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.
- 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.
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.