The Email Sequence Formula: Automate Your Way to Results

email sequence

Odds are that you’re just an email sequence or two away from massively boosting your profits, and the sales you generate from your email list. And it’s not just about making more money. If you understand sequences you can finally leverage automation and start running your business on “autopilot”.

There’s a reason that I say this. Whilst automation can do so much more than just sequences, they are at the core of getting easy, quick results. And this guide is here to help you with just that.

What is an email sequence 

At the most basic level, an email sequence is just a series of emails sent to a subscriber on a schedule. This means that they for example get one email, then a couple of days later receive the second email in that logical series, and so on. Basically, a sequence sets out to achieve some unified goal, and all of the emails in the sequence are working towards that goal.

email sequenceA classic example would be something like an abandoned cart sequence. You might get one email reminding you about leaving items in the cart. Then, if you don’t buy, get another email nudging you in a different way. And then, if you still don’t purchase, some days later you might receive an email offering a discount code for finalizing the purchase.

How is this different from drip campaigns?

Whenever you hear someone talking about doing a “drip campaign”, they are also talking about sending a series of emails over time.

However, I think it’s useful to take a step back, and think about the term and where it came from. Originally, “drip campaigns” were just a way to describe the notion of “dripping content” over time. Think of a subscriber signing up because they want to learn more about a topic. 

Instead of giving them everything they need on day one, you slowly drip the knowledge over a series of emails. That gets them accustomed to waiting for, and opening each of your emails to get everything they need. 

Over time however, email marketing has gotten quite a bit more complex. We can get a bit more custom than simply dripping a static “email course” where everyone gets the same lessons in the same order when they sign up.

And this is where the terms tend to differ in practice 

Technically, when you “drip content” you’re not obliged to keep it simple. However, most people use the term “drip” when they’re talking about simpler sequences. For example, you set up the same 5 emails for everyone, and they go out to anyone who joins your list in the same order. 

However, if you see someone build more intelligent sequences, this is where things get muddy. And by “intelligent sequences”, I mean sequences that go further than merely “dripping content”. I am talking about a sequence that adapts or acts differently for different people, based on segmentation, whether they open certain emails in the sequence, events that they trigger, or other interactions and behaviors.

The most obvious example is an abandoned cart sequence. Let’s say that the person opens your first reminder email, and clicks the button to finalize their purchase. You wouldn’t want to send them the rest of the sequence would you? In addition, you might send a different second email to those who didn’t even open the first email, and those who opened it, but didn’t act.

It doesn’t matter really

Going off of the discussion above, you could say that “email sequences” are the broader more general term. And that drip marketing campaign is just a simple sequence of emails that doesn’t utilize too much personalization.

However, not everyone agrees with this definition, because there is no official definition. What matters is that you understand the ideas, the names do not really matter.

The fact is that you can leverage sequences (series of emails sent over time) to massively boost your results with email marketing. Whether you refer to your welcome series as a “drip campaign” or a “sequence” is irrelevant.

Best Email Sequence Examples

In essence, there are infinitely many types of sequences you could create. A sequence is just a series of emails that automatically launch when a certain trigger (or condition) is met. And there are literally thousands of situations where you might want to do this.

email sequenceHowever, there are some really common examples of sequences that will apply to any business. So I am going to use these to help you further understand the idea behind sequences, as well as give you tips on what to implement first.

Welcome email sequence

I always recommend this as the very first thing whenever I talk with email marketers. This is because a welcome email sequence is a must. In fact, if you haven’t set one up yet, drop everything else you’re doing, and set up your welcome sequence.

This is for several reasons. The first one is that your very first emails will have the highest open rates. This is true no matter what. It’s true for email marketers or companies of any level or experience. Not leveraging this period is a big omission that results in making your life harder later on.

To learn more about this, check out our Guide to Creating a Welcome Email Series. It explains how you can quickly create a simple sequence. This is what some people will refer to as a “drip sequence” per our discussion earlier. But you set it up in such a way that you can always upgrade it and make it more complex later on.

Onboarding email sequence

An onboarding sequence is similar to a welcome sequence, it just has a different angle. We create welcome sequences to get people accustomed to our emails, and what value they can expect by opening said emails.

An onboarding sequence serves to give the user a pleasant and frictionless start in using a service or a product. Now note, it doesn’t have to be a paid service or product. In fact, onboarding people so they get the most out of a free trial or product is the best way for them to get hooked to your services. This in turn makes it easier to later sell them on doing an upgrade.

So, when onboarding the “objective” is different than with welcome emails, but there is quite a bit of overlap. If a person becomes a subscriber by signing up for your free trial, you don’t want to send them both a welcome sequence and an onboarding sequence. That would be overkill, and unnecessary, since the onboarding sequence will achieve the same goals as a general welcome email series.

To learn more about onboarding sequences, check out our Best Practices For Email Onboarding.

Educational sequence

In general, the main thing you want to focus on with your emails is providing value. This demonstrates authority, builds trust and garners respect. This in turn creates a relationship with the subscriber. 

One of the easiest ways to provide value to your subscribers is by providing free education that answers questions or solves pain points. So in general, most of the emails your subscriber receives should be educational, and not promotional in nature.

