How to automate your email marketing

Put it on autopilot

Social media sites come and go, but there is one form of communication that never goes out of style — good old-fashioned email. When it comes to closing the sale and putting more money in your pocket, it’s a marketing channel that’s hard to beat.

Getting the most out of email marketing for small businesses can be tricky, however. You’ll need to employ strategic use of technology to get the most bang for your buck when time and budgets are limited.

Fortunately, it’s never been easier to automate key parts of your email marketing strategy and make sure you’re sending the right message to the right people at just the right time. With that said, let’s get cracking with our guide to putting your email marketing on autopilot!

Step 1: Understand your audience

Let’s begin with the basics. Before you start worrying about fancy, high-tech email solutions, it’s crucial that you have a crystal-clear understanding of the audience whose attention you’ll be trying to snag.

Start by sifting through the email addresses you already have and thinking about obvious categories of people who are lurking within. You’re looking for distinctions such as prospects versus existing clients and repeat customers versus one-time purchasers — anything where you can identify a discrete group of people you already have permission to talk to.

From there, do some brainstorming about the typical customer life cycles of your audience. You’re trying to get a fix on different stages where you can usefully get in touch with people to maximum effect.

The point of both these exercises is to get a solid idea of who you’ll be marketing to — and the different times where it’s potentially worth reaching out to them — before you pull the trigger on using any software to do so.

Speaking of software, let’s move on to some practical small business solutions you can explore.

Step 2: Pick a software solution to automate your email marketing

We’re currently living in something of a golden age for email marketing tools. Sophisticated options that would once have cost thousands per month are now widely available for a couple of dollars a day or less.

MailChimp, Constant Contact, and AWeber are all established solutions that offer powerful tools for managing newsletter lists and email automation. You’ll find a range of great starter packages (usually broken out by email volume) for under $50 per month with each provider. GoDaddy Email Marketing is a relative newcomer that’s a great choice for existing GoDaddy customers who want the convenience of having all their online presence and marketing tools in one place.

Drip— a more recent entry to the field —is also well worth a look. A basic package of $49 per month grants you access to a powerful range of email marketing automation options which you can easily customize to suit your needs. As Drip’s to-the-point tagline states:

Drip Tagline for Email Automation

No matter which solution you go for, the important thing is to ease into automation gently, rather than getting overwhelmed by options before you begin. With that in mind, let’s look at some solid starting points for putting your software to work and getting you up and running.

Step 3: Welcome new subscribers properly

Once you’ve chosen a software solution, start by picking off some low-hanging automation fruit with your existing newsletter.

For example, rather than simply offering subscribers a bland, one-time confirmation message when they sign up, take the time to craft an engaging welcome email along with a short queued series of automated emails to set the tone for what’s to come.

There’s no need to be too salesy here. Simply tee up your newsletter’s main topics, call out to some great content you’ve published in the past, and sprinkle in special offers as a reward for subscribing towards the end of the sequence.

HelpScout Welcome Series to Automate Your Email Marketing

For a wonderful example of this technique in action, look no further than Help Scout’s smoothly executed Welcome Series. Signing up to high-quality email lists is a great way to gain inspiration for your own marketing strategy.

Step 4: Offer enticing autoresponders

Once you’ve got a bit of practice dealing with new subscribers to your list in an automated fashion, move on to creating an irresistible standalone autoresponder offer. Remember that audience research you did earlier? This is where you can start putting it to use.

Pick a burning pain point that a key section of your target audience is facing and create a multi-part series of emails that tackles the problem in depth and pitches a killer solution

The Mimic MethodLooking for some inspiration?

Check out Idahosa Ness’s free pronunciation training course over at The Mimic Method for an example of this technique in action, or check out Quick Sprout’s detailed step-by-step guide to creating the perfect autoresponder for practical tips.


After you’ve cut your teeth on a couple of autoresponder campaigns, the sky’s the limit. You’re then free to start exploring more sophisticated options such as post-purchase email sequences, personalized promotions, and much more besides.

Be sure to walk before you run, though. Stick to our four starting steps for success to get the ball rolling:

  1. Carry out existing audience research to hit the ground running.
  2. Invest in affordable, hosted automation software such as Drip, Constant Contact, or GoDaddy Email Marketing.
  3. Up your existing newsletter game with a carefully crafted series of welcome emails.
  4. Start experimenting and driving new business with autoresponder offerings.

We’d love to hear what you’re doing to automate your email marketing. Got any tips or tricks to share, or suggestions for tools and tactics we might have missed? Get in touch via the comments section below and let us know!

Image by: Switzer-Land Studios via Compfight cc

Tom Ewer
Tom Ewer is a freelance writer, online entrepreneur, and the founder of Leaving Work Behind and WordCandy. He has been obsessed with WordPress since he first laid eyes on it, and has been writing educational and informative content for WordPress users since 2011. When he's not running his businesses, you're likely to find him outdoors somewhere – as far away from a screen as possible!