A Guide To Email Marketing Automation — Benefits, Tools, and Tips

On April 30, 2021
12min read
Irina Nica Senior Marketing Manager @Hubspot

Email marketing automation offers businesses the opportunity to orchestrate an entire campaign at the click of a button — or at least at the click of a few buttons. 

Email marketing has quickly become one of the most effective and lucrative forms of digital outreach over the past few decades. 

According to DMA, emails offer an excellent return on investment (ROI), with an average return of £35.41 (about $49.50) for every £1 (roughly $1.40) spent. 

Automating the email marketing process can make your campaigns quicker, more effective and widespread, and easier to manage. 

Let’s take a look at how email marketing automation works and some tips on how your business can get started.

What we’ll cover today:

  • What email marketing automation is
  • The benefits of email marketing automation explained
  • Email marketing automation tools
  • Tips on running a smooth automated email campaign

What Is Email Marketing Automation? 

Email marketing automation is a process in which digital marketers create timed or triggered automatic emails. These automatic emails can be designed for customers at any point within the sales funnel. 

Automatic emails can also be personalized based on consumer data to reflect each customer’s unique preferences and shopping habits.

What Are the Benefits of Email Marketing Automation?

Most marketers are already aware of the potentials of email marketing. Automating your email campaigns empowers you to send personalized, targeted emails to customers at the perfect time in their buyer’s journey. 

Curious about how to create your own marketing emails that get results? Find out more about how to send transactional emails.

Change Your Focus to the Individual Buyer

Automation takes the guesswork out of email marketing and empowers you to hone in on specifics in your outreach campaign. This way, you’ll waste less time on vague, generalized marketing emails and place your focus instead on targeted, personalized emails. 

Increased Leads, Conversions, and ROI

According to Business2Community, email marketing automation typically results in a 451% increase in qualified leads. And that comes with more sales — 77% of marketers noted an increase in conversions from these new leads. 

Improve Employee Productivity

As with most automated processes and tools (such as Sparkbay), email automation promises to improve productivity levels within your team. Nucleus found that marketing automation could lead to a 20% increase in productivity. 

Triggers To Send Automatic Emails

One of the best things about email marketing automation is that it gives you the option to send automatic emails based on triggers. In other words, you have the chance to target specific customers with tailored business emails at discrete points in the buyer’s journey. 

Here are a few common triggers marketers often use when designing automated email marketing campaigns. There are different triggers for different types of businesses, so we’ve broken it down based on industry. 

E-Commerce

Triggered emails can be incredibly useful in the e-commerce industry. The sales funnel in e-commerce can be a long one, and customers can drop out and rejoin it at a number of points. 

Targeting customers at moments of indecision can be a great way to increase lead conversions and keep your audience engaged with your products. 

Welcome/Sign-Up Confirmation Email

When a new lead registers with an account, be sure to send a triggered welcome email. This is a chance to remind new subscribers of your most popular products and of your latest deals. 

Customers often register for e-commerce websites when a discount code is offered, so this email is a good opportunity to hook your new leads and encourage them to re-visit your website.

An example of a welcome email might be:

Dear [subscriber name],

Thank you for signing up for [company name]’s newsletter. As a small welcome gift, here’s a code you can use on our website for [x]% off your next purchase.

[code]

Kindest regards,

[name]

Abandoned Cart

Customers often create a shopping cart while browsing your online shop. However, according to SaleCycle, 84.27% of these shopping carts will be abandoned. 

Sending a triggered email to remind consumers of the items they left behind can help them to reassess their potential purchase and remind them to checkout. 

According to Moosend, 40% of cart abandonment emails are opened, 50% of these opened emails are clicked, and of this percentage, another 50% make the final purchase. 

This means 10% of cart abandonment emails result in a sale — and far more result in increased customer engagement.

An example of an abandoned cart email might be:

Dear [subscriber name],

It looks like you left something in your shopping cart. Are you still interested in [product(s)]? Click here to complete your purchase. 

Kindest regards,

[name]

Re-Engagement

When a customer re-engages with your products, it means they are most likely on the fence about making a purchase. Sometimes, all they need is a little nudge in the right direction.

Using customer data, you can create personalized, targeted emails that are sent when a customer re-visits your website. 

An example of a re-engagement email might be:

Dear [subscriber name],

We noticed you were looking at [product]. If you like our [products] you’ll love these [products].

Want to see more? Visit our website for our full collection.

Kindest regards,

[name]

Purchase Confirmation/Shipping Updates

These triggered emails are vital for customer satisfaction. When a consumer ultimately makes a purchase, be sure to use the purchase confirmation to remind them of what they purchased, and give them the relevant details about shipping, tracking, and returns. 

