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A Guide to Email Sequences: Types, Tips and Examples!

Thoughts by Gracija Atanasovska • Writer Bento

Email sequences are one of the first things you’ll hear about in email marketing. After all, this is an essential part of automated email marketing for engaging your customers and potential customers that you can do in just a couple of clicks.

Now, don’t get me wrong: you still need to do a decent amount of work so your email marketing strategy can succeed. But, email sequences make it a helluva lot easier.

Did you know that email marketing has the power to produce the highest return on investment (ROI) compared to most of the other digital marketing platforms? The McKinsey research says that thanks to an email message, the average order value of a purchase is 3 times higher (at least!) than the ones made through social media platforms.

That’s why, in this article, I’ll tell you all about email sequences - what they are, what are the most important types of email sequences, and how you can best implement them in your digital marketing strategy.

What Exactly Are Email Sequences?

An email sequence is a series of automated emails that sends relevant and timely messages to a segmented list containing your prospects and customers. Email sequences exist in two main forms - they can be either trigger-based or time-based.

Trigger-based email sequences are usually sent as a response to the following actions from your users:

  • Subscribing to your email list;
  • Their browsing behavior;
  • Abandonment of shopping cart;
  • Purchasing a product;
  • Downloading content, or reading (engaging with) content on your site.

Time-based email sequences (also called email autoresponder) send emails at certain pre-scheduled time intervals, such as:

  • Immediately after a person subscribes, aka after they go through the opt-in process;
  • A certain amount of days after a customer makes a purchase (15 days, 30 days, etc.);
  • On the day when your customers first subscribed (aka subscription anniversary).

The great thing about email sequences is that you only need to set them once - different triggers will work for different segment lists - and that’s it! From then on, automation does all the work for you. It’ll just keep sending emails to your users and it will end only if your customers unsubscribe or if you decide to stop the email marketing campaign yourself.

Why Should You Use Email Sequences in Your Marketing Strategy?

You can be the best marketer in the country and at your desk the whole day, sending email messages day in and day out, but you still won’t be able to do all the stuff email sequences can do.

For example, how will you manage to juggle sending just the right email at just the right time, especially if you have a large number of subscribers? It takes a lot of effort to do this, I’m sure you’re aware.

As I mentioned earlier, the thing with email sequences is that they’re all automated and they do all the work for you. And when you harness the power of both time-based and trigger-based emails at the same time, your emails will be sent at the right time and to the people where they can have the biggest impact.

Let’s take as an example an email sequence set up for abandoned carts. When a customer places an intended purchase in your online shopping cart but doesn’t actually end up buying the product, which still remains in the cart, this is called an abandoned cart. But, when you set up an abandoned cart email sequence, you can easily nudge your customers into remembering that they’ve left the product in the cart and can still follow through with the purchase. And the greatest thing is you only need to set this up once and you can forget all about it, unless you want to add another sequence, of course.

Email sequences are a great way to build and deepen the relationship with your customers, but also to turn leads into customers. With this kind of help, you can go from engaging with people who’ve never heard of your brand to those very same people becoming brand supporters and loyal customers.

And an even greater thing is that every type of company can reap the benefits from email sequences. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in retail, have a software or an IT company, or you’re just an aspiring blogger trying to build a bigger information/news brand. Want to capture more leads, want to drive more sales? There’s always a way for email sequences to help you send the right message at just the right time to exactly the right person when it’ll be most effective for them to read it.

In short: email sequencing can help you achieve your business goals no matter what kind of line of work you’re in.

What Are The Most Important and Most Common Types of Email Sequences?

Okay, so next I want us to take a look at some of the most important and also the most common types of email sequences that marketers like to use in their email marketing strategies.

It’s possible that not all of them will correspond to the needs of your business. However, I’m sure that there’ll be something for all of you aspiring businessmen reading this to take home and think about, at least.

Welcome Email Sequence

The welcome email sequence is also called a nurture sequence. Welcome emails are the emails you send to your users once they sign up for your email list and go through the opt-in process.

Welcome or nurture sequences are the automatic messages that the email software sends to your customers when they register. They’re an important part of any email marketing strategy for the simple reason that they offer a gateway into your business and tell, in short, your subscribers and potential customers what they’re in for.

According to one statistic, the average open rate of welcome emails is 45%, which is not a bad percentage at all.

Now, the question is, how can you make your company’s emails achieve high open rates?

How to Craft a Good Welcome/Nurture Sequence Some welcome sequences are better than others, there’s no doubt about that. Many people wonder how to go about once they start crafting their welcome sequences. Should you make them more personal? Should you start selling yourself in the first message you send?

