Email marketing today is a very different beast from ten or even five years ago. In the past, marketers had a ‘pot luck’ approach that would involve simply sending general email to their entire list and hoping for the best. Today’s subscribers are different, and they expect content to be tailored to them, and to not receive the same thing twice.

In order to live up to this expectation, we’ve seen a real growth in sophisticated marketing technology that’s easy to use, which can deliver this sought after experience. Email-based education courses are increasing in popularity as a way to educate prospects and new customers about products.

These courses require a specific set of emails to be sent in a certain order – this used to be a very complex task for marketers, however today, commonly available email marketing automation tools, such as Campaign Monitor’s, really simplify things. Here are some top tips for building an automated email series that’s perfect for your business

Start with the subject

It sounds obvious, but you wouldn’t believe how many companies miss this crucial first step: picking a subject that will resonate with your readers. You don’t just have to rely on gut instinct to work this out: look at your website and blog analytics to find out what’s performing well, or commission a customer survey to discover what topic areas people feel they’re under-informed on.

There are lots of businesses out there which can serve as an example for how to do this right. Take Buffer: as a social media management platform, they’ve got to educate their users in not just how to use their platform, but how to excel at social media marketing to begin with. Buffer curates a ten day email course on ‘becoming a social media expert’. The title says it all, describing the course’s content and appealing to the desires of the people they’re emailing.

Remember your classic copywriting rules

It doesn’t matter whether you’re writing an ebook, a billboard or an automated email. Your emails should be a pleasure to read, and your writing should encourage your subscribers through your content with as little effort or friction as possible.

Remember these three helpful steps to write effective marketing copy:

  1. Problem
  2. Agitation
  3. Solution

This is called the PAS formula. Start off by describing a problem in the abstract. Then agitate that problem by linking it to a more specific situation that the reader can relate to. Finally offer a solution to the problem you’ve outlined. While following this structure, employ sensory words, evoke a reader’s imagination, formulate snappy soundbites and make sure you explain your argument clearly.

It’s not only an email course, it’s your product

If you approach it as if it’s just an email course, you risk putting it on a lower priority to your other projects. An automated email course for educating your users about a topic should be seen for what it is: a product.

This means you’ve got to market the email course as if it were one of your products, building an effective landing page, referring to it across your site and featuring positive testimonials from previous users.

Respect your readers’ bandwidth

Think about how much time you personally spend reading emails from your favourite brands. Even if it’s a brand you really like and purchase from regularly, chances are you only spend a few minutes or even seconds engaging with their email content on a weekly basis.

Design your email courses with this in mind: don’t overwhelm your readers with more content than they can handle, as you’ll run the risk of turning them off permanently. Once they’ve made the mental note that your emails are ‘too long’ or ‘too frequent’, it can be difficult to reverse course.

Keep emails short, and be transparent with subscribers over how much email traffic they can expect from you. Take a careful look at data such as link clicks at various points in the email to try and build a picture of how long subscribers’ attention really lasts, and design your future email courses accordingly.

It doesn’t end with the last email

By the time your email course has concluded, in all likelihood the majority of subscribers who were present at the start will have dropped out by the end. It’s therefore really important that you do something productive with that thin segment of people who are still engaged, still wanting more.

Invite them to share the course on social, and recommend additional courses they might like. Ensure that the last email in the course is continually updated with your upcoming content marketing efforts like webinars or ebooks: the important thing is not to leave them hanging.

Email marketing courses can give your existing content a whole new lease on life, and many marketers simply aren’t aware of how easy they now are to create and manage. Done well, an educational email series can draw in new prospects as well as keep existing customers engaged, making it a highly valuable item in the digital marketer’s toolkit.

Sateja Parulekar

Sateja Parulekar


Sateja Parulekar, director of product marketing at Campaign Monitor.