Marketing automation is hot right now. It has been hot for a few years as more companies upgrade their technology stacks. In this post, I want to share 3 marketing automation examples that you could copy but I also want to provide the principles behind them.
Principles matter. A quick search gave me 100+ automation examples which frankly is too much. You might not have the time to go through each example and they might not even be well suited for your business. If you know principles though, you could design your own.
I also want to separate hype from fiction. Marketing automation is effective for almost any business. It’s not a panacea though. It will not solve your poor retention or make your customers love your product. It can help though. It’s also a crucial element of data-driven cultures.
Let’s start by looking at how companies can use automation in good (and bad) times.
Marketing automation is helpful in normal times but it can be especially useful during times of crisis. As I write these words, we find ourselves in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. The initial stages anyway.
Businesses are struggling and are being forced to lay off people and cut costs. If you have less money and people to market, what would you do?
Marketing automation is one of the answers. It makes it possible to get continual value out of creative design. Think about it this way. To run any marketing campaign, you will need to design the messages, figure out the copy, come up with a structure, and set up the technical delivery details.
If you do all the work and you only use the campaign once, are you getting all the value possible? Probably not. Instead, you could set it up so this campaign continues to run in perpetuity. This could happen without any input from your team. You can create something once and use it multiple times.
Times of crisis also forces companies to become efficient. If things are going well, it’s ok that you missed a campaign. Or perhaps you didn’t get to contact new customers. But in times of crises, every possibility matters. Every customer should be taken through an ideal sequence, without fail.
This kind of perfection is hard for humans to manage. People go on vacation or they get busy. That’s completely normal. However, this is where you can use technology to close the gap.
Finally, even if your business is doing well right now, marketing automation can help. Good marketing is consistent. Good marketing is personalized. Good marketing is convenient for the customer. Marketing automation can help you achieve all of these things without breaking a sweat.
Let’s now look at the best practices I shared with clients when designing marketing campaigns. I’ll then share “good enough” marketing automation examples.
Automated marketing campaigns are a little different than regular campaigns. You need to think through all the possibilities now and in the future. Regular campaigns can just be launched and forgotten about.
These are sometimes called workflows but the naming doesn’t matter. An automated marketing campaign is one that runs on its own based on actions the user took.
1. Let’s start with the goal. What is the ideal conversion or outcome from this campaign? It could be to purchase something or simply to be informed. It could even be multiple goals.
Campaigns without goals are like trips with destination. This might be fun on the personal side but for a business, it’s a waste of time. How do you know if something is working? Did you get an ROI from the time you invested?
2. We can now look at the beginning. How will users enter this automation workflow? What is the trigger? It could be them signing up for your product or canceling your service.
Triggers can be anything which is what makes them powerful. You want to ensure that your trigger makes sense. You also want to think about any cases where the trigger wouldn’t work aka edge case.
Finally, you could filter through triggers to only include a subset of those users. You might only want people who purchase a specific product or only female users.
3. Between the trigger and goal, we can add our messages. There’s no magic number but if you’re just getting started, aim for 3 – 5 messages spread out over a few days. Each message should follow a sequential structure.
There are a few ways to design these sequences. Here are two frameworks you could use:
a) What does the user need to know? In the framework, we determine what information we want to share or provide. It could be the reason for purchasing or answers to the most common objections. We could then design a message around each reason.
b) What do we want the user to do? In this framework, we figure out what we want the user to do. We may want them to complete their profile, upload a video, and share it with their friends. These can have 3 different messages and we may add extra messages with important details.
Messaging the user every 1 – 2 days is fine for short term sequences. Longer sequences will need to be more spread out to avoid annoying the user or worse, them ignoring your messages.
The time of day is also an important consideration. The best choice is to deliver it during the ideal time for the user in their timezone. If you choose 8 am, you would send it at 8 am on THEIR timezone. If not, you could send it in your timezone.
4. If possible, design alternate branches. If a user has already taken a step or they would benefit from special information, this could be a new branch. More branches mean more messages so be mindful of the extra work.
Branches is an advanced concept for future optimization. Getting up and running is sometimes more important than perfection. Once you have some initial data, you could improve the sequence by adding branches.
5. Finally, choose the format for your messages. Should they be sent via email? Is there any use for in-app notifications? Email is the default here but keep in mind what you want users to do. If you need them to open a mobile app, a push notification would make more sense.
Types of Messages Formats with Mixpanel
After going through these 5 steps, you can set it up in your marketing automation tool. The complexity of your workflow will be limited by your tool and the data itself. Good data means having all the triggers, conversions, behaviors, and special tags like UTM parameters. You’ll need to work within the limitations of your data.
Let me show you my favorite marketing automation examples. My client examples are private but I also included public examples.
This is a consumer company that helps users learn a language. They designed workflows that teach users how to use their app. The first few days are crucial for their company. Having a solid workflow around trials has helped them get more subscribers.
You can notice that simple branching logic here depending on who the user is. Nothing fancy but it works.
They also use workflows at the top of the funnel to show free content. A more classic use of workflows but still helpful.
In their case, having solid data makes this workflow design a breeze. They have events for all major user activities like purchases, trials, and usage of the app itself. They also track user attributes beyond name and email.
I have used Mint for years and their product is solid. While it hasn’t changed much during that time, they do a few things well. I especially like their notifications which you can get via multiple formats.
We can look at their Weekly Summary which highlights your spending.
We can also get notifications for unusual transactions.
This kind of marketing automation is situational-based but it still follows our best practices. The goal is to visit the product, the trigger is a transaction or summary, and the message sequence is just a standalone email.
Another example of something that is “simple” but requires a good technical setup. Good data and the ability to surface these insights.
My third example is a fitness education company that offers live classes on topics like yoga and dance. They take advantage of in-app notifications to talk to customers as they are browsing the site. These notifications help them get feedback and higher engagement.
The notifications can be based on the last class the user took. They are also triggered shortly after the class ends. It’s not just “tell us what you think” but “tell us how your last class went”. They also use email in some cases.
Once again, these messages can be set up once and reused over and over again. One time effort, long term use.
I love talking about automation sequences. We could talk about intricacies, optimization, good data and much more. However, I also think that getting basic workflows up and running is fine for most companies. You don’t need workflows with 25 branches and 100 messages.
With my clients, I strive to get them to use more automation even in basic situations. Their long term impact is high while the short term effort is low. Good decisions you might say. I hope these marketing automation examples gave you some ideas while the principles help you understand what you should focus on.