33+ Tips to Optimise your SaaS Email Marketing Automations

A checklist for auditing + optimising your SaaS email automation flows & strategy. How well are your emails performing?
by Dan Siepen
This checklist is more skewed to SaaS than ecommerce automation, but some may be relevant still. More optimisation tips will be added soon.

Strategy

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1. Who is your customer? What are their needs and what topics/information matters most that provides them value in relation to your product/service?

Whilst this is a no brainer, you need to make sure you've done detailed personas and analysis of your users or potential prospects. You can't formulate a robust email marketing automation strategy without understanding the needs + characteristics/traits of your ideal customers in detail.

2. How often does your new or existing audiences interact with your content? What do the website analytics say or recent email signups?

What can you learn from your existing analytics? How do users currently interact with the website? What sort of content are they reading? Which blog posts or articles have contributed to more email signups?

All of these are great questions and data questions to look into. Understanding how users interact with your content will help determine what content + messaging you use at various stages of your email automation flows and customer joruney.

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3. Have you done a customer journey map? Have you identified the stages where your existing or new users interact with your product/service or content?

In relation to the above, developing a detailed customer journey whilst also performing a deep website & content analysis will help determine the key automation flows and steps for users.

I love doing customer journey maps and do them for all projects I work on. They really do help give a holistic understanding of the various stages a user/customer goes through, and which stages you do particular "events", whether that be email automations triggered by events, remarketing ads on Facebook/Instagram, pop-up modal for email signup with a targeted lead magnet, etc.

Email / CRM Tools - Considerations

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4. What email automation tool are you using? Does it provide the features + integrations you need? (e.g. Zapier)

Whether you're a marketer or not, if you work in digital/tech you know for a fact there are lots of options when it comes to email marketing platforms. There are plenty of options to choose from, but which is best for your business?

Key factors / considerations to keep in mind would be:

- What's the pricing? How much does it cost as I scale?
- Analytics - how detailed does it go? Can you track conversions effectively?
- Does it integrate with a CRM? Can it easily sync with my existing CRM?
- Design capabilities - is it easy to build beautiful emails? Does it have templates on offer to choose from?
- Segmentation - how easy is it to setup advanced segments? Are they automated? Can it sync with Facebook Audiences?
+ many other considerations

5. Does your email automation tool integrate with your CRM?

If you can integrate your email automation platform with your CRM then that's great. It really does make it easier to draw on detailed insights and make better growth decisions. Plus, it's better to have in place so you're built for scale.

When integrating with your CRM, you would also have your website analytics in place. The benefits of this all sync are awesome.

Benefits include:

- Detailed analysis of where users are currently within the customer journey
- More detailed persona profiles - which emails do they engage with? Which sources are they coming from? Which pieces of content do they interact with?
- Advanced segmentation - send messaging at the right stage of their journey.
- Personalisation
- Ads targeting/remarketing - show ads at the right stage
+ other benefits.

6. Does the platform include the ability to build landing pages? Does it include features such as lead scoring?

There's a few options on the market where email platforms can also now building landing pages. Some good options are ConvertKit, Mailchimp & Hubspot.

Lead Scoring is definitely a feature for advanced marketers. You can "score" leads based on a number of various attributes including which forms they submitted their info, how much info they've provided and how they've interacted across your website. Based on how you score your leads, it can help you determine which customers are more likely to convert and those who still need some further warming up/nurturing.

Options on the market that have lead scoring capabilities include Hubspot, Active Campaign, Pardot & more.

Extra Reading or Resources:

Nice guide on Lead Scoring
7. What is the price? More so a question around opportunity cost? Will it provide features that help accelerate more revenue or save on other tools?

It's a difficult choice when it comes to choosing which platform is best for your company's needs. There's a variety of factors to take into account and one of those as we know is price. It ultimately comes down to the stage of your business.

If you have any questions about which email automation tool may be best for you, let me know and happy to chat :)

Extra Reading or Resources:

30+ email platforms for consideration

Email / CRM Tool - Setup

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💬 This section is for founders/marketers & those who already have either an existing email automation and CRM platform:)
8. Is your email marketing automation tool & CRM linked? Or are they within the one platform?

There's a good chance you're using an email automation platform already + have a dedicated CRM. Are they setup & syncing? If they can't or not possible, how can you fix this? Are leads feeding into the right segmented lists?

Tip: Consider using a tool like Zapier depending on your platform selections.

Extra Reading or Resources:

Great guide on CRM automation
9. How have you segmented your lists?

What segments do you currently have setup within your email automation? Do these align with your customer journey mapping & messaging? Segmentation is critical to ensure you're communicating the right messaging, at the right time to ensure it's a good experience for the user.

What are some list segmentation ideas? Click here.

10. Are your segmented your lists clean? Have you removed duplicates? Consider removing inactive subscribers too for better delivery rates.

It's important to make sure you clean your lists and remove any duplicates you have. It's better for improving open rates & click rates, fewer spam complaints, less bounces & ultimately reduced costs (since lots of email tool base their pricing on how many subscribers you have).

