Is Email Automation Worth It?

There’s a lot of hype about automation out there, but can it actually help your organisation?

This month we’ve gone behind the scenes to reveal how FMG, New Zealand’s leading rural insurance provider, has made automation work for them.

Mark Stoneham, FMG Online Marketing Specialist shares FMG’s journey into email automation.  In the Q&A below, Mark reveals why FMG made the leap to automate their policy renewal communications, how they found the transition and what the results have meant for their organisation and customers.

PLUS – don’t miss the end of our Q&A, where Mark offers advice for other marketers looking to follow a similar path.

Q. What was FMG’s objective when considering automated email communication?

A. “We wanted to lift customer engagement and service levels by communicating more regularly with our customers, offering ongoing advice, tools and information that they find of value.

While email offered the most efficient channel to achieve this, we weren’t confident we had the resource available inhouse to commit to regularly sending high quality emails to our customers.

Automating our email communications meant our customers would always hear from us consistently, regardless of our people being away, or busy with other projects.”

Q. How would you describe the process of getting started with automation?

A. “People talk a lot about automation and it’s quite a scary concept because the idea that a message is going out to your client lists automatically, without any human intervention its quite hard to get your head around. Where do you start?

Having Marketing Impact on board to show us what we needed and provide us with a structure to work with, made it a lot easier. They came up with a solution using mi email that was cost effective and would require minimal ongoing intervention from us. Their technical team handled all the complexities and made it easy for us, without too much work from our end.

We can set and forget our email communications, knowing mi email has the structure and framework to make sure our clients get a great experience.”

Q. And how was the set-up process?

A. “The set-up process was relatively painful to begin with, but also valuable, as it provided us with the opportunity to streamline the communication processes at our end. We were able to work with our data team to get better quality customer data and once we locked down the process for the first workflow 90% of the work was done.

When we then rolled out all the other eDMs, we already had a good process in place and anything we’d learned from the first workflow could be incorporated into the next one to smooth out the process.”

Q. What has the results of email automation meant for FMG and its customers?

A. “Every week we now have thousands of emails going out to our customers that we don’t have to consciously think about – it just happens.  We wouldn’t have been able to achieve this with our current inhouse resource.

We don’t have to worry that the emails will go to the wrong person …it just works.

We’ve been able to offer our clients a much better service that just wouldn’t have been possible to achieve without automation. This lift in service is showing in our numbers.

A lot of people interact with the emails. They’ve definitely sparked two-way conversation, with clients now reaching out to us via our call centre to discuss their ongoing needs. All of this helps us move towards better retention which is what it’s all about.

As the automation system Marketing Impact has put in place is robust, we can now set up new automated eDM workflows ourselves inhouse.  The system can accommodate new templates easily and we’re confident we can turn it around relatively quickly.

Automation has freed up our marketing team to achieve so much more, knowing that the essential regular customer communication is already taken care off.”

Q. As the communications ‘just happen’ how do know if they’re sending (or not)?

A.“The reporting process gives us confidence that things are working, so it’s not just something invisible. We receive notification messages at our end every time an eDM goes out which is really valuable because we can see the process as it’s actually happening.

If things don’t work for whatever reason, it’s always something at our end – like a (data) process that might not have been run. When that happens, as Marketing Impact provides local support, we get immediate manual intervention from them, that allows us to deal with it quickly.  Overseas support just wouldn’t work for us – it has to be local.”

Mark’s advice for other organisations considering an automated email solution:

  • Don’t be afraid to take a bit of a leap into the unknown.With the right advice and support it’s going to be okay
  • There may be a little bit of pain in the beginning because the set up process requires that you examine your own processes – like making sure that your data is solid and robust. However, once you’ve done that everything else falls into line and it will ultimately free you up to so much more with your time that it makes it all worth it.
  • There’s no point in doing an automated email for the fun of it. You’ve really got to think about what you want to say, what result you want from your communication and be as targeted as possible.
  • Use your data to your advantage and personalise your communication to make sure what you’re offering is of value to your customers. Sending a generic email to everyone is not the way to do it.
  • Always think about what a specific customer or group of customers would find valuable and the more tools and insights you can offer the better the outcome and the more engagement.
  • Invest time in post analysis measurement as this is really valuable in learning what messages customers respond to and the difference in behaviours between those customers that have received messages and those that haven’t.
  • Choose a provider that can offer local (NZ) support. It’s important to be able to pick up the phone and get immediate help when you need it.

Thank you, Mark and FMG Insurance, for sharing your experience. We are delighted that automation has brought such positive results for FMG.

If you think marketing automation might offer similar benefits for your organisation, please contact us for an initial chat. You’ll find more information on our email tools here

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