In the modern business world, digital services and technology can play a huge part in your success. While the telephone and business premises (if you have them) still play a part in servicing your customers, other ‘digital’ properties are just as important (if not more important) in ensuring you are giving customers what they want.
Technology has brought us all closer together, with small businesses all across the globe having the ability to deal with customers in multiple timezones and in far off place that they’d otherwise never be able to service prior to the advent of the internet and modern communication technologies.
But, along with all this opportunity comes a cost… you need to spend more time dealing with pre-sales questions, warming customers up to your product or service, aftersales support and all that good stuff that comes with running a successful business.
The good news is, when it comes to communicating with your prospects and customers via email, you can use automation to do a bunch of the heavy lifting for you, saving you time to focus on other aspects of running your business or day-to-day tasks that take priority (and ultimately saving you money as well).
So, what exactly is email automation?
Compared to regular newsletters or one-off campaigns where you would send an email to an entire group of people at once, an automated email process is set up once and then when a person meets a certain condition, they will be sent the appropriate email.
Here’s an example:
Imagine you’re a mechanic and you have customers who get their cars serviced with you regularly. You want to make sure that when their next service is due they get a reminder and are prompted to book their car in with you (and maybe you’ll make them an offer at the same time).
Now, you wouldn’t want to manually go into your customer list, find out when all those next services are due and then manually write each customer an email to remind them that they should book in and get their car serviced. This would be massive time killer and keeps you away from doing actual mechanic work.
The good news is, with email automation you can set up a template “service reminder” email once, base the trigger on when a customer last had a service with you and the system will automatically generate the appropriate email for you, essentially your service reminders are done for you in the background.
Things you can automate
So in the example above, a mechanic is able to use email automation to send regular reminders to their customers when their vehicle is due for a service, but it could just as easily be used to send a reminder about their Warrant of Fitness being due or even triggered based on season (e.g. get a Winter checkup).
There are also a range of other things you can do using email automation, such as…
1. Build a list of prospects
What if you’re aiming to generate sales or build a list of potential customers. This is just as easy as the example above, simply capture the email address (and a few details) of someone who is interested in your product or service and you can automatically send them more information in the future depending on how they behave.
Let’s take a retail store with an online shop, a potential customer visits the site and there are a number of opportunities to capture their details. You could make an offer of a discount off their first purchase if they sign up for your emails, alternatively if they add something to a cart you could capture their email at the time.
In the case of adding a product to a shopping cart but electing not to make the purchase, if you have captured an email address at the time then you can send out a “we’re holding your product for you” type of email that encourages them to come back and complete their purchase.
2. Nurturing existing customer relationships
In the “we’re holding your product” scenario, the automation process is even easier for existing customers who have chosen to sign in while they are browsing your site (a lot of the time this is done automatically which is great). If they choose to add something to their cart, you already have their email address so sending that follow up (and more in the future) is simple.
But beyond this, one of the best things you can be doing as a business is nurturing your relationship with those existing customers by providing valuable and useful content on an ongoing basis. If you’re selling a range of products, show them alternatives and make offers when they shop again.
Going back to the mechanic scenario, sending them tips for doing basic vehicle maintenance themselves or advising them of things to look out for when buying a certain type of vehicle is going to be helpful for them. This builds their trust in your brand and makes them more likely to use or recommend you in the future.
3. Support your customers
If you have an online service where customers are largely expected to look after themselves e.g. a training course, software as a service or a online tool, then it’s likely that there will be questions about how to make the most of what you have to offer and/or help required when things go wrong.
Rather than just create a knowledge base where customers can search and find answers to their questions, why not proactively send a series of emails to new customers providing them with answers to the most frequent questions that you receive and some guidance as to how to get up and running quickly.
Your experience will tell you where people get stuck and what the most popular questions are, so why not use this knowledge to help get people started in the best possible way. Not only that, if you do receive a request for help via a support desk or email, you can automatically respond to say you’re working on answering the question and here are some common answers the customer can check out themselves.
There’s often nothing worse when signing up for a new service or product online, than being expected to just know how it works, especially if it’s something people have not had experience with before. So, using email automation you can make that initial engagement smoother and build your reputation at the same time.
4. Deliver a training course
With so many people online these days looking for information, there is a great opportunity to put together a course for them to follow on a regular basis. Whether it’s a daily training schedule e.g. exercise or meditation, or a weekly set of activities for the student to follow, using email is a great way to keep them engaged.
Simply create your content and use email automation to send them the latest activities at a pre-determined time, alternatively you could choose to send them their next lesson once they have completed a set of actions from the previous week e.g. watching and video and clicking a button.
This type of content can be a great lead capture mechanism, whereby a prospect is able to access a number of days worth of content or training in exchange for providing their email. Once the X days course has been completed then there’s no reason why you can’t continue to provide them with relevant and useful information.
How email automation saves you money
I think it’s pretty clear from the examples above that using email to automate key tasks can save you a ton of time, and by extension this will save your business money, either through allowing you to concentrate on other tasks or removing the need for you to pay for someone to perform the tasks in question.
Think about the areas of your business where customer contact is done manually or through limited automation, do you perform these tasks yourself or are paying for someone else to do it. Set up email automation correctly and those efforts can be focused elsewhere or the cost removed from your business completely.
In fact, not only would it be fair to say that email automation saves you money, but it can very easily be put to use to generate a significant income for your business through the capture, nurture and conversion of prospects into customers. Set it up right and you can have a fully hands off sales system on your hands, allowing you to focus on delivering service and products to your customers.
But how can you get started for free?
It’s clear that email automation is a powerful tool that you can use within your business, but you’re probably wondering how much it’s going to cost you to get all these benefits, after all some of this sounds complicated.
While it’s true that setting up a complex automated email solution can require an expert, there are definitely elements of this that you can do yourself, depending on your business model and product/service offering. It will take a little work on your part (or you can get someone like me to do it for you – just get in touch) but it will be worth it in the long run.
But even if you aren’t interested in creating the automation yourself, you still don’t have to fork out a huge sum of money for the email automation service itself. There are a range of suppliers out there who offer what are known as “free forever” plans, allowing you to sign up and start using their service… FREE!
Some of the plans may have limitations with regards to advanced features, however in many cases you won’t require those in order to do the types of simple automation like an email course or service reminder. Even if you do find yourself in need of the paid service, most services will have a decent entry level plan for $10-20 (USD) per month and then you can grow from there.
Some good options to get started with email automation include:
Another service that is worth a look if you’re a little more technically inclined is EmailOctopus. They allow you to store up to 2,000 contacts in their free plan but if you want automation you need their first tier paid plan ($19 per month, USD). You’ll need an Amazon AWS account to send your emails, but that’s free for your first 60k emails per month.
As you’ve read, email automation can have a positive affect on the amount of time you need to spend on interacting with prospects and customers, freeing you up to tackle other aspects of your business. It’s a great tool to have in your arsenal as a business owner, especially if you provide an online service of any kind as most of the time your customers will expect high levels of digital interactivity.
It doesn’t have to be expensive to get started, and best of all the time and money you’ll save will pay for any setup costs or ongoing fees that you will incur. If done correctly, the return on investment for email automation will be high and your business will be better off for it, and so will your customers.
Of course, if you’d rather have someone talk you through email automation in more detail, then feel free to get in touch, I’ll be more than happy to go into the finer points of how it could be right for your business.
Until next time.