As a child I loved Saturday mornings.
I’d launch myself out of bed at the crack of dawn and sprint down the stairs to the kitchen where I’d hastily pour a bowl of my favourite cereal. With an overfull bowl of Bran Flakes cradled gently in my arms, I’d precariously walk through to the living room, set down my bowl and prop myself in the position I’d adopt for the next few hours.
It was heaven. I’d munch my breakfast and watch Optimus Prime battle Megatron, marvel as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles once again defeated the Foot Clan, and grin as Lion-O swung his sword with unrivalled majesty.
But you know, out of all the shows I watched as a child, there’s one which I still, as a 30-year-old man, fantasise about. A show for which I would love to be the primary protagonist.
The show was (at the time) a popular British production called Bernard’s Watch.
The premise was simple. Bernard was gifted a magical stopwatch that could stop time. Unsurprisingly this led to all manner of adventures and problems for Bernard. Problems which could only be solved through stopping the passage of time.
Despite the low production value, terrible acting (sorry Bernard) and lack of violence prevalent in my other favourite shows it’s a show that still holds a favoured spot in my memory.
Because I would still, to this day, brutally murder a unicorn to get my hands on a watch that added more hours to the day.
I run my own business helping brands improve their marketing to increase conversions. And this shit is tough.
I work long days. I have to find leads, approach them, warm them to the idea of outsourcing extremely valuable processes before negotiating and closing deals. All the while I’m producing content, optimising processes and reporting back to existing clients.
Staying on top of everything and keeping the revenue wheels turning is tough. And sure, I lighten the load by soliciting help. I have great writers who produce content when I don’t have time, VAs who find ideal prospects for me and I depend on countless services to streamline my processes.
Yet still I find myself in need of extra time. I still need an extra hour or two per day to achieve everything I want to.
Unfortunately getting my hands on a watch like Bernard’s isn’t an option. So I’ve got to lighten the load with the next best thing.
And, for me, that next best thing is my email service provider (ESP).
I use a huge variety of tools to help run my client and product side businesses. And if you told me I could only keep one, I’d drop my VAs, axe my writers and cancel all but my ESP.
Because it’s a bloody life (and time) saver.
Why Email Automation is a Lifesaver
Let’s get the well-quoted stats we all know out of the way.
Email is still the powerhouse of modern marketing. Sure, social media is sexier. Instagram has those amazing filters, Facebook is used by every man and his bloody dog, and Twitter is perfect for short sharp updates of what your brand is doing.
But email is the one channel that brings real results that can transform your business.
- You’re 6X more likely to get a clickthrough from an email than a tweet (Source)
- There’s 3X more email accounts than Facebook and Twitter accounts combined (suck it Zuckerberg… Suckerberg? (Source)
- Email has the highest purchase conversions rate with 66% of consumers making a purchase as a result of an email marketing message! (Source)
- An email message is 5X more likely to be seen than a Facebook message (Source)
Those are just a few of the statistics that continually show, despite what people are saying, email is the king of digital marketing channels.
All well and good you might say. But to get those results you’re still going to have to spend a large portion of your day writing, optimising, sending, tracking and following up your emails, right?
Email automation can be a pig to set up. You’ve got to devise a strategy, pair lead magnets with follow-on messages, tailor those messages, write your emails, implement, monitor, and optimise.
But that huge up-front time investment pays off. It places a lot of your lead nurture on autopilot. Once you’re up and running you can focus on other areas of your business while your automated emails build relationships and further establish you as a trustworthy authority in your niche.
Once you roll out your initial automation offering, you can take things beyond basic time-saving. Taking full advantage of your ESPs sophisticated targeting and personalisation elements could help your automated emails get the highest success rates.
