The 5 Must-Have Emails for Marketing Automation

Marketing automation is all about strategy, and knowing the basic foundations of email strategy for marketing automation is critical. Email marketing when utilizing a marketing automation tool is very different than simply emailing using an email service provider. The difference lies in how you will be sending the emails and the highly tactical nature of the emails being sent.

With marketing automation, relevance is the key — and it is provided to the buyer through timely emails sent on hyper-targeted topics. When you break down all of types of emails that you are likely to send from your marketing automation tool, there are really five categories that you will need to master. These types of emails can be combined to form nurturing programs, basic email marketing programs, and net new lead identification programs. Understanding how these emails are created and executed will lead you to success in the future with your marketing automation platform.

1. Autoresponders:

Marketing automation platforms give you the ability to capture lead information via forms and landing pages. The modern best practice is to email content to someone after they have filled out a form. This helps ensure you are given correct email information on the forms. When the form is completed, there is an autoresponder email that then needs to be sent to the person. Autoresponders are a very specific type of email and serve a very specific purpose.

Purpose: The purpose of these emails is to reinforce the brand to the person, and to deliver the content they have requested ensuring you have the correct email address.

Goal: To have the person click through the email to download the asset. You will not be sending a .pdf but rather a URL in the email that links to the asset. This will allow you to leverage the marketing automation tool to track the person’s engagement with the content.

Execution: The autoresponder email has a wide range of execution options, but it is best to stick to your corporate brand in this case. Brand does not mean “branding” but rather corporate culture. This will be different for each company. A financial services company that is sending a prospectus on an upcoming asset sale may want to have a very professional-looking email created in HTML. This will help to maintain credibility among the firm and the asset being sold. This may be entirely different for a software company that has a very progressive culture. In the software company’s case, it may be more beneficial to have the email be in RICH text with no formal HTML.

In the case of an autoresponder email, you are likely to have an extremely high engagement rate because the email is warranted, and the content is being requested by the recipient. You are not likely to see a big difference in engagement from either type, but this is great food for thought when thinking about your email programs, and will be even more impactful in the following email examples.

Subject Lines: The subject line should reference the recent action, and make it clear it is the asset they have requested. It should avoid company branding because it is likely that the person is requesting information on a topic, not on the brand. You should keep the focus on helping — not selling — at this point.

Sender: It is once again up to your brand on this one. You have two options. You can have it come from “marketing” or any other corporate title, or you can have it come from a person. This will really depend on your market and the goal of your overarching marketing strategy. If you are trying to build credibility in a strict marketplace, you may find the company to be a better tact; if you are trying to build a personal relationship, on the other hand, then a person would be a better option.

Bonus: If the content they are requesting is supporting the sales cycle, and it is tied to a stage in your buyer’s cycle, consider including two offers in your autoresponder. Offer number one is for the asset they requested; asset number two is for the next stage in the buyer’s journey. This will help you move prospects more quickly through the sales cycle. You can learn more about this technique in this article on ClickZ.

2. Sales Nurturing Emails:

Marketing automation allows you to help your sales team out by creating nurturing programs that can help them scale their follow-up efforts. For example, creating a specific nurturing program that sales can add prospects to will help them stay in front of people over a very long sales cycle. These emails need to be very specific and targeted to their goal.

Purpose: To help sales scale their efforts, and to let sales know when to reach out.

Goal: To have the prospect click on a link in the email.

Execution: Sales nurturing emails are a very specific email that do not follow the normal rules of email marketing. Why? Because they are mimicking a sales person’s normal email sending from Outlook, which means that they will not be in traditional HTML, but rather in RICH text with a signature from the sales person. They should be written in the sales person’s vernacular, and do not need to be long at all. I suggest three sentences max. Usually, these emails link to an article or piece of content in the first one to two sentences. I’d suggest following the 3:1 rule of thumb: for every one piece of content about your company, you should have three that are not. Gary Vaynerchuk teaches this in a social media format in his book Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook.

Subject Lines: Your subject lines need to be very innocuous. So consider the following examples:

  • Haven’t spoken in a while
  • Thought you’d enjoy this
  • Following up on our last conversation

Sender: In this case, it should come from the sales person’s email address. Marketing automation will allow you to have email dynamically sent from the assigned sales person. Each email will be logged within the prospect record in the CRM, so the sales people will be notified of all of these emails as well.

Bonus: When a prospect engages with a sales nurturing email, your marketing automation tool will instantly notify the sales person. This helps to build a massive rapport between marketing and sales. We routinely get sales forwarding us emails that were sent using this tactic, where the prospect replied back directly to the sales person asking for a demo of our solution. Nothing makes sales happier than getting a demo with no effort!

3. Sharing Content Emails:

Sharing emails are used by marketing to help stay in front of their leads before they are sales-ready. These are most commonly used in nurturing programs, and are similar in format to the sales nurturing emails. However, there are key differences that you need to be aware of.

Purpose: To drive brand engagement.

Goal: To have the prospect click on a link in the email.

