Complete Guide to Email Marketing Automation

What is Email Marketing Automation?

You’ve heard of email marketing, sure. It’s a classic staple in every digital marketing strategy. But what does effective, targeted email marketing look like? What has changed in the world of email marketing? And how much value does it really bring to the table?

In a nutshell, email marketing can be defined as any email communication sent to a prospective customer with the intent of converting them to a sale. But as a marketer, it’s better for you to think of email marketing as a personalized stream of communication that builds a trusting relationship between you, your brand, and your contact.

Email marketing is one of many channels in a typical digital marketing strategy. Others include SEO, content marketing, social media, PPC (pay-per-click) and influencer marketing, to name a few. But email marketing continues to bring in the value. In fact, email has an average ROI of $44 for each $1 spent according to OptinMonster.

But remember, not all emails are created equal. To yield these great results, you need to craft emails that are effective. To do that, it’s crucial to understand what email marketing is not.

What Email Marketing Automation Is NOT

A successful email marketing strategy will incorporate a clear method, personalization and reasonable frequency. But all too often, marketers execute invasive, ineffective eblast marketing. Here are some things an effective email marketing strategy will avoid:


These days, blasting your house list with one-size-fits-all messaging just doesn’t cut it. Think about it –– everyone in your email database has individual interests and attributes, so of course they won’t necessarily open the same emails. Segment your lists to ensure your message is on target. To maximize your effort, have a specific aim in mind before sending out marketing emails.

List Purchasing

No matter how tempting it might be, do NOT purchase email lists. Not only is a purchased list a pretty ineffective email marketing technique, oftentimes ESPs on a shared IP address won’t even allow you to purchase lists. Why? Because one customer’s bad email address can seriously hurt the deliverability of all the other customers on the same IP address. Not to mention, most lists available for purchase are not high in quality in the first place.

Flying Blind

If you’re not consistently tracking the open rates, click-through rates and conversion rates of your email marketing campaigns, then you may as well have never sent an email in the first place. How will you know how effective your email marketing plan is unless you’re actively measuring its performance? Most email marketing packages and platforms include reporting capabilities so you can double down on what works and axe what doesn’t.

The Evolution of Email Marketing

These days it’s hard to imagine life without email, but email marketing has a storied history which continues to evolve.


First email send in history. Ray Tomlinson sent the first email ever. What did the message in this historic leap in communication say? Tomlinson says it was, “something like QWERTYUIOP.”


First mass email blast sent. Gary Thuerk, the marketing manager at Digital Equipment Corp, sent a mass email blast promoting DEC machines to 400 users via Arpanet. The promotion email worked, as it resulted in $13 million worth of sales.


Hotmail launched the first free web-based email service. Hotmail was founded by Sabeer Bhatia and Jack Smith. The name “Hotmail” was included the letters HTML (HoTMaiL). Naturally, marketers were quick to take advantage of this and email marketing started taking off.


CAN-SPAM Act Signed Into Law in the United States. By the early 2000s, spam was becoming a huge problem for everyone. In 2003, President George W. Bush signed the CAN-SPAM into law, as part of a nationwide effort to fight the flood of unsolicited emails. Marketers knew they needed to adjust their email strategy if they were going to reach their audience.


The Email Marketing Renaissance. Permission-based marketing, also known as inbound marketing, has shifted the way marketers and consumers relate to one another. Email plays an important role in the inbound buyer’s journey. By keeping in touch with interested prospects via email, you can help build a relationship and pull leads closer to a conversion.

Email Marketing Best Practices

What Is Email Marketing?

A good campaign will blend compliance with email marketing best practices — so get permission. If you want to execute a successful email marketing campaign, the first thing you’ll need to do is get “permission” from your recipients. Permission marketing (also known as inbound marketing) is “the privilege, not the right” of delivering personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them. This means you’ll want to email prospects who have opted in or otherwise indicated their interest in learning more about your company. These potential clients could be website visitors who fill out a form to download content, request to hear from a salesperson or subscribe to your blog or newsletter.

Personalize. Sending an impersonal or irrelevant email will earn you a first-class ticket to the spam folder. When an email is not personalized, 52% of customers say they’ll find somewhere else to go. How can marketers prevent this?

