But, before we get started with emails and automation, it is important to understand the depths of the customer lifecycle. Once you have a good idea about the phases a customer experiences in their buyer's journey, you will be better equipped to serve up automated tips and promotions, and better help them through the purchasing process.
The Customer Lifecycle
Creating a marketing strategy that compliments your sales team can be difficult if you don’t have the proper approach and framework. Using a lifecycle marketing framework can help streamline your brand voice and ensure your brand is performing on target. This post will introduce the basics of lifecycle marketing.
What is a customer lifecycle?
The customer lifecycle describes the complete relationship your prospective customers have with your products/services. This covers the whole gamut—from the first time they consider buying from you, to their purchase, to their interaction with, and their loyalty to your products and services.
You might be thinking “Wait! What? Isn’t purchasing at the end of the lifecycle? Why did you put it in the middle?” Well dear reader, I put it there because that’s where it belongs. The lifecycle continues long after a purchase is made, and that’s a good thing! You don't want your customers to just purchase from you once, and be done with it. Ideally, you want them to become repeat customers, and possibly even brand evangelists who recommend your business to their friends and family. Repeat customers, on average, cost less and spend more, so it’s in everybody’s best interest to continue nurturing customers and addressing their needs long after they have already purchased from you.
What is customer lifecycle marketing (CLM)?
Customer lifecycle marketing entails tracking the cycle by using data collected from customer interactions and applying that knowledge to your marketing strategy.
By collecting information about where prospects are in the lifecycle, you are better equipped to address their wants and needs.
You don’t want a lead or a prospect to receive an email that’s meant for a customer, or vice versa. CLM can help you avoid such slip-ups.
How can you tell where a customer is in the lifecycle?
Form submissions, site actions, and event signups are a great way to track prospects and customers. Depending on what action they take, you can make an inference about what they need. For example, if a prospect comes to your site and fills out a consultation request, you will be relatively sure they’re serious about considering your services. You can conclude (depending on what information they disclose) that they are probably ready for either your marketing or your sales team to reach out to them.
Well, you don’t need to have a CRM program to successfully execute lifecycle marketing, but it makes the process a heck of a lot easier. If you have a CRM program, you can systematically track prospects through the lifecycle, and make notes about your interactions with them.
In fact, if you use HubSpot, each contact entry has a field that you can use to identify what lifecycle stage a contact is in. This way, you can create workflows and segmented lists for only contacts who are in a particular lifecycle stage—much more efficient than keeping loads of spreadsheets. You can even create a workflow to change a contact’s lifecycle stage when they take a particular action on your site or interact with your content.
Understand the inner workings of your customer lifecycle. Build a framework and strategy to grow your content marketing initiatives at each and every stage. Narrow in on the true voice and tone of your brand. All of these steps will speak volumes to your customers at each stage of your lifecycle marketing strategy.
Now, onto the automation and email.
First and foremost, you should understand how and what marketing automation is before jumping into the world of automated marketing campaigns. Let’s take a look.
What is marketing automation?
Marketing automation is a way for marketers to streamline and—you guessed it—automate their marketing efforts. Typically, the primary component of this involves nurturing prospects with personalized content, but different marketing automation software has different features. We’ll get more specific with these features later.
Before we go further, a word of caution: don’t mistake marketing automation for a cure-all. Automation only helps if you have an established strategy and process in place to manage the demands of this fast-paced digital world.
Now let's jump in:
What does marketing automation do for my business?
The benefits of marketing automation are manifold.
First off, whether you are part of a huge corporation or a small business, automation can save a great deal of time. It will undoubtedly help you manage your new and qualified leads by streamlining and easing your processes. Marketing automation also allows you to custom-tailor your communications (be they via your website, email, social, or mobile) to your audience’s needs.
What is the most common mistake businesses make when adopting a marketing automation strategy?
The first and most prevalent mistake is overuse. A company can draw out the onboarding process due to the overwhelming power of their software. This happens when a corporation purchases a software or marketing automation platform without knowing the commitment necessary to implement a successful automated marketing mix. It can also be a result of poor planning or misunderstanding the needs of the business.
Often new adoptees will get lost in the semantics of the platform opposed to focusing on the here-and-now. This happens because these principles come packaged with great promises of significant marketing performance improvement with an automated system. Sounds easy, right? Not always. There are a series of onboarding and integration steps, processes both internal and external to be learned, and new strategies to be developed. No wonder businesses are not seeing the immediate results they have been promised.