Execution: These emails will we very short in nature. Again, I suggest only three sentences max. This is different from the style of emails you may be familiar with, yet when I’ve taught this technique to companies, they have seen increases of up to 300 percent in open rates, engagement, and revenue from email marketing. These emails should also use RICH text instead of full HTML. This allows you to diffuse the prospect’s instant (often negative) reaction to marketing emails. By switching these emails to RICH text, your emails appear to be sent by a person, rather than a marketing department.

Subject Lines: A person can disqualify your email faster than may know, when sharing content remember you are not selling, but educating so make sure your subject lines follow your goal. You are optimizing for the link click, so make sure you can opened first. Try some of these subject lines.

  • Found this article very helpful
  • Did you get a chance to read this yet?
  • Thought you would enjoy this

Sender: The sender can either be the company or a person, but these emails seem to perform better when the emails are coming from a person at the company. Shy away from “Marketing@company.com” and use a real person’s name. You can use reply rules in marketing automation systems to better manage the replies back to your company.

Bonus: Remember, it’s about being helpful in this content. You are using this content in a nurturing campaign, so make sure you know what the goal of your campaign is, and then tactically execute the email. Consider content from third-party sources and not just your own content. Also try to use evergreen content as much as possible because this will make it easier to manage your nurturing programs moving forward. If you are having a hard time figuring out how to create content, you can check out these 13 easy steps to content marketing success.

4. Invitational Emails:

Invitational emails are used to invite people to webinars, events, and other special campaigns. These emails are currently the number one driver of attendance to almost any B2B event. In a recent webinar we put on at Pardot, more than 70 percent of our attendance was driven via email marketing. There are some very advanced techniques you can combine for effective invitational nurturing emails, but here are some basics to keep in mind:

Purpose: To drive attendance to an event.

Goal: To have the prospect register for the event.

Execution: HTML is a good place to start. Having a well-designed and laid out email is a good use of HTML in email marketing. These emails follow traditional email marketing rules much more closely because they are generally sent out in a batch format rather than using a 1:1 method. The response to your email is going to depend heavily on the list you are sending it to, and secondly on the event you are inviting them to. Make sure your list is hyper-targeted, and give people the option to sign up for the event or just check a box to receive a recording. In a recent study I did of 400 B2B marketers, only 16 percent of them preferred to watch a webinar live.

Subject lines: Call attention to the fact it is an event, and be sure to convey the big draw for the event. I’d shy away from offering gifts for attending or registering and put more focus on the topic and the speaker. Your open rates will help you see if your subject line is correct or not.

Sender: You can either send these from the corporate email or from a personal email. I’d suggest looking at what your current relationship is to determine which to use. Typically we see that our event emails have a higher engagement rate when sent from a person, but it is up to your company’s overarching brand. You can also do both. Have the first email come from the brand, then the follow up to come from a person.

Bonus: Remember, you are only likely to get 30 percent of the registrants to show up for your event. By tracking all of those who opened the email and registered but did not attend, you can easily send out the slides for further engagement knowing they had initial interest.

5. Identifier Emails:

Many times we have to move people through the sales cycle, yet do not know which stage they are in. This is true for leads that we receive at trade shows, from webinar registrations, and from other lead sources. This is the perfect time for the “Identifier” emails. Lizzy Braswell, senior marketing specialist at Silverpop, an IBM company, says, “The most successful emails for those new prospects entering our marketing funnel are the emails in which we offer a variety of content across the marketing stages to best identify where they are in a buying cycle.”

Purpose: To determine their stage in the buyers’ journey.

Goal: To have the prospect self select into a stage of the buyers’ journey by taking direct action via a link click.

Execution: Keep in mind that people are only going to engage with offers that are relevant to them. By offering different messages targeted at each stage and seeing which message they interact with, you can easily identify which stage of the buying cycle your prospect is in. You can either do this by trying out hyper-targeted subject lines, or by having multiple offers in the email. Keep the emails very short in nature, with the main goal not to tell what the asset is, but to drive engagement with the asset. Having your URL in the first sentence of the email, and limiting your text in the body of the email is the best way to do this.

Subject lines: If you are using your subject lines to be the identifier of the stage you can follow the basic rule of three.

Stage 1: No mention of your brand, or your keywords

  • New research from LinkedIn
  • Did you read this yet?

Stage 2: It’s OK to use your brand OR your keywords

  • Case study on increasing sales by (your keyword)
  • How (client) gained 300 percent ROI by using (your brand)

Stage 3: It’s OK to use both

  • (your company) is the best at (your key words)
  • Forrester ranks (your brand) at the top of (your keywords)

Sender: These emails work best when coming from a person due to the nature of the subject lines.

Bonus: Consider using the Choose Your Own adventure technique for calls to action in the email body. Offer number one is for the asset targeted to the stage of the subject line, and CTA number two is for the next stage in the buyer’s journey. This will help you move prospects more quickly through your buyer’s journey. You can learn more about this technique in this article on CickZ.

If you can understand these five basic email types, you can combine them in your marketing automation programs to see maximum success in your next campaign. Remember that marketing automation emails are very different than traditional marketing emails and require a new way of looking at them. Please feel free to share any other email types you’ve found successful in the comments below!

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