We sat down with one of our own for an interview to uncover useful tips on how to successfully implement marketing automation.
Carina Nes has worked as a Customer Success Consultant in Loopify for four years. Her main goal is to make sure our customers are successful at what they do. This involves brainstorming with customers and workshops to find the best way to solve their problems as well as assistance in the technical and strategic part of setting up campaigns in Loopify. She also helps new customers get started with Loopify by setting up their accounts, organizing contacts, setting up their first campaign, helping out with custom templates, and any type of training they might need.
Because Carina has a front-row seat on how Loopify works, she let me pick her brain for some insights and actionable tips on making the most of marketing automation. So let’s dig in.
1. When it comes to using marketing automation, where does it make sense to start, and why?
Answer: The best place to start is to take a good look at your own organization and identify the repetitive actions that require a lot of manual handling. Ask yourself:
- Do we get the same questions a lot, and which are they?
- What do our customers most often need help with?
- Which of our tasks require a lot of manual work?
Analyze which of your ‘problem areas’ can be solved by sending an email or SMS before your customer contacts you. See which actions could be handled by a system instead of a person. This might save you a lot of time.
Second, if you categorize your customers, marketing automation can be used to send relevant instead of general information. You will hit your target group more precisely, which saves you money and gives you better ROI as you are directing your efforts where it has the best effect. This will result in happy customers as they will feel you are talking to them about stuff they care about.
Third, try to analyze your customers’ life cycle to send your communication at the right time. For example, you want to remind your customer to refill their contact lens supplies before they run out and not after. Otherwise, they’ll run off to your competitor.
2. What should automation rookies watch out for?
Answer: Taking on too much at once. It’s easy to get carried away when you realize the potential of marketing automation. Take one step at a time and complete one automation process before you start another. Start with something simple like newsletter signup and create a monthly newsletter. Newsletters are easy to plan ahead and to schedule automatic send-outs and easy to implement to your account.
3. What should customers do before they start sending communication?
Answer: This is more of a three-step process. First, set up a sender. If you are using email, complete the DNS process to use your own domain. If you’re sending an SMS, fill up your account with credits and set it up to refill automatically to avoid your SMS campaign from stopping mid-way.
Second, organize your contacts. Import contacts that you are allowed to communicate with and make sure they are listed with a real email address and names and not ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ or ‘funny guy’. Group your contacts by what they have in common or in a way that is relevant for the type of communication you intend to send.
Third, if your domain is new and this is the first time you are sending communication, start with a warm-up campaign. This means sending the same message to a large group of people but spreading it out over days. It’s a recommended process to prove you know how to send bulk emails and will give you a better rating to avoid the infamous spam filter.
4. What are the three most common struggles customers face when it comes to marketing automation? What do you advise in such cases?
Answer: Number one is the lack of control of the contact list and having poor or outdated contact data. The solution is to take some time to clean up your contact database and ensure that what you import is accurate. You and your colleagues should know which segments and tags to use. By doing this, you avoid everyone having their own version of grouping contacts and hence creating more clutter.
Number two is over-thinking and creating campaigns that are far more complex than they need to be. Take a step back and consider: Is there something I can do to make this easier? Are there any excessive blocks in my flow? Ask for a second opinion.
And number three is trying to hit too many birds with one stone. Sometimes it’s better to split things up into smaller campaigns rather than making one huge campaign. Can you send a single email instead? If so, then that might be better. It’s still easy to find all related work with a proper tag structure without cluttering the account.
5. Suppose a client uses a combination of channels to communicate with their customers. What are the three main things they need to consider?
Answer: Set up a schedule plan – decide which channels you will use at which time. Make the most out of your cross-channel marketing by having the channels support each other.
Next, find out more about where to reach the people you don’t know. This way, you direct your marketing efforts to reach the people you don’t have in your database instead of sending the same message to the same people over and over again.
Don’t forget to make an estimate of how much revenue you think the various channels will generate. Put your efforts where you get the best ROI and exploit the cheaper channels like email as much as you can.
I’ll add a fourth piece of advice. Think about what kind of feedback you might receive on your campaign. Set up to handle this feedback and have feedback-channels prepared as well. You might choose to communicate through email and Facebook, but want to get feedback through phone calls (or digital forms).
6. What’s the number one slip-up people make when it comes to creating automated campaigns?
Answer: Not testing properly. Testing takes time, and many people take shortcuts here that end up costing them more time as well as effort to fix a broken reputation or deteriorated goodwill among your customers. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and test to see whether the customer experience is just as you planned.
7. When a customer faces a challenging situation, like an email sent to the wrong people, what steps should they take to work through it?
Answer: The first step is to identify what went wrong and how you can do damage control. Identify who got the wrong information and group them so you can send out an apology and correct information. Consider giving them a freebie along with the apology.
The next step would be to understand what went wrong and why and to create procedures to avoid it from happening again.
