Email Automation: A Deep Dive Into One Of The Must-Have Email Marketing Tools

Melanie Balke
May 17, 2022

If you’re just starting out in email marketing, I’m willing to bet that you’ve quickly learned that there’s nothing worse than mindless repetitive tasks. For all the benefits of email marketing, there are still countless pitfalls, and the implementation team is usually on the receiving end.

Fortunately, there’s hope. In the darkness of mindless copy-and-pasting, there’s a tool that can send emails on a specified schedule, automatically sort customers, and truly streamline the customer journey. This is email automation, and it’s an absolutely essential part of the process.

A photo of downtown Los Angeles, California, where The Email Marketers is headquartered. Overlaid header text reads, “Email Automation: A Deep Dive Into One of the Must-Have Email Marketing Tools.”

Buckle up and get ready to learn, because today’s lesson is all about harnessing the power of marketing automation.

What Is Email Automation?

A photo of a factory. There is overlaid header text, which reads, “What Is Email Automation?”

Email automation is a digital marketing team’s bread and butter. It’s a framework of behind-the-scenes coding and programming that allows for an email marketer to quickly and easily send automated messages. With the right automation software, — and, depending on the email service provider, a bit of a learning curve — a marketing team can easily draft, send, and schedule emails.

These automated emails are beyond convenient; they’re handy marketing tools that have the potential to drive sales, increase customer loyalty, and encourage positive user behavior.

A screenshot of an automated campaign from PuffPals. A photo of plush animals is above the header, which says, “A special offer for you!”

Let me start this message with an example of some simple automated email marketing. In this case, we have PuffPals’ welcome email. In this automated workflow, users will receive the plush toy brand’s introductory message after navigating the site’s sign up forms.

Obviously, PuffPals doesn’t have someone sitting at a computer and hitting the “send” button whenever someone signs up for its newsletter. Instead, it’s using its email marketing software to automatically contact new subscribers. For this campaign, the essential trigger — the action that tells PuffPal’s email service provider to send a message — is a newsletter sign-up form.

This is how marketers define automated emails. They are promotional messages with a specific “send” trigger. As long as the provided contact is a valid email address, these emails are part of a powerful marketing framework, which are known as automated workflows.

When Should I Use Marketing Automation?

A good automated workflow can dramatically improve any email marketing campaign, and it doesn’t have to stop at welcome messages! Most marketing software gives users the ability to create multiple automated campaigns, and each can be tied to a different trigger. One of my favorite ESPs, Klaviyo, has plenty of easy-to-use tools, which can be used to create and monitor automated marketing campaigns.

A photo of a beach pier near Los Angeles, California. Overlaid header text says, “When Should I Use Marketing Automation?”

Automated Welcome Emails

One of the most common uses for automation tools is the welcome email. These marketing campaigns are triggered when the email marketing software detects a new subscriber.

Now, when new customers subscribe to your content, you have just a few minutes to make a positive impression. These individuals are potential customers, and they are willing to receive emails from you. To make sure that they remain interested in your brand, you need to be able to rapidly respond to their curiosity.

Using automation, email messages can be rapidly sent out to these new subscribers. In many cases, such as the PuffPals example, these emails include a discount code and a message encouraging users to click on a call-to-action.

Drip Campaigns

Also known as “nurture campaigns”, drip campaigns are the most effective way to engage in constant contact marketing. Well-executed drip campaigns do not necessarily focus on pushing someone down the sales funnel. In fact, some drip campaigns don’t even have an associated discount code or monetary call-to-action. Instead, they focus on providing email subscribers with valuable information and improving customer loyalty.

There are a lot of things that you’ll need to consider when you’re developing a drip campaign, and I don’t have enough time to dig too deeply into the issue. I will, however, offer up a brief dissection of an example of drip marketing…

A screenshot of a drip marketing campaign. The main text of the marketing email is, “Pro Tips: How to Use Keywords in Your Content Strategy.” A video is embedded on the page.

In this example, you’ll notice that there isn’t a direct sales funnel. Instead, the call-to-action is an embedded video, which providers email subscribers with an informative overview of basic digital marketing news and tips.

