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Ultimate Guide To Email Marketing

What is email automation and how you can use it to grow your business

You’re probably familiar with the concept of email automation. You might already be automating time-consuming tasks like welcoming new subscribers. But can email automation actually help you grow your business?

Spoiler alert: The answer is yes!

Email automation is one of the most powerful and useful features of email marketing. An Added bonus? You set it up once, and it will run by itself. From then on, you magically send triggered emails without lifting a finger.

While it sounds technical, it's actually quite easy to set up.

Let's go through email automation step-by-step, and then we'll show you tons of examples to help you get started.

Email automation is an invaluable email marketing tool that allows you to set up a sequence of emails that are sent out automatically. These emails are activated to send by certain “triggers”, such as by something a subscriber does (a behavioral trigger), or by a certain date or time frame (a time-sensitive trigger). Automations like these allow you to send targeted emails at just the right moment.

For instance, instead of manually sending out a welcome email to everyone who signs up for your service, you can set up a trigger to do this automatically.

You write the email once, but it continues to work hard and reach all your subscribers exactly when they need it.

Entrepreneurs, small businesses and corporations alike can work wonders with automated emails. Here are just a couple of reasons why:

  • The ROI (return on investment) for automatic emails is exceptionally high: People are receiving your message when it is top of mind, which satisfies their desire for instant feedback. The world's most high-performing companies like Amazon and Netflix have embraced automation resulting in huge revenue increases

  • Automated emails are opened more often: According to Epsilon, triggered emails get 199% higher click-through rates than mass emails

Graphic with the caption 'automated emails get 199% higher click rates than traditional broadcast emails' dark background - mailerlite

MailerLite makes it easy for you to automate your emails in the same way that huge companies like Amazon personalize their emails to reach their customers.

Using email automation for your business is a great opportunity to engage your customers, deliver a better experience and increase your conversion rate.

While the possibilities of what you can do with email automation are virtually endless, we want to share six of our favorite ways you can use automation to benefit your business.

Let your customers tag themselves with different interest groups. Interest groups (aka subscriber tagging) are a way to divide up your customer base into smaller groups based on what they like about your products and services.

Instead of sending everyone the same message, interest groups help you target the right message to the right audience.

Let's say a subscriber clicks a link in your newsletter for an upcoming sales webinar. MailerLite automatically segments that subscriber into a group labeled “Sales Webinar”.

In this example, the subscriber's interest in sales led to a tag placing them in a group. Now, you can send them email content tailored to sales topics, which you know they care about.

Automated subscriber tagging example

The best email automations will separate subscribers into groups, so that they receive more targeted and personalized campaigns.

Beyond taking the manual work off your plate, automated emails let you personalize your messages in a way that is timely and relevant.

Research has long since proven that consumers love personalization:

  • 90% of consumers find marketing personalization appealing

  • 72% say they will only engage with personalized messaging

  • The leading type of personalization experience marketers offer is through email

You can create personalized automations in MailerLite based on past purchases, interests, gender, age, location, job title… you name it!

Examine subscriber data relevant to your brand and use it to create personalized workflows that deliver emails your subscribers care about.

Some super-simple and effective ways to collect subscriber data for personalization are:

  • Adding custom fields to signup forms

  • Attaching separate interest groups to specific signup forms

  • Creating segments in MailerLite based on a set of characteristics

  • Embedding surveys in emails allows self-segmentation

Everyone loves acquiring new customers, but a business can't survive on new sales alone — you need to retain the customers you already have to stay profitable.

One of the most effective ways to keep customers is by building a relationship through automated email marketing campaigns.

In fact, email is proven to be the greatest driver of customer retention. The second best channel is social media.

Retention marketing is most powerful when you deliver value in a way that keeps customers engaged. Automated emails play a critical role in a retention campaign. 

By programming triggers that send customers emails at key points in your customer lifecycle, you can maintain relationships with thousands of customers.

Example: How Grammarly uses automation

Grammarly is a subscription-based business, so they must be aware of when their millions of subscribers are close to expiration. The problem is that different people signed up and different times.

By using automation for retention, they can send an email a few days before each subscription ends. The email adds value by reminding the customer that their service is about to end, and it's also an opportunity to send a discount offer to retain them.