Step three is to create checklists and alerts or reports to avoid human mistakes, and if errors occur, you catch them as quickly as possible.
And last but not least, ask for assistance. Before, to make sure you minimize the potential risks and after, to help clean-up as efficiently as possible.
8. What’s the most common question you receive from customers?
Answer: Why did/didn’t contact X get campaign Y? This question in various forms is probably what my customers most often struggle with. The answer is complex, but usually related to:
- Lack of control or overview of the contact database. Contact information is often used to create smart segments to define the audience of a campaign. If this information is incorrect or missing, the contact won’t be part of the campaign.
- Lack of understanding or overview of how a flow works. A flow can have filters, checkboxes, or actions that direct different contacts in different directions or show different content. In that case, if the contact information is wrong or if the filters aren’t set up correctly, it can lead to a contact being included in or excluded from a campaign.
9. What should small businesses or teams focus on to scale their success?
Answer: Several things come to mind. One is to identify the contacts interested in what you say (opens and clicks from reports) and react positively to your communication and focus on that contact group. Try to get them to refer you to their network of colleagues, friends, or family.
Also, don’t forget to analyze the results from a campaign and split test to see what people react positively to and do more of that.
Use automation to find out more about your contacts to send more relevant communication. Another great use of automation is to get feedback from your contacts to identify what you’re good at and what you should improve.
Moreover, try to find processes that require manual handling that could be replaced with an automated process to free up resources.
10. What’s one opportunity that customers overlook when it comes to leveraging automation?
Answer: I would say segmentation. Take some time to get to know your contacts, what they like, their interests, how they respond to your communications, and so forth.
Use that information to send segmented communication and adjust the time between a send out depending on how active your contacts are. Use marketing automation to get to know your contacts, categorize, and group them, and send personalized communication at the right time for each contact.
11. If a customer asked you for your best tip about marketing automation, what would it be?
Answer: Integrate with your CRM system and website and get familiar with automations (our Flow tool) to exploit the opportunities that lie there. And don’t worry too much about what other people or companies are doing. Analyze your own organization to see how automation can ease your workday.
12. Any other advice or tips you would like to share?
Answer: If you feel like something is difficult or time-consuming or in any way cumbersome, don’t stay frustrated. Get in touch with the support team or book a training session; there might be an easier way to do things that you are unaware of.
Also, I like to say planning makes perfect. I like to make a mind map of all the elements in my campaign upfront. Like campaign objectives, responses to different actions, the info I want to gather, what should be sent, and at what time, ways to keep track of what happens and catch mistakes underway. If you draw this out, it will be easier to see whether you’re forgetting something. You can use a piece of paper, a whiteboard, or a digital planning/brainstorming tool.
And the last tip, as I said, testing takes time. If you test your campaigns thoroughly, you might save yourself a lot of time and many dissatisfied customers. Get someone else to test for you when you think everything is perfect; it will reveal things you haven’t thought of. Pretend to be your customer when you’re testing, and you’ll be better prepared for the unexpected.
Takeaway #1: Start by identifying what type of manual work can be solved by automation. Use automation to send timely and relevant communication to your audience.
Takeaway #2: If you are a marketing automation rookie, don’t take up too many tasks at once. Start with something simple and easy, and slowly move onto more advanced tools.
Takeaway #3: Before you start sending communication, you need to set up your senders as well as import and organize your contacts for better targeting. If you have a new domain, start with a warm-up campaign to get a good sending reputation.
Takeaway #4: Clean up your contact database regularly and keep your contact data up to date. Everyone should be on the same page when it comes to segments and tags to avoid a messy account. Also, don’t overthink and overcomplicate your campaigns. Find a straightforward approach.
Takeaway #5: If you use cross-channel marketing, plan out what channels you are going to use, which will produce results, who are you going to reach, and consider your feedback channels.
Takeaway #6: Always test thoroughly to avoid mistakes that can cost you both money and your reputation.
Takeaway #7: When you make a mistake, first do damage control. Set up procedures to prevent it from happening again, use alerts and reports to catch future slip-ups as soon as possible, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Takeaway #8: Ensure that your contacts have the right info if you want them to be included in or excluded from a campaign. Check how your segment and flow filters are set up to make sure the right people are a part of that campaign.
Takeaway #9: If you are a small team or business, automate manual processes to save and free up resources. Focus on people that are interested in you, get their feedback, and get them to refer you to their friends. Regularly analyze campaign results and A/B test to see what works for you.
Takeaway #10: Take advantage of content segmentation. Send personalized communication by showing each contact what they are interested in.
Takeaway #11: Integrate your CRM system and website with your marketing automation software and learn the opportunities of automated flow campaigns.
Takeaway #12: If you are having difficulties, ask for help, and you may learn a simpler way of doing something. Plan your campaigns upfront and make sure you leave time for testing before going live.