Extra Reading or Resources:

Cleaning email lists + the benefits
11. Have you set up lead scoring (if you have it)? In addition, are leads flowing into the right lists with automated emails working correctly?

I mentioned this earlier as a consideration for when you're looking for an email automation platform of choice. Does your platform have lead scoring as a feature? If so, then definitely look into getting this setup.

However before setting one up, develop a lead scoring strategy + system which makes sense. I've included a great guide below by Active Campaign which outlines how to develop one.

Content & Design

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12. Is your Pre-header Text short and provide context based on the email sequence/campaign?

You can't underestimate the importance of a good pre-header text. This is what will get readers excited when their inbox is full of emails and get them excited of what the email will entail.

You only have about 40-70 characters so it needs to be short and straight to the point. What you include in the pre-header text will also depend based on the email campaign you're running. A general sales campaign should include some "catch-y" copy where as an automated flow based on the signup should have copy focused on supporting the signup process.

13. Are your Subject lines personalised? Does it contain relevant content? Do you use 'catch-y'/relevant headlines to improve CTR?

Whenever you have the opportunity to do personalisation, then definitely take advantage. Personalised subject lines are best for increasing open rates + the attention of customers and ultimately increase CTR.

Regardless of the automation sequence, try to add some personality into your subject lines + preview text if you can. Have to keep in mind users get a lot of emails from a variety of services they've engaged in, so anything to help you stand out is something to always keep in mind.

Extra Reading or Resources:

Awesome post on improving subject lines
14. Is your email layout optimised for mobile? Make sure to keep max width into account.

This speaks for itself. Nothing is worse than receiving an email yet you can't read the information properly or it renders in a weird way. Most tools are good with ensuring you design for mobile. Always send text emails and look on your mobile phone + test with different browsers/email providers.

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15. Using many images or design within your email? Ensure to use 'one-column' format to ensure it renders on mobile properly

In relation to the above, using one column format for email designs ensures your images get rendered properly on mobile. It's much better for readability for the user. It's just a better UX.

16. Ensure hierarchy when building your email - most important first (or main CTA) with secondary content/CTA's towards the end. Remember, you want to focus on making it easy for key user actions.

When it comes to designing emails, you want to ensure it flows properly whilst keeping key user desired actions in mind. There's a few factors involved + take into account including:

- Colour
- Patterns
- Size & Scale
- White space
- Contrast
- Placement
- Alignment
+ other factors around design.

Extra Reading or Resources:

Good article on email visual hierarchy
17. Choose imagery relevant to the content + optimise images files to make sure it loads fast. Definitely do this for gifs and videos.

Any form of media from images, gifs & video are great for email marketing to help drive engagement + desired user actions. Choosing media which supports the content is a no-brainer, but have you optimised these files to make sure it loads fast? Email load times matter when it comes to capturing the attention of subscribers.

18. Consider "Dark Mode" when it comes to email design - I often see this not taken into account.

This is an interesting one which I don't think many email marketers or startups have properly taken into account. It's also an interesting dilemma as it's hard to optimise designs for dark mode.

Whilst I don't have the numbers of those who use dark mode gmail or use dark mode on their phone (would love to know the numbers if they're out somewhere), I use dark mode Gmail personally and have to say I get lots of emails with weird colours + formats. A lot of them aren't readable. However on "light" or how many users have as a default, the emails look great.

So, how can you design for dark and light modes? Here's some quick pointers:

- Use transparent images
- Apply dark mode styles in your HTML
- Continuously test newly created emails in dark + light modes

I've shared two great articles below you should read.

19. Do you use your custom fonts? Use them if you can, but consider the fallbacks/back-ups depending on the email client

If you have the opportunity to use a custom font which ensures your emails stay on brand, definitely use them. However, not all email clients will support the fonts display (depends on user browsers & email clients). So, what are your fall back fonts? Make sure to test these emails to see what they look like, even if the % of those who recieve the backup fonts is small.

Extra Reading or Resources:

Good article on safe fonts + explanation
20. Do you use Dynamic content? Ensure to use dynamic content based on list segmentation, user behaviour and campaign.

This is definitely for more advanced marketers/email marketers & only makes sense when you have serious email subscriber numbers. Dynamic content is great for achieving personalisation using content that is more tailored to the actions of that subscriber/user with your brand.

If you have a good subscriber list, then look into Dynamic content solutions as a solution.

Extra Reading or Resources:

Fantastic guide on dyanmic content
21. Creating long emails? Make sure to include a table of contents or some sort of navigation.

I've subscribed to a lot of emails in design, tech and startups and many of them are fairly long. Some have great table of contents but must admit some don't have table of contents and really do feel they're missing out on an opportunity to increase engagement + clicks. The email newsletter that do table of contents really does make it a better UX and I can go straight into the section I want to read.

Data - List Segmentation & Personlisation

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22. How have you segmented your lists? Here's a list of segments you can consider for your flows.