Effective retention campaigns identify when your customers need to hear from you and deliver the value when they least expect it.

Abandoned cart emails

Another way to improve retention with automation is by using an e-commerce integration (MailerLite is integrated WooCommerce and Shopify) to send abandoned cart emails.

All e-commerce sites experience cart abandonment–when a customer leaves before finalizing their purchase. While this is unfortunate, there is still hope. You can trigger emails automatically to re-engage them, resulting in win backs of 12-15% of your shoppers!

Subscribers can be triggered every time they abandon their cart. Try different strategies to bring your customers back including:

  • Giving discount codes

  • Recommending best-selling products

  • Using customer reviews

Learn how to create these workflows in this article.

Abandoned cart email automation sequence example - MailerLite

The lifeblood of your email marketing is your healthy list of subscribers. While you are sending out newsletters and building relationships with them, you also need to keep an eye on attracting more people. 

Exchanging something of value like a report, ebook, event or gift card for their email address is a great way to grow your email list (check out this guide on how to create the perfect email marketing content). When someone signs up, you want the transaction to be quick and smooth, which requires automation.

A lead magnet email sequence using automation enables you to deliver your incentive immediately after a subscriber joins your list. Here’s a workflow example to get you started, using MailerLite as your email automation tool. 

You can create a landing page or pop-up form to promote your lead magnet. For a detailed example of a lead magnet delivery workflow (with step-by-step instructions), click below:

Ultimately, the goal of any business is to make money. Once you’ve got that down, you can iterate your marketing strategy to maximize those profits.
There’s more than one way to use email marketing automation to increase your revenue. A few of our favorites are: Lead nurturing, Upselling/cross-selling, Educational content (or online courses) and Link triggers.

Lead nurturing

You can set up automated sequences based on your subscribers’ actions and lead them to purchase.

When potential customers come to you, they are rarely ready to buy on the spot. In fact, 96% of website visitors aren’t ready to make a purchase—they’re just browsing, or they stumbled across your site by accident, or they’re curious about your business! Nurturing subscribers to become customers is an integral part of the sales process.

Build a long-lasting relationship with subscribers with an automated nurturing email campaign.

Automated lead nurturing allows you to track each subscriber's engagement with your content and website. You can automatically send the right email at the right time when they interact with your content.

Here are some examples of different content you could share, depending on which stage of the sales funnel they're at.

Sales funnel stages example

When website visitors download a piece of content or click on a link, you can program your email to activate the next phase of the nurture campaign. This allows you to leverage every opportunity to push your subscribers towards a conversion.

Upsell/cross-sell campaigns

Create targeted upsell or cross-sell automated workflows that build a bond between your brand and your customers while encouraging them to shop again.

Cross-selling is all about sending personalized recommendations based on a customer's past purchase. Meaning: They’re more likely to want to buy what you’re offering.

Upselling campaign is about offering an upgrade, add-on or more expensive item to provide more value to your customers and increase your bottom line.

Upselling and cross-selling email automation example in MailerLite

Want to learn how to build this workflow? Click below:

Educational content/Online courses

Online courses are a great way to share knowledge and earn an income online. When paired with email automation, that becomes passive income. Once you create your course and build your workflow–your work is done!

When someone signs up for your course, an automated workflow can deliver the course modules at the right times. You can be the teacher at any given time and date! Your virtual classes will be sent out automatically.

Check out our detailed workflow example for an online course automation with all the steps.

Link triggers

Once someone becomes a subscriber, you can continue an email dialogue with them based on their interactions with your different digital marketing channels.

Link triggers enable you to use any link as a trigger to activate a corresponding email. The automated email can be triggered by any type of link that you control.

Just like having a normal conversation offline, the email is focused on the individual's personal interests.

Example: Link trigger to download a PDF

Behavior: A subscriber clicks to download a free PDF chapter from an author newsletter.

Response: You can segment subscribers into a group, based on those who clicked on the link, then wait a few days and send a follow-up email with the next chapter.

Here is how you could set it up in your MailerLite workflow builder:

Link trigger workflow example in MailerLite

Link triggers are a great way to engage your subscribers in a way that feels natural and adds value. Not to mention they drive a 5x click-to-open rate versus an untargeted email.

