So many tools to use…
There are tracking and monitoring tools that tell you about customer actions. You can create automated funnels and dynamic content. You can make sure that every customer gets a tailored, customized experience that’s unique to them and their choices.
In short, you have the ability to be very involved with your customers, or potential customers, if you choose to. You can reach out to them in a number of ways at multiple touchpoints at just about any time you want.
Realizing this pushes many marketers to consider a very reasonable question—how much is too much? Just because you can engage with customers in so many ways, should you do it and if so how often? Isn’t there a danger of going too far and pushing customers away?
Am I spamming people?
Every marketer deals with this issue and responsible marketers take care not to go too far. But there’s a dilemma involved—send messages too frequently and you can annoy people but send them too infrequently and you can disappear from their radar as they lose interest or forget what attracted them to you in the first place.
How do you balance these extremes? Where is the sweet spot?
These are fair questions and the focus of our post today. We want to examine the balance involved in taking full advantage of the capabilities of your marketing automation platform while still respecting the limits on contact with your customers.
Quality vs. Quantity
Let’s cover an obvious point before we continue. Yes, there is definitely a limit on the number of communications your customers or subscribers will tolerate before they start thinking about running away and hiding from any future attempt to contact them. You can only send so many reminders about an abandoned cart, for example, before a customer has enough. Sending a newsletter once a month is fine, while sending a newsletter twice a week is over the line. A pop-up that appears once after you enter a site is ok, but making that same pop-up return every thirty seconds is a recipe for disaster.
You get the point. Everyone has their limit for marketing communications, even from brands they like. It’s just common sense that you shouldn’t bombard anyone with constant reminders, offers, announcements or anything else.
But this is where the issue of quality comes in. The number of communications you send to customers and users is only part of the equation. What you send is just as important as how often you send it. Quality content that delivers value is what customers and subscribers want. If you’re sharing materials that they’re interested in and clearly show that their relationship with you is worthwhile, you’re much more likely to stay on the right side of the line that prompts them to look for the “Unsubscribe” button.
Customers are much more likely to be forgiving of contact that’s a little too frequent if you already have a relationship based on the fact that they know that you have their best interests in mind, as proven by the kinds of content you share. It’s one thing to aggressively interrupt everyone who visits your site with constant reminders about this or that, and quite another to maintain an ongoing dialogue based on value.
If you’re concerned about being a spammer and irritating customers, that’s a good sign—it shows you’re aware that it’s a problem. But don’t let that stop you from taking full advantage of marketing automation tools and techniques that benefit both you and your customers.
Let’s turn to useful tips on how you can achieve this balance.
How to get the most out of marketing automation while not “spamming” anyone
There are simple, proven ways to make sure you keep channels open without pushing the limits of anyone’s tolerance for your brand messaging. While there is no magic number that divides “enough” from “too many”, there are steps you can take to make sure you stay on the right side. Follow these tips and be confident that you’re using the tools you have without pushing anyone too far.
- Share control over how often anyone sees your messages. Where possible, let users, customers and subscribers have some input on the topic of how often they hear from you or if they hear from you at all in certain mediums. This goes beyond a simple unsubscribe link in your newsletter (which is a must, by the way). Make it easy for everyone to opt in or opt out of different communication channels and even choose the frequency of your messaging. What better way to avoid bombarding someone with messages than to ask how many they want to receive?
- Limit your funnels to three messages. You might use an ebook for lead generation. You might set up an automation for an abandoned cart. Or maybe you follow up on a viewed product or someone who clicked on a link. There are lots of things that can be used as triggers to start a ready-made funnel, usually consisting of email messages. This is standard practice and a very effective one. It’s also a good way to alienate customers by knocking on the same door with the same message too many times. If someone hasn’t answered a call to action by the third follow-up message, it’s time to move on. Beyond this point you’re just irritating whoever is on the other end of your messages.
- Use personalization. This is a classic strategy for good reason—it works. Content addressed to someone connects better than content addressed to everyone. When customers and recipients feel like they’re getting a one-size-fits-all message, they’re far less likely to engage with it and instead move a step closer to the limit that might push them to take the kind of action you don’t want them to take.
