In the early days of email marketing, sending messages was a manual process. Marketers created generic content and sent it to all their subscribers. Customer-specific content, such as shipping notifications and subscriber confirmations, weren’t sent automatically. Instead, brands had to manually fill in details before sending them to clients.

That all changed with the introduction of email workflow automation. With email workflow automation, brands set up automatic emails based on specific user actions or events. Email marketing automation saves time and improves customer satisfaction since clients receive prompt and relevant communications.

What does email workflow automation do?

Email workflow automation involves sending messages based on specific customer actions, such as making a purchase, signing up for an email list, or completing a survey. Every workflow should meet a particular goal in the customer’s lifetime journey, from increasing brand awareness to making a sale. 

Marketers design email workflows based on customer needs, brand intent, and timeliness. It’s not unusual for brands to have multiple email workflow automation activities triggered by several client actions.

Email marketing automation differs from traditional email marketing campaigns since they’re driven by customer interactions. In contrast, traditional email marketing campaigns are much more generic. A traditional campaign might include email blasts that go to every subscriber instead of targeting customers based on prior actions. 

The benefits of email automation

Email marketing automation workflows have considerable benefits for brands that use them.

Seamless workflow integration

Companies that implement email automation benefit from major time savings. Instead of constantly monitoring customer actions, marketers can rely on workflows to send timely messages that align directly with user intent. It’s a much more efficient way to connect with clients.

Enhanced customer experience

Subscribers benefit from timely messaging that relates to their needs, improving the customer experience. You can create email workflow automation designed especially for specific goals, such as strengthening customer relationships or onboarding a new client. Sending regular messages that align with client and brand goals leads to greater customer retention and boosts leads.

Improved email segmentation

Automating your email workflows makes segmenting subscribers based on intent, traits, and engagement easier. Segmentation may increase email engagement metrics, including open rates, conversions, and click-throughs.

Reduction of manual errors and inefficiencies

Most brands use templates for their various types of emails and update information within them to make them relevant to specific customers. If you’re handling the process manually, there’s a lot of room for errors that can hurt the effectiveness of your campaign. Email automation allows you to significantly reduce errors by automatically updating specific details in your messaging content.

Setting up email workflows

The benefits of email workflow automation are pretty clear. Just as importantly, it’s easy to set up. Use these steps to get started. 

1. Identify the target audience for your campaign

Start by clarifying the audience of your email campaign. You can target emails based on where the client is in the buyer’s journey, whether they’ve made a recent purchase, or by specific attributes, such as location or gender. 

Your email marketing software or CRM system should provide you with data analysis tools to quickly segment your audience base. If not, use in-house data to define each audience segment. 

2. Establish email campaign goals

Every email campaign should have a specific goal you want to achieve. There is no reason to message clients if you don’t have an objective. Some examples of goals to aim for include boosting website traffic, strengthening customer relationships, or upselling clients on relevant products.

Determining your goal helps lay the path for your messaging strategy. Each message should align with your goal, pushing the subscriber to take a specified action. Once they do, you can move on to the next stage of your marketing campaign.

3. Design enrollment criteria

The enrollment criteria for your automation email workflow refer to specific qualities or actions your subscribers take. If the subscriber meets each qualification, they are automatically enrolled into the email workflow and will begin receiving messages. 

For instance, say you establish a new subscriber workflow. You could trigger a series of emails for each new subscriber, including an initial welcome email confirmation followed by a slow drip of introductory emails to your business. 

Or, if you’re trying to encourage subscribers to buy a specific product, you could target them based on their prior purchase or browsing history on your website. 

4. Create and automate email campaign assets

Every automation workflow should include several emails tailored to your customers and goals. Start by laying out the workflow and deciding how many emails to include. Then, compose your messages so the content aligns with your objectives. If your email marketing software contains personalization features, you can identify the variables to personalize, such as the recipient’s name or location. 

Once finished, save each email campaign asset for future use.

5. Test and fine-tune email automation setups

Test each automated email workflow before initiating them. Testing can help you catch bugs or errors that hurt your campaign’s success. A few things to test include:

  • Enrollment criteria
  • Timing of your email automation workflow
  • Any personalization aspects
  • Whether the number of enrollees meets your expectations
  • Message mistakes, such as typos or grammatical errors

Most email marketing software programs (including Constant Contact) include a testing module you can use to evaluate your campaign before making it live.

6. Monitor and analyze automated campaigns

Once you’re satisfied with your email workflow automation, let it roll. However, stay on top of its performance by setting a few key performance indicators (KPIs). Each KPI should align directly with your campaign goal. For instance, if your goal is encouraging subscribers to visit a landing page, you could track click-throughs. Or, if you’re aiming for engagement, track open rates and responses.

If your results don’t align with your expectations, you may need to refine your workflow. Try to determine what’s causing the results to fall short and make adjustments where necessary.

Types of marketing automation workflows

Brands can benefit from several different marketing automation workflows. See if any of these options suit your business.