In many cases, the purchase confirmation email can also be used as an opportunity to upsell other products and turn a user into a returning customer.

An example of a purchase confirmation email might be:

Dear [subscriber name],

Thank you for your purchase. We can confirm that we received your order [number] and it will be with you soon. Keep an eye out for your shipping confirmation and tracking details. 

Kindest regards,

[name]

Software as a Service (SaaS)

Software as a service (SaaS) companies work a little differently than e-commerce shops. SaaS businesses have just one product on offer: their software. However, customers still need nudging at various points in their journey.

Onboarding

When a new business registers interest in your service, sending an onboarding email can help your contact feel welcomed and supported by your company. 

Onboarding emails should remind potential customers why your service is important, what they need to do to get up and running, and where they should go for further support.

An example of an onboarding email might be:

Dear [subscriber name],

Thank you for your interest in [service name]. We can’t wait to show you more of how [our service] can help you.

Here is a step-by-step guide to getting started with your free trial. 

Here is more information about getting one-on-one help from our experts.

Kindest regards,

[name]

Trial Period Ending

Most SaaS companies offer a free trial period for their new customers. Many consumers will feel hesitant to purchase a subscription without first trying the service.

When a free trial period comes to an end, it’s important to send an automatic email a few days prior to the termination to remind users to start thinking about making a purchase. 

Remind your customers of the benefits of what you offer, and, if possible, incorporate personal data about how they’ve used your service so far throughout their trial. 

An example of a trial period ending email might be:

Dear [subscriber name],

We hope you’re enjoying your free trial of [service].

We wanted to get in touch to remind you that your trial period comes to an end on [date].

We offer a range of subscription packages to suit businesses of all sizes.

[package information]

Kindest regards,

[name]

Inactivity

By keeping track of your users’ activity on your platform, you can make sure you stay up-to-date with which consumers are inactive. 

When users stop using your service, it’s often a sign that they’re finding it difficult to get accustomed to the platform or that their employees are struggling to integrate it with their other digital services.

Send a triggered email after a certain period of inactivity to offer help and remind your inactive users of how they can make use of your platform.

An example of an inactivity email might be:

Dear [subscriber name],

We noticed that you haven’t been logging onto [our service] as much as you used to.

We are always here to help you iron out any issues you may be having. Get in touch to let us know if you’d benefit from a quick one-on-one session with an expert from our team to help you get reacquainted with our software.

Kindest regards,

[name]

Content

For content-based companies, your “products” likely include webinars and e-books. 

While your sales funnel is less complicated than those of e-commerce or SaaS companies, you can still make use of email marketing automation software to send personalized triggered emails that generate results. 

Webinar Recording

Encouraging people to join online webinars can take several automated emails. However, by recording your webinars, you can offer them as a download to help draw people into your content. 

An example of a webinar email might be:

Dear [subscriber name],

Thanks so much for your interest in the [name of webinar]. We’d love to share this download link with you. 

[link and information about the webinar]

Kindest regards,

[name]

E-Book/White Paper Download

E-books and white papers are other types of digital downloads that you can offer as a content-based company. 

Once a user has visited your website and entered their email, send them a link to this downloadable content to continue your relationship and encourage further engagement.

An example of an e-book email might be:

Dear [subscriber name],

Thanks so much for your interest in the [name of e-book or white paper]. We’d love to share this download link with you. 

[link and information about the e-book or white paper]

Kindest regards,

[name]

What Are the Best Email Marketing Automation Tools?

Using an email marketing automation tool can help you orchestrate a fully automated email campaign. With these platforms, you’ll be able to plan, design, and schedule emails for your customers. 

You’ll also be able to track metrics such as open rates, email deliverability, and click-through rates (CTRs).

HubSpot Email Marketing

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HubSpot Email Marketing is an email automation tool that makes it easy to plan, create, and schedule your email campaigns, while keeping all of your contacts records in one place — HubSpot’s free CRM. 

HubSpot’s email marketing tool features a user-friendly drag-and-drop email editor, professional layouts that can be customized to fit your brand style, and options for each stage of the sales cycle to increase relevance for your customers.

HubSpot offers a free plan which includes 2000 email sends per month, as well as 5 smart lists, but it doesn’t include automation. The Starter plan ($50/month) allows for more email sends and list segmentations, and the Professional plan ($800/month) includes all of HubSpot’s marketing features, including email marketing automation.

