Key Steps to Implement Your Email Automation Strategy
Editor’s Note: This post is the second of a three-part series focused on setting yourself up for success with email automation. Be sure to also read the series’ first post covering automation strategy and planning.
We’ve already talked about the importance using hard data around your business to drive your email automation priorities. If you’re looking to level up your email automation, developing a strategic game plan is critical before diving into implementation.
Then the time comes to bring your plan to life. Implementing your email automation strategy requires focusing on two key things: targeted journeys & relevant content.
With the right marketing automation technology – like Klaviyo – setting up behavior-triggered autoresponders (we call them flows) and creating targeted paths is quick and straightforward. What often takes the most time is:
(a) Mapping out the right flows to build
(b) Designing your emails and populating relevant content
In this post we’ll cover some best practices for tackling these two steps with confidence.
Mapping your automations
There’s no way around it – you’re going to need to create some flow charts. Even if your initial session is just a brainstorm, spend time physically sketching out the automations you want to build.
Before you start mapping out a given flow, write down which stage of the funnel it is going to target and nurture. You’ll want to pinpoint the following for each one:
- Target Lifecycle Stage. What stage of the customer journey does this flow target? What is the goal of the sequence as it fits into your larger marketing strategy?
- Qualifying Trigger. What behavior will trigger the automation? What are the starting conditions that will qualify someone to enter the flow sequence? Should there be any filters to exclude certain segments from entering?
- Branching logic. What logic will you add, using “if/then” splits, to send people down more customized paths within the single automation – based on buyer persona, recent behavior etc.?
- Dynamic Filtering. What is the goal of your automation? Does it make sense to filter the automation so anyone that completes the goal mid-sequence automatically gets skipped for any remaining emails?
- Number of Actions. Decide how many emails or other actions you want to integrate into the flow. Consider A/B testing sequences within a series to determine if adding additional emails leads to increased conversions or a drop-off in engagement.
- Timing. Timing is everything. Use the buying pattern data you pulled together during the planning stage to guide how long after a trigger you send the first email, and how you set the delays between subsequent emails. Should some emails only send on weekdays and skip weekends? You can also A/B test sequences to try out different time delays and see which perform best.
- Dependencies. Does the flow lead into another automated task that requires setup? Does the trigger rely on a building out a new landing page? Make sure you highlight any other related or dependent tasks that must be done before you can go live with the new flow.
Some marketers prefer old-fashioned pen and paper, or a whiteboard, for hand-written automation journey mapping. If you want to go digital, consider a flowchart tool like Lucidcharts or Creately. You can also use Microsoft Powerpoint and leverage the built-in hierarchy charts.
Before diving into creating email content, we recommending building out all your planned automations. This approach will help ensure you’re thinking strategically about the customer journey as a whole, considering how each flow will fit in with the rest. The content you’ll need to create is also highly dependent on the context of the final flow details, so you risk having a mis-match if you focus on content before finalizing the journeys themselves.
Preparing your content
Before you begin generating new content to populate into your flows, you’ll want to do a complete audit of your existing content. By doing this at the outset, you’ll save yourself and your team a lot of time (and headaches) later. You may already have strategic content created for certain personas and/or certain lifecycle stages. There may be existing content you know isn’t performing.
A thorough content audit includes documenting all of the content you have already, as well as the state it’s in – calling out what templates need brand updates vs. copy that needs messaging tweaks. This audit should also cover more than just emails. Consider what other content will be integral to your automation, like signup forms that will kick off a Welcome Series or webinars/recorded videos that will be part of an interest cultivation sequence.
If you’re close to starting from scratch, here are some different types of emails you should be prepared to create:
Emails centered around dynamic event data. These are emails like cart abandonment reminders, and potentially certain post-purchase emails, where you want to feature the recipient’s cart items in the email. While the core content may be dynamically populated, you will still need to refine the text surrounding this block as well as the call-to-action in the email.
Emails that highlight social proof. To nurture new leads and existing customers alike, building credibility is important. Shoppers are often influenced by other shoppers. By showcasing what others are saying about your products and your business, you’re offering real proof that you’re worth trusting and that your products are worth buying. You don’t have to be a large business or recognized brand to do this; start collecting product reviews or customer testimonials and select a few to celebrate.
Emails that educate. If understanding what your product can be used for / how to best use it is not obvious, this could be holding shoppers back from purchasing: create email content addressing these points and integrate them into your lead nurture flows. If using your product “the right way” is going to make or break a customer’s experience, it’s also best to get ahead of this: build educational / instructional content and integrate this into a post-purchase series.
Emails incentivizing action. For certain lifecycle stages – or perhaps just certain groups of customers during certain lifecycle stages – you may want to offer a discount or another incentive to get a customer to take a certain action. This action could be leaving a review, making another purchase, etc. Gracefully positioning an incentive within an automated series often also requires reminding someone about the incentive and providing the right follow up if someone doesn’t bite. You can also consider a “discount ladder” approach to put more on the table only for those who really do need an extra push.
Emails that build brand loyalty. While brand trust/credibility can sometimes be gained simply by delivering a good product, gaining brand loyalty often requires providing a way for customers to learn more about your business. If you do have a story behind your company, share it. Whether the story is around the founders, how the company started, the values of the business, or the products themselves, weave your story into automations focused on nurturing & retaining customers. If you don’t have a story, brand distinction is still key; make sure your emails have a recognizable style and focus on your competitive advantages.
Emails that highlight products. There are a range of contexts where you will want to highlight certain products or product categories: cross-sell, up-sell, new product release, etc. Swapping out product images and descriptions can be quick, but designing “base templates” with the right layout, text, and CTAs to make your products shine will engage readers and encourage clicks.
Your goal should be to hit the right tone with messaging, while also crafting content intentionally to drive targeted actions. Also, make sure not to neglect how your emails look! Clean layouts, well branded styles, and prominent calls-to-action will ensure your content is optimized for engagement. If you need some inspiration, checkout these 50 tools to help you send better email.
Once you have your individual autoresponders built, with the right strategic content in place, you’re ready to go live and watch people start moving through your new and improved customer journey!
After you’ve turned on your new automations, the key next step is to avoid the “set it and forget it” mentality. Particularly if you’ve generated a lot of new content, you’ll want to watch key performance indicators like opens, clicks, and conversions closely.
In the next (and final) post in this series, we’ll cover how to analyze the performance of your email automations on an ongoing basis to drive continuous improvement.
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