Below you’ll find an unedited version of a chapter from my new book, Email Marketing Demystified. To get your copy of Email Marketing Demystified, visit

If your company or organization sells a number of different products or has customers with multiple divergent interest areas, you might consider using marketing automation techniques so that customers only receive email content that is relevant to them. Email marketing automation is the process of sending targeted email content to a specific set of subscribers that have taken a specific action or expressed a specific interest. In other words, email marketing automation is simply sending the right email to the right person at the right time. By sending more targeted and relevant content to your subscribers based on their interests and actions, they are more likely to stay engaged with your mailing list and buy products and services from your company.

For example, if a customer signs up for a 30-day free trial of a product, they should receive a series of emails (called a campaign) that teaches them how to use that product and sells them on continuing with the product after their 30-day trial is completed. Obviously, only users that sign up for a free trial of that product should receive those emails because they would be irrelevant to anyone that’s not trying out the product. When you send email to people that is not relevant to them, they will be confused why you emailed them about something that has no relevance to them and will likely become disengaged with your content.

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There is a lot of up-front work involved with creating marketing automation campaigns. Most email service providers will do the heavy technical lifting for you, but you will need to write an entire series of emails for each campaign that you create and will have to figure out how to trigger a campaign for a specific person when they take an action. If your mailing list is in a specific niche and you generally only send out content about one or two topics, marketing automation may not be necessary. If your company doesn’t sell any products or only sells one or two products or services, email marketing automation might be overkill for what you are doing. Marketing automation can be an incredibly effective tool, but it may not be worth the effort for smaller and more focused lists.

Here are some types of email marketing automation campaigns that can be very effective:

  • Product Education Emails – Whenever a new customer buys a product or service from your company, send them a series of emails that teaches them how to use your product or service. This will increase the likelihood that they will actually use and get value from your product. By increasing the percentage of your customers that actually use your product, you are less likely to get refund requests and customers are more likely to buy a different product from you in the future,
  • Order Confirmation Emails – Whenever someone buys a product or service from your company, send them an email them thanking for their order along with their order details. You should also provide a call-to-action in this email that will try to get users to return to your website to re-engage with your content or to view related products.
  • Subscriber Re-Engagement Emails – When a subscriber hasn’t opened an email from you or visited your website in a couple of months, send them some highly-valuable content to try to get them re-engaged with your list. You can also send an email asking for feedback to see if there’s something you could add or change that might engage them more.
  • Anniversary Emails – Send subscribers a virtual anniversary card after they have been on your mailing list for either six months or one year. You can also include a time-limited coupon for your company’s products or services to encourage them to take action and become a customer.
  • Free Trial Emails – If you offer a service that has a free trial, you should send anyone currently in a trial information about the product they are using as well as sales and marketing emails to try to get them to upgrade to a paid subscription.
  • Former Customer Email – If you run a subscription or a recurring service business, consider creating a campaign that reminds former customers about the features and benefits of your service and allows them to re-register at a discounted rate. These emails work extremely well if written correctly and can prevent you from losing customers forever.
  • Cart Abandonment Emails – If a customer adds a product to their shopping cart on an e-commerce website and doesn’t purchase, send them information about the products in their shopping cart over the next several days. This can be a very effective way to save lost sales.
  • Upsell Emails – If you have a multi-tiered pricing plan, send an email to customers asking them to upgrade to the next level or service whenever they are about to reach the limitations of their current plan.

List Segmentation

Another aspect of email marketing automation is segmentation. Segmentation is simply the process of breaking up a mailing list into smaller lists, known as segments, based on interests. If you use an email service provider with marketing automation functionality, you can send an email that allows users to express interest in learning about various topics. Users will click on one or more topics they are interested and they will automatically be added to the segments or sub-lists they select. Granted, you may have to email your mailing list multiple times in order for get a good portion of your subscribers to self-select into different segments.

When segmenting your mailing list, you will be sending a larger number of emails in a given month, but each email will only be sent to a specific portion of your mailing list. This will increase the relevance of the emails that you send to any given subscriber. For example, if you had a blog about building websites, you might have some users that are interested in different content management systems, like WordPress, Drupal and Concrete5. Users that are interested in WordPress might not be interested in getting email about Drupal and Concrete5. If you have a piece of educational content about WordPress you want to send to your mailing list, you might only mail it to the segment of your audience that has expressed interest in learning about WordPress.

Segmentation works best for large mailing lists that have more than 25,000 subscribers. If you have a smaller list, it may not be worth the effort to segment your audience if there will be only a small number of people in any given segment. If your mailing list is very focused on a single topic, segmentation may not be necessary. Segmentation works well for mailing lists related to broad topics made up of smaller interest areas. You should identify between three and six interest areas to use as segments of your mailing list. If you try to create too many different segments, you may end up with very small segments that aren’t big enough to be worth mailing individually.