Truthfully, the best practices for email automation haven’t changed too much in the past few years.
The problem is that businesses who sell products online are still not following the fundamental email automation best practices. Many marketing teams are winging it with email automation, or just aren’t prioritizing this the way that they should.
Ask yourself: when was the last time you set up an automated campaign based on very specific behavioural triggers?
If the answer is “not recently” or “never” then you might have fallen victim to the idea that email automation is too complicated to do right.
If you follow these best practices, you’ll be able to create highly relevant, perfectly timed campaigns easily. No, really!
1. Break the customer journey into small behaviours and triggers
“Over 75% of email revenue is generated by triggered campaigns.” – Instapage
The number one email automation best practice we recommend our customers to follow is to implement behaviour-based triggers.
One of the simplest examples of email marketing automation is when someone downloads an ebook. They put their name and email in the form, and then you send them the link to the book in an email. (And then hopefully you follow up with more great content.)
Signing up for a lead magnet is only one way to trigger an automated campaign. There are so many others.
Here are some different behavioural actions that can you use to trigger a sequence of emails:
- Viewed pricing page a second time
- Stayed on a product page for more than 90 seconds
- Downloaded a third ebook from your site
In our platform, we also have customer filters that are not triggered events like those above but are rather properties. Meaning, when someone satisfies the criteria for that property, they receive your email sequence. Here are a couple of examples of properties:
- Have been an email subscriber for more than three months
- Have purchased over $300 worth of products
2. Build follow-ups in your automated campaigns
“Businesses that implement marketing automation experience an average of a 451% increase in qualified leads.” – G2
It’s not enough to email your leads and customers just one time. You need to keep following up. Depending on your product or service, you could follow up in a couple of different ways:
- Follow up with a similar message a few times in a short period of time.
For example, if the trigger you set up is when an email subscriber looks at your pricing page, you might want to send an email that offers a demo appointment. Then maybe after 3 – 7 business days, you might want to follow up to ask them to book a time with you (of course providing different reasons for talking with you like social proof, feature descriptions, etc.)
- Follow up with more varied content over an extended period of time.
For other triggers, such as when an email subscriber has downloaded three different lead magnets but is still not a customer, you might want to take a longer approach. Maybe instead of following up rapidly to remind the person to take you up on your initial offer, you offer different things. You could strategize a longer nurture sequence that shares blog posts, case studies, etc.
How you decide to follow up depends on the behaviour trigger you’ve chosen for that campaign.
Does the trigger mean that the person’s interest is timely? If so, follow up quickly. Does the trigger show general interest but not necessarily immediate interest? Spread your follow-ups out farther.
3. Use email automation to deliver other forms of content
“67% of email marketers plan to use data to better personalize email content to boost engagement, sales, and customer retention.” – Statista
Your follow up emails are a great place to share other forms of content.
As you probably well know, content promotion is just as time-consuming as content creation. Hopefully, you’re already creating content that satisfies a variety of interest levels, buying cycle stages, and awareness levels. (If not, make sure to map out your buying cycle and start filling it in with content at different stages.)
One email automation best practice that often goes missed is a thorough audit of the content that you already have.
Take a look at your different forms of content like:
- Blog posts
- Case studies
- YouTube videos
- On-demand webinars
Which pieces can you use in your email automation campaign? Do you have some pieces of content with high social proof? How about any that handle objections? Or simply teach about the outcome of your product or service? Is there a place on your site where you store your reviews and testimonials?
Give yourself at least an hour (probably two or three) to go over your current content. By putting a link to helpful resources in your emails, you’ll increase email engagement, which positively impacts revenue, since engaged leads are more likely to buy and engaged customers are more likely to repurchase.
4. Prompt 1:1 conversations, purchases, or other immediate actions
“The average order value of an email is at least three times higher than that of social media.” – McKinsey
Use your email copy to inspire your email readers to take immediate action. What do you want them to do after reading your email? While you can write some emails that are intended purely to offer value, for the most part, you should have one CTA in each email.
Why put just one CTA in each email?
- Gives readers one clear action to take
- Gives you an opportunity to track CTR so you can segment out your most engaged email readers and also benchmark your email content
- Allows you to drive immediate revenue or immediate action
Your CTA could be a variety of things. Maybe it’s a chat prompt button that brings users back to your website and begins a chat with your team. Maybe the CTA is to read a blog post or watch a pre-recorded webinar. Maybe it’s to purchase a product or book a demo.
Consider what behavioural data you’re using for the campaign, and then choose your CTAs around that. For example, with an abandoned cart campaign, you can go straight to encouraging readers to make a purchase. But if someone has downloaded an ebook for a considered purchase, you’ll want to follow up with helpful resources.
5. Choose a easy-to-set-up email automation stack
“The lack of expertise and know-how (55.6 %), as well as lack of human resources (48.1 %) are the most common reasons why companies are not using marketing automation.” – Liana Technologies
What keeps companies from setting up really high-quality email automation isn’t a lack of desire or interest. It’s not even disbelief in the power of marketing automation. What keeps companies behind is not having the right technology that makes it easy for them to implement.
Of course, some marketing knowledge is required (what’s your target audience, how should you segment out high-intent leads, what do you say in the copy etc). But you shouldn’t have to be an automation wiz to set these campaigns up.
Use technology that is easy to learn and understand, and that doesn’t require any custom coding or automation.
Look for an email automation platform that:
- Has a CRM built in to help you track lead and customer data
- Utilizes website analytics so you can send emails based on website behaviour
- Comes pre-loaded with different customer filters, events, and properties to make it easy to start brainstorming what automated campaigns you should set up
- Combines email automation with chat prompts so you can converse with customers.
If you don’t find tech that is easy to use, you run the risk of not setting up high-value email automation and losing out on potential results.
6. Be careful of not coming across like a creepy spy
“74% of marketers say targeted personalization increases customer engagement.” – eConsultancy
Here’s an email automation best practice that isn’t always easy to follow: don’t be creepy.
The whole point is you’re tracking what customers and leads are doing and reaching out to them in a timely manner based on their behaviour. How can you make that less creepy?
Depending on your target audience, especially their age, there can be a different perception of email automation. Younger customers might not be surprised by it. People in tech companies will probably be impressed with it. Know your audience to be sure you’re using the right level of tact.
For example, the phrase “Hey, I’ve seen you on our site a lot lately” could seem invasive to one person and totally reasonable to someone else.
We believe that the best practice here is to be open and honest about your use of automation tools, pretending that you don’t can cause distrust and confusion. We call this the Uncanny Valley of email – and it doens’t give the impression you’re hoping to give.
Used correctly, email automation tools can help you to be personal and engaging and provide a better, more seamless customer experience. Done deceptively, you might cause more harm than good.
7. Start with your top 3 priorities, build from there.
“Segmented and personalized automated email messages average 46% higher open rates than traditional marketing messages.” – Instapage
As with anything, the most essential best practice is to start with your priorities. Really, just get started!
What are the most impactful automated campaigns you could set up today? What are the problems and gaps you’re already aware of?
- A SaaS company could benefit from following up with email subscribers who have viewed their pricing page more than two times.
- A digital publishing company could benefit from following up with paying subscribers who haven’t been on their site in more than 30 days (and are at risk of churn).
- A luxury ecommerce company could benefit from following up with people who have viewed a particular product numerous times or abandoned a cart more than once.
Check out our guide to customer filters to get even more automation ideas.
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading our top email automation best practices. Want more advice? Hop on a call with us to learn more.
Not ready for a demo and want to learn more? Sign up for our free customer engagement course.