What makes HubSpot stand out from the rest of the marketing automation tools out there is the fact that it’s actually a CRM platform at core. So when you start using HubSpot, even in its free plan, you get more than just an email marketing tool; you get a free CRM where you can keep up to 1 million contacts, a live chat tool, a form builder, a meeting scheduler, a landing page builder and many more. So if you’re looking for a platform that can support your marketing, sales, and services in one place, then HubSpot is definitely worth considering. 

Key features:

  • Easy-to-use email templates based on goals
  • Drag-and-drop email editor
  • Customizable layouts for brand consistency
  • Personalize emails for the sales cycle to increase relevance 
  • A/B testing to optimize your campaigns
  • Email marketing tool is part of a larger marketing platform that includes blogging, landing pages, lead management, and analytics
  • Free email hosting

Pricing plans: Free (with limited features). Premium plans with email marketing automation start at $800/month.

Best for: Companies that want a full suite of marketing, sales and service tools, including email automation.

Mailchimp

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Mailchimp is a popular email marketing tool that focuses on email marketing automation but also provides a full host of features for your digital business. For instance, Mailchimp can also host your website and domain.

Mailchimp’s marketing suite will help you create and design professional emails with a drag-and-drop tool. The user-friendly interface makes it easy to schedule triggered emails within the customer sales cycle. 

Key features:

  • Full suite of marketing features, including domains, landing pages, social media, email design, automation, and analytics
  • Drag-and-drop email editor
  • Personalize your designs to fit with your brand style
  • Trigger emails at specific points in each buyer’s journey
  • A/B testing

Pricing plans: Free (with limited features). Premium plans start at $9.99/month.

Best for: Small e-commerce businesses looking for an intelligent marketing software option that can support them through professional campaigns. 

ActiveCampaign

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ActiveCampaign is frequently touted as a good HubSpot alternative as it offers many of the same features. This platform focuses on offering advanced email automation and CRM tools.

ActiveCampaign’s focus on automation for specific industries makes it great for companies with unique industry-oriented goals.

Key features:

  • Automation that is fine-tuned for specific types of businesses
  • Email builder is customizable
  • Personalized, targeted email options
  • Automation map to set goals and map out your campaign
  • Analytics to track your emails’ performance
  • One-on-one training with the platform for your team

Pricing plans: Free trial. Premium plans start at $9/month when billed annually.

Best for: Companies with specific needs, such as digital businesses, B2B, or e-commerce, who need a cheap platform for organizing and sending automated emails without other marketing features.

AWeber 

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With AWeber, you will get a full host of features for your website and marketing. This platform will help you build a website that is tailored to generate leads. With the email automation features, you’ll be able to change these leads into sales.

AWeber makes it easy to create professional emails using templates and drag-and-drop technology. The platform also has an auto-newsletter feature so spreading the latest information to your contacts is simple. 

AWeber empowers you to personalize and tag customers to create highly specific campaigns. 

AWeber offers a free plan that caters to businesses with up to 500 subscribers. With a Pro account, you’ll get email split testing, automation based on behavioral triggers, and other more automation features.

Key features:

  • Full host of marketing features along with email automation
  • Smart designer with drag-and-drop for both emails and landing pages
  • No coding required 
  • Extensive email template library
  • Auto-newsletter feature to share content 
  • Tag customers in your email campaigns

Pricing plans: Free (with limited features). Premium plans start at $16.50/month when billed annually.

Best for: New businesses with little coding knowledge who need a tool that offers simple, easy-to-follow sales cycle tools. Even without a marketing professional on board, AWeber makes marketing strategy creation relatively easy.

Constant Contact

Screenshot

Constant Contact is designed with small businesses in mind. The tool will help you build a sleek e-commerce website that goes along with an intelligent email marketing feature.

Constant Contact’s Automated email features include a welcome email, a drag-and-drop email creator, and an easy-to-use triggered email planner so you can create a plan that works best for your business and your customers. 

Key features:

  • Free 60-day trial
  • E-commerce website
  • Social marketing tools 
  • Drag-and-drop email builder
  • Easy-to-plan triggered email scheduling
  • Emails resent to non-openers
  • Welcome email

Pricing plans: Free 60-day trial. Premium plans start at $20/month.

Best for: New e-commerce businesses that need a basic website, online shop, and accompanying email automation plan.

Drip

Screenshot

Drip is focused on providing marketing tools for e-commerce businesses. This platform helps you plan out the entire customer journey to ensure your visitors get hooked and stay hooked.

With the Drip campaign forms feature, you can begin your relationship with your consumers. A welcome email will automatically be sent. You can then tailor email automated campaigns based on your reports. 

