Here’s a new year’s resolution for you … email automation

Automation is a term near and dear to the manufacturing sector. Since Henry Ford rolled the first cars off the assembly line – making them accessible and affordable for all consumers – automation has been embraced as a huge time-saver in manufacturing.

Yet, when it comes to marketing, many manufacturers don’t realize those powerful time-saving benefits extend to helping your sales and marketing teams communicate more effectively. It can help you deliver personalized messages that resonate with your customers and prospects, and grow your business.

The secret to higher productivity is automating when the opportunity is there, whether you’re talking automobiles or emails. When you look at the staggering amount of time workers typically spend on emails (an average of 4.1 hours per day, according to one recent study!) it’s quite obvious how email marketing automation can save your sales and marketing teams time and money – and prevent them from burning out from sheer exhaustion!

What is email automation?

Email automation converts the sending of email messages from a manual process to an automatic one. Using it, marketers can create workflows that automatically send emails to segments of your audience based on their behaviors. Triggers to launch email sequences can include: subscribing to your enewsletter, downloading a white paper, signing up for a webinar or having your badge scanned at a trade show.

Effective email automation sequences take a significant amount of time and planning to set up. But once they’re created, they can run unattended for months or years. They can help you build trusted relationships with prospects and customers and position you as a thought leader.

This makes email automation much more powerful – and potentially profitable – than periodically sending out an enewsletter.

How can email automation enhance your 2019 marketing strategy?

Here are some of the ways you can benefit from email marketing automation:

Time savings: Email automation can save a significant amount of time once it’s setup. By automating email responses, your sales team will spend less time drafting, formatting, proofing, and prepping emails to send out.

Sales follow-up: Imagine being able to follow up with all your prospects easily and efficiently after a tradeshow. After your email marketing automation is setup, instead of sending out a generic blanket message, or sending out hundreds or thousands of individual emails, a series of emails will kick-in automatically sending messages that will resonate with your segmented customers on a planned schedule.

More customer touches: In addition to tradeshows, there are many more opportunities to strategically develop and setup a series of email marketing messages. For instance, when a customer downloads a product guide or fills out a contact form on your website, and when someone signs up for your eNewsletter.

67% of marketing leaders currently use automation and the number continues to grow as marketers realize how email marketing automation can be setup to deliver personal and relevant messages to their prospects and customers.

Personalization: Customers now expect emails to include their name and reflect their interests. Communication is no longer one-size-fits-all. With automation, you can segment your customer list based on the size of their business, industry-area, location and more. All of these factors help you target your customers and send them relevant and personalized messages.

51% of customers expect that, by 2020, companies will know their needs and offer relevant suggestions BEFORE they make contact. This is true in both the B2C and B2B worlds. In fact, 80% of B2B marketers said personalized content was more effective than un-personalized content at meeting their marketing objectives.

Get automated in 2019! Make setting up an email marketing automation program your New Year’s resolution. In our next post, we’ll share the best strategies to help you get started.

Don’t turn your back on your customers

Do you stop communicating with your customers after they buy your company’s products or services? If so, you’re missing a big opportunity to boost your bottom line by RETAINING them.

When someone buys your products, it doesn’t mean their customer journey has come to an end. It’s actually just beginning. Now’s the time to rethink how to keep existing customers engaged with your brand.

Effective, ongoing communication with current customers increases the likelihood that they’ll buy from you again. In some cases, it may increase the frequency and value of their future orders. In either case, it significantly increases their lifetime value – and your long-term profitability.

Here are some powerful ways you can creatively use marketing to do a better job of retaining your most valuable customers:

Don’t leave onboarding to chance: When you first acquire a customer, there’s a lot they need to know: For example, how to use your product or get value from your services, where to go to get their questions answered and how to get customer support. Why not create an email “drip” campaign that educates them about each aspect of doing business with you? By proactively teaching them how to interact with your firm, you’ll make them more comfortable, reduce the number of misunderstandings and save your staff a lot of time. In other words, they won’t need to keep answering the same customer questions, over and over again.

