some sort of disability.

Design your email in such a way that it is easily accessible to everyone. You don’t want to alienate anyone.

To make sure your email is readable on mobile phones, you can try the “arm’s length” rule. Send your email to a mobile device around you. Next, hold your phone at an arm’s length and see if you can still read the content. If you can’t, you should increase the font size in your email.

To check if your email can be ready by people with disabilities, you can use specialized tools like WebAIM. Their contrast checker can help you test the overall readability of your email and even check if links and buttons are visible on different backgrounds.

Their simulators can even check your emails for low visibility and distractibility. Using this tool, you can find out if people with dyslexia can read your email.

Image via Webaim

4. Make Your Emails Appealing With Fun Visuals

After you've double-checked that your email's design is on-brand, you might want to add some extra aesthetic components to spice things up.

Many email marketing software solutions come with campaign builders that have different fonts and visual elements to make your email design better.

If you don’t have the resources to shoot high-quality images, you could also use stock photos in your emails. Websites like Unsplash and Pexels offer a huge variety of stock photos that you can edit and add to your emails.

Need email design inspiration? Here is an email from Trello that is loaded with colorful custom visuals to draw the reader’s attention:

5. Structure Your Email Appropriately

The way you organize the words in your email can change the way readers pay attention to the text. For instance, if you go text-heavy, readers might get lost in the chunky paragraphs. But if you break that text into bullet points, the information becomes more readable and easily digestible.

Keep in mind that one-column layouts work well for short and simple messages. If you want to add heavy text and images, you should opt for a multi-column layout.

What if your email has really long sections of text? Use headers to organize the content so that it is more easily readable.

Check out how Headspace structures their email to balance out their text and visual elements and comes up with a neat design:

 really good emails
Image via Really Good Emails

6. Personalize Your Messaging

You may be leveraging email automation to make the tedious task of sending emails quicker. However, your subscribers shouldn’t feel like they are reading an automated message that is sent via a machine or doesn’t reflect any understanding about who they are as a customer.

If you want them to act on your message, you need to add a touch of personalization to your emails. For starters, address your customers via their registered contact name instead of a generic greeting that could be sent to anyone. Email automation software programs will enable you to do that only with a few clicks.

In addition to this, write the content keeping in mind the needs of the target audience. Think about what your customers value most, when they engage with your business, and what they will want to know about your products and offers. Then, write your content in a way that delivers that value to them in a helpful way that feels specific to them personally.

7. Include Concise CTAs

Whenever a subscriber reads your email, they should be clear about the action that you want them to take.

Let’s say that you send them an email about an order update. In this case, it’s important that you include a CTA that allows them to raise any issues they may have with the order.

Alternatively, if you’re sending a promotional email, you should include another CTA that redirects them to your website or product pages.

For an effective email marketing strategy, it is important that your CTAs are prominently placed and give clear directions on the next step in the process.

8. Track Email Responses Regularly

Want to improve your email marketing campaigns? Make sure that you track all your email responses. Each automated email that you send can give you deep insights into your customer’s preference.

By tracking their responses, you can learn if a subscriber:

  • Opened your email or not
  • Used your discount code or offer
  • Visited your website
  • Bought a product that you suggested
  • Continue to browse when they visit your website

Everything that you learn about your email subscribers can help you formulate your next campaign. If you find that your subscribers aren’t responding to your emails or clicking on your recommendations, you can change your strategy.

9. Offer Strategic Discounts

Did you know that emails with a clear discount code or coupon are more likely to be opened (77% of consumers open these), AND more likely to lead to a purchase (67% buy from these) than any other type of email a small business could send? Emails with coupons are also least likely to be deleted or push someone to unsubscribe

Check where you are losing people in your sales funnel. You may want to spend time adding more content that can encourage purchases, as campaigns with coupons and discounts convert at a much higher rate than other campaigns.

This can lure buyers to complete their purchase but make sure you don’t overuse this strategy. Otherwise, your customers are likely to expect reduced prices every time they want to make a purchase.

10. Create Drip Campaigns

Not all subscribers will make a purchase or even open your email the first time they receive it. You may have to engage with them several times before they become your customers. That’s where drip campaigns come in handy.

By automating a series of emails, you make them familiar with your brand, gradually. You can tell them about your mission, values, and products little by little. In this way, you aren’t overloading them with information all at once.

You can send relevant information without coming across as too pushy. In fact, you can change the settings so that the subsequent emails are only sent to those who open the first few ones. That way, you reach out again to only those subscribers who have shown some level of interest in your brand.

11. Schedule Maintenance Time

Once you automate your campaign, you shouldn’t sit back and forget about it completely. Of course, your emails will be sent because they are automated. It will keep running if the conditions you’ve set for the campaign are met.

But is everything running smoothly? You should take some time to check it every few months. This will ensure that the triggers you’ve set for your email campaigns are relevant. If they aren’t, you can refresh the settings and make the required changes.

In your maintenance time, make sure you test multiple versions of your email subject lines, content, and CTA buttons. Maybe even try out the same subject line with some emojis thrown in the mix. The more you experiment, the better you’ll figure out what works for your target audience.

