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I am going to tell you four different ways you can automate your emails, and why you should keep sending them. I swear emails actually, really do work - Email is not dead.

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Hosted By
Monica Maye Pitts
Monica Maye Pitts Chief Creative Officer

Connecting Outside the Show – Part 2 – Using Email Automation

This is the second part of our series Connecting Outside the Show, and my second advice for you to connect outside the show is...drumroll please...using email. 

Don't stop reading yet, okay? Because I am going to tell you four different ways you can automate your emails, and why you should keep sending them. I swear emails actually, really do work - Email is not dead. 

People tell me all the time, “I don't want to do email marketing because I don't want to annoy people with my emails!”

I get it. I fight the same head trash. Especially when I start setting up a campaign to sell things. I keep thinking, “Oh, my gosh, I'm going to bother these people. I'm just flooding their inbox with stuff. I should just leave them alone.”

But let me tell you - emails convert.

I see it in the local year end giving campaign I help manage.  Emails have a 17% conversion rate, social media is around 7%, ads are even less.

Right now I spend around $25 a day on Facebook ads. Now, I advertise free downloadable resources on my website, which is great. I run those ads specifically to build my email list so I have the opportunity to talk to people in a more effective way.

The conversion rate - even for a free downloadable resource on my ads - is way, way lower than my emails. It's so much lower friends. 

For example, when I released my Nonprofit Marketing Plan Template, I spent $100 on ads for 4 days and got 27 downloads, showing those ads to 1,000’s and 1,000’s of people. Over the same 4 day period I sent 3 emails, which may have cost me $10. And I got 94 downloads

You see the difference? 

My email list isn't huge so I had about a 10% conversion rate on my three emails promoting my Nonprofit Marketing Plan Template. And those were just normal, scheduled emails. I wrote them in advance, and I scheduled them just like you would any average marketing email, no bells and whistles.

Why Automate Your Emails?

The last statistic I saw was $44 return on investment for every $1 spent mainly because emails are nearly free to send. There are four different ways I can think of right off the top of my head to automate emails. 

Reason #1: Things happen and we forget

Now, it's important we do automate our emails, because there are a lot of things that can happen if we don't automate these little suckers. 

The first thing that can happen is you just straight up, forget to send the email - You meant to remind somebody to do something but you forgot to send the email, and then you never had the meeting, or you never got to have the conversation. 

That really sucks. But that's one thing automating emails can help us get over. 

Reason #2: To keep people in the loop

Another reason to automate emails is letting people know something happened, like a cause-and-effect email. They are a great way to alert people the transaction they started is being processed and went through. Automated emails let you know when you sign up for a service, or submit an email form or apply for a job.  Using this type of email automation is a great way to build trust with people. 

Reason #3: Save time

Another reason to automate is marketing emails can just take forever to make! I know it would seem like a quick task. But it's gonna take you 30 minutes to an hour to go in and get everything set up just right to send this email out to your audience, and that doesn’t even count the time it took to write the email. Automating that process can save you SO much time and actually make sure it happens, as well as some other benefits (which we'll talk about later). 

So automating your emails is a great option to build trust with people AND actually get the work done, right? Because who has 100 hours in the day just to write new emails, and start new relationships with people? 

4 Ways to Automate Your Emails

Enough with the email automation sales pitch. Hopefully now you understand some of the problems you can solve by automating your emails. 

Now let's get to the good stuff and talk about the four different ways we can automate our emails. 

They are:

  1. Autoresponders
  2. Follow-Up Emails
  3. RSS Feed
  4. Email Workflows
  1. Autoresponders

The first way to automate your email is through autoresponders. These are those transactional emails or cause-and-effect emails.

For example, when someone submits an email form on your website and an autoresponder sends. The email is sent immediately.  It's just keeping everybody in the loop about what's going on.

You’ll use them for customer service, event sign ups, project management and more. 

These are cause and effect emails.

They keep people informed and build trust.  

