August 2, 2023
Make the most of email marketing with email automations and more

Woman typing and working on laptop with dog on the couch; blog post on email automation

If you’ve read our previous blog about getting started with email marketing, you’ve probably signed up with an email marketing software provider and gotten your email newsletter sorted. (If you’ve signed up but not nailed the newsletter bit yet, you can read more about crafting effective newsletters here.)

But, how do you get the most out of your email marketing software? This includes learning how to set up email automations and segmentation. Let’s look at what that means.

Three types of emails

Email newsletters are classified as “broadcast” emails: you write one message and send it to your whole list. But there are two more types of emails you can send: segmented emails and automated emails. 

And this is where the fun really starts…

What are segmented emails?

As the name suggests, segmented emails are those sent to a segment (subset) of your whole list.  

The way this works is by using tags. When someone is added to your email list, you can add a tag (a category label) to their details.  Usually you use tags for “yes/no” or “A/B/C” type of information where we have a very limited number of options for a given category. 

Examples of segments might be:

  • Type of student (e.g., in person vs online).
  • Sports interests (e.g., agility, obedience, rally or nosework).
  • Type of dog (e.g., puppy, senior, or reactive rover).
  • Type of class (e.g., puppy, manners, sports, or specialist).
  • Instructor (e.g., Neville, Hilda, or Gertrude).
  • Downloaded a specific freebie.
  • Bought a specific product.

For example, if somebody signs up for a download, they get the tag that says they’ve downloaded the opt in. If a client has taken a particular class, you could add a tag that says that they’ve taken that class.

Why use segmentation?

Using tags to segment your list means you can accurately target the right emails to the right people so you’re not bothering other subscribers on your list with irrelevant information. Want to know more? Check out our post on email segmentation for dog trainers.

The whole idea of email marketing is to increase the likelihood that someone on your list will open and read your emails. If you constantly send irrelevant information by blasting everyone with every message, you’ll quickly have people hitting that unsubscribe button! Although unsubscribes in and of themselves are not a bad thing, it’s a shame to lose people because you’re not optimizing how you use your email marketing software.

Custom fields

Another cool feature of fancy email marketing software is the ability to create custom fields

Sometimes known as Merge Tags or Custom Tags, these are categories of information that are often unique to your client and are saved with their details. If you think of your email list as a fancy database, you might have the following:

You could get this information from your sales/intake form where, in addition to the basics, you might have fields where unique information is added along with multiple-choice drop-down type questions:

  • Dog 01 name 
  • Dog 01 date of birth (DOB)
  • Dog 01 sex
  • Trainer
  • Location
  • Service

So, in addition to the usual details (email address, client first and last name, etc.) you’d also have more fine-tuned information in your email database records. We’ll look at an example of how you could use this information later.

Why use a custom field vs a tag?

Custom fields have one huge benefit over tags: they allow you to really personalize your email messages. And the more personal and targeted your message, the more likely it is to be opened, read, and acted upon. Which is the whole point of email marketing.

Tags allow you to selectively send emails to just part your audience, but you can’t add tag information to an email message. Custom field information CAN be added to email messages. Once you’ve created a custom field, you can create an email template that includes the fields you want in the text. Then, whenever you want to use that template, all you have to do is choose the recipient/s from your list and the appropriate information is automatically filled in the text for you.

Let’s look at a couple of examples:

Example 01: 

Hilda runs a dog training and walking business, “Train & Trek K9”. She has 4 trainers working for her: some just offer training classes; some do classes and half day hikes.  

Once a week she looks at how fully booked her trainers’ hikes are for the following week. One week she sees that Gertrude is only half booked for her Wednesday hike. 

To try to fill the available slots, Hilda uses tags to select clients who previously have signed up for their dog to try a hike but aren’t booked in for the following week. Next, she selects those who usually hike with Gertrude.  

Finally, she crafts a personalized message to those clients:

Dear *first_name*

I notice that *dogs_name* has previously enjoyed our fun-filled half day hikes. 

I just wanted to let you know that next week, your trainer, *trainers_name*, has slots available for her Wednesday hike.

Would you be interested in signing *dogs_name* up to join in the fun? 

Click here to register *dogs_name*.

All the best,


Using tags makes selecting Gertrude’s clients who have done hikes, but aren’t booked for next week, easy as pie. By using custom fields, you can create the email once AND have it perfectly personalized.

Alternatively, if Hilda wanted to try upselling hikes to clients who’ve never signed their dog up for one, she could use tags to select clients who have worked with Gertrude for training but never done a hike. 