If it helps, think about drip campaigns as a sort of personalized blog post. You’re not necessarily looking for more sales; rather, you’re hoping to see some engagement. Hopefully, your email subscribers will like this series so much that it gets forwarded around to their friends!

Milestone Automated Email Campaigns

Another indirect use of marketing automation is the milestone series. In this category of marketing campaigns, users are sent messages on a certain date. A robust email marketing system will be able to track multiple dates, including anniversaries, birthdays, and major events.

Grammarly, the ever-useful free tool for writers, has a lovely example of a milestone campaign. These automated emails are sent out on the yearly anniversary of a user’s subscription. Beyond serving as a way to keep users engaged, these campaigns are a great and simple way to send personalized emails.

When you’re crafting this type of automation, email messages should be focused on the customer. Remember that you’re not trying to drive sales; you’re reminding your current and potential customers that you care about them.

Product Recommendations

When it comes to this type of marketing automation, you get exactly what it says on the box. A product recommendation campaign is a unique way to deliver personalized emails to your customers.

A simple example of a “drip” style email marketing campaign from Steam. The heading reads, “1 Game You’ve Wished for Is On Sale!”

Here’s an incredibly simple example of a product recommendation campaign from Steam. In this example, the automation tools sent an email when an item on a user’s wishlist went on sale.

I picked this particular example to demonstrate the extraordinary versatility of automated email marketing. At a company as large and influential as Steam, trying to comb through each individual ecommerce users’ wishlist by hand would, quite frankly, be absolutely bonkers! To save time, Steam opts to send automated emails.

When creating this type of automated email campaign, it’s worth taking some extra time to customize the subject lines. Use some A/B testing to determine how customer base prefers to be addressed. (In this particular example, Steam used a simple subject line, which stated that the game in question was on sale.)

Reminder Email Campaigns

Automated emails can also be triggered by inactivity. These can be broadly classified as re-engagement campaigns, though they can also be informally called reminder emails. For these automated email campaigns, the primary trigger is a period of inaction. If a user fails to visit a site for a certain amount of time or does not respond to marketing efforts, these can be sent as a way to recapture their attention.

One of the most common versions of a reminder email is an abandoned cart message. When a user fails to complete the sales funnel, many ecommerce brands will send out a gentle reminder that they still have something sitting in their cart.

A sample email from Casper, which reads, “Come Back to Bed.” The body text says, “Looks like you left something behind. Return to your cart to complete your Casper purchase.”

Casper has a great example of this form of email automation!

Here, you can see many basic principles of good email marketing in action. The message is simple, the subject is clear, and the message effectively compensates for lost sales. While it’s not included in this screenshot, the email also included a clear call-to-action button, which certainly led to a designated checkout page.

That’s Not All of Them!

Now, everything that I’ve just explained probably seems like a fairly comprehensive list of the types of automated email marketing that you’ll see. However, it’s far from complete!

That’s right!

The only limitation of email marketing automation is your own imagination! With the help of robust email marketing automation tools, marketers can easily create a wide variety of campaigns.

You don’t need to stop after you’ve set up your automated welcome email series. In fact, I encourage everyone to keep going. Go a little wild! Get creative! Email marketing campaigns thrive when you think outside of the box, so start brainstorming!

How Can Automated Email Marketing Campaigns Help Me?

I’ve already highlighted a few of the benefits of email automation by now, but I want to make sure everyone knows that email automation is an absolute game-changer. With automated email marketing, businesses gain many of the benefits that would otherwise be spread out across many other marketing channels, and that’s fantastic.

A photo of a factory with overlaid header text, which reads, “How Can Automated Email Marketing Campaigns Help My Business?”

So, enough talk! What are these amazing benefits?

Email Marketing Automation Tools Save Time

Obviously, I’ll start with the biggest benefit. A marketing automation tool is essential if you’re you’re planning on running any email campaigns. (And, considering the potential 4,400% ROI, why wouldn’t you be planning on joining the wave?) Automated email messages are much faster and easier to send out, and it beats having to send messages out individually.

