• Russ Fradin
    Russ Fradin on July 29, 2014

    Why Employee Advocacy Matters

    Employee advocacy is an emerging new marketing strategy where companies empower their influential employees to authentically distribute brand approved content, create original content, and in turn earn recognition and rewards for their activity and participation.
  • Duo Consulting
    Michael Silverman on October 15, 2014

    4 Reasons Drupal Is the Best Social CMS

    It turns out Drupal and Social Media are a match made in heaven. Because of Drupal’s system of modules, integration with external websites can be as easy as installing a module that fits your site’s needs. And once these modules are installed, you will have a central place to manage profile information and plug-in modules, such as follow and share buttons.
  • Marketing automation is a fantastic way to make marketing efforts more efficient, and automated email workflows are no exception. By creating good workflows business can not only boost sales, but also increase the amount of time they have to spend on other tasks. This post explains how to create and use automated workflows, and gives a few examples of workflows that can be applied.

    You’ve built up your email list, you know how to compose emails that convert, now it’s time to make it all more efficient with email marketing automation!

    Think about it, you could sit at your computer all day composing countless emails attempting to bring your potential customers along through your conversion funnel in a seemingly never ending process, OR you could map out a structure that you follow each time and simply create an automated email flow that will do the work for you!

    There are all kinds of things you can automate, from your welcome flow to your shopping cart abandonment flow.

    In this post we will explore how to actually create an automated email workflow, and we’ll take a look at a few sample workflows to get you going.

    Why Email Marketing Automation is Important

    Before we get into how to build a workflow, first we need to establish why it’s so important to use email automation (aside, obviously, for the ease).

    According to a study by Silverpop, automated email campaigns have a 15% higher open rate than regular emails and 79% higher click through rates!

    Additionally, by creating workflows, A/B testing them, and always improving them you can create a highly optimized machine that will work for you to continually boost your sales and build your business.

    How to Build an Email Marketing Workflow

    Now that you understand the importance and significance of email marketing automation, let’s discuss how to go about creating an automated workflow.

    Step 1: Set Your Goals

    The first thing you should do when planning out a workflow is determine your goals. What do you want this series of emails to accomplish for you? There is no purpose in creating a workflow if you don’t know what you’re trying to achieve.

    There are any number of goals you could be shooting for – sales, returning customers, building trust, generating excitement, and more.

    Step 2: Plan Out How You Will Reach Your Goal

    Once you have your goal set, the next thing to do is to figure out how you will get to that goal. Within this step there are a few things you will need to actually do:

    First, you should think about each email workflow like a mini sales funnel. You want to bring your users from awareness to interest to desire to action.

    Obviously there will be some differences in each workflow depending on your goal, but this is the general formula you should follow.

    To accomplish this you can use a mixture of useful information, reviews, blog posts, coupons, and whatever else you have at your disposal.

    Next, keep in mind that you will not have 100% success in guiding your users through the funnel, so you should have a plan in place for every possible scenario that your users could present to you.

    For example, if you send out an email as part of a welcome series inviting your readers to sign up for your blog, some will sign up and some will not. Obviously you’re not going to send the same email to the people who do sign up as you would to the people who don’t.

    You can set different emails as responses, resend emails, or even transfer people into different workflows. No matter what you do, make sure that while mapping out your workflows you take into account all possible contingencies.

    Finally, determine the amount of time that will pass between each email that is sent out. The best way of doing this is by putting yourself in the customer’s shoes and thinking about how you would react when receiving the email.

    This is a tough balance to find, because on the one hand you don’t want to bombard your customers, but on the other hand you don’t want to lose the flow of your correspondence.

    Step 3: Write Your Emails

    Now that your flow is planned out and all possible contingencies are accounted for you should write up your emails according to our Ten Email Marketing Tips and follow our Tips to Boost your Open Rates.

    Step 4: Test Out and Tweak Your Emails

    As with any other marketing scheme that you implement you should always test out the success of your email workflows. See what is working and what isn’t. Test out different designs, copy, or subject lines. By doing this you will be able to find the formula that works best for your business.

