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Automation vs. Bulk? How to Reach the Pinnacle of Email Marketing Using Both

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09.02.2021

By Michael Batahla, CEO at Emercury

If you’ve been successful in any area in life, you’ve probably noticed a trend. Most people tend to go to one of two extremes, and if you observe the most successful actors in the field, you’ll find that they’re really good at getting “the best of both worlds.”

We have such an extreme polarization in the email marketing world as well. I find that most email marketers are either obsessed with automation or just specialize in broadcast bulk marketing.

Imagine in a combat sport where you had a fighter that only specialized in power punches. Well, that’s what people who only do broadcast bulk marketing are like.

Now imagine you had a fighter that only specialized in jabs. They’d go around and just perform a sequence of short, thudding punches at the opponent until they wore them out. That’s what people who obsess over “drip marketing” are like. They are also the ones who only care about leveraging automation and are very weak at leveraging broadcasts.

And guess what, you’ll never reach the pinnacle of email marketing profits if you fail to integrate the two. And that’s what I’m here to better explain today.

The fact is that you’re probably missing out on a ton of profits. How do I know that? Well, the odds are that you either put too much focus on broadcasts or try to do everything with automation. You need to be great at doing both and make the dynamic duo complement each other.

When to use Broadcasts

Anything that isn’t evergreen content can be designated for broadcasts. If you can turn a piece of content into an automated sequence, then it probably needs to eventually become an automation.

Please note the meaning behind the word “eventually.” There is a big secret in that phrase. Just because some content can be made into an automation, it doesn’t mean it needs to start off as an automation from day one.

On the other hand, how do we explain broadcasts in a simple way? Well, if you’re having a Labor Day Weekend sale, that’s definitely something you have to do as a broadcast. If you want to brag about your latest product or the TV interview, that would also have to be done as a broadcast.

In short, special one-off promotions, news and announcements have to be done as a broadcast. But that’s not all that broadcasts are good for.

Does Everything Else Need to be an Automation Sequence?

When people hear that broadcasts are for “one-off content” they immediately wonder, “so everything else needs to be an automation?” Not so fast. In an ideal world, you could somehow magically turn any potential evergreen content into a great automated sequence. In the real world, it doesn’t work that way, and this is for several reasons.

First of all, you don’t know whom the content will resonate with and if it will resonate at all. And while you could create “pilot automations” and refine them over time, I believe that broadcasts can play a pivotal role in the testing and development phase of your automations.

Broadcasts as a Customer-Research Tool

If you’ve studied automations at all, you should know that they work best when they are based on good, quality data. That is, the more differentiating data points you have about the subscriber’s interests and customer persona, the better you can craft your automations.

Ideally, your automations should give each individual person a different and unique experience. However, that’s only possible if you have enough data for each subscriber to make this possible.

While it’s possible to gather data using automations — and you should — a lot of the time, it makes a lot more sense to cast a “wide net” by using a broadcast to quickly gather the data that you need.

Practical Examples of Automation Leads to the “X” Type

Imagine that you need to find out which of your subscribers is interested in a certain category of a product. If you go the automation route, you can have your automations automatically gather this data for you. For example, you might have an automation that acts like this: whenever people respond to X-type of content, your automation adds an “interested in X” tag to their profile. This way of gathering and appending data to subscriber profiles works pretty well, and it should definitely be part of your strategy.

In fact, I like to say that the purpose of automations is two-fold. It’s to act on data and gather data. Most people focus on the former, and forget about the latter. Remember that your automations can be a great tool to automatically assign tags and custom field values on the fly.

However, imagine the following scenario. You want to build out a new automation sequence that targets people who are into X and tries to sell them on some new concept. Well, you could have different points inside of your different automations that assign the “interested in X” tag when something happens. Over time, you would know who among your subscribers is interested in this particular topic.

However, if you want to quickly test out your new automation to see how it works for people interested in X, you might run into an issue. You might not have enough data on which subscribers fall into this category. What if you wanted to more quickly find who amongst your subscribers is “interested in X”?

Well, this is where broadcasts can help you gather data more quickly. You can design a broadcast, which is basically designed to get people to reveal if they’re interested in X or not.

