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7 Tactics to Generate Content for Automated Emails

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by: Loren McDonald (@LorenMcDonald)
09 April 2014

Automated messages — abandoned cart emails, birthday emails and drip campaigns, for example — can add significant incremental revenue to an email program built on broadcast emails.

You have to do some groundwork before you can launch, of course. There are the obvious factors, such as integrating technologies and data or getting budget and management buy-in.

However, you should also plan to adapt your workflow and content management as you ramp up from the manual process of sending three or four broadcast messages a week to having 10, 20 or 30 or more different automated emails going out every day.

Mainly, you'll need lots of content to populate all of those new emails. It sounds daunting, but the good news is you probably already have much of what you need to launch your program. You just have to rearrange it to fit your new formats.

Here are seven tips for generating content for automated emails and getting these programs off the ground:

1. Review your existing emails for copy and images you can reuse and tweak or rework for automated emails.

Suppose you currently send some manual cross-sell or upsell messages for key products a few times a year. Tweak those messages and convert them to automated messages to get launched quickly. Later you can add messages for a series and dynamic content to expand from the single-product focus if appropriate.

2. Review other digital assets for copy, images and other content types you can use for automated messages. 

Beyond email assets, look at material from other digital content such as website copy and images, videos, landing pages, social media content, white papers and digital sales kits. Have your coding experts review them to make sure they are compatible in email formats.

3. Review offline content for assets you can rework into digital material, such as catalogs, direct mail, ads, logos, customer-service scripts and printed sales kits. 

Even in the case of those that might not go out to the public online, you've likely got them stored as files on a computer in PDFs, documents, digital images, etc. So, they should be easy to convert for email needs. 

4. Keep the email creation process as simple as possible. 

Your goal is to launch your new email programs quickly.  Don't get bogged down by details in a quest for perfection.

Naturally, you don't want to damage your brand or embarrass your company by sending out amateur-looking or poorly designed messages. 

But in the early stages, "good enough" can prevent the first-generation message from getting bogged down in a long, revenue-thwarting quest for perfection.

5. When adding a new email series, launch the first message as soon as it's ready. Don't wait until you have all the messages groomed to perfection. 

Automated messaging makes it easy to send a coordinated series of emails. But, the key is to get that first message out the door as soon as possible.

Follow the guidance in Tactic No. 4 above, and get it in good-enough shape to launch. Then, tweak later. (Exceptions obviously include messages that reference additional emails or simply don’t work without the follow-on messages.)

6. Once you’ve launched, take the content up a few notches by incorporating behavioral data and dynamic content. Then, test and upgrade.

If you keep your preliminary designs relatively simple, it's easier to add in dynamic modules that pull in behavioral content from other sources, such as purchases, downloads, products or pages browsed, information requests or customer service contacts.

Once you’ve completed your first round of messages, review your program as a whole. Analyze performance, including click and conversion data, and then look at your message design and copy for ways you can upgrade and polish. Continually test tweaks until you reach some level of optimum results.

7.  Refresh content that you haven't changed for a year or more, and keep your eyes on the numbers.

Marketing automation often gets billed as "set it and forget it" marketing, but that's really not true. It's more like "set it but check it": 

Content: Once you find a workable design and format for every message you send, you can set them to work in the background. But you should schedule review sessions on your workflow calendar in which you look for messages that need upgraded copy, fresh images or updated design. 

Take your birthday email. That cute little exploding cupcake you used to launch your message might start looking tired the third year you send it out.  

Also, retool emails to accommodate changes in usability and rendering. Any messages created more than a year ago or so probably need the copy and layout reworked for mobile readership and devices.

Metrics: Track performance metrics, both process (opens, clicks, unsubscribes, etc.) and output (conversion, cart revenue, revenue per email, etc.). Watch these closely as you launch your program. Once you find your stride, you can ease off a bit, but still schedule in time to makes sure the numbers are where they should be.

Overall: Adding automated messages to your email program takes some planning and extra work upfront. But don’t try to make them perfect out of the gate. Get them up and running, generating revenue – and then continually tweak them toward “perfection” as time permits. You'll be rewarded with highly relevant emails that build engagement with your customers and enrich your bottom line.

Related Resources:

1) Video: “Where Do You Get Your Content for Automated, Triggered Emails?

2) Tip Sheet: “5 Tips for ‘White Space’ Emails That Educate, Entertain and Engage

3) Ebook: “15 Post-Purchase Emails That Build Loyalty and Drive Revenue


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