    The other thing you should keep your eye on is if there are people that get lost in your workflows. It’s possible that your email copy is perfect, but you’re sending the wrong email at the wrong time. So keep an eye on which flows work best as a whole and try to optimize that as well.

    Examples of Email Workflows for eCommerce

    In order to help you to truly understand how a workflow works and how it can benefit your business, we wanted to give you a few examples of workflows that you can implement in your business today!

    Welcome Workflow – A Detailed Example

    The most classic email workflow is the welcome workflow. You can use this type of flow any time someone creates an account at your website – whether they made a purchase or not.

    Let’s build this workflow together by following the steps mentioned above. As we go through the steps we will analyze the equivalent emails from HootSuite’s welcome flow:

    Step 1: The goal of a welcome workflow generally speaking is to take someone who expressed interest in your products and gets them to make a purchase, with the idea that they will become a returning shopper.

    Step 2: In order to get this person to move along the sales funnel you could create a flow like this:

    Welcome email: This email should welcome the new member. Make it nice and friendly. You should include a bit of information about your company culture as well.

    • Goal of the email: Educating your potential customers about your business by creating a sense of familiarity.
    • Call to action of the email: Should be something simple like a link to your homepage, or to a page about your business (testimonials, press releases, etc.)
    • Timing: Immediately after registration.

    (HootSuite performed this email and the next one at the same time, so the example will be in the next section)

    Assistance Email: In this email you can ask if your reader needs more information or assistance. This could be either related to your products or related to the broader culture of your business.

    For example, if you sell cameras, this email could say something like “Do you need help choosing your next camera?” or, “Could you use some photo taking tips?”

    You should also prominently display your customer support information.

    • Goal of the email: Raising the level of familiarity between your customers and your business, while also educating them about the products in order to create trust.
    • Call to action of the email: This should link to something educational like your blog or one or two introductory level articles.
    • Timing: 3-7 days after the initial email.

     Hootsuite welcome workflow

    Products Email: Now it’s time to start sending some information about your actual products. In this email you can say something like, “Check out our newest collection of ______.”

    • Goal of the email: Moving your customers along the funnel from awareness to interest in your products.
    • Call to action of the email: You should send your readers to an optimized landing page with some of your highest selling products in order to draw in your potential customers.
    • Timing: Give your users some time. This should be sent about two weeks to a month after the last email.

     Hootsuite welcome email product

    Product Booster: In this next email you are going to want to make your products sound very appealing. You can use some great reviews, press mentions, case studies, free trials, or whatever else you can think of to make your products look great!

    • Goal of the email: Moving your customers from interest to desire by showing how good your products are.
    • Call to action of the email: You can send your users to any number of places. One option is to keep things on your site by sending them to an optimized landing page dedicated to a specific product or line of products that displays benefits and shows real testimonials. Another option would be to go off-site and send your readers to a recent article or review about your products.
    • Timing: 3-6 weeks after the previous email.

     Hootsuite welcome flow product booster

    Coupon Offer: Finally, you are trying to really push the sale by sending a coupon. In this email you can send a “limited time offer” to your readers.

    • Goal of the email: Get your readers to make a purchase
    • Call to action of the email: Keep it simple – “Get this coupon now!” “Offer ends today.” Anything that creates a sense of urgency and encourages immediate action.
    • Timing: A few weeks after the last email.

     Hootsuite welcome email special deal

    At this point, the idea is that you will have given your potential customer all the reasons in the world to make a purchase, and to make it specifically from you.

    As mentioned earlier though, it is very likely that your readers won’t follow the flow exactly as you expect them to. In order to best display this concept, we’re going to need to really map out the options.

    Here is a sample map of the above flow including potential consumer actions and responses to the different actions:

    Automated welcome email workflow

    Notice how built into the welcome flow map are any number of new flows that customers can be transferred to depending on how they interact with the emails. You can also resend the same email if it received no interaction, but you might want to change the subject line so it isn’t an exact duplicate.

