Have you tried your hand at email marketing automation?
It can be a game changer, in terms of scaleability, results and effective use of your time…. But only if you do it right.
If you automate emails effectively, it will save you time, improve your conversion rates, boost revenue, generate more leads, and a ton more.
According to Marketo, 91% of users believe that marketing automation is “very important” to the overall success of their marketing across channels.
But email marketing automation is a complex system to manage. If you lack the internal skills and expertise to execute effectively, automating emails can cause more harm than good to your business.
If you want to know how to automate emails the right way, here are 7 mistakes to avoid.
Mistake #1: Broken personalization tags
Email personalization is one of the most powerful tools in marketing. Emails with personalized subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened.
But that can all backfire if your personalization tags are broken or incorrect. Just take a look at this example from Magic Beans:
Their email messaging was spot on: It was timely, offered value, and put a personal face to the business. But there was one little problem:
Every single email they sent out, started off with “Dear Kate.”
Magic Beans quickly saw the problem and sent out a follow-up email using people’s actual names, but still, the mistake was very, very noticeable. (To anyone not called Kate in their database!)
Make sure your personalization tags are operating properly to avoid that kind of embarrassment.
Pro Tip: If you DO make a mistake like this (we all do at some point), sending out a follow up email that owns up to your mistake is a great way to recover some of the lost credibility associated with the original mistake. Whatever you do, DON’T avoid it or pretend as if it wasn’t your mistake. People respect humility, and it can actually break down the barrier between your business and the individuals on the other end of the email chain.
Mistake #2: Doubling up your automation
If you’re making good use of your marketing automation software, you likely have several different campaigns that trigger based on website behavior and other factors.
You want each of your prospects to move down one, ultra-targeted sales funnel with your email messages. But what you don’t want is to have two email automation sequences running at the same time to the same subscriber. Or even worse, the same subscriber to go through the same sequence again and again, getting the same emails. (More on this in a moment)
This can happen if your automation sequence doesn’t apply the appropriate tags to contacts, or if your campaigns aren’t filtered using these tags.
Make sure you manage your settings so that contacts can only enter one automation sequence at a time, and if they fire off the same trigger for a second time, it doesn’t send them the same set of emails again.
Mistake #3: Sending people through the same sequence multiple times
You may have a lot of different behaviors that meet the trigger criteria for your automations. For example, say you sell sporting goods and someone visits your downhill skis product page, or downloads your downhill skis buyer’s guide. Those are both actions that could trigger an email campaign promoting your downhill skis.
But what if someone visited your product page last week and downloads the buyer’s guide this week? They’ve triggered the same campaign twice and will receive those emails twice. That’s a problem.
The whole thing can be avoided if you properly configure your start trigger for campaigns, and also set up contact tagging within the automation.
Let’s look at ActiveCampaign, for example. After you’ve selected which activity triggers a sequence, you next get to choose how many times a single contact can enter that sequence.
To take it to the next level, you can also apply tags to contacts who enter a sequence and ensure that they don’t accidentally go through the same automation more than once.
Here’s what this concept looks like in ActiveCampaign:
Mistake #4: Sending too many emails (or not enough)
Knowing how many emails to send to your prospects is a combination between art and science. For example, different segments of your list may respond differently to how many emails you send, and you can only figure this out by testing frequency.
The truth of the matter is that MOST businesses don’t send enough email. We assume that people don’t want to hear from us. This unfounded assumption can cost you sales.
Sometimes, sending a lot of emails makes sense, like if you’re updating subscribers on an ongoing giveaway or sweepstake, or in the middle of a product launch. But instead of following “email frequency best practices,” figure out what your own audience prefers. See how much people engage with your emails and set your email frequency accordingly.
You do need to strike a balance, however. Send out too many emails, and you can lose subscribers in the process. According to Hubspot, 78% of customers unsubscribe because a brand sends too many emails.
Marketing automation software offers a bunch of different engagement metrics you can use to determine the best frequency for your audience. Email on Acid, for example, uses glance/delete rate, skim rate, and read rate:
Use metrics like these to find the sweet spot for email frequency.
Pro Tip: If you segment your email list based on their engagement levels and email activity, you can send more emails to your most engaged subscribers.