- Transactional (triggered) emails have an 8X higher open rate and can drive up to 6X more revenue (Source)
- B2C marketers who use automation have seen conversion rates of up to 50% (Source)
- Over 75% of email revenue is generated by triggered emails (Source)
- Companies who send triggered emails are 133% more likely to send relevant messages (Source)
Email automation is one of the most profitable actions you can take with your business. To get you off to the best start I’ve listed some of the most effective automated funnels you can set up.
First impressions are vital for the future success of your brand.
- 74% of your users expect a welcome email (Source)
- Welcome emails drive a 33% increase in long term engagement (Source)
- Welcome emails achieve a far higher open and click rate than regular promotional emails (Source)
And these statistics hold true for a welcome email series. Instead of sending a single email to welcome users, capitalise by sending a welcome series.
One of my other websites offers advice and assistance to freelance writers. My Welcome series there sees an open rate of 82.35% and a CTR of 48.82%. Both of which are huge improvements on the industry averages (I’m currently testing these with more people as they are suspiciously high).
You’ll also notice 94.08% of user show receive the series see it through to completion.
Your first email to your users is pivotal to your long-term customer relationships.
It’s the first step for many of your customers. Sure, they’ve read content and have been sufficiently impressed to sign up. But that sign up signifies the end of one journey, and the beginning of the next.
It’s the first step for them as a potential lead. As I’ve already said, first impressions count for a lot, don’t make the mistake of wasting the effort you expended in getting the sign up by serving an absolutely bullshit, pathetic excuse of a welcome email like the below.
The above is an email that’ll be quickly forgotten. It makes zero impression and doesn’t help your user in any way, shape or form. There’s no value there.
I don’t feel like a valued customer. I feel like I’ve been used. I gave them what they wanted, my email, and now I’m of no use to them.
Compare it to the email from headspace below.
Headspace have crafted an incredible welcome email that explains the service you’ve signed up for and what you’ll receive, prompts you to take their introductory course (thus hooking you on the service), asks you to download the app, and offers links to their FAQs to help you learn more.
Above all, Headspace’s welcome email is useful. It solidifies the brand as helpful, knowledgeable, and one who has your best interest at heart. All of which lead to a more favourable brand image and a higher level of interest from users.
I received the above email a long time ago, yet I’m still talking about it now because it made such an impression.
Not bad for taking a little time to write a single email.
Tips for an Effective Welcome Series
- Decide on the key message
- How are you going to welcome your users to your brand? Figure this out to keep your messages on target and prevent emails and series from becoming too complicated.
- Make it a series
- Take advantage of the higher engagement by sending a full series instead of a single welcome.
- Focus on value
- Don’t try and push for the sale straight away. Welcome new visitors to your brand with helpful emails that help them solve their problems through useful information. They’ll thank you for it by being more receptive to your offers when it is time to push for the sale.
Most sales aren’t made off the merit of one email.
To once again use a terribly tired adage, people buy from brands they trust.
Your welcome email series will welcome people to your brand and start building a profitable relationship. But the problem with welcome emails is they’re often quite generic.
In your welcome email series, I recommend implementing triggered actions. Map how users are interacting with your brand to fill out their customer profile and understand how you can best help them.
A user subscribes to your welcome list and then downloads an eBook on better email marketing. That download tells you two things about the customer:
- They’re interested in improving their email marketing
- It gives an indication of their stage of awareness and thus, their position in the sales cycle and how you can best sell your awesome course on email marketing to them
Let’s look at another example.
You’re adopting the Ben Settle method and selling in every email. You’re also tracking interaction. If a user checks out your pricing page three times from your emails but doesn’t buy there’s a good chance that the cost is an issue.
A three-time visit to the pricing page triggers a new series which either:
- Simply offers a discount to solicit the sale
- Explains the value of the course in more detail and explains how/when they’ll make their money back
How your users interact with your emails and website is the most valuable information you can get. Find yourself an ESP that links with your website to track interactions.
It’ll give you more useful information and actionable insights to better serve your audience.
I’m going to do something here few do and let you in on my plan.