No, selling a product in the first email your users see is not going to make them more engaged with your business. A couple of emails after that, though, might just do the trick.

It’s actually recommended that you send from 4 to 6 welcome series emails before you start selling to your subscribers. That’s because, at first, it’s essential to build trust and prove to your recipients that you’re always up to the task of delivering relevant and useful emails to them. And 4-6 emails give you just enough leverage to pave the way for a good sell in the very near future.

How can/should a four-sequence welcome email look like? Well, for example, you can try and structure it like this:

  1. Send them a warm greeting, a welcome message that also gives a short description of what you do and what your customers can expect from your company and the products/services you provide.
  2. Talk a little bit about the value of your business and show them your special expertise.
  3. You can even share some of your core business stories here, to make your customers feel closer to what you do and the origins of your company.
  4. Make them feel smart by offering advice or guides about certain topics that your clients will find relevant and useful.

Even welcome emails can sell, but try not to do it in the first message. As you saw above, first you have to send a couple of nurture emails that will engage your customers with your brand and make them trust you. Try to always have your end goal, your sell, in mind, even before you stop sending that first welcome email sequence. And whatever you do, make sure to segment your subscribers based on different criteria corresponding to their needs and behavior.

Onboarding Email Sequence

Okay, so you’ve crafted a successful welcome email sequence. Great job! Now it’s time to onboard your subscribers.

What does this mean?

Well, onboarding means that you’ll be giving your customers just the right info they need in order to keep them close to your business. It’s another step you have to take in convincing your customers to make a purchase or use the services you’re offering.

An onboarding email sequence is used when you want your customers to:

  1. Use a particular product or service;
  2. Start a trial;
  3. Make an appointment.

That’s why onboarding email sequences should consist of personalization features as well as stages of your customer’s journey in your company. Basically, these kinds of onboarding messages are there to let your clients know exactly how to use your services and products.

How Can You Craft a Good Onboarding Email Sequence? There are ways to make your onboarding emails sound more professional and better oriented towards the individual needs and expectations of your customers.

  • Stress the value of your products/services more than you would stress their features. Features are very important, I’m not saying otherwise. But in these onboarding emails, your focus should be primarily on the value factor of the products/services you’re offering. Sure, people will take note of all the features you’re offering them, but what they essentially need is for you to solve whatever problem they happen to have.
  • Use the power of social proof. It’s basic psychology - the more people do or like something, the more it will be done and liked as time goes by. When we see people do something, and when we see they’ve benefited from it somehow, we want to do it as well. So, inform your customers of any successful stories from past or ongoing customers - include testimonials, positive reviews, customer stories your users can relate to, etc. and have them see what your product has done for other people too.
  • Onboarding emails can be good springboards for customer conversion. Sure, they’re not fit for hard sales, but they can actually be very good if you want to sneak in something like a first-time discount for your new subscribers, and open the gateway towards conversion!

In terms of how many onboarding emails you need to send, that really depends on the type of business you have, as well as what kind of customers you have. I think around 4-5 onboarding emails will do the trick just fine.

Abandon Cart Email Sequence

Did you know that, according to one statistic, people abandon 77% of online carts? Seventy seven percent!

According to Business Insider, online retailers might lose even up to 4 trillion dollars due to cart abandonment. I mean, there has to be a way to get at least some of that money back!

The good news is that those exact retailers can actually gain back approximately 63% of the revenue that’s been lost. Yeah, and it’s all thanks to the abandoned cart email sequence.

It’s just how people are. Sometimes a better offer comes along, sometimes they just run out of money, look around your store, and just fill up their cart cause they don’t have anything better to do, and sometimes they get distracted and forget about it altogether.

However, other times the matter is more serious and it can sometimes even have to do with your own website.

The most common reasons for abandoned carts are:

  • Thinking that the payment process you’ve set up isn’t secure enough;
  • The checkout process involving too many steps;
  • The products in the cart are too expensive.

While sometimes you just can’t give your customers a discount, if you get complaints that your payment process is too complicated, or that your customers are worried about card security, make sure to address those complaints.

Even if your customers have abandoned their carts, you can easily gain their attention back by setting up abandoned cart email sequences. These show up in your customer’s inbox once they haven’t done anything with their filled cart for a while, like, for example, a day, 15, 30, or 40 days.

A well set up abandoned cart email sequence will require a minimum of 3 emails:

  • The first email should contain a reminder which will be sent 24 hours after the first cart abandonment.
  • The second email should address any complaints or objections the customer may have towards the product and everything related to it. This is usually sent after 48 hours.
  • The third email will contain incentives about any possible discounts. This should be sent 72 hours after the cart abandonment has happened.

If you think 3 emails is too little, then go for more. The main thing is to stop yourself at the right time, just before you start being a little too pushy than it’s necessary.