Streamline their access to key tools and resources: Identify the needs of your new customers and then design tools and systems that empower them. For example, you could:

  • Create a private customer portal within your website where they can login to get all of the learning, resources and support they need.
  • Create a mobile app that gives them anytime, anywhere access to these services.
  • Can you enable them to order consumable parts ahead of time, so they can pick them up when and where it’s most convenient for them?
  • Set up an online forum where your customers can congregate to ask questions, get answers, share knowledge and network with each other.

The possibilities are limited only by your imagination.

Survey says…: A traditional survey is an ideal way to identify existing problems you need to fix as well as to identify additional needs you can meet.

Education is always a winner: Provide your customers with education about your product itself, as well as how to get the most value out of it. This could take the form of self-service e-courses, webinars, workbooks, manuals and other materials that distill what your customers need to know into a skimmable, actionable format.

Create an exclusive “subscription” for customers: Your customers should perceive that they are being treated special, with exclusive training, content, events, discounts and more. Loyalty programs can also make customers feel like they “belong” and benefit from their relationship with your company.

Don’t forget to personalize your communications: Nothing says you care more than addressing your customer contact by name in printed and electronic communications. Today’s sophisticated email and marketing software makes this easy to do. The best marketers even use deeper customer information to offer highly tailored recommendations to them. Think, with its “people who bought X also bought these related products…” recommendations. It’s as if they know your deepest needs! Familiarity breeds loyalty.

Create a customer content calendar: Don’t leave communication with your existing customers to chance. Build relationships with them by creating a rolling schedule of consistent communications with them. This calendar should include all types of communication, both formal and informal: Letters, phone calls, special events, discounts, special offers and personal notes, for example.

Develop a customer newsletter: Newsletters are excellent tools to help you develop and maintain customer relationships over time. This publication should be different than the one you sent to sales leads and prospects. Its content should be tailored to the needs of your existing customers. Be sure to include it in your content calendar, so you remember to publish it on a regular basis.

Connect your communications to your company’s mission and values: Customers like to feel like they’re part of something bigger. They may jump at the opportunity to be part of your company’s mission and values, if you invite them (think Tom’s Shoes, which donates a pair of shoes each time you buy a pair). If they can feel like they’re part of an active and engaged community that’s focused on your values, they will become more committed to your brand.

You need a customer communications strategy

In the same way that you develop a well thought-out strategy for attracting prospective customers, you need to also take a strategic approach to cultivating relationships with your existing ones. This approach has a number of key benefits:

  • By helping customers feel well cared for, you can reduce or eliminate buyer’s remorse
  • It helps your new customers trust you
  • It gives them confidence to do business with you again.

It’s time to get started. We can help you develop a communications strategy with your current customers. Let’s chat.

Are your social media followers really your target?

CULTIVATE Social Media

There’s a tendency for marketers to celebrate the number of followers they have on their social media channels. But striving for follower growth usually isn’t an effective strategy to grow your business.

Sure, you need to grow your followers and subscriptions – but they must be the right kind of people, or you’re wasting your time. Getting them to read your content is the key to social media and marketing effectiveness.

How do you make sure your followers are your target? 

  • Start by defining your target prospects. What are their browsing habits? Where do they tend to congregate online? For consumers, Facebook and Instagram are obvious choices. For businesspeople, LinkedIn and Twitter are the leading channels. Engage them there, and forget about the other social media channels – focus on one to start.
  • Research your ideal prospects and identify their pain points and problems. What competitive, industry, technology and regulatory trends are affecting them? You may want to talk with current customers to learn what worries or concerns them. Sometimes their problems are not even related to your product or service, but are issues for which they still need a solution. One such problem today is finding good employees. In a tight labor market, everyone is seeking solutions to this vexing challenge.
  • Create focused content that addresses those needs and problems. Your content will act like a magnet that will attract people who are looking for solutions to those challenges. In other words, they will self-select your valuable resources. That makes this an ideal target marketing tactic!

