Email is the basic unit for reaching audiences, but here’s the thing—marketing automation is more than just email. You need to make sure that you develop a marketing approach that effectively integrates multiple channels to optimize your conversion funnels and user flows. This post will teach you how.
- Principles of consumer psychology at different stages of the conversion funnel
- How to minimize churn at each stage of the conversion funnel
- How to develop effective user flows that align with each stage of the conversion funnel
- How to develop these user flows into actionable steps that users can take on your site
Let’s get to it.
Exploring the Conversion Funnel
Paths to sales are generally complex. Users will very rarely come to your website and decide to make a purchase immediately. That’s because today’s consumers are highly self-directed and research-driven. They want lots of information and enough space to make educated decisions. They want to make sure that they are highly empowered, always.
It’s your brand’s job to guide them through this journey—which can sometimes span a period of months, or even years. Marketing automation is crucial to this process and enables marketers to maintain a 1:1 connection with their prospects over the long-term.
Before designing a marketing automation program, you need to think about your conversion funnel with more than your head—you need to think with your heart. Empathy is crucial here—here’s how this concept fits into every funnel sage:
- Brand Awareness: Prospects discover your company and visit your site for the first time. They might learn about your company after reading a blog post or through a referral via social media.At this stage, your website visitors are just learning about your company for the first time. They are definitely not ready to spend money, nor are they convinced that your company is the right solution to their needs. They are just exploring—they may or may not be in the market to do business with you.
- Engagement: Website audiences continue to share your brand’s content through social media. They continue to visit your website to engage with our blog posts and website resources—marketing automation plays a major role as part of this process.At this stage of the conversion funnel, consumers are developing a preliminary interest in your company. They’re likely to share your marketing materials or respond to your social media posts on Facebook or Twitter. They’re warming up to you.
- Consideration: Prospects evaluate your brand and product to determine fit and need potential. These prospects may reach out to your client services team, or they may request more information about your company (such as an e-book or whitepaper).Consumers are developing a stronger interest in your product and want to learn more about doing business in your brand. These are highly qualified leads that you absolutely need to nurture.
- Conversion: Prospects decide to do business with your brand for the first time.At this stage of the conversion funnel, consumers are ready to buy! They’ll be receptive to an aggressive sales pitch.
- Retention: Customers go through steps 1-4 again to become repeat buyers.These consumers have already done business with your brand! Now comes the fun part—keep the relationship going to increase repeat sales.
Here are some more details about the conversion funnel from The CrazyEgg blog:
The Conversion Funnel
- Visualize It: Don’t just think about your conversion funnel. Map it out. Visualize what’s going on so that you can sketch out specific sequences that users are taking to becoming paying customers.This process will help you create a blueprint for your analytics software.You start attracting customers by giving stuff away for free—blog posts, trials, ebooks, etc. The key here is to focus on delighting audiences. Don’t worry about selling. Don’t worry about lead gen. Just be awesome, and that’s it.The next step is to transform those inbound clicks into leads — a small proportion of whom will become paying customers. Profits are a by-product of this extensive process and funnel through the customer acquisition and relationship-building process.
- Keep Steps Small: Marketers can minimize user drop-off at every stage of the conversion funnel. Fine-tune your steps into clearly segmented states to zero-in on strategies that promote engagement, retention, and sales.Focus on delivering a stellar, up-front user experience. Content and offers should be custom-tailored to your audience. A compelling value proposition will drive traffic through your website. Once you get audiences on your site, it’s up to you to follow-through. You can test your forms, headlines, product descriptions, color schemes, and brand messaging to make sure that you’re delivering the right value proposition to your audience at exactly the right time. Don’t sell too early, but don’t hold off on selling when there is an immediate, low-funnel opportunity for a conversion.
- Measure and Learn: Analytics and data will play an invaluable role in optimizing your conversion funnel. You need to understand what metrics are important to your brand and correspond to each funnel stage: Early: Social media shares, email list sign-ups, return visits, fans, followers, new visitors, inbound links. Mid: Time on site, leads. Low: Orders, revenues, sales, average order value, repeat purchases, customer referrals. Different marketing automation strategies will be crucial to different stages of the conversion funnel.In short, align your strategy with your business model.
- Start with a Test: With marketing automation, it’s common to spend your time thinking about the “perfect” strategy. Don’t do it! The best way to get started is to get started. Focus on deploying your strategy and getting it out the door—there will always be an opportunity to refine your approach in the future.Take baby steps. Deploy your first campaign. What’s most important is that you have a baseline for getting started. You can always refine your metrics over time.
