In the not-so-distant future, customers will spend most of their time with you not talking.
By 2020, they’ll manage 85 percent of their relationship with your company without interacting with a human, the technology research firm Gartner predicted five years ago.
Customers want answers to their questions at all times, not just between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays. They want to be in control of their experience, learning about your company, and making a purchase at the time and on the platform they choose.
That makes using automation software like Infusionsoft essential for staying in touch with customers (assuming you’d rather not send middle-of-the-night emails). The software can take your place in sending emails, helping you respond to inquiries and communicate with customers without having to manually do so.
But “automated” shouldn’t be a synonym for “impersonal.” An automated email should still sound like it came from you. Because it did—the software just sent it for you at the right time, perhaps hundreds or thousands of times over.
The wrong approach to personalization, though, can make an automated email look even more automated—or worse, just kind of creepy. Here’s a look at what to do—and what not to do—when personalizing an automated message.
Do this: Respond quickly
Not that: Respond instantaneously
If you had time, you’d be so helpful to customers that you’d respond to their emails the moment they appeared in your inbox. But even if you’re the kind of person who has practically made your smartphone part of your hand, it would still take you more than a few seconds to type an email. Five minutes would be a fast response time in almost anyone’s book.
That’s why automation software should send your email responses within minutes, not seconds. The software should mimic how you’d operate if only you had more time.
With automation software like Infusionsoft, a customer’s action—like the completion of a form on your website—can trigger an email to be sent immediately. That’s fine in some cases: If the customer requested a report, you should send it right away. But when you don’t want your response to look automated, you can set up a delay timer to send the email at a more realistic time, like 10 or 15 minutes later.
Do this: Call the customer by name
Not that: Use his full name
With automation software, you can use merge fields to automatically insert customer information into emails. With merge fields, “How are you, [First Name]?” becomes “How are you, Tom?” or “How are you, Stephanie?”—hundreds or thousands of times over.
As a result, Tom may not realize your automated email is automated. But if you also use the merge field for his last name, you’ll come away sounding like a robot (“Greetings, Tom Miller.”)
To keep your email sounding personal, add a few more merge fields. Ask Tom “How’s the weather in [City]?” or sign off with “Have a great [Day of the Week!]”
Do this: Follow up on a customer’s recent activity
Not that: Be creepy about it
Thanks to the tracking powers of automation software, you’ll know when a customer takes an action like completing a webform or clicking a link—and you can schedule an automated email to be sent as a follow-up.
But be sure to use those powers for good. You might seem more creepy than helpful if your follow-up email goes out immediately with an overly direct message like, “I know you just downloaded our e-book.” But if you use a delay timer to wait a day or so, you might be offering your help at just the right time: “Thanks for downloading our e-book! Do you have any questions I could answer for you?”
Do this: Make unsubscribing more casual
Not that: Remove the unsubscribe link from your email
Yes, “click here to unsubscribe” is not a helpful addition to an automated email that’s supposed to sound personal. But removing the unsubscribe link from the bottom of your email isn’t an option. No matter how personalized it is, every mass marketing email needs to provide a way for a customer to opt out of your list—and you can’t argue with the United States Congress on this one.
Instead, relax the wording of the unsubscribe link to make it sound a little less official. Try something like “Don’t want to hear from us anymore? Let us know here.”
Do: Use segmentation to personalize emails and offers
Don’t: Forget to ask customers what they want, too
A powerful component of automation software is its ability to help you segment your customers by demographics, interests, and purchase history. With Infusionsoft, you can apply tags—either manually or as the automatic result of actions taken by customers—to contacts that separate them into groups.
Segmenting your contacts allows you to send more personalized emails. For example, if you have a fitness studio that offers yoga, spinning, and CrossFit classes, you won’t have to blast CrossFit participants with irrelevant emails about yoga. But what if a CrossFitter decides to add some yoga to her workout routine? That’s why you should occasionally survey customers about their interests and the type of communication they want from your business.
Do: Send some emails from you, not the company
Don’t: Make them all about business
You probably get marketing emails from companies on a daily basis. When was the last time the CEO of a company sent you a personal email?
Make an impression by interrupting the stream of branded emails with a plain-text, logo-free message sent from your address—not from the company. The personal email is especially effective for a personal message, like a referral request or a check-in on a customer’s happiness.
But don’t be afraid to actually get personal in these personal emails. Send a funny video or ask customers how their kids are doing—something for the purpose of making conversation, not making a sale.