Let’s imagine you’re a potential prospect for me. My goal is to find people who want conversion copywriting and email marketing/automation consulting.
So I create an article that explains some basic automations. This will (hopefully) rank for search terms related to “useful email automations”.
That tells me you are solution aware. You understand the problem of a lack of time to warm leads and understand that automation could help.
So I’ve brought you in with this article, but as a general reader I can’t help you. I need to bring you in to my own email marketing campaign. So I offer a free eBook that details how to get your first email automation campaign off to the best possible start.
That eBook requires an email address and, in conjunction with this article linking to it, solidifies that you are solution aware.
This article and eBook offer the proof that I understand email marketing, they also tell you I offer a service that can help you optimise your processes which moves you to product aware. You now know about a product (service) that can help you solve your problems.
By submitting your email address you enter into the below basic automated sequence:
This is the old sequence for that eBook which, whilst looking complicated, is actually pretty simple.
If you don’t open, I send a second email with a different subject line a few days later to remind you of your download.
If you open but don’t download, you get a different reminder.
If you download, I wait a week to ask for feedback before proposing a free 30-minute consultation.
The sequence was, in my opinion, a little too simple so I switched it up to offer more value. Now there’s a full welcome sequence with value adding emails related to the eBook’s content.
Even with it being incredibly simple it takes the chasing of potential leads out of my hands. It automatically handles three emails for me. And if that sequence gets 100 new subscribers, I’ve saved myself from writing 300 emails.
That’s a lot of time for such a simple sequence.
This has been a very convoluted way to say that email automation can remove much of the hassle in nurturing leads.
With a full strategy that links into your wider marketing strategy smart automation can help understand the stage of awareness your user is at and where in the buying cycle they sit. It can help nurture them along the purchase journey whilst establishing you as the go-to solution provider.
If we imagine that the above sequence works well, after clicking publish on this piece all I have to worry about is promoting this article and keeping 30-minute consultation slots free.
Tips for Lead Nurture Emails
- Get your mapping right
- Understand what people at different stages of the sales cycle are searching for
- Map content to the sales cycle based on Schwartz’s stages of awareness
- Create content that best speaks to a user’s needs at that stage and make sure it ushers them to the next stage
- Track and improve
- This is important in every stage. But when it comes to lead nurture it’s super important. You don’t want to lose potential leads because you’ve fucked up your targeting
If you sell a product or service through your site then cart abandonment emails could regain a lot of cash you’re currently leaving on the table.
The number of people who add an item to their cart and never purchase is huge.
- At the time of writing, 79% of people abandon their carts before completing a purchase (Source)
- $4.6 trillion dollars will be lost through incomplete purchases (Source)
- 60% of that money is potentially recoverable which equals $2.75 trillion (Source)
Cart abandonment emails are relatively simple and can save your brand an absolute fortune through recovering lost revenue.
Before you implement any campaign you first need to get a general idea of why your users are abandoning. The below are the most highly reported reasons.
Look at what stage your users are exiting your site and see if you can’t find any cues on that page or through their behaviour that offer insight into why.
Use that information to tailor the abandonment email you send to your users.
- They abandon on the first page displaying the addition of shipping costs
- Shortly after sending an email that offers free or discounted shipping
- Browsed several pages after adding item to their cart
- Likely just conducting research. Use their session history to populate the email with offers within the category they spent most time
- Saving it for later
- A lot of shoppers add items to their cart to be saved for later. If you think this is the case, send a cart contents reminder email at a time you see the most sales
Don’t let potential sales walk away without at least trying to bring them back. Chances are, there’s nothing wrong with the product, the user just didn’t have time to complete their purchase and forgot about it later.
