This week we were joined by Jason VandeBoom, Founder & CEO of ActiveCampaign, to discuss communicating with customers during COVID-19.
We start the podcast off talking about how to approach communicating with customers during COVID-19 from a 30,000 foot view. Jason stresses the importance of communication during such an important and dynamic time, but cautions companies against rushing to get a message out the door. Take a step back and be thoughtful with your messaging and how you are delivering it. It’s also important that you put your customers first and not over-focus on specific marketing metrics (open rates, click rates, etc.), because you can have a bunch of people open your emails and subsequently be left a bad taste in their mouth which diminishes your brand.
Next, we start to discuss best practices based on the large swath of data from ActiveCampaign’s customers. Get as personal as possible (both in terms of how segmenting customers) but also in terms of how it’s getting delivered. Jason recommends sending emails from a person (vs. a generic company inbox) and have the replies go to that individual if you can. Lose the heavily formatted, corporate-feeling email and go with a plain, simple template. The fact that it looks a little imperfect will actually help you come across as personal in your outreach.
When it comes to personalization at scale, Jason suggests splicing your customers as narrowly as possible. It will take longer to get the messaging out and curate your content, but it won’t go unnoticed. Instead of shooting from the hip with messaging that will be relevant for 50-60% of your customer base, bring that into a smaller grouping so that you can hone your messaging to be relevant and helpful for your audience. Another best practice he is seeing emerge is having an individual actually talk to that specific customer. It’s a heavier lift, but when done right it comes off as extremely personal and helpful. Leading with value instead of the hard pitch is now more applicable than ever. For example, if you are a vertical SaaS company, lead with new ideas and helpful insights about the industry instead of talking about your services. This may sound basic, but it’s important to come back to the fundamentals here.
Next, we tackle how to address potentially over-communicating with customers. His basic rule of thumb: if there’s no value to share, don’t message. Fewer messages fine-tuned for the smallest audience possible is far superior to messages sent in bulk large generic groups.
Another common mistake Jason sees is companies not engaging as much as they should out of fear of contraction or churn. Now is the time to lean in and build goodwill, not shy away from a potential churn conversation. Get creative, offer credits, etc. to see how you can maintain logos who are struggling. Be upfront with your customers and they’ll remember you for it.
One helpful tip when crafting your customer communication strategy: map out your customer journey. Especially as you scale, you have different teams communicating with customers across different channels with different systems. When you fully understand the journey someone goes through as a customer, you’ll often have an a-ha moment of what you’re either missing or what you’re overdoing.
We wrap things up with some parting advice – while it may go against instinct, especially at a time like this, but less messaging is far more effective. People’s perception of your brand and customer advocacy of your brand can be destroyed much faster than it’s created, so really take the time to get your messaging right, which starts with getting your company’s culture and approach to messaging right.
Jason VandeBoom is the Founder and CEO of ActiveCampaign. ActiveCampaign’s category-defining Customer Experience Automation Platform helps over 95,000 businesses in 168 countries meaningfully engage with their customers. The platform gives businesses of all sizes access to hundreds of pre-built automations that combine email marketing, marketing automation, CRM, and machine learning for powerful segmentation and personalization across social, email, messaging, chat, and text.
Jason has been named to Crain’s Chicago Business 40 Under 40 list and was a 2019 Midwest finalist for EY’s Entrepreneur of the Year program. He is a member of Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO), the Economic Club of Chicago, and serves on the board of the Future Founders Foundation.