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What Is Email Automation?

Patrick Proctor
Patrick Proctor

Email automation can improve your business's email marketing campaigns by sending timely, relevant emails when your audience is most likely to engage.

The use of email automation for marketing campaigns and continued communication with customers can be a highly impactful, efficient, and inexpensive tool. Email automation delivers your messaging to your targeted audience at precisely the right moment. This practice increases customer click rates and sales per email, as opposed to other marketing methodologies.

Understanding email automation and how it works

The value (and genius) of email automation is that you can send timed or scheduled emails to potential customers, followers, and subscribers when desired. This practice is terrific for online businesses that want to share messaging that corresponds with other business-related attributes (or developments) that customers may be interested in.

Many companies, large and small alike, work with third-party software that streamlines their efforts.

How email automation (and marketing) can develop your brand

Seventy-five percent of marketers report using at least one type of marketing automation tool (whether it be via email or another method). Automated email marketing retains a return on investment (ROI) that is largely unmatched with any other marketing or customer communication tool. The ROI of email marketing stands at around 4,400%. 

BuzzFeed is an example of a company that has created, and sustained, an incredibly powerful email marketing program that leverages automation at every turn within their platform. BuzzFeed's educational courses are leading the way as they effectively utilize email automation. For example, the "4-Week Get Fit Challenge" is a subscription series that customers sign up for. Participants receive a series of emails with tips and suggestions on how to live a healthier life.

The best way to deliver customized messaging and "special deals" to customers is with targeted marketing campaigns. Today, these marketing campaigns are most commonly executed through automated emails.

Another attribute that automated email marketing provides is time savings. Since time is a commodity of its own, it's important to note that 69% of marketers reported that automation helped them streamline tasks and find more working time and space in the workweek.

How to maximize your use of email automation

Even though anyone can utilize email automation for marketing campaigns of any kind, there are best practices that others find yield higher returns for their efforts. Although we will not capture all the best tips here, as there are many, the ones we highlight are proven to be efficient, duplicative and highly impactful.

Develop powerful welcome emails.

As they say, you only get one chance to make a good first impression. Your welcome email is the first exposure that new customers, or followers, have to you and your brand. It sets the expectation and the overall tone for the entire experience thereafter.

Tell compelling stories.

Although storytelling is one of the most time-tested principles in direct marketing, automated or otherwise, many companies still get storytelling wrong. A quality story helps sell your products and services to customers. Regardless of all the other tactics, tips, and ideas you attempt, storytelling is essential to sustained success.

Execute split-testing experiments.

Split testing, also known as A/B testing, is the practice of comparing two versions of the same message, with some slight differences. This is most commonly executed by offering one version of the message to group A and another version of the same basic message, but with different language and tactics used, etc., to group B. Then you can see how each variation performs with varying and/or the same customer base.

Test multiple deployment delivery times.

Ensuring that your automated messaging aligns with your audience is critical for success. You can assess what your "customer open rates" are based on the timing of your grouped emails. Alternating or trying different time slots helps you determine which one has the highest ROI.

Segment your audience.

As opposed to engaging 1,000 or so followers at once and sending them the same email, why not segment these followers into several groups so it is easier to customize your communication approach? One way you can do this is that after your prospects become paid customers, you can then use the customer's purchase as informative data on how to communicate with them in the future.

Find the sweet spot for email send frequency.

Sending too many emails can be detrimental to your brand – in multiple ways. The most common damaging effect of sending too many emails is that your target audience will quickly and quietly unsubscribe. Sending too many emails also diminishes your brand visibility – consumers begin ignoring or becoming blind to your marketing efforts.

Utilize a well-constructed customer response email template.

Services such as Mailchimp offer templates that can be easily customized. The cost of these automated responses is minimal, and these services allow you to expand your customer service efforts to satisfy your customers and turn them into advocates of your brand.

Deploy a clear call to action.

Your content needs a clear call to action to spur the customer in your sales funnel. For example, once a customer opens and reads your email about spring fashion, they should be able to click a button to "Shop Now" to see which styles you have in stock. Always give your customers a clear and easy path to take the next step, whatever that might be.

Regularly measure the success of your email campaigns.

Constantly assessing the effectiveness of your efforts is important to maximize your ROI, ensure that you are not paying for unneeded services, and guarantee that you are targeting the write customers in the right way.

Routinely clean house and confirm your emails lists.

Over time, countless email addresses (mistaken, fake, inactive, etc.) get added to your lists, and it can have a negative impact on your email performance – you could acquire the reputation as a spammer.

With the strategic use of automated email campaigns, your company can reach far more customers cost-effectively. There are ways to target specific customer groups, and you can test – and improve –your methods along the way, so your efforts result in the highest ROI possible.

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Third-party automated email software

Partnering with a third-party service to assist your company's efforts synergizes your ability to reach the right customer, at the right time, with the perfect messaging.

These four automated marketing email software companies are among the leaders in the space. They are a good starting point when choosing an email marketing solution:

Besides helping you create – and automate – marketing campaigns, email marketing automation software helps you gather information about your target audience. You learn the most effective tools and practices that can resonate with your specific demographic and/or targeted customer base. It even contributes to a shortened sales cycle (from "pitch to purchase").

When you have created a solid automated email campaign, you begin seeing its benefits almost immediately. Companies save time, increase customer interaction, and increase their ability to assess data so they know how to improve in the future, etc. Automated email campaigns benefit both your sales and marketing teams, as they can seamlessly – and in a targeted fashion – pivot to further hone messaging to interested customers.

Image Credit: fizkes / Getty Images
Patrick Proctor
Patrick Proctor
business.com Contributing Writer
Patrick Proctor, SHRM-SCP, is certified as a senior professional in human resources. His more than 15 years of executive level leadership inform his work on inclusive and engaging workplace culture, as well as educating senior leadership teams about human capital management and organizational strategy. Patrick has written dozens of articles on global business, human resources operations, management and leadership, business technology, risk management, and continuity planning