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How to create a winning email sequence (templates included)

How to create a winning email sequence (templates included) Mark Quadros Partner post
· 20 min read · Email marketing,Automation · January 26, 2021

Email sequences rock. Just think about it. Email marketing is one of the most effective marketing channels with 3.9 billion people using it around the world. Your efforts in this channel alone can change the outcome of an entire quarter.

Now, dream up a handful of well-planned messages, and you’ve got yourself an email sequence. But as with anything that’s scalable, there are right and wrong ways of doing it.

Today, we’ll walk you through some proven examples of how to create and personalize an email sequence. And great news! You’ll get a turnkey solution: each example will include email sequence templates, so that you’re ready for action.

An email sequence is a series of emails that a user receives, usually with a common theme that relates to where the user is in the sales funnel. 

mailerlite automation email sequence example workflow

This example is a combination of trigger and time-based emails.

You can set up trigger-based or time-based sequences (or both) to customize your audience’s journey. There are no set design requirements for these emails. Some people use plain-text emails with no images, some opt to follow key email design best practices, and some go all out and style their emails like landing pages. 

It all comes down to knowing what your audience likes most. MailerLite has a large variety of free templates, so you are guaranteed to find what you need. 

“Email sequence” is not the only name for this marketing device. You might also know them as:

  • Autoresponders

  • Automated emails

  • Triggered emails

  • Welcome series

  • Onboarding emails

  • Drip campaign

  • Email series

They are all correct, however, “welcome series” and “onboarding emails” are in fact, subtypes of an email sequence. 

There are a few types of email sequences that marketers use. Let’s explore them in this next section!

Here, we’ll break down the most commonly used email sequence types. As you will see, each of them are tied to different stages of the user journey. Most companies use at least 3-4 of these at the same time. 

1) Onboarding sequence

Onboarding welcome emails are arguably one of the most important emails in the customer journey. Sending a series of welcome emails yields an average of 51% more revenue than a single welcome email.

You must help your audience understand how your product or service works AND how it benefits them (yes, you can repeat this even post-conversion). Keeping your audience happy is the key to growing an email list with many returning (and referred) customers.

Your goal: To help your new customers understand how your product works and delight them with further perks.

How you’ll do it: By presenting an example or a guide on how to use your product. You don’t have to put all the info in the email; simply send users to your blog posts. You can also use case studies and throw an additional lead magnet in the sequence, like a freebie or two.

Sample template:

weekly newsletter orange branding email template

Download here

2) Nurture sequence

Emails in a nurture sequence can take many forms. If your reader is in this funnel, they are likely to be close to converting. This means that you are in that sweet spot where your next communication could turn them into loyal fans. A lot of marketers provide high-value customer education in their nurturing email sequences.

Your goal: To shepherd prospects and leads toward conversion.

How you’ll do it: By educating your readers on how simple your solution is and how it will make their lives easier.

Sample template:

mailerlite black background newsletter email with sleeping koala healthcare sequence

Download here

3) Engagement sequence 

An engagement sequence can be used pre-conversion or post-conversion. In this sequence, you want to make them see your entertaining side. They signed up to your newsletter to interact with your product or solution, so this is your moment to shine. In general, engagement emails are less educational and more fun or interesting.

Your goal: To engage the reader in a way that further strengthens their feelings toward your brand. 

How you’ll do it: By providing interactive engagement opportunities that your prospects will LOVE. 

Note: You’ll need to have a good understanding of the likes and dislikes of your audience.

Sample template (quiz): 

coffee lover email quiz newsletter template example brown cream background colors

Download here

4) Conversion sequence

You have nurtured; you have engaged. Now you’re ready for the home run. For the best conversion rate results, you’ll need to hone in on the audience’s most significant pain points. At the same time, make sure that you don’t come off too sales-y. It’s a delicate balance but with the right marketing collateral (case studies, ebooks, etc.), it’s child’s play.

Your goal: To convert your users with a monetary or an action-based result.

How you’ll do it: By keeping a conversational tone (often with a story) and seamlessly walking your prospects through your main message and to your CTA (call-to-action). In shorter versions, you should keep the copy minimal and emphasize your unique selling point (e.g.: Discounts).

Sample template:

motorcycle original shopping newsletter email template - mailerlite

Download here

5) Abandoned cart recovery sequence

Your user almost made a purchase. But then they abandoned the shopping cart. What happened? Well, this can happen for several reasons. Often it’s a technical difficulty (something was not loading, website crash, timeout issues, etc.). And often it’s because the prospect was elsewhere in your sales cycle, for example still in the “just looking” phase. 