Mistake #5: Not triggering automations based on activity
There are a lot of different ways you can slice and dice your email list to send out relevant email messages. But many marketers under-utilize trigger campaigns based on email activity and on-site behavior.
This is a great strategy for encouraging customer retention, repeat sales, or boosting your conversion rates. For example, in the sporting goods example, a current customer visits the men’s downhill skis category on your site. You can use that behavior to trigger a new email campaign promoting men’s skis and related products.
Wishpond and other marketing automation tools make it easy to send out special discounts and other relevant email messages based on activity:
Triggering your automation based on activity is also a great idea for the various lead magnets on your site. Say someone signs up and downloads a free content calendar from your marketing blog. That can trigger an email sequence relevant to their specific marketing interest – content marketing.
Mistake #6: Not segmenting automations based on activity
Once your automated email campaign is triggered, that doesn’t mean your segmentation work is done. There are a lot of other options to segment your prospects even further based on their engagement within the email sequence itself.
For example, you can create a new segment of “highly engaged” readers based on how often they open and click on emails in your sequence, and send this segment of prospects more relevant emails, accelerating the sales journey.
Two quick examples of where this works especially well:
- Content drip sequences: If you have an automated email sequence that sends out helpful content to your subscribers, you can use the power of automated tagging and segmentation to send subscribers down relevant paths based on the topics they are interested in.
- Sales and conversion sequences: If you have a sales or conversion email sequence set up, that is designed to convert prospects into customers, you can ensure that subscribers get the right message at the right time, guiding them further down the buyer’s journey only when they are ready.
In short, look to segment your automations based on behavior once you learn more about your contacts’ interests, as well as their current level of readiness to receive the next stage of messaging.
Mistake #7: Failing to test a sequence
Since everything is automated, it’s easy to set up a sequence, dust your hands off and walk away. But then you won’t notice any potential glitches in your workflow until it’s too late.
That’s why whenever you set up a new sequence or make changes to an old one, you need to test it. Every marketing automation software worth your money will have options for this. For example, Hubspot allows you to send out your sequence to one test email address before it goes live for everyone else:
Then you (or your contact) can easily see potential issues in the workflow, such as faulty personalization tags, out-of-order emails, tagging and trigger mistakes etc.
Pro Tip: Don’t just monitor the emails themselves in your inbox, keep a track of the back-end in your automation software to make sure the appropriate tags are being applied at the right time, and that emails aren’t being sent when they shouldn’t be.
How to automate your emails the right way (and avoid these mistakes)
Automation has a “set-and-forget” quality to it that marketers love. But that’s just the very thing that can create problems as well. A simple Default Action in a workflow can lead to you sending out double emails, calling everyone Kate, and other common automation mistakes.
Here’s some quick tips you can use to avoid these pitfalls:
Proofread and use checklists
Put together a protocol that includes multiple opportunities to proofread and check your marketing automation settings. You can even create a pre-launch checklist asking important questions like:
- Did I choose the right list?
- Does my trigger criteria make sense?
- Are my contacts tagged properly?
Marketing automation is supposed to save time. But if you rush it, you could end up taking more time to fix the mistakes.
Test your emails and workflows
I already mentioned above how you can test your workflows using one contact. Even if you make slight changes to the workflow, you should always re-test to spot issues.
But before you even bother testing your workflows, you should always test the emails individually too. MailChimp offers an Inbox Previews feature you can use to see how your emails look on different web browsers, operating systems, and screen sizes:
Even if you get everything in your sequence perfect, it’s not going to matter if people can’t view your emails and all of their elements properly.
Always think of your audience
Just like with any marketing venture, the key to success is considering the thoughts, needs, and desires of your target audience. It’s easy to get bogged down by the details when setting up an email automation sequence. Just make sure you take a step back and ask yourself:
Is this what my audience really wants to see?
Marketing automation is only as good as your marketing message and it’s relevance to your potential customers.
Marketing automation tools come with an array of features and options – most small businesses could never dream of understanding or using them all.
But if you want to make the most of the features you do use, you should avoid certain pitfalls that cause you to send the wrong message, to the wrong contact, at the wrong time.
Always be thorough and double check your workflows to get your email marketing strategy working like a well-oiled machine.
What email automation mistakes have you made? How did you recover?