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Creating Automatic Emails That Work

We see them every single day – emails that are sent automatically when something happens. Placing an order. Resetting your password. Updating an expired card. You do something on a website, you get an email in response.

Those emails are a vital part of every online business, and you need to make sure they're getting the right message across. A well-written and designed automatic email ensures customer trust, can produce repeat visits, calms customer frustration, and cuts down on the amount of time your support team is stuck answering questions that should've really been included in the email.

When I first joined up with Eco Web Hosting, one of my first tasks was to go through the existing automatic emails and completely rewrite them. And I have a few tips to help you make your emails work.

Make sure the right information is being passed through

When a customer sets up a hosting package, they get an email that gives them all the details – the login, the control panel link, what to do if they want to transfer a domain, etc. And most of that is passed straight from the database into the email. I don’t get to see what the customer sees, I just see something like {{domainname}} or {{controlpanel}}.

So when you're editing the email, run a few test versions so you can see exactly what's being passed through. See if there are other fields that should be passed through and work with your development team to get those in. Ensure that the information has the right text around it that explains what they're looking at.

You might not have control over the data, but you do have control over how the data's presented, so make sure it's as clear as possible.

Always include a way to contact you

I always think that a good automatic email should cut down on the number of support tickets that are raised. It should have all the details a customer needs so they don't need to ask any questions.

However, just because it should doesn't mean it will. And that's why you always have a link for customers to get in touch with you.

It just doesn't cut down on the frustration, it also means you can funnel them into the right place for what they need. You don't want your social media team answering technical questions, your technical support team answering billing questions, or your sales team fending off competition winners. Ensure in each email, there's a way for the reader to get in touch with the right person.

Give clear instructions

This can be tricky because clarity is a subjective term. What you think makes perfect sense for you might not work for another person. And even if it does make perfect sense, it might end up being a mountain of text that your customers refuse to read.

Start by writing down everything that the customer needs to do – no matter how small. Use bullet points or ordered lists. Then review what you've written.

Are there any side tasks that could be taken out? Maybe link to an article instead of including it in the email? Could it be broken up with screenshots if it's really long? Or, if it turns out the action is really short (like "Click on the link below and then click 'Purchase'"), could you cut it down even further (like "Purchase On Our Site")?

Don't be afraid to check with your support teams as well, especially after a few weeks of the emails going out. They'll be able to tell you what's working and what isn't, and you can revise as needed.

Upsell only when appropriate

It's really tempting to add in discounts, special offers, and product mentions into emails. It feels like you have the perfect captive audience, people who are already purchasing things, who are interested in your company, who will obviously buy more products if you just put it in front of them.

But it only takes one sales pitch to turn a customer off. And if it's in an email that's inappropriate for upselling, you're going to lose a lot of customers really quickly.

Before you add in that product, think about what the email is saying. Think about when the customer would receive it. If they're in the middle of an argument in a support ticket, are they really going to want to be told about other products they can buy?

Upselling works best in two types of customer journeys – when they're being brought in and when they might be leaving. You see this in physical stores as well, with the special offers right when you enter and the fancier treats right by the checkout. Just make sure you're offering the right kind of products in the right locations, such as related items and different tiers.

Add tracking

This is vital. How else are you going to know exactly how well your emails are working?

Google has a lot of information on how to best set up UTMs, including a generator that'll build the link for you. But before you go throwing UTMs around left, right, and centre, have a deep think about how you want them to look.

How will you identify marketing emails? Service messages? Automatic emails? Are you going to indicate exactly where in the email the link is (head, body, footer)? What type of link it is (image, button, text)? How much detail do you want in the campaign name?

Work out exactly how you want your UTMs to look and keep that key on hand before you start populating your emails. Not only will it help you remember exactly what and where the link is from, but it'll also make it easier to pull data from Analytics.

For example, with Eco Web Hosting's emails, I have automatically generated emails (named g-), service emails (named s-), and promotional emails (named p-). Since I put those prefixes into utm_source, I can then go into Analytics's Source/Medium tab, set it to only include sources from that name, and I instantly have a report telling me exactly how many customers come in from a set of emails.

And don't just abandon them!

Combining the five tips above will give you better emails, but don't think you can just create the emails once and then abandon them. Work closely with your support team, your customers, and your data, and make plans for revisions on a regular basis. I'm already planning out the next set of emails I want to add in, and you better believe there’ll be some changes to the existing ones.

Good luck!

Author's Note

Written 16 October 2019 by Kate Bolin, our Marketing Director, originally on the Eco Web Hosting Blog.
Cover image Gemma Evans on Unsplash

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