Where list segmentation meets desired next action
Following on from yesterday’s post about list segmentation, the next logical question in the “What is CRM?” series is “how do I then follow up?” Above all, how do I follow-up without chaos ensuing? A CRM system that combines email marketing and contact list segmentation is at the core of a marketing automation solution.
Marketing automation delivers timed email – and, in the right context, direct mail messages – at the right time, and to the right person.
Getting to the next desired action
The core purpose of all your marketing communications is to get the reader or viewer to take your next desired action. Next desired action moves them out of the stage that they’re currently at and into the next one. From:
- discovery to awareness;
- awareness to consideration;
- consideration to booking an appointment;
- appointment to action;
- and finally, from action to getting paid.
To move somebody, all communications you create should do three things: build trust, solve a problem, or add value for the reader. At different stages of the sales or delivery lifecycles, you’ll be doing these three things in different measures.
But consider them carefully in context before you ever hit ‘send’ on a mailing or hit ‘save’ on a marketing automation sequence:
- Do I need to build more trust in us with this communication?
- Is this the email or letter or call where I’m focused on helping this person solve a problem?
- And – at this stage – how do I need to be delivering additional value in this relationship?
Marketing automation formats
The most common perception of marketing automation is email. As an inexpensive and very accessible format, it accounts for the majority of marketing communications today.
Whilst email might hit your inbox in a consistent way, there are actually three types of email you can use in your client services business’ marketing:
- Sequenced, automated email: often referred to as an “email auto-responder”, or just simply “email marketing”. This is sent by your marketing software in a timed sequence. Its entry point is usually somebody filling in a form and giving consent to receive marketing communications, but can also be manually triggered.
- Broadcast email: these are one-off emails, often incorrectly referred to as “newsletters”. But let’s clear this mis-naming up here. The concept of “newsletter” is a confusing name. It reflects a style of email that was popular many years ago. Senders incorrectly assumed that their audience wanted to hear news from them. However, they never really do. People only ever really care about how you’re going to solve their problems. In other words, broadcast emails are a great format for sharing ideas, tips, or topical content to keep your audience captivated and engaged.
- Single email: these are simply emails sent to one person from your marketing software. By contrast to the other two formats, they’re rarely templated. They are usually in a context that is only relevant to the recipient. For example, a first meeting follow-up, or quick email after a phone call.
Whilst email is at the core of marketing automation, don’t overlook the opportunity to use either of the following automation methods:
- Direct mail: sending letters, postcards, greetings cards or folded newsletters, and;
- Task-based reminders to follow-up: you can use scheduled marketing automation to create tasks in your or a colleague’s schedule, following a trigger or timed after a series of events.
How rarely these days do you receive welcome, valuable post through your door? So rarely, no doubt, that when you do, I bet you actually pay attention to it, don’t you?
If you think about attention and engagement, your target prospect is probably not dissimilar to you in that they are:
- bombarded by emails (the average adult gets over 150 per day);
- trained by smartphone behaviours to begrudge answering the phone;
- bored of seeing poorly targeted sponsored ads on social media, and;
- have a doormat full of forgettable flyers from takeaways and estate agents they’ll never use.
Standing out in the age of digital bombardment
In the age of digital bombardment, never has there been a more pressing need to stand out and be different.
Nor has there been a better opportunity to do so.
But for all there’s talk about email marketing automation, the one content pillar that most businesses do not use at all is physical mail.
It’s – incorrectly – perceived as expensive, outdated, difficult to engage with, and slow.
But as you take 5 minutes away from your computer to drink your morning coffee, wouldn’t you pay more attention to a letter, or a card that looked and engaged you differently?
Something that was welcome, focused on solving your problems rather than selling. Or that spoke to you in a way that built a relationship with you, rather than coming across as something more transactional and mechanical? I’m sure you would.
We’re generally inclined to enjoy receiving welcome post through our letterboxes, rather than bills and flyers. I imagine you’d certainly give it more time and more of your attention. Contrast that to how disengaged you feel scrolling through crap on Facebook or all the vanity humble-bragging on LinkedIn. Or critically, towards how quickly you delete unwanted emails en-masse.
But when was the last time somebody sent you an engaging, well-written letter or newsletter that addressed actual problems that you have in your business, or life?
“Hybrid mail” is a fancy pants name for physical mail-shots that you don’t need to print, stuff into envelopes, stick postage stamps on, nor walk to the post box to send. You digitally send three things to a ‘hybrid mail’ provider and they do the rest:
- Your contact’s details – their name and address
- The template document that you want to use for the mailing
- Some information that links (1) and (2) together and tells the mailing service what format mailing to send, and when.
Docmail, Stannp and ClickSend are fantastic examples of hybrid mail providers who take on all the heavy lifting of preparing direct mail for you. Furthermore, they bring economies of scale to production and distribution. Those economies of scale result in your costs falling to less than the price of a second class stamp for the entire process. What’s more, there are no minimum mailing limits. So, hybrid mail is perfect to use as part of a timed marketing automation sequence.