    These maps (as you can see) can become quite complicated, but they are very important! Only by mapping out all possibilities will your automation become truly effective and personalized.

    Now that you have a more detailed understanding of how to put together a workflow we’re going to give you a few more (less detailed) examples of common workflows that you can use to boost your sales.

    Cart Abandonment Workflow

    Cart abandonment is a problem that plagues all eCommerce stores, so why not be ready with a workflow just for it?

    The goal of this flow is to make a sale

    1. Awareness: Send an email as a reminder prompting the customer to complete the purchase. For example, I received this email from Amazon:

     Amazon shopping cart abandonment email

    2. Awareness II/Interest: If that prompt wasn’t enough you can send another email with similar items as a secondary prompt. You can add in something like, check out our top selling _____ (relevant to the department your customer was interested in).

     Amazon shopping cart abandonment follow up

    3. Desire: Send an email with some product reviews or testimonials – “Look at what the New York Times has to say about our _____.”

    4. Action: Send a coupon.

    Purchase Workflow

    Obviously you should engage with your customers after they complete a purchase. Creating a workflow can take this process from simply being a thank you letter, to creating an upsell opportunity.

    The goal of this flow is an upsell

    1. Awareness: Start by thanking your customer for their purchase. Then you can include related products by saying something like “Congratulations on your new ________, you should consider our _______ to enhance the experience.”

    2. Interest/Desire: Send your customer useful information that will help them with their initial purchase – relevant blog posts, articles, and videos. In this content you should display how a related product could enhance the product which was purchased.

    3. Action: Ask your customer to fill out a survey of some sort – how the purchasing process was for them, if they are satisfied with their purchase, etc. – and include a coupon for the products you are trying to upsell as an incentive to complete the survey.

    VIP Customer Flow

    Every store has its most active customers – those that purchase the most, leave the most reviews, or share the most content. You can create a workflow to target your most engaged customers!

    The goal of this flow is to convert returning customers into super customers/brand advocates

    1. Awareness: Thank your most highly engaged customers, and tell them that they have been selected to be part of a VIP list that will include all sorts of “exclusive information” and private deals.

    2. Interest: Mention that you would like to put together an even more exclusive list of people who will get to try and review new products before they are released. Add an opt-in form for this in order to get the most engaged readers to join this list.

    3. Desire: Send an email to those who opted-in welcoming them to the elite club, and then get them started by asking them to review an idea that you have for a new product, or to review an old product which they already purchased. You can include a coupon as an incentive as well.

    4. Action: Thank your customers for their review, and explain that they will be receiving more new products at discounted rates to review, or coupons to review older products. You should then add in that they can receive further discounts by sharing their reviews on social media or elsewhere on the internet.

    Just like that you can take a customer and turn them into a brand advocate.

    Moving Forward

    There are all kinds of email workflows that you can set in place for your business – re-engagement flows, event flows (birthdays etc.), blog engagement flows, and more!

    If you don’t yet use workflows in your business you should definitely start slow. Begin by creating one or two flows, optimizing them, and getting them rolling before you start to create more flows. Otherwise you might not be able to track your flows as well as you should which will lead to inefficient email flows.

    Once you have a few work flows down pat and you know what works for you, then it’s time to start expanding and creating more workflows.

    That being said, I would still suggest mapping out all of the possibilities of flows and changes of direction in advance, and then filling them in with actual content as you move along.

    That wraps up our series on email marketing. If you haven’t already, I suggest checking out our previous posts on building your mailing listgetting your emails opened, and writing emails that convert!

    You’ve seen them, I’ve seen them, and we’ve all seen them. From corporate blogs, to personal blogs to blogs on ecommerce sites, it’s the dreaded content drought. Blogs that start off with a bang, fall off a cliff when suddenly no content gets published anymore. Here is a great technique to get over your writers block and ensure your content is engaging and shareable.

    One of the hardest things about blogging is coming up with ideas for content.

    You’ve seen them, I’ve seen them, and we’ve all seen them. Whether from corporate blogs, to personal blogs to blogs on ecommerce sites, it’s the dreaded content drought. Blogs that start off with a bang, fall off a cliff when suddenly no content gets published anymore.

