It’s critical for startups and early-stage businesses to focus on cultivating customer relationships and building a strong email list. This is not an easy task; it requires patience, time, and effort.

When you have a large client base, it will be difficult to find the time to email each and every one of your customers on a regular basis.

Automated emails are the perfect solution for companies that want to nurture their customer relationships without spending hours crafting personalized messages. 

Email automation allows you to send out pre-determined emails at scheduled intervals to all of your contacts at once.

In this article, you’ll learn the basics of email automation and show you how to nurture customer relationships with it. You’ll also learn how to test which automation works best, how to match the customer journey to your email follow-up plan, and which tools to use.

What is Email Automation?

When we talk about email automation, we’re referring to the process of sending emails to leads based on specific actions they take. 

There are many ways you can use email automation to nurture relationships with leads and turn them into sales. Some of these are:

  • Sending personalized welcome emails to new subscribers
  • Creating an automated drip campaign for each stage in your funnel
  • Sending company updates and newsletters on a regular cadence
  • Retargeting customers based on their behavior

Overall, it’s a great way to stay top-of-mind throughout the customer journey and encourage customers to engage with you repeatedly.

What Are the Benefits of Email Automation?

Email automation can help you save time, be consistent with your messaging and nurture customer relationships without draining all of your resources.

Here are the major benefits that come along with using email marketing automation. 

Time-saving

Sending automated emails is a much faster process than writing individual messages to each one of your contacts. Not only does this save you valuable time, but it also allows you to focus on other areas of your business. You and your team can invest time creating emails upfront and then let those sequences work for you 24/7.  

Consistency 

You can maintain uniformity in the messaging across all of your customers by sending automated messages at scheduled intervals. Email automation tools allow you to personalize these messages without you having to manually populate the information. 

Customer relationships 

Email automation allows you to nurture customer relationships without spending all of your time on it. You can send out automated emails containing relevant, personalized content that will keep customers coming back for more. Think of the process as one that builds rapport and trust on autopilot.

Track Customer Engagement

Most email automation tools provide the ability to track customer engagement through tools embedded in the software. Open rates, click-through-rate, and click-to-open rates can be used to gauge the level of engagement of your audience by better understanding how the reader is interacting with links, images, videos, and CTAs. By understanding where and how often your customers are engaging with your emails, you can better tailor content to meet their needs and ultimately, encourage them to take action. 

Types of Automated Emails to Consider

You can send to customers all kinds of automated emails. But you’ve got to keep in mind their needs and preferences and where they are in the customer journey. These factors will have a direct impact on how the message is received and whether your recipients engage with your content. Some types of emails you could consider include:

  • Welcome emails – Automated welcome email series are triggered by an addition to your mailing list or someone completing a specific action on your website. 
  • Product/feature updates – Reminders about new product releases and feature upgrades sent to your customers regularly. 
  • Customer service reminders – Messages containing information related to support availability, holidays, and chat, or other instant support features. Send these out regularly to provide exceptional support for every client you work with.
  • Curation emails –  Messages containing links to other relevant content that your customers might find useful. You can send these messages regularly or on an opt-in basis, depending on what works best for you and your audience. 
  • Newsletters – Automated newsletters sent out periodically with updates about recent company news, industry information, product upgrades, etc. These are especially helpful when you want to connect with your customers on a more personal level.
  • Webinars – Automated webinar invitations can be distributed at the beginning of every month or quarter to build engagement and trust with your customer base.
  • Discount emails – Automated sales notifications you send to your customers each time you have a promotion or new deal available. 
  • Anniversary emails – Invitations sent to customers on their first, third, or fifth order anniversaries with exclusive deals or discounts. Use them to encourage repeat business and loyalty towards your brand.
  • Holiday emails – Messages containing content about upcoming holidays to help boost sales during specific promotions.
  • Follow-up emails – Automated messages sent out to customers whenever they fill out a form, containing information about their submission and next steps when needed.
  • Thank-you emails – Reminders of recent engagements or submissions along with a call to action (CTA). This could be an offer for additional savings or features, or simply a “learn more” button redirecting them to a page that they may be interested in.
  • Upsell emails – Automated messages encouraging prospects and clients to add on additional products or services to their order. You can use this opportunity to highlight other areas of your business that they may benefit from.
  • Win-back emails – Messages sent out to lapsed customers or those who haven’t engaged with your content or signed up for events in some time. Provide them an offer for additional savings and incentives if they re-engage with your brand.

