Email Automation: What it is, How it Works, and How to do it
September 15th 2021
Sales Best Practices
Email Automation
Email automation is the single best automation technique that can save you and your team a ton of time while keeping your customers busy thinking of your products & services. According to emailmonday, on average 49% of companies are using email automation. And, that number goes up to 55% if you are in the B2B industry. If you wish to stay in the minds of your customers and stay ahead of your competitors, then implementing email automation should be your top priority now.

Here’s a brief introductory guide to get you started with email automation.

Table of contents:

  • What is Email Automation?
  • Why use Email Automation?
  • How does Email Automation Work?
  • Email Automation Framework
  • What to Test in Automated Email Campaigns?
  • Different Email Automation Examples
  • How to Measure Email Automation Campaigns?
  • When to Use Email Automation Tools?
  • When to Not Use Email Automation?
  • Final Tips for Perfecting Email Automation

What is Email Automation?

Email automation is a simple technique used to send automatic email triggers to your prospects/customers at a specific time or after a specific action of theirs. It is a very effective method used by businesses to interact, engage, and convert their prospects into customers.

Here are some advantages of email automation for businesses:

  • Makes customer interaction scalable
  • Saves time and increases the productivity of sales/marketing teams
  • Lets you personalize emails based on your customer’s buying journey
  • Gives you actionable insights to prioritize your prospects

Why use Email Automation?

Let’s try to understand the need for email automation with a real-life scenario.

Let’s say you are a sales representative working for a B2B business. You have recently interacted with your prospects and segmented them into 3 categories based on their interest in your product/service. Now, you wish to engage with them closely and get them onboard as a customer. So, how would you go about engaging and converting them?

Keeping track of every prospect and sending out emails to them manually at a specific time can be quite challenging and tedious. Imagine what it would be like to keep track of 100s or 1000s of customers? Quite a challenge, isn’t it?

That’s exactly where email automation comes into the picture. You can simply schedule a series of automated emails to each segment of your prospects and you’ll be done. They will reach your prospects at the right time with the right message that’ll engage and push them towards exploring your products or services.

How does Email Automation Work?

Email automation is nothing but a workflow - a workflow where you get to define important user actions and map them to emails to be triggered once the action is performed.

So, what are actions? Action is simply anything that a user does to know more about your products/services.

  • Signing up on your website
  • Visiting a particular page on your website
  • Following your business on social media
  • Adding your product to the cart
  • Requesting/scheduling a demo
  • Downloading your product brochure
  • Or even opening your email

Everything counts as an action. However, you need to specifically identify user actions that matter to your business.

For instance, here’s an email automation example - let’s say a user just signed up on your website. Wouldn’t they feel delighted if they immediately received a welcome email from you? They certainly would. This simple email triggered by the sign-up action will leave a good brand image in the minds of your customer.

Similarly, let’s say a user just scheduled a product demo with your sales rep. You can leverage the power of email automation to schedule a series of reminder emails and provide a great experience for the user.

Here’s a simple email workflow representation that could be used in the case of the above scenario.

Email automation workflow

Email Automation Framework

Getting started with email automation is quite easy. Here are a few steps that will guide you through the email automation framework.

Step 1: Define your email strategy

Having a high-level email strategy is the key to determining the success of your email campaigns. Also, this is the first step towards creating your email automation framework. While defining your strategy ensure you discuss in detail the below aspects.

  • Identify audience personas: Who are your core audience and what characteristics do they possess? Place of living, job title, income level etc.
  • Set email automation goals: What do you want your emails to accomplish? Increase in website traffic, higher revenue generation, reducing sales cycle etc
  • Define performance metrics: What all metrics would you track to check the effectiveness of your campaigns? Email open rate, click rate, sales conversion rate etc

Step 2: Identify the type of emails you want to send out

Sending emails with the right kind of message is crucial to grab the attention of your prospects/customers. In this stage, focus on defining the tonality and type of emails you’d like to send out.