    More often than not, this happens before the blog even gets its readership off the ground. You’ll see post after post of content with no shares and no comments. As a writer I’ve been there, and I can sympathize with how frustrating that can be.

    But as an ecommerce business owner, you should not give up. In fact you can not give up, since blogging and content creation are so vital in any good online marketing strategy.

    I’m going to share with you a great technique to not only never run out of content ideas but also ensure that your content will be high quality, and highly shareable. It’s become known in online circles are the “skyscraper technique”.

    It’s a pretty simple strategy actually, and like many effective strategies, it’s made up of 3 steps.

    1.     Find something that works

    2.     Make it better

    3.     Promote it

    So what exactly does that mean? Stay tuned.

    Step 1: Find something that works

    The first step in the skyscraper technique is to find something that works. What does that mean exactly? It means your first step is a bit of research. You want to do some research to find articles in your domain that have previously gotten a high level of engagement and a high level of social shares or comments. While you could try to pinpoint these posts via Google or just by manually browsing through blogs you may read yourself, there is an easier way. There are in fact a number of tools that can help you do so.

    One that I like is called BuzzSumo.


    It’s a great tool that allows you to search for content by topic. Even better it shows you the social engagement numbers of the content it finds. Here’s an example.



    Now with those results I can see the type “ecommerce marketing” content that has performed well in the past.



    Let’s take a closer look at result #3 “7 Tips for Improving Your Ecommerce Strategy”

    This article looks like a prime candidate for skyscrapering. SO now let’s go to Step 2.

    Step 2: Make it better

    The thing that was appealing about the article we selected was the format. Research will show that list based articles not are not only high performing, but as a writer they are often easier to create. Instead of having to write one long form piece, list break up your posts into smaller digestible chunks. In this case 7 of them.

    The outline of the post is as follows:

    1.     Create a user oriented experience

    2.     Design services you’d want to use yourself

    3.     Customer feedback is crucial

    4.     Utilize social media

    5.     Invest in mobile

    6.     Incentivize customers

    7.     Be ever evolving

    So now with that what you want to do is try to improve on the original following a similar format. There are a number of ways that you can improve on each tip. First and foremost, if your writing style is different and you can add whatever personal slant you can onto a piece that in itself can drastically refresh a piece of content. By the same token if the piece is not brand new, you there is also an opportunity for impro9vement by simply updating any statistics or findings in the post.

    Finally adding additional multimedia or case study type examples is another simple way to upgrade a post and put your own spin on things.

    Now finally the last step.

    Step 3: Promotion

    There are a number of ways to promote your blog content. Simply put you need to be putting as much, if not more effort into promoting your content as you do creating it. While there really are no silver bullets to guarantee “going viral” there are a number of best practices to keep in mind when you’re promoting blog content.

    First, get your timing right. The obvious place for promoting your content is in social media. But if you have a number of social media profiles it’s important to keep in mind the different behavior and timing that works best in each channel.

    Some info from HubSpot shows the following


    Time: Later in the day, between 2p.m. and 4p.m. EST

    Day: Monday thru Thursday

    Frequency: 3-4x/day


    Time: Between 10a.m. and 4p.m.

    Day: Monday thru Thursday

    Frequency: Once/day


    Time/day: before and after business hours. Not on weekends

    Frequency: Once/day

    Second, spend some time trying to get a killer headline. Believe it or not there is a bit of a science behind headlines and that science is why we all at one time or another find ourselves clicking on the content we see from the likes of Buzzfeed and Upworthy. While much of this takes some getting used to a simple formula you can follow is

    number + keyword + adjective + promise

    For example: 7 Super Duper Ways to Spice Up a Turkey

    Lastly, when it comes to Twitter in particular. Pay attention to the hashtags that are trending and may be relevant to your content. Hashtags are an often overlooked (and simple) way to help ensure your posts are getting in front of the right audience.

    And there you have it, a simple 3 steps process to help you create great content that will be shared!