How Often Should You Send Automated Messages?

The frequency with which you send out automated email marketing messages depends on a variety of factors, such as the preferences of your customers or industry trends and regulations. 

The only way to know for sure is to test the frequency with your particular audience. Test customer engagement when you send daily email sequences compared to when you send an email every other day. 

Compare how well a monthly newsletter performs against a weekly version. 

If you’re not sure how to begin the process, it’s typically more effective to email more frequently to new subscribers. Make sure they get used to seeing your emails and encourage engagement within the first few days of getting on the list. 

Over time, taper the automated frequency down so your audience doesn’t begin to tune you out. Again, you need to test this. Some niches, for instance, do fine when creating an automated sequence that runs frequently for six months to a year.

Use Email Segmentation to Improve Performance

Segmenting your email list can help you increase deliverability, open rates, and conversions. Think of location, demographics, gender, interests, purchase history, or behavior patterns. Use anything that will allow you to send targeted messages instead of one-size-fits-all emails. The more relevant your content is to your recipients, the more likely they will engage with it.

An example of using purchase history to segment your list might include sending anniversary emails to eCommerce customers to encourage repeat sales. You might also consider sending out an automated email recommending your high-ticket coaching program after a customer buys a short course.

Similarly, if you want to segment based on behavior patterns, you would send out automated messages containing links where they can complete their purchase from abandoned carts or search pages.

Try using surveys to learn more about your customers and what they want to receive. You can then use that information to personalize your automated messages for increased engagement rates.

Use Analytics to Track What Works Best

You should use analytics to track the results of your email automation efforts. Look at metrics like the number of emails opened, click-through rates (CTR), and sales conversions. If you notice that certain automated messages get more clicks than others, consider segmenting by those criteria in future campaigns.

For example, if you find that your win-back emails get more clicks than other types of automated messages, consider creating a separate list for customers who haven’t purchased in over three months. 

Pay close attention to these metrics as well. 

  • Unsubscribe rate –  If you find that your unsubscribe rate is increasing, you might need to adjust the content inside your automated messages. Look for clues into why people unsubscribe when getting certain types of content from you. Compare that to other content that works well. Then, adjust those emails that aren’t performing well. 
  • Bounce rate – Email service providers split email bounce rates into hard bounces and soft bounces. A hard bounce is when an email address does not exist. A soft bounce occurs when the service provider can’t deliver a message for some reason, such as full inboxes or blocked emails.
  • Spam complaints – If spam complaints are on the rise, it’s time to take a look at how you’re segmenting your list and sending automated messages. Try adding in more personalized content or offering incentives that will encourage subscribers to engage more effectively.

How Can You Use Email Marketing Automation for Sales Conversions?

Email automation is an effective tool for sales conversions because it allows you to engage with leads who may not need your product or service right away. 

For example, when someone subscribes to your list, you can send automated messages containing related articles for them to read. A strategy like this gets them familiar with your brand and interested in continuing the conversation.

Instead of offering a coupon code right away, use email automation so subscribers receive something valuable from you before making a purchase decision. 

In short, use email marketing automation to nurture customer relationships and turn leads into sales. Keep in mind that many leads on your list compare you against your competitors. If you don’t pay attention to their specific needs as well as those of other companies, what’s keeping them from turning to your competitor instead?

Use a Customer Journey Map to Aid Sales

A customer journey map tracks interactions between customers and your business from the time they first become aware of your product or service to the point where they make a purchase. 

It will also show you how customers interact with different teams within your organization. You can log this data by documenting touchpoints, interactions between departments, and communication that results in meeting customer needs.

How to Create Your Own Customer Journey Map

Start by identifying points throughout the journey where you engage with customers. Examples might include an in-person event or a webinar. You might also look at specific blog posts or YouTube videos where your customers first find out about your brand.

Next, map out each step of the journey and determine how your company interacts with prospects at these stages. For example, if someone is attending an industry event, who do they speak to during the event? How does this interaction result in sales or lead generation opportunities for your company?