Marketing emails are, by their very nature, going to be nearly identical. In some cases, the only difference between one email and the next will be the address it’s being delivered to. Trying to send all of these emails out individually is an unnecessary waste of time and energy, and the majority of workers are more efficient when repetitive tasks are automated.

All of this is a long way of stating the obvious, though! As part of my quest to introduce every business to the wonders of email marketing, it’s time for me to introduce some of the other benefits of email automation.

Every Automated Email Is Dynamic Content

An email campaign has to have value. That’s just a fact. You don’t hold a customer’s attention by sending the same email over and over again. No! You need to switch it up, and automated emails are the perfect way to deliver varied and interesting content. Moreover, thanks to the many behaviors that can trigger an automated email, you can quickly and easily use list segmentation to create personalized emails.

A shareable graphic. Overlaid header text on top of a colorized photo of clockwork says, “Email Automation Saves Time.” Beneath this are two paragraphs of smaller body text. The first paragraph reads, “It goes without saying that properly implemented automation saves time.” Below this is the second paragraph: “However, if you want to run a truly successful campaign, then you'll need to pair your automation with campaign monitoring.”

Personalized Emails Are Essential

While I’m on the topic of personalization, I need to point out its importance.

Any good email marketing tool will have the ability to add personalization to a message. In some cases, this may be as simple as adding the recipient’s name to the subject or body of the message. In other instances, an automated email campaign might opt to use a series of complex segmentations to create the illusion of personalization.

Regardless of which approach you take, the outcome should be the same. You’re aiming to make everyone — both old and new subscribers — feel welcome. You’re showcasing that you care about your customers, and this will (hopefully) improve the overall customer journey.

In some instances, like welcome emails, personalization is a must. You just can’t send out a generic welcome email and assume it will do the job. At the very least, you need to make sure that your new subscribers know that you’re aware of the basics like their name and title.

Automated Emails Boost Retention

Proper use of any email marketing tool can yield amazing results when paired with an in-depth campaign monitor.

A shareable graphic with a colorized photo of upward trending graphs. Overlaid header text reads, “Email Automation: Metrics Matter.” Beneath this are two paragraphs of smaller body text. “When paired with a good campaign monitor, email automation is an incredibly powerful tool.” The second paragraph says, “Even a free email marketing tool has the potential to dramatically improve your business' earning potential.”

Now, here’s the catch… you can’t just send out emails and assume that you’ll see a sudden boost in engagement. You actually need to watch your campaign monitor and reach out to your audience. You’ll need to weigh the pros and cons of the type of marketing email that you send, and this often means that you’ll need to understand how your email subscribers react to certain messages.

For example, a younger audience will likely be enamored with interactive emails. However, sending the same message to an older customer base will likely harm your overall user behavior metrics, as they may find the layout and style confusing. This is why A/B testing is so important. It gives you information about your existing customers, and those metrics can easily be applied to new subscribers to encourage more interaction and retention in the future.

Email Automation Scales Easily

Finally, I want you to look at the future.

Hopefully, your business has grown. With plenty of hard work, you’re bringing in new customers left and right. But! Future you has a problem! How are you going to handle your marketing emails? You’re now running umpteen constant contact campaigns and using an untold number of segmentations to drive sales. How are you supposed to keep track of that?

If you stuck to basic email automation and manual processes, you’re about to be tumbling down some raging rapids without a paddle or a boat!

Fortunately for you, automated email marketing tools exist. With just a few clicks, you can easily sort your customer base into individual segments. All of these can be further split into individual groups and, if necessary, pared down to the individual level.

For you, as a business owner, this means that you have plenty of ways to send automated emails. Even better: every email that you send is an opportunity to increase customer loyalty, drive sales, and engage with existing customers.

Email Automation 101: The Best Practices

Now that we’re all on the same page, it’s time to get excited!

This is the part of the blog post where I explain how to utilize this email marketing tool. For all of its benefits and perks, automated email marketing isn’t exactly easy. There are plenty of variables to consider, and not all of them will play out how you’d expect.

A photo of a factory with overlaid text, reading, “Email Automation 101: The Best Practices.”