A marketer’s job is to keep prospects moving through each stage of the conversion funnel. As part of this process, it’s crucial to prevent churn (also known as drop-off).
Customers churn for a variety of reasons. Some won’t be interested in your company’s products. Others are just so busy that they don’t have time to keep up with your brand. They need constant 1:1 attention that is simply impossible to do manually.
Marketing automation is crucial to the process of preventing churn. By diagramming and fully understanding your company’s conversion funnels, you’ll start to understand where churn is common. At what scale is churn happening? Are there certain website events that are causing customers to churn?
Your analytics software may tell you what’s happening, but you also need to understand why. That’s where qualitative research comes in.
Laura Klein, UX expert and Principal at UsersKnow has a great definition of qualitative research on her blog:
“By qualitative testing, I mean the act of watching people use your product and talking to them about it. I don’t mean asking users what you should build. I just mean observing and listening to your users in order to better understand their behavior.
You might do qualitative testing before building a new feature or product so that you can learn more about your potential users’ behaviors. What is their current workflow? What is their level of technical expertise? What products are they already using? You might also do it once your product is in the hands of users in order to understand why they’re behaving the way they are. Do they find something confusing? Are they getting lost or stuck at a particular point? Does the product not solve a critical problem for them?
For example, you might find a few of your regular users and watch them with your product in order to understand why they’re spending less money since you shipped a new feature. You might give them a task in order to see if they could complete it or if they got stuck. You might interview them about their usage of the new feature in order to understand how they feel about it.“
Laura Klein, principal at UsersKnow
Qualitative research can help you understand what’s happening behind the scenes—why user attrition is happening and why your audiences are dropping off the conversion funnel. Don’t be alarmed—instead, focus on asking the right questions to understand what’s going on.
Qualitative Research Questions
- What do you care about as a customer?
- What about our brand stood out to you?
- What was less than appealing?
- Why did you lose interest in our brand?
- Did you find a more compelling value proposition from a competitor?
- What services can our brand offer to keep you engaged, longer?
Churn is something that brands can control. It isn’t easy, and the process takes significant trial and error—but it is doable. What you need to do is tackle each stage of the conversion funnel on an individual level. Marketing automation plays a major role in this process.
Let’s start by looking at the 6 ways that businesses can reduce customer churn, from blogger Zach Bulygo at KISSmetrics:
He eloquently points out that there is a lot of emphasis on the business of making sales. But a much-less-discussed topic covers the issue of efficiency—making sure that customers become repeat buyers.
In other words, we’re obsessed with growth through new user acquisition and unlikely to prioritize the low-hanging fruit that stems from our existing revenue channels.
So what exactly does this mean?
Bulgyo introduces his blog post with a deep-dive into the topic of churn, defined as a business’s cancellation rate—the percentage of customers who have canceled a product or service within a given time period.
In an ideal world, your business will have zero churn—but you very well know that this level of ‘perfection’ won’t be the reality. Regardless, what’s important to keep in mind is that churn is something that you can control. There are some actionable steps that you can reduce churn rate. Striving for this goal is a good first step, even though ‘perfection’ will be impossible.
Before we jump into Bulgyo’s 6 tips, we want to reinforce how this information relates to marketing automation.
Marketing automation is the process of reaching audiences 1:1 at scale. Marketers use automation to generate interest, build demand, drive conversions, and nurture prospect/customer relationships for the long-term.
The most important first-step that’s required for preventing churn?
Align your marketing message to your audience’s psychology. If they’re early funnel, don’t bombard them with a sales pitch. If they’re mid-funnel, give them an offer that inspires them to take action. If they’re low funnel, don’t be afraid to introduce your products or services—encourage a sale.
The biggest reason why marketing automation fails is that businesses are aligning messaging with the wrong stage of the funnel. Here are the 6 steps that Bulgyo recommends for making sure that the alignment is right:
Step One Customer Conversations
Some customers love this. They want to be left alone, use the product, and only notify the company if they have problems.
But here’s the problem:
Many companies will only talk to customers in the following situations:
- Problem resolution
Businesses that leave their customers alone risk developing a major business blind spot. You risk losing touch with the ever-evolving landscape.
It’s important to maintain a close, direct pulse on what your customers care about and how your company measures against competitors.
Here are a mix of strategies that can help you keep that connection alive:
Customer Satisfaction Surveys: It’s tempting to deploy surveys that ask hundreds of questions. The problem with this approach is that you’ll instantly annoy users. Yes, you might want to know everything, but users don’t want to share everything. They want to focus on shopping or web browsing—and don’t want to deal with interruptions.If you launch a survey, you need to be focused in what you ask. Prioritize the questions that most directly relate to your user experience and revenue goals.Your survey should not look like this:
The problem with this type of survey is that there is just too much going on. Too many questions. Too many options for answering these questions.
