How email marketing automation allows you to manage your interior design leads in your sleep

In this article, you will learn why email automation is important for managing leads and growing your interior design business.  I’ll give you the nitty-gritty on what features are important for interior designers so you don’t have to waste a single minute researching the bewildering world of email automation.

Most interior designers don’t know what email automation is much less how it can help grow their business. Even if you did understand the importance of email automation, how do you know which one to choose?   What do you look for? What features are important? How much does it cost? And ultimately, which one is the right solution for my business?

This article will bring you into the 21st century of modern business and answer the following important questions necessary to drive your business forward using email automation.

  • What is email automation and how it can help my business?
  • What email automation tools are out there and which features are important?
  • Will the system work with my website form?
  • Which system does Renovate Digital recommend?
  • Which email automation system is right for my business?

What is email automation and how it can help my interior design business?

As the name infers, email automation allows you to efficiently manage email communication with your design prospects and customers. To illustrate, let’s consider life before and after email automation.

Before email automation

  1. Obtain the prospect or customer’s email address.
  2. Create a new email, plug in the customer’s email address, type your message and hit Send.
  3. Put a follow-up not on your calendar to reach out to Ms. Prospect if she hasn’t responded within a week.
  4. A week goes by. You check your email and note Ms. Prospect hasn’t responded so you send a follow-up email.
  5. Put another follow-up note on your calendar to reach out to Ms. Prospect again if she hasn’t responded within another week.
  6. Another week goes by. This time maybe you pick up the phone and call Ms. Prospect.

interior designer typing an email

After email automation

  1. Ms. Prospect is perusing your website, finds the design impressive and the content really speaks to her. She decides to stay in touch with your interior design business so she subscribes to your email list.
  2. After submitting the signup form, Ms. Prospect’s name and email are sent to your email automation system.
  3. Within a few minutes, the system automatically sends Ms. Prospect a welcome email thanking her for trusting in your business to provide her with interior design information.
  4. The next day the email system automatically sends another email to Ms. Prospect inviting her to check out one of the blog articles you think she would like. Ms. Prospect clicks the link and reads the article. She’s impressed that you cared enough to follow up and provide more valuable information. No strings attached!

    dog sleeping
    This is you, managing leads in your sleep!
  5. Three days later the email system automatically sends another email to Ms. Prospect inviting her to check out yet another article that you think she would like. Ms. Prospect clicks the link and reads the article. She’s even more impressed now because (a) the article answered many of her burning questions and (b) you didn’t try to sell her anything.
  6. Three days later the email system automatically sends another email to Ms. Prospect inviting her to check out yet another article. You know the drill. This time there’s an offer at the end of the email inviting Ms. Prospect to schedule a free no-obligation consultation with you.  Ms. Prospect isn’t quite ready for that so does not reach out at this time.
  7. A few more weeks of emails containing valuable information goes out to Ms. Prospect. With each email, she is more and more impressed with your expertise. And, she feels like she can really trust you.
  8. This goes on for a few weeks until one day Ms. Prospect decides to schedule the consultation call.

The above example is just one of many ways to engage with prospects. And a very simple example as you will discover later when we begin to discuss system features.

Email automation is not just for prospects. It can also be a highly effective way to engage with your customers so your business stays top-of-mind until they are ready to start a new project.  But, that’s another topic for another article. Back to email automation tools…

Now, imagine if there were 50 Ms. Prospects. The email system could easily handle sending and keeping track of emails for 50 more prospects. Could you? Would you even want to? I think not.

Email automation easily and accurately communicates with your prospects and customers with the right information, at the right time, simultaneously and automatically. Even when you sleep.

What email automation tools are out there and which features are important?

There are numerous online email marketing tools that automate the process including the ever popular Mailchimp, ActiveCampaign, HubSpot, InfusionSoft, ConstantContact, Drip and tons more.  There are even business management software systems (all-in-one) that include email automation as part of its feature set along with invoicing, accounting, scheduling, and more. These solutions are often not very robust.

The solutions range in price from free to hundreds of dollars per month. They also range in capabilities from simple to robust.

Let’s explore the key features an email automation system must have to support your interior design business.

Crucial Features

Lead segmentation – Lead segmentation, also known as tagging, allows you to differentiate one lead from another. You can flag the account to indicate the prospect is interested in a kitchen to remodel, master bathroom redesigns and/or living room refresh. This allows you to send targeted email campaigns based on the prospects’ interested.

Targeted campaigns – As mentioned above under lead segmentation, you can send targeted campaigns based on a variety of distinguishing attributes such as the prospects’ interests and/or the persons’ status (customer vs. prospect). The possibilities are limitless.

Personalized emails – Personalized emails allows you to take specific data elements you’ve captured about the prospect on the web form, such as name, and populate it into your email. Who wouldn’t rather get an email addressed to “Hi Tammy” vs. “Hey, you there”? Personalization builds trust and humanizes you and your prospect.

Web activity tracking – With simple code placed your website, the email system can actually track which web page the user was on, where they clicked and more. This information combined with the email system activities (such as which emails were sent, opened, links clicked) gives you a much clearer picture of how interested the person is. 

Integrations – Integration allows your email system to share data with your other business management systems such as our CRM. For example, when a prospect submits an online web form you can pass the data to your CRM. 

Integration with your personal email (Gmail or Hotmail) allows you to easily communicate with prospects from your email system.

Nifty features, but not crucial

Subscription forms – Many email automation platforms offer the ability to build a form which you can have appear on your website. In many cases, these forms are limited in formatting and require special coding in order to consistently reflect your brand fonts and colors, but are a nice to have feature if your website isn’t currently using a form provider.