In both cases, an abandoned cart recovery email series can be an easy way to bring them back on track.

Your goal: To get the prospect back in their cart and aid them in finishing their purchase.

How you’ll do it: By subtly addressing some of their objections (see abandonment reasons above) and reassuring them that this product will indeed help solve something in their lives.

Sample template:

abandoned cart recovery email sequence template ecommerce running shoes - mailerlite

6) Renewal sequence

Renewal (or re-engagement) emails are used to activate your readers who haven’t engaged with your brand in a while. They are not opening your emails and not clicking on anything. They bring the average email engagement rate down. These readers are drifting further and further away from being your ideal customers. A renewal email can be your chance to bring them back.

Your goal: To get unengaged people to perform at least one interest-related action (e.g.: Open an email or click a link). 

How you’ll do it: Email segmentation is the first step in finding the unengaged portion of your email list. By sending this segment a very short but very enticing ask, such as to answer a one-question quiz or download a freebie. It has to be short because these people already have super low interest in your brand. And it has to be enticing because… well, what else would it be?) 

Sample template:

house snow winter tress background newsletter email sequence template get your gift button - mailerlite

Download here

7) Event sequence

Even though most events have gone online, they are still an excellent hook that can successfully engage subscribers. Events serve multiple purposes. They will update, engage, educate and delight your audience at the same time. An event sequence can also include post-event follow-ups as another layer of engagement.

Your goal: To get people to attend your event, generate interest and grow engagement.  

How you’ll do it: By putting together an online event that engages your audience and equips them with highly relevant knowledge.

Sample template:

networking event minimal design white background email sequence template - mailerlite

Download here

8) Follow-up email sequence 

Follow-up sequence emails can be a marketer’s secret weapon. These emails are usually sent out after the user completes an action, for example, when they make a purchase or sign up to a webinar. It would feel strange or downright suspicious not to receive a confirmation email, right? Today, it’s an important part of providing great customer service.

Therefore, since people expect it and don’t mind it, this email can give you an extra opportunity to shepherd them to their next conversion. 

Your goal: To reinforce information related to their latest action and drive future sales.

How you’ll do it: By placing creative, yet evergreen follow-up emails in strategic points of your funnel.

Sample template:

review rate your shopping experience with smiley faces newsletter email sequence template - mailerlite

The most crucial step before you create an email sequence is to get to know your audience (if you haven’t already). Starting a sequence without a thorough understanding of their likes and dislikes will get your emails to fall flat. You can do this by reviewing your dashboards in Google Analytics or by sending them a questionnaire. 

Once you feel confident that your personalization game is ready, then it’s time to bring your email sequence to life. 

1) Define your goals

What do you want to achieve with this email series? You can answer this question by clearly defining your end goals. 

The more detailed you get, the better. A monetary or action-based goal can effectively keep you on track throughout your writing process. 

Different email sequences will need different goals. So how can you create a consistent plan? Simple. Just use SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Acceptable, Realistic and Timely.

what are smart goals questions green circles - mailerlite

According to an updated version of the acronym, you can also opt to work with SMARTER goals; which includes Evaluated and Reviewed for efficacy and feedback. 


  • Increase email revenue by 30% before the end of the year.

  • Improve email click-through rate by 2% during the holiday campaign. 

  • Decrease cart abandonment rates by 10% before the end of the quarter.

2) Plan the number of emails for the sequence

oberlo how many emails are sent daily statistics numbers
Image source:

How many emails you send to your list can depend on a few things.

  • How much stewarding your audience needs (i.e., know your audience)

  • What your other digital marketing material is like 

  • Whether what you’re selling is a big-ticket item or something smaller

  • How new your product is to the market

So how many emails should you send in your sequence? What’s the magic number?

We recommend sending about 4-7 emails per sequence. This setup could receive 3x more responses than email campaigns with only 1-3 emails in the sequence. A study by Velocify found that the optimal number of email messages is 5. 

  • "Remember, you only have to succeed the last time." -Brian Tracy, writer and inspirational speaker.

All in all, don’t spend too much time on getting the number of emails exactly right. The first step is to set up your campaign so that you have some base stats that you can later tweak.

3) Draft your sequence emails

The time has come. You have studied best practices for each type of email sequence, you have your email newsletter templates, and you have a few marketing personas ready to go. It’s time to draft your sequence emails.

At first, I recommend you start with just one sequence. Don’t worry. It can get a bit complicated when you start adding other sequences and then moving prospects laterally.

It’s best to start with the essentials: confirmation emails, onboarding sequence, or conversion sequence. This way, even early adopters will have a seamless experience.

