October 16th, 2018

Timing is Everything: How Automated Email Marketing Closes Sales

Author: Laura Lynch
Laura Lynch
Director of Marketing

Automated email marketing is better for your sales department and your prospects.

Your sales prospects receive a lot of email, and most of it goes unopened. Automated email marketing is a part of the problem. It’s never been easier to send emails according to a detailed calendar, and as a result, marketing emails have flooded the market, leaving many customers feeling overwhelmed.

However, the problem with today’s email marketing has less to do with the emails themselves, and more to do with the methods behind them. Just because you can automate a hundred email blasts in a week doesn’t mean you should. And just because many of your leads find automated emails frustrating doesn’t mean they don’t want to receive yours.

The key lies in careful management of your email marketing strategy. By carefully building qualified lists, respecting user consent, and timing your messages to go out at the most convenient time, you can make far better use of this marketing strategy than you might suppose.

How automated email marketing fits into your sales funnel.

The first step toward a healthy email automation strategy involves qualifying your list. This takes time, and many businesses try to get around this step by purchasing lists, or by adding every person they ever meet and following up rigorously until they run themselves into the ground. However, a well-qualified list means you spend more time emailing only those contacts who are showing an interest in your services.

Identifying these leads, and emailing them effectively, happens in two main ways: first, by building a list of subscribers who have identified themselves and signed up for your list, and second, by linking an IP address to an email address and sending messages based on that IP addresses on-page activity.

The former of these two methods (email subscriptions) is what you want to use if you’re building, for instance, a regular newsletter mailing list. It’s less personalized, and it’s playing a long game. But if you work in an industry where it can take several months—or even over a year—to close a sale, then a regular newsletter will help you build brand awareness and stay top of mind.

However, many people operate on much shorter timelines. Their sales window is only open for a few weeks, and they don’t want to be signed up for your list indefinitely. In these instances, automated email marketing helps you send appropriately timed emails only for the time period when that prospect is ready to work with you, without bothering them later.

As you can see, timing those emails so that they come at the opportune moment is critical, which is why we’re focusing on timing with this post over lead qualification. Follow these key strategies to nail your timing with sales prospects.

3 ways automation improves your sales workflows.

Back before the days of caller ID, it seemed like sales people only ran their cold calls at the worst possible times. The phone was a constant interruption, and the question “is this a convenient time?” always felt a little nonsensical. No, it wasn’t a convenient time, and it never would be.

Of course, email isn’t the same thing. You can send someone an email at any time knowing they’ll only check their inbox when they’re ready.

That said, there’s “ready” and there’s ready.

As we said before, the timing of your email strategy is crucial. That means sending the right information at the right time in the right manner. Done well, and you won’t just convert more leads, you’ll create better client relationships. Here’s how to start.

1. Contact leads when they’re interested (and when it’s convenient).

Many of us cycle through our inboxes throughout the day, quickly deleting or archiving anything we aren’t interested in. We might do so in the middle of a meeting, or on our phones while picking up lunch. If you email someone during that time, they may never open your email, because it didn’t come at a time when they had the brain space to process it.

But, what if you could tell when someone was on your site, looking through your service offerings? And what if you could time an email to land in their inbox within half an hour of their visit? You’re not guaranteed to hit a person at just the right time, but it’s far more likely that they’re visiting your site out of legitimate interest, or because they’re have a little down time, than because they’re in a meeting or out to lunch.

Furthermore, because they will have just been visiting your site, you know that they’ll recognize your brand name in their inbox. Because it will be so recent in their memory, they’ll be more likely to open it.

With that in mind, be careful how quickly you time your emails. People don’t like to feel watched, so if you send it as soon as they’re on your site, you may make them feel uncomfortable. Instead, time your emails to come shortly thereafter—within an hour—so that it feels more like providence and less like big brother.

2. Deliver more personalized content based on their visitor behavior.

Let’s say you own a book store, and a customer walks in and starts browsing your stacks. You see them linger for quite a few minutes in both the Children’s section and the Poetry section. When they come to check out, you hand them a flier for your upcoming book signing with a popular children’s author, and recommend another book of poems based on the one they purchased.

This kind of personalized content is of great value to customers, because it focuses on their demonstrated interests. After all, why recommend a cookbook if they never visited the culinary section?

Now, the question is: how do you handle these same interactions online?

Again, this is where IP tracking can help you out. You already know to time your messages based on their visits. Now you can refine your strategy by sending emails based on which pages they viewed.

Setting up these automation workflows takes extra care and attention, because you don’t want to send them three different emails if they land on three different pages, nor do you want to send them the same email after every visit. However, if you use software that keeps a history of each IP address, you can design your workflows so as not to overwhelm visitors.

3. Shorten the sales cycle by sending more efficient follow-ups.

The bigger the purchase the longer the sales cycle. You may be able to sell a pair of socks on a single visit, but no one buys a house on impulse. Even so, many sales cycles are needlessly long. And the longer they are, the less profitable they will be for you, and the more of a nuisance they become for your leads.

Think about it: the longer you wait to follow up with a lead, the colder they become. Every time you reach out, they need to reacquaint themselves with your business and services. It takes time for them to assess whether they want to work with you, how you fit into their strategy, and whether they’re ready to make a purchase. This wastes your time and theirs.

Now, you obviously can’t send emails every day, but what if you timed your emails to go out based on their activity? Let’s say you typically have a five-email workflow. When you first earn a new lead, they get the first email. They may not open it, so you wait a few days and send a second. You keep spacing your emails until eventually they run through your workflow, and because they haven’t touched anything, you drop the lead.

But, what if they have opened your email? And what if, after opening that email, they also go visit your website? Do you maintain the same timing as what you used for the lead who never opened any emails?

Obviously not. When a lead warms up, you want to send emails that respond to that interest in a way that keeps the lead warm without overpowering them. Doing so will cut down on the number of follow up emails you need before that prospect contacts you and you close your sale.

Automation isn’t about overwhelming your prospects—it’s about timing your message.

As we’ve emphasized throughout this post, your goal in using automated email marketing isn’t so that you can send multiple emails a day. Instead, it’s to respond to user behavior and send them emails that match their needs and interests. By doing so, you cut down on the number of wasted emails your leads need to field, and your sales team sees better results. That’s what we consider a win-win.

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