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Published in Digital Marketing category on (07/21/2016)

Leveraging Marketing Automation for Effective Email Marketing

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How Ninja Kittens Riding a Fire Breathing Unicorn Taught Us The Secret of Writing High Converting Emails

Have you ever read a marketing email that flunked Marketing Automation 101? No qualifying, no targeting, and no personalization. What makes these emails so cringe-worthy is that we can empathize with why they’re bad, because after all, sending out effective inbound, outbound, and follow-up emails is hard work. According to Marketing Sherpa, customer conversion rates across industries ranges from 8-22%, which means that 78-92% of the time, marketers and salespeople are experiencing challenges when it comes to effectively communicating to their prospects. So even though a large part of the sales and marketing equation is not about “winning”, there are definite dangers of sending emails that do not consider your prospect’s unique needs. (Don’t worry, we’ll get to Ninja Kittens later in the post!)

Which might be the reason behind the virality of Scott Vaughan’s (CMO at Integrate), recent LinkedIn post:

“Note to inside sales. Please stop these dumb and insulting approaches to outreach. It’s embarrassing and kills you and your company’s credibility immediately. If you are a sales trainer or boss, please stop. You can do better.”

 

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On Wednesday, July 20th, this post had received 449 likes and 152 comments. So why exactly did Vaughan’s post hit a nerve? The frustrations are two-fold: the content of the email wasn’t aligned with the prospect’s needs and marketing automation wasn’t properly implemented.

The email in question was a sales email, but the same rules of how to effectively reach out to your prospect as a marketer are universal. Sales teams and marketing teams benefit from seeing how the content of this email missed the mark on multiple levels. When sending out emails to leads, you should think of these emails as developing a relationship with your prospect. As is the case when developing any professional relationship, you want to establish that you are knowledgeable in your field and you have helpful, innovative, and thoughtful solutions for their problems. Second you want to approach your prospect with respect, and listen to their needs. One size does not fit all, and your product or service might not always be the right fit for the prospect. The content of this email talked down to the prospect, treated the prospect as if they were a problem, and treated real business problems as an actual joke.

 So what does a good email look like? On the content side, Hubspot has noted that for effective email campaigns, marketers need to focus on a five part formula when composing a high converting email for prospects: (1) research the company/prospect and leverage lead intelligence; (2) make sure that your subject line is correlated with the goals of the subject of your email; (3) craft an opening line that is personalized to your prospect’s interest and network; (4) ask questions, provide examples of benefits, and offer helpful information; (5) your email signature should be as simple and distraction-free as possible.

Need further proof that personalization and strong subject lines lead to prospect conversions? According to Business 2 Community:

“In a recent study of marketing professionals by Experian Marketing Services, 62 percent said a personalized email subject line is crucial.

The study also revealed that personalized promotional emails generated transaction rates and revenue per email six times higher than non-personalized emails. The personalized mailings had 29 percent higher unique open rates and 41 percent higher unique click rates. For triggered email campaigns (in which emails are triggered by a calendar event, a business action or an action taken by a website visitor), personalization doubled transaction rates.”

Want a real life example of an email that was effective for our marketing department? This email was used by Certain as an event follow-up piece for the SiriusDecisions Tech conference. We had a 12.5% click-through rate, high engagement, and one of our prospects even sent us a note that said, “Best SD TechX follow-up so far. Well done.”

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So what worked here? First, we used a compelling subject line that played with humor, current events, and tech. We also used a rhetorical device and created intrigue: what on earth is a Ninja Kitten Riding a Fire Breathing Unicorn? Unless you were at the event and went to Baxter Denney’s presentation, you would have no idea. So we made our prospects feel like they were a part of the club, and in on the joke. We referenced industry cliches and pop culture in a smart, friendly, informed voice to address our prospect.

Additionally, we used a strong visual graphic that pulled inspiration from tech and gaming culture while remaining true to Certain’s branding. So in this email we were: memorable, humorous, and personable. We hit the marketing trifecta.

Once you’ve got your content formula down, how can you use marketing automation to help you deliver your message? Although marketing automation can streamline the marketer’s email marketing workflow, the right processes need to be in place so that marketing automation is effective. What are common marketing automation mistakes to avoid in order to create successful email marketing campaigns?

 

  1. Batch and Blast While batch and blast is time-effective, it throws the rules of email personalization out the window. Batch and blast usually results in the wrong demographic receiving your message. Instead, create multiple email nurture tracks for different prospect or customer personas that are geographically, demographically, and company specific so that the content you are providing has a higher level of personalization and targeting.
  2. Improperly Segmented ListKnow your audience, and like we said above, the more targeted your segmenting, the better. As Liz McLemore from Experian says, “You need to learn what motivates your audience, and understanding this requires knowing who they are. Be willing to spend the time and resources needed to get an accurate picture of your subscribers, from gender and geographic location, to income level, and even the presence of children in their households. Only then will you be able to communicate with them effectively.”
  3. Generic Sender Name Who wants to open up an email from marketing@___.com or sales@__.com? Would you say yes to an invite from Freddy Krueger? Names mean something! Always be sure that your sender’s email address is a real person, even if when you respond the email goes to a general department’s inbox.

Now that you know what marketing automation practices not to do, let’s talk about what you should be doing. Marketo has some great pointers about marketing automation best practices. Spend time with the actual types of people you are prospecting. Is your product for marketers? Then take your content strategist out for lunch (I’d like sushi, thanks for asking!) and get personally acquainted with their real-life problem set. Getting to know your prospect will help you develop content that addresses real problems and needs. Next, start content mapping for prospects during different stages of the buyer’s journey and marketing funnel. Once you’re sending out emails and you’ve developed a rapport with your prospect, the next step is to create lead scoring. When generating a lead score, let the data drive conversations and decisions, and be sure that all systems are fully-integrated, especially with your CRM, so that your sales team knows when to follow-up with your prospect.

Now let’s talk about how to effectively integrate marketing automation into your email marketing campaign. As far as best practices are concerned:

  1. Don’t Spam Your Prospects— When defining and creating separate nurture tracks, create campaigns at wide time intervals to give your prospect space to breathe.
  2. Keep Your Campaigns Clean—Use a naming convention for all of your email marketing campaigns so that they’re easily accessible and trackable.
  3. Address Deliverability Issues— Are your emails going straight to your prospect’s SPAM folder? Fix it! Make it easy for your prospects to unsubscribe and update your database regularly with prospects who opted-in to received emails only. This will increase your open rates and fix your deliverability issues.
  4. Deliver Your Leads to Sales— As Kuno Creative says, “Automatically move inbound leads over to your CRM using marketing automation workflows and assign them to appropriate sales reps when they reach lead scoring thresholds and/or trigger specific behaviors, such as requesting a free trial or demonstration.”

Scott Vaughan’s LinkedIn post highlighted how problematic poorly executed email marketing is, and how it can alienate your prospect. But the plight of poor prospecting emails does not have to be yours! There are definite challenges in streamlining your email marketing and marketing automation workflow, but once you have the right processes in place, it will enable your marketing team to save time, target your audience, and receive actionable data that you can then deliver to your sales team. By using compelling subject lines, crafting out of the box copy, appropriately segmenting your email lists, keeping your marketing automation and CRM databases updated, and addressing deliverability issues, you are well on your way to successful email marketing campaigns.

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