Feed your website

For best results, all of the updates you publish on your social media channels ought to point to specific pages on your website. There are several reasons why this works especially well:

  • You don’t own the social media channels. They can and do change their rules of engagement any time they want, usually at the expense of marketers. You need to drive prospects to web properties that you own and control – such as your website.
  • Most social media properties limit how much you can publish on their channels. In order to tell a more complete and compelling story, you must push them to your website, where you can publish what you want, in the format and length that you want.
  • Once a prospect has arrived at your website, they have an opportunity to discover other related content– especially if you provide them with links pointing to it!

Take-away:  The idea is not to attract the most followers, it is to attract your targeted audience as your followers and engage them on your website.

Reaching customers on their terms

Reaching Customers

Your customer has changed. Whether you’ve been in business ten years or forty, understanding today’s customer buying behavior is a whole new ballgame. Expectations have shifted, so if you want to sell to these new customers, your approach needs to change too.

Sure, change is frightening, especially in sales. Knowing you can’t hook your customer at the start of the transaction—that you’re often coming in after your customer has done their research—it’s daunting. But there’s no cause for despair. Customers are certainly still buying; all you need to do is shift your tactics to complement this new customer buying behavior.

Here are three approaches you need to reach your customers.

Targeting Sales to New Customer Buying Behavior

1. Teach. Don’t Sell.

Customers certainly haven’t stopped buying, but their approach is different. They take more time to research on their own upfront, so they don’t want a salesperson giving them the hard sell anymore. Strong arm tactics don’t work. In our new eGuide, Reaching the Unreachable, we outline specific ways to refocus your marketing approach to better connect with your prospects.

If you want to lead your customers to your business, you must provide strong, educational content to help customers during the discovery process. Gone are the days when a salesman demonstrated the latest product features in a customer’s living room.

Customers are researching independently—and where do we go when we have a query? The internet, of course. Keep your website up-to-date and focus on providing strong, informative online content to click with your customer.

2. Understand the Ways YOUR Customer Buying Behavior Has Changed

If we look at the last twenty years, online marketing has completely changed customer buying behavior. Customers are constantly connected; they can instantly research and review any product and buy with a single click of a button. While this is certainly changed the approach in the B2C sector, the same holds true with B2B. Customers expect fast results, answers, and accessibility across the board.

With so much information at their fingertips, there are more options and less brand loyalty. The traditional funnel model doesn’t work as it used to. Customers are often on to the next big trend, before you blink twice. This means, now, more than ever, you need to keep your branding relevant and focused.

And don’t make the mistake of assuming it’s just Millennials changing customer buying behavior. Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers are actually higher online spenders than Millennials. Target YOUR customer base and market specifically to them.

3. Focus on Providing Great Customer Experience

“Stores are out, experiences are in,” according to a recent Forbes article on customer trends. Anyone who’s recently shopped at brick and mortar store understands this fact. Athletic stores don’t just sell clothes anymore, they also host fitness classes and private yoga sessions. Customers expect an experience rather than a sale and the same holds true outside of the retail sector.

Customer experience has always been important, but now more than ever that customer experience is vital. 86% of senior level marketers say it’s critical to create a cohesive customer journey. This means closing your gaps between your sales team and your marketing team and creating a seamless information pipeline. Marketing should help sales build their customer relationships: both teams working together to provide a seamless customer experience.

Today’s customer is looking for a great experience tailored to their customer buying behavior. They want to easily access information about your product. They want marketing targeted to their generation that doesn’t talk down to them. The fact that your customers want to be understood is one aspect of customer buying behavior that will never change—meet them at the right point in their journey and you’ll be on your way toward the sale.

Reaching The Unreachable Eguide Cover

Learn More

Sharing your expertise can be a magnet for new business

When you create a “culture of sharing”, you’ll connect with more of your customers. Our free eGuide, Reaching the Unreachable, will show you how to do it and more.