Transactional emails, welcome emails, promotional emails, newsletter emails, drip campaigns etc are some common types of emails rolled out by businesses.

Step 3: Draft emails

This stage is relatively easier as you have your email strategy already defined. You can now simply focus on drafting the email copy. While crafting your emails, here are few pointers that will come in handy:

  • Design a branded email template
  • Personalize the email for various segments of users
  • Keep it simple and short
  • Think of a great subject line
  • Perform A/B testing

What to A/B Test in Automated Email Campaigns?

A/B testing in emails is the process of sending different versions of a campaign to different subsets of your recipients. The goal is to identify which version can bring the best outcomes. It can vary in complexity. While some A/B tests can be based on subject lines, others can be for the email template itself. Here’s a list of ideas to consider for A/B tests for your automated email campaigns:

  • Subject Lines

  • The subject line is a prominent element in an email that determines whether your email is worth opening. The subject line is dark and shown with a prominent text on most devices. It stands out among other details of an email. You can A/B test the subject line based on length, word order, content, and personalization. Since it is prominently displayed in the inbox and directly impacts the open rate, you must A/B test different subject lines to bring out the most outcome.

  • Visuals

  • Research concludes that the human brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than text. Not all emails need a visual; to determine which ones work best with images, you can A/B test. While creating the visuals, ensure they are in line with your branding. You can determine the style of the visuals used with A/B testing.

  • Copy

  • Owing to the evolution of smartphones, humans have a shorter attention span than goldfish. The reduced attention span has increased the importance of short and crisper forms of copy. You can identify the most appropriate copy for your audience with A/B testing. The aspects that can be A/B tested include length, personalization, and tone.

  • Call-to-action

  • A call-to-action increases the click-through rate by simplifying the next step for your recipients. You can A/B test whether the button works better or simple hyperlinked text. The copy of the button also affects the click-through rate. You can A/B test different copies to identify the most appropriate one.

Different Email Automation Examples

Here are 7 email automation examples that most businesses send out to engage with prospects at relevant instances.

  • Welcome email: Email sent as soon as a user registers on your website
  • On-boarding emails: A series of emails that’ll help users know more about your business and get them acquainted with your products/services
  • Feedback/survey emails: Emails that’ll help you determine the user’s interest or review of your product
  • Re-engagement emails: Emails sent to inactive customers/users with an intent to trigger interest in them
  • Newsletters: Weekly/monthly emails sent to engage and connect with your customers by sharing all useful updates (product updates, company achievements, announcements, customer success stories, industry news etc)
  • Transactional emails: Emails sent out to customers upon purchase or subscription to your product
  • Sale/offer emails: Promotional emails that’ll incentivise your users to speed up their purchase decisions

Email automation examples

Step 4: Pick the right tool & schedule your workflows

There are several email automation tools to implement your workflows. Picking the right tool will help you and your team streamline emails and deliver them right into the user’s inbox.

Most of the email automation tools available in the market provide a free trial and we strongly recommend using the tool for your use case during the trial. If the usage and adoption for you or your team are high, that’s the starting point, as usage and adoption rates are derived metrics suggesting a strong fit for your organization.

How to Measure Email Automation Campaigns?

Every email automation campaign must have predetermined goals. There is a purpose for designing the campaigns and it’s essential to measure the effectiveness of your strategy. The following metrics will help you identify the gaps and improve results for your automated email campaigns.

  • Open Rate

  • It is the percentage of email recipients that opened your email. You need to measure the open rate to know if your subscribers are actually interested in reading your emails. The sender’s name and your subject line are important deciding factors for your recipients to open your email.

    Open Rate = (Total Opens ÷ Emails Delivered) x 100

  • Click Through Rate

  • It is the percentage of email recipients who clicked on a link within your email. Usually, the ideal way to engage your audience is to get them click on a link or make them reply to your email. The click-through rate is affected by text or choice of action words. The placement of the link and the number of times it appears also determines your click through rate. It is essential to determine this to know if the text within your email is encouraging enough. You can even observe what your recipients most relate to and share relevant content in future.