You could learn how to use these tools on your own, or you can learn from an expert. If you’ve stuck around this long, then it seems you’re choosing the latter option. So, enough dawdling! Time for me to focus!

You Need That Data!

As amazing as automated email marketing is, there’s a limit to its powers. Even the best email automation can’t read its own campaign monitor; that’s your job.

What you’re specifically looking for are key performance indicators. These are bits of data that, when properly evaluated, have the power to dramatically alter the course of your email automation plan. Some examples of essential key performance indicators include:

  • Bounce rate
  • Conversion rate
  • Forwarding statistics
  • Open rate
  • Unsubscribe rate

Don’t Go Overboard

With the power of automated email marketing, it may be tempting to send out as many emails as you can. After all, it’s called “constant contact” marketing, so sending a message every day is okay, right?


Your goal is to gently guide your customers down the sales funnel, not drive them nuts! Use your powers of email automation wisely, because there’s a fine line between drip marketing and being annoying.

My biggest tip to growing marketers is to think like a consumer. If you received an email every day from a certain company, would you be inclined to buy something or would you just be downright annoyed? Most people are going to be annoyed. (If you’re not, then you might just have more patience than anyone else on the planet!) Your subscribers have entrusted you with their information, so don’t abuse it.

“So, Melanie, what is the perfect email frequency?” you may be asking.

Unfortunately, I can’t answer that question, but I wish I could!

A colorized and shareable graphic with a photo of a chessboard. Overlaid header text reads, “Tips & Tricks: Be Strategic.” Beneath this are two paragraphs of smaller body text: “You can go overboard with email automation.” The second paragraph, a few lines below the first, says, “In 2017, 50% of all consumers said that excessive messaging was the most annoying email marketing practice.”

When you’re creating your automated email campaigns, it’s up to you to determine the upper limit. The marketing email is a finnicky but powerful thing, so don’t be discouraged if you swing and miss a few times. In the world of constant contact marketing, persistence is key. Keep trying, and you’ll quickly grow into your role as an email marketer.

Follow the Rules

It should go without saying, but I still find myself having to explain this constantly. There are laws around email marketing, and they still apply when the sender is technically a computer program. Regardless of whether you’re using email automation or still working manually, you have to be aware of your region’s spam and privacy laws.

A shareable graphic. A photo of a colorized gavel with overlaid text. The header reads, “Tips & Tricks: Know the Law.” Beneath this is smaller body text: “There are laws and regulations surrounding the use of automated email messaging. To make sure you're obeying these laws, follow these guidelines.” This is followed by a list: “Always use accurate subject lines, don't use misleading headers, give users an opt-out option, identify your messages as ads, and tell users where you're located.”

Now, I live in America. The Email Marketers is based in Los Angeles, California, so most of what we do revolves around the laws set forth by the United States. Your laws may be different, so be sure to check before you start sending out promotional messages. Otherwise, you’ll be on the hook for some hefty fines.

Give Users an Easy Way to Unsubscribe

It may sound a bit counterintuitive, but giving your existing customers and subscribers a quick and easy way to remove themselves from your list is about more than a single gesture of goodwill. It’s the law!

An Expert’s Top Five Email Automation Tips and Tricks

I’ve outlined the basics, highlighted some key practices, and it’s almost time for the lesson to end. However, before I go, I have one last gift for everyone! Before our time together is up, I wanted to hand out a few tips. I’ve worked in the email marketing business for years, and I’ve seen plenty of successes and mistakes. I’ve learned from these, and I’m ready to tell you some of my secrets.

Are you ready? 👀

1. Beckon in Buyers With Brevity

It’s not secret that people have short attention spans. No matter what you’re doing, whether it’s a sending out sign up forms or boasting about a new sale, you want to keep it brief. People aren’t usually looking for a novel in their inbox, so don’t deliver one!

As they say, brevity is the soul of wit. And, in the world of email automation, brevity is the base for a high conversion rate.

An example email graphic. The header reads, “It’s a 4th of July sale.” Beneath is a subheader, “Take 17.76% off on almost everything.” The visual design is bright and colorful, which attracts both current new subscribers.

