What is Email Marketing Automation?

Email is still the most efficient way for businesses to reach their customers. It also has the highest return on investment (ROI) of all forms of marketing, with an average return of $42 for every $1 spent. 

Quality email marketing is worth your time and when you automate customer emails, it gets even better. With email marketing automation, you can automatically email customers based on their personal needs, catering to their behaviors, interests, preferences, and even special occasions like birthdays.

If you’re the owner of a small business, you might not always have the time and resources to keep track of when your customers have their birthdays, or which of the 700+ customers on your email list is a dog owner. But by incorporating automated email marketing into your communication strategy, you’ll know exactly who to email, what to email them, and when the best time to send that email is.

But this sounds too simple. Is email marketing automation really that easy or does it have a catch?

The short answer is that there’s no catch. Email marketing automation is available to all small business owners and is relatively easy to set up once you know what you want it to do for you.

In this article, I’ll give you an overview of what email marketing automation is, how it can benefit you and why you should consider trying it right away.

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What is email marketing automation?

Email marketing automation is a way for you to send timely, relevant, personalized email campaigns to individual contacts when they take a specific action, like signing up for your email list or making a purchase from your online store.

For example, when you sign up for Constant Contact, the action of signing up for our service triggers a welcome email. This email introduces you to Constant Contact, asks you to verify your email address, and tells you how to set-up your account and get started with building your brand.

With email marketing automation, you can deliver the same great experience to your first email subscriber and your 10,000th. It saves you time because you only have to do the work to plan out your email campaign once and the automation keeps it going.

You choose the order, frequency, and targeted content of the message. Once the sequence is set up, the emails send automatically.

All of these email marketing automation tools are available right within your Constant Contact email marketing account. If you’re not using Constant Contact already, you can try email automation out for free with a 60-day trial.

What are the benefits of email automation?

The benefits of email automation will depend on your individual business goals, but the main benefit is that automation saves you time while creating a better experience for your customers.

email marketing automation benefits
30 percent of professionals surveyed said the biggest benefit of marketing automation was the time it saved them.

As a small business owner, you already have enough on your plate. And as your business grows and more customers (and potential customers) start flooding in, it becomes even more challenging for you to offer incredible experiences to everyone that interacts with your business.

Email automation helps you take care of your existing customers as well as new leads who sign up for your email list. If executed correctly, email automation delivers highly personalized and timely experiences that will convert new leads into customers, or first-time customers into loyal repeat business.

Is email marketing automation the right choice for me?

51 percent of companies are currently using some form of marketing automation. The reason? It works. So why isn’t everyone using email automation? 

Well, when we talk to small business owners who are not yet using automation, we often hear that they either feel they don’t have time to learn how to set up email marketing automation, or they think it will be too complicated for them. 

At Constant Contact, our mission is to help small businesses and nonprofits to grow with the smartest set of digital marketing tools. We’ve done the behind-the-scenes work to make email automation easy for anyone to use. In fact, a lot of the automation is pre-built for you, so you only need to select a few parameters, activate your automated email campaign, and you’re all set! 

The bottom line: You can make email automation work for your small business or nonprofit, even if you have limited marketing experience.

By the end of this article, you’ll understand some practical and specific examples of email automation, and we’ll even show you a video of how to create your first automated email series in about three minutes, so read on!

Are there challenges or downsides to email automation?

The only challenge with email marketing automation is it often requires a little work and planning upfront. Planning is easier when you have an idea of what you want the end result to look like so to help you get started, we’ve listed some specific examples of automated email campaigns below that are great for beginners.

Email automation examples

Here are four of our top examples of automated email campaigns to set up when you’re just getting started with email automation.

1. Automated welcome emails

In a competitive market, first impressions are everything. If someone signs up for your email list, it’s up to you to delight them right away with interesting and helpful content and enticing offers.

The easiest way to do this is with an engaging automated welcome email series. A welcome email series should do three things:

  1. Welcome new subscribers and thank them for signing up
  2. Invite them to connect further (by following your social media, visiting your website, coming to your brick and mortar location, etc.)
  3. Get to know your subscribers further, so you can continue sending them emails that are relevant to their interests

Setting up a welcome email series is easy in Constant Contact’s online marketing platform. Head over to the “Campaigns” tab, hit the “Create” button and select “Email Automation” to get started.

email automation in Constant Contact
Email automation is built into Constant Contact. Simply click “Create,” then “Email Automation” to get started.