A nice, direct, and good offer on something related to the topic will get anyone interested to at least open the email. That’s one data point you can use to tag them as interested. And if they click on the link inside of the email, that’s an even deeper sign of interest.

It’s All About Ratio

You generally want to think of this as a balance where the ratio shifts based on how much data the subscriber has provided you.

Certain types of content will always be most suitable for a broadcast. This is the obvious stuff like current news, announcements and one-off sales and deals. It is all of the other content that you have to work out a balance with.

The best way I have found to measure this is based on the “warmth” of the lead. And by that I mean how much they’ve interacted with your email marketing in a way that provides you with usable data that can be segmented.

More Broadcasts And Simpler Automations For Colder Leads

While it’s possible to do things on autopilot and just do everything through automation, an optimally profitable business will involve more active work.

This means that as people are new to your list (and haven’t provided you with much of the data needed to trigger complicated automations), you want to target them more with broadcasts and simpler automations. These are the simpler more generalized sequences that don’t rely on having refined details about the exact profile of the subscriber.

Between the simpler automations and the broadcast, you should be able to gather more data about your subscribers over time, which will in turn let you move them further into more elaborate automations.

Denser Automation with Warmer leads

Once you get to know the subscriber and have enough data on them, you can start getting all fancy with your automations. These are all the complex automations the gurus brag about. “If the person has X, but not Y, but is A while, not B, then do such and such.”

There is a problem with these automations that nobody tells you about. It requires a certain amount of skill to be able to get this elaborate. That is on top of the fact that you already need to have a bunch of fine and elaborate data on the subscriber for it to work.

The good news is that as your subscribers “mature” and go from just “an email address” to a fully-fledged customer profile with all sorts of data, it becomes a lot closer to that fun automation playground everyone likes to fantasize about.

At this point, you can primarily treat the subscribers who are at this level in a much more passive way. That means, amongst other things, you can go down in terms of the broadcasts. Your ratio will go a lot further toward automations, and away from broadcasts.

Use this formula with new niches and lists as well. As a side note, this is the general evolution I recommend that people take when they’re new to mastering email marketing. But also, when they’re entering a new niche or market.

At the start, you’ll want to do more broadcasts and keep your automations simple. Of course, this makes sense if all of your subscribers are new, but also from the standpoint that you yourself are new to this market and want to learn more about it.

Broadcasts are how you learn and “get a sense” of what a market is like. Automations are how you start putting your experience and knowledge into an automated format. You shouldn’t automate what you don’t understand. If you automate prematurely, you are just putting your mistakes on autopilot.

Staying on the Cutting-Edge

At Emercury we’ve had the “misfortune” of sometimes being labeled as “the broadcast experts.” This is because we’re often on the cutting edge of implementing features to get more out of broadcasts, as well as strategies on how to deliver more of your broadcasts.

However, this isn’t because we pay more attention to broadcasts. It’s that a lot of ESPs have recently shifted too much attention to the automation side of things, while completely forgetting that broadcasting can still evolve.

We are constantly working on evolving both sides to a higher level. And if you’re striving to get good at combining the two, you should adopt this mindset as well. For example, for the advanced marketer who loves to get the most out of broadcasting, we recently released advanced segmentation.

It is this super-cool feature where you can have nested groups of conditions to create the kinds of fine-tuned segments that were impossible to do before.

However, at the same time, we have also invested a ton in our events and tracking functionality where you can create super-personalized automations that respond to the subscriber’s behavior in real-time. That’s on top of implementing incoming webhooks, and other cutting-edge features related to automation.

So, really, you’re not forced to choose between being “the broadcast king” or “automator supreme.”

It’s possible to take each path equally serious and stay on top of your email marketing game with both.

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About the Author

Michael Batalha  |  CEO at Emercury

Michael BatahlaMichael Batalha helps startups and established businesses make their websites work for them as a sales machine. From building brand stories to collecting and converting leads, he has successfully created numerous startups and been a board member of entrepreneur organizations. His passion is working with business owners to build their companies. He has graced the pages of Forbes Magazine and won the Entrepreneur of the Year Award at the United Nations Empact Summit.

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