One way to resolve this problem is to ask open-ended questions. Leave boxes open for customers to fill in. Let them tell you what they think—just prompt them to provide the insights.
Open-ended questions have value beyond simplifying your customer experience—they shed insight into your blind spots and tell you what you may not know. If you pre-program responses, you won’t see the alternate possibilities.
Feedback Bar: When customers are using your product, they may have questions, comments, or feedback. They may not be willing to jump into your contact form to send a message. They’re busy. What your company can do instead is be ever-present, in a low-touch way.Here is an example of a feedback bar that KISSmetrics has implemented in the past:
Emails Announcing New Features: When Buffer announces a new feature or has company news, they remain open to feedback. Here is an email that Buffer has sent in the past:
When deploying a marketing automation campaign to your customer base, ask your customers to reply with what they think. This type of prompt with help consumers remember that conversation is bi-directional and that there is an actual person on the other side of the computer screen. They may not think to reach out to send an email, so just ask (like Coworks does in its email campaigns):
Social Media: You don’t need to use social media to talk to customers directly but you can, at the very least, use these platforms for listening and learning. What are customers saying about your products? What questions are they asking?It’s crucial that you take their comments and questions to heart because you can learn a lot about your brand.Check out this Quora thread about Unbounce, a popular tool for creating landing pages, as an example:Let’s say that you’re looking for software to help you create your landing pages. You come across a company called Unbounce, and you want to check the platform out. You’ll probably start with a simple Google Search:
And next, you’ll land on a social media website, Quora—a question and answer engine that caters to the tech community:
There are 23 followers to this question that has currently been unanswered. Your company can jump in and write a quick response to kickstart the conversation.
Or, there might be an ongoing conversation about Unbounce on Quora already:
Twitter is also a valuable channel for listening to and learning about your customers. Follow people in your industry, and listen to what they’re saying about your brand. Take this feedback to heart.
Ultimately, this information will help your company form a more cohesive marketing automation strategy. The more you understand your customers (when they don’t necessarily know that you’re watching), the more empowered you’ll be to create a strong user flow and targeted messages. In addition to listening to what your customers are telling you, listen between the lines to listen to what they aren’t
Intermittent Emails: Don’t be afraid to check in with your customers 1:1 every once in a while. They’ll appreciate the gesture. Marketing automation has become the norm for many businesses, but every once in a while, a personalized “how are you” can be invaluable.
Step Two Know your Weaknesses
This is tough. You’re essentially taking a good look in the mirror to understand why your business sucks.
You need to start by asking the following questions:
- Why don’t people want to sign up for your service?
- What isn’t the company good at?
If you think you’re perfect—the best of the best—you need to dig deeper. You may need to start specializing or refining your marketing pitch.
If you’re not aware of your weaknesses, you’ll never be able to fix them. This blind spot with impair your company’s growth and ultimately hurt your marketing automation efforts.
When you talk about how you’re so great in an area (when you actually suck), your subscribers will call BS.
Zach Bulygo points out a few cases where companies didn’t fix their weaknesses. Boy, did it hurt.
For a time from the mid 1970s to the early to mid 2000s, American cars were known for poor quality. As a result, many Japanese and other foreign auto manufacturers had a competitive advantage. In 2009, Toyota overtook long-time sales leader GM as the world’s largest automobile manufacturer. As you can imagine, the GMs and Fords of the world were not happy.
“One of the first things that new Ford CEO Alan Mulally did was take a small group of executives to Consumer Reports to get an assessment of their vehicles and understand the weaknesses. Today, Ford is improving the quality and design of their vehicles and becoming profitable again. GM is turning around their business as well.
Regrettably, all this happened too late. Many of the foreign auto manufacturers continued to improve their products while American manufacturers didn’t evolve and improve with them. It ended up with both companies encountering serious financial trouble.
Zach Bulygo via The KISSmetrics Blog
|Quality||American Automobiles||Foreign Cars|
Today, both Toyota and Honda are worth more than GM and Ford. But things are getting better for the American manufacturers.
Remember the days when Windows PCs dominated the market? When people wanted to buy a computer, the only decision they had to make was choosing a manufacturer. There were a lot of problems with Windows as well – Blue Screens of Death, spyware, malware, viruses, freezing, and general instability.
Zach Bulygo via The KISSmetrics Blog
Consumers, however, were stuck with the Windows platform—that is, until Apple caught up with its elegant OS X platform and changed the personal computing landscape forever.
