Earlier, I wrote an article on getting started with email marketing. It touched on some of the things you should keep in mind when your brand is starting to take advantage of the power of marketing to your list via email. One of things I did not go into in that article is email automation.
The fact is, your time is valuable and important. It needs to be delegated effectively to a wide variety of tasks, and it can sometimes be difficult to put enough time into all the things you need to do to drive sales to your business. Automating your email marketing, lead nurturing, and sales funnels can not only free up valuable time, it can also make all of these things run more smoothly and effectively.
But what if you’re just getting started with email marketing?
What if you’ve heard the words “email automation” before, but have no idea how to get started or how it’s supposed to work?
That’s where this article comes in. If you’re someone who has been working with email automation for a long time, you’re probably safe to just skim through this one. You might catch a point or two that will help you tweak something, but this is really meant for those of you looking to get started with automation.
What is Email Automation?
Email automation refers to the process of creating emails that will be delivered to a specific group of people, at a specific time, or after a specific action is taken. So while you’ll always want to send out one-off campaigns, like a weekly or monthly newsletter, or an email specific to an event or idea you’ve recently come across, automated email campaigns (often referred to as “workflows”) are created and scheduled. They can be set to deliver on a specific date, in a specific order, or after a specific action (like joining your email list) is taken by someone.
Why Use Automation?
Email automation saves time and money: Manually creating emails for each and every individual action and event connected to your list would take massive amounts of time, and therefore money. Email marketing provides better returns for less of an investment. Your marketing and sales efforts continue to work, while you spend your time and money elsewhere.
Email automation is consistent: Taking the time to create your marketing and sales messages ahead of time allows you to ensure your brand’s image and voice are consistent in each one. Rather than rushing to get that next email out, automate your marketing and sales emails so your audience receives strong, consistent communication.
Email automation creates customer engagement and retention: Email automation allows you to keep in touch with current and potential customers. They won’t need to wait til you can find the time to connect; your automated emails will be delivered based on their actions.
Email automation works: More than 90% of U.S. customers use email daily. Email messages are close to 3x more likely to trigger a purchasing action, compared to social media and direct mail. All the while, you can continue to grow your brand!
When to Use Email Automation.
Like I mentioned earlier, creating and sending one-off, on-the-fly, and newsletter-type emails is still a good idea. Automation can’t say what you didn’t know you wanted to say until just now, so never be afraid to send an email with that new trend or idea you had this morning.
Instead, email automation should be used to handle the messaging you know needs to happen and will continue to be needed.
Here are some ways to use email automation:
Someone subscribes to your email list: Send a welcome email letting a new subscriber know you appreciate them. You can tell them what they can expect from being on your list and provide some immediate value with a special offer or piece of information.
Welcome email series: When someone subscribes to your list, they’re most likely just getting to know you. This is a great opportunity to utilize a workflow, or series of emails, to nurture that new subscriber into a stronger lead, or even a customer.
A welcome series can be scheduled to deliver any number of emails (I would do at least 3) that provide value to that new subscriber, and lead them to take some sort of action (like requesting a quote, buying a product, or joining a program). Most importantly, your welcome series should teach your new subscriber that when they receive an email from you, they should always open it and click the links inside, because you always provide awesome value to them!
Website activity follow-ups: If someone visits your website, hopefully they’re greeted by some nice CTAs (calls-to-action) prompting them to grab an awesome piece content you’ve created or receive a nice discount on your products. Once they’ve taken this action, a follow-up email series can be triggered to engage with that lead and increase the likelihood of them becoming a paying customer.
Purchase follow-ups: A common mistake we see brand’s make is thinking that a sale is the end-goal. It’s not. Your goal should be to create life-long, repeat customers/clients. To do this, there needs to be communication beyond the sale.
Email automation can be use to continue the conversation with those who have already purchased from you. These emails can offer advice on how to get the most out of the purchase product, offer incentives to buy accompanying items, and request information on why they purchased and how they rate their experiences with your products. These are also a great way to ask for and encourage reviews.
Lead nurturing and sales follow-ups: If you have a sales team, chances are they work hard generating leads and connecting with those leads. With most email marketing platforms, you can connect your CRM and create email series that can be triggered by actions taking by your sales team.
When a lead’s status is changed in your CRM, you can have an already created email send out automatically, continuing the nurturing of that lead and helping to move them along your sales pipeline. Your sales team will thank you!.
Surveys and feedback: Like I just mentioned, automating requests for feedback from you customers can really help you to analyze how things are going and make adjustments as needed. Just as important as knowing what your customers think, though, is knowing what’s going through the minds of those who DON’T buy from you.
Email automation can be setup to trigger follow up emails to those who visited your site, but have never bought anything from you. Give them an opportunity to tell you why they passed on that special offer and you just might get a few of them to reconsider.
Building anticipation and excitement: A great use for email automation is creating excitement around a product launch or an upcoming event. When someone registers for an event, an email series should increase excitement as the event approaches, while continuing to provide value to those awaiting it.
If you’ve got a new product or service about to launch, plan an email series leading up to it. You can slowly and methodically let out bits and pieces of what to expect, which will increase anticipation and therefore increase initial sales at launch.
What Platform to use for Email Automation
There are a ton of awesome email marketing services out there. So it’s tough to say which is right for you, but here are a few I recommend.
MailChimp is a user-friendly and effective platform for getting started. They offer an awesome forever free level, but you’ll need to upgrade to the second level to implement automation. This level starts at just $10/month. You can save yourself a buck each month if you use two-step authentication.
Aweber gives you all of their features with a flat-rate plan of $19/month. Your price will go up once your have more than 500 subscribers, but you get all the goodies regardless of you plan. The platform is easy to use and they offer a 30-day free trial (you will need to provide a credit card for it though).
Starting at just $9/month, ActiveCampaign offers a wealth of cool features, including unlimited sends, automation (with a pretty sweet drag-and-drop automation builder) and it starts at just $9/month. You can try it out for 14 days free with no credit card.
All of Campaigner’s plans includes automation and a nice set of basic features, with a nice library of pre-design templates. Your cost really only goes up as your list grows. They offer a free 30-day trial (no credit card needed).
Autopilot offers a wide variety of features (including automation) for just $25/month ($20/month if paid annually) . Their drag-and-drop automation builder is similar to ActiveCampaign and offers a lot of options for when and why to send emails automatically.
Automating your email marketing can seem overwhelming, so my suggestion is to take it one step at a time. Start with a simple 3-email welcome series for new subscribers. This will give you a chance to get to know your automation tools and how things go together. After that, you can work to extend your welcome series and create follow up series, lead nurturing series, etc.
The bottom line is, you need this. Email automation allows you to step away and work on other aspects of your business, while knowing your email marketing is working for you. Layout your plans, analyze your results, and watch your brand’s audience grow and convert into lifelong customers!