So, where do you start with the writing process? Generally, emails can be divided into two important parts:

  • The subject line

  • The email

Yes, your subject line is just as important as the email itself. Check out our guide on how to write the best subject lines to get started. 

As for the email, make sure to implement a checklist into your writing process. These elements should show up in your drafts (mix and match, as needed).

  • Conversational tone

  • How the reader’s life will be better with YOUR product

  • Stories

  • Teasers

  • Social proof

  • Images

  • Humor

  • CTA (a must-have in every sequence)

How to create a winning email sequence (templates included)

Pro-tip: While writing your email, imagine that your prospect is reading it at 10 pm after a long day. How do you catch their attention? How do you provide value for them? We found that this mindset, a few email writing hacks and a thorough grammar check can help you convey your messages easily. 

4) Determine the timing

In the case of trigger-based email sequences, you don’t have to worry about timing them right. They will get sent when the trigger fires, for example, after a purchase.

For every other email, you need to determine the timing. This means two things:

  • Date and time of your email sending

  • How far apart your releases should be and their frequency

Let’s start with the first one. 

what is the average email newsletter open rate by weekday statistics - mailerlite

Our data shows that timing your emails for workday mornings (between 8 am and 10 am) work well. Some days of the week, however, may be off-limits. Mondays are too busy for most people. Fridays are a write-off in many industries. The weekends often result in low engagement. 

All in all, you can safely set any day between Tuesday to Thursday as your send days. 

Now, what about frequency? You probably agree that sending too many emails (and too close to each other) is a bad idea as it can result in an increase in unsubscribes. 

Knowing the right number of emails will take some trial and error. But customer expectation is on your side. More than 61% of users prefer receiving a promotional email at least once a month. 

With that said, try to aim for one email per week or two if your sequence needs it (for example, if you’re sending multiple emails for an event). Leaving 5-7 days in between is a good starting point.

5) Leverage the right tools

mailerlite homepage email marketing your way

When selecting your email marketing tool, you need a wider variety of features than you did, say, five years ago. 

Users jump from content to content with a rapidly lessening attention span. Human attention span is currently 8 seconds, which is one second less than a goldfish’s. This means that a seamless experience is a must. Try to opt for an email marketing provider that can live up to the many needs of a customer journey inside and outside of email.

MailerLite offers all of these features:

  • Campaign creation (drag & drop)

  • Newsletter templates

  • Website builder

  • Landing pages

  • Pop-ups 

  • Email automation

  • Segmentation

  • A/B testing

  • Deliver by timezone

  • Campaign reports

  • Surveys

  • ...and more! See all features here

Also, double-check if your tool integrates with other web services. MailerLite has 114 integrations in total, including Shopify, WordPress, Stripe, MailerCheck, Zapier, and many more.

6) Analyze the results of your campaign 

You started your campaign by setting up goals, and you should finish it by evaluating them. When you analyze the results of your marketing campaign, you’ll usually need to start from the last step in your customer’s journey and work your way backwards until you discover the main problem areas. 

For example:

The goal was to “Increase email revenue by 30% before the end of the year”, but you didn’t reach it. Here is a sample checklist that can help you track down the reason why. 

  • Did the landing page suffer any technical difficulties? 

  • Could the landing page be further optimized?

  • Could the email’s CTA be further optimized?

  • Is there a reason why the email copy didn’t convert?

  • Was the subject line not interesting enough?

  • Should the email sequence frequency be revised?

  • Should the email list be segmented differently?

Of course, marketing is not all KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and metrics. There is a human factor in it, after all. If you want to analyze the success of your campaign further, simply ask your customers if they liked it. 

In this article, we went through the essentials that will help you create an email sequence. Deploying that first email is often the hardest. You double and triple-check everything to make sure they’re all good. And that’s okay.

Here’s a checklist to keep in mind when you’re setting up your email sequences:

  • Define the goal of your email sequence, and establish what you want to achieve

  • Use anywhere between 4-7 emails in the automation

  • Write something that you would be willing to read at 10pm, after a long day

  • Get the timing right—any day between Tuesday and Thursday is a good bet

  • Use a tool like MailerLite to get the most out of your automations

Even if you make a mistake, you can make it right with an apology emails!

In the end, you will learn a lot about your audience and probably come up with your own techniques that work. Remember to keep track, analyze and don’t be afraid of going back to the drawing board. 

Now go and take your emails to the next level!

Mark Quadros
Mark Quadros

Mark Quadros is a SaaS content marketer that helps brands create and distribute rad content. On a similar note, Mark loves content and contributes to several authoritative blogs like HubSpot Sales, CoSchedule, Foundr, etc. Connect with him via LinkedIn or Twitter.

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