Which Are the Different Types of Workflows You Can Use For Email Automation?

So far, we’ve discussed the benefits of marketing automation, how to set it up, and best practices that you can employ. In this section, let’s take a look at some different types of workflows that you can set up to get the most out of your email marketing campaigns.

1. Welcome Workflow

Whenever a new subscriber signs up for your emails, make sure you give them a warm welcome. You can do this by setting up a series of emails to welcome them aboard.

You can set up these emails such that they get triggered once someone signs up for your mailing list or makes a purchase. This workflow is essential to start a new relationship with your subscribers and customers.

Not only can it keep them engaged but it can also ensure that they are introduced to helpful resources that they might need to use your products or services.

2. Topic-Related Workflows

Is there any particular industry-specific topic that you talk a lot about? Create a workflow for it in your email marketing campaigns.

Let’s say you are a baker who talks about new piping techniques, cake recipes, and the latest baking equipment. You can compartmentalize all your content marketing offers based on these topics.
In fact, you could set up a trigger such that an appropriate workflow is activated when someone reads an article centered around that topic. For instance, if someone is reading an article on “Buttercream Piping Techniques,” you can send them a link to “Cake Piping Templates.”

3. Engaged Workflow

Create a list specifically that targets contacts who engage with your emails. Anytime someone clicks on your email, visits your website, or submits a form, you could send this workflow.

Because these people are already engaging with your brand, there is a high chance that they will share their content on other platforms.

For this workflow, you can consider adding your list criteria such that you pull in your contacts who have a certain number of Instagram followers. This way, you can make the most of email and social media marketing.

5. Lead Nurturing Workflow

Once a lead has engaged with you a few times and maybe downloaded an offer, it’s an indication that they are ready to move further along the funnel. Create workflows that contain middle-of-the-funnel and bottom-of-the-funnel content.

In this workflow, you can include testimonials, case studies, product demos, and free trial offers. You could also highlight any award or media mentions that you’ve received.

6. Sales Representative Notification Workflow

On your website, you may have certain pages that indicate more interest than the others. Identify such conversion events and web pages. Most likely, such pages will be your pricing plans pages or product pages. Use an attribution tool on these pages so that you get notified when someone is viewing them.

Through email personalization, provide all that information to your sales representative so they can call the lead right away. With this tactic, you’ve got a better chance of getting a conversion started.

7. Re-Engagement Workflow

No matter how hard you try, you are going to have some inactive subscribers on your list. If you want to turn them into active subscribers, you need to re-engage them.

You can set certain criteria to make a list of all such subscribers. For instance, you can set a condition like the length of time since they submitted a form or visited your website. After it’s been a certain number of days, weeks, or months, your software program can send an email.

To get them interested again, you could send an offer coupon or a discount code. Here is an example of a re-engagement email:

Image via Designmodo

8. Event Workflow

Want to get more registrations for your next event? Whether you’re hosting a social media live, webinar, or in-person event, you can set up an event workflow to draw more participation.

All you need to do is design a workflow that shows important information about the event. From date, venue, time, and log-in information, you should mention everything.

When your event ends, you can give attendees special access to tutorials, slides, or other educational resources. In fact, you can even promote future events via this workflow.

9. Abandoned Cart Workflow

We’ve already discussed how abandoned carts are a big issue for businesses. Adding a special workflow for it is a great way to reduce the problem. Whenever a user adds a product to their cart but doesn’t complete their purchase, you can trigger an email. To motivate them to return to their cart, you can even offer a special discount or incentive.

10. Upsell or Cross-sell Workflow

You shouldn’t stop communicating with those who have already made a purchase. Instead, you should showcase related or complementary products that they can use. To do this, create cross-selling or up-selling workflows for the purchase of certain items or a group of products.

Here is an example of such an email:

Image via SaleCycle

11. Deal-Based Workflow

For all marketing campaigns, the most important aspect is getting more closed deals. With a deal-based workflow, you can ensure that your customers get a relevant confirmation email after they sign a contract or discuss a quote with you. In fact, sales representatives can also follow up to check if the customers need anything else.

Here is an example of a booking confirmation email:

bar collins email
Image via Access Support

12. Customer Service Workflow

Whenever your customers have an issue with your products or services, they are going to raise a customer service query. If you get too many queries at once, it can be difficult to tackle them together. Instead, you can create a special workflow to turn them into tickets.

Further, you can categorize them based on urgency and send relevant information appropriately. You can send the urgent ones to the sales team directly. Even if it’s going to take a while for you to respond, an acknowledgment email can work.

Here is an example:

groove email
Image via Groove HQ

Ready to Leverage Email Automation?

Email marketing automation can help you run your campaigns more efficiently and free up a lot of time for your team. Mundane tasks like sending weekly emails can be automated so your staff can pay attention to other important operational tasks.

What’s more, email automation can help you get insights into your audience’s needs, purchase behavior, buying habits, and more. With that goldmine of information, you can optimize your campaigns and generate more leads and sales.

Are you ready to leverage email automation to grow your business? If you have any questions related to it, please feel free to mention them in the comments section below.

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