She’d then craft a segmented email broadcast promoting the service, and telling those particular clients that there is space on Wednesday the following week. She could also include an incentive offer to encourage those clients to try the different service.

Email Automations 

Once you have the hang of segmentation and custom fields to target your audience with highly relevant and personalized messages, it’s time to explore the wonders of automation. Yep, that means letting the system do the heavy work for you as much as possible.

What is automation? 

An automation is a sequence of actions or events that run automatically when ‘trigger’ events happen. Automations can make your admin so much easier, but they can take a bit of effort to set up – however, the benefits make the work well worth it.

How do email automations work?

First you plan out a workflow, step by step. For example, someone signs up for a freebie and then receives a sequence of emails. If you’ve ever been on someone’s email list after signing up for a download, free mini course, ebook, or worksheet, then you’ll know exactly what I mean!

Once you’ve planned your workflow, you write the appropriate emails and link them together so that completing one step of your process leads to the next step being activated.

Automation vs broadcast. What’s the difference?

If your brain has just gone “fizzle, fizzle, pop!” and you’re confused about when to use an automation and when to use a broadcast (including segmented broadcasts), think of it this way:

Broadcast: create your email message then (usually) schedule it to go on a specific date and time. 

ONE email you send ONCE to many people.

Automation: create a sequence of linked actions and emails. Those actions and emails are only triggered as a subscriber meets a specific criteria.

EACH email sent to ONE person as they progress through the workflow. The automation will be triggered multiple times over the course of its life.

Common automation triggers are:

  • Sign up for a freebie which leads to a welcome and/or value sequence to begin.  
  • Buy a product which causes a thank you and/or onboarding sequence to begin. 
  • Sign up for class, then get the appropriate emails.

Welcome sequences

One of the most common automations is the email welcome sequence. It usually looks like this:

  • Step 1: the trigger — fill in a form on a website to get a freebie.
  • Step 2: email delivering access to the promised freebie.
  • Step 3: email containing a few links to helpful blog posts related to the freebie.
  • Step 4: email checking in on how it’s going.
  • Step 5: email pitching an evergreen course, related class, lesson, package, or consult.

Here is an example of a welcome sequence automation from Groove. Subscribers receive these emails after subscribing to their blog.

Day 1:

Day 2:

Day 5:

Day 9:

Day 12:

And this is a graphic of the workflow so you can see how it hangs together:

Dog trainer automation example

Michael and Jamie Badial, founders of Best Paw Forward, use Google forms, linked to their ConvertKit* account, to automate sales call follow-ups.  

During a sales call, Michael takes careful notes. Afterwards, he fills the Google form with the usual personal details and all the relevant information from the call, including the three main issues the prospect is experiencing, the top three priorities the owner wants to work on and finally, the program or service he recommends. These are all set up as custom fields within Convertkit.

Once the form is complete, he submits it to Convertkit where the information is automatically added to their subscriber database list.

Submitting the form triggers an automated sequence. The prospect immediately receives an email saying something like:

“Hey, *first_name*,

It was great talking to you about *dogs_name* today. Michael mentioned that the three main problems you’re struggling with right now are *problem_1*, *problem_2*, and *problem_3*. 

Based on this, he recommends you sign up for our *program_name*. Our *program_name* includes ________________.” 

(ConvertKit is smart enough to add the appropriate details once it’s been set up on the back end.) 

Would you like to sign up for your program?” 

If they click the link to say “Yes”, they get sent to the sign-up page and they pay. That action automatically stops that workflow. 

If they don’t click “Yes” to sign up, the automation sends out a reminder email a week later, and one final email a specified number of days after that. 

This automation sequence eliminates the need to follow up manually. It also increases conversion rate, as the client promptly gets the initial follow up email after the sales call, and is further reminded to come back and sign up.

You can find out more about other automations for dog trainers here.

More than just newsletters!

As you can see, using tags and custom fields so you can use segmentation and automation tools, really powers up your email marketing software functionality! 

You can do so many cool things to reduce your day-to-day admin workload, increase your sales efficiency and sign-up rate, and help you upsell products and services painlessly — all without drowning your whole email list in unwanted emails.  

Email marketing software can do so much more for you than just send a humble email newsletter. It could be the answer you’ve been looking for all along.

*This link is an affiliate link. An affiliate link is a link that is traceable, so the company you are purchasing the product from knows that I referred you to them. They then compensate us for having made the referral – but you pay the same price, or a discounted price, depending on the company.


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