What we know as marketing automation today probably started getting its current shape and form with one simple idea - sending ecommerce customers abandoned cart emails. In the not so distant past when there were ecommerce businesses cropping up in every nook and cranny all around the world, abandoned cart emails were all the rage. Sending your customers an email, or an app notification when they added items to the cart but did not complete the purchase brought back a percentage of them. Easy incremental revenue. Soon, every ecommerce business started doing it, and that is how we set on a path where we started treading down the path where we slowly started automating every single marketing activity and engagement hook that could be defined by a set of rules and conditions.
Today, there are countless marketing automation platforms out there. As new businesses started emerging and picking up steam, businesses operating in almost similar domains like Hubspot and Mailchimp entered the foray of marketing automation by adding new features to their existing products, and businesses like Adobe entered it via acquiring players like Marketo.
Marketing automation is powerful, and the past few years have been a testament to that. They are specially lifesavers for small and nimble teams that are strapped for both time and bandwidth.
So today lets look at marketing automations a bit, understand what a workflow is, and look at some examples of marketing automation workflows your business can benefit from.
How to ensure your marketing automation is delivering the best results possible.
I am a huge fan of data driven planning and critical thinking. So it shouldn’t surprise you by now that I would once again start with a planned approach.
The building blocks of marketing automation are workflows - the set of rules and conditions that trigger your actions. So, the more well defined and thought out your workflows are, the better your marketing automation processes will become.
To begin with, chart out the objectives, goals and targets you are wishing to achieve via marketing automation. You need to remember that marketing automation doesn’t just save you time, if executed well, it enables you into building better customer relationships, nurture your audience more effectively, boost conversions and can facilitate a dramatic and sometimes even exponential increase in revenue.
Once you have charted out your objectives, you would be in a position to identify the workflows. If you have ever used IFTTT or Zapier, you are familiar with what an automation workflow looks like and how is it defined by rules and conditions.
So, what should be triggering your workflows? They can be different touchpoints in your customers’ lifecycle - when they visit your website, when they visit your blog, when they read a blog post from a certain category, when they contact your customer service, when they go through your live demo etc.
They can be steps within the customers’ usage of your product that defines their behavior or workprocess. For example, in our case, it could be when a customer adds a second website to their analytics dashboard, or when they set up their first goal. These are actions taken by the customers and they help you get a better sense of how your customer is navigating through your product, enabling you into offering a more guided help so as to help them get the most value from your product.
They can be defined by actions that get automatically triggered based on certain pre-determined conditions. For example, in the last point, our customer added a second website to their Benne Analytics dashboard, and even set up their first goal. But there are a lot of possible scenarios post that. The customer added the website in their dashboard two days ago but still hasn’t added the analytics measurement script to their website’s html. Or, the first time a goal is fulfilled. These are all examples of scenarios where there is an opportunity to engage the customers by giving them more valuable information. It can even help you retain the customers who may otherwise churn out soon (if they don’t add the measurement script to their website, they won’t use the product, and if they aren’t using the product, they are likely to churn out).
For each of these scenarios, there is a specific engagement roadmap you can think of to impart a better experience to your customers. And great customer experience helps the business on all fronts - from establishing brand equity to increasing revenue and transactions.
Let us look at a few marketing automation workflows and understand how they help your business. With some minor tweaks and fine-tuning, you can customize these workflows to suit your business needs perfectly.
#1. Welcome Home!
No matter how you feel about the Matrix sequels, this was a lovely sequence - “Door’s open, beds made. Welcome home.”
Something about that scene just hits us on a primal level, tugging on our heartstrings, hitting all the right chords. It isn’t all that different when it comes to your customers. Yes, they are just using a product, and the only thing they need from you is to deliver on what your product claims to do. But that doesn’t mean they don’t want to feel important and needed.
Customers tend to stick with businesses that they think care about them. So, having a welcome email is a must for any SaaS business.
As we discussed earlier, marketing automation can play a pivotal role in developing and nurturing your audience, and this welcome mail is just a small, yet crucial part of it. It is the first touchpoint you have with your customer, so make an effort to leave an impression.
