Marketing with Automated Email Sprints
Automated email sprints are a form of triggered email marketing designed to send specific communications based on a customer’s actions. Sprints can be used to build client relationships, sell additional products, or follow up after someone has purchased a product or service.
Bronto Software, an email service provider, notes that there are at least two kinds of automated email campaigns that marketers should consider using. The first of these is triggered when a customer takes some action, such as registering for a newsletter, signing up for a freemium service, or enrolling in an email-based course. The second kind of automated email campaign is a recurring sprint that simply sends a new message at some known interval.
Some email service providers also recommend combined action-based and recurring email sprints to produce even more robust automated email campaigns.
Action-based Email Sprints
Customer engagement is often a complex series of events. A prospect fills out a form on Facebook, downloads a whitepaper from a company’s website, or watches a YouTube video explaining a business’ product or service.
A potential customer’s actions initiate each of these points of engagement. In this sort of example, an email sprint would seek to holistically market to the customer, taking into account the various interactions, and generally moving the prospect toward either a purchase or a conversation with a sale specialist.
Imagine what this sprint might look like in action.
The prospect fills out a Facebook form offering an email marketing whitepaper. Automatically, the email sprint is initiated, and the customer receives a Facebook private message and an email each saying “thank you” with a link to the whitepaper.
The automated sprint now waits for an additional action. If the prospect hasn’t downloaded the whitepaper in three days and if that three-day time span did not fall over a weekend, the campaign automatically sends a follow up email and Facebook message reminding the prospect that the whitepaper is available for download.
Once the prospect downloads the aforementioned email marketing whitepaper, the sprint waits three more days and then sends an email asking the prospect if the whitepaper was helpful and encouraging the prospect to either watch a related YouTube video or to request a call from a representative, who could answer specific questions about the paper’s content.
This email sprint would continue to follow up with prospects until the prospect engaged with a specialist, ordered the service, or stopped taking actions.
Creating this sort of email sprint requires marketers to have a series of marketing materials available, a set of business rules that determine how the sprint responds to each action, a clear lead conversion funnel, and automation software that can actually make the process work.
Recurring Email Sprints
The recurring variety of automated email sprints tend to be much simpler. Customer actions typically initiate the sprint — someone requests something — but all of the follow up communications are time-based rather than action-driven.
The classic example is an email-based lesson or class. Copyblogger, for example, offers a free online marketing course on its website. Registrants get a series of marketing lessons sent via email weekly.
Blended Email Sprints
Action-based and recurring sprints may also be blended to work together. For example, what if the Copyblogger online marketing course did not send a new lesson until the previous lesson had been opened?
Another example could be an automated email newsletter series that offered different content based on what a recipient had clicked on in the last issue. This campaign would be both recurring since it is sent at regular, predictable intervals but also action-based since the subscribers actions determines the content.
Don’t Automate in Silos
Automated email sprints are very good at building customer relationships, especially for small businesses with relatively limited marketing resources, since the sprints can be set up and — to some extent — forgotten.
There is, however, a common pitfall that marketers need to avoid when planning email sprints: automating in silos or in discrete campaigns.
Imagine having four email sprints. The first is built to respond to a form on Facebook. The second sprint is initiated when a whitepaper is downloaded. The third starts up in response to a webinar, and the fourth is an email-based course.
What happens if one customer takes all four actions? If these sprints are completely separate and ignore each other the prospect could receive too many messages, which could cause confusion. Avoid this by having the sprints check with each other and having business rules in place to manage how automated email sprints work together.
Don’t Lose Touch with Customers
Automated email sprints are supposed to lead to a sale. For many businesses, sales typically occur only after a personal, human-to-human contact. It is important remember that email sprints are a tool, not a replacement, for actually understanding a customer or working directly with that customer.