Microsoft could have been more proactive in fixing Windows problems. For much of the time, Windows would leave it to third-party companies to secure Windows PCs. It was left to the consumer to be aware of these products, download them, and know how to run them.
Zach Bulygo via The KISSmetrics Blog
|Blue screens of death||Yes||No|
|Poor, uncreative design||Yes||No|
Microsoft should have fixed these problems faster. The company is big, but who knows how much bigger it could have been if it started diagnosing these problems earlier? There is always an opportunity cost associated with unhappy customers.
Once upon a time, MySpace was the social media world’s golden child. Everybody used it. People were obsessed with it. The site was literally the birthplace for social media.
MySpace? What’s that? Nobody uses the site anymore. The social media market has diversified enough that consumers are investing their time in other options. Why?
Because Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest are all better. Even though these platforms are all free, consumers are dealing with another form of currency—their time.
This diversification has single—handedly driven MySpace into the ground. MySpace was buggy, had spammy banner ads, and didn’t evolve with the marketplace quickly enough to keep up with shifting consumer demands. As a result, it lost traffic and revenue. Slowly and steadily, the social network became anti-social and then died.
Sure, MySpace is still around, but here’s the thing. Nobody is really using it. When was the last time you visited the site?
You’re probably using Facebook instead.
What Facebook brought was a cleaner layout, a sense of security, and status updates. And most importantly, they kept spam under control. It gave people a reason to go to Facebook and update people with what was on their mind.
Even when Facebook started running ads, they strove to make these marketing messages as intelligent and targeted as possible. It wasn’t about blasting users with spammy messages; rather, Facebook is a company that is constantly looking for ways to stay at the forefront of user experience. They never stop iterating and are always looking for ways to remain king.
Myspace, for all intents and purposes, didn’t change when it held the crown as the world’s biggest social network. It was the company’s inertia and lack of iteration that eventually killed them.
Zach Bulygo via The KISSmetrics Blog
|Bloated banner ads||Yes||No|
|Sense of privacy||Yes||No|
Blockbuster was the world’s biggest movie rental giant. If you’re as old as the guide’s authors, you probably have lots of happy memories going through the neighborhood Blockbuster to rent movies with your family.
As far as you were concerned, this industry giant was never going away.
And then what happened?
It went away.
Blockbuster fell victim to technology and time. While quiet startups like Netflix were popping up to simplify the video rental process, Blockbuster was still charging late fees and requiring customers to come into the store.
After Netflix took over, Blockbuster tried to catch up. And then it failed—because Netflix has already taken over.
Netflix gave consumers an alternative to the traditional pay-per-rental model. Perhaps what was most striking at first was the large library of DVDs. Beyond that, DVDs were mailed; you could rent an unlimited number of DVDs; there were no late fees; and often, it was a better deal per movie. Many consumers saw this as a better option and moved to Netflix, never to step into a movie rental store again.
Zach Bulygo via The KISSmetrics Blog
On the other side of the table is a company that took over the video rental industry with extremely innovative products. Year after year, Netflix continues to simply rock—disrupting the market with streaming TV and original TV series. The difference between Netflix and Blockbuster?
Netflix strives to outpace the status quo.
The lesson here is that there are people who actively try to take your customers, steal your revenue, and become the market leader. They’re your competitors, and some of them are the scrappy disruptive startups that may have a better plan for your customers. So ask yourself these questions: Is there a competitor that you’re writing off? Are you letting your own biases get in the way of actually seeing the real situation? If you are, it’s time to wake up. Don’t let yourself become the next victim of a disruptive technology or business.”
Zach Bulygo via The KISSmetrics Blog
The decision to resist change is a terrible, terrible strategy. The minute you stop listening to your customers, your user flows are obsolete.
And what does this have to do with marketing automation?
The success of your marketing automation has everything to do with the efficacy of your company’s user flows. A disconnect between your onboarding process and marketing will only cause your marketing automation efforts to become ineffective—and a total waste of money. Don’t let this crucial side of the equation fall flat. Acquisition needs to be reciprocated with guidance on the onboarding front.
|5$ per movie rental||Yes||No|
Capitalize on your weaknesses before your competitors do it for you.
|Your weaknesses||Your Competitor|
|???||Will they capitalize on this weakness?|
|???||Could you lose your customers because of this?|
|???||Do you think no one sees this weakness?|
Step Three Deliver on your Competitive Advantage
There are so many different signals that Facebook provides. You can talk to your existing customers, and you can create Lookalikes to target. This is an awesome way to drive engagement among your existing customers and similar types of people.