    Click Through Rate = (No. of Clicks ÷ No. of Emails Delivered) x 100

  • Unsubscribe Rate

  • It is the percentage of recipients who unsubscribed to your email. As a norms, every email must include an unsubscribe link. It helps you determine if you are targeting the right audience and sending relevant content. High unsubscribe rates can signify that your target audience is not relevant to your business. The other factors that can lead to high unsubscribe rates include misleading subject lines or unrecognizable sender names. It is essential to keep the human touch even in your automated email campaigns.

    Unsubscribe Rate = (No. of Unsubscribes ÷ No. of Emails Delivered) x 100

  • Engagement Rate

  • The engagement rate is the percentage of email recipients who have engaged or completed with your desired action. For example, sign up to your platform, or verify email address. Based on the desired action the factors that affect the engagement rate can differ. You need to ensure your action is optimized and relevant to the email recipients.

    Engagement Rate = (No. of recipients who completed the action ÷ No. of Emails Delivered) x 100

  • Bounce Rate

  • It is the percentage of total emails sent but weren’t delivered. Email bounces can happen for the following reasons

    • Wrong email address
    • Recipient’s inbox is full
    • Recipient is out of office with auto-reply
    • Recipient’s server has blocked incomin emails
    • Email receiving server is unavailable or overloaded

    Bounce Rate = (No. of Bounces ÷ No. of Emails Delivered) x 100

  • Forward or Share Rate

  • It is the percentage of recipients who forwared your email in their network or shared by clicking on a button within your email. It’s an efficient source of acquiring ambassadors for your brand and generating new prospects through word of mouth. Nurturing your existing prospects with relevant and useful content can increase your forward or share rate.

    Forward/Share Rate = (No. of Forwared Emails ÷ No. of Emails Delivered) x 100

When to Not Use Email Automation?

Email automation is essential to optimize and improve productivity but is it always helpful? Let’s find out.

Tip: Avoid automated email replies for customer service requests, limited-time deals, webinar invitations, and campaigns sent from unmonitored email address.

Customer Service Requests

It’s essential to verify and confirm when you receive a customer service or support request. But ensure that you don’t use bots to resolve the issues. You must have a human representative to filter and provide appropriate responses. A robotic, generic solution can lead to affect your brand reputation and even lost customers.

Emails for Limited-time Deals

Limited-time deals are usually for specific prospects and not a general promotional campaign. To personalize the experience ensure you segment your recipients based on their preferences and behavior. You must personalize the offer or deal specific to individuals based on their interest, team size, geographies, and other relevant factors.

For example, if your know a prospect is looking for a team trial before making the final purchase you can offer a limited-time deal for the team. But if a prospect has signed up for a free-trial but hasn’t used your product or service within the trial period. You can encourage such prospects by extending the free trial time for a few days and share the different benefits they can derive. Automated email campaigns may not be able to customize such offers individually.

Webinar Invitations

Instead of using generic use monitored email addresses for your email campaigns. Even when you specifically ask recipients to not reply there are chances that they will still reply. You may miss out on important interactions or questions, comments, or feedback. Such prospects may go unanswered and they may feel less valuable.

Final Tips for Perfecting Email Automation

Before you head over to implementing email automation, here are 3 final tips that’ll help along the way.

  • Experiment, fail, learn
  • There is no single best email strategy that works for every organisation. So, experimenting is the key to understanding your audience better - create new workflows, try newer writing styles and keep them simple and short

  • Test, test, test
  • There are so many things that can go wrong while configuring your automated emails. Be on the lookout for broken links, grammatical errors, heavy images, missing attachments etc

  • Obsess over metrics
  • Measuring your email performance is the only way to know the pulse of your audience. Actively track email open rate, click-through rate (CTR), bounce rate, number of unsubscribes, spam reporting rate etc

Swathi Chintala
Contributing Writer
Swathi Chintala
Contributing Writer
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