For many marketers, automation may sound complex, time-consuming and heavily reliant on technology and skillsets. However, with some thoughtful planning, it can be relatively straight forward to set up the essential components of an automated email marketing programme that will produce positive results.

When starting with marketing automation, it’s imperative that the strategy aligns with your corporate or marketing goals. Mapping out your proposed automated email series is a visible and clear way to show stakeholders what the overall conversion funnel looks like and will ensure that your efforts are supported by the business.

Agreeing up front what competencies and results you should be aiming for, helps you determine if your automation programmes can be considered successful or not.

Beginning with areas that have a higher chance of providing the most return on investment, can help you gain traction on your email marketing automation efforts.

This could include;

  • Driving subscriber acquisition growth
  • Increasing the lifetime value of your current clients
  • Reducing your email churn and unsubscribe rate, and increasing engagement

Reviewing your current marketing automation processes

While marketing automation has emerged as a ‘must have’ part of establishing a move from a mass-market approach to a more targeted one, it’s imperative to understand client personas and their journey to becoming a customer.

Before beginning, it’s worth evaluating your current automation processes and ensuring these are documented for future reference.

The key is agreeing in deciding what actions you want to happen at each customer lifecycle stage.

These can be built upon and updated as you progress with your efforts and help identify which part of the business owns the responsibilities for each area.

  • Where and how do we capture prospects data before they enter our database?
  • What is the step-by-step onboarding process that a prospect has to take to become a customer and the current email marketing they receive?
  • How do we identify where each of our subscribers sit in the customer stage and which segments are most valuable to us?
  • Do we have any lead scoring or engagement measurement in place to monitor and understand lead propensity to purchase?
  • How do we determine our inactive subscribers and what actions do we have in place to retain them?

The benefits of using email marketing automation

The main focus of any automated email marketing activities is to improve the customer relationship experience – making it more personal and targeted. This means setting expectations, providing further relevant information or value that establishes more understanding about your organisations products or services. These are the emails you would personally write to every recipient if you had the time.

Automation is a great way of measuring the health of your database and pinpointing areas where prospects or customers are getting stuck in roadblocks along their journey to conversion, allowing you to identify areas for action.

Automated emails can help with the following marketing metrics; Increase the volume of activations of acquired subscribers

  1. Improve engagement with more personalised and timely messages
  2. Reduce the cost per acquisition of your subscribers
  3. Increase efficiencies by automating repetitive CRM tasks
  4. Acquire further data on your customers to allow more segmentation opportunities

Mapping out automated email content

The key rule to marketing automation execution is starting simply and then expanding.

If you’re looking to get started with email marketing automation, a good place to start is with a series of three emails for each workflow you are looking to set up.

The first automated email is normally timed to be triggered immediately after the subscriber’s initial action (normally an email opt-in) with the further two emails being sent 24 hours apart, ensuring the recipient receives three emails in the space of as many days.

The subscriber has shown a genuine interest at this point and is keen to find out more information from you that will assist them in answering their need.

The key is offering value and education by providing more topical information on why they should consider your company in their decision-making process. The third email in the series would be more focused on the conversion and revenue aspect, where you can push the sales or contact option as the next action for them to take.

Once you’ve run these for a number of weeks, you will be able to determine what percentage of subscribers are taking the suggested actions. You can then look to consider extending the email series out to be more persuasive and show authority by presenting case studies or testimonials before introducing a harder sell.

3 Key automation workflows you should start with

Welcome campaigns
First impressions count, and welcome campaigns set the expectations and communications that subscribers can come to receive from your business.

Successfully onboarding recipients is one of the most crucial aspects of their continued interaction with you. You’re looking to move a customer through from an acquisition stage to an activated stage and are typically one of the first conversion points that users have with your business.

Welcome emails tend to produce very high open rates, so ensure you take advantage of this situation to offer information about your business and how you can help them.

Most welcome emails have an incentivising singular call to action for the user, describing what step to take next and what they will gain from doing so. These can be followed up with further topical content, introductory offers and surveys to collect more insights into your subscriber’s preference or interests that you can later use to segment.

Welcome emails are also a great opportunity to ask your subscribers to whitelist your email address to help ensure a higher deliverability rate.

Reactivation campaigns
Natural list churn is an inevitable part of email marketing with B2B subscribers moving job roles and B2C recipients switching or abandoning email accounts, so you can expect to lose a reasonable percentage of your list every year. Finding out why your subscribers are leaving you provides a valuable guide for measuring your retention success metrics.

Determining how long an average email subscriber remains active with your business can help reduce the number of inactive subscribers on your email list by identifying and targeting them before they turn inactive. You should be looking to place subscribers in activation tracks as soon as you identify a lack of engagement.

The frequency of which you email your subscribers is key. Subscribers who receive a weekly email that haven’t engaged in three months could be considered inactive whereas no engagement in periodic campaigns would be considered in a twelve through twenty four-month period.

It’s worth considering running multiple automated inactive campaigns over the period of the year. Your first automated reactivation campaign could be set for three months, with others following at the six and twelve-month mark.

Updates, service improvements and surveys are useful re-engagement techniques to use within inactive campaigns and, should a recipient re-engage, they can then be placed back into the retention and promotional segment of your email marketing activities.

Transactional campaigns
Transactional emails are sent immediately from a specific user interaction, in most cases via an API. They are heavily personalised and triggered in real-time, they also have exceptionally high engagement rates and are an anticipated part of a customer’s user journey.  The journey for customer shouldn’t stop at the point of sale!

Transaction campaigns are not solely limited to when a customer makes a purchase, but also widely used for many types of notification and confirmation messages such as account updates, feedback emails, cart abandonment emails and auto-notifications.

While receipts and statements are the most common type of automated transactional email, post purchase transactional emails could feature after care services, further relationship management outreach and product or service upsell/cross sell opportunities.

This is a great stage to offer surveys to gain feedback on the process, ask for a testimonial or provide early bird offers on other products.

If you’re just sending out a one off automated transactional receipt, it’s worth creating an extended series to include some of these additional resources.

Need help with your automated emails?

StoneShot recently released their spring update to the StoneShot platform which focusses on enhancing their marketing automation features – making client communications even more relevant and timely. Need further assistance with setting up your automated workflows? StoneShot has a dedicated team of experts who can offer services to assist you with your complex email campaigns.

If you want to learn more about email marketing, check out StoneShot’s latest insights from their Digital Marketing Survey.