Zach Bulygo via The KISSmetrics Blog
Imagine where today’s most loved companies would be if they didn’t have amazing customer service. Just think of Zappos, Rackspace, and and Amazon. They’re giants because of the follow-through and customer service that they brought to the table.
Whatever your advantage is, deliver on it. You expect it from the companies you work with, and your customers expect it from you.
Zach Bulygo via The KISSmetrics Blog
Zappos has ten core values that define the company’s core culture. Every Zappos employee is committed to supporting these values.
Imagine what would happen if you deploy a marketing automation campaign without the resources to answer customer questions or guide users through ‘next steps.’ They’re going to get frustrated. Your brand will instantly go from “personalized” to “totally spammy.”
Onboarding should be a crucial part of the marketing automation process. Andree Huk, an entrepreneur who has built several successful mobile apps, has written about this topic. While his tips are specific to mobile, they’re applicable to any marketing to product flow.
On-boarding is the very middle part of a “triptych” like user journey, centered within user acquisition and user optimization. Since it sits in the very middle it is a pivotal part that acts as a guide pole for customer optimization and lays the groundwork for business growth.
Huk reinforces the importance of aligning the onboarding process with the sales conversion funnel. Showing an advertisement when the company simply wants to get started can cause potential dissonance. You need to focus on what users care about at the specific point of interaction on your website, blog, mobile app, whatever.
You shall consider this moment of attention given to you and your product as very crucial in your users’ journey, so establish the link between the message conveyed throughout your user acquisition endeavors and the walkthrough, grab and further increase the users’ interest and curiosity and then finally help them do their first action.
Andree recommends a few customer experience elements that are crucial to every user flow. While his tips were written in the context of mobile, they are actually platform agnostic and worth mentioning in this section:
- Prioritize Simplicity: Don’t overload your users with information. Rely on visual communication—not chunks of text—to get the message across. Trying to explain too much will only result in confusion.
- Be Action Oriented: Every stage of the conversion funnel should guide users towards a pre-determined ‘action’ that directly relates to future revenue. The action placed at the end of an onboarding process should help users advance to the next stage of the conversion funnel. This step is crucial to keeping customers interested and engaged—and preventing churn.
- Track Behavior: This step will empower you to measure the success of your campaigns.
Step Four Know Why Customers Cancel
This area is a major blind spot for many organizations. We spend a lot of time acquiring and nurture leads and what ends up happening is that some customers slip through the cracks.
But what would have happened if those customers didn’t slip through the cracks? Could they have potentially evolved into super-users? Could you have targeted them through additional marketing touch points to ultimately convert them into paying customers?
Did these high-value customers leave you for a competitor?
You need to answer these questions to make sure that you’re keeping your customers close, for the long haul. Right now, customers may be slipping through the “cracks,” but the thing about cracks is that they can get bigger.
Plug these holes and learn from your mistakes to keep customers in the funnel, longer.
The first crucial step is to talk to your customers, right when they’re about to leave—and after they’ve already left.
You might thinking about launching an ‘exit survey’ with a tool like SurveyMonkey or SurveyGizmo. Or, just hop on the phone. If customer service (or an opt-out email) is part of the churn process, ask users to provide (optional) information about their decision.
This is a process that is crucial to your marketing automation. At every part of the funnel, you’ll notice opt-out and churn. You’ll use tools like Google Analytics and KISSmetrics to understand what is going on, but you won’t necessarily understand why. You have to talk to customers 1:1 to truly know and understand the pattern.
But take this information with a grain of salt.
Let’s look at QuickSprout as an example.
Years ago, people thought that it was too expensive. Audiences didn’t like the $197 price tag for video and audio training.
Instead of lowering the price, however, I tested out a few payment plans options:
- 3 payments of $97
- 4 payments of $67
Both pricing plans, in total, were more expensive. BUT the 4 payment option converted at a 52% higher conversion rate than the original sticker price.
The 3 payment plan converted at a 34% higher rate.
With the 3 payment plan, there were still complaints about pricing too high, but with the 4 payment plan, there were almost none.
The thing about price testing is that you don’t need to deploy a one-size-fits all approach. If you learn from your customers that ‘price’ is a major pain point for your customers (and a big reason why they churn), you may want to make some changes.
But you don’t need to make those changes across your entire website audiences.
Instead, you can use marketing automation to create user flows based on your customer segments. This strategy goes back to our discussion of the conversion funnel—and how you can align the right messages with the right audiences at exactly the right time. Don’t just jump in and deploy a solution. Test it. With marketing automation, you can do this seamlessly.
Price testing was a major consideration for CrazyEgg, when the product first launched.
