If you're an Office Products Reseller and wondering why your email campaigns don't provide the kind of results the headlines may lead you to anticipate, then this series of blogs explaining what you need to do to join the elite digital marketers who make as much as $40 of returns for every dollar they spend, may be just what you need.
In this, the fourth of a five-part series, I'm going to focus on the use of automation and workflows as well as the execution component of email marketing.
- Part 1 - Contact lists, organizing and segmentation
- Part 2 - The foundation - buyer personas and the buyer's journey
- Part 3 - Planning and strategy
- Part 4 - Automation, workflows, and execution
- Part 5 - Goal setting and measuring ROI
A recap: what should already be in place before building workflows and executing:
- Clean, opted-in contact database
- Consistently branded social media presence (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter & Google+)
- Detailed Buyer Personas
- Contacts segmented according to persona and lifecycle stage
- Content creation / curation strategy and applicable resources
- Content "offer" library
- Landing pages with forms setup for progressive profiling
- Landing Pages and Calls-to-Action optimized for maximum conversions
- Lead nurturing strategy - ITTT (If This, Then That)
- Publishing/Launch Platform
Building a foundation with the required scope for successful email marketing is not easy. Only the elite email marketers have accomplished it and, chances are, as an independent office products reseller, you probably haven't!
However, let's hope you're starting to put the foundation in place because, you're probably not a social media expert, you have a limited social audience, and no current activity to build or engage with what social audience you do have.
In these circumstances email marketing will be your best shot. It has the potential to provide the biggest, short-term "bang-for-your-buck", helping you catch-up with the big-box competition who are already actively marketing to your customers and prospects. Social media audience development and engagement cannot be ignored forever but it's probably your best bet to get email marketing up and running first.
Automation and Workflows:
In the example shown in the table below, there are around 2,000 contacts divided evenly between five buyer personas and the three lifecycle stages. Effective segmentation of the contacts creates 15 different lists.
List Segmentation - Stage 1 Email Campaign
Think about what your ideal outcome is after you press the launch button - of course you want 100% open rates, 100% click rates and 100% conversion rates. But, you know that's not going to happen, so you must be prepared for the "If This, Then That" (ITTT) scenarios that are inevitable with email marketing.
In the above example, list segmentation according to persona and lifecycle stage means the same email is only sent to 130 contacts. Let's focus on a blast to Persona # 1 in the "awareness" stage.
- You achieve a 30% open and 20% click rate meaning 70% of the recipients did nothing. What do you plan to do next with those that did nothing? Of course, you need a follow-up email waiting in the wings, to prod those that didn't engage, to do so with a second email.
- What about the 30% who opened the email and the 20% who clicked? Again, you need a follow-up email (perhaps promoting a demo) to those that clicked.
- Finally, what about those that opened but didn't click? Of course, you need a follow-up email for this group as well.
So, as you can see, on just one of our 15 lists we had three different actions waiting on the sidelines, depending on the different contact engagements. For all 15 lists having a minimum of three different emails waiting on the sidelines, the strategy requires preparation of 45 different emails, just for the first cycle of the campaign.
That's 45 different emails before even we start thinking about A/B testing but more on that another time!
An example of a simple "If This Then That" workflow.
Finally, think about the movement that's going to take place between the lists. Someone in the "awareness" stage who converts and downloads content must be moved to the second (consideration) stage. Likewise, someone who books a demo, must be moved from the "awareness" to the "decision" stage.
It should be clear, there are a lot of moving parts and, the ability to manage such a level of complexity without automation, is next to impossible. Setup correctly your email launches will cease to be a once or twice a week event. Instead they'll be triggered through automation based on recipient actions. Emails will be leaving your system 24/7 in dynamic responses to all types of actions taken by visitors. Whether it be the result of conversions through calls-to-action and form submissions, (designed to gather relevant information and building progressive profiles matched to your various buyer personas), or whether it be the result of inaction by the contact. Every action or inaction must have a consequence that triggers the next event in the process.
This is the science of email marketing and this is what must be accomplished if you want to join the elite and start to earn the $40 returns on every dollar spent.
Once you've set the rules for list segmentation, prepared the content offers, mapped them according to personas and lifecycle stages, created the email templates, and set your launch timetables and triggers, not only will you have invested a significant amount of time, you will also have learned getting everything in place wasn't a simple process!
