Liz Willits really loves email marketing. But when she shares her love for email automation with others, she often finds herself very, very alone.

“A lot of people hate email marketing. It’s scammy. It’s spammy. It can be really awful and robotic,” she acknowledged in her session for Managing Editor Live 2020. “[But] this is not because email marketing is not effective, because email marketing for the brands that are doing it right is really effective.”

Email marketing remains one of the most lucrative channels for content marketers, generating $38 for every $1 spent. Research has found that people who purchase products marketed through email spend 138% more than people who didn’t receive email offers. And automated emails generate 320% more revenue than non-automated emails. Does email sound like a “dead” channel to you?

Liz shared the five most common mistakes she sees in email automation in her Managing Editor Live 2020 session, “How to Automate Your Email Marketing Like a Pro.” Here’s how to overcome each one and inject a little personality into your subscribers’ inboxes along the way.

Making Decisions Without Data

Your goal as a marketer is to solve client or consumer problems, but you can’t do that without research on what they are. Understanding your audience enables you to personalize your cadence and copy to connect with them. “Sometimes email marketers have no understanding of who their audience is,” Liz said. “This is one of the biggest reasons that people send really impersonal, really robotic email campaigns.”

As you design your campaign, conduct research to determine what your audience really needs. Survey potential subscribers in your target market and collect data on what’s most important to them. Interview existing customers and clients to find out how your product or service improves their lives and conduct surveys periodically to ensure that your message and approach still resonate with your audience over time.

Your success with email automation depends heavily on the quality and relevance of the content you’re sharing. When you execute your campaign based on data, your subscribers will feel like you’re talking directly to them.

Failing to Welcome Subscribers

The welcome email is a crucial opportunity to introduce yourself and your story to new subscribers. When you don’t automatically send a welcome email to new subscribers, you lose the chance to curate their first experience. “Welcome emails are important because they set the impression for your subscribers, and they get a ton of engagement,” Liz said. “In fact, they get four times higher open rates and five times higher click-through rates than other emails.” Don’t bypass that opportunity!

Your welcome email should:

  • Deliver your incentive, or your lead magnet if you promised one.
  • Ask subscribers to whitelist you so your emails actually get through to them.
  • Set expectations for when subscribers will receive newsletters and what type of content will be included.
  • Provide value right there in the welcome email. But don’t start selling yet — it isn’t the right time.
  • Tap into your unique personality.
  • Start segmenting your subscriber base.

The welcome email kicks off the new relationship with a necessary human touchpoint while setting the stage for segmentation and other tools in your email automation repertoire.

Lumping All Your Subscribers Together

No matter how targeted your audience is, it’s important to realize that your subscribers aren’t all alike. Use segmentation to allow your audience to select the content they want to receive. Giving your subscribers the option to customize what they receive increases the likelihood of them reading what comes through. In fact, compared to one-size-fits-all campaigns, segmented email campaigns drive a whopping 760% increase in revenue.

You can segment off an entire email list or campaign with finely targeted content, or you can use behavioral automation to allow subscribers to segment themselves. As subscribers interact with your content on your signup page or within their inboxes, your email marketing platform customizes their preferences so they only receive content they want and will engage with. “One of the beauties of behavioral email automation is that your subscribers are segmenting themselves via their actions,” Liz said. “There’s way less that you need to do because they’re doing it for you.”

Forgetting the Friendly Nudge

If your subscribers are demonstrating that they’re ready to buy, don’t be shy about giving them an extra push. Use tools like page view automation to track user visits. When subscribers visit bottom or funnel pages or add items to their cart before clicking out, automatically send them a reminder to complete the transaction.

“You want to make sure to have automated emails for these subscribers who are showing they’re almost ready to purchase,” Liz said. “They might just need that last little push.” One of Liz’s clients is a meal plan delivery service. When subscribers add recipes to their cart but don’t complete the transaction, they receive an email saying, “Your meals are one click away. What you left in your cart would look really good in your fridge. Complete your order.”

Don’t let your inaction lead to theirs: Go ahead and give ‘em a friendly nudge.

Skimping on the Story

The most important part of an email automation campaign is, well, you. If you aren’t sharing your story, being vulnerable or emphasizing your humanity, you’re missing out on your greatest selling point. Subscribers are much more likely to engage with your content if they connect with you as a person. “When marketing products and services that can change people’s lives, and really make their lives better, not having humanity in our marketing is a huge mistake,” Liz pointed out.

However, don’t try to sell a wild story if you don’t have one to tell. And don’t be clickbaity about it, either — deliver on your subject line. Sometimes capitalizing on shared everyday experiences is the best way to relate to your audience. Tell your story in an engaging, honest way — that’s how you make an impression. When you’re honest, authentic and human, email length doesn’t matter. We’re all human, so find points of connection with your readers. Try using “you” more often than “we” or “I,” for example.

Effective, ethical email campaigns begin with embracing our humanity. “When you’re human, and when you tell stories in your copy, people are pulled in,” Liz said. “They’re interested because they can see themselves in your own story.” Now that you know how to avoid the biggest mistakes in email automation, go forth and tell your story.

Watch Liz’s full session on demand.