- Find a pattern and stay with it. Many brands find success by sending, for example, email newsletters or other updates on a certain day of the week. This helps your audience get used to receiving the content and it becomes part of a routine. When you share content at random, constantly changing times, it can lead to the wrong kind of attention. Remember that the “mark as spam” button is always just a click away. Don’t give anyone a reason to go looking for it.
- Use caps. We mean the kind that limits the total number outreach attempts between you and a given customer. Customers can trigger however many automated scenarios you set up on your site, which could cause messaging overload depending on how engaged that customer is. What better way to ensure that you don’t land in their inbox too many times in a given time period than a hard cap on the number of messages you send to them?
The “Don’ts” of maintaining good customer relationships
Now let’s look at the same issue from the other side. Just as there are some things you can do to maintain a positive atmosphere in your customer communications, as listed above, there are specific actions that are highly likely to have the opposite effect. Note that they have basically the same idea in common—emphasizing what’s good for you over what’s good for them.
Here are some basic things to avoid if you want to be sure that customers, subscribers and anyone else you engage with welcome your messaging rather than regard it with suspicion.
- Vague or missing subject lines. When your message lands in an inbox, the recipient might give you a fraction of a second before deciding whether to open it or not. Yes, they can see it’s from you but if your subject line doesn’t get right to the point, why should they take a chance (and spend the time) on opening it to find out what it’s about?
This is not the time or place for mysterious guesswork about why you’re reaching out to anyone. If it’s not obvious why recipients should open your message, it will just turn into another mental experience where they equate your name with a message they didn’t want. In other words, you’ve just moved one step closer to either the spam folder.
- Strong sales language. How many times can you hear or read “Buy now!” before you want to run away now? Strong, aggressive calls to “buy” are not only ineffective, but they create a transactional atmosphere in your communications rather than a cooperative feeling of both sides benefitting from the conversation.
Remember, two versions of the same message can get completely different reactions depending on how it’s framed. For example, reminding someone about an item they left in a cart is obviously an attempt to complete the conversion, but you are also legitimately helping customers by reminding them about it at the same time. Both sides win. When you’re just interrupting customers for no other reason than put some product in front of them, there’s no value there. There’s no reason for your message other than taking a chance at a sale. How does the customer benefit? In almost every case, they won’t—they will simply move on and make a mental note to be sceptical of messaging they get from you in the future.
- Pop-up overload. This is a classic mistake and you already know where this is going. Let’s be honest, no one, including yourself, really likes pop-ups. But they’re used so often because they get results. Pop-ups work. So what’s a good marketer to do? Use them in moderation, that’s what.
Your customers will tolerate the reasonable use of pop-ups but will quickly get frustrated by their overuse. You can probably relate from your own experience. One is ok, two is pushing it, three is way over the line. You’ve got one shot with your pop-up so make it work. It might be an exit intent pop-up, an invitation to join a newsletter or something else but whatever it is, choose wisely because you should only use it for whatever gives you maximum value in exchange for minimum interruptions.
- Messaging not based on their purchase or view histories. This is the other side of what we mentioned above regarding one-size fits all communication, which doesn’t fit anyone. Let’s say, for example, a certain customer has a long and well-documented history of searching for laptop computers, viewing laptop computers and buying laptop computers and related accessories. Why would you send any messaging to them focused on, say, summertime grilling or cleaning supplies for cars?
Failing to keep your messaging aligned with the demonstrated preferences of customers has two consequences and it’s hard to say which is worse. First, by sending messaging that is, for them, completely random, you’re telling them that you don’t know anything about them or what they like. This violates pretty much every rule about marketing there is. Why would they want to continue a dialogue with a brand that doesn’t know what they want?
On top of that, the other problem is that you’re sending content that has a 99% chance of being rejected almost immediately. And each rejection creates another mental note in the consumer’s mind that maybe they’re not so interested in your brand after all. If you have no reason to believe the customer will be interested, why are you sending it? Think about it—you’re risking your entire future relationship on the promise of something that has maybe a 1% chance of working. Does that sound like a good deal? Didn’t think so.
Yes, marketing automation tools give you incredible opportunities to get your message in front of lots of people and, yes, there’s a risk you can go too far. However, responsible marketers sharing valuable content with an engaged audience can take advantage of these tools without pushing things too far. If you’re concerned about being a “spammer” that’s a good thing since it shows you have respect for the privacy of those who choose to engage with you but a few simple practices can ensure that all parties involved benefit from the use of platforms like edrone.