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Pipeline marketing - going beyond AWeber part 2, the search

Pipeline marketing - going beyond AWeber, part 1

cute little dog with fluffy snowy paws as result of pipeline marketing tactics

Yesterday I received this cute snowy picture from a contact on one of our wood flooring email lists:

His little dog Molly had managed to add snow-bracelets to her little paws - first time she'd encountered snow.

Now I hear you ask: how on earth is this cute little dog related to wooden flooring?
It's not. It is however related to our new - improved - pipeline marketing strategy and tactics: being able to make the structured (email) marketing much more worthwhile, relevant, anticipated and personal (wrap).

Using the internet to market your business I've come to realise goes in leaps and bounds, evolving your system and methods as you go (or as you discover better tools). Looking at our own business we went from

  • bcc'ing a text email to our contacts - then a small list - using our own daily email software
  • through Groupmail5 (free) - individual sent emails with some html but still using our own daily email software- when our list of contacts grew,
  • to AWeber autoresponder.

AWeber enabled us not just to "bulk" email - in the best meaning of the word, one email sent out to a multitude of contacts who had all given their permission to be emailed by us - but also to email a sequence of relevant emails per subject (segmentation).

As with every tactic, if it works you want to improve on it - well, I do. We looked closer at all the possibilities AWeber could give us and found ways to optimise it as best as possible or as far as the program let us.
For instance:

  • we created an extended webform where visitors to our website could submit whole questions related to any subject of wooden flooring. We then answered them personally (using the "Subscriber Alert" in List settings to sent us an email, including the question whenever someone had confirmed they wanted an answer.)
  • We also introduced a "general list" (see my E-training on AWeber for more details on this) so that no matter to which lists (in our case which wood floor range leaflet was requested) all automagically also were added to the "general list" containing a sequence of emails with "general" information.

Our lists grew from 200 contacts at the start of using AWeber (Oct 07) to 2072 in December 2009 (around 20 - 30% of contacts were on more than 1 list, adding to the total). When you see your lists growing and you notice the effect on your turnover and profit while realising you pushed the program as far as possible you start to feel restricted - well I do.

Using AWeber is a great and cost-effective way to follow-up prospects/contacts and to stay in regular contact with clients, automation of this is great too but it is limited to email. How to follow-up in the same structured and effective way on

  • phone conversations,
  • "stand-alone" emails and request,
  • and even how to segment the email lists better so that prospects asking questions about maintenance didn't receive the same general information as those asking for advice on how to select a wood floor most suited to their circumstances and wishes.

We started to use a separate CRM program (part of our accounting software) to improve the follow-up on those other contacts/methods of conversations but that turned quickly in notes every where, double entries of contact details and no way of tracking what was working as stand alone or as combination of email, phone call and even letters. Plus segmentation on various subjects/interest was impossible without keeping even more manual lists.

The search for a more comprehensive package that could cover all was on (and took over 2 months, more about this in a later post).

Three weeks ago we started using our new "catch-all/automate most" online software program which still enables us to email a sequence of relevant information (personalised) per different wood floor type using the autoresponder option, still enables our website visitors to ask questions and receive personal advice for their problems but also triggers "automated" prompts to print and post follow-up letters (automagically merged with relevant details), to call a contact to offer more help or advice, to decide per contact which follow-up series has the most relevant information for them plus it tracks which campaign, follow-up series etc is most effective in generating sales (even after only 3 weeks we are starting to see results of our new tactics).

For instance and coming back to the cute little dog: his owner had submitted a question in regards of finishing a wood floor using our new "ask a question" webform. I received his question and replied with the best advice possible. Three days later our new software program prompted me to send a new email (custom email not an autoresponder) based on his original question and our first reply. That and the heavy snow fall we've been having lately resulted in a sharing of Winter stories and the picture of his dog, plus an ongoing conversation with him about solving his problem and what products we can supply him to help out.

Worthwhile, relevant, anticipated and personal. Automated? Yes and no, human interaction can be prompted - hence our new software system - but never set on auto-pilot, hence our new software system.

