October 21, 2019

No one doing email automation right?

Robert Williams @robert_williams

Does anyone feel like the way email marketing is done currently is extremely cookie cutter? I feel like I'm constantly told to reach for things like complex drip funnels and personalization and campaigns and I end up not seeing results from it despite a big time investment upfront.

Just because all these tools have these automation features, does it really mean we have to use them?

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    I totally agree that the reason to automate should be focused on customer/reader experience.

    I think your point is right in that fancy automation isn't necessary, and in many cases, won't get you better results unless the thing you're automating already works REALLY well when it was sent out manually.

    I also think that a lot of automated emails feel automated, because they were written with automation in mind. Instead, I've been using and recommending the approach of writing for realtime sending first, and then later editing out anything that fingerprints the email to a specific time or event.

    For me, I realized the value in automation when Amy got too sick to write a new launch, so I tried an experiment curating a "greatest hits" email series for our seasonal enrollment. I went back through past launches that had worked well, found a theme that had been resonant with our audience, and built a whole new launch using that material. It was more like creating a curated mixtape for someone than building a sales funnel trying to beat them over the head with something to buy. And it worked really, really well.

    The lightbulb moment wasn't just that the launch did well (it broke our records), but that most of the time, we create stuff for our audience once, promote it once, and then it sits on the shelf maybe getting some additional readers from search/link traffic.

    Meanwhile, we've always had the problem of lulls in regular newsletter sending due to time and energy, and because of inconsistent sending, our sales emails also wouldn't do as well as they could.

    So I tried applying the same approach to our main newsletter. We don't have any fancy paths based on interests or anything like that, just a curated playlist of past articles that we know people who sign up for our list have loved.

    This also means that the work we put into writing articles can continue serving our readers longer, and reach more of them, rather than waiting and hoping that they remember to search our archives or find us in a google search.

    The result for us has been:

    1 - no stress about sending a weekly newsletter, there's always something queued up to go out
    2 - overall improved open/delivery rates, since we're sending more consistently
    3 - when we do have something to sell to the list, we can be confident that the list is warm and ready to hear from us.

    Our launches are semi-automated in that we don't send broadcasts, but we do run batches of subscribers through the sales sequences in cohorts.

    For the last 2 years, I've been working almost exclusively from our content archive and working to edit, combine, and refine what gets sent to our list every week as well as the emails that go into our sales series. We send to our readers every week, which also means we hear from them more often. New readers have a better (and more consistent) onboarding experience because they all get the same emails in (roughly) the same order, and we've curated the order of the emails to help them get oriented better rather than being dropped into whatever we happen to be thinking about or working on this week. I think THAT is the best example of "creating a better experience" I have and have seen with automation, and it doesn't require anything fancy technically to pull off, just some thoughtful editing of stuff you already know your audience loves and benefits from.

    As a direct result, in the first year, the biz grew by ~40% YoY revenue. 2nd year growth has been a bit slower, around 25%, but its still a total 88% growth across 2 years. Again, that's without creating very much new material (which also means when we do have something new, it's GOOD instead of whatever I managed to get out the door out this week)!

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      So much of what you shared is exactly how I use and think about email automation as well. Those are the parts that more people should focus on.

  2. 2

    Just because all these tools have these automation features, does it really mean we have to use them?

    No, you have to be choosy about what you decide to test. Making the right tests is key.

    Start with the bottom of your funnel and get that right first.

    Drip emails are incredibly effective when done correctly; one email is hardly ever enough to get a sale/action, but when you have 5+ touchpoints with a customer (many customers) your odds get much better.

    Remember what the purpose of your drip emails is at each step -- and at some point, there usually needs to be a human element involved.

    Why are you doing email customization? Does it make sense for you? What are your users/leads looking for?

  3. 1

    I personally feel like automation could be really valuable, but you need to have the large numbers for it to work and/or make sense. And also the time/resources to deal with all the data, I've never had that luxury.

  4. 1

    This biggest appeal for me about email automation was an improved customer experience but more and more I'm realizing these tools are just not designed to be used like that.

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