a woman enjoys the benefits of updating her email marketing automation workflow

How We Rethought Our Email Marketing Automation Workflow and Nearly Tripled Email Open Rates

We optimized our email marketing automation workflow, cutting 37 nurturing programs down to six. Open rates and click-throughs are surging.
Article Outline

When you set up nurturing sequences, it’s far too easy for them to get lost and forgotten, with staff turnover and programs continuing to run on autopilot. Revisiting your email marketing automation workflow and automation should happen regularly.

We’ve been running automated programs for many years here at Act-On, and eventually ended up with 37 different sequences running. 

Now, that might seem like a lot (and it is!). But really, what caught our attention was the results. They weren’t terrible, but they weren’t fantastic either.  

Average at best. 

And we wanted better than average, and I bet you do, too. 

So, we did a complete overhaul of our email marketing automation workflow and automated programs, which resulted in a near tripling of our email open rates, with a 2,900% increase in click-throughs.  

And I will tell you exactly how we did it, the lessons learned, and my best tips to replicate our success. 

The big overhaul: step-by-step process 

The first step was inventorying what we had. We looked at our existing programs and discovered that audiences were flowing in and out of our nurture sequences, but that flow didn’t necessarily make sense based on the buyer’s journey.

People entered our programs based on their ideal customer profiles (ICPs), and while this was good, it wasn’t as personalized as it could be. 

For example, financial services marketers aren’t all at the same point in their buyer’s journey and aren’t all interested in the same things. 

So it’s no wonder our open rates weren’t great! A financial services marketer interested in email marketing isn’t likely to open an email on social media marketing. 

We had to get more personalized. 

This need for greater personalization required us to focus more effectively on two areas: the stage in the buyer’s journey and specific interest. Here’s how we tackled the process: 

Inventoried what we had 

We looked at current program metrics to determine what messaging was working and what wasn’t. One thing that stood out is that some of the programs had instances of duplicate content. An insurance marketer, for example, might receive the same eBook twice (oops!).

from above, a woman works on a laptop surrounded by flow chart iconography to illustrate the idea of updating email marketing automation workflow
This is not Kelsey Yen hard at work updating our email marketing automation workflow and programs, but hey it could be!

Additionally, some program assets were outdated and needed refreshing to stay valuable to the target audience. 

Aligned with intent and the buyer’s journey 

Our goal was to create programs that closely aligned with a person’s intent and his or her journey. So, we evaluated our audiences to determine what messages resonated best with the ICPs but also aligned with a person’s specific interest and stage in their journey, whether that was top of the funnel, middle of the funnel, or bottom of the funnel. 

We kept messages that performed well, but reframed them to fit better with the buyer’s needs. 

Created streams based on how people entered the database 

A person might be a financial services marketer but be interested in email marketing. In this scenario, we wanted to speak to their specific interest in our automated programs, but this required understanding how they entered our database. 

Did they download an eBook? Attend a webinar? Or interact with us in some other way? We needed to capture this data and make sure they were tagged appropriately so we could get them into the correct sequence. 

Now, here’s the fun part: This meant we had to go back and find how a person had entered the stream and ensure they had been tagged appropriately at their lead source. Doing this ensured we had the correct data points moving forward.  

Six months later, what were the results? 

It’s been about six months since the program changed, and already, the results have been amazing. 

With the previous programs, we averaged a 25% open rate among all our programs, with a 1% click-through rate and roughly 1.4% opt-out rate. 

Decent results, but not fantastic. 

With the new program, the average open rate spiked to 59%, click-through rates jumped to 31%, and we have a 2% opt-out rate (which is still within normal range, and hey, we’d rather have you opt out than struggle with deliverability issues, right?). 

Graphic chart showing improved open rates and CTR figures after we updated our email marketing automation workflow and programs
The results speak for themselves…but we’ll unpack them for you anyway.

We also downsized from 37 programs to just six – a testament to the fact that more can be less!

It’s also evidence that if you deliver what people need, based on their intent, where they’re at in their journey, and who they are, success is much easier to achieve. 

Advice for getting started 

The best starting point is always to follow the data. What’s working and what isn’t? 

And these insights don’t need to be limited to your automated programs. Speak with your sales teams to learn about what they’re hearing from your ICPs. Also consider: 

  • Who are we trying to target?
  • How are they finding us?
  • What do they need from us? 
  • What are our current wins, and how can we replicate them? 

Once you understand all that, you can ask: How can I simplify the process of finding what’s needed for my audience? 

Because it’s all about being helpful, right? 

In other words, if a person is trying to find information about email marketing, how can you simplify that journey so they don’t have to find material on their own? 

And remember, less is more sometimes. You don’t necessarily need programs for every persona type and industry. Think more about what a person is interested in, where they’re at in their journey, and how you can best serve them (that’s how we got from 37 programs down to six!). 

Go back to that core problem you’re trying to solve for an audience, come up with something, and then iterate on it. Then, test, measure, and pivot as needed. 

Plus, here’s another thing to consider: A big part of success is having the right marketing automation platform behind you. If you’re feeling limited by your current platform, or just frustrated, we’ve got you covered! Check out our guide for successfully switching platforms, so you can hit your marketing goals easier:

Download our Strategic Guide to Making the Switch for More Insights

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