Here’s an example of the perfectly brief email. Sent out by Squishables, this email says exactly what it needs to any nothing more. It informs readers of the upcoming sale and, while it is not included in this screenshot, provided them with a unique discount code.

2. Create a Compelling Subject Line

One of the most important part of the customer journey for email marketing is the subject line. If you can’t catch a customer with a few honest words, then how do you expect for them to stick around long enough to read your message?

A shareable graphic with a colorized photo of a chessboard. Overlaid header text says, “Tips & Tricks: The Subject Line.” Beneath this are two paragraphs of smaller body text: “As important as it is to have a great subject line, remember to make it honest.” The second paragraph says, “Your subject line should always tell readers what your message is about. Never lie in your subject line!”

When you’re creating an email automation workflow, you need to do some testing. Use all of your marketing tools and create campaigns with engaging but honest subjects. This is one of the big key points that far too many people forget about. Yes, it’s important to have an eye-catching subject line, but you also need to be honest and upfront.

3. Great Design Goes a Long Way

Third, you want a good design. You can have some stellar copywriting and a subject line that blows everyone’s minds, but very few people will stick around if the email doesn’t visually catch their attention.

I’ll be perfectly honest here: the world of email design is scary. In addition to color and branding, you need to think about all of the typographic elements of your email campaign. Fortunately, you don’t need to blow your budget on implementing fancy gimmicks and dozens of images to catch a customer’s eye.

Just in case you don’t believe me, here’s an example from Dubia, a company that specializes in selling feeders for insectivorous pets:

A sample email from The header reads, “FREE Shipping Over $49.” The body text provides a few details about the sale, including the promo code. Beneath is a large blue button, which reads, “Shop Now!”

As far as promotional messages go, this is a very simple design, but it works wonderfully. The font is bold and legible, and the call-to-action button stands out. If you’re okay with a minimalist aesthetic, then this basic design is an amazing source of inspiration. Pay special attention to Dubia’s CTA, because the bold in-your-face design is fantastic.

4. Never Disregard Your Data

Once you’ve managed to design and implement everything, it’s time to observe. All of your drip campaigns, welcome emails, and automated messages will be attached to a campaign monitor, and it’s your job to keep tabs on what that dashboard is saying. These are easy-to-use tools, and they’re there for your benefit. Use them!

Nothing is more important than empirical data, and email automation makes it an absolute breeze to edit campaigns on the go. Is there a dip in engagement rates? Edit the design. Are you receiving less conversions than you’d like? Switch up the copy.

5. Enlist Some Experts

My final tip is to seek a second opinion.

A shareable graphic with a colorized image of a Los Angeles beach. The header reads, “Tips & Tricks: Second Opinions.” Overlaid text reads, “If you’re going to start devising any kind of email marketing strategy, then you want to get a second opinion. Enlist some professional help!”

Unless you’re already a marketing expert, you’re likely missing out on a few key elements. In fact, if you’re just starting out, you might not be using your email automation software to its full potential. All of these pitfalls are avoidable lost sales!

If you want to make the most of your email marketing, — not just our email automation! — then you want to enlist the help of some experts.

There are a few different ways to do this. One of the most conventional approaches is to hire out an email marketer or two from a full-service digital marketing agency. This is an expensive approach, and it may not always get you the results you need. In my opinion, you’ll have better luck seeking out a team of specialists.

At email marketing agencies, you’ll only find email marketers. Places like The Email Marketers have spent years honing their skills, and all of that experience is delivered directly to you. There are dozens of different email marketing agencies out there, but not all of them are experts at email automation. Do your research! Don’t just settle with the first agency that seems to work for you.

Email Automation: The TL;DR

I know that was a lot of information, but email automation is a pretty huge topic. In fact, it’s so big that this whole post is barely scratching the surface!

A photo of a Los Angeles beach. Overlaid text reads, “Email Automation: The TL;DR.”

If you want to dig even deeper into the world of email marketing, then it’s time to check out the rest of my blog! I’m always posting new tips, tricks, and updates about marketing. Need even more help? Get in touch with me, and we can chat about how to really amplify your brand’s marketing automation.