Task-based reminders to follow-up
Alongside positioning, segmentation and trust, timing is critical for successful marketing automation.
Let’s put ourselves in in the shoes of one of your prospects. How awkward would it feel to fill in an enquiry form only to be bombarded instantly by every form of media available? Email, video, physical direct mail, telephone… And yet, you and I know that we do not want to let that opportunity slip.
So the secret is knowing what to do and when.
You can use scheduled marketing automation to create tasks. These can go in your or a colleague’s schedule following a trigger or timed after a series of events. The task could be to check in with them by phone. Alternatively, it could be a reminder to send a personalised ‘single email’. The email would be more in context for that one person based on the nature of their enquiry. In other words, something that clearly addresses them directly.
Building rapport and trust and answering the questions in their head
There are a few advantages to timely task-based follow-up:
- You’ve already been addressing questions they have in their mind. Questions others may not be answering. You might even be casually getting them to think about things they haven’t done before. But in a way that positions your expertise. Either way, if they’ve engaged with what you’ve been sending them, they’re already a better buying prospect for you.
- You’ve already built a level of trust and rapport with what you’ve sent them. You’ve been regularly showing up in their inbox, or on their doormat as they have their morning coffee. I don’t mean literally showing up on their doormat. That would be “Stalker-ting”, not marketing. I mean in the form of a piece of direct mail.
“Stalker-ting”, not marketing
So when you do pick up the phone to them, following-up on a task that your CRM set for you via marketing automation, they kind of know you already. You’re already familiar to them. They’ve seen you in text. In addition, if you’ve been brave enough to create it, perhaps they’ve even seen you on video.
It creates better rapport, better quality conversations.
Engagement and trust comes from multi-format marketing automation
Whilst focus on email marketing alone might seem easier, the key to successful and engaging marketing automation comes from using a variety of formats for your marketing communications.
Different people consume content in different ways.
We learn at different speeds.
We’re stimulated emotionally and logically in different ways.
For some leads, it will be the simplicity and accessibility of email. Others will engage better with video content. Alternatively, some will expect something in black and white in their hands. Printed paper that they can scribble on, or leave on their desk, table or fridge to come back to.
In simple conclusion, use marketing automation to show up where they want you to show up.
Stages of follow-up marketing
For busy client services businesses, there are just four core simple types of marketing automation sequences you need to consider that connect your audience with a next action you’d like them to take.
Consider them under four headings:
- new enquiries,
- slower action takers,
- new clients and;
- past clients.
New enquiries email sequence
These people want to take action. They’re ready almost immediately to meet with you or to buy from you more quickly. In the overall context of people who have discovered you, this group is a small proportion of the total audience who will take further action with you. And yet, this is the group most businesses focus their follow-up marketing on.
This new enquiries sequence should have five or six timed emails – by enquiry type – spread over ten to fourteen days.
A new enquiries follow-up is a buyer fast track marketing automation. it gets to an ‘ask’ for an action to be taken relatively quickly. It’s aimed at those lurkers who’ve watched you for a while, or have a really pressing problem to solve.
New enquiries: next desired action indicators
Slower action takers
For those enquirers who don’t take quicker action, a ‘slower action taker’ marketing automation sequence picks up those who haven’t taken action in the first two weeks.
who don’t take quicker action, a ‘slower action taker’ marketing automation sequence picks up those who haven’t taken action in the first two weeks.
You’re still building trust with these people. This sequence might last anywhere from a month to a few years, depending on what your sales decision process looks like.
It continues to probe at the pains of what the enquirer faces, subtly showing that you have the solution.
You can follow multiple new enquiry sequences with a combined slower action email follow-up sequence.
Slower action takers: next desired action indicators
New clients are in a vulnerable state. They haven’t yet received your service. And yet, they’ve just spent money, or at least just committed to spend money with you.
Your new client marketing automation welcome sequence needs to address this vulnerability, this uncertainty. They’re in the right place. They’ve made the correct decision. Their trust is not put in the wrong place.
Consider what the perfect welcome you would want to have if you, in your most vulnerable, uncertain, ‘should I spend this much?’ state – were to buy from you. Then write it down in an email and physical mail (yes, real mail) sequence.
Take your buyer by the hand. Give them the same level of warm welcome you’d feel when you walk, muddy boots and all, through the doors of a country pub after a chilly winter walk. Your welcome will be the metaphorical equivalent of a greeting of a welcoming open fire and the best table in the pub right next to it. And it will feel like it’s just for them.
New clients: next desired action indicators
Past clients follow up marketing
How do you want to re-engage those more ideal clients who’ve bought something from you before?
Remembering that we don’t want to work with everybody again (no way Jose!), but there will be people on your database who you’d love to provide value to and work with again. They had the problems you could solve before. They’ll likely have them again. Some are more than likely to become repeat buyers.
A past client marketing automation sequence can be a perfect way of re-igniting interest in working with you and continuing that process of solving a previously satisfied customer’s problems.
Past clients: next desired action indicators
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