Transcript of The Ins and Outs of Marketing Automation
John Jantsch: This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast is brought to you by Gusto, modern, easy payroll benefits for small businesses across the country, and because you’re a listener, you get three months free when you run your first payroll. Find out at gusto.com/tape.
John Jantsch: Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast. This is John Jantsch and my guest today is Jason VandeBoom. He is the CEO and founder of the CRM and marketing automation platform known as ActiveCampaign and we’re going to talk about how CRM and how relationship building and how email marketing and marketing automation have changed for the better. Jason’s going to talk about some of the things they are doing there at ActiveCampaign. So Jason, thanks for joining me.
Jason VandeBoom: Yeah, thanks for having me. Looking forward to it.
John Jantsch: So you know, marketing automation has been with us for a while and it certainly was a real boon I think for a lot of folks that were at least attempting to kind of help drive the funnel or drive people down the funnel or whatever the term that they used for it, but it’s really not that personal or at least in the traditional way. I think a lot of people have found a lot of ways to abuse it, let’s put it that way. So what is your take on marketing automation space in general right now?
Jason VandeBoom: Yeah, I think if you look in the past, it started from a good place, saving time, maybe personalizing experiences and whatnot, but ultimately the focus has been so much on kind of the time savings, replacing humans as much as possible and that leads to experiences that are less than ideal. Also, as an industry, we always talk about personalization, we talk about highly personalized to the contact level, but then when we look at what you can build within marketing automation platforms, it’s oftentimes personalization doesn’t mean personalization by the individual. It means a grouping of people or a segment of people getting these unique experiences. So that makes them not actually that unique at all because there’s so many other contacts or customers going through that same workflow.
John Jantsch: Well, and I think there’s no question that at least… You know, you go to the conferences today and everybody’s talking about personalization, personalization, and I think that for some people it’s not gone beyond, Hey, first name, here’s my email.
Jason VandeBoom: Exactly. Yeah.
John Jantsch: And I think that that’s the nut we have to crack, isn’t it? I mean, it’s great talking about personalization, but how do we do it? I started the show off talking about customer experience automation and predictive sending. So let’s just lay that out. I mean, how does that work that’s any different than designing campaigns so to speak?
Jason VandeBoom: Sure. Yeah. And I think there’s those two focuses, it’s the bringing humans in at the right time and then functionality that can be developed and predictive sending is a good example of that where instead of thinking about messaging that’s delivered at the same time for a group of individuals, really learning from the contact level when is the best time, and not just when is the best time to open, but when is the best time for someone to be willing or open to respond to the engagement from the brand.
John Jantsch: Let me stop you right there because I just want to clarify that. So how would… Let’s say we send out, we have this list, we think they all care about the same thing or they care about the same product and we send them an email or something that explains a new offering. I mean, how would then timing be changed? Would it be changed based on the behavior, how they interacted or didn’t interact or what they did would, would actually automatically sort of put them in another timing?
Jason VandeBoom: Yeah, so a couple of different things. If you don’t know a lot about them, then we have to go to baseline ideas that have been done in the past of just like overall time zone, overall characteristics, compared to other contacts that kind of follow the same attributes and whatnot. But then as you get a better understanding of that individual, the timing should change. So predictive sending is very much about a message going out, right? But where we’re going with that as well is not just like in terms of a message, but think about predictively figuring out the optimal time for a sales rep to reach out. So really finding that blend of like automation and human touch, because timing plays such a key role with most any sales process and also post-sale process of getting someone to actually see value out of whatever you’re selling.
John Jantsch: So another thing that’s very common is we’ll have an ebook. It has a great promise, a great message, and people want to get it, but just because they downloaded that, I mean doesn’t necessarily mean… I mean they were solving a different problem. They were in a different stage of their journey or searching. I mean how do we then kind of take this thinking and say, “Okay, let’s add what we think they need in terms of content”? I mean how do we actually, so not just send different timing but maybe different content altogether? Is that part of kind of the new norm?
