Email Marketing Automation: What is it and Where to Start?

What if I told you that there was a tool that not only saves you time, but also helps increase your conversion rate?

Sounds too good to be true, right?

For once, it’s not.

This nifty little tool makes your customers feel welcomed, puts them right into that “buying mode” we all strive for, and can even entice customers who may have “walked away”to return.

Yeah right, you’re probably thinking. But I promise I’m not pulling your leg.

I’m talking about email marketing automation.

Sure, it’s a bit of a mouthful, but this simple tool with the fairly long name will become your new favorite way to work.

How is this any different than email marketing?

You can think of email marketing as the first step and email marketing automation as the more advanced (and absolutely necessary) next step.

At the heart of it, email marketing is essentially marketing your message directly to your customers via email. That’s a no-brainer.

To use a simple example, let’s say you have a sale going on and you decide to send your customers an email with the exact coupon code to use. That’s email marketing.

If your marketing efforts are executed properly, your customer will immediately visit your site when they receive that email and make a purchase on the spot using the coupon code you provided. In a perfect world, your job would now be done.

However, we live in reality and this wonderful scenario doesn’t always play out according to plan.

Inevitably, you will get browsers who check out your sale, maybe even add an item or two to their shopping cart, but then something happens—whether in your control or not— and they end up leaving your site without making a purchase.

In the world of email marketing, it’s a total bummer. All hope seems lost when you send that email out and your customer doesn’t take action.

Now, if you were using the more advanced option known as email marketing automation, your sale wouldn’t be completely lost.

With email marketing automation, an email is automatically sent whenever a user performs a certain action. Your customer’s action triggers a specific email response and it gets sent out precisely when they perform that action.

Let’s go back to the abandoned shopping cart example. After your customer leaves your site, an automatic email would be sent to remind them that the sale is only going on for a short time. This creates a sense of urgency that compels the customer to buy before they miss out on the limited time discount.

And for those customers who are really on the fence, your automation email could sweeten the deal even further by offering a little something extra, such as free shipping, to entice them to come back and complete the sale.

What else can I do with email marketing automation?

An abandoned shopping cart is just the beginning.

Welcome Emails

One of my favorite ways to use email marketing automation is with your welcome email.

Whenever a new user signs up, you can set up your automation to trigger a welcome email right away. This email should greet your customers and tell them what to do next. It should also include a little present for your reader. Think about offering a discount or useful content such as an e-course or toolkit link.

Campaign Monitor tells us that welcome emails have an average read rate of 34%, which is 42% higher than all other types of emails. That’s pretty impressive, so make it count.


Another way to use email marketing automation to your advantage is to use it as a tool to re-engage your customers.

You may find that some of your customers have signed up to use your free trial, but they haven’t done anything since then.

A re-engagement email can help users feel comfortable with your product or service by giving them tips on what to do next. Maybe they’ve signed up, but are unsure of how to proceed. In your re-engagement email, you can give them helpful tips and useful links of where to go next. Sometimes all they really need is further instructions.

Another example of a re-engagement email is when your readers haven’t opened your emails in  a while. Instead of getting offended, you can use this frustrating scenario to your advantage.

Send out an email that says: “Hey, we’ve noticed that you haven’t opened our emails in a while. While that’s totally fine, we want to make sure you’re still interested. If you’d like to unsubscribe from our list, please click the link below. And if you’re still on board, please take a second to complete this 1 minute survey so we can deliver content that really matters to you.”

When I received my first email that looked like this, I was a little caught off guard. It seemed like a total Big Brother spy tactic, but after some thought, it really struck a chord with me. I ended up completing the survey and have stayed on as a loyal reader instead of jumping ship.

This can be a great way to get feedback from your readers and it can even weed out the ones who are not really interested.

I know it can seem counterproductive to ask customers if they’re still interested, but they may not be a true customer in the first place. By offering them an escape route, it may save you time in the long run since you won’t be marketing to uninterested customers.

Email Courses

I also love using email marketing automation to send out email course lessons.

By setting up automation, you can send your email lessons out automatically and you can space them out without having to physically send each one every time. This keeps your lessons timely and not so overwhelming for your readers.

This all sounds great. Where should I start?

Most email providers have automation as an included feature. If you don’t see this option in your email platform’s dashboard, be sure to call your service provider to learn more.

Essentially, you want to set up a few automation campaigns just like the ones we mentioned earlier.

In order of importance, use the following list as a guide for which emails to work on first:

  • Welcome email
  • Thank you email/confirmation email (after an order is placed, thank your customer for their business and confirm what will happen next)
  • Abandoned cart email
  • Unopened email campaign
  • Special offer email (sales, discounts/special offers, etc.)

The good thing about email marketing automation is that it only needs to be set up once, yet it will automatically send hundreds of emails for you. Spend some time getting to know your email platform’s automation feature and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you get stuck.

Although email marketing automation can sound intimidating, once you get the hang of it, it will become your best friend.