CASE STUDY: AUTOMATING EMAILS FOR THE CUSTOMER JOURNEY
HOW CAN YOU ANTICIPATE NEEDS AND DELIGHT CLIENTS ALONG THE PURCHASE OR SERVICE PATH
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HOW CAN YOU USE THE PERSONAL DETAILS YOU HAVE TO AUTOMATE EMAILS THAT MATTER?
How much time do you spend working on daily to-do items or answering “this just in” questions and inquiries?
Now how much time do you spend working on tasks that anticipate what’s on the horizon? Probably not a lot, right?
This summer, I’ve been teaching short marketing sessions that culminate in actionable projects you can take on to set up smart marketing content and structures in your business during the slower season. Systems you might even be able to set and forget* to automate your communications whenever possible.
*OK, I don’t ever recommend completely forgetting about any of your marketing. You should check in on any automations you make every once in a while to make sure they’re still what you need.
In our email marketing summer session, we talked about creating automated emails and welcome sequences that contain content relevant to, and maybe even fun for, your recipients.
I taught how to:
- personalize your emails – so your subscribers feel they’re getting extra special treatment
- brainstorm the best ways to engage with your email subscribers automatically – removing some of the manual work from updating your email list
- make a great welcome sequence – so everyone who signs up to hear from you gets to know and love you right off the bat
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One thing I encouraged my students to consider is their client or customer’s journey with their company.
Where are there set touchpoints along that journey? Do any of these communications follow a set system or even a template you use over and over again? If you’re not a super organized person, a better question might be: are there any communications that could follow a template?
Do these communications happen at a given time in that customer journey? Now that you’re thinking about the patterns you repeat with your customers and clients, how can you use that information to automate emails that matter?
NOW THAT YOU’RE THINKING ABOUT THE PATTERNS YOU REPEAT WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS AND CLIENTS, HOW CAN YOU AUTOMATE EMAILS THAT MATTER?
christopher duggan photography: a case study
I have been managing marketing and communications for Christopher Duggan Photography for eight years. Christopher is a dance and wedding photographer in New York and the Berkshires. He is incredibly caring, really likes to get to know his clients and personalize their experience, and is very organized about how and when he collects information about their weddings.
He had developed a pretty clear and easy set of communications around preparing for each wedding to produce beautiful, stress-free wedding photos before we started working together. Over the last year, we reflected on this clear and easy system and realized that since each wedding client follows a similar journey with his studio, we could use the date they inquire about their photography or their wedding date to trigger automatic emails that are personal, timely and help keep his entire team organized for a wedding.
And we could make these emails warm-hearted and delightful to boot!
Now we have an automated system of over 30 emails that inform, educate, congratulate and request information from Christopher’s wedding clients during their time working with his studio. (If 30 sounds like a lot, consider that Christopher’s clients typically hire him at least one year in advance of their wedding.) These emails see open rates of ~75%, far above the average open rate.
How DID WE CREATE A SERIES OF AUTOMATED EMAILS THAT SPARK REAL RESPONSES AND ENGAGEMENT AND BUILD TRUST IN CHRISTOPHER’S COMPANY?
MAP THE CUSTOMER JOURNEY
The first step to pulling this a together was to map out a typical client’s interactions with Christopher Duggan Photography. For example, each couple first inquires about their wedding on Christopher’s website. At this point, we know when they are getting married and where (because we ask for this information on their inquiry form). Another example: When a couple hires Christopher to photograph their wedding, we know we need to gather final details about their special day well before it arrives. We’ve found 6-8 weeks is a perfect window for asking for these details. We also know it usually takes some following up to get the answers. Yet another: We know the couple’s wedding date! So we can send a joyful, celebratory email right after the big day! If you’re going to automate emails based on your customer’s journey, write down the typical touchpoints you already have. When do those things happen? What triggers that communication? A sale? An inquiry? A service rendered or one coming up?
WRITe OUT YOUR TEMPLATES
Christopher already had several regular communications that he would send to his couples. We translated these to their best, most universal versions and made them into templates in Mailchimp. For potential clients who inquired about weddings in the Berkshires, we created a series of responses that include examples of other weddings he has photographed in Berkshire County, Massachusetts. For couples who have hired him to photograph their weddings, we made an online form to capture the family portraits they want to create at their weddings and an email that’s designed to lead them to fill out the form. Do you already copy and paste the same emails over and over to your new customers? Are you reinventing the wheel every time? How can you make it easier on yourself by creating a template reply or request?
PLAN FOR MISSED EMAILS
We know that Christopher’s clients are REALLY busy! They’re planning the remaining details of a huge celebration, collecting RSVPs, finalizing things with all their other vendors… We might not be their top priority the day they receive our email. But we do need them to pay attention to the information we’re giving them, and in some cases, we need to collect information from them, too! If our email is something that begs a reply, we will set up extra insurance by automatically resending that email to anyone who did not open or click on the message, depending on what’s inside. For Christopher, this means we’ll resend the email request for family portraits if someone did not click on the link to the form. Now we know they’re getting a little extra nudge a week after they received our note. Don’t take offense that some people won’t respond right away. Go ahead and plan to give them a little reminder when you think they’ll need it.
MAKE IT AS HUMAN AND PERSONAL AS POSSIBLE
Just because an email is automatic doesn’t mean it has to be cold or robotic. It’s incredibly important to Christopher that he is communicating expectations to his clients with warmth and kindness. We created a few emails – like a congratulatory email after the wedding – that express our excitement about working with them and are filled with joy and gratitude. We are able to add humor and personality and even personal stories into some of the requests we have leading up to the wedding. The automated emails are relevant, and they’re also human, and that’s key! Can you share personal anecdotes? Funny gifs? Sprinkle in some emojis?
Now that Christopher’s emails are more automatic, his team has less administrative work to do and can focus on excellent customer care in those “this just in” moments! They receive the information they need before they even think to ask for it. He keeps his clients happy and sets clear expectations they can count on, which builds trust in his studio and makes everything feel easier, breezier, more organized.
OVERWHELMED BY ALL THIS TALK OF AUTOMATION?
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I strategize, consult and manage digital marketing and communications for small businesses and creative entrepreneurs. I’m based in Brooklyn, because I have a thing for exposed brick, cozy, local coffee shops and the can’t stop, won’t stop energy of New York.
Because I work with small companies, I get the chance to really know my clients – what makes them tick and how and why they should stand out in a crowded marketplace. A lot of my clients have a smaller staff, a limited budget and are already stretched thin for time. This leads us to tailor marketing strategies and solutions to each company’s unique needs and actual capacity.