Automation makes life easier.
One of the most common applications for marketing automation is in automated email responses. You can save seconds or minutes for each email you automate; multiply that by the dozens of emails you send to each customer and your hundreds, or even thousands of customers, and you could end up saving countless hours of time—while keeping your customers happier.
That said, automating your email responses is more complex than it seems on the surface, and you’ll need to consider many variables when planning your email automation strategy.
Table of Contents
- What Are Automated Email Responses?
- When Should I Use Automated Email Responses?
- How to Set up Automated Email Responses in Gmail
- 7 Elements of a Good Automated Email Response
- Effective Types of Automated Email Responses
- Automated Email Responses Examples and Templates
- Other Tools for Automating Email Responses
What Are Automated Email Responses?
Automated email responses can take various forms and serve many purposes, but they all function the same way.
In response to some kind of trigger, like making a purchase, an algorithm will automatically send an email to a defined recipient. This often provides a person (usually a customer) with information, and spares you from the need to draft the email manually.
When Should I Use Automated Email Responses?
The easiest way to understand the value of automated email responses is to study their main applications:
Salespeople who rely on email communication often end up sending similar emails on a regular basis; they reach out to cold leads, provide prospects with information about their products, and follow up a number of times. It’s possible to create and use email templates to simplify this process, but it’s even better to automate these emails. For example, you can automatically follow up with prospects if they don’t respond to your initial outreach.
Marketing email automation works similarly. The idea is to automatically send marketing emails to a defined list of customers, with email content varying based on those customers’ recent actions and demographic makeup. In some cases, these aren’t really responses; for example, regular marketing newsletters can be automated, but usually don’t respond to specific triggers.
In many cases, you can automate customer service emails as well. This is especially valuable if you find yourself addressing common customer queries and concerns; you can also let customers know automatically that you’ve received their submitted question or concern. Here are some handy customer service email templates!
Alerts and notifications.
Most commonly, automated email responses are designed to provide customers with alerts and notifications. This will keep them updated on matters related to your company, and provide them with direction on next steps.
How to Set up Automated Email Responses in Gmail
First, you’ll need to create the email response you want to automate. To do that, we’ll start by creating a Gmail template. We have a full guide on how to create a Gmail template here, but below is a quick step-by-step guide for your convenience:
1. Login to Gmail and Click the Settings (gear) icon and click “Settings”.
2. Click the “Advanced” tab.
3. Find the “Templates” option and toggle it to “Enable”.
4. Open a Compose window, and type a message you’d like to save as a template.
5. Click the triple-dot icon in the lower-right of your Compose window and select Templates, then “Save draft as Template”
Next, we need to create an automated rule that tells Gmail when to send this email template, and to whom. Here’s what to do next:
6. Click the Settings (gear) icon and click “Settings”.
7. Click the “Filters and Blocked Addresses” tab.
8. Click “Create a new filter.”
9. Define your filter based on who you want to send automated email responses to – and when. Be sure to see our guide on Gmail filters. Click “Create filter”.
10. Check the box next to “Send template” and select the template you want to send from the drop-down menu.
7 Elements of a Good Automated Email Response
Automating email responses isn’t always a good thing; there’s such a thing as a “bad” automated email strategy. So what is it that makes for a good automated email response?
Generally, these factors are most important:
One of the benefits of automated emails is that they respond instantly to a triggered event. Rather than manually replying to a given customer action, you can rest assured that they’ll get an email response immediately.
That said, you need to adjust your email automation settings to make sure you can capitalize on this timing. Most automatic email responders will send messages instantly by default, but run some tests to make sure this is on point.
Once you get the hang of creating and managing automated email responses, you’ll be tempted to automate everything. You’ll program marketing emails, sales emails, and customer service emails to go out for every meaningful customer event.
But there’s such a thing as too much; creating an automated email takes only a moment, so you don’t see the effects, but customers can easily become overwhelmed. They may realize that your intentions are to provide them with a better customer experience, but if their inbox is flooded, they’re going to become annoyed.
This is most important when dealing with drip email campaigns, which require you to send automated follow-up emails on a regular basis.
3. A clear subject.
Automated email responses won’t matter unless the people receiving them are actually reading them, and they aren’t going to read them if the subject line is confusing, obnoxious, or otherwise unclear. Keep your subject line concise enough that it can be read at a glance, and relevant to the content of your message.
Your recipients should be able to tell instantly what this message is about. If you’re trying to inspire action, you can tease the details of the message. If you’re just supplying a notification, try to capture the entire message in the subject line, like “Your order is on its way!”, so the user can delete the email without opening it and still get value from the message.
4. Concise content.
Let’s assume your recipient is going to open the email. Try to keep the message as concise as possible. You want to provide the recipient with as many details as necessary, but packaged in a way that can be read quickly.