Jason VandeBoom: Yeah. No, I think that’s something that has been talked about for years and years and years and it’s ultimately fallen into the idea of just like then use split testing or something like that. Split tests down emails is nothing new. Split testing within an automation workflow is something we’ve had for quite some time and some others have started to grow their own versions of that, but ultimately that still is trying to figure out like one solution that’s going to work well for everyone or for a group or for a segment of contacts, when in reality what we should be thinking about is within that content of the message, whether it be an email, whether it be on another channel, determining based on that individual contact what type of content would work best and not necessarily trying to find the number one winner across a variety of options.
Jason VandeBoom: So doing that for messaging is very much… that’s kind of where we’re spending a bunch of time right now and then also taking the concepts and fundamentals of like split testing actual workflows, but doing that in a way where it’s not split testing to some singular end result, but actually finding the right paths and the right content by the individual contact.
John Jantsch: And so the implication, if we’re going to use the word automation here, is that I’m not just sitting here with a giant spreadsheet of all my split tests and plugging in data and then redirecting or remessaging. The idea here is that there’s an automation aspect of that.
Jason VandeBoom: Exactly, yeah, and that there’s an intelligence built in where to try to create those, like right now it’s very static experiences that you have to try to create to create these personalized workflows. Instead of having to build out thousands, tens of thousands, of workflows to try to get that granularity and personalization, that trust can be enabled within a platform to help you get there faster.
John Jantsch: For those that aren’t familiar with the backend or workings of ActiveCampaign, they use something they call automations where you can kind of drag and drop, do this, then do that, if they do this do that. So how, with that really, really brief explanation, how has now… how has the artificial intelligence that’s being built in here and the decision making process, how does that change that kind of drag and drop approach?
Jason VandeBoom: Yeah, so the approach is still there. It just provides… That’s the general theme of a direction. Meaning a good way of thinking about automations is just thinking about a flow chart. You have a start with your flowchart, that’s typically the trigger. Something happens to create the automation and then you have a sequence of events like you said, and then the only time you have actually different experiences would be if you have like if and else, so like if an action occurs then do something, otherwise go down a different path. And that’s how you create that like tree looking situation within a flowchart.
Jason VandeBoom: So taking that but making the actual paths vary by the contact and the independent timing between those actions, whether it be sending a message or when’s the optimal time to get sales or customer success involved, and then also within the content. So you’re personalizing the paths, you’re personalizing the actual content, you’re personalizing the timing, creating a really going from a static experience that everyone sort of hits all those check boxes at the same time with the same content to something that is far more dynamic and individual to the individual contact.
John Jantsch: And so then is the software platform merely making recommendations to me as the user that hey, we’re seeing this or this format of content is getting all the play. You ought to move this direction or is it just automatically making those alterations for me?
Jason VandeBoom: Yeah, so we believe that nobody would really trust it out of the box if it was just like we’re going to make all the decisions for you. So instead of that, you still know your business more than anyone else at the end of the day. So you probably know your customer propel, you know what will probably work one way or the other. So allowing you to kind of set that up and then choose as you gain more and more confidence with the platform what you want to allow the platform to play around with, so whether it be the timing aspect or if you want to… you like the idea of personalized content, you don’t necessarily want to split test it and you want it to actually be a little bit more dynamic by the contact, allowing you to sort of enable these different pieces as you gain more and more trust.
Jason VandeBoom: Now we’re also working on ways where we can make suggestions. Things that maybe are not thought of today or maybe you have automations that are currently running and we’re seeing something with the data that just, you know, maybe you haven’t analyzed quite yet or just something that may not make sense outside of what the data actually tells and to surface some of those as recommendations, but still then allowing that business owner or that marketer to choose to opt in on some of those things. Eventually the idea is it should not… like a true platform that’s focused on CX automation shouldn’t feel like a tool. It should feel more like a business partner, it should feel like it’s actually adding value, enabling you to do more.
