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Use Follow-up Emails to Beat the 'Forgetting Curve'

Written by Julia Borgini

Published on February 20, 2018

"What is the Empire State Building?"

"Who is Picasso?"

"What is the Atlantic Ocean?"

One of my favorite things is trivia and more specifically, Jeopardy! I try to catch the show every weekday and have been trying to get on the show for the last two decades. (Without success, mind you, but I'll keep trying!) Even though I'm well-removed from my last formal classroom setting, I still remember a lot of what I learned because I'm constantly using the information. Nightly Jeopardy games, monthly trivia games with friends, and the daily New York Times crossword puzzle keep this information fresh in my mind so that it's always easy to retrieve.

When it comes to learning something for work, you have to move beyond the "use it or lose it" mentality since you're not always around to help customers "use it". You don't know how often they're using the tactics we've taught them or if they've found different ways to accomplish the same tasks. But there's one thing you can do that may help. — Using your marketing colleague's email automation software to send timely emails to help customers apply what they learned.

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Why use email automation software in customer education

Marketers use email automation (also known as email autoresponders) to help prospects and customers stay updated on the latest news and information about your company, your products, and your industry.

Learning pros can use it for the targeted reason of keeping customers updated on their product knowledge, to reinforce anything they may have learned in a previously-taken course or webinar or to explain how to use the latest product enhancement.

Nurture prospects with educational emails

It can also be used to increase engagement with prospects by nurturing them to the point where they'll actually buy your products. This kind of small engagement through a quick email series deepens the engagement with the prospect while not taking up too much of their time. Plus you also demonstrate an ROI they could enjoy if they used your products, as well as show off the value you bring in your education materials (another solid revenue point if your company sells education packages separately to customers).

Deepen the relationship with existing customers

For customers that have already bought products or services from you, educational email series can be used to move them deeper into your "sphere of influence". Move them toward your highest value products and facilitate them becoming customer influencers and advocates.

These customers also typically fall through the cracks of communication, since they're no longer new and are off the "new customer/onboarding" track and aren't yet on the "it's time to renew" track.

An email series for existing customers would help keep them engaged with the company and the product, setting them up as a receptive audience to further marketing or education programs.

Getting started with email automation in customer education

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There are several steps to using email automation to reinforce customer education.*

*Reminder: Anti-spam laws around the world govern who you can send emails to, so please look up the laws in your country before embarking on any email autoresponder campaign. (Chances are your customer agreements will cover you in these cases, but ServiceRocket does not bear any responsibility for anyone who fails to adhere to those laws.)

1. Map the customer education journey

Before getting started with any emails, you need to:

  1. Define each step in the education journey, from the brand-new customer who only just learned how to use your product to product experts who only need to know how to use the latest product enhancement.

  2. Establish the content customers need to move forward in their learning journey, matching it to any existing content you have or identifying the content you need to create. This is just the learning content you'll use in the emails, not the emails themselves.

  3. Map each of the steps for each customer type with the different content you have or need to create.

2. Map the emails to each education journey

Marketers will have different goals for each email series, such as making a purchase or signing up for a webinar. The goal in customer education is to be, well, educational. For these customer education emails, the goal is to reinforce the knowledge customers have about how to use your product, whether they knew how to perform the task prior to reading the emails or not.

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Before we get in to the actual content of the emails, we need to first lay out the email sequence you're going to use for each education journey.

  1. Determine the length of your email sequence. That is, how many emails are you going to send for each particular education journey? A complex task may require 7-10 emails, while a simple one only 2-3.

  2. Determine the timing of the emails. When are you going to send each one? E.g. The first email is sent 1 day after a trigger event (like finishing a course or after a webinar); the 2nd four days later; the 3rd six days later; and so on. Make sure to choose a timeline that will keep the information fresh in your customer's mind so they're not taken completely by surprise by the next email in the sequence.

  3. Decide whether you are going to do any education program promotion in the emails. Most marketing email autoresponder series have an 80/20 blend of educational content and promotional content, or at most, a 70/30 blend. Your education email autoresponders should be on the higher end education-wise, say 95+%, but that doesn't mean you can include any promotional content. Just use it judiciously so you're not overwhelming the content. After all, the point of the emails is to education first.

Reminder: You don't have to have any promotional content in there at all if you don't want to. Using email automation for customer education is a pretty new thing, so you can set the standard however you like.

3. Write the email content

Now it's time to write those emails, keeping in mind the particular education journey you're writing for, the goal of the email series, and who's reading them.

Some quick tips on things to remember are (read this post for more details):

  • Focus on the reader.

  • Always give them value in the information they're reading. You're asking for more of their time, so make it worth it.

  • Consider the ‘from’ line of your emails and whether you want customers to reply back to it.

  • Give readers a method to send you questions or find more information themselves. Include links to your online resources, customer support email addresses and phone numbers, and whatever other resources you think they could need.

  • Make it personal and use regular language.

  • Write an attention-grabbing subject line so they know what the email is about and are tempted to open it.

  • Make your emails easy to read. Remember that not everyone can view images right away in their email clients at work and videos should never be on autoplay.

  • Proofread your emails. use correct grammar, spelling and punctuation.

Final thought on emails

One of the beauties of technology is the way we're able to use it in ways it wasn't originally intended. Email automation software is great at sending out automated emails to a specific audience on a specific timeline. Marketers use it to great effect to get the word out about your products. Customer education pros should use it as another channel for education, by sending email-based lessons and reminders.

Not only does it make sense to use email automation for customer education, but it also increases the ROI of the software itself. Upper management will be happy that more than just the marketing team is using it and that it's helping generate more revenue for the company.

Using the email automation software for customer education is another way to stay engaged with customers, ensure they're receiving good value for their purchase of your products, and helps you develop them into product experts.

Are you using email automation in your customer education strategy? Share your experiences in the comments as we'd love to hear more about it.

Originally published Feb 20, 2018 7:00:00 PM, updated Feb 20, 2018