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Email automation is a great way to build relationships with new leads and help nurture those relationships through each step of the buyer’s journey. When sending automated emails, it’s critical that the recipients still feel like they’re receiving individual communications.

When people start to feel like sales opportunities, and are constantly pitched to, they may lose trust in the company and can give up on marketing messages altogether. To be successful, marketers must find a way to merge automation with personalization.

Here are our recommended best practices for lead nurturing through email automation.

1. Segment, Segment, Segment

Rather than sending a single, impersonal message to your entire email list, it’s best to make your recipients feel like you’re speaking directly to them.  Segmentation divides recipients into groups that share a similar interest, goal, or profile. Meticulous segmentation is the only way for marketers to avoid appearing as if they are blasting out messages to the masses. Just one stray email can cause a reader’s trust to slide. In fact, almost 3/4 of online consumers feel annoyed by irrelevant web content, and that’s when they are actively surfing the web. Consumers’ tolerance for irrelevant content is even further diminished when that content is delivered to their inboxes.

2. Be Useful

Relationship-building in the real world provides plenty of time for idle chatter. While nurturing leads, marketers have to make sure they’re not wasting consumers’ time. A well-segmented contact list can easily identify what the consumers in each segment need, what their pain points are, and what their interests include. The marketer’s job is to demonstrate a true understanding of those needs. The next step is to offer solutions.

3. Easy on the Sell

The end goal of your communication might be a sale, but the most important goal of each message should be building trust. The best way to build trust is to avoid hard selling, especially in the beginning.

People receive daily emails trying to convince them to buy products. As a result, consumers have learned to filter their inboxes and their minds to avoid these types of emails. Don’t get filtered. Be useful.

4. How to Sell Without Selling

Knowing what information to send customers, and when to send it, is the key to successful personalized automation.

  • In the Beginning. During the initial contact with a customer, send an immediate welcome message. Send a follow-up message a week or so later with educational content based on their first interaction. This can include how-tos, best practices, product guides, and other content that will help consumers and play to their interests.
  • Activity-Triggered Messages. When you send messages based on activity, consumers will feel like you’re paying attention. For example, if someone downloads an Ebook on a particular topic, you can have a few related titles automatically sent a few days later. Or, if someone clicks a link from an email you sent, you can follow up with related content.
  • Leading the Consumer. Once someone has interacted with your initial messages or your activity-triggered messages, you can send out messages containing free trials or special offers. These messages are a great way to start moving consumers down your sales funnel.
  • Maintaining the VIPs. Another good use of automations is to send special announcements or discounts to those who have been customers for a certain amount of time, or use dated automations to send messages on a customer’s birthday or other important day.

5. Use Resources

There are many resources that can make automation easier. It’s not feasible to segment and automate emails by hand–especially with a sizeable contact list. Platforms like Constant Contact and Mail Chimp provide solutions for keeping detailed databases and creating personalized messages to send to leads on a timetable. HubSpot offers the most sophisticated contact segmentation and email automation software in the industry. Use these tools to simplify your strategy and create effective lead nurturing automations.