In this document we’ll cover the steps of creating an automation from scratch. For this example, I’m building an automation that delivers a welcome email after someone joins your list and then applies tags based on how they interact with that message. These tags are useful for beginning (or ending) other automations, creating segments of contacts, and gathering analytics.
This is a good document to read if you are new to marketing automation. I’ve made it as detailed as possible and explained why I’m suggesting the steps I am so that you can understand how to combine various triggers, actions, and logic to create automated workflows.
Create a new automation
- Navigate to the “Automations” overview page by clicking “Automations” in the top menu.
- Click “New Automation” to display the automation menu modal.
- Select "Start from scratch..." by clicking it and click "Create" at the bottom of the modal window:
Add a trigger
- We could begin this sequence a number of ways, but I’m going to use the “Subscribes” trigger. This way the automation will begin whenever anyone is added to the list. I might have multiple forms adding people to this list so, rather than having a different trigger for each form, it makes sense to start it whenever anyone is added to the “New prospects” list, or whatever name you’ve given this list.
- To prevent your contacts from restarting this automation, which would cause them to receive the same message over and over, make sure you select “Runs Once” (it should be selected by default.)
Add an action to send a welcome email
Immediately after someone joins your list, you should send them a welcome email. Welcome emails are some of the most opened emails and have some of the highest clickthrough rates so this is a chance to get important messages in front of your contact and present important call to action.
- Click the “+” symbol below your starting trigger to display a modal of available options or drag the “Send email” action from the sidebar. Either way, you accomplish the same thing, it’s just a matter of preference.
- Once you’ve placed the “Send email” action, you’ll be presented with a modal window giving you the option to “create an email.” Click that link to get started.
- You’ll be asked to give your email a name. This isn’t something your contacts will see, so give it a descriptive name that will remind you of the email’s purpose. I would give this one a name like “Welcome message” or “Free report delivery.” You’ll be able to give the email a subject line (that your contacts will see) later on.
- You’ll be redirected to the “Templates” page where you can select a designer template for your message. You also have the option to “Build from Scratch” if you have an HTML template you like to use or want to send a “Text only” email message. In this walkthrough, I’ll be using the “Personal Email” template which you can find on page 2. It is a text-oriented email, so I’ll have ample space for marketing messages, and it has the feel of a one-to-one email which is appropriate for a welcome message coming from a specific person on your team such as the CEO. When you find the template that suits your purposes, mouse over it and click “Use this design.”
- You’ll be presented with a modal that gives you the option to modify the sender information and create a subject line for your email. These options can be accessed and edited later, so what you create at this step is not set in stone. For my email, I had it come from my email address, use my name, and used the subject line, “Welcome, here are some resources for you…”
Customize your email message
The email designer is fairly straightforward and intuitive. Your email is divided into blocks which can be dragged and dropped. To add a block, you click and drag it from the sidebar and release it when the desired position is highlighted. To remove a block, mouseover it and click the gear icon. When you click into a block, you’ll see a variety of formatting options appear both above it and in the right-hand sidebar. Different types of blocks have different options so spend some time exploring each block and the options available to you.
- After you’ve customized the text and formatted the email, click the “Next” button in the upper right-hand corner of the screen. You’ll be redirected to the “Campaign Summary.”
From the “Campaign Summary” you can:
- Edit the message name and subject line
- Turn on or off “Open/Read Tracking”
- Turn on or off “Link Tracking”
- Turn on or off “Reply Tracking”
- Turn on or off “Google Analytics” tracking
- Send test emails to yourself or other people on your team
- See previews of your message
- See notifications of potential issues with your campaign that might trigger SPAM filters.
These options are fairly self-explanatory so I won’t cover them in detail here.
If you placed any kind of call to action in your email (and you probably should!) then turn on “Reply tracking” by clicking its toggle. This way we can use the click to gather data on our contact’s engagement as well as the efficacy of the campaign.
Adding a “Wait” condition
Now we need to plan ahead a little bit. I want to use an “If/Else” condition to divide the contacts going through this automation. If they opened the email, I want them to receive a tag that they opened it. If they clicked the link in the email, I want to tag them that way. And, if they didn’t open it or click a link, I want to tag them accordingly. But, I can’t just add the “If/Else” because it will send the email and then immediately check to see who opened and clicked. No one would even have time to open it! This is why “Wait” conditions are so useful. With them, you can give your contacts plenty of time to perform whatever your target behavior is before proceeding on with the automation. In this case, I am going to give contacts a week to get to the email, but, using a “Wait until…” condition, I’ll have the automation proceed when they’ve clicked the link.
