When it comes to the practical application of digital marketing, my first advice is always get your website on point. Your website is the hub of every aspect of your marketing universe, and it has to be working for you. Once the website is running full throttle, it’s time to start integrating it with powerful marketing automation tools, and one of the most important is email automation.

Marketing automation modernizes the email experience that’s still one of the most effective outreach tools for digital marketing. Just a few years ago we were doing one-to-many email marketing. Think big email blasts or newsletters, where all we really know about a person is their email address and we send them a message. We send the same message to that person over there, and that one over there, and that one over there, with little or no regard to how they’re actually engaging with us or our content.

Marketing automation lets us turn this into a one-to-one philosophy. We can watch the behaviors of our subscribers with our content and website and take powerful, personalized action based on those behaviors. This lets us reach out on a much more individual context to help nurture and build the right kinds of relationships with people – unique to them, their needs, and their place on their buying journey.

Let’s explore 5 ways I’m using email and marketing automation right now. I use and recommend a platform called Drip, but there are many others out there. If all you’re used to is the occasional mass email from Constant Contact or Mailchimp, I hope you’re inspired to dig deeper and explore the full potential of how email marketing automation can work for you.

Behavior-based engagement

One of the coolest things about an automation platform is how it can watch the ways people are engaging with your content, allowing you to create specific actions around the engagement. For instance, set up a workflow where if a person does something (such as downloads something on your website), then do a thing (send an email, or tag them in some way – more on that in a minute). Once they’ve downloaded a thing or in some way traded you an email address so they’re subscribed to your platform, the platform can keep an eye out for them in the future. Now if that person comes back to your site and, say, visits a specific page, you can instruct the platform to take some other action. If they later sign up for an event or start a free trial or even open an email you send them, the platform will keep watch and take more actions – like perhaps sending that person’s contact information to your CRM.

Tagging and intelligence

An easy action that I use frequently is to simply tag a person based on their activity. If a person download a resource about ham sandwiches, for instance, I’ll have the platform tag them “ham sandwiches.” If they later register for a webinar about apples, I’ll make sure to tag them that they’re interested in apples. Later, as a list builds with diverse ways of engaging with content, it’s easy to tailor an email campaign around just people who are interested in ham sandwiches and apples. Or maybe apples but not ham sandwiches. This gets as broad as you can imagine by applying filters like is interested in ham sandwiches but not interested in apples and has made a purchase before but only if they live in Ohio, provided I’ve told the platform to watch out for all those things. I can create a very specific criteria for subscribers, allowing us to send very specific messaging to very specific audiences.

This is also useful from a subscriber level if I want to understand their behaviors better. For example, I might notice some familiar names registered for a conference or tradeshow I’m attending. If they’re a subscriber, I can look at all their activities with me and see that this person has done this, this, that and that with our content or on our website. This can be a strong sales and marketing tool, then, as I shake this person’s hand at the conference knowing they’re most interested in something, or have engaged with our business or content before in specific ways.

For a daily dose of learning

I have an email resource that teaches people some of the critical things to think about in delivering high performance webinars. Lessons are delivered daily over 7 days. When a person signs up they immediately receive the first email lesson, and each morning thereafter a new one arrives in their inbox. I take this further in a product delivery for a client – his product is a daily audio lesson. As soon as an individual becomes a customer they’re emailed a link to the first lesson, along with some orientation materials. The second lesson (and third, and so on) are set to automatically publish on his website in daily increments, so you can only access today’s lesson and previous lessons and have to wait a day to access tomorrow’s. Email automation lets us synchronize all of these moving parts and pieces, so for the customer they just check their email each morning and hit the link to today’s lesson.

This can be powerful outreach for potential customers – a daily drip of valuable, helpful content helps you stay much more top of mind than just a one-and-done email newsletter. For existing customers, the opportunity to connect daily with learning materials helps reinforce your value and strengthen your relationship.

Marketing automation to nurture leads

Email automation is powerful around webinars and other marketing or sales events. There are a few basic practical things to do, of course, like reminders for those who have registered, but automation lets us create some powerful seemingly individualized nurturing around a registration. For instance, a few minutes to an hour after registering for a webinar (or whatever), I like to have an email come from a sales or marketing pro thanking the person for registering and opening the door for dialog. The primary point of this is just to make contact, so future emails from this individual will be more familiar. Then I’ll set up another email for hours or days later that says something like, “I’ve been reviewing the growing list of registrants and wondered if you had any questions before the event that I can pass on to the team,” – again, just an invitation to relationship build. Perhaps a link or useful pre-event materials can be included here as well. Then, depending on the event, we can follow up afterwards. With the right webinar tool we can send one message to those who register but didn’t attend, another message to those who stayed for a certain amount of time but not the entire event (in the case of a webinar) and still another message to those who stayed for the entire thing. Each of these messages can be tailored to the individual’s behaviors to create value – sorry we missed you but here’s the replay, you missed the giveaway at the end so here’s the link, or thanks for staying all the way through here’s your discount. Then we can automate still more follow up routines for the next few days or weeks to continue the opportunity. In the old days event emails were pretty strictly functional and utilitarian (reminders, surveys, etc.), but with automation we can create a scaffolding around an event that helps create opportunities and nurture relationships.


Digital marketing today is dependent on many tools working together to develop a better understanding of the people engaging with us. Your website has to talk to your email automation, which has to talk to your web-based calendar or appointment setting tools, which should connect to your CRM. Or your project management apps, social media publishers, shopping carts or video players. Don’t think of this linearly like a chain – rather it’s a series of satellites in orbit around the planett that is your website. With email automation, you can score leads based on their behaviors and set a threshold for next steps. Just because somebody downloads a resource doesn’t necessarily make them a sales qualified lead, for instance, but if they take enough actions (download a thing, register for another thing, and watch a video about another thing), we can assign points to each of those activities. Reach enough points and the platform can take an action like move a person to the CRM for the sales team to follow up. With integrations we can also connect certain actions like a registration for an event to launch a specific email sequence. Making all these connections can feel a little like wiring a home for electricity, tending to the right connections and binary switches, but once it’s working a single switch (behavior) flipped on can trigger a series of powerful automated actions.

This really only scratches the surface on marketing automation, and this is a rich area for deeper learning. Maybe the most important takeaway is philosophical – your customers or prospects are unique, and should be treated respectfully so in your marketing strategies. Automation can make this easier for you and your customers while letting you push and pull some levers set to automatically run, connecting with your customers in ways unique to how they’re engaging with you and your content.


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Chris Bintliff
Chris Bintliff
Digital Strategist; Instigator
Chris Bintliff is passionate about empowering people to create meaningful digital experiences. As a designer, creator, collaborator, educator, public speaker, writer, and practitioner of asking why Chris has helped huge international companies as well as small businesses to create better online content. He started (Not Really) Rocket Science to take the confusion and intimidation out of online strategy for people just like you. When he's not behind a screen or on his bike he enjoys talking about himself in the third person.