If someone enters your funnel from a piece of your website content, ask yourself what they need to see next. Do the same for videos or partnership opportunities.

After you’ve mapped out the journey and how it progresses from start to finish, look at each step along the way. If there are points where customers seem to get lost or confused, brainstorm ways to improve the customer experience.

Creating a customer journey map can help your company streamline communication and processes. The result is an ability to create customized email automation sequences that lead subscribers logically to a buying decision.

Use A/B Testing to Improve Email Automation

Marketers use A/B testing to determine which version of content or advertisement provides better engagement with viewers or users. It’s called an A/B test because you compare two choices: A or B.

For example, say your company is considering sending an email newsletter with either a video embedded in the content or just text describing the latest news about your industry. 

You can create one version of this piece of content and send it out to half of your list. Next, create another version and send it to the other half. You can then compare how these two versions of content performed in terms of open rates, click-throughs, shares on social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter, and sales conversions.

The A/B testing process helps you learn which version is most effective at engaging your audience. Take the winner from the above example and compare it to another idea. Keep doing this until you find out exactly what your specific audience responds to best.

When Shouldn’t You Use Automated Emails?

Focus attention on using automated emails to improve customer experience, engagement rates, and conversions. 

Automation shouldn’t always replace human interaction when turning leads into customers or nurturing relationships with existing clients. If you want to send a special offer or share an event discount code, for instance, automated messages may not provide the real-time personal touch that turns someone from a lead into a sale.

Use automated messages to supplement your existing lead nurturing efforts, not to replace them entirely. 

Best Email Automation Tools

There are several email marketing tools available to automate your email automation efforts. Here’s a list of some popular options.

Mailchimp – Mailchimp is an automated sending service that you can use for free with up to 2,000 subscribers. The platform lets you A/B test various email marketing factors, segment audiences, and send out email drip sequences. 

Customer.io – An automated email sending tool that allows for more customization than Mailchimp. It lets you create conditional rules to send messages based on subscriber behavior. You can also set up triggered emails that only go out after a specific event occurs, such as after reaching a certain stage in the customer journey. 

Drip – Drip is a more robust automated email sending service. Use it to send and analyze data about your customers and their behavior on your site. Drip lets you create segmented lists, automate follow-up messages for events like abandoned shopping carts, and send specific sequences to brand new subscribers.

Funnelfly – Funnelfly helps you engage your leads and customers every step of their journey. It’s a marketing automation tool that allows you to have personalized email conversations,  personalized SMS/text messages, as well as integrated task tracking and management for active and accurate follow-up. It also integrates with major tools out of the box.

Mailshake – A tool that helps you create, send, and track emails with an unlimited number of contacts. It offers automation capabilities so you can schedule automated email sequences as far out in time as you desire. Mailshake’s A/B functionality is top-notch. 

Sendinblue – It offers unlimited email sending, tracking, and automation capabilities. Sendinblue includes CRM features like contact management to help you keep track of your customers. One of Sendinblue’s best features is how you can use SMS text message sequences alongside your email automation sequences.

ConvertKit – An automated email sending tool that’s geared toward professional bloggers. The automation is relatively easy to set up and you can also create landing pages. ConvertKit integrates well with WordPress and WooCommerce.

Omnisend – Omnisend is another popular automated email sending tool with CRM features. It lets you manage your contacts, send drip sequences to targeted audiences, and it integrates with other applications like WordPress or Shopify. SMS functionality is also available.

Wishpond – A great tool for marketers who need to create landing pages and forms, automated email sequences, and track conversions. Wishpond offers A/B testing capabilities and the ability to run discounts and promotions on social media.

GetResponse – GetResponse lets you create landing pages, pop-ups, and other types of forms that help capture leads. It also offers email drip sequences for nurturing relationships with your customers or turning them into sales. Its dashboard is simple to navigate. GetResponse offers email automation at a lower cost than other competitors.

Conclusion

You should now feel like you have a better understanding of email automation and how it can benefit your company’s lead nurturing efforts. As a next step, take time to determine which part of the email automation process you need to upgrade, such as choosing a better (or any) email marketing automation tool or creating an improved customer journey map to set you on the path to success. If you’re not sure how to begin the process, sign up for HVL office hours and get access to tailored guidance from industry experts.