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Take the Spring Break You Deserve With Email Automation

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 16/03/2016 Seamas Egan
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The air is warming, the sun's staying up a little longer, and flowers are starting to bud -- spring is coming. As you shake out your limbs and steadily shed layers after a cold winter, you're bound to feel ready to take a spring break and enjoy the return of warm weather. Planning a getaway trip can be a great way to check out and recharge, but how can you take a vacation from your marketing without losing your subscribers?
Automation tools can help take over while you're taking off so that your contacts stay tuned in even if you're not. Use automation as part of your email marketing strategy with the following steps to keep your subscriber base engaged no matter the season.
Collect your Customer Data
As you start automating your email marketing, the first thing to do is input your customer data into your email marketing platform. Find out where your contacts are coming from and build web capture forms to collect new contact information and metadata about your prospects and contacts. Link your data sources to your platform so that data is pulled automatically into your system. For example, a web form on your website can collect a prospect's name and email address and feed this information directly into your database. An automated labeling process that identifies contacts by their source will also benefit you by enabling segmentation by source in the future.
Connect the Dots
Once you've collected your customers' data, make sure it all flows smoothly into your email marketing system. Identify where your customer data is stored within your business, whether that's in CRM systems, point of sale systems, applications or custom-built databases. Use an automated process to transfer the largest or most valuable data source into your system, which is often as simple as downloading a software plug-in to connect your platform with the data source. Continue to integrate additional sources of data until your system reflects a complete, integrated overview of your customers' information.
Create an On-Boarding Workflow
Develop an automated on-boarding campaign to get your prospects used to hearing from you regularly and warm them up to future engagement. Design your campaign to deliver friendly, informative content with a steadily increasing frequency over several months so that your contacts get more familiar with your company and your offerings. Give your subscribers the option to unsubscribe or opt-down early in the campaign so that your resources are focused on communicating with only those prospects who want to hear from you. As your customers get more acquainted with your emails, throw in a promotional offer or an unanticipated call-to-action to take engagement to the next level.
Test and Adjust
Once your automated email campaign is set up, test it regularly to find out where you can make improvements. Make sure the customer data you collect from disparate sources is making its way into your email marketing system. Create new email accounts (seed addresses) to test whether new contacts are receiving your on-boarding campaign messages. Check your read rates to make sure your messages are being opened, and compare your results to make sure your emails are rendering consistently across different systems. Adjust as needed so that your messages are getting to the right people at the right time to encourage engagement.
The key to testing your campaign is being consistent in how you deliver your messages. By repeating the same processes over time, you'll have a strong data set to analyze and compare your email marketing tactics. Making small changes based on regular feedback will help you determine the strategy that works best for your business.
Beyond Automation
Automating your email marketing processes can lighten your load when you need a break, but don't forget -- it's not a complete, end-to-end solution. Manual monitoring and regular maintenance will help keep your campaigns fresh, in-season and running smoothly. And remember to keep it personal throughout your communication so your customers feel truly connected to your brand. The balance of automation and personalization will pay off for your business and your customers in the long run.

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