Digital strategy

Is an Automated User Journey Right for Your Email Program?

Beth Miller

Senior Digital Strategist

As you prepare for an upcoming email campaign, plan out your content calendar, develop copy and graphics, pick your send time and segmentation, and eventually hit send, you may wonder, “Can a machine just do this for me?” Well guess what? An automated user journey might just be your answer!

First thing’s first – what is an automated email journey? There are few different types of automated journeys but the two most common are drip campaigns and event-triggered campaigns. A drip campaign, is a series of emails that are programmed to automatically deploy as a user flows through the program. These typically include multiple emails throughout the automated journey. An event-triggered campaign, however, fires based on a user’s behavior, such as signing up on the website (a welcome stream is a good example!).

Through our extensive work with organizations building and optimizing their automated user journeys, we’ve developed a few key points to consider when deciding on an automated email journey for your digital program.

Consider the Content

If you’re thinking about building your email campaign as an automated drip stream, you’ll want to take into consideration the content you will be sending out. Is it best laid out as a series with messages that build upon each other? Is the information timely or evergreen? In our experience, we’ve found that a large amount of evergreen content presents the best opportunity for an automated stream.

In partnership with Teach For America, we developed an automated drip stream for potential applicants interested in joining the Teach For America corps. The automated journey educates prospects on how TFA serves communities, what life is like as a corps member, as well as essential information on how to complete their application. Because this would be a lot of information all at once, we broke these topics into individual emails that served to educate prospects along the way. And this experience resulted in a significant increase in applicants!

Who’s On the List?

Just as you determine who will receive your one-time email campaigns, automated email journeys require a similar – if not more sophisticated – segmentation approach. While an event-triggered email program is pretty straightforward (meeting a user’s action with the associated content), a drip campaign can be more complex. Hone in on who exactly should be receiving this series as well as who should not get these emails as you build the program logic.

Don’t Just Set and Forget!

With an automated email program, it’s easy to think that once you have it all set up, you can let it do its fun, automated thing. But in reality, you need to consistently check in on the program, pause it during days you don’t want to communicate with supporters, remember to unpause it after those moments, and consider any implications the start/stop will have on the program itself. You’ll also want to think about how this program interacts with current content or email deploys you’re planning – particularly in high volume moments.

Just One Piece of the Pie

An automated email journey is an exciting and engaging way to reach your supporters. But it’s not the only piece of your email strategy pie. This type of automation is best used in conjunction with a full email strategy to meet all of your supporters’ needs and speak to them consistently.

With our Teach For America work, we didn’t just send prospects through one drip journey, but continued to cultivate them through one-time sends and reminders to apply ahead of the next TFA application deadline. This email campaign strategy, combined with the robust automated journey, built a user experience that both primed and educated prospects as well as increased conversions – and ultimately applications.

Are you interested in building an automated user journey for your email program? Or do you have questions on what this is all about? Email us at nonprofit@missionwired.com!

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