Create an automatic Email Marketing Campaign that actually works

Oct 17, 2012

Table of contents:

  1. Sourcing new prospects
  2. The initial bait
  3. Content strategy
  4. Link to long in-depth posts on your blog with no dates or times explicitly set
  5. Goals and analytics
  6. Conclusion

An automatic Email Marketing campaign is a passive form of lead generation that puts the power and decision making in to the hands of the consumer.

Basically, an automatic Email Marketing Campaign is where a potential lead signs up for further information about a product or service on your website. At this point the lead is cold and unlikely to purchase from you, but they have indicated an interest.

An automatic Email Marketing Campaign is a slow drip of information about your product or service that will be delivered to the potential lead over a long period of time. This ensures the potential new customer is aware of your company, how your product or service will benefit them and what is happening in your industry.

Nobody likes pushy sales people, cold callers or any situation where you feel like you are being sold to. It’s uncomfortable and the success rate is pathetic. Using an automatic Email Marketing Campaign will generate better, more qualified leads, it will be cheaper than hiring a sales force and it will provide you with a passive and continuous new stream of leads.

Of course, none of this is anything new. Automatic Email Marketing Campaigns have been around for years. I’ve also previously wrote about the value of email lists. However, the vast majority of these campaigns are terrible, they have no purpose (other than a stab in the dark) and their success rate is no better than cold calling people at random.

This post is a guide to creating an automatic Email Marketing Campaign that actually works!

Sourcing new prospects

So the first thing we need to do is to create a funnel to generate a constant input of new emails. The best way is of course through your website.

I’ve already written quite extensively into how to design and develop a website that has goals and can make conversions, so I won’t go into that again on this post.

Instead, take a look at these posts for further information:

In short, you need to create your website around the goal of making conversions. Anything else, promoting yourself, talking about your extensive company history, how great you are or how great your products are is all just vanity fluff.

By creating a funnel, you are effectively converting traffic. You can then optimise this first stage of conversion to ensure that an ever increasing percentage of your traffic is signing up for your automatic Email Marketing Campaign.

I see a lot of small business websites that have become obsessed with the “Call To Action” buzz word. Every page has a different Call To Action and so it becomes overwhelming and therefore irrelevant.

Your objective is to have one simple message, one goal and one Call To Action.

The initial bait

Part of your Call To Action has to be a reason why this person would want to give up their email address to you. Just having a signup form is not nearly enough reason, and your conversion rate will be terrible.

Our email addresses are personal and sacred. Most people already get a lot of email, but email has one of the highest forms of engagement on the Internet. When a potential customers gives you their email address, it is a sign of trust that you must not abuse. An email will get a much better response than a Tweet or a Facebook update.

Your initial bait must be something of real value to the customer. For a while now, the “Free White Paper” offer has become so ubiquitous that it has lost all relevance.

Don’t offer a free white paper or you will look like every other scummy email marketer!

I think the best offer is explicitly informing the potential lead that they are signing up for a constant stream of emails. I think this transparency from the start produces a higher conversion rate. This is yet another reason why you don’t want to offer an initial one time white paper. Once you have delivered the white paper, every other subsequent email seems like a sales pitch that was not part of the initial agreement.

A better offer would be a product or industry related information course where the user would gain some sort of knowledge or insight about something they are clearly already interested in.

For example, say you were selling productivity software. You could offer a constant stream of helpful advice for how to make yourself more productive at home and around the house.

Or perhaps you are offering legal services. You could offer a constant stream of easy to understand legal jargon and definitions to someone who might be interested in legal advice at some point in the future.

I think the most important aspects of deciding on your campaign content are:

  1. Targeted to your industry, product or service
  2. Valuable information, no sales pitch
  3. Relevant to your product or service without trying to directly sell it
  4. Believable and credible

The final point is worth talking about more in depth. The information you are providing your signups needs to be believable and credible. A lawyer breaking down legal jargon is believable because the lawyer obviously has expert knowledge in the field of Law. However, many of these kinds of offers promise new found riches, exact steps to success or other bullshit offers that are used to just catch the imagination of passing traffic. You want your campaign to be credible, to source the right kind of leads, and you need to ultimately deliver value to your audience. There is no point in promising the world, because your ultimate conversion rate will be terrible. Really, it is only the final conversion that matters. Money on the bottom line is far more important than what percentage of traffic you can get to sign up to your newsletter in the first place.

And finally, never buy an email list. Buying an email list is pointless because none of the people on the list want to get your emails. They don’t care about your company, your products or your services. It is a waste of time and money, and it is not a shortcut to easy success!

Content strategy

Content strategy basically breaks down what content you are going to deliver, over what period of time and how you are going to deliver it.

Your content strategy will either make or break your campaign. If you are looking for shortcuts or quick wins, you probably won’t find it here. However, if you are looking for long term customer relationships, qualified and informed customers, and creating a real valuable source to grow your future revenue, keep reading.

Email design

Firstly a word about email design…

Less is more.

If you are using service like MailChimp to deliver your emails, pick one of their minimalistic templates and go with it. Do not obsess over customising it or trying to get it to fit some company branded design.

Email newsletters should always be just about the content. You can’t spruce up dull or poorly written content with a flashy design. Instead of obsessing over design, obsess over the content of your emails. People won’t convert because of the design of the newsletter, they will convert because of the content.