It’s time to stop dabbling and get serious

Fractional Marketing - Cultivate Social Stop Dabbling

When you’re struggling to grow your business, effective marketing is one of the most efficient ways to get it back up and on its feet. But you can’t always afford to hire an experienced marketing specialist because, frankly, people are expensive. Plus, one person may not have all of the skill sets and experience required to provide you the level of marketing you need.

So, you remain mired in a world where you’re “kind of” marketing by doing it yourself. Actually, you’re just dabbling and are stuck in a trap of weak branding, lukewarm leads and dwindling sales.

There’s a simple and clever solution to this common problem: Fractional marketing – hiring an agency on a part-time basis to develop and implement a powerful marketing strategy for you. This part-time agency can act as a catalyst to kick-start your firm’s growth.

The real problem

Your customers have changed the way they buy. They prefer to do their own product and vendor research and don’t want to talk to a salesperson until just before the sale. As a result, they’re not responding to traditional sales strategies.

In today’s world, educational marketing (better known as content marketing) has emerged as a proven strategy for building trusted relationships with prospective buyers that lead to sales. Helpful, educational content acts like a magnet to attract prospects who are in the early stages of buying. By becoming a trusted subject matter expert in your industry, prospective buyers will naturally tend to gravitate to your company.

It’s a struggle to keep up

Developing high value, informative and engaging content on a regular basis has become more complex and time-consuming. Creating ebooks, white papers, blog posts, direct mail campaigns and videos takes time – time you probably don’t have.

Also note that:

  • The number of channels you can use to communicate with your target audiences has exploded during the last decade. Which ones should you focus upon? Which should you ignore?
  • The volume of content that you must compete against has also increased exponentially. In other words, it’s getting harder and harder to get and keep your target audience’s attention.
  • Marketers must deploy high-quality content to multiple platforms, including mobile – and soon, voice-activated platforms.
  • In order to achieve adequate visibility with buyers, most organizations must invest in paid promotion on social media channels and must also cultivate influencer networks. These tactics add even more complexity to the mix!

Now that content marketing is the preferred strategy for attracting and engaging audiences, the competition for experienced marketing strategists and creators is like a shark feeding frenzy. The best people are significantly more expensive, because demand has far outstripped supply. Even if you’re lucky enough to hire a really smart marketing person, you may have problems retaining him or her.

The solution: A part-time agency partnership

For the cost of a single employee, who has a limited skill set, a digital agency can work on your marketing priorities for a set number of hours per month. You get access to an entire team, with its diverse talents – everything from content writers and SEO people to web developers.

There are numerous other benefits to hiring a part-time marketing firm. They include:

  • You gain a valuable outside perspective on your business challenges and opportunities, as well as some new ideas to solve them.
  • The agency can develop and execute marketing and sales support strategies.
  • The agency brings best practices and proven tactics it can apply to your marketing challenge.
  • The agency can act as a catalyst to jump-start an effective, results-driven marketing program.

When does all of this make sense?

A part-time agency isn’t a panacea. But for certain situations, it’s incredibly efficient and effective. Here are four situations where it works really well:

  • When the business needs to step up its marketing game, but can’t support the hiring of a full-time person.
  • Situations where an outside marketing strategy perspective is needed.
  • When a firm needs a repeatable process to drive growth.
  • When a company needs smarter-than-ever marketing that supports your salespeople, so they can compete effectively.

What does a fractional agency relationship look like?

Typically, the agency begins engagement by conducting research to understand the challenges the client is facing. It conducts interviews with key customers and customer-facing executives within the organization.

From this information, the agency team develops a marketing strategy that is focused on creating the right message and distributing it at the right time via the right channels to influence customer behavior. As soon as you and your new marketing team are in agreement on the strategy and tactics, the agency team will begin implementing the plan – freeing you to concentrate on higher-value tasks.

Can your company benefit from some marketing oomph?

Now’s the time to stop “dabbling” and get serious about marketing your company. Hiring a fractional marketing agency may be the solution and could put you on the road to greater revenues.