Automation is a huge buzzword in the marketing landscape today, and with good reason. If you can minimize cost, time, etc. and maximize your output, why wouldn’t you? The pitch is enticing – set up a campaign, let it run, make money. But, as is the case with most things, it’s hardly ever that simple.

I’ve been fortunate to build a team that is especially skilled at automating processes on our back-end, helping us to keep our costs low and our turn-times fast. Recently, though, we’ve shifted focus to automating front-end interactions and sales. The biggest challenge we’ve discovered is automating parts of the sales cycle while still providing value and doing what is best for our clients and prospects.

First and foremost, we want to provide a stellar customer experience. It’s the reason our current clients are working with us, and it’s what sets us apart from other print and marketing companies. With this in mind, we began discussing automation strategies that would put our clients first while streamlining some of our communication.

After a little research, it was an obvious choice to begin with a retention strategy for our current clients. We’ve already got their business, they like us, and the data says that they are the ones we should be paying attention to:

  • It’s 5X more cost effective to retain an existing client than to acquire a new one (source)
  • You have a 70% chance of making a sale to an existing client, whereas a new client is only around 10% (source)
  • Existing customers spend an average of 31% more than new customers (source)

So we rolled up our sleeves and got to work. We queued a few automated emails, each a little different:

  •  Check-In Email
  • Email promoting blog post
  • Upsell Email
  •  Referral Request Email
  • Whitepaper Email

We tracked open rates and responses, and at the end of our test we’d gained an extra $4,897.60 in revenue.

  • On average, our open rate was 42%, with our most popular email reaching as high as 51% open rate.
  • Our most popular email was our check-in email, which was a simple text email asking if there’s anything we can do to help.

We quickly learned that our clients weren’t averse to the automation as we’d feared, as long as we considered their experience throughout development and implementation.

Every email was sent from a distribution that went directly to our CSR team, so that if they responded we were able to assist them in the expedient fashion they were used to.

We included an unsubscribe link, so that if they weren’t a fan of the emails they could simply click a link and opt out of receiving.

Most importantly, we were genuine in the content we sent them. If we sent an article, it was one we thought could help them in their day to day business. If we asked for their feedback, it was because we really wanted it.

Automation can transform your sales cycle in big ways, but the most important thing we’ve learned is that just because you’re changing the execution doesn’t mean you should change your approach. By automating the communication we were already having – sincere check-ins to see if we can help, articles or content that we think can take our clients to the next level, and suggested products that we believe would interest them – we increased our sales with minimal effort.

So to summarize:

Should you be using automation in your sales? Absolutely.

Should you have a customer retention campaign? Definitely.

But if you really want your automation to perform for you, it needs to be customized to your company and your clients. This is not a one-size-fits-all scenario.

What are your thoughts? Have you had any success with automating your sales cycle or customer retention programs?

We like to give credit where credit is due. Photo by Austin Distel (

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