Your Game Plan to Dominate Email Automation

Creating email automation game plan

Email automation. You’ve heard about it, the numbers are in, and you’re ready to get started. Okay, sounds great – and also like a whole lot of work. Where do you start, and how do you make sure you’re getting it right?

This post is the first in a three part series designed to set you up for success with email automation. Spoiler alert: The final step is tweak, rinse, repeat. If you already have some autoresponders up and running, these same steps can help you level up and get much more out of your email marketing.

So you know where we’re headed, here’s those three steps upfront:

Step I: Develop a game plan
Step II: Bring your strategy to life
Step III: Analyze & Optimize

This first post covers Step I. We’ll be publishing the remaining articles in this series over the next few weeks – subscribe here to get these next posts delivered right to your inbox.

Ready to dive in?

Be prepared, there’s some homework ahead

It’s all about relationships

To set yourself up for success with marketing automation generally, you have to start with a little customer and data homework. Why? Because strategizing around marketing automation requires gaining a deeper understanding of how your customers experience your business.

For many businesses, automated emails serve a primarily transactional purpose. For others, automation may serve some marketing use-cases, but they lack personalized targeting. To avoid these pitfalls, there is one thing that should always serve as your email automation north star: the customer journey.

Let’s first take a step back and think about how we deepen relationships with those around us every day. When you meet someone new, that first conversation usually revolves around where you are or what you’re doing — naturally, that’s all the common ground you have with this new person. If you stay in touch after that first interaction, with each subsequent conversation you learn more about each other and start to establish the basis for a meaningful relationship.

On the other end of the spectrum, with our closest friends, we know the best time to call them if we want them to pick up the phone. We know which activities to invite them to, and which they would likely pass on. Over time, in a friendship, expectations grow and a “good friend” is someone who doesn’t just know you but really understands you.

As individuals, we put time and effort into our friendships because ultimately we want our friends to stick around. As a business, investing in relationship-building with your customers and subscribers is just as important if you want them to stick around too.

Relationship-building at scale

You may be thinking, “It’s taken years to get to know my close friends, and I also still struggle finding time to keep up with them. How can a growing business possibly manage this type of personal relationship-building at scale?”

Well, you’re already investing in automation to take care of the “at scale” part. Spending time up front to gather meaningful data on your business’s customer journey is key to start building more personal customer relationships. Leveraging a combination of established personal data and real-time behavioral data, you can automate complex touch points that go well beyond basic automation. Think: Proactively reaching out to customers when they’re just starting to lapse, offering a discount towards their favorite product category.

Data is the not-so-secret key to successful email automation. If you don’t have the right data to drive both strategy and implementation at the outset, you’re not going to get very far.

Developing your game plan

At this point, you shouldn’t be surprised to learn that developing a sensible email automation strategy starts with that homework we talked about. Good news – like any good homework assignment, this one will be highly actionable. The outcomes of your research will, in essence, become your marching orders. The data you collect from this research phase will inform the two most important aspects of your planning: prioritized action items and goal-setting. The last step here will be to document your strategy.

Dig into the Data

When thinking about the customer journey and email automation, it’s easy to think about customer behavior in the abstract. Resist the temptation. Instead, you want to seek both qualitative and quantitative insights about how your customers engage with your business. This means getting into the mindset of your customers and their decision-making process, and also seeking hard data to better understand customer behavior:

1. Capture meaningful numbers about your buyer cycle & average customer behavior:

–  How often do customers typically visit your website?
–  What % of site visitors browse and never convert?
–  Average number of orders per customer?
–  Average LTV?
–  Average time between lead captured & first purchase?
–  Average time between purchases?

2. Consider data points that can inform clear buyer personas:

–  Do demographics (age, gender, location) influence certain purchasing behavior?
–  Do you have some customers who only buy on a discount vs. full price?
–  Do most customers purchase your products for themselves, or for others as a gift?

3. Document key truths about your customer journey and buying process:

–  Does price often detract from interest in your products?
–  Is a lack of brand recognition / consumer validation deterring potential buyers?
–  Is your product solving a problem potential customers don’t often think about / consider?
–  Do customers need use your product “the right way” in order to enjoy it?

We recommend using all the information above to describe the 2-4 “typical” people that buy from you. Come up with 3-4 defining characteristics of each of these archetypes; consider both common desires and key pain points. These are the people you’re in business to serve, and these are the people you’re designing for when you launch your email automation strategy.

Prioritize Against the Customer Lifecycle

customer lifecycle

Your game plan for getting started with email automation will need to establish which customer lifecycle stages you want to prioritize first. Which stages of the customer lifecycle do you neglect currently? Where are you weakest? You have to start somewhere, even though your ultimate goal may be to tackle the end-to-end journey.

If you’re unsure where to start, determine the most critical priorities for your business. Is customer churn holding back business growth? Are you struggling to convert subscribers into first-time buyers?  During this prioritization process, you will also be forced to call out why investing in a certain lifecycle stage matters; this focus will help guide the implementation step.

Next, you will need to start connecting the dots between your researched observations, your top priorities, and what you can actually impact.

If customer churn is a big problem for your business, you will want to first work on driving repeat purchases, building loyalty, and engaging lapsed customers. If your price point is a problem, and a high volume of people abandon your website after browsing, you need to focus on top of funnel and integrate more social proof, well-timed follow up emails, and strategic incentives to close the gap between “interest” and “action”.

The goal here is to invest time in understanding your customers, learn what motivates them, and call out where you’re falling short. Then, use this insight to inform your top actionable priorities.

Set Goals & Document your Strategy

The last step is to organize your inspirations and ambitions into a documented strategy. First, write down your high-level goals behind leveling up your marketing automation. For example, your primary motivation could be to save time (automate processes), increase revenue, or decrease customer churn. Below each stated goal, write down what lifecycle stage(s) you are going to focus on in order to achieve it. Make sure you’re answering both the “what” and “why” questions behind each priority you list.

Finally, write down how you’ll measure success along the way. By setting success metrics in advance, you can more easily hold yourself accountable to investing in what it takes to achieve these results.

New to goal setting? A commonly used goal setting framework is SMART: all goals must be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. There may be a whole range of ideas you’ve come up with to help grow your business, but you’ll need to focus your efforts and invest in what is most likely to move the dial. If you’re looking for a more prescribed approach, try using an OKR goal system where you define your team’s objectives followed by quantitative and measurable key results. Make sure you’re using the data you’ve collected on your customers and business (remember all that homework?) to put real numbers behind your goals and success metrics.

What’s next?

Your well researched game plan is your ticket to the implementation phase.

With the customer journey as your north star, and data as your rocket fuel, you’ll be ready to hit the ground running. Next up in this series, we’re covering how to bring your strategy to life with targeted automations & relevant content!

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