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When to use Email Automation vs Email Broadcast (Bulk) Messaging

One of the most common issues I see with unsuccessful email marketers today is that they fall in one of two imbalanced camps. Either they’ve bought all the hype about “broadcasts being history” and they obsess about fancy automation techniques. Or they’re stuck in the past and do all of their marketing through traditional bulk-emailing practices.

Neither of these two is a good idea, as an optimal strategy will have you combine both modes in a sweet synergistic experience that boosts your profit while increasing customer satisfaction.

Let’s get our terms straight first, just so we’re on the same page

When I talk about “broadcasts” here I am referring to a one-off email that’s manually sent to a large group of recipients. Most often everyone gets the same email on the same day. And when we say “sent manually” we mean that you manually press the “send” button. Alternatively, you click a schedule button and pick a calendar date when you want to have it sent.

Email automation, on the other hand, triggers automatically when a certain pre-defined condition is met. For example, they visit your pricing page and then abandon the signup page? Well, you have an automation that automatically sends them (for example) a discount or asks them why they changed their mind about that purchase.

They browse your store and look at 5 items about fishing? Well, the next day you send them an email that’s specifically tailored to people who are looking for fishing items.

What’s the problem with the traditional broadcasts-only model?

People today are used to personalization. The big corporations with billion-dollar marketing budgets have worked hard to get people accustomed to it. And the people have come to expect it as a given. We can adapt to this new reality, or like those who fail to adapt, perish in the throes of history.

This is especially true with younger users who’ve grown up with it and have come to expect it. So pay special attention if your customers are primarily in the millennial generation. They will simply be allergic to something that feels like “bulk mailing”.

If it looks like everyone gets the same generic email without any concern for individuality or personalization, they will just not respond very well to it. However, that doesn’t mean we never use broadcasts. We still want to use broadcasts within a modern marketing strategy.

Broadcasts by themselves are not a problem. A “broadcast-only” model is what gets you in trouble. You have to know how to use broadcasts and what is the right time to introduce them. Hint, there are some stages of the customer journey at which broadcasts make more sense than otherwise.

What do we use broadcasts for?

We typically use broadcasts for things like announcements, special sales campaigns, and newsletters. Mind you a newsletter in the strictest sense contains “news” about your company or products. This means that a newsletter contains current and fresh content.

announcement on tablet - representative of email broadcasts

This is opposed to “evergreen” content which is always relevant. For example, if your customer starts showing interest in weight loss products, and you send them some weight loss tips, those tips aren’t “current tips” that will only work that day, week or even year. They’ll be just as useful 10 years from now. In essence, you can have the same automation sending the same tips and recommended products for years to come.

But let’s get back on track. So we use broadcasts for things that are new and typically “one-off”, like announcements, special sales campaigns, and other news. What do we use automations for?

Ideally, you would use automations for absolutely everything else

And don’t let that scare you, because there is something else we didn’t clarify yet, and it’s key to making things simple and easy for you. When we talk about email automation, we don’t necessarily mean the highest level of fancy fine-grained multi-dimensional behavior-based automation. Even a “simple” autoresponder counts as email automation, especially if you have at least some personalization in the email itself.

Even if everyone on the list gets the same autoresponder sequence, it’s not a “broadcast”. At least not in the way email marketers define a “broadcast”. When you send a broadcast, everyone gets the email on the same day. It doesn’t matter if they signed up 3 weeks ago, or 6 months ago. This is because you manually click that “send” button and choose the entire list (or segment) as a recipient.

With an autoresponder, the subscriber will (for example) get email 3 on the 3rd week after requesting your email course. And it is the autoresponder who’s automatically keeping track of the sequence and drips the content at those set intervals. In this case, the timing is actually personalized and makes sense based on their individual action (it is based on their sign-up date).

Your step-by-step plan to get started with automation

While we can make things unnecessarily complicated if we so desire, we’ve decided to keep it simple. We are going to give you a simple, yet powerful step-by-step implementation plan that you can get started on today. And yes, we’ll get around to where broadcasts fit into the bigger picture as well.

