Email Marketing Automation Is a Journey, Not a Destination

A guide to getting the most out of email marketing automation

Photo by Stephen Phillips - on Unsplash

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Ignore the haters. It’s 2020 and email marketing isn’t dead. It’s alive and kicking, and one of the most valuable tools in your arsenal if you’re running a business.

Not only is it a cost-effective marketing tactic, but it also works. In 2019, marketers reported an average of $42 return for every $1 spent on email marketing. That’s an incredible ROI without even considering all the long-term benefits that email marketing brings.

Email marketing works because you’re essentially communicating with your existing fanbase: people who have already bought your products or service, or were interested enough to fill out a form on your website at least. These are warm leads who just need a little extra push down the sales funnel to reach conversion.

So how do we, as marketers and business owners, go about doing that?

Unfortunately, shooting a one-off email to your subscribers whenever you remember to do it just won’t cut it. You might get some sales out of it, but not the sustained kind of engagement that you need to make your business successful.

For sustained results, you need sustained marketing activity.

And that’s where automations come in.

Understanding email automation

The beautiful thing about technology is how much it reduces our workload, and that goes for email marketing too.

Automated email campaigns allow you to set up all of your emails in a sequence, and then use triggers, filters, and other conditions to determine when they are sent to subscribers.

In my spare time, I run a little business selling candles. Here are some examples of automated emails my customers might receive:

  • When someone signs up to my mailing list, they get a welcome email and start receiving my monthly newsletters.
  • When they order a candle, it will trigger an email to be sent to them in two weeks asking for feedback. If they don’t open the email, this will trigger a reminder one week later.
  • For subscribers who haven’t bought a candle in 6 months, they’ll receive an email with a 5% discount code encouraging them to buy.
  • For subscribers with 3 or more purchases, they’ll receive a one-time loyalty discount of 10%.

As you can see, I’ve used email automations here to supplement my monthly newsletters and continue delivering value throughout the rest of the month.

Each email sequence is tailored to the customer and how they’ve interacted with my business. Depending on what path they take, they’ll receive different messaging encouraging them to take relevant action.

That’s why I like to call these email sequences customer journeys. Email marketing isn’t a simple click-to-convert tactic. One approach will not suit every customer. It’s about building relationships, delivering value to customers at the right stage of the sales cycle, and guiding them towards the end goal of conversion.

Pretty much every viable email marketing provider in the industry will allow you to create automated email campaigns. Mailchimp, Marketo, Hubspot, you name it. All you have to do is look up a tutorial on google for your platform of choice and start setting up your automated campaigns.

Planning out customer journeys

If you were planning out a real-life journey, you’d probably start with a map, right?

Planning out your customer journey for email marketing is no different. Try to imagine yourself in your customer’s shoes. What would you expect to receive once you sign up for a newsletter? Or purchase a product?

Depending on how complex you plan to make your email sequences, I find mapping out journeys on a piece of paper to be quite helpful. You can draw a flow chart showing what a customer should receive once they take certain actions, for example clicking on a link in an email, or using a discount code.

The map you create will depend heavily on the type of product or service you’re selling, and what industry you’re in. For an eCommerce business selling low-value products, the customer journey might begin with a product purchase. In that case, the journey will be all about retaining the customer so that they keep coming back for more. This could be through emails with information on how to get the most out of their product, emails about new product releases, or emails offering them loyalty discounts.

For a B2B business selling a high-value product, such as a software company, it’s unlikely that customers will buy straight away. Then the journey becomes more about pushing the customer further along the path to completing that first purchase. This usually involves sequences of ‘nurture’ emails that educate the customer about the product and why they need it in their lives. Engagers might then get moved into a sequence of purchase emails with a hard sales message for that last little push towards conversion.

When planning out your email sequences, keep in mind the four key steps of the sales funnel: awareness, interest, decision, action. Think about what the key messaging should be for customers at each stage of the funnel, and what action you want them to take to move further along the funnel.


Email marketing is an incredibly powerful marketing tool when used effectively. It can bring you increased revenue and customer loyalty. It allows you to stay in touch with your network and keep them updated on your business news.

However, to fully leverage the benefits of email marketing, it’s essential to plan out your automated email sequences and make sure you’re reaching out to customers at the right stage of their journey.

Don’t think of email marketing as a quick win, or a short-term strategy. If you want to scale your business, start thinking of it as a journey rather than a destination.

I’m a digital marketer and freelance writer with a passion for brand storytelling. This article originally appeared on my digital marketing blog at If you’d like to work with me, please get in touch there.

Writer, poet, digital marketer, small business owner. Join my newsletter for fiction writing resources at