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Automated email: Robotic or personal?

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Contrary to what some may think, automated email doesn't have to be robotic or annoying. It can be a personal experience for customers triggered by their own interests and behaviors. At the end of the day, it's marketing's job to generate leads, educate and nurture those leads, and earn the right to sell them something. Automated email is an efficient way to scale marketing's lead-nurturing activities. Here are some best practices that marketers may want to think about when creating an automated email campaign:
  • Write in a personal style. Kim Le, CEO of financial services company A2Q2, recently set up an automated email that said, “I was just thinking of you. Please drop me a line when you have time to catch up because I would love to hear how you are doing.” It didn't feel robotic and it looked like a personal note from her. Some would argue that this isn't authentic. I would argue that small businesses such as A2Q2 think about the needs and wants of their prospects all the time. Automated email gives them the ability to scale and compete in today's fast-paced world.
  • Email about recent behavior. If you know someone clicked a link in an email to go to a particular product or service page on your website, trigger an automated email that follows up on that specific behavior. Something like, “Hi, Bob, I noticed you checked out our product page yesterday. What did you think? Can I send you any more information about product X? Here's a link to a video that shows it in a bit more detail. Give me a call if you have any questions. Talk to you soon.” You also can send automated messages based on specific clicks in previous emails, information requested through Web forms and specific purchases, to name a few.
  • Segment based on demographics. Send different messages to different groups to get a better response. For example, a commercial realtor should send different messages to investors than he or she would to tenants. Also, if you sell a product or service that solves different problems, send appropriate messages to people according to their industry-specific problems.
  • Automate repetitive emails. People may regularly email your business with the same questions: “How much does it cost?” or “How is it different from your competitor's product or service?” Since the response is always the same, automate it. Be sure to leave yourself some flexibility to alter the message on the fly if further customization is needed.
  • Incorporate human interactions. Sure, you can automate your email marketing and you can do it in sophisticated, intelligent ways. But don't forget, customers want to know that there's a live person on the other end. People buy from people. At some point in your campaign, trigger a task that reminds you, your sales team or customer support to pick up the phone and call the customer.
There comes a time when a business can't scale beyond the capacity of its marketing department. If you find that you just can't keep up with all your leads and customers, it may be time to automate some of those communications. Your customers will thank you for keeping in touch in such a timely and personal manner. Tyler Garns is business and marketing strategist of Tyler Garns Marketing (www.tylergarns.com) and former director-marketing at marketing technology company Infusionsoft Inc. He can be reached at tyler@tylergarns.com.
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