Again, you have to respect your recipients’ time, and the best way to do that is to make it easier for them to read the message. Shortening the message is a good start, and you can make the email more readable by including things like bulleted and numbered lists.
There’s one major weakness of automated email response templates; it’s impersonal. If it’s your only method of email outreach, and none of your emails are connecting with people, it may not be able to benefit your organization.
Most customers can pick up on the difference between an automatically generated email and a handwritten one, and they’re more likely to respond to and appreciate a manually written one. This doesn’t mean you should manually write all your emails, but it does mean you should include some elements of personalization when possible.
Even including a person’s name can make a major difference in how they receive the message.
6. Contact information.
By default, many automatic email responses include a default “From” address that doesn’t actually go to an inbox; if a person responds to the email, it goes nowhere. This is done to prevent response spam, which is vital if you’re sending an email to, say, a list of 25,000 people.
However, it’s still important to provide some method of contacting you—and in some cases, it may be legally required. Include a separate email address, a physical address, a phone number, social media links, and whatever other contact methods you deem appropriate to make sure your recipients can get in touch with you.
7. A call-to-action/next steps.
Some automatic email responses won’t require any kind of next step, or action on behalf of the recipient. For example, after notifying a customer that their order has shipped, the customer doesn’t have to do much else.
However, in some cases, you’ll want to provide recipients with a call to action, or with descriptions of the next steps of the process. For example, you can send a message welcoming them to your service, and explain what they can expect from your brand in the coming days and weeks.
So, how can you tell if your automated email response strategy is working? The only reliable way is to objectively measure your results, like the number of customer responses you’ve received or how valuable your customers find your messages. Instate tracking and survey your customers so these metrics are available to you.
Effective Types of Automated Email Responses
If you’re still not sure what type of automated email responses you might create, these archetypes are some of the most popular:
- Welcome emails. Welcome emails are a nice way to give customers immediate gratification for taking a meaningful action with your company. For example, when they sign up for a free trial, or make a first purchase with your brand, you can welcome them to your business.
- Confirmation emails. You can also send automatic emails as a confirmation of some activity. For example, you might confirm a recent purchase with shipping and tracking details.
- Reminders and alerts. Many businesses rely on automatic email responses for reminders and alerts. For example, they might send customers email reminders that they have upcoming appointments, or give them an alert when something has changed with their account.
- Answering a specific question. If you’re using email as a primary customer service channel, you can rely on customer service email templates and automation to answer common questions. This is essential if you find yourself answering the same things over and over.
- Updates and connections. Brands are more successful when they remain top of mind, keeping the customer relationship alive and healthy. You can use automated email responses to keep customers up-to-date with brand news, and simply reach out to keep the connection alive.
Automated Email Responses Examples and Templates
Need some inspiration for your automated email responses? We have a ton of email templates and examples for all occasions that you can use as you like. Feel free to browse the following templates based on what suits your needs:
Need help coming up with ways to start an email and subject lines? We’ve got you covered on those, too!
Other Tools for Automating Email Responses
If you’re looking for a more polished system for your automated emails, or if you’re working on a large scale, you’ll want to use a specific tool to accomplish the job. There are dozens of great tools available, but these will give you an idea of what’s possible:
HubSpot offers an entire suite of software related to marketing and sales. With these apps, you can create automated emails embedded in your workflows and send those emails in response to customer-initiated triggers.
MailChimp is widely known as an email marketing tool, and it has a variety of features designed to simplify your email-related processes. With a paid plan, you can create email drip campaigns and keep your customers updated.
Intercom is my personal tool of choice, and it’s what we use here at EmailAnalytics. It’s a CRM and marketing automation tool all-in-one, and it includes automated email response features. You can target your automated email sends based on characteristics of your users and schedule drip-feed emails for new customers.
Automated email responses represent a small part of the total number of emails you’ll send within your organization. For the rest, you’ll need a tool to keep track of your email response time, number of emails sent and received, and other metrics that can help you increase productivity. EmailAnalytics is the perfect tool for the job. Sign up for a free trial today, and get control over your email habits!
Jayson is a long-time columnist for Forbes, Entrepreneur, BusinessInsider, Inc.com, and various other major media publications, where he has authored over 1,000 articles since 2012, covering technology, marketing, and entrepreneurship. He keynoted the 2013 MarketingProfs University, and won the “Entrepreneur Blogger of the Year” award in 2015 from the Oxford Center for Entrepreneurs. In 2010, he founded a marketing agency that appeared on the Inc. 5000 before exiting it in January of 2019, and he is now the CEO of EmailAnalytics, and co-host of the podcast The Entrepreneur Cast.