The automation of email marketing has the potential to be an email marketer's best friend. Considerable efficiency and effectiveness can easily be achieved through automating manual (and often cumbersome) tasks, in many cases achieving a better experience for the end recipient.
Unfortunately, the concept of automation conjures up feelings of fear and anxiety for marketers who are not quite sure where to start. In many cases it may seem easier to keep doing things manually rather than risk making a mistake.
However, the reality is, automated campaigns really just takes tasks we instinctively know need to be done on a daily basis and puts them into a computer to be done automatically (leaving us more time to duck out for coffee)!
For example, it seems silly to manually send birthday greetings to various people on your list each day when it can be automated in a single step.
This article aims to dispel some of that fear and anxiety by providing logical step-by-step instructions on how to prepare your automated campaigns.
Why should you automate?
As well as saving you time and effort automated campaigns can also improve your recipients experience. Automated campaigns can:
- Improve timeliness - For example when someone registers for an event, rather than having to wait to receive a confirmation of their booking, they can be sent the confirmation message automatically.
- Improve relevance - For example, sending an email to men about the latest range of maternity clothes may not be the best use of your email marketing. Using Campaigns allows you to choose which parts of your database (segments) receive which communications.
- Reduce the risk of human error - Particularly on repetitive tasks, human error becomes almost inevitable - especially when you consider the amount of distractions at any given marketer's desk. In automating a task, you simply need to get it right in the setup and the ongoing maintenance will be executed flawlessly.
When should you automate a Campaign?
Before you start, consciously assess if Campaigns will help you. Whilst it is easy to sing the virtues of automated campaigns, there still needs to be the realistic acknowledgement that it does take some time to set up an automated campaign and in some instances it may be better to just run the campaign as a one off.
To determine if an automated campaign will be beneficial to you consider the following three questions - if you answer yes to any of them, you may wish to consider the Campaigns Module for your email marketing:
- In the long run, can automating my email marketing save me time and/or effort?
- Can the campaigns module provide my recipients with a better experience of our brand or products?
- Can reporting be improved by implementing a standard set of procedures?
5 Steps to preparing your automated campaign
Create a mind map
Start by listing all the known tasks and actions that need to happen. No matter how big or small a task might seem - if it is something you know you need to do, that is directly related to your email marketing campaign, write it down.
No order or logic is needed at this stage - the point of this step is simply to get everything out of your head and onto paper.
For example: Amy runs a personal training business that employs a large number of personal trainers working in a variety of locations.
She holds a quarterly networking event that serves as a chance for her trainers to come together and meet each other and network with prospective new trainers.
Amy knows there is a number of email marketing orientated activities that she needs to do. As such she has written down everything that she can think of that needs to be done.
An example of Amy's mind map is shown below:
Work out which actions can be automated
The next step is to go through and work out which steps can be automated and which steps are better managed manually.
At this stage, it is important to remain pragmatic and not automate everything just because you can. It is wise to consider that:
- some tasks can be done as easily or easier in a manual manner.
- at some point in your campaign, there may be steps that are more complicated due to multiple variables, yet they are not frequent tasks. These may be simpler to manage manually rather than setting up the automated campaign to manage it for you.
For example: Continuing with Amy's event, now that she has done her brain dump, the easiest thing to do is get her coloured markers out and identify which tasks she wishes to automate.
An example of Amy's identification of actions to be automated are shown below:
Create a trigger and action table
To organise your mind map set up a table and take all your items that you wish to automate and list them into a trigger and action table. Triggers are generally either:
- time based and happen at a specific date and time; or
- action based and happen when a subscriber completes an action such as: registering for an event, subscribing or clicking on a link
Actions are the actual activities that need to take place
In organising your mind map into the trigger and action table you might realise that there are obvious missing links that can now easily be filled in.
As a time-poor marketer, it can be easy to become overwhelmed with activities to lose sight of your overall goals and objectives. By creating a cause and effect table you are able to look at your plans in a logical way and ensure you are doing the right things for the right reasons.
For example: Once Amy organised her brain dump into a trigger and action table it looked like this:
Work out the sequence and timing
The next step is to organise your trigger and action table into the correct sequential order. At this point, it is valuable to assign your timing to the campaign and identify if you need any less obvious fields in your database.
For example, you may wish to send a birthday greeting at 9am on a contact's birthday, but you may also wish to have another field that auto-populates when the email has been opened. This may require you to have this field set up ready to be automatically populated.
For example: Applying sequence and timing to Amy's table let her see that she only has six steps to set up, which are now clearly laid out for her:
Hypothetical run-through: Automated sequence
Once you have completed your trigger and action table and organised it into the right sequence, it is important to take time to sit down and walk yourself through the whole process.
As you do this run-through you may have moments of "ah, what about this." If it is logical, slot in what you remembered and continue. If you are unsure - jot your idea down on the side and work our where it fits in later on.
At this stage it is important to keep your flow as you run-through and consider the end user experience.
For example: Because Amy is such a conscientious marketer she decided to run through her campaign in three ways to ensure that it was absolutely perfect:
- Firstly, she drew a map of how the campaign worked so she could visualise how it would work
- She then explained the campaign and how it would operate to a colleague so that she could be sure it made sense and she had not missed something.
- Lastly, she checked that the campaign was able to be implemented by her email marketing system.
Once you have completed the five steps to preparing your email campaign you can sit back and congratulate yourself for organising such a well sequenced and logical campaign.
The Campaigns Module might initially be something that invokes fear and anxiety in a marketer, but this does not need to be the case. By breaking down the steps logically, it is not difficult to put what marketers already know into a plan.
The result is a well sequenced and ordered campaign ready to be set up in your email marketing system.