Find an emailing system that works for your business and send triggered emails exactly when they make the biggest impact.

Key features:

  • Forms and lead ads
  • Pre-built and customizable email templates
  • Plan automated email schedules and triggers
  • Segment your customers to track your success by campaign
  • Real-time reports
  • 14-day free trial 

Pricing plans: Free 14-day trial. Premium plans start at $19/month.

Best for: Companies that need a simple, well-formatted email automation system that is affordable.

GetResponse

Screenshot

GetResponse offers a simplified, straightforward, intuitive software platform where small businesses can run their marketing campaigns. Marketing automation is one of the key aspects of this software.

GetResponse empowers you to choose from pre-built workflows to quickly create a full campaign. You can easily schedule automated emails to nurture leads with relevant, personalized offers. 

Key features:

  • Marketing automation with pre-built workflows
  • Email templates with drag-and-drop functionality
  • Newsletters
  • Free 30-day trial
  • Autoresponders for subscribers
  • Integrate your email automation with your blog and social media

Pricing plans: Free 30-day trial. Premium plans start at $10.50/month when billed annually. 

Best for: Small and medium businesses that want to finesse their marketing strategy with intelligent, well-timed triggered emails.

Marketing Tips for Email Automation

Even with the right software, it can be hard to know where to begin with email marketing automation. Here are a few tips on how to automate your marketing process to get the best possible return.

Segment an Audience

Most digital marketing professionals will recommend audience segmentation. Segmenting an audience simply means splitting up your email list into more specific categories. 

Most software options will let you filter your subscribers based on specific data. This will help you send triggered emails to specific groups of customers, which in turn, will make your outreach more specific and personal. 

Personalize Emails and Workflows

No one likes receiving generalized, sales-y emails from retailers. According to SuperOffice, the average email open rate was just 21.3% in 2020. In other words, roughly 80% of marketing emails are being deleted without being read.

A study by Campaign Monitor found that emails with personalized subject lines are 26% more likely to be clicked on. 

Personalizing your emails is a great way to increase your success rate. By creating distinct workflows for specific types of customers, you’ll be able to target your subscribers as individuals rather than as a homogenous group.

Plus, be sure to use any personalization features on your software so that your emails include your customers’ names and product preferences.

Do Tests and Experiments

Most of the email marketing automation software options we discussed above come with an option for A/B testing.

A/B testing, also known as split testing, is a process in which you set up two similar variations of a single email campaign. These two versions are sent to two small, select groups from a wider group of customers.

The software will then measure the results of each group. Whichever variant received the most opens, click-throughs, and conversions will be sent to the rest of the larger group.

Using A/B testing is a great way to automate your tests and ensure you’re sending out the best possible triggered emails every time.

Follow These Metrics 

Metrics from previous email campaigns can tell you a lot about what’s working and what isn’t in your marketing strategy. Here are a few key metrics you should keep track of so you can continue to refine your email marketing automation campaigns as you go.

  • Open rate: The open rate can tell you a lot about your subject lines. Getting your customers to open your emails is a vital part of the email marketing process — and without a good subject line, the rest of your hard work will go unseen. Keep track of which emails get opened and which do not. This will give you insight into what type of subject lines are best suited for your audience.
  • Click-through rate (CTR): Once your recipients open your email, your next task is to convince them to click on the links inside these emails. Follow your CTR to track how many people follow the links in your emails to gain insights into the effectiveness of your content and calls-to-action (CTAs).
  • Conversion rate: Track how many people buy your products after clicking on your emails. This can indicate whether or not you are sending emails to the right groups of people — meaning people who are seriously interested in making a purchase.
  • Unsubscribe rate: This metric can show you when your emails are becoming unwelcome. When this number starts to go up, it may be a sign that you’re sending too many triggered emails.
  • List growth rate: Keep track of how quickly your list of subscribers is growing, as this can help you refine your lead generation strategy.

Let’s wrap it up

With the right know-how and software, it’s now easy to create smart, effective workflows, so your customers get personalized, helpful emails at the ideal time.

Have you tried any other email marketing automation software that you’d recommend? Are there any tipis you’d add to our list? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below. 

Article by Irina Nica Senior Marketing Manager @Hubspot

Irina is a marketer and international keynote speaker based in Dublin, Ireland. She’s currently working at HubSpot, on a program called “Surround Sound”, where she is focused on building awareness for the company’s freemium products. Irina was also one of the Head Judges for the 2020 Global Search Awards and has been on the judging panel for the 2020 European Search Awards.