When working with new clients I’m constantly surprised at the lack of email automation most businesses are using. This is a shame, and a missed opportunity, because automated emails are one of the few genuinely “set and forget” marketing tactics you could be using in your business.

What is email automation?

What am I talking about when I say “email automation”? I mean when someone downloads an offer from your website, such as a white paper or brochure in exchange for their email address. It’s then possible (and I would argue mandatory) to send automated emails to that person over the coming days, weeks and months.

what is email automation

Even this little guy doesn’t know what email automation is!

I’m not talking about “broadcast” emails such as newsletters, that get sent out in one batch and then forgotten. I’m talking about a timed sequence that says “wait 3 days, then send this email”.
This then stays in place, and if someone new comes to your website 6 months from now and downloads a free report, they’ll get the same email as someone gets who downloads it today.

For example, you might download a free
guide on email marketing. Three days later you might get an email from the business offering you more free email resources. Then a week later you might get an offer to buy a training course on email marketing. The ideal scenario for your business is to eventually have a well-established email follow up sequence that goes on for months, where you send the person various resources, building trust and establishing authority over time.

Why Use Automated Emails?

There are a few benefits to using automated follow up emails in your business:

  1. You are offering value before asking for something (e.g. the sale) in return, making it more likely the person will buy from you.
  2. You are creating multiple touch points with the person (each time they get an email from you it’s a touch point). Research shows it takes an average of between 7 and 13 touches to deliver a qualified sales lead. Emails can do much of this heavy lifting with zero effort other than the initial setup.
  3. It’s a chance for you to demonstrate your expertise, building trust with the prospect by showing them that you know what you’re doing and that they’re in safe hands.

Why Aren’t More People Using Email Automation?

I think there are three main reasons people aren’t using automated email follow up sequences:

  1. They don’t know it’s possible
  2. The technology/process is too complicated
  3. They don’t know what to write in the emails, or when to send them

If you fall into one of the above categories, then don’t worry – I’m about to show you the one automated follow up email you can implement right now that gets the biggest results for our clients. And it will only take you 5 minutes to write it.

Rome wasn’t built in a day. Start small and build up from there. This email will get you started, and once you get going you’ll likely have lots more ideas on what to write in other emails. Plus, you’ll see that the tools and technology to do this aren’t really all that complicated. You can also download our free template for mapping out a simple but effective email follow up sequence.

The One Automated Email You Can Implement Right Now to Get More Sales Qualified Leads

We’ve seen a huge amount of success with this email. It’s a way of dramatically increasing response rates literally overnight.

automation follow up email workflow

An automation workflow that we helped set up for one of our clients.

The purpose of this one email is to get a direct reply from the recipient. You’re going to create an email that looks like a manually written follow up email asking the person a simple question. The goal is for the person to read the email and reply with what’s bothering them, and/or any questions they might have about your product or service.

You’ll be amazed at the replies you get to such a simple email. I won’t share specifics here out of respect for the privacy of our clients’ customers, but safe to say they often tell you a lot about themselves in their replies.

It’s hard to track statistics on this type of email as it usually goes to someone in the business and the results aren’t tracked in your email analytics, but if I had to guess I’d say around 10% of recipients reply to this email and many of those go on to become a sales qualified lead much sooner than they would otherwise. When you’re generating close to 1000 online leads per month like one client we work with, 100 people emailing you with personal responses to a simple automated email is quite a boost to your sales pipeline.

Creating the Email

Using whatever email software you use to manage your database (see the software section below if you don’t have one yet), you should create a follow up email sequence related to any content offer you have on your website. This is sometimes called “automation” or “autoresponders”, depending on the email tool you’re using.

  1. Styling

Now for your autoresponder email, create the simplest email possible, without any graphics or fancy styling. Some email tools call this “plain HTML”. The idea is for this email to look like it was typed on the spot in a minute or two as a manual email in Outlook or Gmail.

  1. Scheduling

The email should be scheduled to send one day after the person has signed up for the content offer via your website. It’s great if you can make this a set time, such as 2pm, but if the only option is to send exactly 24 hours later then just go with that. It just looks a bit weird if the person has downloaded something at 11pm and then they get an email at 11pm the next day.

  1. Sender

The sender should be the person in your business who is the most likely to engage with the customer later on along their buyer journey. This could be the business owner, the head of the sales team, or the manager. Try to use the same person as the sender for all the other emails you add to this sequence later. You want to build that personal relationship, which isn’t going to happen if the emails are coming from your company name as the sender, or coming from different people each time.