Automated welcome emails reach new subscribers the second they sign up — at a moment when they’re new to your list and want to hear from you. Without automation, you might not get around to manually sending a welcome email for hours or even days later, when your new subscribers have already shifted their focus elsewhere. Automation helps you reach them when it’s most impactful.

A welcome email is a great way to start nurturing leads through the customer journey. However, it’s just the beginning. 

More automated email series

Why not go a step further with more email series? Perhaps instead of a welcome series, you want to create a series that helps turn one-time customers into loyal repeat buyers. The possibilities are endless and can be catered to your specific needs and goals.

And all of this can be done right within that “Email Automation” section we talked about. Simply create an automated email series that will automatically send to new subscribers at the frequency you desire.

2. Birthdays and anniversary emails

Everybody likes to get something special for their birthday or anniversary. With email automation, it is easy to treat your customers on their special days. You can keep your customers engaged and let them know they’re important to your business.

Start collecting birthday information whenever a new subscriber joins your list. Then, head back to that handy ‘Email Automation’ section in your Constant Contact account to create an automated email that sends on a subscriber’s birthday or anniversary.

email automation example - birthday email
Constant Contact has several templates like this available for birthday and anniversary emails.

No matter how much someone cares about your business, it’s natural for them to lose some interest after they’ve been on your email list for a while. This is a great opportunity to thank them for their continued support and offer them a special birthday gift — whether it’s a small freebie or a helpful guide.

Tip: This two-minute video tutorial walks you through how to create an automated Birthday or Anniversary Email.

3. Newsletters and blog updates

If you’ve been updating your company blog regularly, you may have a lot of great, timeless content out there that doesn’t get the views it once did. Consider repurposing this content in automated email drip campaigns for newer customers who haven’t seen this content yet.

Some ideas to keep in mind:

  • Go through and make sure your posts are still relevant and up-to-date
  • Make sure the sequence builds upon ideas and that there’s enough variety to be as engaging as possible.

The same goes for email newsletters. Your newsletter content could be anything – from business updates to announcing the launch of a new product to encouraging customers to participate in your Facebook contest.

Make sure you schedule your newsletter to be sent out at least once a month. You could use this as an opportunity to promote a new blog post, introduce a member of your team, and even give out a free, downloadable resource that would benefit your customers, like a holiday gift guide for example.

email automation example - newsletter
A modern newsletter email template, like this one from Constant Contact, can help you present your content professionally, even if you’re short on time.

4. Promote events and webinars

Email marketing campaigns are perfect for promoting events, meet-ups or webinars that your business is running.

After all, your subscribers should already be interested in what you have to say, and a succession of emails is an ideal strategy for getting people excited as your event draws nearer (and making sure they don’t forget about it!).

Whenever a person signs up for a Constant Contact webinar, we send them the below email thanking them for registering, giving a little detail on what to expect from the webinar and how to join the webinar.

automated webinar email
Here’s an example of an automated webinar promotion email.

Closer to the actual date, we send out another couple of reminder emails, encouraging customers to block off their calendars and spread the word. Then, after the webinar has concluded, they automatically get sent a link to the on-demand version of the webinar, along with some resources that are relevant to the webinar’s topic.

Given that many marketers host webinars and events for marketing purposes, sending automated emails like these can help grow your business by ensuring the maximum number of people either attend the event live or see the recording, so you get the highest possible return on the time you’ve invested.

Even more automated email ideas

Looking for more examples? We’ve compiled these automated email ideas you can incorporate into your email marketing strategy that will help grow your business. These ideas can help you to build trust and credibility with your audience, improve your customer engagement, and more.

Hear from our experts: How to automate customer emails

Watch Dave and Jenna explain more about how email automation works in the real world.

Now you know why email marketing automation is so important to  your marketing strategy

In addition to the four examples mentioned above, there are a host of automated emails you could send to your customers. It’s completely alright if you don’t wish to go all out right at the start. You could start small – maybe a three-part automated email series to welcome new customers to your email list.

As a small business that is growing quickly, you are likely to have more and more things competing for your time and attention.

However, out of all the opportunities available to grow your business, email marketing is one of the most impactful and simple. Setting up automated lead nurturing campaigns can help you drive traffic to your website and increase online sales without having to spend too much time and effort in recreating them for every new customer you add to your growing subscriber list.

Want to learn more about how automated emails fit into your big-picture marketing strategy? Get The Download, our free online marketing guide. You’ll find several versions of this guide for specific industries alongside industry experts to show you the must-haves when it comes to marketing your specific type of business or nonprofit.

Ready to create an automated email campaign? Watch this short step-by-step tutorial and get started!

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