Consider online shopping, you buy something, and then you get the success email. Then you know that your order was processed. But if you didn't get success email, you don’t know if it went through unless you check your credit card statement (not that I’ve ever had to do that before *COUGH*). 

Many autoresponders are set up to send from your website. 

The email is set up in your website’s form builder to send when a form is submitted. 

Many client management systems automatically send these types of emails to people. Our project management system sends an email to people who are subscribed to the project whenever a comment is placed in the system. 

Not all autoresponders are sent from your website. 

You can also set them up in an exterior program, like an email marketing software.  For example, if somebody fills out a form, then an email from MailChimp can send.  When set up correctly, MailChimp can recognize something happened on your website, and send a pre-made email to the person who took that action. 

Automating emails using an email marketing software allows you more flexibility because you can send additional emails after the initial email.  For example if a person signed up for an event on your website they could be added to a list of event attendees in your email marketing software and you could send them a reminder and follow up email about the event.

I use MailChimp. That doesn't mean that I love MailChimp, there are lots of good things about it. But as you get into the upper echelon of trying to streamline and build sales funnels in it, it's not awesome. That's really not what it's meant to do. You basically have to figure out how to be a developer to be able to make that happen. Fortunately, my brain works like a developer's. I was a developer at the beginning of my career, and so I can work through it but it’s very fun. 

But for the basic email marketer, MailChimp does a good job. And there's a free basic package for up to 2,000 subscribers, so it makes it a good kind of gateway drug for your email marketing pleasure. 

Regardless of how you set them up autoresponders are a good practice to employ. 

So think about the processes that you go through with your clients, or with people that you're trying to hire. And ask yourself, where can I automate this, build trust with them, and let them know that I got their information. 

  1. Follow-Up Emails

This one is a little bit more manual, but it's pretty legit. Especially if you're not super tech-savvy, and you are a salesperson or an account service person, this particular type of email is awesome. 

These are reminder emails.  

They’re the emails I send to remind people when:

  • I have a sales appointment with somebody
  • I have a consulting appointment with somebody
  • If I have a Facebook Live with someone
  • Basically anytime someone ig going to hang out with me at a specific time and I want to make sure that they're there because I'm not paying them, or they're not paying me yet

There are a few different ways you can do these. 

Boomerang in Gmail

One way (which is totally free) is to use Boomerang in Gmail. Boomerang is a free app you can install in your Gmail account that allows you to schedule emails. 

If I plan on using the same message on repeat I create templates to further automate this system. Gmail calls templates “Canned Responses”.

Online Scheduling Service

The second way to schedule follow-up emails is a little bit more techie. There are multiple scheduling / calendaring programs out there that will automatically send email reminders to people about your meetings. 

We use Simply Schedule Appointments, which is a Wordpress calendaring plugin for our website.  You can also use Calendly or another online appointment scheduling service to set this up.

These services save a ton of time because you’re not hassling with 6 emails to set an appointment and you only have to create the reminder emails once. Here’s how it works: 

  1. You set up the emails in the scheduling service. You can personalize the emails with the person’s name, appointment time, and date, or any other details they input into the scheduling system. 
  2. People sign up for an appointment online. 
  3. The service sends a pre-written email or series of emails to whoever makes an appointment. 

Google Calendar Notifications

The third way you can send follow up emails is extremely simple if you use Google Calendar.

  1. Invite the person to your event.  
  2. Add a really comprehensive description in the calendar event. 
  3. Set up the calendar event to send email notifications.  You can schedule multiple email notifications - one for a day before, one for an hour before, whatever you need. 
  4. Your Google Calendar will automatically send the emails for you. 

Now we've had mixed results with this. Some of our clients don't use Google Calendar, so they're not as familiar with the system. But if they do, then it works pretty good.

3. RSS Feed

The third way you can automate your emails is by using an RSS feed. If you've hung out with me before, you've probably heard me talk about this magical experience. 