With that said, thinking in terms of educational sequences is a great way to focus. Otherwise the scope of work is literally endless and infinite. How many educational emails do you write and on what subject? It can be a bit overwhelming.

However, if you work in batches for the purpose of specific educational sequences, it allows you to work in chunks. 

For example, let’s say that your welcome sequence does a great job explaining the absolute basics of the topic. Next, you can can proceed to build out an educational sequence to continue where the welcome series left off. The goal of this sequence is to ensure that people keep getting valuable emails and that there is no gap after the welcome sequence is done.

The educational sequence in this example can still be somewhat general, but one step ahead in terms of the content, as people are acquainted with the basics. And then, as you gather more data on subscribers, you can start building out more specific educational sequences.

For example some people might be more interested in “weight loss” than “fitness”, or vice versa. So you might have a specific educational sequence that triggers for people when they receive the “interested in weight loss” tag, and vice versa.

Re-engagement email sequence

In general as an email list owner you want to have a clean list. That means you need to regularly get rid of the non-responders and other dead weight. This is because subscribers who keep getting your emails but never engage with them are bad news. Any email that is received but fails to receive engagement is seen as a “bad sign” by the email providers.

In short, the more people like these receiving your emails, the lower your reputation will be. Eventually your emails will fail to deliver to even the people who do want to read them. So it’s absolutely crucial to perform regular list hygiene.

However, there is no need to unceremoniously drop the non-engaged crowd without warning. You always want to try a re-engagement campaign first. That means giving them a second chance to engage before you drop them for good.

If you want to learn more, you can check out our guide: How to create a Killer Re-Engagement Email Campaign.

Upsell & cross-sell email sequence

The people who create the most profit through email are the ones who recognize the most effective leverage points, and then capitalize on them. One of these leverage points is the ability to directly target people who have made a purchase. 

Remember, if someone trusts you enough to buy a product from you, they’re more likely to buy another product from you, or to upgrade the level of service. This is where upsell and cross-sell sequences come into play.

You will generally want to set up a way to track if they have made a purchase and use that as a trigger. You can either assign a tag upon purchase, or trigger a sequence based on a purchase event.

To learn more, check out the Beginners Guide to Up-sell and Cross-sell Emails

Booking sequence

If someone schedules a meeting with you, books an appointment, or reserves a spot for one of your events, this is prime nurturing time. You can have a sequence that automatically triggers when they book and then sends a series of emails until the day of booking.

You can utilize a sequence like this to inform, educate and remind people about the upcoming booking. If it is an offline event, you can send all the information they need to have a great experience. 

And if it is a sales call, then you can send some educational material that further cements the reasons why they need to show up for the call.

If you’re an Emercury user, sequences like these are easy to set up as we offer a native integration with Calendly.

Email Sequence Best Practices

Now that you have a decent catalog of example sequences to focus on, you might be wondering what to focus on. And that’s what we are going to discuss next. These are the best practices if you want to get the most “bang for your buck” when it comes to working on sequences.

email sequencePick an objective

The entire concept behind an email sequence is that these are emails that are working together towards achieving a unified goal. It’s not just emails that just happen to come one after the other chronologically. This is especially true when your sequences become more complex, and certain emails become conditional or optional. 

When you sit down to come up with a sequence, you have to determine what it is trying to achieve, and why. For example “persuade the people who bought product x, to also attend a webinar for product y”

Identify triggers

A sequence will always happen due to an action, behavior or an event. There has to be something that triggers the sequence to start. So you have to identify what event or action signifies that it is time to start the subscriber on said sequence. This is just as important as determining the objective.

Provide value, be relevant

While there are some sequences where it makes sense to be more salesy, most of the time, the main rules in email marketing apply. You want most of your content to be informative, not promotional. An obvious exception is something like an abandoned cart sequence, but most sequences will still need to primarily focus on providing valuable, relevant information.

Define clear calls-to-action

This is another general marketing best practice which is easy to forget when building email sequences. Having an objective means that you know what you want to accomplish with the sequence. However, unless you specifically ask the subscriber to take action, your results will always be lackluster. So just remember that calls-to-action are just as important when building out your email sequences.

Start simple, test, iterate

If you recall the example about how people use the term “drip marketing”, you’ll know a sequence can be simple. It can just be a simple act of dripping content over multiple emails. It is completely fine to start out most sequences like this. Then, you can test your results, see how people respond and iterate. 

Let’s say that you notice that a certain email (for example email 2) gets different engagement from different types of subscribers. You can decide to split the sequence at this point. This means having a different follow-up for people who engaged with email 2, versus those who didn’t engage. Then you test what happens, observe and iterate further.

Get A Strategic Partner On Your Side

There’s no need to go at this alone. While we do put out a lot of free content to help you, nothing beats a one-on-one conversation. In these articles we try to help clarify things as best as possible. However, every business is different, so we have to generalize.

If you want to understand better how to implement email marketing in your specific business, let’s have a chat. At the moment I am still able to do some free demos, so be sure to book one while I can still do these.

I would love to hear about your specific needs, challenges and any confusion you might have about email marketing strategies. And then, help you see how you can use Emercury to improve your bottom-line.

Alternatively, or in addition to booking a free demo, you can also grab a username for our forever-free-plan while we still have it. It’s probably the most generous email marketing automation plan on the planet. We include almost every feature in this plan, with very few restrictions.

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