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. This series of blogs explaining what you need to do to join the elite digital marketers who make as much as $40 in returns for every dollar they spend may be just what you need.
In this, the fourth of a five-part series, I will focus on the use of automation and workflows and 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 are 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 challenging. Only the elite email marketers have accomplished it, and, 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 your best bet is 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 your ideal outcome 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 in doing 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 related.
- 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 other contact engagements. For all 15 lists having a minimum of three separate emails waiting on the sidelines, the strategy requires the 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, which converts and downloads content, must be moved to the second (consideration) step. 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. Set up 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 leave your system 24/7 in dynamic responses to visitors' activities, whether the result of conversions through calls-to-action and form submissions (designed to gather relevant information and build progressive profiles matched to your various buyer personas) or the result of inaction by the contact. Every action or inaction must have a consequence that triggers the next event.
This is the science of email marketing, and this must be accomplished if you want to join the elite and 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 critical 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 with significant value for generating leads and future new business. It's an asset that establishes a competitive advantage for developing a considerable office product growth opportunity.
Let's return to our example with 2,000 contacts segmented into five buyer personas, three buyer lifecycle stages, and equal distribution of connections 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 must send different emails, with different calls-to-action and content offers to each persona and lifecycle stage.
List Segmentation - Stage 1 Email Campaign
In this example, our reseller has developed five different personas according to the buyer's preferences. The reseller's 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, then 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 lowest price
In addition to the objective to migrate the contacts to the optimal persona via the education process, the reseller's aim is also to relocate the communications through the lifecycle stages toward the decision stage and, of course, to become customers eventually. Again, different types of content are required to achieve this goal according to where the individual buyers are in the lifecycle.
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% moving to the decision stage and 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 of office supplies dealerships deploying advanced email marketing strategies.
Execution & Progressive Profiling:
One more significant element underlying the strategy is achieving world-class email marketing results. 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. 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 offered content. The landing page they lead to must include a form 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 data 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 will be completed, so you have to be patient and work to accomplish the goal over time. This is where "smart" fields and "progressive" profiling come 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" state doesn't even show those fields; instead, it slides into two or three new areas with requests for further information.
Each completed form permits you to build a complete profile of the contact. Intelligent questions, intelligently sequenced, allow a more accurate persona to be developed. It also helps actions to be set that automatically move the connection from one persona to another and from one lifecycle to another. Your form may have 40 or more fields, but never more than 3 or 4 will be shown simultaneously.
Not only is this information-gathering process hidden, but it's also of indispensable value in terms of accurate persona development and lifecycle stage determination, ensuring the right content can be delivered in the right place, at the right time, in a scaleable, efficient, and effective workflow.
Any remaining myth that an effective email strategy for office product 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 has to be worked hard for.
Technology must be utilized. It should be clear that the strategies and tactics outlined in this article cannot possibly be deployed without technology.
Finally, understanding your buyer personas and creating content carefully targeted to the persona and the three lifecycle stages is a fundamental requirement. 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 the cleanest email database possible, but without content, it won't be worth a dime.