    Welcome to another Social Media Today webinar as part of the Best Thinker webinar series, this time on the topic of What Does Customer Experience Mean for Your Social Business?

    This week I moderated another Social Media Today webinar as part of their Best Thinker webinar series, this time on the topic of What Does Customer Experience Mean for Your Social Business? We assembled a really fantastic panel to give us their perspective on this topic: Jeofrey Bean, a noted author on “The Customer Experience Revolution” and Principle at Del Mar Research; Shep Hyken, the Chief Amazement Officer and Customer Experience expert at Shepard Presentations; and Dave Haucke, a Senior Strategist for IBM’s Smarter Commerce. This webinar was also sponsored by IBM.

    Jeofrey started us off with a discussion on "Why customer experience?" and more importantly, "Why now?" After defining the difference between Customer Experience and User Experience, he dove into some research his firm had produced around what percentage of companies are focusing on customer experience. The data reminded me a bit of Geoffrey Moore’s book Crossing the Chasm – where 5% of the market were leaders in customer experience (early adopters), 25% were focused on either the user experience or the customer experience (fast followers) and 75% were leading with their product or service (late adopters).

    Shep took over after Jeofrey and talked about the journey from "reacting to engaging." He cited some research that mentioned the average response time on social media was 9 hours when the customer expectation of a response time was closer to 1 hour. He also talked about keeping your response in the “channel” and not answering a tweet with a snail mail response (true example).

    Dave then finished off the presentations with a deep dive on how to move from the current state to your desired state. He cited some IBM research that show there were three key behaviors common to success and they are: First, break the typical silos and barriers to that get in the way of being customer focused and treating customers more holistically. Second create a system of engagement that enables listening and interacting with customers much more effectively. Third, foster a customer-centric culture that focuses on establishing a win-win with the customer.

    Now, if you have ever been on a Social Media Today webinar before, you know they are very “participant-driven” and we love to ask your questions of our panelists. Some of the questions we covered in this webinar were: What is the difference between service design and customer experience? Should everyone have a branded Twitter handle, Is social media becoming the dominant channel for interacting with customers?

    If that piqued your interest, you will want to hear the replay of this webinar or review the slides from this webinar. Otherwise we hope you will join us on another Social Media Today webinar! The next one is on What Does Customer Experience Mean for Your Social Business; sign up for it or view the schedule of upcoming webinars here.

    Also to follow the play-by-play Twitter action, just read the following Storify:

    A great way to start marketing your company is to start blogging. Topics and ideas that are creative and eye catching will generate great interaction for your company. Don’t get writers block when thinking of topics and ideas to write about. If you take the time to think about blog topics, you might be surprised to find it is easier than you think.

    A great way to start marketing your company is to start blogging. Topics and ideas that are creative and eye catching will generate great interaction for your company. Don’t get writers block when thinking of topics and ideas to write about. If you take the time to think about blog topics, you might be surprised to find it is easier than you think. Follow our 5 creative ways to come up with blog topics to prove that you are truly a leader within your industry.

    1.     What are common questions that people ask you?

    Are there any specific questions that you hear more often than others? What does everyone what to know about your field? Many times you can write blog topics about questions that you hear multiple times. Answer these questions in a blog and share it with your followers on social media.

    2.     Use other bloggers to generate ideas.

    If you have an idea for a blog, chances are someone else has already written about the same topic. Start by reading another blog and think of questions that you may have after you finish it. Are there other ways that you can add to or improve it? There are many ways you can take others ideas and turn them into your own. Do NOT plagiarize or even slightly reference another blogger without citing the source.

    3.     Use your email inbox.

    Imagine how many emails you receive on a daily basis. Do you find yourself answering multiple questions or find an interesting title in your inbox? Turn it into a blog! These subjects and questions that your clients, colleagues and peers are sending and asking you are perfect for blog topics. Take 5 minutes and scan your inbox for titles that stick out to you.