New subscriber welcome

A subscriber welcome workflow thanks people for joining your mailing list and introduces them to your brand. A compelling automated welcome email series might include the following messages:

  • Email confirmation message
  • Welcome to your brand
  • Overview of products and services
  • Informational content, such as blog posts
  • New subscriber discount
Grammarly welcome email
This welcome email introduces the subscriber to the brand and explains its vision. Image Source: Grammarly

New customer welcome

The new customer welcome workflow differs slightly from new subscriber workflows since it begins once a client buys something. The workflow might contain several emails like the following:

  • Welcome email and purchase confirmation message
  • Emails based on lead scoring
  • Invite to a webinar or product demonstration
  • Product recommendation emails
  • Exclusive discount on new product
Adobe photoshop lightroom welcome email
This welcome email offers the subscriber a free tutorial to learn the features of the product. Image Source: Adobe Photoshop Lightroom

Lead nurturing workflow

A lead nurturing workflow pushes the client through the customer journey based on where they are in the lifecycle. Customers who receive higher lead scores might receive automated emails encouraging them to buy, such as an invitation to meet with a sales rep or a discount on your products. You might send informational content, such as case studies or client testimonials, to warm up customers with lower lead scores.

Re-engagement workflows

A re-engagement workflow aims to reconnect with inactive subscribers who have yet to make a recent purchase or interact with your brand over a specific timeframe, such as three months. You can encourage inactive subscribers to re-engage by offering an exclusive discount or providing informative content about recent trends in your market sector.

Abandoned shopping cart workflows

Customers who abandon their shopping cart before making a purchase can be a source of annoyance to ecommerce companies. Encourage your clients to finish buying with an abandoned shopping cart workflow. Send a courtesy reminder within a day or two of the customer leaving your website without finalizing their purchase, and a special discount if they don’t take action within a week.

Upsell workflows

Once a client purchases, you can upsell them on relevant products using an upsell workflow. Send an email containing product recommendations that complement their recent purchase. If it fits your business model, you might offer a product demonstration or free trial.

Customer satisfaction workflows

Every brand wants to know how customers feel about their shopping experience. Use a customer satisfaction workflow to gain informative insights. Start by asking clients to complete a short survey of their experience and follow up with additional emails depending on their survey answers. For instance, if a client indicates they enjoyed your service, you could ask them to leave a public review on your website.

Event reminder workflows

Automated webinar invitation email from Clearscope
This automated email encourages subscribers to attend an upcoming webinar. Image Source: Clearscope

Some companies serve clients through events, such as appointments, webinars, and conferences. You can set a workflow to remind clients about events and follow up with them afterward.

Email marketing automation best practices

As you create email automation workflows for your business, keep these tips in mind.

1. Segmentation is key

Not all subscribers should receive the same automated email messages since they may be in different stages of the buyer’s journey. Some clients may be interested in specific products or services you offer, while others will fall into various categories based on their demographics or traits. 

Carefully define your audience into segments and set clear criteria for each email automation workflow. That way, you can keep your marketing emails relevant to customer needs and interests. 

2. Incorporate A/B testing into each workflow

You may find that changing some aspects of your email increases open rates or conversions. Try little changes, such as switching calls to action (CTAs) or subject lines, to see which drives the most customer engagement. Send the A/B test emails to a small group of subscribers to see which performs best. If there are clear winners, use them in your broader automation workflow.

3. Fit automation into your multi-channel strategy

Most brands use several marketing channels with clients, such as their website, social media accounts, and direct mail. Consider where email fits into your multi-channel strategy, and ensure all your touchpoints align appropriately. For instance, you could promote your email list through your website and then use social media to show off products to your subscribers. 

4. Be careful of complex automated email workflows

Highly complex email workflows increase the risk of errors, but they also allow you to create highly tailored, personalized workflows. To create a complex automated email workflow, decide on each trigger point and design copy related to the client’s motivations. Test each aspect of your workflow thoroughly before making it live. 

Some examples of advanced email automation workflow templates include:

  • Creating a workflow based on a customer’s interest in specific products or services
  • Workflows based on different trigger points, such as visiting a landing page or ordering a product
  • Basing a workflow on several different user actions, such as reading or not reading a prior email

Software and tools for email workflow automation

Most email marketing software includes features for email workflow automation. However, some programs may offer more than others, so it’s essential to consider your brand’s needs before investing. Some features to consider include:

  • Segmentation and personalization tools
  • Availability of templates and customization options
  • Subscriber list management tools
  • Integrations with other software, such as CRMs
  • Analytic tools

Some software may have a steep learning curve, so if you’re new to email marketing and don’t have much time to learn the program, choose a software that doesn’t require much effort to get started.

Constant Contact’s email marketing software provides everything you need to implement email automation workflows. Our service includes hundreds of customizable email templates and a powerful workflow system to lay out each workflow for your brand. Once you initiate a new campaign, you can easily track key metrics directly within the software, including open rates, click-throughs, and conversions.

Automate your email marketing workflows to see higher customer engagement

Automating email workflows can definitely save time, but it also has other benefits, like providing timely messages that relate directly to your customers’ needs. While creating workflows and designing your messaging may take effort, the payoff is exponential and can lead to much higher customer engagement than traditional email marketing. To learn more, read our article on marketing automation examples and download our official guide: “How to Automate Your Marketing Like a Pro.”

Constant Contact's automation guide.