Click the “+” button below the “Send email” action or drag “Wait” from the sidebar and drop it below “Send email”.
- After placing the “Wait” condition, you’ll be presented with a modal window giving you the option to choose between waiting for a specific period of time or waiting until specific conditions are met. Note that if you choose “Wait… until specific conditions are met,” you still have the opportunity to specify a time limit so you could say, “Wait seven days OR until the link in the email is clicked, then proceed with the automation.” For our purposes here, the “Wait… until specific conditions are met” option makes the most sense because we can proceed with the automation as soon as they’ve performed the target behavior.
- After clicking “Wait until specific conditions are met,” you’ll be presented with the Conditions Editor which allows you to specify the conditions your contacts must match. I am setting my conditions to “Actions > Has clicked on a link” in “Welcome email” and I named my link “Call to action in welcome email.” After you’ve set your condition, click “Save.”
- You’ll now be asked to specify how long contacts should wait here if they haven’t clicked the link. Seven days should give them plenty of time to get to the email. If they haven’t in that time, my assumption is they probably aren’t very interested and the message has been pushed down so far in their inbox that they might never get to it. You are free to adjust that time up or down on the basis of what makes the most sense to you. Click “No time limit” to display the “Up to” option, then click “Up to” and set the amount of time to wait.
Add “If/Else” conditions
Now that we’ve given our contacts adequate time to interact with the message we’ve sent, let’s split them up, based on what they did and didn’t do, and apply tags that we can use to begin other automations, create segments, and for analytics.
Click the “+” button below the “wait” action to add an “If/Else” action or drag and drop it from the sidebar.
- You’ll be presented with a modal window asking “How would you like to split this automation?” and you’ll be able to specify the conditions using the same interface we used to create the “Wait until…” conditions. I set my conditions to “Actions > Has clicked on a link” in “Welcome email” and set that link as “Call to action in welcome email.”Click “OK” to save the conditions.
- Note that the “If/Else” action created a fork in your automation. Depending on whether your contact matches the conditions you set, they will proceed along the “Yes” or “No” path. Under the “Yes” path, which will be the path followed by contacts who did click your call to action link, let’s add an action to “Add tag.” Click the “+” button or drag and drop the “Add tag” action to the “Yes” path. The tag you apply can be wordy and descriptive or short and cryptic. If decide on some kind of code, I’d suggest making note of it by adding it to a spreadsheet so you avoid a situation where you can’t recall what a tag means or why you are using it. I chose the tag “Clicked CTA link in welcome email.”
- Now we want to apply a tag if a user has opened the email (but didn’t click the call to action link). Under the “No” path, add another “If/Else” action. Set the conditions to be “Action > Has opened” and then select the name you gave your email.
- Under the “Yes” path, add an action to “Add tag” and tag them as “Opened welcome email.”
- The “No” condition will contain the contacts that didn’t open the email and didn’t click the call to action link (because we’ve already separated those contacts out). Add an action to “Add tag” and tag them as “Did not engage with welcome email,” or something along those lines.
Now we have an automation that delivers a welcome email and/or opt-in incentive immediately after someone joins your list. Based on how our contacts interact with that email, we give them a tag. That tag can be used to begin other automations. For instance, you could create an automation that begins when the “Clicked CTA link in welcome email” tag is added. That automation could wait a certain amount of time and then, if they haven’t purchased yet or proceeded further down your funnel, you could send them a reminder email that uses a different angle to motivate them. In this way, you can create automations that use data collected from other automations to create follow-up that adapts to your contacts behavior.
To improve this automation
- Add an action to increase your contact’s score as they interact with your messages. You could increase their contact or lead score if they open emails and click specific calls to action.
- Send different follow-up messages to the people who didn’t click the link and the people who didn’t open the email. This shouldn’t be the same content because you’ll annoy your contacts. You also shouldn’t follow-up endlessly until they do what you want. If you’ve given them 2-3 opportunities and they haven’t followed through, that’s a pretty clear indication that they aren’t interested and you’d be better off not contacting them instead of pestering them and accumulating SPAM complaints and low email interaction rates (which many ESPs factor into deliverability).