Email has been one of the most consistent channels for marketers during the 2020 pandemic. Volume overall (as measured by the emfluence Marketing Platform) is up more than 56% this year, and there’s no surprise as to why—in a time where direct mail, targeting methods, sales calls, and trade shows are largely unavailable, we can always rely on email to find its way to our target audience.

That doesn’t mean marketers have freedom to email at random. If you want your email campaigns to prove successful, there is a list of campaign do’s and campaign don’ts you’ll want to follow first.

If you’re new to your marketing automation platform integration with your CRM system, this post is designed to give you guidance on best practices—and worst practices—for marketing automation. Let’s start with the good:

Your Email Must Add Value

People tend to subscribe to emails for one of three reasons:

  • To receive discounts, special offers, etc.
  • To receive ongoing education (e.g., newsletters)
  • To receive product/service information about something they have already purchased

As you think through your email campaigns, ask yourself if you have emails that fit each category—or if you have emails that don’t service any of the goals above. More importantly, ask yourself if the people receiving routine emails asked for them in the first place.

Automation Requires a CRM Integration

…and with that CRM integration comes a need for you to understand how the CRM data is structured, who or what inputs it, and how you can access it (fields? Marketing Lists? Flows?). You’ll need to answer these questions so that you can work backwards from your ultimate campaign goal—what are the triggers you want to create campaigns for? They could be:

  • Date-based campaigns
  • Regional campaigns
  • Product-specific campaigns


Get emfluence’s Ultimate Guide to Marketing Automation and Microsoft Dynamics to create some of the most successful CRM + marketing automation campaigns.


Personalize for Time, Space, and Relationship

Personalization isn’t just about first name variables! Great automation comes from identifying ways to launch a campaign based on time (e.g., what date or time-based events are coming), space (e.g., where are they located), or relationship (e.g., where are they in the customer journey). Think about what dates or events are relevant to your buyers—is it contract renewals? Industry happenings? Regional occurrences? Automate accordingly.

Consider Outlook Placement

Before you build a single email, go check your inbox placements. Are they mostly Outlook? If so, this information should inform your design. Learn more about what to do (and not do) when sending to primarily Outlook inboxes in our guide here.

Leverage CRM Data in Nurtures

Your CRM system is a wealth of data! Think beyond just triggers and segments and into what data points you could leverage in your automation strategy. Maybe you want to create personalized header images based on the state of each email recipient—that’s pulled from CRM data. Maybe you want to create campaigns that reference their last activity date—that’s CRM data, too. Insert variables where you can, and pick a marketing automation platform that allows for you to customize data fields.

Consider the Climate

The Coronavirus pandemic and the growing number of businesses sending messages about Black Lives Matter should serve as a wake-up call for marketers—even those of us in B2B spaces. Consumers want to know what your brand is doing and how your company is responding to major shifts in the national landscape, and email can be a great way to communicate those messages. This time, more than ever, should solidify the need for a clear opt-in strategy that encourages people to join your list of their own accord rather than getting added without consent. It’s also an important time to review your automated campaigns and their calls to action. For example, offers that require in-store or in-office redemption could benefit from virtual redemptions to match the varying comfort levels of risk exposure.


Automation Don’ts

There are a few things we can categorically say are bad ideas, even in the best of times. Let’s talk about what not to do with marketing automation:

  • Don’t set and forever forget your campaigns—you should review your metrics, messaging, and CTAs on a quarterly basis, at a minimum.
  • Don’t opt in everyone your sales team meets—this doesn’t match the objective of having email that adds value to your recipient, and it’s likely to damage your sending reputation.
  • Don’t batch and blast to “All”—segmenting your list based on preferences, time, or customer journey will yield better results!
  • Don’t forget exit conditions—ensure your automated campaigns have an “out clause.” If they convert, have a plan on removing a person from your nurtures!
  • Don’t stop at lead nurtures—have a plan for nurturing beyond the lead funnel. What can you say to support prospects and clients, too?
  • Don’t automate emails with hard and fast calendar events—these are better served as manual sends.
  • Don’t send the same thing everyone else sends—do some competitive research, and allow yourself to stand out in the inbox!
  • Don’t be tricky! There’s nothing more damaging to a relationship than trickery—you might get the initial open, but you can’t expect that person to stick around for long.


Automation Maybes

Depending on how your business operates, there are a few items that you might consider as part of your automation strategy.

If you have a sales team, considering automating follow ups, reconnections, and date-based reminders on their behalf. You would want to send these “from” their email address in your marketing automation platform, so ensure you can populate record owner and record owner email address in your email system. This means that any lead who responds would respond directly into their original contact’s inbox rather than a generic marketing one that might not be monitored as closely.

You may also consider integrating contact score from your marketing automation platform to your CRM—doing so means your sales team can prioritize follow up with leads who are most engaged with your email content, website pages, and landing pages.

One benefit of having separate instances for your CRM and marketing platform is that you can keep MQLs and SQLs separate. That means you can keep leads that aren’t ready for a sales conversation away from the sales team until they are ready.

As you review your marketing automation strategy, be sure to take these tips into consideration for best success on your marketing automation goals.

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