Tips for Cart Abandonment Emails
- Dynamic content
- Derive email content from individual user’s habits and browsing history. Make it as relevant as possible to their cart contents and interests for the highest results
- It’s tricky to get the timing right as the underlying reason will be different and you have to figure out what it is. But you’ve got to send emails at the most opportune time. If it’s a case of price get in with an offer before a competitor with cheaper products steals their business, if they simply planned to convert later, send them an email when you see most shoppers convert
- Offer other buying options
- Sometimes it’s got little to do with the price or timing. Sometimes there are other extenuating circumstances. Offer users different ways to pay or to collect their item in a local store.
So you have 10,000 people on your email list. Congratulations.
But are they all interacting and engaging with your content? No.
Even with incredibly well-optimised campaigns, there will be a large number of people who fail to engage. Reachmail puts the number of dormant subscribers at 60% which means out of those 10,000 people, only 4,000 are listening to you.
That’s a potentially huge amount of revenue left on the table.
You can’t just leave those 6,000 people idle on your list. You need to bring them back into the fold and spending more time checking out your brand, services and products.
Good re-engagement emails follow all the usual rules of effective emailing (good subject lines, effective CTA, well designed etc etc etc), but also give users a reason to come back to the brand.
Starbucks offer a good example with their re-engagement email below.
It reminds you that you’ve neglected their content but also offers a reason for you to re-engage. They also have a measurable metric so they can track the overall success of the campaign which’ll make things much easier for their optimisation team.
Tips for an Effective Re-engagement Email
- Why should users come back. If you offer nothing worthy, then there’s no point
- Time it right
- Re-engagement emails are difficult to time. There’s no set time limit as a lack of engagement depends on your contact frequency. Someone who hasn’t engaged with a daily service or email for over a month has missed between 28-31 opportunities which is substantial. But if you send a monthly roundup or only see people checking the service once a month, that same time period will equate to one contact opportunity missed. Time your reengagement email based on your frequency.
- Market research
- Don’t just say come back. If you can, try to find out what caused the drop off in engagement so you can amend future correspondence as Office have.
The bigger the list, the better your chances at increasing revenue, right?
A big list is great, but an engaged list is better. We’ve all been trained to believe that a large email list is the most desirable thing to own. But if the majority of your subscribers aren’t engaging, it could seriously harm the success rate of your overall campaigns.
Mailbox providers use engagement statistics to rank the value of your emails. If they see very low engagement rates your emails are going to be marked as spam and drop directly into users spam folders.
And that’s not just for the unengaged users, that’s also for those who are still interested.
Keeping unengaged users on your list will condemn all future emails to your recipient’s spam folder. You’ve got to trim the people who have no interest in your emails for the overall health of your list.
Rather than just cut those who haven’t opened emails you should first run a re-engagement campaign. If after a few attempts to solicit re-engagement you’re unsuccessful you need to cut the contact from your list.
In a post I wrote for Crazy Egg a while back I covered a reengagement campaign that ended with an unsubscribe.
This is your last resort.
Never cut people unnecessarily. You’ve got to cut the dead weight, but you need to give them the opportunity to come back to you first.
Tips for Unsubscribe Emails
- Have them follow a reengagement campaign
- don’t just cut, give people the chance to come back first
- Don’t place into an inactive segment.
- Some people like to place inactive users into an inactive segment. Don’t do this. Sure, it prevents you sending emails that aren’t opened, but with most ESPs you’re paying by subscriber. All you’re doing is paying more to hold onto useless contacts.
Email Automation Saves Time and Your Sanity
If you’ve not yet got your email automation campaign under way, start today.
There’s a tonne of your business processes which don’t require you babying them. Have a look through your time-consuming processes and ask yourself if they could be taken out of your hands with effective email automation.
Start small, but start.
Freeing up even a few hours a week could help your business grow in other ways simply by giving you the time you need to focus on other areas that lead to revenue growth.
Oh, and if you fancy grabbing the eBook on email automation I mentioned earlier in the article, click here and enter your email address. You’ll also experience the wonderfully simple automation I created for you.
Also published on Medium.