Best Practices for Email Automation and Live Examples

Email automation can help you gain optimum results from your email marketing efforts. This article provides insights into the best practices for email automation and real-live examples you can apply to your business.

Best Practices for Email Automation and Live Examples

Email automation is not a new trend and it has the potential to bring great benefits to your business. However, the problem in leveraging automation is finding the best ways to optimize it. 61% of companies say the implementation process of marketing automation was complicated in 2020. If you’re in this boat, this article is for you.

Whatever may be the cause of poor marketing automation, we’ve written this article to give you the best practices for an effective email automation process. You will also learn from real-life examples of automation you can apply to your business.

Ready? Let’s get started!

Table of contents

  1. What is an automated email?
  2. 8 best practices for email automation
  • Gather the right customer data
  • Understand your customer’s journey
  • Leverage email drip campaigns
  • Plan email automation workflows ahead of time
  • Segment your customers
  • Personalize email content, senders and subject line
  • Update your contact database
  • Consider email reputation

3. Applying email automation to your business

What is an automated email?

An automated email is any email that is sent based on specific trigger-based actions performed by customers. The great thing about automated emails is that you don’t have to manually send them by clicking a send button. You can simply pre-draft the emails, set up predefined triggers and load them into your email automation system. These emails are then sent when a customer performs a particular action, signing up on your application for example.

Customer attributes, behaviour and actions can act as triggers in your automation workflow. Identifying and understanding your customer data is crucial to getting your automation workflow running in the best possible way. To get started, you, therefore, want to ask yourself the following questions:

  • What kind of data do you collect from your subscribers?
  • What information do new users need to submit before they sign up for your product?
  • Where are these data points stored and can you improve access to them as you improve your email marketing automation strategy?

8 best practices for email automation

1. Gather the right customer data

Whether you’re creating automated email onboarding sequences or running email drip campaigns, customer data should drive your email automation efforts. Besides, you’re creating emails for your customers, so it makes sense that your email content is tailored to suit customer needs, access history, profile, preferences, etc.

With the right customer data, you can build up a clear picture of each buyer persona and create relevant automated messaging tailored to them. Some of the ways you can gather customer data include:

  • Customer profile and events data from your application
  • Data from integrations with other products and services connected to your application
  • Regular customer interviews via one-on-one conversations
  • NPS Surveys
  • Data from customer support team
  • Data from marketing and sales team
  • Website analytics

2. Understand your customer’s journey

Every customer and lead engages with your brand in different ways. This means that you need to understand your customer’s journey for your email marketing automation to be effective. One way you can do that is by building a customer journey map. It is a visual representation of all the various touchpoints that a customer has used to engage with your brand. With a customer journey map, you can understand the situation of each customer and leverage automation to deliver the right message at the right time. For example, if you notice that a particular customer’s engagement has dropped, you can create automated win-back campaigns to reignite the interests of inactive customers just like Skillshare did in its automated win-back email campaign.

Skillshare: An example of an automated win-back email campaign. (source)

3. Leverage email drip campaigns

Email drip campaigns are pre-drafted emails that are sent based on specific actions taken by customers. These actions are normally known as triggers and are delivered at specific times when certain events take place. For example, if you want to send an onboarding email to a new user that signed up to use your product, you can create the onboarding email and use the customer’s sign up action to trigger sending the email. Here is an example of a drip-email campaign from Slack:

Slack: An example of a drip-email campaign. (Source)

It is a welcome email that is straight to the point and includes the right choice of words.

You can also send “drips'' for abandoned carts. Your email campaign will be triggered and sent when a customer abandons a cart. There are so many possibilities that you can automate with triggers. Other ways you can leverage drip campaigns include:

  • Welcome emails for new subscribers and product users.
  • Win back emails for inactive users

Here’s a great example of a win-back email drip campaign from Williams-Sonoma:

Williams-Sonoma: A great example of a win-back email drip campaign. (source)

4. Plan your email automation workflows ahead of time

To lay the most solid foundation possible, you must visualize and plan your automation workflows ahead of time. Planning your workflows in advance is important to gain optimum results from your automation efforts. For example, if you want to build a workflow for welcome emails but all your workflow plans are for transactional emails. You can identify this oversight early on before going in deep in the process.

Workflows can get tricky and challenging as you begin to branch out. This is why the “planning” stage is important so that you can map out the ideal automation flow and capture the right trigger points. Here is an example of an email automation workflow:

Engage: An example of an email automation workflow.

5. Segment your customers

Your customers have different needs, challenges, motivations, preferences etc. Even more, they have different journeys so sending generic automated emails will not help you gain the best results from your marketing efforts. Customer segmentation is crucial if you want to reach your customers on a more personalized level.

With customer data, you can categorize your customers based on:

  • Their attributes. Examples: "gender", "location", "plan name".
  • Custom actions. Examples: "liked photo", "added a payment card", "upgraded account"
  • Integration data. Example: "opened transactional email", "upcoming Stripe renewal"

The great thing about customer segmentation is that you understand your customers better and you easily deliver timely, relevant and personalized messages that easily capture your customer’s attention.

6. Personalize email content, senders and subject line

While email automation can greatly improve email efficiency, personalized content is still a crucial factor in your email deliverability. In other words, no matter the automation tool you use to deliver email campaigns, if you opt for a generic random email blast, you lose the chance to gain your audience's attention.

Personalization goes beyond using your customer’s first name, you need to understand their needs, goals and preferences, then the data to create relevant messaging.

This starts from your email subject line to content and call-to-action. Use your customer data with the right power words to create compelling subject lines. Here is an example of a personalized email from YNAB:

YNAB: An example of a personalized email. (source)

7. Update your contact database

Ensure that you always clean your contact database. You may have duplicates or fake email addresses and this could negatively affect your email open and click-through rates. Fake email accounts can exist in your database if someone subscribes with a non-existent email address. You can prevent fake accounts by enabling email address verification measures that will identify fake email addresses.

You need to also check your contact list to ensure you don’t have inactive subscribers, you can make it a rule of thumb to check your list every 3 months. This way, you can clean your list so that it is updated with clean and relevant data.

8. Consider email reputation

Your email reputation plays a crucial role in your marketing efforts. You can create the most compelling email subject line and call-to-action but if you're sending emails to the wrong email addresses then your efforts will be futile. For example, if you send emails to fake email addresses like spam traps, internet service providers could mark your email as spam. As a result, your subsequent emails won't be delivered, hence your sender’s reputation would be negatively affected.

Applying email automation to your business

Email automation makes your team work smarter, be more productive and effectively deliver emails to customers. However, you must apply the right strategies if you want to derive optimum results from your email automation efforts. Use the best practices explained above to guide you as you create an email marketing automation strategy for your business.

Remember, you must clearly understand your customer’s journey before you leverage the power of automation. Then, plan your automation workflow, segment your customer base, personalize your email copy and regularly update your customer database.

While the entire process may seem challenging, remember that with effective email automation, you can increase conversions, improve email engagement and save time.

At Engage, we have simplified these processes to ensure you are able to easily integrate your customer data and craft powerful automation with different triggers. Sign up for free today.