It’s annoying when you get an email that is full of images or extra design that makes the content of the email hard to get at. This is especially the case when you read emails on your phone and over a mobile Internet connection.

Don’t treat Email design like flyer design, they are two completely different things.

Email design is also stuck firmly 10 years in the past. You can’t do as much with an Email template as you can with a website, so don’t treat them as the same thing.

I think the most powerful form of email marketing is where it looks and feels just like a regular email. Of course, it is not, and you should never try hide unsubscribe links, but a personally addressed email that looks and feels like a regular email is, in my opinion, much better than an over-the-top bloated email design.

Planning your content

Like with any good Content Strategy, planning your content is crucial to delivering a good product.

Your content strategy will really depend on a number of factors, there isn’t a one size fits all methodology. These factors include:

  • Your unique product / service / industry
  • The dynamics of the relationship you have with the customer
  • How big of a purchase is this?
  • Average sales time / contract dependency etc etc

So if your product is a one time fee of $30, your campaign will not be as long winded as a recurring Enterprise contract that costs $50,000 a year.

The frequency of delivery is also another area that will most likely come down to your unique product / service / industry. Generally I wouldn’t email contacts every week because that is too much and annoying. On the other hand you want to remain at the back of your contact’s mind, so longer than every 4 weeks is probably too long. Somewhere between every 2 - 4 weeks feels right for just about every product or service.

Hopefully you should already have a rough idea of how long you should make your campaign. However, it is likely that some of your signups will get to the end of the campaign and still not be convinced. At this point they would just drop off the radar. It is therefore a good idea to always be adding new content to your campaign. Adding new content is a very low intensive job. Once you write and schedule an additional email, everyone on the email list will eventually get it. Therefore adding a new email is a tiny bit of input, for a lot of output.

Avoid time dependent content

Time dependent content should be avoided at all costs. It is the Cancer of content. You don’t want to ever use anything that is time dependent because at some point it will not be relevant any more or it will expose your campaign to having incorrect or out of date information.

When a potential customer sees something that is obviously out of date or no longer relevant, you will lose them as a potential lead.

Instead, focus on timeless and evergreen content that will always be relevant.

An automatic Email Marketing Campaign should be a low intensity, passive form of lead generation. If you are including time dependent content you will be forced to keep track of it and then rewrite or re-engineer your campaign when it becomes irrelevant. The goal of this strategy is to reduce work, not create it.

Finally, you don’t want to always keep all of the content in your emails. Linking to in-depth blog posts or pages of informative content on your website is a good way of increasing engagement on your website, and preventing your email campaign from getting boring.

When you link to your blog or your website, don’t do it for every new post you write, and only do it with content that is directly adding value to the interests of the email list.

And finally, once again don’t do it with content that is time dependent. On your blog posts, don’t explicitly write “This article was posted on ___”. Your signups will be getting exposed to this content at different times, and so you don’t want to make it completely obvious that this content is not entirely hot off the press.

Goals and analytics

One of the great benefits of the Internet is the huge amount of data that is exposed through campaigns like this. If you are not monitoring your campaign and analytics, there really is no point in doing it in the first place.

Have a goal for conversion

The most important thing is to ultimately have a goal for your campaign. Obviously this will be to get new customers, but it is important to write it down so you know what you are working towards.

Each email you send should have a single Call To Action. This Call To Action should not detract or try to get in the way of the actual content of your email. I think the best Call To Action is simply just a link at the bottom of the email that allows the recipient to take action if they wish. You don’t want to be up in their face because again this is forcing the sale.


All good email delivery services come with email analytics as standard. Don’t just ignore this feature, or neglect to look at it. If your campaign is failing, you need to know the harsh reality as soon as possible so you can correct the course towards creating a campaign that works.

Whilst it’s good to be able to look at an analytics dashboard and pat yourself on the back, the real value is finding where you are failing miserably and aim to fix the problems.

If people aren’t opening your emails, why not?

If people aren’t clicking on your links, why not?

If people aren’t converting to customers, why not?

Ultimately, if you want this campaign to be successful, you need to put in the hard work find the right strategy. It is highly unlikely for any new project or campaign to be an instant success. Success only comes from learning why things aren’t working. Your assumptions will be wrong, don’t try and get everything right the first time, just make sure you get it right eventually.


Email marketing campaigns really are a fantastic way to build up a predictably and continuous stream of new customers for your business.

It is unlikely that your website will convert cold traffic straight to sales. How many times do you land on a website for the first time and make a purchase straight away?

People need to be able to trust the company, have confidence in the product and understand how it will benefit them, how it will solve their problems and why they should choose your company and your product.

Nobody wants to be sold to. Consumers want to feel like they are buying because they chose to, not because they were influenced by a pushy sales person.

An automatic Email Marketing Campaign is a passive form of marketing that you can set and forget. It will take all of the work out of informing, educating and converting new customers for your business. You write a piece of content, add it to the schedule, then all of your potential leads will be able to benefit from it in the future. It is the ultimate in small input, big output.

This kind of campaign is also suited to just about every type of business that is looking for growth from the Internet.

What kind of campaigns have worked for you in the past? What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out?

Philip Brown


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