If you have a blog or you're adding things to your website on a regular basis, you have an RSS feed on your site. RSS stands for Real Simple Syndication - It's just simple markup of what's in your blog that can be sucked into any other place, processed, then spit back out. Which means it can be sucked into an email marketing system like MailChimp automatically. So every time you update your blog the email marketing software sends an email to people about it. 

Fancy, huh? 🧐

Friends, this is a GAME CHANGER in your marketing. When I figured out I could do this, I did such a massive happy dance because we publish one to two blog posts a week. 

And we were manually creating all of these emails. Eww, it was so time consuming.

Like I said before, it's like 30 minutes to an hour per email to make 'em. We used to have an intern and all she did was make emails. Whenever we figured this out, I had to find a new job for her! It was amazing.

A Word of Caution

You can try to send the emails right from your website using a plugin like MailPoet. The challenge is if you have a really big email list, you probably shouldn't be emailing them through your website directly, because it bogs down your server. Also, your server hasn't gone through all the Olympics of getting registered to send emails to lots and lots of people. 

So if your website server starts sending emails to lots and lots of people, then your internet service provider will likely think it’s spamming people and black list your domain. Then, none of your emails are going to go through (not even the basic transactional ones). They just go out into lala land and they never come back. 

It is a real bad deal. 

So unless your email list is small, I would not suggest doing it through your website. 

Benefits of RSS

Adding things to your website improves your chances of showing up in Google searches.

There are many benefits to doing RSS. The first benefit is that you should be updating your website anyway, and RSS makes it easy to push that information out to your email list. 

You should always be updating and adding information to your website. When you add information to your website, it puts more information out there for people to find you on Google. It creates more doors - more points of entry - for people to come into your website and learn about your company. So if you are adding the content for your newsletter to your website, then it makes you more likely to be found in Google, which is awesome. 

Yes you can just link to a PDF of your newsletter from your website.But it is not as good as having the information physically on the website.

You have RSS feeds for each category of content on your website. 

Let's say you have a category for job postings and another for company news. You could send two different newsletters that automatically generate with information from their respective categories.  One would automatically send when you post a new job to your website, and one would send when you add a new company news article to your website. 

You can even format these emails to display a job posting as the main part of the email and then company news underneath. Which is  pretty great if you’re trying to hire people, because They would be interested in company news, if they're interested in a job with your company, right? You could show off your company culture and promote the awesome business you are.  

You have sending options.

You choose the feed you want to trigger your email, choose when and how often you want your emails to send.  These emails could send every day, once a week, once a month, or a specific day at a specific time. BUT they’ll ONLY send when you add informatoin to your site.  No new information on the site = no email.

So if you’re using MailChimp it checks your website at the proper intervals , and says, Is there anything new here? And if the answer is yes, then the email sends. And it's formatted the way you styled it. 

How it looks when you feed Mailchimp

This is awesome. Like, it's so awesome, because it makes your life so much easier. We set this up for our clients all the time, and it's not a super hard thing to set up. And did I mention it just makes your life so much easier? 

Side note: It's the same thing with events. If you're adding events to your website, they can send out using this RSS method. 

RSS Tools

What's cool about MailChimp and a few other service provides is they truly do automatically generate the email. There are other systems like Constant Contact and Emma that will allow you to build an email and then pull content through RSS. But you have to physically go in, start the email, and then pull the information out from your website by clicking a button to include your RSS feed in it each time. It doesn't automatically generate itself like MailChimp does. 

So I know earlier I totally dissed on MailChimp. Sometimes it does make me angry because it's not necessarily a good sales funnel tool. But this RSS feed thing, I'm gonna use it forever because it is awesome. 

4. Email Workflows 

The last way we can automate these emails is to create workflows. So I call it workflows, because that's what MailChimp calls it. But workflows are when you pre-create emails and you schedule them to send out at specific times.

You can make this super convoluted. 

You can set it up so if somebody opened email A, send them email C, or if somebody clicked on email A, send them email B.  If they didn’t open email A send them email D. You can confuse it up pretty fast.

Or you can keep it really stupid simple and say once a week, send the people on list A emails A, B, C and D in order at a sepecific time.