Repeat Customer Email Sequence

Did you know that the so-called “return customers” spend 120% more every year than new customers do?

Yeah, repeat customers make up for around 11% of the customer base, but they manage to bring almost one fourth of your revenue!

As you rush to expand your business, chase new leads, and try to convert as many new subscribers as you can, it’s easy to neglect and forget about your old, current customers.

But these repeat customers won’t stay too much on repeat if you just ignore them and think they’ll stick around forever. Because they won’t. They also need a bit of a push and a nudge to get back on track.

And the great thing about it is you can easily keep in touch with them through the repeat customer email sequence. I mean, it’s so easy, it only takes, like, two emails to do the job:

  • The first email should be sent about 2-3 days after they receive their product or start to use your service. It should contain brief questions about how they feel about the product and whether they’re content with the choice.
  • The second email should be sent about 4 days after this, and it should contain information that’ll be useful and relevant for the user in question. Stuff like product recommendations or new content on your blog related to their purchase would be a great choice for this.

See? It’s much easier to keep old customers than gain new ones, basically.

Re-engagement Email Sequence

Re-engagement email sequences are oriented towards customers who haven’t engaged with your business in quite a while. It’s a sequence of emails you send to old customers as a way to win back their attention and loyalty, especially after they’ve stopped interacting with you for one reason or another, over a certain period of time (like, for example, for a month, two months, or so).

As with taking care of repeat customers, it’s also easier and cheaper to re-engage old and past customers than to chase after new leads.

Don’t believe me? Believe the numbers then.

New customers can actually cost five times more than customers that just ask for a bit of re-engaging.

Also, by increasing your customer retention by only 5%, you’ll also manage to increase your profits from 25% to - wait for it - 95%!

You’ll be able to see success in conversions from 60% to 70% when you’re selling to already existing customers, whereas you’ll only see a 5% to 20% success when selling to new customers.

This, of course, doesn’t mean that after a while you should give up acquiring new leads altogether. It’s just a reminder that you should always keep your old customers close by, and keep paying attention to them with strong repeat customer and re-engagement email sequence campaigns.

I mean, it only takes about 2 to 3 re-engagement email sequences, and you’re all set. Remember, we’re not talking about completely new customers who need a bit of orientation. All these guys and gals need is a couple of friendly reminders that you still exist and they should check you out again and see what’s on the table.

Event Email Sequence

Event email sequences are focused on eliciting action from your subscribers in the form of signing up and attending an event. It can be an online thing (like a webinar) or a live event (a conference), of which you can either be the host or a participant. But, it does have to be relevant and useful for the user.

In an event sequence, you should do the following:

  • Inform your customers and subscribers about the event, as well as the things they might gain from attending it;
  • Urge your subscribers to take part in the event (like, for example, by offering sign-ups inside the email message);
  • Remind the subscribers of the approaching event a week prior or a couple of days, or a day prior to the event, so you can make sure attendance will be good;
  • Send them a follow up email after the event ends so you can gather some thoughts about the whole thing and share feedback with your participants.

Event sequences are usually used both with timed messages and trigger-based messages. The timed part has to do with sending emails at a certain interval (a couple of days before the event, as well as a couple of days afterwards), and the trigger based ones have to do with sending messages to people who still haven’t signed up for the event and you want them to.

Follow Up Email Sequences

Follow up email sequences are pretty similar to the onboard email sequences, with one single important difference. Follow up sequences are used when a customer does something - it doesn’t matter whether it’s buying something from your site or finishing a course on your site, as long as they’re completing some kind of action. While, as you already saw, the onboarding emails have to do with new users only.

Why should you use follow up emails? Well, there are a couple of reasons:

  • It’ll serve as a way to reinforce information provided on your site and make your customers more aware of your brand;
  • It can be a way to drive affiliate sales and referrals;
  • It’s a good way to reiterate messages containing some kind of sale offer (like a sale extension, for example);
  • It can be a good way to share feedback for a product or an event, as well as inform your users of a next event in the making;
  • You can use it to remind customers that they can always purchase a product again, in case it has run out by now.

Final Thoughts

There are email automations designed for almost any type of customer behavior. All you have to do is set them up and have a particular goal in mind. That being said, you’ll still need to choose what you’re going to automate, and you still have to know why you’re doing it.

Think about the two phases of your sales journey. Think about how you do automation in the first phase, when you turn potential customers into actual customers. And then also rethink your email strategy when you try to retain your customers and when you need to re-engage with them.

Once you’ve thought through your email sequence strategy, you can use software that’ll make this easier for you, as well as email templates so that you don’t have to come up with new ones from scratch.