Using Automation to Make Audience Development More Personal
You would never invite a friend over to your home, open your door, and walk away once they walked in, would you? They’re your friend, after all. You’d say hello, thank them for coming, and ask them about their day.
We live in a time where some of the most successful brands are aching to be your best friend. Think about it. Target always knows exactly what you need. People love shopping at Target, so much so, there are thousands of memes and tweets about it. There’s even a Target Does it Again Instagram account.
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Netflix has similar type of relationship with its customers. “Sit around and watch Netflix” is basically code for, “the most relaxing evening ever.” You feel safe with Netflix, trusting they always have something to fit your mood.
So, how do they do it? In a nutshell: Automation.
They’ve built a relationship with their customers by listening to them, understanding them, and then using technology and automation to show up and give the consumer exactly what they need. It’s easy. It’s reliable. It’s like an old friend.
Automation is the lifeblood of more industries than you can count, but don’t let that intimidate you. It’s easy to start embracing automation -- especially for publishers. We have no shortage of things to say or stories to share (and everyone likes a new friend with great stories.) So, let’s talk about how every publisher can start using automation to make new friends (and keep the old.)
Using Automation to Send a Friendly Welcome
Start by just saying hello to someone new in your neighborhood. You know, the obligatory basket of baked goods for the new family on the block.
New email addresses come into your database in variety of ways all the time. Consumers enter a giveaway on your website, cave in to a pop-up, or nominate a co-worker or a company through one of your programs. Start by saying, “Hello.” No one should walk in your door without being greeted -- and automation helps you do that.
Make sure any forms that you’re using to capture an audience has a way to automate the first few interactions you have with that consumer. Whether it’s a contesting form, an event registration, or just a pop-up on your site, it has to tie back to your ESP immediately. The relationship starts now. Autoresponders are very common in just about every ESP and tools like Zapier make it easy to push data from one place to another (including to your ESP) in a matter of seconds. A strong autoresponder email happens right away and references how they got there. “Thanks for voting!” or “We’re looking forward to seeing you at the event!”
Next, make a recommendation on what you learned from them in your first encounter. A great friend always has a restaurant recommendation ready when they learn where you live or your favorite type of food.
Using automation, plan to wait a few days and then reach back out with some similar or complementary content. This is easy to accomplish by building a delay into a workflow or journey inside your ESP or automation tool. It shows the reader that you’re paying attention and that you’re trying to build the relationship.
Using Automation to Acknowledge Important Dates
When it’s a friend’s birthday, you send a card to tell them happy birthday. When it’s the anniversary of someone becoming a customer, throw some confetti. If it’s been awhile since they’ve been around, ask how they’ve been.
Automation tools can help you keep an eye on your relationship with your customers and reach out on an important date without you having to do much leg work. Additionally, automation can reach out if a customer has started to grow distant and try to rekindle the relationship.
You can also build automated communication based on the date that someone last visited your website or opened an email, and set the amount of time you want to let someone give you the silent treatment before you reach out. 12 weeks of not opening emails is about the right amount of time for most publishers. Setting this to happen automatically and on a regular basis, and removing those that don’t engage, will enable you to maintain higher engagement levels on your email lists.
Automation and Acquisition
For most of us, our goal is to ultimately monetize the relationship with our customers. And most savvy marketers will tell you that the timing is just as important as the offer. Automation can allow you to make the ask for an email address or send a subscription offer when likelihood is the highest that they will engage. This could be based on recent behavior on your website, like spending several minutes with a piece of content, or sharing that content on social media.
You can also reserve your best offers and most aggressive rates for the person that might be playing hard to get, triggering automation based on clicks in a previous offer email, but not going through with the purchase. Automation can help you recognize that the intent is there, they are interested in you, but might need a little nudge to commit.
Choosing the Right Marketing Automation Technology
There are a lot of technology options in the marketing automation space (my personal favorite is HubSpot). But here are a few of the things you should be looking for when evaluation automation platforms.
- Focus on tools that will allow you to not only collect emails (including form builders, serving on-site pop-ups), but also deploy emails, making the process of automation a series of welcome emails contained and simple.
- You’ll also want a platform that is API friendly and ideally can integrate directly with a tool like Zapier. You’re always going to be bringing in leads and emails from outside sources so getting those into your automation platform quickly will be important.
- Finally, look for a platform that also tracks website behavior and allows you to customize the on-site experience. Landing pages should be customizable based on traffic source, device types and the status of your relationship with that consumer.
Automation is here to make our lives easier, and it does. After all, what are friends for?
Related story: 4 Tips for Choosing a Marketing Automation Tool
Melissa Chowning is the CEO of Twenty-First Digital, where she guides her clients’ digital strategies and audience development efforts to drive traffic, engagement, and retention. Formerly the Audience Development Director of D Magazine, Portland Monthly and Seattle Met, Melissa understands that the key to audience growth is also monetization. When she’s not immersed in the digital world, you’ll likely find her reading, listening to podcasts, and keeping busy with her two children, both under the age of 6.