Quick Guide to Email Marketing Automation
By : Alexandra L Watson -
Email as a Marketing Tool
If you’ve developed a marketing buyer persona (see more about that topic in this prior blog post), then you can take this understanding of your customer’s typical paths to purchase and anticipate their marketing needs. Email messages can be incorporated into the marketing process to deliver relevant content at various decision points along the consumer purchase journey. Email marketing automation can be used to set simple trigger actions by which to send the scheduled messages that meet certain criteria. For instance, a specific email campaign can auto-send to welcome new list subscribers with a free download offer. Or, a different email message can auto-send after a transaction shipment to solicit product reviews. This is a great way to utilize email marketing to prompt customer action, while minimizing the need for you to create email messages on-the-fly.
Common purposes for email marketing include:
- Welcoming new subscribers
- Lead nurturing for prospects
- Offering discounts or promotional offers
- Reminding re: Ecommerce abandoned shopping carts
- Transactional follow-up (confirm purchase, track order & shipment)
- Soliciting feedback
- Incentivizing referrals
- Trying to win back inactive or former customers
- Rewarding loyalty (members-only info, issuing points or offering club rewards)
Email marketing automation
Email automation is simply a self-operating technology available in most commercial email programs that allows you to set up individual messages and define the customer list, timing, rules and conditions of each email in a series (or “workflow”). Sending a series of messages through automation like this may also be referred to as a “drip campaign” or as “triggered email” or “autoresponders”. Email marketing automation can save a tremendous amount of time and provide consistency to your campaigns. Automation is just one of twelve key business benefits of email marketing, to read more on the benefits of email marketing see our prior blog post here. Email automation triggers may include any action taken (or expressly not taken) by a subscriber, or any significant change in a customer’s behavior or profile.
For instance, common email automation triggers include:
- Campaign activity – (received, opened, clicked, did not receive, did not open, did not click) a specific email campaign or email link within a campaign
- List activity – (subscribed, unsubscribed, or changed information) within a specific email list, group, or segment
- Date-based activity – (list added date, a specific one-time expressed date, or a recurring date) based on a specific data field within an email list
- eCommerce activity– (category purchase, specific product purchase, any purchase, no purchase of any kind, no purchase of specific product, no purchase of specific product category, no repeat purchase, or cart abandonment) based on sales activity in an integrated online ecommerce store
- Relative workflow activity– (sent, opened, clicked, did not send, did not open, did not click) a specific prior email campaign or message
For instance, a series of emails can send periodically after a first purchase to provide shipping information, solicit feedback, and encourage referrals. Or a win-back email can be scheduled to trigger if a customer stops opening email messages or fails to repeat purchase in a given timeframe. An Email Marketing Automation Worksheet is included in this free Survival Kit to assess how you can add workflows and trigger actions to your marketing plan.
Whatever email marketing automation processes you use for business purposes keep in mind that writing for email requires a more journalistic approach than social posts or website copy. People receive a lot of email clutter per day, so you MUST keep your messages short, actionable, and provide a clear value. Consider each message from a consumer standpoint (after all, small business owners and startup founders are also consumers too)! Make registration & unsubscribes easy and offer clear incentives and benefits to register. Don’t be a nuisance. Have a regular schedule for emails as part of your overall content calendar, and don’t send so frequently that you annoy customers. Monitor your email results and take action. Remember that your first order of business is to persuade the reader to click. Sell the click first (to a highly relevant landing page) and THEN be concerned about the landing page converting that lead into a customer. Don’t be afraid to A/B test and refine your emails. Compare the performance of subject lines, send dates/times, layout, calls-to-actions (CTAs), and offers. Did version “A” or version “B” work better? Continually optimize your emails to make them user-friendly, compelling, and converting.
Keep the following copywriting guidelines in mind to write compelling email messages and maximize email opportunities:
- Think mobile! Remember that on average, according to industry research, half or more of your email list will view your message from a mobile device. It must translate well to a small screen.
- Focus – Have one clear goal per email message. Click through to a specific landing page rather than to a generic Homepage.
- Craft a powerful & compelling subject line to entice click-through.
- Segment your list and personalize the message so it’s highly relevant.
- Optimize text so the font is easy to read and gets to the point (journalistic style).
- Be brief and actionable (no huge paragraphs or complex wording).
- Talk about benefits to the reader, not just features.
- Use a prominent and concise call-to-action (CTA) button in your email body.
A Word About Commercial Email Regulation
Also, never EVER send business email to a purchased list or contacts that have not transacted with you before or expressly opted in to be on your list. To do so is illegal under the U.S. CAN-SPAM Act (yes, that’s a real law), which is governed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), as well as in Canada by the similar CASL policy. Violating the rules of the CAN-SPAM Act can subject a business to fines of up to $41,484. It can also cause a rise in complaint rates, list unsubscribes, and bad reviews. As a commercial business you are subject to this law even if you hire a third party to handle your email marketing, so be sure that they are compliant on your behalf. The CAN-SPAM Act dictates that all commercial email marketing should expressly be permission-based, not deceptive or misleading, from a clearly identified business email name, website domain, and physical address. It should also clearly disclose if the message is an advertisement, tell recipients how they can opt out of future messages, and honor opt-out requests promptly.
Finding an Email Service Provider
Now that we’ve covered Twelve Business Benefits of Email Marketing and we’ve considered this Quick Guide to Email Marketing Automation (including copywriting guidelines and regulatory best practices), we’ll wrap up this series on email with a post next week on Finding an Email Service Provider. That blog article will identify the top three email service providers geared for small businesses, startups, and freelancers. Stay tuned!