Sending out personalized follow-ups right after your newly-baked customers make their first purchase or subscribe to your blog is a good practice.

 According to research, relevant emails drive 9 times more revenue than broadcast mailings.

However, it is a huge COMPLETE waste of time if you send your emails manually, one after another.

Just imagine for a moment how many emails per day you’ll be doomed to send in a couple of years when your business becomes as profitable as CocaCola or Facebook. You’re going to mess up at some point no matter how proactive you are — it’s inevitable. gif of a person typing on a paper keyboard

Luckily, there are lots of email marketing automation software providers out there that can do all that tedious job for you and save you from struggling.

I’ve put together 7 working strategies that should help you pick the email automation tool that works best for your small business.

But first, some *dull* theory.

What is Email Marketing Automation?

You probably know pretty well how nagging it is to do such routine tasks as checking weekly reports from your colleagues or taking part in a weekly discussion with partners.

These repetitive tasks are in no way intricate, but they eat up the time that could be invested in something more meaningful.

The same goes for emails. Manually sending the same email template every now and then is hugely counterproductive. However, setting up automated workflows, you do all your manual processes once and let them run in the background.

Here’s an example:

  • You create a single email or a sequence of emails to ensure a smooth onboarding process for your online shoppers.
  • Then, you set up a trigger that will send out your emails to the right person at the right minute.
  • If everything is set the right way, every member of your subscriber list automatically begins to receive automated emails that look just like you wrote them personally.
  • And finally, you take a cup of coffee and relax. You deserve it, after all.

Though sending automated emails sounds like fun, it’s not always a piece of cake. You should know exactly how it should work to launch your lead nurturing campaign.

So before diving into the bottomless sea of email marketing, take time to dig deeper into the theory.

To begin with, grab this list of the best 95 email marketing resources. It should give you an idea of how you can build your email list, segment it, create awesome copy for your landing pages, write catchy subject lines, set up autoresponders and, of course, track conversions and sales.

Tested Strategies for Choosing Marketing Automation Software

1. Determine your goals

Email marketing automation software comes in a variety of forms and sizes. To narrow your choice to just a few tools, you have to clearly understand your online business purposes.

If you are just starting off, you may not need all-in-one software like SalesFusion that costs something around $700 per month and offers such sophisticated things like lead scoring, nurture automation, event management, and CRM integration.

On the other hand, if your company is running smoothly enough, but you know things could be better, a simple email marketing tool won’t work for you either.

While choosing a solution, pay special attention to the pricing and packages they offer. If the price is too high compared to your budget, you’ll go into the red. Also, consider the number of leads the system can handle for that price package and if you can easily grow without breaking the bank. Find out if it’s scalable enough, if it has the level of security that meets your company’s standards, and if it can do more than simple email blasts

If you are strapped for budget, most likely the bigger advanced marketing automation systems will be too expensive. 
So what do you do if you’re tight on budget but still desire some amount of automation in your email workflow?

Here we found a comparison for a few very affordable email marketing software systems

2. Analyze your target buyer personas

As we all know, email marketing is not just sending random email campaigns to your customer base hoping they will convert someday.

You have to clearly understand who buys your products or services and segment your target audience accordingly.

It means that your email automation software should be good enough to let you create various user lists, group your website visitors based on their interests, and send different types of emails to each list.snapshot of mailchimp dashboard showing various contact management options

Mailchimp automation software, for example, allows you to easily fiddle with user lists — create groups and segments, bulk import and export contacts, and even tag them the way you like.

Salesforce, on the other hand, is more than just email marketing software. It’s more like a CRM tool, that, apart from automation, can provide you with real-time analytics and geographic performance reports.

3. Find out how email automation software works with other tools

No matter how good the chosen software is, it should integrate with other tools you already use, such as eCommerce platform, CRM, and analytic tools.

This should facilitate your marketing activities and help you avoid inconvenient roadblocks along the way.