With email marketing automation, you can track your contact’s website and email behaviors. Is there a particular product or service page on your website that they keeps visiting? Send them an email suggesting that product or service. Have they downloaded certain content pieces? Send them a similar piece. Stay relevant, and you’ll earn your contact’s trust.

Good Marketing Automation vs. Bad Marketing Automation

Segment your lists.

One easy way to create personalized, targeted, messaging is by segmenting your lists. You can segment your contacts by a variety of criteria, such as demographics, location, job title and more. You could also segment by buyer persona to make your messaging even more targeted. For example, Cindy CEO may require different messaging than Andy Account Manager or Mary Marketing Manager.

Pay attention to deliverability. The world of email deliverability is changing, and while this strategy may seem strange for marketers, it’s very important to only interact with engaged leads.

Keep your messages short and to the point. The number of consumers using mobile devices is growing, and more than half of email opens now occur in a mobile device. Your best way of communicating is through concise messages that are conversational and relevant.

Why? Your domain reputation is very important. ISPs are growing increasingly sophisticated in their battle against spam and unwanted email. In addition to tracking engagement, ISPs are now tracking your sending domain.

But there are major positives in this new era of deliverability through email marketing automation. For example, since SharpSpring introduced email engagement tools, customers have seen higher overall opens and clicks. Also, suppressing email sends to disinterested recipients has already increased customers’ reputations with ISPs as well.

The Future of Email Marketing Automation

Major email vendors are getting stricter and deliverability is now more of an issue for marketers. For continued success, marketers are advised to turn away from sending volumes of emails to prospects. If marketers want to avoid their emails ending up in the spam folder, the focus should be on the quality of the content. In short, the best email marketing strategy will use the “less is more” approach in the future.

In addition, the content you send must be relevant to the audience you’re targeting. Implementing the best email marketing practices detailed in this guide will be more crucial than ever before.

Loyalty programs will also play a greater part in email marketing automation. These programs will allow marketers to take a closer look at their customer data. That info will enable marketers to develop a better understanding of their customer’s wants and needs and how they respond to certain campaigns.

The tracking of this consumer behavior will also let marketers time their emails better. This offers their prospects a chance to respond. In turn, it enables marketers to gauge which content and headlines garner the most interest. Once armed with this information, savvy marketers can use it to cultivate stronger, more relevant and more targeted campaigns.

Image-Rich Email

To capture the interest of the mobile user, image-rich emails will play a greater role in email marketing. Marketers can use imaging to create behind-the-scenes shots, sneak peeks of new product launches and story-based images to capture your prospect’s attention. The images need to be striking enough to be shared, as social media is likely to continue to dominate many consumer’s lives.

Email Marketing Automation and the Rise of Machines

According to the email marketing report 2020 published by Litmus, predictive analytics and advanced data analytics will grow in popularity to the extent that the content will be written by machines. 66.1% of those polled in the Litmus survey said they think predictive software, AI and machine learning will play a major role in the production of email content.

It’s also predicted that data will be a major part of email marketing best practices in the years to come. The use of improved data analytics will allow marketers to better target their campaigns based on consumers’ past purchases and customer-service interactions.

The personalized shopping experience will become more common as marketing becomes better tailored to the habits and preferences of the individual buyer.

Email and Artificial Intelligence

The potential for AI is huge. Accenture predicts that AI will account for a 38% rise in profitability by 2035, and 61% of marketers say that AI is now the most important part of their data strategy, according to MemSQL.

Expect AI to play a much larger part in email marketing. In addition to its benefits for email marketing automation, AI will allow greater personalization, sharper subject lines and stronger content optimization and content automation resulting in quicker, more effective marketing campaigns.

But AI’s continuation of email marketing automation is likely to be one of the biggest changes in the future. First, marketers will benefit from the automation of bench marketing and recommendations. According to analysts, reporting and segmentation will be automated as well.

Considerations when Choosing Email Marketing Vendors

Questions you need to ask before investing in an email marketing automation platform:

Can it improve email deliverability?

Does it include time saving templates and analytics?

Does it have opt in/opt out options?

Is it compliant with the latest/worldwide regulations?

Is it mobile-compatible?

Book your demo of SharpSpring today.