There are many ways to go about doing this well. You can use this opportunity to:
rehash your value proposition, underscoring the most critical aspects of your product
guide your customers into taking a few actions. For example, our welcome email would contain a link to direct customers to a form where they can add their first website.
set expectations for your customers. What should they be expecting out of the product (and what they shouldn’t be)
initiate a dialogue with your customers. For example, I use the welcome emails to get to know my customers better. What are the marketing challenges they are facing, what are their immediate business objectives etc.
delight your customers with a surprise. It could be a welcome bonus, a free coupon, free upgrade etc. For example, every Saturday, we offer a percentage of our new sign ups a 3 month free upgrade to the economy plan.
The right way to think of this particular workflow is to think of it as an email autoresponder. You are essentially doing the same thing.
This is one of the easiest automation workflows to set up and execute since it is pretty much straightforward and has no complex conditional triggers and rules to define it.
#2. User onboarding
User onboarding is a natural progression to the welcome email. While you should treat welcome email the same way as you treat a landing page - focused on directing the users to take a specific action, you can treat the onboarding emails as a series of landing pages, with each email focused on a subsequent action. The flow of the onboarding emails needs to have a consistency, flow and natural progression to it, with every subsequent email imparting more value to the recipient than the last.
Your Benne Analytics dashboard can easily help you decide on the components that should be a part of the user onboarding process. You would need to look at factors like the most popular pages on your website, pages that result in the most goal conversions, pages that show the least bounce in search/organic traffic etc.
Like welcome emails, a typical user onboarding workflow is simple to set up. While you can set up an onboarding workflow with multiple branches and conditionals, it is not recommended to do so in the early stages without analysing engagement data of the onboarding workflow. Keep it simple to begin with, and as you get a better understanding of your audience and what resonates with them, build up on it further.
#3. Something for Those on The Sidelines
For every customer who signs up for your product, there would be countless more who have been exposed to your product, content and brand, but are yet to take the decisive step of becoming a customer. You need to have a system to keep them engaged with your brand, and offer a consistent stream of value to increase the odds of them becoming customers in future.
This base would be a combination of different segments of your audience. For example, those who have expressed some interest in the product (say, gone through the live demo etc.), those who have subscribed to your blog’s content.
Ideally, each of these segments should have an independent workflow of their own, since they are at different stages in their decision making process - with the ‘gone through live demo’ being ahead of the subscribers. But, failing that, they should at least be a part of an automation workflow that helps them stay engaged to the brand and intermittently see for themselves the value the product and the business has to offer.
#4. Gated Content and “Lead” Magnets
Gated content and Lead Magnets are typically used to generate - as the name suggests - Leads. You offer a piece of content - often an ebook, a case study, access to a webinar etc. - in return for details about them - email, company information etc.
I, however, like using gated content to understand my audience better. What is it that they are most drawn to. The case studies they check out helps me understand what line of business they could be in, the same for usecase or scenario specific case studies. The gated content they check out helps me get a better sense of the most critical pain areas they are struggling with.
But whether you are using gated content to generate leads or add to the understanding you have of your audience and their motivation, setting up automation workflows for them helps your business substantially.
The simplest way of setting this up is by having dedicated landing pages for your gated content, and tagging the subscriber info with relevant identifiers. This way, you can set up an email flow for subscribers that are tagged differently, and have the content of these emails customised based on the tags.
#5. Lead scoring
As I started writing about lead scoring, something made the song “Every breath you take” by The Police pop up in my head and now it will be stuck in my head all day long.
But that song popped up for good reason. How you distinguish between the potential or value of one lead from another follows the same principle. You’ll be watching them.
A user can perform countless actions on your website or blog, and each type of action is an indicator of their interest (like we saw in #3 - someone who has gone through the demo is more likely to be interested in a product similar to yours). You can assign different scores to different actions on your website - based on how those actions translate to actual revenue down the line.