Follow the stages of automation as they evolved

You’ll see us sometimes refer to basic automation as “condition-based” automation. In essence, however, all automation is “condition based”. It’s just that when email marketing was first invented, the only condition we could use was “person joins a list”. So today we refer to such a scenario as “a traditional autoresponder”.

Then we got a little fancier and started introducing other conditions such as “opened email”, “clicked on a link” and other conditions based on subscriber behavior within your emails.

levels of email automation represented by turning cogs

Later on, came conditions based on people’s actions outside of your emails, such as for example “bought a product”, “visited pricing page”, “abandoned cart” and anything you and your developer can come up with.

The latest and fanciest stages of email automation allow you to combine multiple conditions and utilize complicated decision-making processes. And then the software follows these triggers to decide when it needs to launch an autoresponder for a given subscriber.

Notice how even at this latest, most advanced stage I said that the software decides to launch an autoresponder? That’s because all levels of automation still involve an autoresponder. The difference is in the conditions that launch that autoresponder. It is merely for marketing purposes that marketers use different names for each of these levels of automation. They all involve a condition that triggers an automated sequence of emails (an autoresponder).

Start with those basic autoresponders that every business needs

A lot of people see the newer fancier automation features available today and want to start there. Just because we had the ability to do something in 2008, it doesn’t mean that it is outdated today. In fact, it’s the opposite. The first forms of automation are still the foundation of any email marketing venture.

Whatever your business model, market or niche, you will want to first build a basic autoresponder. This is a sequence that triggers after people sign up to your list. You might call this a “welcoming sequence”, or if you run a SaaS service and giving a free trial, this might be an “onboarding sequence”. If you sell advice or knowledge, it might be a free introductory email course.

In all of these cases, you want to get that new subscriber “warmed up”. This is just a way of saying that the subscriber is used to getting emails from you. And while it sounds exciting to immediately do fancy stuff based on extremely granular super personal actions and behaviors – it’s not very wise.

There is a reason why all of the biggest companies with multi-million marketing budgets still use a simple autoresponder. And they send the same welcoming sequence to every new subscriber.

Now, that doesn’t mean there’s no differentiation at all. You might make a slightly different sequence based on which lead-magnet or offer they took to join the list. However, most people on a given list will get a rather similar or even identical welcoming sequence.

So why is this different than a broadcast if “everyone” gets the same emails?

Because broadcasts are one-off, and emails in a sequence are “evergreen”. For example with a broadcast, everyone gets an email that you have a new product launch this week. You won’t have that same launch every month of every year, it’s a current one-off event.

Email “number 3” in a welcoming sequence might be “the same” for everyone that joins a list. However, it’s always relevant at that point in that one customer’s journey. If you’re offering a free introductory course on starting a new business, and email 3 has tips on hiring employees  – it’s just as relevant to a new subscriber in (current year) as it was for new subscribers 5 years ago.

The autoresponder “knows” who is a new subscriber, based on the fact that it sends this email 3 weeks after they sign up for the course. Or at whatever interval it’s set to send each email. So with an autoresponder, you send the same (hiring tips) email to everyone 3 weeks after they sign up. With a broadcast, you send everyone the same email on (for example) March 3rd, irrespective of when they signed up to (or entered) a list.

And herein lies the biggest secret why all the most successful businesses still use a basic autoresponder to onboard a new subscriber. The longer you run this autoresponder (or sequence) the more you learn about your ideal customer’s journey and how to tweak and optimize it. Over time your welcoming sequence will get better and better at warming up your subscribers.

And then you can implement some basic behavior-based automation

So you’re running your basic auto-responder and subscribers are starting to interact with your emails. This is the perfect time to tap into some basic behavior-based automation.

When we say “basic” in this case, it just means that the conditions are coming from behaviors the subscriber has in relation to your emails. Most notably opening emails and clicking links within them.

While again, it sounds cool to automate (trigger autoresponders) based on things outside of just email behavior, you want to follow the natural evolution of things and keep it simple. Start by creating automations based off of which emails they open and which of the links in the welcoming sequence they click on.

It is only when you master this level that you should think about moving to more advanced automations

In all honesty, we all do this. We think the solution to a lack of results is trying more advanced tricks and solutions. You need to ask yourself a question first. Are you achieving killer monetization from automations based on email opens and clicks? If you said “no” – then you’re not ready for more advanced automations.