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John Jantsch: So one of the things that I think a lot of business owners struggle with obviously is you hear about a platform like this and you think, “Oh this is great. This is going to do all the work for me.” But in reality, if we don’t set our businesses or our lead capture processes up on the front end right, I mean it’s probably not going to collect anything that you could do anything with. So what are some best practices for say, routing and segmenting and capturing somebody… enough data about somebody so that we can kind of understand what bucket to put them in even?
Jason VandeBoom: Yeah. So a couple things. I would say one err on capturing more data than you may even think you need right now. By having that capture and having that capture historically allows you to actually be able to do something in the future. The other thing I would spend a lot of time, not so much thinking about tactically how you’re going to cause a conversion or how you’re going to cause certain actions to take place, but what are those key pieces? What are those key conversions that you care about?
Jason VandeBoom: Sometimes it’s obvious, like it’s actually purchasing the product or whatnot, but then with your own insight and knowledge into, going back to you know your business more than anyone else or any other platform from a different vantage point, what are those influencers you think that may assist along the way? Like what are those key points where someone starts to find value and whatnot? And that isn’t always like a quantitative sort of thinking. Oftentimes it’s much more qualitative in the way of you just think something has some sort of a weight to it. Where all the sudden they start seeing the value or they become a little bit more hooked with the product or service you’re offering.
Jason VandeBoom: When you start figuring out what those are, then you can build out more tactical execution as to how do you drive more of that behavior and how do you drive ultimately to that conversion. But if you’re not thinking about those and if you’re not thinking about the key conversion events, you’re really just going to struggle quite a bit and there’s nothing that can really help, because everything has to work to some end goal.
John Jantsch: Yeah, and I think one of the things that I’ve always struggled with frankly is I have a couple of very unique segments and some listeners are probably going to say, “Yeah, you’re not doing this well,” but they need very different messages, but it’s not always obvious who they are. I know that sounds really vague, but how hard is it in that kind of initial, hey, here’s a piece of content that you found really compelling. You wanted to give me your email address, but now I want to know who you are. And you know, common wisdom is, hey, just get the email address and don’t put any more friction up, but by taking that path, I’m also not learning how to serve them.
Jason VandeBoom: Yep.
John Jantsch: So help me out. What’s the best practice for should… Once somebody gives that and they get the content, should we immediately go to asking them to sort of self identify?
Jason VandeBoom: I think it’s a couple of things. One, I do believe in the less is more up front to get the process going. So maybe you just start with that email address. Based on that, ideally your first couple of pieces of content or first messages going out have some clear… like if it’s actual content that’s enabling something, there’s a couple of different varieties in there. So based on engagement with that, you can classify and don’t just treat it as like there’s a link click or something like that and now you know that someone has something. You can set maybe a tag or something to that contact so you have a general understanding, but then trying to find different ways, just basic like profiling of as they take more action over time to get something, either from their action or them to fill something out additionally in the future.
Jason VandeBoom: But it also goes back to just kind of testing overall, because there’s the what content are they interested in, which I think a lot of people focus on, and there’s the how do they actually like to consume the content, which I think more people need to focus on sooner than later. And that could be simple as like some people like to consume heavy content and versus like more of a CliffsNotes style and a bunch of different similar types of variations. But I think that piece focusing on both at the same time in small iterations, not trying to get it all at once, is probably the best path forward.
John Jantsch: So let’s outline just kind of a very typical use case. It’s really common these days to have an indoctrination series. So somebody is new to you, they come and they say, “Hey, I like what you’re doing here. I want to get this checklist. Get on your list, start getting stuff from you,” and then we kind of drip out, typically been written as an automation. Maybe we put two days or three days between each and we drip out what we think will be useful information in a sequence of maybe over 45 or 60 days. They should know, assuming they read it all, a lot more about us. How would that very common practice be changed in a CX automation predictive sending way?
Jason VandeBoom: Sure. So for one, instead of having a single piece of content each step of the way, ultimately having the ability to have multiple versions but not testing for a single source of truth. So as you have a better understanding of both what types of content they’re looking to consume but how they want to consume it, it can start personalizing to that behavior. Additionally, there’s different types of people for consuming the content and maybe different levels of maturity if you will or want for consumption in terms of timing.
