Are you automating your emails with trigger and drip campaigns? (an overview and 3 good tips)

Lately I’ve been working with clients on automating their marketing tasks, specifically their emails. The more I work in this channel, the more I realize how wide-open a frontier — with a huge upside — it is for cross-channel merchants.

Most medium- to high-end email service providers (ESPs) offer some sort of automated functionality. This gives marketers the opportunity to create “set-it-and-forget-it type” campaigns.

When you acquire a new prospect, for example, you can create a triggered drip campaign. A drip campaign involves a series of emails that are sent to prospects at pre-specified intervals, say once a week over a four-week period.  Each email is designed to either highlight a key company benefit (part of the unique selling proposition), or have a series of progressively stronger offers.

Most ESPs have application programming interfaces available to their clients. By having your IT folks set this up, your ESP can automatically communicate with your database. In simple terms, once a prospect becomes a customer, no more drip emails are sent to them as they move to a different bucket (customer) in your email database. And once prospects become customers, they’re promoted into a different automated email series.

You can set up campaigns for all of your customer statuses — prospects, single, multibuyers, past customers, gift purchasers, cancels and so on. The sky is the limit based on your creativity.

Furthermore, some ESPs have pretty good list management tools available for automated and/or one-off campaigns. For example, a client of mine chose Bronto’s solution, which allows it to store 100 different customer attributes. It can then create campaigns based on whatever criteria meets its needs from Bronto’s list selection module. Want to send an email to someone whose birthday is coming up? It’s simple: Whatever data you collect from customers and prospects can all be sliced and diced within a good ESP’s system.

Try the following three ideas for triggered email campaigns:

  • customer satisfaction surveys X number of days after a purchase;
  • tell-a-friend offers when customers becomes multibuyers; and
  • customer reactivation emails. Instead of doing a query each time you want to send a reactivation message from your internal database and uploading a new list, just create it for X number of days/months/years and the message automatically goes out.

Of course, no new form of direct marketing should be done without testing. Test offers, creative and especially the timing of your messaging.

You’ve worked hard, now let email marketing automation help you drive revenue! Are you automating your marketing efforts? Tell us how it’s working by posting a comment below.

Guest post: The Direct Marketing Hiring Report shows an uptick in hiring and employment

For this week’s post, I wanted to share this study from Bernhart Associates with you. It’s good news for once! It looks like there’s an uptick in direct marketing hiring:

Confidence Returning to Job Market for Digital and Direct Marketers Layoffs drop to pre-recession low; employers expanding use of social networking for hiring

Owatonna, MN, April 7, 2010 — Digital and direct marketing job seekers can expect a spring thaw in layoffs and hiring freezes, according to the latest quarterly employment report by Bernhart Associates Executive Search, LLC.

“Employers are still being cautious when it comes to making hiring decisions, with half expecting no change in hiring plans for the coming quarter. However, we’re seeing more job stability, and employers continue to lift their hiring freezes,” said Jerry Bernhart , Principal of Bernhart Associates Executive Search, LLC, a leading recruiting firm which has been conducting quarterly hiring surveys in digital and direct marketing since 2001.

A total of 454 organizations responded to the employment trends survey between March 23 and April 7. Here are the key findings from the second quarter survey:

  • 43 percent of respondents said they’ll add to staff during the second quarter of  2010, down three points from Q1;
  • 20 percent of respondents currently have a hiring freeze, a dramatic decline from 45 percent just six months ago;
  • the percentage of companies planning layoffs in Q2 fell to 3 percent, the lowest level in three years; and
  • when asked if they plan to consider using social networking websites for hiring, 41 percent of respondents said they plan to employ them in “moderate amounts” during 2010, while only 14 percent said they won’t be using social networks at all.

“Just a year ago, I was seeing reports indicating that hardly any companies were thinking about using social media in their recruiting,” said Bernhart.  “Our second quarter survey results show that interest in these online networks among digital and direct marketers has grown quickly and considerably, especially among agencies.”

Bernhart said job growth in the overall digital and direct marketing industry is keeping pace with progress in overall U.S. employment. However, he pointed out that marketers are lagging behind their agency and supplier counterparts in terms of job growth.

“Agencies have all but eliminated their hiring freezes, and only one agency responding to our most recent survey said it’s expecting layoffs during the next three months,” Bernhart said. “Hiring on the services side also remains strong, with just about half of respondents telling us they plan to hire during the current quarter. By comparison, 38 percent of marketers said they intend to add to staff.”

Meanwhile, the B-to-C segment continues its upswing with major hiring indexes showing more positive trends compared with its B-to-B counterpart.

According to the survey, Bernhart said sales positions would be in the greatest demand during the second quarter. “This comes as no surprise to me given the strong demand I’ve been seeing for sales reps on the recruiting side of the business,” he said. “We’ve been getting steady calls for sales-position searches since the beginning of the year.”

Bernhart added that analytics remained high on the employment list, along with online and multichannel marketing positions.

Bernhart also said that demand for executive search services has been steadily growing since the beginning of the year. “Inquiries are coming in on a fairly regular basis. A year ago, it was little more than a trickle.”

Bernhart Associates’ second quarter survey was emailed to more than 9,700 senior executives and hiring managers, human resource officials, and other key participants in online and offline direct marketing.

According to the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), direct marketing advertising expenditures as a portion of total U.S. advertising expenditures grew to 54.3 percent and generated 8.3 percent of U.S. gross domestic product in 2009. Also last year, there were 1.4 million direct marketing employees in the U.S. Their collective sales efforts directly supported 8.4 million other jobs, accounting for a total of 9.9 million U.S. jobs.

Results of past surveys can be found in the DMA’s annual Statistical Fact Book and on Bernhart Associates Executive Search, LLC’s website.

Companies interested in participating in the Bernhart Associates Quarterly Digital and Direct Marketing Employment Report should send an email with “Opt-In” in the subject line, or they can sign up directly on Bernhart Associates’ website.

Learn how to give to get, or… Don’t be stingy, give up the product!

Social media has indelibly changed the way we market and brand our companies forever. To compete in the social “mediasphere” (and in general), companies must give to get (G2G). My definition of G2G is as follows:

“The ability to provide consumers real value, rich information and even parts of a company’s ‘secret sauce’ in exchange for their patronage.”

Perhaps the biggest G2G opportunity your company has is its product. Recently I’ve seen a few really smart companies using their product as a powerful consumer engagement tool. My experience has been that clients who have adopted G2G are having unprecedented success, even in this shaky economy.

Consider trying the following to see if G2G could work for your business:

  1. Run pop-up specials on your social media channels. Request comments in exchange for the opportunity to win product. For example, try this on Twitter: “The first three people to answer X question successfully will win a free widget.”
  2. Ask your customers for videos, pictures and stories documenting their experiences using your products. In return, provide them with free product. A great example comes from Chipotle restaurants. It has a campaign (click here to see) encouraging customers to send in fun pictures of themselves with its product visible for an opportunity to win “free stuff.”

Don’t be stingy here. The more products you give away, the more you draw customers and prospects to your brand.

These are but two examples. The sky is the limit as to what kind of creativity you can come up with. Consider the benefits:

  • Your contests, pictures, videos, etc. go viral and extend your brand’s marketing reach.
  • You create goodwill for your brand. Remember, social media is the great equalizer. In a world constantly inundated with negative messages, people love to tell — and hear — a good story. Giveaways make for good stories.
  • Nothing engages consumers like a giveaway. And engaged consumers are known by another name — repeat buyers.

Here’s my own G2G promo: The first three people who email me at will win a free half-hour consultation on social media and how to implement G2G in their companies.

Ready, set, go! Good luck!