There was a time when customers wanted a lower pricing option. So the team gave CrazyEgg’s customers what they wanted by changing pricing. Sign-ups increased, but total revenue went down. Price testing early—and with structure—would have helped in avoiding this potential loss.
Step Five Avoid Stupid Decisions and Bad PR
Easier said than done, right? Just don’t screw up.
Famous last words.
Companies are under a lot of pressure to grow, and bad PR is inevitable.
Mistakes happen. We’re frequently wrong in our decisions. Whatever, the reason, it happens.
No matter what, there’s going to be backlash—and you won’t be able to avoid it. How you handle this feedback is even more important than preventing it in the first place.
Zach Bulygo points out a recent example: when Netflix announced its price increase. The plan was to split Netflix into a streaming service and a DVD-by-mail service known as Qwikster. This, along with the price increase, resulted in a big backlash from customers. They also lost a lot of customers and got a bunch of bad press. Even top tech companies like Dropbox and Airbnb have faced their own disasters.
Bad PR does not necessarily takeaway from the fact that your company is still a good company. The problem is that no matter how much you care, if you deploy a marketing automation campaign without considering the human side, you’ll risk bad PR.
Every marketing decision needs a human touch point to be successful.
If you make a decision as a company, such as to raise prices, it’s always best to think of the possible ramifications and seek experts who have had experience raising prices. What lessons can they teach you? What do you think the reaction from customers will be? What are the pros and cons? This won’t beat the reality of actually getting the response, but it can help prepare you. Make sure you have all your bases covered when you make a big decision.
Zach Bulygo via The KISSmetrics Blog
Implement this feedback into your marketing automation campaigns—and always make sure that there is a customer service presence on the other side of the line to connect with angry customers.
Zach Bulygo recommends the following tips for dealing with bad PR, whether it’s from your own decisions or system errors:
- Say you’re sorry
- Acknowledge the error, and explain what you’re doing about it.
- Explain what you’ve learned and what you’re going to do about it in the future
- Reinforce what makes your brand unique
Zach Bulygo points out some examples from three great brands:
- Netflix: CEO Reed Hastings: We’re sorry. Note: this is before they made the decision to shut down Qwikster.
- Dropbox: CEO Drew Houston apologizes and gives customers that were affected his phone number to discuss the issue.
- Airbnb: CEO Brian Chesky apologizes and offers insurance to protect users from this in the future.
As they say in life:
It’s not what happens to you but how you react to it that matters.
This is quite true in managing blunders.
Step Six Assure your Customers that you’re the Best
At any given time, your customers have a lot of options. As part of a marketing automation effort or user flow, you need to reinforce your brand as the best answer to your customers’ specific needs.
Don’t assume that newsletters or ‘check in’ emails will be enough to keep audiences close for the long-haul. Don’t be afraid to talk about your own brand every once in a while. Tell the story behind your new products and why they matter.
Zach Bulygo points out the following examples of emails as touch points in your marketing campaigns:
Hello <company name>,
I’m having trouble uploading a file from my desktop to your product. Can you help?
To upload a file, simply follow these directions:
- 1. —
- 2. —
- 3. —
<company name> is the only product that lets you upload files from any mobile device. To do this, simply download our app: <link>
We’re working hard every day to improve our services for you. If you have any questions, email me, call me, or contact our CEO at: <email> <number>
We are listening, and we love getting feedback from our customers!
Thanks for choosing <company name>!
Remember that at the end of the day, you’re not trying to sell to your existing customers—you need to convince them that your company provides the best product or service available. Don’t diss your competition. Instead, rely on marketing automation to remain a continued presence in your customer base’s lives. Customers have a ton of options. As a marketer, it’s your job to remind them why your company is the best.
Remain an active presence in your customers’ lives. Speak to their core needs. It’s not about dissing your competition—it’s about connecting with your audiences on a psychological level to remind them of why your brand is awesome.
We’ll end this section with a great quote from Zach Bulygo:
It’s a fact of business—customers are going to cancel. Some of the cancellations may not even be because of your own shortcomings. Businesses close, and as a result, they close business with all of their providers. However, there are some customers that stop doing business with one company and move to a competitor. In these latter situations, there can be a lot of learning. Be sure to get feedback from your outgoing customers. And with it, be gracious. Thank them for the opportunity to serve them, and let them know you’d love to have them back. If they have a bad experience with a competitor, they may be willing to move back to you. But if you aren’t gracious, you’ll probably never see them again; and not only that, they’ll go tell all of their friends about how they were treated.
Each of these 6 strategies relies on 1:1 personal relationships with your customers. You need to know what your customers are thinking and respond to them in near real-time.
You need a thorough understanding of your company’s conversion funnel to determine what message to respond with—in addition to why, how, and when.
