email marketing automation

Email Automation: How It Works and What to Know

Email automation is the process of using software to send automated emails or messages.

It can be used for a variety of things, including sending out newsletters, event invitations, and more.

In this article, we will cover what email automation is and how it works so that you can understand the benefits and drawbacks.

What is Email Automation?

Email Automation allows you to send a series of triggered emails without having to write each one individually.

It leverages a marketing automation tool that allows you to send emails that reach the right people with the right message based on what stage of the sales funnel they’re in, at the right time.

When you link your website analytics with your email marketing program, you are better able to target potential customers based on their behavior, preferences, and other variables.

There are two types: scheduled and triggered.

A scheduled email is time-based.

It is one that you pre-write and sends out at a future date.

This can be useful if, for example, your company sends out monthly newsletters to customers which need to go out on the first of each month.

A triggered email is event-based.

It is an automatic email that is sent out based on some event criteria you set.

The criteria can be things like a customer making a purchase, subscribing to a newsletter, or visiting your website.

When you set up your email automation program, you will know what kind of emails to send and design when to send them.

The design is typically represented in the automation software by a workflow diagram tree or automation map.

In this simple example by ActiveCampaign, it identifies the trigger event (Contact visits webpage), waits an hour, and then sends an email titled, “Interested in Learning More?”

The email sequence then waits a day and depending upon the reaction by the recipient, will either notify the sales team or end this sequence.

Automation maps can be very simple or extremely complex, so you need to be sure to understand your target audience, your sales funnel, and map out your automation campaign carefully.

What Are The Benefits?


Email Automation lets you personalize your message to each recipient.

You can include the recipient’s name and any personal details you know about them, such as their age or location.

This helps your readers feel like they are receiving an individualized email from someone who cares about their needs rather than a generic mass mailing.

With email automation, you can create series of automated emails to help grow your relationships with your customers and your business.

Email marketing is more efficient in helping generate revenue faster as a result of its integration through the sales funnel.


Email Automation can save you time by reducing the amount of manual work.

It means less time compiling email lists and scheduling messages, so team members have more time to focus on other important tasks.

If your email list is small, it will be relatively easy to maintain communication, but email marketing can make your operations more efficient as you grow.


The size of your business limits the number of customers that you can reach via email.

What if your customer base suddenly doubles? Triples?

When you establish automated emails, you spend some time designing your automation map and then let the software do the execution.

If designed correctly, the automation map can respond to a larger number of people with messages that are personalized to each person.


Email Automation allows you to be more responsive when a potential customer reaches out.

You can respond to an inquiry as soon as it comes in and then continues the conversation at a later time.

Once you establish the sequence, you can establish triggers to send emails immediately, have them delayed, or establish a series of branches that customizes the email sequence that the recipient receives.

Lower Cost

Email Automation is an affordable way to reach new customers and it can help you save on marketing budgets.

The efficiency and scalability of email automation mean that you can reach more people faster.

Automating common email responses with templated emails can save time and money, so you can spend more time on email cases that need a more personal touch.

How Do I Get Started?

Email Automation requires a marketing automation software subscription.

Which software Is best?

Choosing the right email automation software for your business starts by understanding what kind of emails you will be sending, how many contacts are in your database, and whether or not you have a dedicated marketing team to run it all.

Some are extremely simple but usually limited in their capabilities, while others can be extremely complex but have a wider range of options.

If you are just starting, it is good to test them out with a trial account or go with an affordable option with more basic features and adapt as your needs and budget grow.

Here are some options to help get you started:


ConvertKit has a visual email automation platform that allows you to send well-timed, targeted content to the right people at the right time via segments. This is a simple and easy-to-use platform, but if you are looking for some advanced features, some of the other options below might be more your speed.


Mailchimp has come a long way and has expanded to more than just email. It has a CRM, segmentation, behavioral targeting, predictive demographics, and tags, and contact profiles. They have also added landing pages, digital ads, and social media managers looking to be a more all-in-one software solution.


ActiveCampaign is my personal favorite right now. It has segmentation, subscription forms, broadcast/triggered/targeted emails, autoresponders, and more. Like Mailchimp, it also integrates other aspects like CRM and Sales features but I think it does a much better job and is a good value for the price.


HubSpot is probably the best-known, all-in-one software solution when it comes to inbound marketing. Its email automation is integrated into its Marketing Software and while they have a ton of free features available, the price can drastically increase as you look to add features and increase contacts. If you are a larger company and looking for an all-in-one marketing and sales platform, HubSpot should definitely be one to look at.


This post may contain affiliate links. Click here for my disclaimer.

Mike Nicholson

I've spent my career working in a variety of Strategic Communications, Public Relations, Public Affairs, Information Operations, and Executive Outreach positions. With a history of planning, preparing, executing, and assessing communication strategies in the U.S. and abroad, I use this site to write, think and share lessons learned on organizational communications.

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