Marketing automation is extremely powerful in its own right for lots of reasons: More responsive marketing, effective prospect nurturing, improved productivity, better targeting, machines that free up humans to focus on strategy, and more.
Automation also provides two additional benefits to the marketing organization:
- Strategic approach: The process of automation forces marketers to think through a customer lifecycle, and invent content that will address particular needs in key moments of truth for high value customers.
- Strategic insights: Automation lets customers find their own path to purchase, allowing marketers to be responsive to people whenever they connect. It also provides great feedback and insights for additional customer journey paths that may become popular. For example, in 2013, it has been estimated that about 6% of back-to-school shopping happened online. In 2014 it was 28%. Customers do not buy only in the way you direct them.
Since most email marketing delivery solutions include some functionality for “triggers” or “next best offer” mailings, email marketing is a great way to test automation for your organization and start to gain the benefits of this important technology opportunity.
Here are three ways to get started:
- Automate repeatable touchpoints to free up space for testing new ideas. Many repeatable interactions will benefit from strategically timed email campaigns and can be easily automated. Consider abandoned shopping carts, non-responsive people, new product alerts, frequent shopper discounts and renewal cycles. Automation ensures quick campaign execution and regular communication, and it allows you to focus your team on more ad hoc testing and experimentation to find the right mix to surprise and delight your audiences.
- Identify key lifecycle moments. There are likely a few really important lifecycle moments where you can test automation, establish some internal benchmarks and determine the value to your business. Look for the places where many people get “stuck” in their buyer journey. For a B2B firm, sending a purchase checklist a week or so after a flurry of website research could engage the prospect with your sales team or other online resources. Perhaps an invite to a local event would bring out decision makers or influencers. B2C firms do a lot of couponing, but sometimes content or special recognition will re-engage people who have gone dormant.
- Never “Set it and Forget It” – even with transactional and service messaging. Transactional and service messages are usually sought out by customers and well read. They are opportunities to express your brand voice and tone, even if you aren’t actively selling in them (and probably should not!). Do a regular inspection of all your non-promotional messages —from password resets to purchase confirmations and shipping notifications –and make sure that these automated emails are actually working and arrive in a reasonable amount of time. The inevitable result of a slow delivery or off-message service email is that customers will look elsewhere.
You will likely find many “best practices” out there, but always test your automation programs and differentiate based on empirical results that matter to your business. Your success in marketing automation will help you engage with more customers more often, and increase sales and loyalty. Automation projects give you great insights into your customer journey, but don’t stop there. TopRight created The Customer BuyWay™ to optimize the multi-channel and platform approach in which brands are activated and managed today.
Starting out with email marketing is a great way to build automation across your marketing organization, and continue to #StayTopright in your market.