It’s time to design your marketing automation campaigns and user flows.
Designing User Flows
A user flow is a collection of web pages or steps that define the path to an objective. It includes a series of steps that need to be performed in order for a goal (e.g. purchase, demo sign up, or e-book download) to be completed.
A major factor affecting your conversions is user flow. It’s the path a user follows through your website interface to complete a task (make a reservation, purchase a product, subscribe to something). It’s also called user journey.
In order to maximize your conversions, you have to get the user flow right – build one that matches user’s needs.
Peep Laja, ConversionXL
There are two goals for every successful user flow:
- (1) To keep prospects moving through the conversion funnel
- (2) To minimize churn at each funnel stage
A user flow is something that you should design before putting together any marketing automation campaign. It would be pieced together with user experience in mind. It should be highly logical and emotionally compelling.
Peep Laja, conversion optimization expert and founder at ConversionXL has put together an ‘ultimate’ step by step guide to creating user flows that are truly consumer-oriented. This is the absolute best resource available on the topic, and we encourage you to check it out for youself.
Inspiration from Sites with Great Flows
Learn by doing. Check out examples of great user flows from the following websites:
What do you like about these user flows? What areas for improvement do you see?
In addition to designing user flows, it’s important to study whether or not they’re working. Are you experiencing churn in an area where you don’t expect to see it? Are you noticing less churn than you originally expected? Is your conversion funnel measuring the full customer journey, or is it potentially missing a step?
Software can help you monitor these user flows, sequences, and patterns. Eric Fettman, developer of GoogleAnalyticsTest.com and GATipofTheDay.com published a great tutorial to the Google Analytics Funnel Visualization Tool
He makes some great observations:
- Prospects will go through a series of steps before becoming paying customers, regardless of business models
- Funnels help you visualize the process by providing a step by step breakdown of the conversion data and churn at each step
- User flow analysis will help your company understand points of customer confusion, refine web copy & product positioning that affect your customers’ behavior, and highlight any ‘bugs’ in the sequence that you may not have previously caught.
Fettman was awesome enough to provide a step-by-step guide to using this tool through a case study, NEBikeTours, which offers personalized bicycle tours of the New England Countryside. NEBikeTours was looking to generate leads from interested prospects.
The first step to using the funnel visualization tool is to define the lead form submission as a goal in Google Analytics:
- Log into Google Analytics, drill down into one of your profiles, and click Admin in the top navigation.
- Click the Goals tab.
- Enter a Goal Name, such as Bike Tour Lead.
- Enter a Goal URL, such as /thankyou.php.
- Leave the Match Type as Exact Match, unless you need to account for multiple variations of your goal or funnel URLs.
- It is often useful to enter a Goal Value even for unmonetized lead generation, since it allows Google Analytics to calculate metrics such as Page Value and Per Visit Goal Value.
Next, set up your funnel:
- Select the Use Funnel checkbox.
- Enter URLs and names for the funnel steps:
- /catalog.php – Tour Catalog
- /description.php – Tour Description
- /inquiry.php – Lead Form
- Select the Required Step checkbox for the first funnel step.
Step 3 is optional but recommended for generating simplified funnel data. If you do want to count entries before step 1, keep this box unchecked.
You can easily see user dropoff at each stage of the funnel:
- This tool combines multiple pageviews into unique pageviews. This step is important because we are most interested in whether a user has seen a page or campaign at least once.
- Pageviews and funnel steps can be out of sequence with one another.
- Middle pageviews don’t necessarily need to be included in the funnel report.
- Website abandonment rates and conversion rates may not add up to 100%. That’s because abandonment rates aren’t always in line with the ‘first step’ re quirement, even when conversion rates do.
Let’s say that you’re paying $500USD monthly for a banner ad on www.newenglandvacations.com to generate clickthroughs to www.nebiketours.com
Within your Google Analytics profile, you could define an Advanced Segment based on traffic from www.newenglandvacations.com and then apply that segment to most other reports to view data exclusively for traffic originating from that one website.
Eric Fettman via The KISSmetrics Blog
Here is where a big problem comes in. Conversion funnels vary between user groups and segments. There is no one-size-fits-all funnel.
Fettman explains a workaround in his blog post.
You can set up additional filtered profiles for any traffic source for which you’d like to view the Funnel Visualization Report. You can create up to 50 profiles in Google Analytics.
Fettman also walks through another option in the Goal Flow report, which allows advanced segments. The drawback is that this report does not calculate a single funnel conversion rate. That analysis will require additional number crunching. Instead, what you’ll have is count data.