Workflows work extremely well to nurture prospects, onboard clients or employees. 

For example, if you're having a problem with your employees clocking in every day, you can automatically send emails that remind them to clock in. 

You can also use workflows as a sales tool to email answers to questions and common objections prospects usually have when considering doing business with your company. 

Sometimes you don't always have new stuff to say, but you still have great content from the past. You can use those previously sent emails to start a welcome campaign to deepen relationships with new people you haven't had contact with before.

People who’ve been using email marketing for a while can compile a workflow of popular emails to send to new list signups. You can take that exact emails and put them in a workflow - You don't even have to recreate them!

That is especially valuable if you're in the busy season and you're not creating new content, because stuff is busy - You are building things. You are not hanging out in front of your computer writing emails. So you can set up your workflow now to welcome people and start building trust while you’re busy doing other things.

Marketers and businesses often think, “We have to make new stuff all the time!” But consider this, when new subscribers or new clients come into your list, they don't know about all the good stuff you’ve already published that can help them solve their problems! They only know you from right now moving forward. 

So, if you have really good content that people liked and appreciated from past campaigns, or if you have questions that people ask over and over again, put them into a workflow and start educating people! Because if they sign up for your email list, as I said earlier, they expect to get emails. And you can send them emails that you know they're gonna love right away. 

CASE STUDY: Free Email Template Offering Follow Up Emails

At the end of the year, I offered a download for free email templates. I had released a number of podcasts leading up to it and sent out emails about every single one of those podcasts. The open rate on some of those emails were amazing. People were opening them at 35% or more, in my industry the average is 17.38%. We usually fluctuate between 16-25%

So those people were showing me, “Hey, this information is valuable to me.” I took those same emails, and I put them in a workflow to send to people after they downloaded the email templates from my website.

The emails in the workflow had between a 40 and 50% open rate. That's crazy. That means that 50% of the people that I sent this information to opened my email, and then the click through rate was like 20%. Industry average click through rate is only 2.04%.  Yeah 18% above average. It was nuts, totally nuts. 

You are only bothering people with your emails if you’re sending them crap.

If what you're doing in your emails is helping people solve their problems, you are doing them a disservice by not sending them these emails, because they need what you have. You can solve their problems for them. They just don't know it. 

Earlier this week, I was planning out a launch for a workshop that we're doing and I was just overwhelmed with all of the links to all the different files and documents to put the workshop together. There was everything from blog posts and podcasts to workbooks, slide decks, all the graphic files, all the emails that we're sending, the calendar, the tracking on our website…

...you're probably already overwhelmed with all those things that I just listed off. And I literally had links to all these things in a Word document with I can’t tell you how many pages of details.

Then I got an email that solved the problem.  From a company that doesn’t know me - I don't even know how they got my email address, quite frankly. But they sent me an email and they were like, “Hey, you should try this dashboarding system, it’ll help keep you organized.”

So I tried it. It wasn't even a fancy email, just “Hey, you should try this. It'll help to be organized.” I go out, download it...Totally awesome. Love this thing. It's free. If you need a dashboarding system to keep your marketing organized, you could try it. It's called Milanote

Anyway, I'm not a salesperson for them (I still have the free plan for heaven's sakes). But that person, if they would not have sent me that sales email, I would not feel nearly as in control of this workshop launch that we're doing as I do right now. They solved the problem for me, and I don't even know them. And I didn't ask them to send me that email. This kind of stuff happens all the time. 

That's going beyond the show

We have to find ways like these to connect with people and get in touch with them outside of the trade show, right? And I know that one way you can do it (that you may not be super focused on right now), is email

We can use email to meet new people. We can use it to facilitate processes and onboard people. We can use it to deepen relationships...we can use it to do a lot of valuable things. We can use it to build trust, because pretty much everyone uses email. And even if they don't open your email, they saw the name of your company. And that counts as one more touch. 

So automate your emails, friends, and use them to connect with people outside the show.

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