7 ways to improve your automated e-mails

Most companies and organizations use automated mails to some extent – to confirm sign-ups, to notify of trial periods ending, and so on. But it is astounding how little care many organizations put into these kinds of e-mails, because they are usually seen as purely operational instead of another way to increase customer satisfaction.

This is doubly true for internal e-mails. These are often an afterthought, written up by an overburdened IT department that is ill-equipped to write riveting content (and shouldn't be asked to do so anyway), or handled by HR staff, who also do not tend to be the best writers. So without further ado, let's cover 7 tips for improving automated mail.
1 – Personalization

The days of anonymous, robotic e-mails are over. Personalization has long since become the norm, even in automated mails. You can either do this via features of your mailing app, or, on the sender's side, by personalizing your sender field.

In this regard, it's also important that you maintain a consistent and personal tone of voice and respond quickly to questions, even if the sender persona is fake. In addition, when you select a name for your mail program, think about the global picture. Names like Gabriel, Nina or Hannah are known worldwide – names like Mehmet, Akira or Diedonné are more tied to specific cultures.

2 – Simplification

People get a lot of mail every day. To make your automated e-mails count, keep them short and sweet. The ideal length is about one screen length on a desktop monitor, so that people don't have to scroll.

In addition, counter to what you may think, experiment with layout-free e-mail. This won't only make them lighter in the inbox, it will also make them easier on the eyes. Plus, it enhances the 'natural' effect, i.e. the impression that your mail may have been written by an actual person rather than being another glitzy marketing tool.

3 – Relevance

Everything you send ought to be relevant. People don't need yet another mail saying they've created an account somewhere if the information in it is purely commercial or technical. Dovetailing with the second point in this article, get to the point quickly. People know when you're pushing fluff.

Relevance should be clear from the title of your mail. Don't be too shouty or overly promotional, but don't be too dry, either. For instance, if you're sending an e-mail containing a user's account data, title it 'Important: your password and user name', hitting both the relevancy note and the valuable content.

4 – Periodic check-ups

Another problem that automated messages face is that they're often 'one-and-done' and can become outdated or no longer in line with the factual truth. As such, it's a good idea to set regular reminders (say, every quarter) in your agenda to check up on your automated mails to see if they are still relevant.

Relevancy not only includes the content, but also the references, links and mentions in your e-mail. For instance, if you've switched CRM systems and your automated internal mail still links to the old system, it makes you look negligent and sloppy.

5 – The human touch

As said before, writing the copy for automated e-mails often falls on the shoulders of people who aren't natural, let alone professional writers. Yet, it can be a quick win to have these e-mails redacted or written by a professional copywriter.

If you don't have a copywriter or if you're loathe to hire one for this job, just don't forget to sound human and real. Avoid jargon and avoid the passive voice as much as you can, and focus on the other points in this article – trim the fluff, be to the point and be clear about your value.

6 – Go multi-lingual

If your audience is global, English is obviously your most important language (if you're no native speaker have your e-mails proofread by someone who is a native speaker or near-native!). However, a little effort goes a long way into creating multi-lingual automated e-mails.

People enjoy reading content in their native language much more than reading English, especially if English skills are not a given in their region, e.g. French and Spanish speakers are less likely to have a good understanding of English than people from Scandinavia or the Low Countries. Does this create more overhead? Yes. But it can also strengthen customer loyalty.

7 – Include a call to action

This is by far the most important point. You want people to do something – engage with you, buy from you, consume your content. If you have no call to action, then there's no point in sending out an e-mail.

Think of the response you'd like to get. Even if it's mail to existing customers, you might want to get them to do repeat business with you. Clear, visible buttons or motivating copy can help you out here, e.g. by giving an indication of the amount of time and resources it would take people to spring to action ("it takes just five minutes", or "it's completely free"); or by indicating a benefit ("increase your profit", or "learn more about our growth hacks").
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