Making Emails Better: Personal Outreach with a Side of Automation

The world seems to be afire these days with people talking about marketing automation tools that will better deliver emails automatically to your users based on event triggers.  These services (Intercom, Vero, Customer.io, Pipewise, and others) definitely have a time and a place, but we have to be careful that we don’t end up ignoring valuable customer feedback through a quick fix.

Automated emails can be a Band-aid on Failure

When we send an automated email, it’s typically because someone either A.) hasn’t done an event (say they haven’t logged in lately) or B.) has just finished an event, which means they haven’t done the next event we want them to (they finished step one in setup, but not step two).  In both cases, a great and compelling product and clear process should get users all the way up the onboarding curve without prompting. Automation to fix these problems is a form of us failing our customers – even if it’s because they forgot to come back, that probably says something about how compelling our service is initially.

Customers know what’s Wrong

At the end of the day, customers know better than anyone why they didn’t finish setup, why they don’t use your tool, why they didn’t login, etc.  Ask them. Build a personal relationship so you can call them later and see what they think of proposed changes.

What You Can Do

In short, three great next steps to improving your conversion / onboarding:

  1. Talk to Struggling Customers: Look for customers who you think aren’t doing well. Reach out to a subset and learn more about their problems. You’ll learn about your product, your onboarding process, and your marketing.
  2. Historical Cohort Analysis: Do some cohort analysis work to understand what early triggers are predictive of future churn. This doesn’t have to get too complicated, but done correctly it can be really powerful. I’ll cover how to do this in a future blog post, not least because many applications that claim to help you do cohort analysis can’t actually help with this problem.
  3. Automation: As you nail down the emails that customers really want to receive, certainly automate them.  But keep in mind that continuing your personal outreach to build key customer relationships can still give you important feedback.

At the end of the day, web companies should aspire to the same level of service that great offline companies have achieved for years. Disney didn’t build his theme parks on the back of an automated marketing engine that figured out when people were making vacation plans. Instead, he provided a unique experience that made people truly happy.

 

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