email marketing
Marketing ROI

Email Marketing Automation Gives Creative Writers Something to Be Excited About

5 Minute Read

It’s four o’ clock on a Friday afternoon, and you’re an email specialist getting ready to pack up for the weekend. It’s already been a long week of working with your large B2B sales team to write some one-off emails to meet special requests or circumstances, and just as you’re about to clean up the last little pile of unread material in your inbox, another request comes in for some last-minute messages. Looks like you’re going to be staying a bit late tonight.

Email marketing has to constantly straddle the thin line between providing specific, personalized brand messages and keeping up the sheer volume customers have come to count on, from newsletters to confirmations and every touch point in between. If an email marketing specialist is going to keep up with scale, they have to embrace automation—and so many brands have. It’s quickly grown from a unique tech tool for large brands into a fundamental part of improving marketing ROI.

But just because it’s more prevalent doesn’t mean that marketers have fully gotten on board. Only 49 percent of companies uses automation right now, and only 55 percent of B2Bs—and 63 percent report outsourcing all or part of their automation tasks.

The technology’s effectiveness is undeniable, but there is often a powerful technical obstacle keeping marketing teams from taking control of their automation schema. If your brand doesn’t have the software infrastructure in place, it can cost thousands of dollars for your team to get properly set up and trained. Even with a structure in place, more advanced automation implementation often requires coding and technical knowledge that might be out of your wheelhouse

But even email specialists who tend more towards the creative, copywriting-heavy side of the business can take advantage of automation—not only to improve their marketing ROI, but also to become more creative in how they present their brand through writing.Girl with hat outside

Image attribution: Ezra Jeffrey

The Audience of One

Kurt Vonnegut once famously suggested that writers, “Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.” In the literary world, it’s a maxim that holds true in many circumstances, hinging on the idea that if a story is perfectly crafted for just one person, other readers will still be able to find a way to relate through similarities or empathy in the story.

It is one of the unique challenges of literary writing, to tackle the question of who this “audience of one” should be, but marketers have it much easier. Through a slew of methodologies—many of which come tied to automation platforms—we can know ahead of time what qualities various portions of our audience share. It’s the beauty of segmentation. Even basic familiarity with your brand’s social listening and CRM platforms can yield an immense amount of information in this way, but hold off and take a step back before doing anything technical with their email marketing platform.

Once you determine your message’s or campaign’s objective and what unites your audience, decide what links these two things. Now you can construct a quick marketing persona for that collection of characteristics.

Congratulations: your email campaign now has its audience of one.

Arial picture of winding valley

Image attribution: Andrew Collins

Sending Your Readers on a Journey

Salesforce Marketing Cloud, one of the more popular CRM/automation combos in the space today, coined the term “journey builder” for a tool in their email suite. The idea behind the tool is quite nice, but more than anything, the name suggests a world of opportunity.

Once you begin to layout emails for your persona, you have to figure out what order of messages makes sense in service to their goal. This can be a complex task, especially once you begin to dive into the minutia of dynamic content and branching decision trees.

But writers can simplify their strategy for this process while setting up a framework for powerful audience reaction by referring to classic structures popular in films, television, and books. Perhaps your newsletter would benefit from the episodic nature of TV series. The growing intrigue, tension, and climaxes of the three-act structure popular onstage and in film can help identify points of emphasis for lead development or sales conversion campaigns. The thought-leadership drip campaign you’ve been designing for you leadership team might benefit from the fundamental hero’s journey.

Understanding these proven narrative pathways can provide powerful structure for your own campaigns right from the start.

The Most Candid of Editors

Even with a perfectly constructed narrative and your powerful copywriting chops, no marketing campaign is ever perfect in the first go (if ever). To improve, creative writers usually rely on the honest—and sometimes brutal—criticism of their editors.

The beauty of crafting automated campaigns, however, is that you gain hard data about what portions of your story are holding up to your reader’s expectations and where you’re falling short. Once a campaign is running, make a regular practice of reviewing what messages are driving the most actions and what points are seeing the largest falloff (e.g., unsubscribes and failures to open). This will quickly and accurately tell you what segments of your journey might need to be retooled to better engage your audience.

Our valiant email marketing specialist doesn’t have to fear the encroaching complexity of automation. With even entry-level understanding, writers can leverage this technology to both keep up with their brand demands of scale and systematize their creativity in a way that reaches readers and offers continuous opportunity for professional growth. It all just comes down to understanding the goals of your campaign and using automation tech meet those goals in a creative, personalized way.

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Kyle Harper is a writer, editor, and marketer who is passionate about creative projects and the industries that support them. He is a human who writes things. He also writes about things, around things, for things, and because of things. He's worked with brands like Hasbro, Spotify, Tostitos, and the Wall Street Journal, as well as a bunch of cool startups. The hardest job he's ever taken was the best man speech for his brother's wedding. No challenge is too great or too small. No word is unimportant. Behind every project is a story. What's yours?

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