    4.     Use your coworkers and employees as a resource.

    Use the creative mental library that your coworkers have on a daily basis. If you are working against the clock, it is very valuable to use others to help generate ideas and topics for you to write about. This incredible resource is untapped until you ask the simple question, “Do you have any ideas for a blog topic?” Most of the time they will pause and think of great topics, but shortly after they will surely give you great insight.

    5.     Search your competitors

    Another great way to find what topics work well in your industry is to search through a competitor’s blogs. They are in the same boat as you in thinking of blog topics. It may not be far off to think that other companies are searching through your blogs to see which ones are shared the most and have the most valuable information.

    If you often have writers block when thinking of creative ways to come up with blog topics, take these simple tips and use them. Find which ones best fit you and your industry. If you are a smaller company and do not have many colleagues to bounce ideas off of, use our other tips. We take these tips to heart in creating each and every blog so that we can be sure to share the most unique and valuable information for our followers. You can too!

    Improving your business’s security is certainly not easy, but it’s best to start with what many consider the first line of defense. Passwords can protect your accounts and business data, but only if they’re used effectively. Hackers like an easy target and having difficult-to-crack passwords can persuade them to look elsewhere.

    Protecting your company seems more difficult than ever these days. It feels like every week there are new stories of companies becoming victims of security breaches that not only affect revenue but can severely damage a business’s reputation. Most business owners will say that securing company data is one of their top priorities, but there’s still a question over how to do it most effectively. In fact, many businesses may overlook one of the simplest yet most powerful ways to foil hackers--the use of passwords. It may sound like a strategy that’s all too basic for today’s high-tech age, but passwords remain an effective deterrent to security breaches, provided they’re employed in a manner that maximizes their effectiveness. That means you have to know the tricks to what makes a good password and how best to manage them throughout your company.


    The first steps towards creating a good password is to ensure it’s a strong one. Simply using a loved one’s birthday or the name of your first pet isn’t good enough and can easily be cracked by hackers. A strong password should follow some very basic guidelines. First, it should be at least eight characters long, preferably more. The general rule is that the longer the password, the more difficult it is to figure out. Second, passwords should include capital letters, numbers, and symbols to make each password all the more unique. Third, passwords should be changed on a regular basis. Even if you think you have a really strong password, changing it ensures that hackers will be kept guessing. And fourth, you should use different passwords for every account you have.

    That last point can be the source of a lot of headaches for business owners and IT departments. When businesses have dozens to hundreds of employees, and each employee uses multiple important accounts, providing a strong, unique password for each account can be a real challenge. One way to make the workload easier is to have each employee responsible for his or her own passwords, no matter how many accounts they have. This requires a great deal of trust on the part of the business owner, but that can be increased with the right education and training. Once employees know what constitutes a strong password, and once they’re aware of the security threats out there, they’ll take the responsibility seriously and make sure their passwords prevent outside attacks.

    If you prefer a more hands-on approach to company-wide password management, however, there are numerous tools out there that can aid you in the task. Password management applications and programs help business owners keep track of all the passwords used by employees for business purposes. They can also help individuals remember all their passwords by keeping them in one location. It might seem like an unwise strategy to store all your passwords in one place, but as long as you have a strong master password that gives you access to them, the alternative of using only one password for every account could be even more dangerous. In addition to that, having two-step authentication to access your password manager is a good idea. Password applications can also randomly generate a strong password, so you don’t have to spend effort on coming up with a unique code for every single account you have.

    As mentioned above, there are many password managers to choose from to help you improve your network security. 1Password is a popular program that stores passwords while also accessing passwords that are already on the user’s web browser. LastPass was one of the first password managers to debut back in 2008, and it works with web browsers as an extension, remembering the passwords you use for your accounts. Passpack is another handy program designed with businesses specifically in mind, where managers have tighter control over who has access to certain passwords.

    Improving your business’s security is certainly not easy, but it’s best to start with what many consider the first line of defense. Passwords can protect your accounts and business data, but only if they’re used effectively. Hackers like an easy target and having difficult-to-crack passwords can persuade them to look elsewhere. With your passwords well taken care of, you’ll be able to focus on other aspects of security, making for a much safer environment for your business.