How much does marketing automation cost?
Marketing automation is a broad term used to describe an agile process of developing and distributing marketing content, videos, blog posts, social media updates, and other valuable and informative assets to a business’s present and potential customers. Since the features of an automation platform can be minimal or robust, there are a few factors that play into the pricing of a marketing automation platform.
These factors include:
- Amount of platform users
- Number of contacts and leads in your database
- Number of emails sent per month
- Functionality of the platform in question
- Length of contract with platform provider
What is lead generation?
Lead generation is the process of attracting prospective customers that you can lead through your sales funnel. Usually, this will be done with a lead capturing landing page.
What is lead capturing?
Lead capturing in its most basic form is the way by which a company can gather information using landing pages to deliver freemium offers. In return, the website visitor provides contact information as a value trade for the premium video, eBook, or other marketing assets.
What is lead nurturing?
Lead nurturing is the process of ushering your prospect through the sales funnel. The idea is to provide the most valuable information at the proper point within their customized buyer’s journey.
Email Marketing Campaigns
Email marketing can be overwhelming whether you are starting a campaign from scratch, or trying to add new tactics to increase your effectiveness. It’s difficult to figure out how to give your readers the valuable information they are craving, but not overwhelm them.
How do you measure the success of your campaign? How do you get people to even sign up for your emails? Don’t worry too much—we’ve broken down some of the basics of email marketing to ease you into the process. You can do it!
How do I grow my email list?
This question has a bit of a divisive answer. Some sites have a great deal of success with pop-ups of one kind or another. I know, just the sight of the term ‘pop-up’ might be giving you flashbacks of shutting down your computer or device. But, nowadays, there are less invasive types of pop-ups (for example, ones that appear from the bottom corner of your page or ones that only appear if you are actively scrolling) and they can be extremely effective. Honestly, I’m not a big fan of pop-ups of any sort, but hey—results are results. At the end of the day, it comes down to seeing if it works for your site.
If you’re looking for a less invasive (and surprisingly easy) strategy, add a "subscribe" checkbox to your content offer forms so that they can download your offer and sign up for emails all in one shot.
Of course, these aren’t the only ways you can get more followers, but I've got other questions to answer! If you want to read up on more strategies to build your email list, check out this great resource.
What is the best day and time to send emails?
In general, it’s best to send emails out on weekdays (with some exceptions—for example, retail and hobby-related emails). The optimal time for emails to be sent is around 10 a.m., but take that with a grain of salt as well. Open rates do not range a great deal across the whole day, so the only real takeaway for what time to send your emails is that you should not send them between 2-5 a.m., when most people are asleep.
How often should I send emails?
Well, it depends on how much you have to say to your readers. Do you have tons of content being produced all the time that you think they would be interested in? If so, you should probably be sending out more emails than a business that has little to nothing new to say. But, don’t send too many—if you’re sending out tons of emails that are obviously fluff, you run the risk of alienating your readers. Your individual business goals and content library (don’t forget to include repurposed and curated content) will inform your optimal email frequency.
What do open rates and click through rates mean? Are there any other metrics I should be tracking besides those?
Your open rate is, not surprisingly, the number of people who opened your email. Your click-through rate is the number of people who clicked on the offer your email was promoting. Both are great metrics to track, although the second metric is more telling and valuable than the first.
After all, you don’t want people to open your emails and then close them; you want people to engage with your content. It can also be helpful to track your unsubscribe rate. If you are sending to segmented lists, a spike in unsubscribes can tell you that you are sending content that your list is not interested in or maybe you're sending it too frequently. Knowing this will allow you to re-adjust and get back on track to keep the rest of your subscribers on board. It may be beneficial to track demographic information about what email clients and devices your readers are accessing your emails from so that you can make sure your content is optimized for them.
There are tons more metrics you can track, experiment with it a bit and see what yields you the most valuable insights. You can read about other metrics here.
How long should my subject line be?
It’s best to keep your subject line as short as possible while still saying what you want. Most email platforms will cut your subject line off after 70 characters, but a good rule to live by is keeping it under 50 characters.
There you have it. Hopefully, we’ve demystified the automated portion of marketing campaigns in 2017. Now get out there and send some awesome emails! Remember, timing is everything.
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