Email automation and how you should use it

“The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency” - Bill Gates. 

Email marketing is a time-consuming process. You have to understand your audience well, know their interests, create content strategies, personalize this content, and reach out to the right people, with the right content, at the right time. There is a lot of repetitive manual effort that can be minimized with email automation. Let’s dive into what email automation is and how you can use it. 

Email Automation book

What is email automation? 

Email automation is a way of sending relevant emails to your contacts at the right time, without any manual effort. 

An email automation system sends emails whenever it meets a set of predefined rules. The emails can be sent instantly or scheduled for later. It lets you personalize your emails and target your contacts based on demographics, previous engagement, preferences, behavior, and more.

Benefits of email automation

Email automation has fast become a standard, with 49% of marketers using it. A good email automation strategy helps marketers scale up their email marketing. It allows you to be more efficient, personal, and consistent with your communication. Once configured, automation puts email communication for your common marketing workflows on auto-pilot. You can set up automation for sending a welcome message, periodic product usage tips, subscription renewal reminders, and pretty much everything else. Here are some of its key benefits.

It makes your marketing team more efficient.

Automation has made teams across companies and industries more efficient. It's not hard to imagine how much more productive marketers would be if they had everyday tasks of email list compilation or scheduling emails taken off their plates. Email automating ensures your team is spending far less time on execution and has more time to focus on what matters. 

It improves customer retention.

What's worse than failing to acquire new customers? Losing the existing ones. Most of us know that acquiring a new customer costs about five times more than retaining an existing one. 

Proactive and regular communication with customers makes them feel valued. It also gives you a chance to know about their pain-points and feedback that you can include in your product roadmap and keep your customers happy. With email automation, you can ensure that you never miss sending important customer communication at regular intervals. It could be periodic product updates, feedback emails, renewal reminders, transactional emails, and offers. Such frequent touchpoints improve your chances of keeping the customer onboard.

You can scale up your email marketing.

Automation is a great enabler when you want to double down on your email marketing execution and goals. A comprehensive email marketing strategy means better personalization, segmentation, and outreach. Setting aside time and resources for this stops being practical and efficient after a point. Email automation lets you address this and helps you become more intelligent and insightful at execution.

It enables you to offer a personalized customer experience.

With email personalizations, email open rates increase by 82%. In fact, 52% of customers would take their search elsewhere if an email is not personalized. The role of personalization in making communication more effective cannot be stressed enough. Customers love it when you know about them, their interests, and their pain points. A one-size-fits-all approach to marketing is a thing of the past, and your customers now want to be talked to directly.  Email automation helps you build a better connection with your audience. It allows you to keep up a continuous communication with them while keeping it customized.

Growing your business/brand with email automation

All good marketers or business owners have one thing in common - they always seek more conversations with their customers. They reap the benefits too. As per research, customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable compared to companies not focused on the customer. 

Email automation is an excellent way for businesses to stay in touch with their audience. An email automation system makes triggers and emails work cohesively. A trigger is like an intimation to the system to send an email, and it comes about when a predefined rule(s) is met. 

Marketers can send relevant automated emails to their contacts at the right time by using the right triggers. The more you know your customer, the better you'll be at deciding what to talk to them about and when. It is what makes the conversation more human, even though it's automated. 

Email automation can help you at different points of a customer's journey, for instance:

1. Welcoming new emails

As soon as someone leaves their information on one of your forms, you should welcome them and introduce yourself with a welcome-email. 62% of marketers believe that it's essential to reach out to new contacts within the first 24 hours of them signing up. 

Welcome emails witness open-rates as high as 57% and click-through rates of up to 14% - stuff marketer's dreams are made of. A crisp, personalized email to your new contacts is the first step to engage them and eventually guide them towards the next step you want them to take.

2. Onboarding new signups

In his LinkedIn post, Andrew Chen, General Partner at Andreessen Horowitz, talks about the importance of activating your new signups, noting that "the key to success is to get users hooked during that critical first 3-7 day period". 

Activation includes getting your signups to take any action that you think is core to the product's usage and adoption. For an invoicing tool, it could be creating the first invoice. For a task management application, it could be creating the first checklist. 

A sequence of automated emails could do the hand-holding for the user to get started. Emails with simple tutorials on taking the first action and support articles could impact and accelerate the onboarding drastically.

Source: Soapbox

3. Nurturing leads with content

Someone downloading a content piece from your website doesn't always mean they want to buy from you right away. It does, however, give you a context to follow-up and strike a conversation.

The conversation should focus on understanding the intent of download, offering more related resources, understanding the requirement, and whether they even need what you're offering. It might need multiple conversations and follow-ups to get there. An automated drip campaign spread over time makes this easier. The drip campaign gets triggered the moment they download a content piece.

Source: Tophat

4. Convert your free users to paying customers

End-of-trial emails can be used to drive free trial users to make a purchase.  Send them periodic reminders to upgrade during their trial period. Showing them the value proposition, successful customer stories, along with a sense of urgency, could help you drive them towards an upgrade. You can automate these emails, triggering them on specific days since they signed up.

Source: DocuSign

 

5. Re-engage contacts who never upgraded. 

Make sure you’re never sleeping on your free trial users even after their trial ends.  To stay effective, build a segment of users who went through the free trial with an above-average usage, but did not upgrade. This is where the opportunity lies as these are the people familiar with your offering and have tried it out. You can trigger emails to them periodically, talking about the benefits of upgrading to a paid plan. Offering them limited discounts could be a push towards making a purchase, but make sure it’s not immediately after the trial ends.