4. Choose the most suitable email automation platform

Now that you have a clear understanding of your target audience and your business objectives, you should review the features available in the marketing platform.

Here’s the list of things marketing automation allows you to do more efficiently:

  • A/B testing is a handy tool every email marketing manager should use to find out which idea works best. With Marketo email automation tool, for example, you can test subject lines, email bodies, from address and even time. a/b test report showing delivery and open ratesSource: Marketo Blog
  • Landing page creation. Each email promo should have a landing page tailored to that campaign. You can use blog posts for this purpose, or you can give a link to your homepage, or just create a landing page using your email testing tool.
  • Personalization. The more personalized your email, the better it is opened and clicked.
  • Lead generation and nurturing. This option is also vital for those who are planning to expand their customer base. Using sign-up forms and other lead generation tools, you’ll be able to turn strangers and passers-by into loyal customers.
  • Measuring conversions and ROI. A robust email automation software has got built-in analytics options to let you monitor the results of your email campaigns.

5. Test your email automation tool in and out

Before purchasing a paid subscription for email automation software, sign up for a free trial to dig deeper into the app functionality. This is especially true for low-cost email tools for entry-level users, such as Campaign Monitor or Constant Contact, as the range of features may be quite limited.

Add a couple of contacts to your email list (yourself & your colleagues, for example). Pick a design template for your email, customize it a bit, add social media buttons.

Is everything working as planned? OK. Then, send a test email to see how your email looks in your inbox on mobile devices.

  • Are all the buttons displayed the right way?
  • Do your merge fields show the correct information?
  • Is there an unsubscribe link?

You might also want to set up a nurture campaign, i.e., a sequence of emails sent to customers based on a specific trigger.  

Here at X-Cart, we use MailChimp for automation and do these email tests regularly. Have a look at the email below.

snapshot of x-cart email with html errors

I’m currently setting up an email sequence for X-Cart trial users, and it looks like something has gone wrong with the email template. The HTML layout is distorted a bit when opened with an email client (I use Go for Gmail).

It might take a few rounds of testing to find the best marketing automation platform for your eCommerce business. So arm yourself with patience and keep on experimenting.   

6. Google for reviews

According to Testimonial Engine survey, 72% of customers don’t take action until they have read reviews.

And they are right — reading customer testimonials is a surefire way to find out hidden disadvantages invisible at first sight but really vexatious somewhere later down the road.  

My favorite review platform is G2, as the tools are analyzed from different perspectives. For instance, take a look at HubSpot testimonials below.  

review of hubspot on G2

Shelby E., a validated reviewer and a verified current user of HubSpot (I’ve got no idea how they check it, though!), shares his thoughts on what he likes best, what he is dissatisfied with, and what business problems he solved using the chosen email marketing automation tool.  

Isn’t that enough to give you a clear understanding of what the software is like?

7. Make sure your colleagues are ready  

Using email automation software is sure to bring changes to your business processes.

For example, launching abandoned cart email campaigns, you encourage your consumers to come back to your eCommerce site and complete their purchase.

Improving your checkout process, offering free shipping, and adding the right call to action into your abandoned cart campaigns will bring you even higher open rates.

banana republic checkout email

An, no doubt about it, your sales teams should be ready for such changes, as they are going to handle way more shoppers than they usually do.

Bottom line

Choosing the best email automation tool can be tricky.

However, setting clear objectives, understanding your buyer personas, comparing the negatives and positives, and asking yourself the right questions, you’ll be sure to arrive at the right decision.

What email automation tool do you use for your online business?  

 

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Helen Golubeva

Helen Golubeva, storyteller at X-Cart open-source eCommerce platform. Addicted to yoga, interested in philosophy, and totally mad about copywriting. She loves using the power of words to inspire people and help them grow their eCommerce businesses.

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Content marketing guru at MailMunch. I’m passionate about writing content that resonates with people. Live simply, give generously, stay happy.