With the end of the year snowing down upon us, you may have already hit the “Go” button on your holiday marketing emails. It’s easy to extend your well-wishes and cheer during the holiday season, but wouldn’t it be nice to stay in touch all year? (Your grandma certainly thinks so.)

We understand: it’s hard to keep your email marketing momentum going when there are so many other things to do. There are so many “rules” these days when it comes to sending emails. Your copywriting needs to be spot-on, your subject line has to hook the reader, your emails should be personalized and your call to action should be as irresistible as Aunt Emily’s pumpkin pie.

Just getting these emails written is a steep task, let alone setting up rules and automations. However, just taking a bit of time to set up automated drip campaigns will ultimately save you a ton of time – and do much of the heavy-lifting involved in converting leads into brand loyalists.

To make things easier for you, we’ve boiled email automation down to four simple rules to help you keep in touch with customers year-round with half the effort.

#1: Define your email marketing goals.

So how can you nurture your customers better through emails? It depends on your business objectives. You might want to expand into a new market, grow your existing client base, convert more prospects into sales, or turn regular customers into brand evangelists. Your automation campaigns will hinge on your big-picture goals, so get clear on them before you begin.

Need a place to start? Consider these goals:

  • Customer win-back. You’ve already done the hard work (and spent the money) to find these customers, so bring them back with a nurturing campaign that lets them know you miss them.
  • Nurture cold leads. Keep in touch with new leads to build trust. With the right sales and marketing tool, you’ll know just when they’re warmed up and ready to take the next step in your sales process.
  • Upsell current customers. Increase the lifetime value of your customers by introducing them to your other products and services.
  • Turn hot prospects into customers. Let your prospects in on just how you can help them meet their challenges head-on to win more customers.

#2: Create a logical flow for your email automations.

Email automations work best when they’re structured intentionally to move customers down your funnel. With your big-picture plan in mind, design a journey with sequential emails while keeping your customer in mind.

You might group your automations by:

  • An external theme. Holidays, seasons, cultural events, and upcoming conferences are all ideas for pre-planned drip campaigns.
  • A promise of results. “We’ll help you get X results with X tips over the next X weeks.” Giving customers something to look forward to in their inboxes will help ensure they won’t unsubscribe.
  • A series of resources. Perennial content like downloadable resources is easier to automate than newsy content like blog roundups or company news, but all of these work as email marketing automations.

#3: Add tags to individual clients to track their interests and other data.

If you’ve avoided crafting a steady stream of email content because your contact list is a mess, it’s time to bring in the power of the tag. When you create a tag, you create a custom label that you can apply to as many (or as few) contacts as you’d like.

For instance, if you’ve just visited Content Marketing World and met a handful of new people, you can label these people with a tag like “CM World” so you’ll always know where they came from. Tags can also provide insights into what people are interested in, what their job role is, where they live, whether they have children or not, and on.

The greatest part: you can manually apply tags, assign tags when uploading new contacts, or create rules in Zapier or your email marketing tool that assign tags when contacts take certain actions. Automatic tags are a great way to segment your email list without having to put in much effort.

For instance, let’s say you’re trying to settle on an email marketing strategy for 2019. You’re hoping to find out which customers prefer coupons, which prefer blog post roundups, and which want fewer emails altogether. You can set up a poll in an email that automatically tags each recipient with “coupons” “roundups” or “fewer emails” based on which response they click. Now, your customers have segmented themselves — and you can better serve them the content they want in the new year.

#4: Segment your email contacts to avoid overkill.

Let’s face it: some of your contacts are going to be way more interested in hearing from you weekly than others. The misuse of email automation, where too many contacts get too many emails, can be dire for your business.

Fend off this faux pas by segmenting your contacts into groups based on where they are in their customer journey, so you can send them only the content that’s relevant to the status of your relationship with them. Here are some examples:

Top funnel, cold, or leads: These are the people who probably only want to hear from you every once in a while, and who will be most receptive to offers that feel really life-changing. You’re not going to sell these contacts on your top-dollar service or most complex product yet, so keep your emails infrequent and focused on providing value rather than selling.

Middle funnel, warm, or prospects: These contacts may be qualified leads or prospects who have opened lots of your emails in the past or frequented your website, but haven’t made a purchase yet. They may be interested in your business but need more information or inspiration to make a buying decision.

Bottom funnel, hot, customers, or even brand evangelists: These are the people who’ll be most interested in cross-promotions, discounts, referral programs, rewards programs, and keeping updated on company news. These are your “best friends,” the ones who look forward to seeing your business’s name in their inbox.