Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Automating Email Frequency

How much is too much? How little is too little? What is the best way to measure/control all this?

Is there a way to actually vary the frequency automatically, based on user behavior?

Let's start with, what I thought was a brilliant comment Steve Woods recently posted on his Blog: http://eloqua.blogspot.com/ in which he said: "It depends". Basically he broke it down into 3 levels of engagement: High, Medium and Low.

Which got me to thinking...allow me to elaborate:

Q1: How often do you want to hear from family and friends? Every day? Every week?

Q2: How often do you want to hear from the IRS?

Hmmm...the answer seems to be directly tied to the relationship.

Have you ever had a first date with someone only to have them start calling you relentlessly? A direct violation of Level-of-Engagement-Frequency-Tracking, or LEFT for short -- as in gone, bye bye... :) Aah, sometimes I crack myself up!

So if you have a good relationship with your customer (one who is actively engaged) then they will tolerate more frequent communications from you. If you are just forming a relationship with your customer, better not to overwelm them with your well-intentioned (albeit) frequent nurturing efforts. Less is more until they demonstrate an increase in interest.

So in keeping with Steve Wood's concept of Hi, Mid and Low Engagement, you might try something like this:

Engagement Level is determined by implicit behaviors, such as:
  • How recently did they respond to your last email?

  • When did they last visit your website?

  • When did they last fill out a form?

  • Etc.

(Of course this assumes you have a marketing automation tool that can track these types of behaviors).

So, we see that we actually need 3 nurturing programs, not just one, each focused on both content and frequency, all based on their current their level of engagement - Hi, Mid, Low.

So, how do we automatically "adjust" any given customer's frequency and content, based on their currentl level of engagement? Implicit criteria to the rescue!

Essentially you build a 4th nurturing program which is nothing more than a gate that continuously adjusts which nurturing program a customer is put in, based on their last implicit behavior.

So everyone is put into the Low Engagement nurturing program to start and then you let the customer define their own content and frequency moving forward. Customers could conceivably move through all 3 nurturing programs, back and forth as their interest/situation dictates.

This is where a good scoring program also comes into play. Odds are if someone is showing strong interest in your communications every week, they are ready for handoff to sales! Chances are they won't be at this level of engagement long, since they are probably getting ready to choose a solution. Lead scoring to the rescue...

The road to Best in Class "Right Time, Right Message" marketing effectiveness isn't easy. But thanks to marketing automation, once you set it up, you can leverage low cost, high efficiencies to nurture customers dynamically at their own pace. Love it!

Steve Kellogg
aDemand Generation/Marketing Automation Consultant, Astadia
aEloqua Certified Marketing Best Practices Consultant

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  1. Nice post Steve. I like how you tie in the value of lead nurturing and lead scoring together. Adding a level of frequency as nurturing criteria may be a challenge for businesses to adopt. When getting started, we'd recommend a simple lead nurturing program that focuses on automated follow up. Lead nurturing should be an iterative process that's tweaked over time by sales and marketing, as a team. Thanks for getting us to think deeper about frequency as a nurturing parameter!

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