Automation allows you to pounce on opportunities to engage with your audience at the right time. This could be when new subscribers sign up, with a personalized welcome email. Or, it could be after existing customers have made their fifth purchase and you want to say “thanks” by rewarding their loyalty with a coupon.

Re-engage your audience

People won’t engage with every email you send—and that’s totally fine and normal. 

But if you notice that someone hasn’t opened or clicked in a while (6 months is the usual benchmark), then it might be time to fire off a re-engagement campaign. This is a series of emails you can send to “win back” your subscribers!

Here are the main components of highly effective re-engagement emails:

  • Write an eye-catching subject line: Something that will tempt your subscribers to open

  • Offer free shipping or a discount that will expire soon: This creates a sense of urgency and encourages them to re-engage 

  • Remind them why they signed up: Reiterate what you’re all about (they might have signed up during a busy time, and forgotten)

  • Create FOMO (fear of missing out): Mention upcoming offers, events and promotions that they’ll want to stick around for

Setting up re-engagement campaigns with MailerLite is nice and straightforward because your inactive subscribers can be found using your subscriber search filters.

Simply navigate to your Subscribers page and use the “Time inactive” filter to select subscribers you want to re-engage. Then just add those subscribers to a group.

Subscribers filtered by

When you create your win-back automation, use the trigger ‘When subscriber joins a group’, and then select the inactive subscribers group. From there, you can create an email win-back series which will be sent to anyone who gets labeled as an inactive subscriber. Easy peasy! 

Learn more about re-engagement campaigns here:

While we covered six examples in detail, there are dozens of automated email campaigns that you can implement depending on your business. Here is a quick list of more ideas worth exploring.

Collect customer feedback

Email surveys are a great way to learn what your customers really think about your services. You can use automation to trigger a survey email after a key event, such as a purchase or account signup.

Promote blog posts

Our RSS-to-email feature enables you to schedule an automated email that inserts your recent blogs into the email to inform your subscribers.

Special occasions

People love anniversaries and special occasions. Surprise and delight your subscribers by automatically triggering an email on their birthday or sending them a discount on their anniversary of becoming a subscriber.

Transactional emails

Automate transactional emails (like confirmation or thank you emails) whenever someone buys a product or takes certain actions that warrant a response.

Ongoing educational series

Once an email subscriber is familiar with your company, you can create email sequences that aim to educate the subscriber in a deeper way. For example, send a blog series on a specific subject that will add value and strengthen your relationship.

Automate onboarding emails

Similar to a welcome email series, these emails give people a breakdown of what they can expect, once they’ve signed up for something. For example, if they’ve started a new music downloads subscription, you could send an email showing how it works, how often they get new downloads and the most popular hits.

Event emails

If someone has signed up for an event, you can add them to a group and send them an automated series of reminders, plus a ‘thank you’ message after they’ve attended. You could even include a recap or a recording if they want to revisit their favorite moments.

Product usage metrics

Track how customers are using your product, and send them automatic weekly progress updates (e.g. how many workouts they completed, the number of words they’ve written, how close they are to winning a badge, etc).

Community invitations

Subscribers who are particularly engaged in your campaigns could be offered automatic VIP access to online communities.

So you’ve got the basics of email automation down… Now it’s time to make sure that you get the most out of your email marketing automation software. Automation is so much more than a trigger followed by an email. You can also mix and match steps for a more complex workflow, track results and monitor the customer journey.

Mix and match steps

Use a combination of delays, conditions and actions between your automated emails to take full control of your subscribers’ experience. Furthermore, implementing different types of steps gives your workflow a more natural and personalized feel.

Track and improve results

Use real-time reports to track audience engagement, metrics and overall growth. Leverage these insights to improve click-throughs and conversion rates of your email automation.

Monitor subscriber activity

Keep up with where your subscribers are in the email workflow with activity reporting. You can also manually pull subscribers out of the workflow, re-add them and move subscribers to different steps.

Email automation is very simple to implement, and it’ll make your business processes and email results much stronger in the long run! You’ll notice higher open rates and conversion rates, because your emails are hitting those inboxes at the perfect moment. 

Whether you’re completely new to automations, or you’re looking to improve your current workflows, these ideas will help you take your emails (and your revenue) to the next level!