Source: Leesa

 

6. Drive purchases with cart abandonment emails. 

It’s common for online buyers to add items to their carts and not checkout in the same session. The cart abandonment rates go as high as 70%. Behaviourally, these are the users who are close to making a buying decision. 

With carefully laid out automated emails, you can bring them back to reconsider and buy. Cart abandonment emails are known to perform significantly better than other sales promotional emails because of the intent. Trigger an email timely (ideally within an hour) after the user abandoned their cart. The email should be concise with listing out all value propositions, clear CTAs, and a tone that just about pushes them to make the purchase.

Source: Google Store

 

7. Post-purchase engagement with customers.

The purchase marks a significant milestone in the customer's journey. It sure doesn't mean dropping the customer off your communication radar. Keeping the customer happy, letting them see the value, and retaining them is as important as having them purchase. You want to keep your customers for life. 

Customers like to feel valued and heard. It takes a lot of proactive communication to get their feedback, address complaints, and keep them off from churning. Automating this cycle with periodic emails on product updates, feedback, and usage insights keep your customers involved and onboard.

Trigger these emails after set intervals (say, twice a quarter). Depending on the usage, we recommend that you create segments and send tailored emails to infrequent-users, asking how you can help them. 

Source: Google One

8. Set up transactional emails. 

Transaction emails are a set of emails sent for business-critical transactions and land directly into your customers’ inbox. Every time you do a bank transaction, change your password, purchase something online, a transactional email is sent to you. It is triggered by the contacts’ behavior. They have the highest engagement rates, and you ought to set those workflows up too.

Source: swiggy

These are just a few examples of how email automation can help businesses of all sizes grow. The first step in making it work for your business is to start thinking in terms of different workflows across your marketing. What are all the points where you send (or could send) emails to your customers? Why are these emails sent? This lets you identify the common workflows that can be automated along with their triggers.

Email automation workflows to boost productivity

Content download workflow

Trigger: Pageview or gated content download

You can trigger an automated workflow for your contacts after they download a content piece or view a page. The emailS can offer them related content and other helpful resources.

New subscriber workflow

Trigger: Subscription to blog or your newsletter

You can welcome your new subscribers with an automated workflow. The email triggered right after they subscribe can also include their subscription settings (and how to change them), a few top blog posts and offers.

New customer workflow

Trigger: purchase

Proactiveness in reaching out to your customers keeps them happy and engaged. A good starting point is right after they’ve made the purchase. It could be a series of emails, starting with a welcome email, followed by how-to resources, feature information, and anything else that can help them get started.

Customer feedback workflow

Trigger: Periodic intervals

While we’re discussing customer communication, it’s important to do a regular check on them. A workflow with periodic triggers (for example, every three months during their annual subscription) can be set up to send emails with feedback questions, NPS surveys, and allowing them to talk about the issues they might be facing.

Upselling workflow

Trigger: past purchases. 

Your likelihood of selling to an existing customer is 60-70%, as opposed to 5-20% for a new prospect. Upselling workflows can let you seize this opportunity. You can set email triggers for your customers with product recommendations in line with their past purchases. More focused emails for the segment of your loyal customers can yield even better results.

Renewal reminder workflow

Trigger: Subscription expiration

A reminder workflow for renewals can boost your customer retention efforts. The workflow can be triggered for a customer, say, two weeks before their subscription expires, followed by a series of emails pushing for resubscription.

Apart from these workflows, there is a lot more you can automate depending on your brand or industry. Analyze your email performance, and minimize your efforts wherever possible. You can also go the extra length and make your automation more effective.

How to make your email automation more effective?

You’ve successfully set up triggers and emails, taking some amount of manual work off your plate. But to be successful with email automation, you have to be continually pulling levers to improve the effectiveness of your emails and make them more engaging for your readers. Here are a few tips on doing that.

Make your communication more human.

With email automation, comes the unsaid challenge of not sounding robotic in your customer communication. You’ll leave your customers disinterested, and even annoyed in some cases if you’re just sending plain templatized communication their way. 

Subtle personalization using name placeholders, merger tags, specific usage history helps you cut through that barrier. It makes you appear more natural and empathetic in your emails, even when they are automated.

Measure your performance at every step.

Your automated emails bring a lot of data with them. Go beyond general email metrics, and look into where your contacts are in the customer journey. Dive into their activity timelines, and see whether they visited other sections of the website, made a purchase, or bounced off. These are great learnings about your customer’s behavior and how they react to the triggers you’ve set for them. Insights from this data help you continually improve your email automation cycle.

Think of drip campaigns.

Not all marketing workflows are the same. Some of them require multiple touchpoints and follow-ups with the contact to get the desired conversion. Welcome series, onboarding emails, usage drip campaigns, and more makes email automation more effective.

Review the triggers periodically.

It’s quite likely to miss going back to the automation triggers after setting things in motion. Email automation works like any other machinery, and therefore it’s recommended to set aside time to review it. You can’t get it right in the first go and need to experiment and reassess. Some triggers might need modification or addition because of various reasons - changes on the product side, a shift of trend or behavior across the marketing funnel, and so on.

With email automation, you can leave your worries to your email automation software, and tend to more important tasks. Now you have your strategy set and emails automated, and you can grow your business effortlessly and keep customers-for-life.