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According to the Radicati Group, a Palo Alto-based technology market research firm, the number of emails sent and received per day in 2015 totaled over 205 billion. This figure is expected to grow at an average annual rate of 3% over the next four years, reaching over 246 billion by the end of 2019.  91% of email users check their emails daily, which is an astonishing rate.  Small business owners always salivate at the opportunity use email to connect and converse with their clientele.  The only problem is…how do you avoid getting lost in the noise?  Why does email automation make sense for your operation?  Let’s begin.

Despite the technical jargon, email automation in a marketing quite simple.  It’s about creating valuable relationships with your customers through targeted messaging, personalization, segmentation, and intent.  Forget batch-and-blast, forget mass promotional campaigns, forget untargeted newsletters…true email automation gives you the power to match relevant content with your customers’ needs, objectives, and pain points.  Email automation platforms also give you the opportunity to flex the true power of your CRM database, segmenting your clients into different buckets for the purpose of delivering hyper-targeted, valuable information to people that need and want to hear it.

Identify and Segment

Given the sheer power of email automation, it is definitely tempting to hammer your contact list with the “spray and pray” method.  However the value of these platforms exists in the ability to segment customers based on their intentional interactions with your brand, where they came from, and their current stage of purchase consideration.  Before you set up any campaigns, it is important to identify the ways and methods in which you will collect and build your email marketing lists.

Already have current client emails in your CRM? Great, let’s group those current clients in a list and tag with “current client” in the automation platform so they receive news and updates, but not directly “sales-y” messaging.  You run a monthly newsletter?  Awesome job, we’re going to add an on-site lead capture form and source opt-ins from there.  Now we can tag those people in automation platform as the “newsletter” crowd and hit them with completely different messaging.  Have a case study or white paper that could help educate and sway potential customers to work with your firm?  Excellent, let’s put a gate on that download and collect email information from the people wanting to access it. Now you have another pool of qualified, interested people to nurture over time.

Another powerful function that drives email automation strategy is segmentation, or dividing your contact database into different groups or crowds depending on how they came in, what their current state is, what product or service they are interested in, etc.  The goal is to walk potential customers down the sales funnel with a carefully-selected blend of both educational and feature-driven emails that hit their inbox at the right time and don’t come across as desperate.

How was the lead captured?  The answer to this question determines what content you include in your segmented campaign.  What stage of the purchase cycle is the lead in?  It’s imperative to segment and prioritize those strong leads that demonstrate a level of interest in your firm.  From there you can use lead scoring to group those serious leads into a more focused campaign that addresses their specific needs.  What is your lead’s personality like?  There’s no one-size-fits-all campaign or customer anymore – build an email list based on behavioral characteristics found through surveys, social media, and lead capture forms to determine the entry points and messaging that will push that crowd to take action.

Personalization is Paramount

Despite email automation essentially removing personalization by executing marketing activities on a grand scale, you must add the personal touch back into the process.  The human touch and personalized messaging is what can make email automation so powerful – if you do it correctly.  Put yourself in your potential customer’s shoes and and think about how you would receive the very email you want to send.  Now it should be easier to identify the goal behind your campaign as well as how to tweak copy to be more sincere, more personal, and more human.

Start off by addressing your customer by their first name.  Take the Dale Carnegie approach: “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”  Most email automation platforms give you the ability to merge a contact list by using a function like Hi <First Name> that fills the field with names when emails are sent.

From there, tailor product and service recommendations, research material, and testimonials to your lead’s purchase and browsing history.  Offer relevant discounts, incentives, and coupons related to the frequency and recency of their purchases, site visits, calls, etc.  The goal here is to create a personal 1:1 relationship with your potential and existing customers, making them feel like they are your #1 client.

Pick Your Email Punches

We’ve all been there…you sit down to check emails and it’s just one dry promotional business email after another in your inbox.  There’s no substance, there’s no inherent value, there’s no personal interaction.   The last thing you want your emails to be is a spammy shouting of “Hey, buy our stuff!”  Sure you want to stay top-of-mind, but the fastest way to turn off both potential and existing clientele is to hammer their inboxes with emails too often.  In the email automation world, there’s a very fine line between persistent and annoying.

In a 2016 report on email automation by Technology Advice, 43% of email subscribers held that they’d prefer less frequent updates.  Another 48% of email subscribers surveyed remarked that they would like to see more informative content in their emails.  With this knowledge in hand, it is up to you to pick your email punches – just because someone opts in does not mean they are ready for a whole stream of emails.

How often is enough when it comes to emails?  There’s no set rule or practice – frequency is all industry and vertical specific.  Some businesses prefer to communicate via email once or twice a week, and others stretch that to once or twice a month.  Key metrics like open rate, bounce rate, and unsubscribe rate will give you greater data insights into the optimal send frequencies.  If you see bounce rates on the rise, low open rates, and an unsubscribe rate going over 0.5 percent, then you should probably cut back on the rate of emails you are sending.

At the end of the day, email automation can be an incredibly powerful tool for small business.  Like anything marketing or sales-related, the devil is in the details.  In the long run, fostering the relationships you create with your customers is no easy task – but if you properly identify and segment your inbound leads, personalize communication, and send the right email at the right time, you’ll be far ahead of the game.  Still murky on how to optimize an email automation platform for your business?  Give the email experts a Digital Vitamin a ring, you’ll be glad you did.

About Digital Vitamin

Digital Vitamin is a creative branding and marketing firm based in Los Angeles, California.  Whether it is brand vision, digital platforms, performance marketing and advertising, or social media management, we know how to grow your brand in a hyper-connected world.  Sick of the same old song and dance in your marketing?  Get in touch with us today and find out how we can supercharge your business.

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