Trigger-based emails, rules-based emails, real-time emails, or auto-responder emails are great tools for today’s marketers. Regardless of what you call it, these are the emails we receive as customers after doing something or buying something. We get order confirmations, email reminders, survey invitations, e-newsletter subscriptions and product cross-sell promotions. As an online customers , my inbox is bombarded. Some of them are relevant and timely and catch my attention, others I ignore and then eventually unsubscribe.

A “promise” of trigger-based emails is that you can “set it and forget it.” However, there are several variables in email marketing that can always be tested and optimized. Some examples are the subject line, preheaders, design, layout, copy, calls to action, timing, message/offer, etc. Given this, how can a trigger-based campaign be truly set and forgotten about?

I think some companies have forgotten about me. At some point, ignoring emails leads to annoyance and opt-outs. We have advised clients to look at bounces, open rates, and click-through rates to develop rules to purge non-responders, or move them to a campaign with fewer communications. While trigger-based emails are automated, they require the human brain to set them up for success. The last thing businesses need, especially in B2B, is customer fatigue and  a shrinking opt-in email list they worked so hard to develop.

The arrival of ecommerce and other web technologies created a lot of talk about the leveling of the playing field between small / mid-sized businesses and large business. For a while, there was some truth to this. Today, scale and size are back in town. Big and well resourced firms can again spend their way to success supporting multi-channel, content-driven campaigns.


What started with a web site with some site analytics then advertising is now video, Facebook, Twitter, email, etc, etc, etc. Each channel has its own subtleties and each are rapidly evolving as all the players try to own the future. For the average small or mid-sized business – life in the fast lane is tough. Dizzying is probably the right word.


Participating is a start but you are only really going to engage your target audience if you have some interesting to say. Not sure how many thought leaders there are in your business but inspiration is sometimes tough to find. Making sure the invoice goes out right gets the priority. Even collecting and distributing other people’s creative genius is hard work. How much credit do you really get for retweeting?

Support technology

This is a lot to manage. Staying on top of marketing automation, web analytics and social media monitoring tools etc, etc, etc is tough. Startups with great tools keep turning up but they are often focused on making their money by working with big companies so good luck getting a reply to your email. Otherwise, they are so busy developing their product that they don’t have time to actually sell it. So again, good luck getting a reply to your email. You can try signing up for a trial. Unfortunately, most providers have not taken the lessons of companies like 37 Signals. The monthly fee might be small but you have to donate half of one person’s week to figure out how to make it work. Multiple that by X for every platform that you want / need to try.

So…. What to do?

Don’t give up

Stay involved. Things will improve. Applications will get simpler. New solutions will emerge. Stake your claim on every new thing so you don’t have to come up with some convoluted user name / handle in the future.

Campaign in a box

A campaign in a box is coming. The obvious market opportunity is to wrap services around some good low cost technology applications to give small and mid-sized businesses what they need to compete. No learning curve, help with content and social media management in partnership with your existing team. More to come from us on this. We think that it is time to level the playing field (again).

At the Schwab Advisor Services meeting in New York yesterday, about 40 advisors joined to discuss a broad vision for achieving a digital presence with social media. In describing the “how to” I shared ways of thinking about digital presence and the role of social media. To help describe ways to get started, I outlined strategies that included actions for revenue strategy, revenue systems and revenue programs. But even this breakdown of strategy and planning recommendations are a lot to tackle for a busy advisor getting started with social media. I often get the question – “OK, but what are the top three things you suggest? Here are three things I would start with to get established online:

1) Solid Website – all roads lead back here, so make sure you have a foundation you are pleased with and relevant content as well as the ability to engage your audience to download items and register for interactions.

  • Clean professionally branded
  • Relevant content
  • Conversion capabilities

2) Professional LinkedIn Profiles – This is the easiest to manage from a compliance point of view and it is very well aligned with the advisor business of referrals and relationships.

  • Keyword aligned, current, descriptive profile and business page
  • Professional photo
  • Active network and # of connections

3) Active Content Sharing – With these two platforms in place, a steady stream of relevant publishing will help place you in the minds of your audience as knowledgeable and help reinforce your credibility when it is time to make a decision.

  • Sharing relevant material, text
  • Use video if you can to explain and introduce your firm (host on YouTube)
  • Publish regularly using a blog format with an RSS feed

I am writing this post from the Acela train heading back to Boston after an interactive session with about 40 clients of Schwab Advisor Services in New York. One discussion at the event was with Adam Sheer from the Roosevelt Investment Group which was particularly interesting and I think offers some guidance when thinking about strategies for using Twitter and what content to share across social nets.

The Roosevelt Investment Group prides itself on always adding value in their interactions with clients. These interactions, today, use email or other 1:1 communication. So, when considering using a platform like Twitter, what should their approach be? What content should they tweet and share? An example I shared in my presentation was about ReTweeting a “good news” post from a client relationship as a way to help build the relationship. However, since the Tweet may have no direct relevance to investment management, would it be of any interest to the followers of the firm? The answer depends on the strategy employed and the role of your Twitter ID. What do you want to be known for on Twitter? Are you building a network of people and tweeting on multiple topics or only on business topics? After all, we know that Twitter is not just a business network…and the choice is yours.

So what is the lesson?

Yes, you can mix personal and business tweets – but begin by thinking about the role of your Twitter channel. Do you want a range of personal communications or a feed of posts about specific content themes? Perhaps you should consider multiple Twitter IDs – personal and business. Is your Twitter feed going to be about multiple topics, or focused on a specific audience?

Among wealth managers/ financial advisers, there remains skepticism about using social media and a digital marketing with a stronger online presence. As I prepare for an updated “Day-in-the-life of an adviser” talk next week with Schwab RIAs (clients of Schwab Advisor Services), I created a summary slide to serve as an abstract for the talk. The slide sums up the key messages for me:

  • While digital marketing will not and should not replace personal 1:1 relationship strategies, it can help you grow your practice and deepen existing relationships – particularly among your increasingly connected client base.
  • A good online presence can help you shift your business mix from traditional “outbound” activity to “inbound” – lowering cost of client acquisition.
  • But, as content proliferates, clients will increasingly use “relevance filters” – using search, influencers and their human “social networks” for trusted answers. It is hard to “game the system”
  • And, for advisors, regulation and changing technology add risk and confusion.
  • So, what should you do?
  • Today more than ever, firms need an effective digital marketing strategy and plan that aligns with their target client strategy.

The follow-on question is what makes up that strategy?

We focus on the three elements of the Revenue Architecture – keeping it simple, breaking it down:

1 Revenue Strategy

  • Set your ambition
  • Segment your audience & define long-tail positions
  • Build value propositions
  • Measure capability and gaps
  • Envision creative strategies

2 Revenue Systems

  • Design a solid website for brand experience
  • Configure and deploy foundation technology / services for digital marketing
  • Establish digital/social outposts

3 Revenue Programs

  • Design creative multi-touch campaigns
  • Develop a month-to-month/ week to week calendar
  • Create multi-media content
  • Publish and engage