We all know that person - you know the one, who doesn't understand normal social signals. You keep trying to end the conversation. You're giving them all the cues: looking at your watch, trying to walk away, saying all the "conversation-enders" you can think of. But they just aren't getting it.
Well, I have a secret to tell you: YOU are that person. We are all that person.
I guarantee that you have contacts in your database that don't want to hear from you, but you keep talking to them anyway. I hear plenty of excuses for why: It takes too much time to stay on top of, it is too much work or simply that people are afraid of removing contacts.
Enough with the excuses. It's time for some spring cleaning (or in this case maybe a New Year's Resolution). The contacts who don't want to hear from you are annoyed that you keep trying, and you're wasting your time working to convince them instead of focusing on speaking to the contacts who do want to hear from you. So let's stop!
Contacts Who Have Told You They Don't Want to Hear From You
No matter what email tool you are using, you should be able to easily pull out lists of those people who have outright told you to stop. These days all automation or email tools will automatically remove individuals who unsubscribe from being sent further emails, but it leaves them sitting in your contact database.
Make sure you are regularly maintaining a list of people who unsubscribe or have emails bounce so that you can easily identify potential contacts for clean-up when it comes time to purge your database.
To do this in HubSpot, simply create a smart list which triggers on the "Emails Bounced" and "Opted Out of Email" contact properties.
Find out how to fix the 6 critical marketing KPIs your boss actually cares about here.
Contacts Who Are Too Shy to Tell You They Don't Want to Hear From You
Now to tackle the people who simply ignore you but never actually tell you they don't want to hear from you. These people are just giving you false hope and really messing with your reporting numbers, not to mention taking up valuable space in your contact database that you're probably paying for.
Re-engagement email nurturing campaigns are great for re-engaging those contacts who haven't engaged in a while that are interested in hearing from you while simultaneously showing you those who aren't interested.
Here's an example of a re-engagement campaign we've run:
Identify contacts who are unengaged: In our case, we selected contacts who haven't opened an email in more than six months.
Send them a re-engagement email: Our email reached out and requested that they tell us what kind of content they were interested in so that we could make sure not to send them unnecessary information.
Send them an email to update their email preferences: If, after four days, the contact didn't open the first email, we sent them another email. This allowed them option to either update their email preferences or unsubscribe.
Send them a final email letting them know they will be removed: If the contact still had not opened the previous emails after a week, we sent them a final email. It gave them one last chance to stay connected with us but letting them know they'd be removed from the list if we didn't hear from them.
Create a list of unengaged contacts: If the contact didn't engage with any of the emails sent, we added them to an unengaged contact list.
Automation is your friend: This workflow is always active and automatically adds new contacts anytime they meet the enrollment requirements, thus our un-engaged contact list is consistently being updated without us having to do any work!
Clean up Your Database
Now that we have three separate lists that are being updated for us on a regular basis, all we have to do is schedule in regular times to review those lists and purge our contact database.
This process will have to happen at different intervals depending upon the size and activity level in your database, but we recommend doing a purge of your contact list (actually removing contacts that you no longer want) twice a year.
Step 2: Determine What Makes Them Individuals
So, we've talked about the contacts who don't want to hear from you. On the flip side of that coin, there is a contact in your database just waiting to be emailed, nurtured or spoken to. Don't neglect them - learn about them!
If you take one thing away from this blog post, let it be this: Each entry in your contact database represents an individual person with likes, dislikes, hopes and dreams. So how do we start to think about our contacts as a collection of individuals rather than just a big database?
Take into account what they've looked at, downloaded or done on your site to consistently improve your knowledge of what they'd like to hear about.
I wish I could just hand you a recipe for how to do this, I really do. It would make my job a thousand times simpler if I could. How you set this up is highly dependent upon the content you currently have on your site, what you are asking your contacts, your customer journey and your industry. You could even say it is very individualized (pun absolutely intended). But what I can do is give you some tips!
Use progressive profiling: Make sure you are constantly growing your knowledge about contacts every time they submit a form on your site. Make a pledge to never ask your contact the same question twice.
Ask thoughtful questions: Don't just use boilerplate questions on your form. Ask questions that will help you talk to your contacts as individuals. If it helps you to know if a person likes bears, then ask them! You'll never be able to talk to your contacts as individuals if you don't know them as individuals.
Segment your database: Create segmented lists of contacts that group them together based on their responses to your questions or demographic information about them.
Pair like with like: When segmenting, make use of all the historical data you have about what that person has already looked at on your site. If they've shown interest in bears, then group them with other people who have shown interest in bears.
Step 3: Talk to Them About What They Want to Hear
One of the greatest quotes I heard at INBOUND was this: "Every email is considered spam if it is sent to the wrong person." The individuals in your database don't want to hear from a robot. They want to hear from a person.
Now for that dose of honesty I have talked about before. People know about marketing automation. They know they are getting autogenerated emails and that a person isn't sitting behind the scenes and writing a single email just for them.
But, they will gladly accept those emails if it is clear that plenty of thought and effort went into crafting them. As long as those autogenerated emails are talking about the things they want to hear about or the things they like, they don't care if they are automatic!
So make sure you are speaking to individuals about the things they want to hear, when they want to hear them.
Use workflows to carefully plan your conversion paths to offer information that is of interest to that person. We call these "next step" conversion pathways. For every piece of content on your site, you should have the next step already planned out for anyone who views or downloads that piece of content. Make sure your next step is highly topical to what your contact is already looking at.
Use workflow triggers to determine when it is the right time to talk to a contact. You don't want to bombard them with a bunch of sales heavy information if they aren't ready for it. Make sure you've mapped out all the triggers that signal when a person is ready for certain information and create automated workflows to deliver that information at precisely the right time.
For example, if someone downloads a case study that talks about how I have successfully trained bears, they may be ready for my sales material about how I can help train their bears.
This tip is for all the HubSpot users out there. Use smart content in emails, landing pages and website pages to talk to the specific segments you've created. You can personalize what you're saying to the people who are reading it. Don't talk to all your contacts about the exact same thing, talk to them about the things that they, as individuals, care about.
For example, I wouldn't send an email about how much fun it is to train bears to someone who's already told me they don't like bears. Instead I might talk to them about the animals they've told me they like. So maybe I use smart content to talk to that group of people about training parrots.
Step 4: Put It into Action
Now you have all the tools you need to really start talking to those contacts as individuals, but it will never work unless you think of them as individuals.
So my ask as you go forth into the wilderness alone is that, whenever you are creating any kind of content (website copy, emails, landing pages, etc.), you think about the individual on the other side of that thing. Stop trying to make one thing work for everyone and start trying to figure out how you can make each individual happier.
As I said before, people know about marketing automation. But, if it is clear that you put the time and effort in to make the messages presented to them as individualized as possible, I promise they will forgive you for using it.