Lead scoring – Lead scoring allows you to allocate points to a lead based on the action they’ve taken. The total score can then be used to send targeted campaigns. For example, let’s say you have 5 points added to the user when they click on an email link, which may indicate the level of interest. When the total points for any user exceed 100 you could send an email offering a free consultation appointment.

SMS marketing – SMS marketing allows you to incorporate text messaging into your communication strategy. So instead of sending an email communication, you would send a text message. 

A/B Testing (split testing) – A/B testing allows you to perform testing to improve your emails. Essentially, you would create two multiple campaigns that are identical with the exception of one element, such as a subject line or text or link color. The emails would then be sent out 50/50. 50% of the recipients would get email version 1 and the other 50% would get email version 2. You would review the statistics to determine which version has a greater open rate. That would be the better email. From there you could continue to make more and more changes to arrive at a stellar email. 

Other important considerations

Price / FeesSome platforms require a setup fee in addition to ongoing monthly/annual fees, but many don’t. Be aware of all fees and factor them into your overall decision when choosing a system.

Ease of useThe easier the system is to use, the more you’ll use it and the more effective it will be in helping grow your business.

Templates – Templates can be a life-saver in terms of time and effectiveness. Many platforms provide templates that are proven effective so you don’t have to start from scratch. And, because you only need to swap out a few words or images, setup is a snap.

Training & Support – Great training and support is crucial. When you have an issue or question, the answer needs to be easy to find either via online documentation or by contacting the company.  Don’t underestimate the value of great support!

Will the system work with my website form?

In the Ms. Prospects example above, our prospect submitted an online form from your website. Just as there are an array of email automation platform options, there are just as many form options. The key is to make sure your website form easily integrates with the email automation system you select. 

Integration? Huh? What I mean by ‘integration’ is that the form provider includes standard functionality that automatically passes the form data to a specified list on the email automation system, along with specified tags or categories (for segmenting) and data fields such as name and email.

An easy way to find out if your form provider integrates with the email automation tool you chose is to do a Google search. Plug in this search:

    Does [form provider] integrate with [email automation tool]?

    For example:      Does OptinMonster integrate with ActiveCampaign?

        

Review the search results to see if there’s any indication that the two systems can be easily integrated.

google results

Caution: Be sure to contact your web admin and confirm the two systems easily integrate before making a final decision on which email automation system to select. Googling email is helpful but always best to get confirmation from an expert.

If you don’t currently have a website form, check out GravityForms. It is the only form app you will ever need with the possible exception of a pop-up form, in which case OptinMonster should be your jam.  More on this in a different article. Back to email automation…

Which system does Renovate Digital recommend?

If you know anything about me, you know I don’t pull punches. My goal is to help interior design businesses attract leads and grow their business and save you time and money along the way. So, you won’t find me publishing a giant list of automation tools and why you should choose each. Instead, I will only recommend what I’ve had first-hand experience with and know will accomplish your business objectives to attract more leads and grow.  I promised to save you time and money and I meant it.

I’ve tried two of email automation systems – Mailchimp and ActiveCampaign. Both will do the job well, but ActiveCampaign will do it better AND offers more robust features to support you with future growth.

Both systems are affordable, easy to use and offer the crucial features I outlined above.  What I like more about ActiveCampaign is they offer different plans. You can start extremely affordable ($9/month for 500 subscribers on their Lite plan), and when you’re in a better position to afford more robust, growth-oriented features, you can easily upgrade without having to start over setting up an entirely new system.

Key highlights of the two systems I recommend are below.

mailchimp logo

  • Mailchimp includes all of the crucial features
  • It’s free for the first 2500 email subscribers on your list.
  • Easy to set up with lots of online tutorials to assist
  • Integrates well with many website CMSs (Content Management Systems) such as WordPress
  • Has great online support

activecampaign logo

  • ActiveCampaign offers a free 14-day trial
  • Includes all of the crucial features
  • The basic plan is only $9/month. The price increases as your subscribers increase.
  • Advanced segmentation marketing automation that will support you as you grow
  • Sales + CRM (available on the 2nd tier plan and above)

Which email automation system is right for my business?

As I mentioned above, both Mailchimp and ActiveCampaign are great systems. 

If you’re serious about growing your business, choose ActiveCampaign. Why? Because when you are experiencing growth, the last thing you want to do is stop, set up a new tool, convert the data over and duplicate the automation, just so you can leverage more advanced features. ActiveCampaign allows you to click one button to upgrade. Simple.

If you are looking for email automation features but aren’t necessarily looking to grow or expand your business, choose Mailchimp. Why? It will serve you well and is free up to 2500 email subscribers.

 

Choose an email automation system and STICK WITH IT

It’s absolutely crucial that whatever system you choose, you stick with it for the long haul. Even though many email platforms allow you to easily export and import your contacts from one system to another, there is no way to transfer your “reputation”.

That’s right. Over time you build up an online email reputation with your email provider. In a nutshell, email systems such as Hotmail, Gmail, and others learn to recognize and trust you. This trust is based in part on the email platform you are using whether it’s Mailchimp, ActiveCampaign or something else.

When you switch to a different email platform, you start from scratch building up your reputation and as a result, may see a drop in deliverability which directly impacts conversions. Why chance it? As ActiveCampaign puts it:

Moving to a new email provider is sort of like changing your domain name and losing your Google rankings for SEO. It doesn’t always happen, but you may see a drop in deliverability.

What now?

  • Make email marketing and automation a priority. 
  • Don’t just choose the easiest and cheapest solution. Consider your goals and start with a solution that will support you into the future even if it means starting with a base plan and upgrading down the road.
  • Choose an automated email system and open an account today.


Are you currently using an automated email system? Why or why not?  Would love to know your experience. Please comment below.


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