Another tool that can help you visualize the paths of your users is the ‘advanced segments’ feature in Google Analytics. This tool enables website owners to group their audiences by common characteristics:
These groups are based on traffic source, website behaviors, and devices that they might be using. You can even look at single-use and return-users.
Google also has a wealth of demographic data stored, so you can group audience segments based on these characteristics as well:
Writer Kristi Hines has written a great introduction to the topic
Her guide explains how to:
- Organize Google Analytics reports to match certain criteria.
- Create custom segments based on 5 possible groupings – Demographics,
Technology, Behavior, Date of First Visit, and Traffic Sources.
- Include demographic data (age, gender, and location) in your data segmentation.
- Import and share segments.
The Google Analytics community has put together a collection of segments that are applicable to a variety of online businesses and websites. Submit your own, or start downloading ones that others have created to get started:
Don’t waste time getting started. Download this starter bundle instead:
The Google Analytics team has put together a collection of dashboards, custom reports, and segments for any new Google Analytics users.
For instance, this package includes:
Really Engaged Traffic segmentation analysis, Visitor Acquisition Efficiency analysis, Mobile metrics by hour segment, SEO: Referring Pages custom report, Search Traffic custom report, eCommerce traffic custom report, Social Sharing custom report, Site Performance custom report, Mobile ecommerce custom report, Self referral troubleshooting, Sitelinks in URL custom report, SEO: 3,4,5 & 7+ keyword segmentation analysis
You can create a Google Analytics segment for almost anything.
To start, ask yourself the following questions:
- What traffic behavior should my business optimize?
- What am I trying to track?
Let’s say, for instance, that your marketing team runs branding campaigns. You might generate traffic through a newsletter from a company blog or through an early-funnel marketing automation campaign.
At the earliest stages of the conversion funnel, it’s unlikely that your audiences will be ready to jump in and start buying.
But you can’t ignore these early funnel stages—they’re an invaluable entry point to your brand.
When you’re measuring the success of this type of marketing activity, you will probably want to track whether people are coming back to your website (and converting) directly.
There’s probably a segment created for that already. Let’s take a look at the Google Analytics Solutions Gallery.
Let’s test it!
This advanced segment will include multi-visit users who, at one point, entered the website through a Google AdWords campaign. If we’re interested in other traffic sources, we can replace source/Medium with other options. Here are some examples:
Here is an example segment that includes Quick Sprout as a referral partner:
This type of analysis is invaluable for your marketing automation campaigns. Any time that you’ve investing time and/or money into a marketing program, you need to increase the echo effect that you generate. First-time clickthroughs won’t necessarily be enough to generate a steady stream of revenue—especially if you’re running a consulting or B2B business.
You can set up the data that you track in Google Analytics to funnel back into your marketing automation software. You will then be able to track, at the person level, who is coming back to your website and continuously engaging with your brand. In many cases, you will be able to see the specific email addresses of users, so you will be able to reach them on a 1:1 level.
You can then optimize your marketing automation program to reach those specific users more directly, with extremely relevant marketing messages. You can also split your users into segments that parallel the groups that you’ve created within your on-site analytics software.
The way that you set up these processes will depend on your marketing automation software. At some point in your marketing process, you’ll need to sit down and seriously think about how you want to measure the success of your campaigns. This process starts with setting up a really awesome marketing automation database.
- Customer journeys are complex. Understand your company’s buy cycles by deconstructing the paths that people are taking to making a purchase. These processes are known as conversion funnels.
- Conversion funnels consist of five steps: awareness, engagement, consideration, conversion, and retention. Each part of the conversion funnel is important, even though sales is only part of the process.
- Buyers are self-directed, but they need to be guided through the different steps of the conversion funnel. They expect 1:1 attention—which is why marketing automation is so important.
- Before deciding what to automate (or what types of marketing campaigns to deploy), understand the natural paths that consumers are taking. Ask qualitative research questions to see why you’re seeing particular trends in your data.
- In addition to guiding users through the conversion funnel, it’s important to minimize churn—your drop-off rates at each conversion funnel stage. Make sure that your customers remain customers.
- Design user flows before you automate anything. These can be diagrams on a whiteboard, on a sheet of paper, or in PowerPoint. Make sure that you know what steps you want your audiences to take through the conversion funnel—before you deploy any marketing campaign.
- Take enough time to plan your strategy, but don’t over-think your approach. Test your ideas as soon as possible. Measure, iterate, repeat.
- Set up your analytics software to track the performance of your marketing automation campaign and to identify trends that impact your company’s bottom line—look for areas in the conversion funnel that are hot spots for churn. You may need to add—or take away— a step in that particular user funnel.