WordPress Framework: eMail Service

In Digital Marketing by GreggLeave a Comment

(Note: This post is part two in a series about How To Build A WordPress Framework)

Last week I shared with you the state of affairs at LCMM. They were rather rough. After assessing what I had to work with, I decided to get email service with automation in place ASAP. The reason had to do with a few errors and missed opportunities that could have been prevented had someone been watching the membership carefully. But the position that was in charge of it, had seen several turnovers and the information and directions were lost along the way.

I wanted to automate as much as I could so I could take the human element out of the membership signups and renewals where possible. Membership cannot be fully automated because there will always be members we want to communicate with personally and there are some members that want/expect preferential treatment.

Another reason for email automation is that it’s one of the key elements of the marketing framework I had in mind. Email is one of the most powerful tools in a marketer’s toolkit. I’ll explain how I use it in another post. So here’s first step I took to build the framework: Constant Contact is replaced with ActiveCampaign

As I noted last week, the museum was using ConstantContact which is not a bad tool but it doesn’t do automation to the level I wanted. I wanted if/then/else logic so I could evaluate a contact’s records for key information and act on it. My first step was to setup an account with ActiveCampaign (AC) and import the list from ConstantContact (CC). The museum also uses a donor focused CRM called eTapistry. I pulled the past 5 years worth of members and their current membership and donor statuses and imported that into AC and updated the records that came from CC.

After the import, I realized I had some data clean up to do because the eTapistry database wasn’t in good shape either. There were duplicate, incomplete, and even unidentifiable records that needed to be dealt with. if there’s one tidbit I hope you get out of this it’s keep your databases in good working order. Clean them, maintain, them, do whatever you have to so you can rely on them when you need them.

With the contacts cleaned up and in one list it was time to build an automation.

Automation #1 – Membership Renewal

image of membership renewal automation

Membership renewal automation

The first automation I built looks for current members that are within 2 weeks of their renewal date and sends them a series of 3 emails soliciting a renewal. The automation sends the first email, waits a week, checks to see if they’ve renewed, and then sends them the next email if they haven’t. After 3 attempts, their profile is tagged as gonecold. In the image at right, you can see the full automation. Here are the tags in use:

  • member: this tag was used to indicate membership (before I created a list for the membership instead – I’ll explain why in a moment)
  • sendme: a holdover from when I first built this automation – a manual trigger. It’s not important.
  • lapsed: this tag was used to indicate memberships that had lapsed. It came from eTapistry and seemed like a good match to the member tag so I kept it
  • gonecold: I added this tag as a way to indicate the contact had gone through the automation but still hadn’t renewed so when I looked at lists of contacts I could easily see who hadn’t responded.

You’ll also see an emai notification in there. We send thank you notes to our members along with their membership cards. When a person renews electronically, I wanted to notify a human being so we would know to send the thank you and card out.

Lastly, you’ll see I unsubscribe the member from the list called “members” before I begin the automation. This way I can test to see if they have renewed because the actual processing of their renewal (another automation) adds them to the “members” list.

Automation #2 – Membership Solicitation

Because we hadn’t kept up with memberships, I built the second automation to look for contacts that were members but their membership had expired and send them a series of 3 emails – same approach as the 1st automation. The only difference between the two is the trigger and the content within the emails. This automation served allowed me to solicit the contacts we neglected to reach out to. It has since been removed.

Automation #3 – New Member Solicitation

A third automation looks for all contacts that are not members (and have never been) or donors and invites them to become a member. Again, a series of 3 emails with checks to see if the contact has become a member.

Single eMail List or Multiple

As I noted above, I started with a single list which I planned to use for general enews and solicitations. I planned to use tags to help me sort contacts into buckets and take action specific to each bucket but then I realized a single list was a mistake because membership renewals were sent out on this list too. I discovered it when a member unsubscribed after an enews went out. I realized now they’d never get the renewal reminder. I decided to create a second list for membership only that I could use to indicate status and use only for membership renewal emails.

Another discovery happened as I built a subscription form for use on Facebook, I wanted to offer the contacts a way to choose topics (the buckets) they were interested in so I could send only eNews they wanted. Here I realized something I hadn’t thought of – how to let the contact choose their topics and how to wire up AC so it would update their record to their wishes.

The answer is to add checkboxes to the form and then run the form results through another automation whenever it is submitted. The automation looks at each checkbox and evaluates it for yes or no and then updates their record accordingly. But this solution meant I needed to create multiple lists. AC makes it really easy to add contacts to another list so it didn’t take me much time to create the lists.

image of checkbox evaluation automation

Automation for checkbox evaluation.

Now I imagine there might be a way to keep only two lists and use tags but I didn’t think of nor research it and I was keeping in mind the bus test – the person who has to pick up where I left off if weren’t here tomorrow. I opted to go with separate lists for each of the topics because people are more used to working with lists than they are with tags. You can see the selection form on our website at https://www.lcmm.org in the sidebar. Here’s the automation that evaluates the checkboxes. Leave a comment below if you have a question or something to share!

In the next installment I’ll talk about the need for landing pages and how they provided a badly needed bandaid!

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