However, these steps were all key requirements before successful email marketing can commence and, as you may expect, if you want to perform among the elites, there is no alternative to investing the time to accomplish this.
In preparing to conduct email marketing from this foundation with the level of sophistication that becomes possible, an asset has been created that's of significant value for generating leads and future new business. In fact, it's an asset that establishes a competitive advantage for developing a significant office products growth opportunity.
Let's go back to our example with 2,000 contacts segmented into five buyer personas, three buyer lifecycle stages, and an equal distribution of contacts between them.
Remember, to successfully place yourself among the elites, you must ensure you're sending the right content, to the right place, at the right time. To accomplish this you will need to send different emails, with different calls-to-action, and with different content offers to each of the personas and lifecycle stages.
List Segmentation - Stage 1 Email Campaign
In this example our reseller has developed five different personas according to the buyer preferences. The resellers objective is to migrate all his contacts toward Persona # 1 because he knows the most profit can be made on aftermarket office supplies and he knows that's where the consumer can save the most money.
Different types of content will be necessary to achieve migration from Persona # 5 toward Persona # 1 than will be required to migrate a Persona from # 3 to # 1.
- Persona # 1 - Already willing to consider aftermarket options
- Persona # 2 - Converted to aftermarket but only for a national brand
- Persona # 3 - OEM brands only
- Persona # 4 - Opposed to technology & automation - i.e. DCA on network
- Persona # 5 - Buys online for the cheapest price
List Segmentation - Stage 2 Email Campaign
The results shown at Stage 2 of the reseller campaign demonstrate some success in achieving the goals with 42% moved to the decision stage and a total of 51% into the Persona # 1 or # 2 categories. The high standard of preparation and execution required to achieve these results has the potential to contribute significantly toward improving the future for office supplies dealerships deploying advanced email marketing strategies.
Execution & Progressive Profiling:
There's one more significant element underlying the strategy to achieve world-class results with email marketing. You may be wondering how automation can be utilized to determine the transitions from one persona to another and from one lifecycle stage to another. For sure this cannot be done effectively without strategy, preparation, and technology.
Emails must include calls-to-action (CTA) that contain links to landing pages. Contacts click on the CTA because they're interested in the content being offered. The landing page they lead to must contain a form that has to be completed before the content is accessible. The conversion process (form completion and submission) is a transaction - in exchange for the personal information you've requested from the contact, you provide content they've decided it's worth providing the information for.
One of the key objectives of the form is to discover as much about the contact as possible. However, the problem is, the longer the form, the less likely it's going to be completed so, you have to be patient and work to accomplish the goal over a period of time. This is where "smart" fields and "progressive" profiling comes into play.
Your most engaged contacts will engage multiple times so, the idea is, that each time they come back for more content, your form is structured to gather a little more information. You don't need the information collected on previous visits so, your "smart" form doesn't even show those fields, instead, it slides in two or three new fields with requests for new information.
Each form that's completed then permits you to build a more complete profile of the contact. Intelligent questions, intelligently sequenced, allow a more accurate persona to be developed. It also permits actions to be set that automatically move the contact from one persona to another as well as from one lifecycle to another. Your form may have 40 or more fields but never will more than 3 or 4 be shown at one time.
Not only is this information gathering process unobtrusive, it's of indispensable value in terms of accurate persona development and lifecycle stage determination, thereby ensuring the right content can be delivered in the right place, at the right time, in a workflow that's scaleable, efficient, and effective.
Well, any remaining myth that an effective email strategy for office products resellers may be carried out with routine email blasts, randomly firing off special offers, should surely have been dispelled. Any desire to join the elite and earn high returns clearly have to be worked hard for.
Technology must be utilized. It should be clear, the strategies and tactics outlined in this article, cannot possibly be deployed without the use of technology.
Finally, understanding your buyer personas and creating content carefully targeted to the persona and the three lifecycle stages, is a fundamental requirement. In fact, spending time and resources evaluating technology systems and cleaning up an email contact database is a waste, unless serious thought has been dedicated to the content creation strategy. You can have the best technology systems money can buy and you can have the cleanest email database possible but, without content, it won't be worth a dime.
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