I am of the first generation to really have grown up with cell phones. Actually, I’m probably just older than that generation but play along for the sake of my point (and feelings).

I’m very familiar with using my smartphone and am often guilty of it being seemingly attached to my hands.

Due to advancing technology and ease-of-use, my grandmother now has a smartphone too. However, she convinced herself she doesn’t know how to use it and doesn’t want to learn.

Last time I was in town, I spent time with her to show her how easy it was. Seeing it for herself, she finally admitted she was fully capable of using her smartphone. She’d built up fears in her head that kept her from using her phone, but getting to see it in action, felt confident enough to use her phone.

For years, I would attend expos or events and would talk to business owners who felt similarly about email marketing and social media. As time has gone on, that fear has subsided. In its place is email marketing automation. The technology has gotten to a point where any marketer can successfully execute automated campaigns. However, we need to break down the mental barriers keeping marketers from trying. Below, I’m sharing what not to do, so that the only thing left to do is to setup automated journeys for your subscribers.

Here are four mistakes to avoid in email marketing automation:

Mistake #1: Not Doing Email Marketing Automation

Why avoid something that can save you time, increase your efficiency and make you a more impactful marketer? Automation also frees up time for your other important tasks. In fact, a practical marketer should be doing as much as possible with automation.

Perhaps the reason you’ve avoided automation to this point is that you’re not sure where to begin. Well, start simple. Many marketers have set up a Welcome Email to send upon subscription. It doesn’t hurt to start off with a concept with which you’re already familiar. Rather than that onboarding process being a one-off email, try and make it a three email journey that brings a subscriber in and introduces them to your brand.

  1. Say you’ve custom-designed funny t-shirts for a local sports team and you’re trying to convert a new website visitor into a customer. Use a signup form that offers a small discount for subscribing to your list.
  2. In your first Welcome Email, be sure to provide the promo code for the discount you promised on the signup form. The CTA should be to purchase a t-shirt using the promo code.
  3. Three days after they subscribe, you can follow up with an email campaign that has customer testimonials. They can boast how comfortable the t-shirts are or how many compliments someone got when wearing the shirt to the team’s recent game. Once again, the CTA should be to purchase a t-shirt and a reminder of the promo code.
  4. For your third email, seven days after they subscribe you can share a few of your most popular t-shirts or even the most recent designs. A site visitor may have liked the look of your homepage and figured they’d be interested in a t-shirt at some point but hasn’t had the chance to browse your site. Seeing the shirts in their inbox may just be the thing that pushes them to convert. Don’t forget, add a CTA to purchase a t-shirt with a reminder of the promo code.

Benchmark provides a template within Automation Pro to execute this strategy. Check it out:

You’re not the only one just getting your start in automation. According to the 2016 Marketing Maturity Benchmark Report from LeadMD, only 21% said they had a marketing automation maturity level of above average or higher.

Mistake #2: Not Setting a Goal

Knowing the reason for each automated journey is imperative. The reason automation is so successful is that each automated touch point should be one step closer to a conversion. Understanding what that conversion is whether it’s to subscribe, purchase, download a case study, etc., is the first step in succeeding with automation. You work your way backward from there.

It’s important to see things from the perspective of your subscribers and customers. While your goal is likely going to be to sell more, they’re looking to solve a problem. It’s your job to meet them on their level and explain all the ways that your goods or services can help to do that.

Let’s look back at the previous example. If they’re visiting your website, they likely want to support their local sports team or they want a gift for someone else who does. Offering a discount incentivizes the visitor to subscribe because they’re seeing the value in doing so right off the bat.

If they haven’t purchased a t-shirt by the time your second email sends, seeing the testimonials can help reduce any anxiety they may have in purchasing a t-shirt from you. Let your customers boast about how soft the cotton is or how many compliments they have received on the t-shirt’s custom design.

A week in, it’s possible the new subscriber got distracted or forgot to browse the selection on your website. It happens. We live in an A.D.D. culture. So, when your third email in the journey is automatically sent, you’re doing the work for that new subscriber by sharing some of your more popular items.

Mistake #3: Not Segmenting or Moving Lists

I recently re-told my automation and list segmenting horror story and shared some strategies. Here, I’ll focus on this mistake and how to overcome. Failure to segment your lists will result in non-relevant, non-targeted email campaigns, automated or not.

The first solution to this mistake is to begin your list segmentation from signup. This could either be via the data that you collect or by allowing the new subscriber to determine which list he or she would like to join such as daily, weekly or monthly newsletters, which a checkbox for each they want to receive.

The next solution is to use the subscriber’s engagement to segment your email campaigns or website. If a subscriber is consistently clicking on one type of products or services, you can segment them into a list that will continue to provide info on those items of interest. To keep with our ongoing example, this could be whether a subscriber has been interested in men’s or women’s t-shirts or you can even segment by which team(s) they are interested in.

Another solution is to create a journey that will check to see if a subscriber has converted or not. That way, you can move a lead to a customer list once they have. A purchase confirmation strategy template is available to you in Automation Pro.

Mistake #4: Sending Too Often Or Not Enough

Like with any email marketing, the frequency with which you send your emails is important. Keeping with our t-shirt company example, the journey detailed above does a good job of striking while the iron is hot, in terms of serving the new subscriber’s interest, but it doesn’t send so often that you risk annoying the new subscriber or coming off as desperate. On the other end of the spectrum, you send so infrequently that the contact forgets who you are or why he or she subscribed in the first place.

Test with your one-off email campaigns and get a feel for what frequency works with your audience. Once you’ve got that knowledge, it will be easier to make an educated decision when it comes to building your customer journeys and understanding the wait times you place between your email campaigns in the sequence.

DMA Research Report - Send Frequency Chart

DMA research report 2016 as seen on Smart Insights.

If learning the important mistakes with email marketing automation hasn’t been enough to assuage your concerns and help you overcome the fear hurdle standing in your way, our friend Jordie van Rijn has put together a long list of marketing automation statistics that should convince you to make the jump to automate your customer journeys.

What fears keep you from using automation?