In this episode of the Cracking the Code of Marketing Automation series, Lon Safko talks about drip campaigns, simple and complex workflows, and why 1.54 seconds or 5 seconds rule is important to capture your reader’s attention.
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And here’s the video recording and the transcript of the episode where Lon answers a few questions about drip campaigns, lead nurturing and the transition from simple to complex marketing automation workflows.
Michał Leszczyński: We were discussing a few things along the way and you mentioned some more advanced topics like drip campaigns, lead nurturing… so what are these about? Could you tell us a little bit more and share with our audience?
Lon Safko: Yeah, I don’t want to scare away the beginners. Don’t be afraid when we start talking about the subject of drip email marketing. It is a little bit more complex because it’s not just blast and keep your fingers crossed. And for most email marketers that’s really what they do. And for smaller companies, and that’s OK because they usually have a more intimate relationship with their database, with their email list. But if you want to grow to the next stage, if you want to be like the Brendon Burchards and the Frank Kerns and some of the other professional email marketers, you have to really grow into drip email marketing. Let me try to explain it as easy as possible.
When you look at a picture of it, it’s not as bad as it might sound. What happens is, you send out an initial email. The nice thing is that email servers, email service providers like yourself, like GetResponse will track everything: who opens it, when they open it, when they forwarded it, if they forwarded it, when it bounced, hard bounces, soft bounces, it will tell you the operating systems. I mean the tracking is phenomenal.
So OK, you sent out this email. Some people are going to open it. So, if they open it there’s some links. To some people it’s never going to get delivered because maybe their email box is full or maybe they just didn’t have time to open it. Well, you guys – email service providers – will track that. So, if it was a soft bounce, you’ll continually try to deliver it until it gets delivered. If it was delivered but they never opened it, here’s where the drip comes in. You guys know that, so the next step is you sent the email but it was never opened. So now, automatically, after a predetermined amount of time – it could be one day or three days – generally three days, you’ll send a follow up email and say, “Hey, I noticed that you got my email but you must not have had a chance to open it. It’s really good information, why don’t you take a look at it now?” And then you get this additional response. If they have opened it, you can now check to see what links they clicked. Or, maybe they opened it, but didn’t click a link. So now you’ve got the option of sending an email saying, “Hey, I noticed you opened the email but you didn’t click on the link and I think that’s where the real value is.” So, now, they get that second email, maybe three days later, and you’re converting more of those people that opened it but didn’t click the link.
So each step of the way, for example, let’s go back to the person who got it but didn’t open it. Got it again but didn’t open it. You can send a third email saying: “hey I’ve sent you two emails, I don’t want to be a pain in the neck but there’s good information, if you don’t open this email then I won’t send you any more information about this subject. Wait until next month.” So every one of these possibilities, every decision in this decision tree, can be tracked and get an appropriate response that increases the conversion every step of the way. Now, when you start out, you set up the email, there’s three possible outcomes. Now, each of those may have three possible outcomes. Now we’ve got nine. Each of those can have three outcomes. So the numbers become larger and larger. And that’s why it gets a little scary for most beginners. But when you draw the picture of it and simply answer the questions, it’s not that hard. But to set it up, every one of those responses – first the 3, then the 9, then the 27 – all have to be crafted. Particularly to that particular pattern of clicks or non-clicks. But, here’s the great part. Once you have it set up, once you have this framework set up, it just runs continuously. And the conversion is unbelievable!
Because in an initial email, if two-thirds or three-quarters don’t open the email, they’re gone forever, until you do your next blast. So you’re losing three quarters. But this gets you the opportunity to constantly work each of those first percentages, and it does it in a non-offensive way. It can be very friendly and very inviting like: “Hey, I’m just sending you a reminder because this is a really good stuff”. Once you have that framework set up, if you go to do another campaign or when you go to do another campaign, all you really have to change is the content, no longer the framework. So, don’t be afraid of that. It’s a lot of work up front, but boy, I’m telling you the conversion that comes back out of it is unbelievable.
ML: Sure, that’s true. I believe that, at first, people might be scared from seeing the big workflows and how complex they are. But you will eventually develop and get in there. When you’re sending out just a regular welcome message with different pieces of content, for example you’re an e-commerce and sending out information about sports or business casual you do know that these are different customers. And you do know that they will need different content. So even at this point you could create a simple, tiniest workflow where you’re just sending after that welcome message, two different messages with two different pieces of content. One about sports, the other one about business casual, or female and male. So you will eventually get there right? Everyone can do it. If they know their audience, and they will eventually learn to know their audience based on the tracking and the analytics, they will know how to craft their messages to create the best content for their audience.
LS: Absolutely! That was a really good example that you just gave. Let’s suppose that you sell clothes, like Old Navy here in the U.S. You’re selling clothes and you have men’s clothes and women’s clothes. You have two separate offers. Well, depending upon which link that customer clicks, you right away know what their interest is. If it’s men’s clothes, now you can send an appropriate response only to the individuals that click that link and that’s the cool thing. You can take 10,000 or 15,000 names, but only the person that is interested in the women’s clothes will get the women’s clothes email follow-up. And then you can track that link maybe based on color, sizes, casual vs business. That holds true for every single one of those customers, no matter how big your email databases is.