Add the sender’s real email signature at the bottom of the email, including their regular sign off, title, phone number, etc. This is in keeping with the “normal looking email” theme. It’s also great to include a photo of the person with their signature, even if they don’t do this normally. We are attracted to faces, and a photo adds to that personal connection we’re striving to build.

Also remember that the goal here is to get people to reply, so make sure the “reply to” address on the email goes to a real email address that someone is monitoring and from which they can reply. There’s no point going to all this work to get replies if the replies go nowhere!

  1. Subject Line

So now for the subject line. You don’t want to think too hard about this – it needs to look as quick and casual as possible. The sort of thing a busy manager would type as she sent out a personal email… Getting the idea now?

A few suggestions for subject line:

  • Re: [subject line of the thank you email for the offer you sent them yesterday – e.g. “Here’s your download”]
  • Quick question (everyone uses this now and it’s become a bit spammy)
  • Did you find what you were looking for?
  • Checking in (again, many sales people use this and it’s become a bit like white noise)

Try to have a subject line that matches the tone of your business. If your brand is quirky and funny, use that in the subject line. If you’re stiff upper lip and respectable, then keep it formal.

follow up automated email

An example of one of our client’s automated follow up emails.

  1. Email body

Again, you want to keep this simple. Two to three sentences max.
Here’s an example:

Hi [firstname]

I noticed you downloaded our [name of offer] yesterday.

Just wondering if you found what you were looking for. Is there anything we can help with at this stage?

 [standard sign off]

I told you it was simple! The above is just a suggestion. Again, you might change the tone a little to be quirkier or more formal, depending on your business, but the main thing is to keep it short and simple, and to ask just one easy open ended question.

The beauty of this email is that it actually looks like an email a business owner or sales person would send off in a hurry. But it only needs to be written once, and can then be sent out thousands of times without any further thought or effort. And as I said above, depending on how many downloads you get via your website, this one simple email could get you hundreds of replies each month. These replies can then be assigned to your sales team for follow up.

  1. Assigning this email to different offers

If you only have one download offer on your website then this isn’t much of an issue – just make the email specifically about that offer. For example, you might say “I noticed you downloaded our Complete Guide to Xero Accounting for Cat Breeders yesterday.” But if you have multiple offers on your site then you need to find a good balance between being specific and not spending hours creating different emails for every offer. I like to just say something like “I noticed you downloaded our free guide yesterday” if there are multiple offers. This way you can still just use the one email for all the different offers.

Bonus Tip – Mastering the Technology

Okay so by now you’re clear on what to say in that first email, and when to send it. But maybe you’re still struggling with the second obstacle in the list above – the technology and process being too hard.

There are a few options for the technology, all at different price points and skill levels. I’m going to mention a few here, along with the pros and cons, to get you started.

  1. Mailchimp

Difficulty – Easy

Mailchimp is the most used email marketing software in the world, and for good reason. It’s dead simple to use. The ability to send automated emails is only available with a paid subscription, which costs around $10/mo.
Setting up the email sequence is simple and intuitive.
The only drawback to using Mailchimp is that it’s obvious from the emails that they are automated because of the required “unsubscribe” link and other default formatting.

mastering the automation email CRM

  1.  HubSpot

Difficulty – Medium

Email marketing is just one feature of HubSpot’s all-in-one marketing software. The email module allows you to set up complex email workflows with branching logic and segmentation. The main downside to HubSpot is the price. To use email workflows you’ll need a HubSpot “Pro” account, which costs around $1000/mo. Having said that, you do get all of HubSpot’s other features too, which include landing pages, social media, calls to action, detailed “closed loop” analytics, CRM, and lots more. (Full disclosure, we’re Certified HubSpot Partners, so we’re a little biased towards HubSpot for all sorts of marketing automation.)

  1. Sendy

Difficulty – Hard

Sendy is for power users who want full control over their email marketing tool. It’s self-hosted on your own web server, and sends emails through Amazon’s SES mailing system. It requires some tech skill to set it all up, and it doesn’t have all of the features of the two solutions above, but it does have two huge benefits in the cost (it’s a small (under $100) one-off purchase instead of a monthly fee, and you can make the emails look very personalised, without any unsubscribe links or other things that signpost the email is automated).

Wrapping Up

So now that you have a step by step guide on creating the one automated email that brings in the most results, you’re hopefully all fired up to take it further. Follow up emails can be a goldmine for your business, when done the right way.

If you want to do more with your own email marketing, download our free email nurture cheat sheet and start doing your email automation on steroids. 

New Call-to-action