More post about this system and our evolving strategies and tactics in pipeline marketing will follow over the coming weeks/months. It's a new (ad)venture for us too, but one we're confident it will be as flexible as we need it/want it to be to grow our business further.

Comments

Shuaib Suria AHEALTH

Hi Karin

Interesting pondering!

As someone who has used Aweber for about a year (and I believe it was on yours and Ed Rivis's say-so) for a hobby that is slowly turning into a business, I can foresee myself running into similar problems at some point in the future, although it present it seems to be more than capable for what I am doing (and in fact I still have yet to try some other features of it like combining it with Paypal etc, but currently I am just getting to grips with their shiny new webforms that they have recently added).

So yes it would be good if there was a 'comprehensive almost fully automated (in the sense that it triggered you to communicate (in more that one way) with different contacts in turn at logical, manageable intervals) so that you always feel on top of things and your clients (prospect as well as actual and past) think you are just fantastic because you wish them a happy birthday every year (at the right time of course!), ask them how your service was, whether they need any further assistance, how their dog Rex is, has the snow now melted away from the lake near their home etc etc and loads of other personalised relevant communications as if they were your only customer in the world!

So I look forward with some anticipation to learn what you have come up with, and I might as well also start trialling it in good time so I am ready to migrate when the need for it becomes apparent (as I am sure you agree, changing systems in midair is another major headache that small businesses face now and again, so I trust you will cover that point too (ie how easy is it proving for you to jump ship onto this new system that you have opted for)).

Thanks

Shuaib

Karin H.

Hi Shuaib

That's indeed the plan: writing also about the transfer of data itself and how easy it was - and what problems I encountered, as you do of course with any new system (but all in all they weren't that great a problems).
One tip upfront: whenever you capture names etc from website visitors, start splitting the field name into field firstname and field lastname ;-)

I'll also cover how the search for such a program was, what the parameters were - for two different types of businesses, because it was a joint search between me and a good friend - and why in the end one on the shortlist was declared "the winner".

Staying on top of things almost automagically was a pre, but then again the focus should IMHO always be on the strategies and tactics, not the tool itself and that can change the parameters and search.

Talk to you soon.

Karin H

Shuaib Suria AHEALTH

Ok good tip:
Split name & surname, and I can see why this can be a problem in some instances (eg in an email you can get away with just the informal first name, but if you then decide to send a letter out in future, it would look a bit shoddy saying Dear Mr Firstname), and on that note I would venture that it's also wise to get their title at some point as you wouldn't to hazard a guess that it's Mr Firstname Surname, and then rudely find out it was actually Mrs Firstname Surname!!

Now to return the favour, Karin, here's a a tip for you (although I am sure you are aware of it and got it covered somehow):

I think you really need a "notify of follow-up comments by email" tickbox at the bottom of the comment boxes (like many blogs now have), reason being when you replied to my above comment, I never got an email to alert me to come back and read your reply, and make further replies (to keep the conversation going) - it was just by chance that I decided to visit your blog again this morning.

But like I said, you are probably aware of this, and I am you had that option in some form or other before, for some reason I can't see it recently.

Thanks

Shuaib

Karin H.

Morning Shuaib

Indeed that's the problem I encountered when uploading AWeber subscribers to the new program (the contacts in our existing separate CRM program had that split already). Funny you should mention titles too - when I asked a related question about this during an online workshop, pointing out I was brought up "conventional" and like to address everyone in letters as Mr or Mr & Mrs, I was "accused" of being polite and having old fashion manners ;-) (But the "title problem" got sorted quickly).

As for your own suggestion about auto follow new comments - I wish that was possible here indeed (and I've asked Typepad/Sixapart for it quite often for it, but alas - it is still on their "to-do-list").

What I use myself to keep track of reply to comments I leave left right and centre all over the www: I've set up a cocomment account which shows a little icon in the bottom bar of my browser if the program found a new reply on any of the blogs I commented on too. Not as good as email notifications, but workable.

Karin H.

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