ML: So that probably answers one of the most common questions: “is marketing automation complex?” And it is complex, if you want it to be complex. If you want it to be robust, a big workflow that will sort of answer all the questions, all the possibilities of what your audience could do, or the actions they did and didn’t take. But if you want it to be simple and just convert well, you can start off simple and expand as you grow.
LS: And I think that’s part of the problem most email marketers have is making that transition. Because in their mind, it’s either I send out one email and hope for the best – my blast – or oh my gosh, now I’ve got to build this complex thing that’s going to take Einstein and three other scientists. So it’s that transition. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. Do your blast, but when you get into automation and to drip, it doesn’t have to be a gigantic complex workflow. It could be something as simple as: “I’m going to send out that link that’s gonna have men’s and women’s clothes and I’m just going to send an appropriate response depending upon which link they clicked.” And that’s really simple, you set it up in an hour.
ML: Exactly. And that relates to everything: to testing, to automation. I know that in A/B testing many marketers are just afraid that they have to devote so much time to testing, and you know, testing every single offer. Of course, you don’t have to. If you have the time and resources, which you should be, you know devoting to that, and putting aside, but if you don’t have enough time to test everything, just test little things. Like subject lines or time of the delivery, or the main piece of content, the main banner in the header section. So step-by-step, you can grow into there.
LS: Yeah and there’s a rule that I came up with in The Social Media Bible. They did research and tracked, through eye-motion lasers how people actually read a newspaper or a magazine. And they would scan the entire newspaper and they would look at the ad and then they would jump over. So, what they found was, is that an ad in a newspaper only got 1.54 seconds of time. 1.54 which is very small amount. Whether or not the customer, the reader, decided they were going to look at the ad for any longer period. So if something caught their eye in that amount of time, they would then look at the ad, but then the next step they only give it 5 seconds. And in that 5 seconds if they thought that there was something of interest, they would then read the entire ad.
If at any one of those times: the 1.54 seconds or the 5 seconds, you didn’t capture your audience, your reader, they would turn the page and that ad would be lost forever and ever. You would never have that opportunity to get in front of the customer again by something as simple as turning a page. I read this, and I realized “wow, that’s email marketing! That’s exactly email marketing!” When that email comes in you’ve got 1.54 seconds or they’re not going to turn the page, they’re going to hit delete. Because the delete button is as easy as turning the page. So what is that 1.54 seconds? It’s your subject line. So your subject line has to be powerful enough to capture that person’s attention enough, so that they decide to open it. If they decide to open it, your opening sentence, your first sentence has to be something that’s going to capture them. And guess what, a sentence takes about five seconds to read. And that’s also part of the reason why the image is so important. If you have a killer opening sentence and a good image, that’s going to convey enough information, that’s going to make them stay on the page until they fully understand and read your message, and then they’re going to click or convert, or pick up the phone. So it’s the 1.54 second and it’s the 5 seconds rule that’s going to get your emails opened.
ML: And I think that’s even more upsetting, that it’s even easier to delete a message than to change the pages. Because pages sometimes get sticky and you have to lick your finger and it doesn’t happen with a mouse or your phone right? It’s as simple as that.
LS: Spam, block, any one of these buttons are not good for us as marketers. So that’s why you’re testing. I mean to get back up I told that story to emphasize that A/B testing is really, really important. No question about it. Something as simple as just changing the nouns and the verbs in the subject line takes no time at all. But when you send it out, if you broke your email list into, let’s say, 5 different groups – just randomly break them into 5 groups and send out the exact same email but with 5 different subject lines. You’re going to see 2 perform okay, 2 perform poorly, and 1 of them just went crazy. And you’ll have no idea why it did, but after you do this a couple of times, you’ll start to see a pattern. And then every email – your subject line is going to get them to open.
ML: Sure, and what’s actually also important, in my opinion, is that good gut feeling is good. Having a good gut feeling, but you need to test. Because most of the days, you think you’re an expert copywriter, or many of us do think so as well. But it’s not about how you hone your message, how you prepare it, and how good it is (in your opinion). Actually, it is only important how your audience reacts to it. And even if you’re sometimes not happy with the way the message looks. The message could be actually getting such great results and could be the right opposite. You believe that you’ve crafted the most beautiful email with beautiful design and people are not clicking through it. Something is, you know, it’s not clicking. So that’s why the testing is there, right? Actually to find what’s best for them, not what’s the best in your opinion.
LS: And most of the time it’s going to surprise you. You’re not going to see why this one performed much better than this one. There’s just no rhyme or reason. And then sometimes, after a certain period of time, even if you follow the same formula, it will become less effective and you’ll have to change it up again. And the only way you’re going to know that it’s not effective, don’t wait until your conversion rate, and your open rate plummets. Test it continuously and keep it fresh.
ML: That’s true. Sometimes you it might be too late if you haven’t changed anything over the years and then you’re thinking: “oh we want to increase our open rates.” Sometimes it might be too late because that message might be not going to their inbox anymore. And you need to win them back.
LS: And don’t forget that unsubscribe is forever. As you know, if someone unsubscribes and you try to take their email and try to force it back in – you can’t. So you have to get a completely different email address from that person, if they want to be put put back on your list, which nobody does. Unsubscribes are deadly to email marketers. Keep that rate as low as possible.