And once you have these different scores, you can set up different workflows for different groups. For example, someone with a high score is much more likely to use the product, and close to decision making. A gentle nudge in the right direction with something as simple as a limited time discount coupon might just take them over the edge. Someone with a low score probably needs more nurturing and could be more benefitted by being fed into a content flow automation workflow.
#6. Getting feedback
What is the best time for you to ask your customers for their feedback on your product, or ask them to leave a rating for you on the app store, or Trustpilot? You obviously can’t ask them right away as soon as they start using your product.
While sending requests for feedback after a certain pre-defined period since account creation makes sense, this request would get sent to even users who created an account but never used the product, and to users who used the product but have since stopped using it.
So when do you do it? And how?
One good approach is to have a trigger based on their usage of the product. If someone has added a website to their Benne Analytics dashboard, and has been using the product to monitor their web analytics for a few weeks, they might be more inclined to sharing feedback about the product, or even leave a rating.
Another good trigger could be frequency of usage. Someone who has been using the product more frequently is in all likelihood getting more value out of the product. Understanding what is it that is delighting them would be crucial to your product roadmap. And once again, a happy customer will likely not mind leaving a rave review for you.
A third great trigger could be successfully closing an active support request. Customers expect brands to treat them well, and quick and successful resolution of support requests is a huge part of it. If you are doing that right, a delighted customer would leave a positive review for you, or even a testimonial for you to use on your website.
#7. Abandoned cart emails
We started this whole discussion with abandoned cart emails, so it is only fair that they feature on the list. This is a category that doesn’t need much discussion since we all have experienced it ourselves as customers countless times.
Setting these up is simple as well:
If a customer’s cart is updated but the purchase process is not completed within a certain period of time, they receive an email/text
You can send these reminders either just once or a few times on regular intervals, with the latter emails offering a discount or special limited time price etc.
If a customer completes the transaction or clears their cart at any time, they should be removed from this workflow
#8. Re-engagement mails
Whether a customer has fallen off the wagon or a blog subscriber is no longer engaging with your content, re-engagement mail automation workflows help you gain invaluable insights about your audience, as well as increase engagement and revenue.
You can use it to improve the quality of your subscriber base by segmenting your audience based on their levels of engagement
You can weed out sections of your subscriber base who may not be the right fit as far as your targeted audience is concerned
You can lure churned out customers back to the product with discounts and promotions, and/or updates to the product
You can drive usage of your product by offering valuable content and guides to your existing customer base that helps them see how to get the most out of the product.
#9. Cross selling and upselling
The more engaged a customer is with your product, the more likely you are to sell a value-add to him. For example, if a customer sets up a number of goals on their current websites, and is witnessing completions on the existing goals, I would like to show them more goals they could set up and how these goals contribute to their business growth. This way, they are more likely to upgrade their account to a higher tier to increase the number of goals they can set up.
Businesses offer incentives, discounts and free upgrades to their customers to get them to be champions of their product. What they often forget is that discounts and freebies could be a perk, even a motivator, but the first hurdle you need to cross if you want me promoting your product/service is making me happy and satisfied.
If I don’t like what I am experiencing myself, there is slim to none chance of me putting my face behind your product - no matter the freebie you offer.
But, having a marketing automation workflow that asks customers to refer our product to others can work, if triggered at touchpoints where we believe customer delight has been met. These touchpoints and how we identify them would essentially be similar to how we identified the touchpoints for seeking customer feedback.
A happy customer is likely to continue using the product, and if they are going to use it, why not incentivise that usage by offering discounts and free usage terms for promoting the product?
As you would have noticed, all of these examples started with a conditional. If the customer is doing X. That is the very premise of having a marketing automation workflow. You start with your business objectives and you walk backwards till you reach the point where you can pin-point a condition that needs to be true for a customer to embark down that path. The conditions that are most likely to be triggered would lead to the pathways with the most foot traffic, and ultimately more revenue.
The conditions and rules are all data driven, and your Benne Analytics dashboard is equipped well enough to help you measure and analyse these data points for a better marketing automation strategy.
Need help deciding on marketing automation workflows for your business? Hit me up and let’s take a gander.
That’s it for today, see you tomorrow.
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