Yes, I know it sounds “cool” that today it’s possible to create a super-fancy automation. For example, you create an automation that says “if person x visited page y for 7 seconds and then also was retargeted 2 times by facebook ads before opening email 4, then send offer such-and-such”. However, until you make a decent profit with triggers such as “email clicked” and “email opened”, this is just a “creative distraction”.

Group Of Business People Sitting And Looking At Command to Master Basic Email Automation

So this is your game plan. Read through our blog, subscribe to get our new articles and get yourself an Emercury account. You will learn everything you need to monetize based on those basic automations that trigger on email-behavior. When you master this, then you would be ready to look into the more externally-based fancier automations.

But when do I get to do broadcasts?

It is true that broadcasts can still get you some sales with cold audiences (brand new subscribers). However, it’s best to reserve your broadcasts for the warmed up subscribers. These are the people you have already made to feel welcome and cared for as members of your email list. You achieve this through basic and well-crafted automation and personalization. This means that you’ve had them go through the welcoming sequence and perhaps some basic automations based off of their interaction with the welcoming sequence.

It is only after they pass this threshold that you will want them to see your broadcasts. If you’re the kind of marketer who’s been doing mostly broadcasting marketing until now, you’ll be amazed. The results that your broadcasts get when you send them to warmed-up subscribers will shock you.

Just because you are sending broadcasts to a warmer audience is still not an excuse to send what looks like “bulk mail”

Your broadcasts shouldn’t appear like bulk mail or feel too impersonal. There are several things that you can do to make sure that your broadcasts take account of that existing relationship.

Depending on your industry, you may have more or fewer options with your language and tone. However, you can always find a way to make the communication appear more personal. Even if your industry doesn’t allow for casual language, there is still never a reason to sound like a complete stranger that has no prior relationship with the subscriber.

If you want a simple trick to craft the right kind of language, just imagine you’re making a call to a long-time client. Think about what is the difference in how would you speak to a long-time business client versus a brand new client. Even if you use zero casual language, the communication with the old-time client will be quite different. Both in tone and in the content, that is the things that you mention, refer back to and the assumptions you make.

The other thing you should definitely take advantage of is personalization variables

These are extremely easy to use on the Emercury platform. You can refer to the subscriber by using their personal name or inserting a specific custom interest they shared with you.

People tend to think in black and white terms. They assume we only use personalization as part of fancier newer forms of automation. But in actuality, personalization arrived long before granular and externally triggered automation. In terms of priority, it’s way higher on the list of things you should master as an email marketer.

And the third thing you should consider with broadcasts is some level of segmentation

Again, due to black and white thinking, people think that broadcasting means just sending the exact same thing to anyone who’s ever given you an email for whatever reason. And that if you want to have any level of individuality that’s what fancier email automation is for. But that’s not true.

Before we had the more modern forms of email automation, we used extensive segmenting techniques to achieve similar results. And yes, with a broadcast you send the same email to an entire group of people, but not everyone has to be in the same group of people, whether that is a list or a segment.

You can send slightly different broadcasts to different segments. It’s up to you how far you take segmentation, and how many different versions of a broadcast you want to do. Sometimes you can send the exact same broadcast to everyone on your entire list. This is usually the case with things like a newsletter.

In most cases however you will want to at least send a different broadcast to buyers than you do potential buyers. And then from then on, you can further segment as much as your time and resources allow you to.

Whatever your mix of email automation and broadcasting, you need the right platform to do both

The ideal combination of broadcasts and email automations will depend on your business model and industry. Fortunately for you at Emercury we’ve worked with countless businesses from every industry. We’ve probably worked with a business just like yours and know exactly what it takes to succeed.

When you sign up for Emercury, you get more than just a platform that lets you broadcast and design email automations. You get a business partner that wants you to succeed.

If you haven’t tried it yet, be sure to grab your forever-free account right now. For a limited time, we’re including almost all of the pro features as well as all of the automation features. That might change at any time. So if you haven’t done it yet, be sure to grab yourself a username right now.

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