Jason VandeBoom: So based on interaction, based on if we can start grouping things up based on attributes that are known prior, even if they’re anonymous attributes such as like the pages they visited, sources, things like that to possibly accelerate that entire process that you’re talking about, but to do both of those things at more of an individual level instead of just trying to get like the one overall, and I think that’s the theme of where things are going in the future is all too often in the past we’ve really tried to optimize for this one overall workflow or this one overall like drip set of emails that overall is the best. But we’re leaving a lot on the table by really having to just focus on the overall instead of thinking about it at a far more personalized level.
John Jantsch: So the typical sort of person that actually is very engaged, ready to solve their problem, they want to consume the content in five days instead of five weeks would get that experience because they demonstrated that behavior.
Jason VandeBoom: Yes. But then ultimately, you know, at the end of the day, try and get all of this to tie to like going back to those key pieces that you know that are going to be drivers for your conversions and your actual conversions as well, because at the end of the day that’s what we should all be optimizing for is those known sort of events or transformative moments where they’re actually converting.
John Jantsch: Yeah. So it’s just a matter of of how we deliver them to that event.
Jason VandeBoom: Exactly.
John Jantsch: Great. So what’s in the future then? I know we’re talking about stuff that is new and people are still wrapping their heads around, but I’m guessing that you’ve road mapped an evolution of this even.
Jason VandeBoom: Yeah, so quite a bit, and it all revolves… there’s a lot more to do with timing. When you start thinking about when humans are involved in any form of a process, the timing is so critical, whether it be a phone call or reach outs and whatnot. So really digging into that further. The content piece, we’re just sort of scratching the surface of. We’re investing quite a bit into that right now. Making a truly personalized content where we’re not just testing to a single end result, but really the best variation and trying to get predictive content across channels as well and not just stick to just email.
Jason VandeBoom: And then there’s the concept of like dynamic routing, so like we have, you know, as marketers, we create these funnels and whatnot that you’ve been describing and they’re not like normally just thought up of from nothing. They’re, to your point, it’s well thought out, been doing these for quite a while, and so allowing a marketer to create a couple of these and then dynamically placing context down them, but not necessarily testing for the single one answer, but finding the optimal one.
Jason VandeBoom: After that, it’s very much about how do we take all of these practices and provide predictions and provide ideas. So seeing all the data, so you know, all the movement doing these personalizations and whatnot, we should be able to predict more and more. So even as you start off as a marketer using the platform, you should be able to get guidance as to like, here’s something, here’s a recipe for a sequence of events that we think would improve sales by X or save Y number of hours building off how do you make more and more of these predictions and how you actually follow up with the outcome, that’s ultimately where we’re looking to go.
John Jantsch: Of course it means you have to pay attention to what’s actually going on behind the scenes doesn’t it?
Jason VandeBoom: Yeah.
John Jantsch: And I mean that sort of facetiously, but sort of not. Because it’s not a matter of setting these things up if you’re not going to analyze them and learn from them, then you know you probably won’t get nearly as much out of them.
Jason VandeBoom: Yeah.
John Jantsch: So Jason, I know people can find all they want about ActiveCampaign at activecampaign.com but are you… this is June of 2019 so dependent upon when people are listening to this, are you doing conferences or any kind of roadshow or anything that people need to know about?
Jason VandeBoom: Yeah, sure. I’m at a couple of things in the upcoming months. I think Traction is the next conference I’ll be at. Otherwise we have, we’re doing over 200 marketing events this year throughout the world where we’re really talking about marketing strategy and whatnot and helping people grow their business. That can be found at activecampaign.com/events, .com/events and then other than that, anyone wanting to reach out, I can always be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
John Jantsch: Awesome. Thanks Jason, and hopefully we’ll run into you next time I’m up in the Chicago area.
Jason VandeBoom: Sounds good. Thank you.