How to Get Started with Email Automation: A Step-by-Step Guide

Email automation can be a powerful tool for businesses of all sizes, helping to streamline communications, improve engagement, and ultimately drive more sales. Using triggered emails, you can also save a lot of time you might have otherwise spent sending emails manually.

However, if you’ve never worked with email automation before, it can be difficult to know where to start. You might not know which email automation tool to use, or maybe you don’t even know what email automation is.

In this article, I’ll answer the question of how to get started with email automation and start reaping its benefits for your business.

Step 1: Create Your Strategy

The first step in implementing email automation is determining your goals and forming your strategy. If you’re working in a team, this is a great way to keep everyone on the same page. If you’re working alone, it’s still good to have a point of reference in case you need a refresher on your goals.

First, you want to establish a key target, a “what are you trying to achieve?” kind of goal. For example, you could be looking for increased traffic to your website, more revenue, a shorter sales process, or any number of other goals.

Once you have your goal/goals, you’ll want to take a survey of your metrics. These are what will help you identify the success or failure of your email automation campaigns. For example, you will want to take a baseline of and keep an eye on the following:

  • Open rate: This is the gateway statistic to the others. If people aren’t opening your emails, then your other statistics won’t matter because they won’t exist.
  • Click-through rate (CTR): This refers to how many people click on links within an email. If you have multiple links inside your emails, your automation software will help you determine which link received the most clicks.
  • Bounce rate: This indicates the percentage of recipients who never received your emails, potentially due to poor email deliverability, ISP throttling, etc.; ideally, you want the bounce rate to be as low as possible as, if your bounce rate is too high, you could end up in the junk folder. This is known as email deliverability, measured in percentages out of 100. You want that number to be as close to 100% as possible as, for each percent you are away from 100, that is a chunk of your subscriber base that isn’t receiving your emails.
  • Unsubscribes: Just like the bounce rate, you’ll want to keep this number as low as possible because it can impact your email deliverability if your unsubscribe rate is too high.
  • Conversion rate: This indicates how many email recipients perform your desired action (A.K.A. conversion) after receiving your email. This could be anything from visiting your website to making a purchase.

Once you have identified your goals and gotten a handle on your statistics, you can start thinking about how email automation can help you achieve the goals you’ve set out. For example, you could set up a drip campaign promoting specific products or services over time to increase sales.

Step 2: Choose an Email Automation Platform

Next, you’ll need to choose an email automation platform. Various platforms are available, each with its own set of features and pricing options. Keep in mind that choosing one platform doesn’t mean you’ve locked yourself into it for life, and switching isn’t a huge deal if you find one platform’s automation functions insufficient.

In another article, I’ve covered the details of what email automation is and five of the best email automation tools. I’ll summarize the best email automation platforms here.

MailerLite is the premier email automation platform for beginners due to its incredibly simple user interface and intuitive user experience. Featuring a drag-and-drop automation builder, multi-trigger email automation, and an in-platform automated transactional email service, MailerLite is my choice for email automation.

EmailOctopus is another email marketing and automation platform designed with simplicity in mind. If you’re on a tight budget and are looking for an email automation platform, EmailOctopus is your best bet. With its incredibly affordable price comes the drawback of lacking advanced automation options, but if you’re looking to get an automated email campaign up and running in a short period, then EmailOctopus is the service for you.

Getresponse is an all-in-one email marketing platform that provides email automation capabilities, email marketing, landing pages, and more. The allure of Getresponse over other email automation platforms is its breadth of features; Getresponse has advanced automation features and allows users to create complex automation trees, but it isn’t limited to automation. If you’re looking for an email automation platform that also serves the purpose of several other software types, give Getresponse a try.

These are just a few options for email marketing automation. If you want to do some more research into those tools, visit the article I’ve just summarized. If you’re still curious, do some of your own research. Keep important features in mind, like automation capabilities, the size of your audience, and pricing.

Step 3: Build Your Email List

Before you can start sending automated emails, you’ll need to build your email list. This can be done in a variety of ways, such as by offering a lead magnet, running a contest, or simply asking people to sign up for your newsletter.

Once you have a list of subscribers, you can start segmenting your list based on factors such as demographics, interests, and behavior. This segmentation will allow you to personalize your emails for each section based (most importantly) on prior behaviors and preferences.

Through your email automation platform of choice, you can set up automation trees that trigger certain emails when a subscriber completes an action, like opening another email or clicking a link.

Overall, you want to focus on subscribers who have made the most purchases. Research shows that each successive purchase made by a subscriber increases the odds of them making another one in the future; thus, focusing on these subscribers will be the best way to maximize your ROI.

Step 4: Create Your Email Templates

This step and the next are interchangeable; you can choose which one you want to start with and go from there.

Once you have your email list in place, it’s time to start creating your email templates. Your email templates should be designed to achieve your goals and reflect your brand.

Designing content for your email automation system doesn’t require much design work, but the call-to-action is incredibly important for achieving your goals. Whether it be clicking a button, visiting your website, or making a purchase, your CTA is the most important part of whatever emails you send.

Most email automation platforms offer a variety of email templates to choose from, or you can create your own using their native drag-and-drop editor.

Step 5: Set Up Your Automation Workflows

Now it’s time to set up your email automation workflows. These automated emails will be sent to your subscribers based on specific triggers, such as a new subscriber, a completed purchase, or an abandoned cart.

When creating automated workflows, the most important thing is the trigger, A.K.A. what needs to happen for your automation to activate.

These triggers are what set the rest of your automation workflow to activate, and can range from opening an email to clicking a link, and much more using integrations alongside your email automation platform of choice.

To create your automation workflows, you’ll need to choose your triggers, set up the emails you’ve just created, and define what comes after your triggers are tripped. This could be sending an email, waiting for a period before continuing your automation workflow, or waiting for another trigger to be tripped to continue your workflow.

For example, you could set up an automation workflow that sends a welcome email to new subscribers, followed by a series of promotional emails spaced out over the course of a few weeks.

Step 6: Test and Refine Your Campaigns

Once your automation workflows are in place, it’s important to test and refine your campaigns. This will help you optimize your campaigns for better results.

Pretty much all email automation tools offer insight into the statistics from step one, so monitoring your statistics and finding areas of improvement should be simple and intuitive.

Use these metrics to identify areas for improvement, such as subject lines, content, or timing.

Maybe you tweak a call-to-action, button color, hyperlink placement, or one of many other things, but follow the scientific method and test variables one at a time.

If you test several changes at once, it’ll be harder for you to find out which change is responsible for whatever change in results you see.

That’s why A/B split testing is important, as it provides both a control and a variable test subject for you to observe and learn from.

Simply put, if a change works, implement it. If it doesn’t work, don’t.

Step 7: Monitor and Maintain Your Campaigns

Finally, just because your statistics look good after some testing doesn’t mean they’ll stay good forever. It’s important to monitor and maintain your campaigns over time, testing and retesting to ensure your campaigns deliver results and your subscribers stay engaged.

Regularly review the data from your email automation tool’s analytics tab to track your progress and identify areas for improvement. Keep an eye on your subscriber list to ensure that your list remains healthy and active.

Additionally, be sure to regularly update your email templates and automation workflows to keep them fresh and relevant.


Email automation can be a powerful tool for businesses looking to streamline their communications, improve engagement, and drive more sales. By following these steps and taking a strategic approach to email automation, you can start reaping the benefits for your business.

With a little effort and patience, you can create a successful email automation strategy that delivers real results for your business, while saving you and your business time and money.

Of course, this is a fairly basic overview of email automation. I haven’t included advanced email automation tactics here, but this should be enough to get you started.