8 Lessons We've Learned from Successful Email Automation Campaigns

5 years ago

In September of 2018 I attended Inbound 2018. It was no surprise that a theme of the event was delighting your existing customers and nurturing leads, a fundamental part of inbound marketing. The discussion was very firmly on the why, rather than the how. I believe the reason for this is generally a lack of knowledge.

Everywhere you look there are ads, blog posts and tweets on email automation. This trend is showing no signs of slowing down. The content of these ads, blog posts etc is always focused on how easy it is to set up and how it can be used to drive results. Many of these tools and ads make it sound like they run/write themselves. Speaking from experience I can tell you honestly that they don’t.

As an experienced email marketer I can tell you that email marketing often feels like you’re treading on eggshells. Your colleagues or seniors always want to be sending more, but you don’t want to be seen as some kind of spamming machine. But as a good email marketer you understand it’s important to keep communication frequent and get the most from your audience.

So how do you nurture leads? How do you delight existing clients? And how do you avoid spamming your contacts?

From Aira’s time in email automation here are 8 lessons we've learned from successful automation campaigns:

  1. Choose the right tool for you and your business

There are so many automation platforms on the market and it is important you find the tool that suits both your business’s aim and the team that will be working with the platform. Many of the clients we have on board at Aira often speak about how the systems they use are a limiting factor; often being difficult to use or overly complex. Finding a platform that makes you more efficient and capable is key.

For example, if you are working with Magento and want to use product/purchase dates to serve products into emails, use a platform that can plug in to Magento. From experience, Bronto, Dotmailer and MailChimp are great for this.

If you have a longer time-to-purchase or you’re a business that relies heavily on understanding user activity on your website, HubSpot - an inbound marketing platform - is excellent. Aira is a HubSpot Platinum Agency Partner so it obviously works for us.

2. Get your existing data talking to your new platform

Forget content, when it comes to email marketing, data has and always will be king.

It is important that you start to utilise the data that you do have.

Start by understanding the processes you can simplify. Instead of manually syncing your contacts from your customer relationship management system (CRM), automate the process.

With many different automation platforms there will be plugins or integrations that will allow you to easily automate the process of syncing contacts.

3. Start as you mean to go on

It is inevitable that engagement levels of some of your contacts will fall and, therefore, lose their value to your business. One aspect of email marketing we believe is not spoken about enough, is data cleansing. Data cleansing is the art of owning your data and not being afraid to cull contacts that are not delivering results.

Look at your data. Run queries on your database and find contacts who are engaged and nurture them. Sniff out the disengaged contacts and determine their value and attempt to re-engage. As with step two, automate this process!

4. Get stuck in!

Now you have sorted your existing data and have your CRM talking to your email automation platform, it is time to get stuck in with workflows or drip programmes.

HubSpot’s definition of an email workflow is:

‘A series of automated emails that will be sent -- or not -- based on a person's behavior or contact information. With workflows, you can trigger actions based on any information you have about your leads, allowing you to send the right message to the right person at the right time.’

With almost all providers, this is done in the form of flow charts, allowing you to determine actions to trigger email sends, criteria of users who enter the workflows and assign specific actions to each trigger.

email workflow exampleIt is important to think of your first workflow as version 1.0 that will continue to evolve over time.

5. Get your templates right

Once you have an email journey in place, you will need emails to send to your contacts. From our experience we believe that there are several key factors that must be considered when designing email templates for automated programmes:

  • Consistency - Make sure that the email design and tone of voice is consistent throughout the journey.
  • Calls-to-action - Think about why you are sending each email. With each email you are sending, you are hoping that the user will act. Think about what you want that action to be and use calls-to-action to lead a contact to this action.
  • Imagery - The imagery used within your email templates will set the tone for how a user perceives your brand. Make sure you are serving the user the best possible images. Don’t try to force images to particular dimensions causing the image to blur, for example.
  • Think mobile first! - A recent stat shows that 47% of people use a mobile device to check an email campaign on average, while 26.9% uses desktop and 26.1% uses webmail. Ensure your design team provides both mobile and desktop layouts so a user’s experience is seamless across all devices.

6. Generate new contacts

Your email automations are now ready to go. Your existing data has been cleansed and you are starting to see results - but wait! You need to start generating new leads. Once upon a time, presenting an email sign-up bar on your website was enough to generate new contacts. However, with the rise of cyber attacks and GDPR, potential leads are becoming more and more wary of handing over their personal data.

As a result it is important that you offer potential leads something in return for their information. For example, if you are selling bathroom tiles, you could offer a downloadable guide of renovation tips, in return for a user’s email address. This benefits both the potential lead and your business. This is at the heart of lead generation online.

7. Perfect your send times

Email automation presents a great opportunity to think ahead, react to events and send emails at times that are most effective for your audience. For example, if you are selling coffee, target users when they are going to be craving coffee the most, early morning and late evening.

Many email tools also provide the ability to lead score. Lead scoring is a methodology used to rank prospects against a scale that represents the perceived value each lead represents to the organisation.

When a lead reaches are certain score you could trigger an internal email to send to your sales team, asking them to contact the lead in question.

It’s all about making the data work for you.

8. Analyse to thrive

As mentioned previously in this piece, your email automations should be continually evolving. Content you wrote 6 to 12 months ago could be outdated. Analyse engagement rates, look for dips in open and click rates and react.

Certain call-to-actions may not be generating results. That is OK! A/B test different call-to-actions and find what works best for your customers.

Analyse, amend, thrive.


Email automation, if executed correctly, has the potential to be one of the most successful marketing channels for your business.

Email automation software can help you gather more information about your subscribers and make your messaging more personalised and thus more effective

Providers are making the software much more affordable and simpler to use, however, that doesn’t mean the setup process can’t be painful and we’re not going to shy away from it. But stick with and get it right - it will be worth it!


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