I don’t fish often, but when I do, it’s with the intent of catching something worth eating.
Over the years, I’ve caught lots of things that did not fit that description: tree branches, an old shoe, turtles and, on one occasion, a snake!
When I do land a fish (perch and trout are my favorites), what to do next becomes an issue.
I don’t like cleaning fish, but if it’s going in the frying pan, that is a required step.
The process of landing a new customer is not unlike getting that fish from the pond to my dinner table.
In today’s post, I outline a time-tested, proven process for new customer acquisition that incorporates the use of email accompanied by a technique called marketing automation.
Use Email and Marketing Automation to Land New Customers
Typically, we marketers turn the prospect over to sales and let them deal with it, effectively wiping our hands of the matter. It’s akin to letting someone else clean the fish you just caught.
While sales people need to be brought into the loop, using email and marketing automation is a way to nurture leads, grade them in terms of their readiness to be turned over to sales, and pull them further down the path to purchase.
Here are three steps you should take.
1. Create a series of autoresponse messages
These are email messages prepared in advance that are time-stamped and sent over a period of several days, weeks, or even months. This is a way to automate your marketing that saves you time and keeps your message in front of the prospect.
(This series is often referred to as a “drip campaign,” although I prefer the term “follow-up sequence,” which I represent by a metaphoric use of the acronym, “fuse.”)
The goal is to keep the fuse lit by moving the prospect further down the purchase funnel from awareness to interest, then from consideration to desire, and down the path to the point of purchase.
Accomplishing that task requires the use marketing automation software built specifically for this purpose. (You will find a list of the more popular platforms at the end of this post.)
Your messages should not be random, but follow a set of specific stages.
The first email you send should quickly follow the action taken by the person on the landing page. Think of it as a “Welcome” email. It’s a way to confirm to them that they made the right decision by taking action. It’s also a way to further solidify the relationship by immediately giving them another offer such as Gap did in this email:
Not all welcome emails need to contain an offer. They can also extend a virtual handshake like this one from MAX, a credit union company:
Following the welcome email, you should send a series of messages that informs the prospect about your company: who you are, what you stand for, what makes you different, and so forth. These are intended to “indoctrinate” the prospect so that he or she will favor your company, products, and services over the competition.
This step is vital because it helps prospects gain a better understanding of your unique value proposition and explains why they should do business with you.
This series could consist of as many as three, four, or even five emails each focusing on a different aspect of your business relative to the person’s interest.
Now that you have the prospect thinking more about your company, it’s time to send what are referred to as “engagement” emails. This is where you make another offer.
For B2C companies, this might come in the form of a discount coupon, sale announcement, or special limited-time offer. The goal is to get a quick sale.
B2B companies can use this approach too, but because the sales cycle is often much longer and more complex, it may be in your best interest to offer a whitepaper, research report, or ebook instead.
Hubspot, a marketing automation technology provider, has mastered this technique. Frequently, the company sends invitations to download free resource materials designed to keep the fuse lit and pull the prospect further down the funnel.
Here is an example of an offer I recently received:
Give prospects who act on an offer a few days respite, then send an email designed to pull them into the next phase of the purchase funnel. This could include a product brochure or other collateral, invitation to speak with a sales person, or a combination of the two.
The sequence does not end once a person becomes a customer. Send an invitation for them to subscribe to your company newsletter, or offer an up-sell designed to get them to buy more products or services.
If that sounds like overkill, bear in mind that the person gave you permission to talk to them, and they can unsubscribe at any time.
Also keep in mind that you’re not going to email them every day. Spread the sequence out over the course of several weeks.
2. Tie email sequences to event triggers
You can create different email sequences that your marketing automation software triggers based on the action (also called an “event”) a prospect takes.
By that, I mean if a person becomes a customer, they no longer need to receive emails designed to encourage them to be one. Put them on a different path using the ascension email idea.
Email follow-up sequences are not solely the purview of the marketing department, either. Marketing automation tools integrated with CRM can enable sales people to create and send sequences triggered from actions taken by prospects.
3. Integrate email with other formats
An even more potent approach than using email alone is to integrate it with other marketing approaches and media formats, all of which could be incorporated into the follow-up sequence.
This could include such things as sales calls, direct mail, fax (believe it or not, businesses still use fax), social media, and gift fulfillment (such as on a prospect’s birthday). This works best when the marketing automation and CRM platforms talk to each other.
Still don't think that email is the way to go? Here are 10 years you need to include email marketing in your marketing strategy.
- Everyone has at least one email address;
- Everyone is familiar with how email works;
- Email is the most popular online activity; at 94% it trumps search engine usage (83%), checking the weather (81%), getting the news (75%), or using social media sites (61%) – see the infographic below to double-check my numbers;
- Email allows for targeting and audience segmentation;
- Email is personal, but not too personal;
- Email has been around forever;
- People are more open to receiving promotional message via email than via social media;
- People visit their inboxes several times per day;
- Email works well on mobile;
- Email is permission-based. Unless you’re a spammer, you only send emails to people to have opted-in to receive them. (We call that permission-based marketing.)
While the process of catching, cleaning, and cooking fish is not my favorite thing to do, eating them most definitely is.
Similarly, acquiring new customers can be an arduous, costly process requiring a considerable amount of time and effort. Yet, I’m sure you would agree that the payoff is worth the struggle.
Utilizing the power of email and marketing automation to create sequenced, follow-up messages designed to lead prospects down the purchase funnel can certainly help.
Marketing Automation Platforms
Here is a list of some popular email and marketing automation platforms based on price.
AWeber – Very popular with small businesses. Prices start at $19 per month.
Active Campaign – Full-featured CRM/marketing automation platform. Prices start at $9 per month; a free version is also available.
Influsionsoft – One of the most popular CRM/marketing automation platforms. Prices start at $199 per month; the company requires onboarding, which costs about $2,000 (one-time fee).
Hubspot – Another very popular platform used by small businesses. It’s the company that coined the term “inbound marketing.” Pricing starts at $200 per month, and I believe an onboarding fee is also required.
CallidusCloud (formerly Leadformix) – . Pricing is not available on the website, but according to a 3rd-party resource, it starts at $499 per month.
Marketo – Intended for enterprise use; pricing starts at $895 per month.
Pardot – Pitched as a B2B marketing automation platform, Pardot is a Salesforce product. Pricing starts at $1,000 per month.
As always, if you would like to learn more or need help implementing email and marketing automation, contact our Internet marketing specialists.
Image source: Flickr Creative Commons