Are you effectively using automation in your email campaigns? An even better question might be – are you even using automation in your email campaigns?
Nowadays the demand for email marketing automation is bigger than ever. If the campaigns you manage lack automation, then it’s only a matter of time before the competition comes around to eat your lunch. In fact, they probably already have, and maybe you’re just now waking up to that fact.
The days of rudimentary batch email blasts are quickly fading away. Be that as it may, there is still a large population of marketers that refuse to step into the world of email automation and triggered emails. Part of that refusal is a misunderstanding of cost vs. benefit, and the other part is simply an inability or unwillingness to invest in the necessary infrastructure. Old habits die hard, I guess.
Hopefully, this article serves to dispel a few email automating myths and help a few of you realize it’s not your choice whether or not to seek out a more robust infrastructure; your customers are demanding it.
When marketers become aware that campaigns are centered on unique individuals (customers) and their behaviors (personalization), the process becomes immediately apparent that a batch and blast approach is insufficient. Automated and behavior-triggered messages are now table stakes for modern businesses. Any attempt to really focus on customer journey mapping will inevitably point to a need for such technology.
Before you take a plunge into the email automating world, however, you might want to clear the air on a few of the following items.
- Maybe you aren’t ready for it
- Maybe the status quo will forever keep you away from automation
Either way, here are just a few myths that generally get aired when the boss tells you – Hey, let’s automate our campaigns!
Myth #1: Automation is a time saver
The prevailing sentiment of many email marketing noobs is that an automated campaign exists in order to save you time. Marketing automation does have many time-saving elements, but email campaigns aren’t really chief among them. Why not? Because if you are new to marketing automation, setting up an automated campaign can take just as much time as a manual campaign setup – probably longer. If you’re doing a complicated nurture program, for example, with lots of branches, you’ll need to think through all the paths your recipients could choose, and the different content you might use for each. On the other hand, the marketer who’s already got deep experience may well find herself saving time, particularly if she’s been running complicated programs by hand or using multiple tools to achieve what an integrated platform can handle in one go.
After all of the testing and personalization settings have decided and automation and triggered responses installed, you still have to oil this abstract robot. Maintenance will be a regular occurrence because content usually runs stale over time. Also, part of managing a campaign means continuously optimizing your approach by weighing out traditional core metrics and paying attention to details such as user feedback and churn rates. You will probably be making small tweaks all along the way.
One way to manage all this is to get started with simple campaigns. Spend the time up front to really understand how to segment your lists so you can send highly targeted messages to highly likely people. Get into a comfortable groove before building more complicated campaigns. Your email payoff is less likely to be saved time, and more likely to be higher response rates and conversions.
Myth #2: ESP platforms can easily manage every solution
There are many vendor platforms out there promising you the moon, but really they only deliver a wheel of funky cheese. Your goal should be to find a solution that fits your specific needs. Chances are likely you’ll still need to do some coding to create a perfect solution. There are ESPs on the market that make automating email campaigns way more possible to easily execute more than ever before.
What’s most important, I think, is the support side of the platform. Some vendors will simply dump a massive platform on your shoulders and say ‘Good luck!’ A healthy on-boarding process that gives you – the user – the ability to not only ask detailed questions, but to be informed is a must.
Outside of this, setting up an automated campaign can still require significant marketing experience. The need for understanding the movement of things like downstream data integration, attribute tagging, and building out interest category segments is still highly valued and incredibly relevant. These key email marketing skills, and finding talented web developers continue to be some of the leading pain points when implementing an email automation strategy.
Myth #3: Automation will fix bad data
After years of experience sending to purchased lists and targeting stale email addresses, I feel it’s important to echo the need for quality data.
If your list is laden with double opt-in and frequently engaged activists, then more power to you! You’ll get way more out of the email automation experience than everyone else.
But, if your data is imperfect – perhaps your lists are loaded down with dirty data, not validated correctly, or contain a mess of aging undeliverables – then please don’t think automation is your silver bullet. You can’t automate your way out of a filthy dataset, no matter how awesome your strategy might seem.
Simply put, a successful email campaign is a marriage between good strategy and good data. If either side is poisoned, then the two become divorced.
Can email automation help you? My experiences say that messages triggered by behavior and personalized to an individual’s interests often lead to significantly higher engagement.
The difficult task is understanding your data, and building campaigns in a way that can optimize changing variables to your benefit. I’m talking about a combination of things that would play into those triggers like timing, frequency, and persuasive content.
The point of automating emails isn’t to improve on the balance of your workload, but rather to build on the quality in which your workload is balanced. Effectively navigating this concept will allow your campaigns to have more meaning and your relationships with your recipients to become more meaningful.