There are plenty of segmentations that you could do, including;

- Freemium accounts - those who sign up and not converted
- Active Subscribers - those who have opened recent emails or clicked through to the site (e.g. past 90 days)
- Trial user signups
- Activated users currently on trial - e.g. send an email with 7 days to go and then one more email with 1 more day to go
- Trial users who haven't made a desired action (not considered as activated)
- Converted/paying users

--> the list is endless around segmentation :)

23. What is your strategy around inactive subscribers or lists?

When it comes to inactive subscribers, there's some clever strategies you can implement to spur engagement and drive some desired actions.

Some ideas include:

- Send a personalised email with a discount
- Send a message from the Founder of the business saying "We miss you" or "How can we do better?"
- An email with a big update on "What you've missed" since they've signed up
- A random, funny personalised email + time to have a call with the team.

These are just some of my examples, but any ways to try and get them re-engaged is the key. Incorporate retargeting through advanced segmentation of inact subscribers to increase your chances they will see your message.

24. How are you interacting with your current customers? Based on segmentation, are you sending NPS/surveys, videos or ways to increase engagement.

What do your current emails look like based on important automation flows? Are they all personalised? Have you included media formats such as video + gifs? Have you incorporated NPS/Surveys?

Below is a really good guide by Access Ally you should check out. Does incorporate ecommerce strategies but overall good takeaways.

Extra Reading or Resources:

Email Automation guide
25. Depending on your CRM / Email Automation features, have you synced up your lists with the likes of Facebook audiences?

This is a great feature if your platform of choice allows it. Syncing audiences with Facebook means you can target ads specifically to those subscribers within a particular list segment. Not to mention, you can create lookalikes based on this data.

I've personally had great success with I have this integration. Ensures you have accurate messaging + CTA's on where users are at in the journey.

26. How can you be clever with some of the data you collect? For e.g. Happy Birthday emails if you collect their D.O.B.

What other emails can you incorporate into your email marketing strategy that can be clever + add some personality & personalisation to your brand? Some quick ideas depending on the data you collect would be;

- Happy birthday emails (if you collect DOB)
- Win-back programs
- Long term customers - send them a random gift

You get where I'm going with this. How can you stand out to your users or customers that will make them not forget you?

27. What data do you have around subscriber activity? Are you sending automated emails based on times optimising for open rates?

Do you optimise your send times based on subscriber activity? For example, do you take into account time zone differences? If not, then you should definitely look into this. You want to take advantage of your emails being seen in the inboxes at times where your subscribers are more likely to open.

Other items

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28. Who is sending the email? The company or a dedicated employee (or even the founder)? Humanise your emails

I bring this up as I personally prefer emails that are sent by a real person at a company. I also really like it when Founders of startups send emails as it feels really personalised and to me + shows they care about their users. It doesn't work for every startups, but it's something worth considering.

Consider testing emails being sent by the founder (s). Or at the very least, if you're not using a dedicated employee of the business to send emails addressed from them, it's worth testing.

29. Is there a visible unsubscribe link?

Don't make it hard for someone to unsubscribe. I've seen recently quite a few examples of bad unsubscribe experiences and the cost is far worse providing this poor experience than losing emails. It's a poor reflection on the brand and people will talk. I've experienced a few and it's a turn off.

30. Have you proof-read your emails or at least given to an editor/content marketer?

This tips speaks for itself but ensure you have a proof-read/editing process in place before turning on your emails. Bad spelling/grammar emails are never a good look.

I recommend using Grammarly or Hemingway if you don't have a content editor.

31. Do you have personality within your email copy?

This is where you can stand out against competitors or even just gaining the attention of your users with their full inboxes. People are time-poor and have short attention spans when it comes to reading email, but everyone loves personality.

An awesome resource to check out below is Good Email Copy. They have real-world examples of top brands who have amazing email copy to get inspiration from. Highly recommend, great resource!

Extra Reading or Resources:

Good Email Copy
32. How are you tracking your experiments around split-testing? Particularly around subject headlines & CTA's?

If you're not testing, then how do you optimise and improve results?

What's your framework around testing? How often are you testing your headlines, CTA's, design, images or copy?

The key to successfully optimise and run tests effectively is to keep track of your tests. I recommend using a spreadsheet listing your experiments and decide on the timeframe you + your team feel satisfied with to get insights that you can improve on.

Some split-test ideas (that I personally test also) for your emails can be:

- Subject lines
- Call to action's both text and buttons
- Images, gifs, videos, animation + other media formats
- Copy + messaging
- Image to text ratio
- List segmentation
- User/subscriber behaviour/activity
- Time of day
- Tone/voice
+ other tests

33. What is your deliverability rate? There are some technical factors to take into account

There's a few things involved when it comes to increasing your deliverability rate and ensure your emails avoid the spam folders. Key strategies are to make sure your lists are "clean" and that subscribers are opting in correctly into your emails.

However, what are some other technical factors? Some include:

- Authenticating your email domain with your email platform
- Use a dedicated IP
- Warm up your email domain
- Segment lists and send email to maximise opportunity for engagement (and those wanting to read your emails

+ other factors. Definitely check out both guides below to learn more.

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