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Guest column: From cross-selling to asking for feedback, marketing automation can help you take your business to the next level

Email marketing is still one of the best ways to create customer loyalty, boost sales and, ultimately, grow your business.

Many small businesses, especially those in the retail industry, have a good grasp of the basics of email marketing. They make an effort to grow their email list, and they regularly send out newsletters.

So I often get asked: “What’s next? What more can I do with email marketing to drive sales? What are my next steps?” My answer is “marketing automation!”

If you have the basics of email marketing covered, you definitely want to start looking at marketing automation. This means that you’ll be sending automatic emails based on some conditions and triggers. You set it up once, and then the system works for you, automatically, 24/7.

Let's look at four automatic emails you should set up to increase customer loyalty, raise your customers' lifetime value and simply make more sales.

1) Be polite: welcome your new friends

Send a welcome email when people sign up for your email list online or in-store. In this email, you should thank them for registering and welcome them to the group (the club, the VIP list, et cetera). You should also let them know what they can expect to find in the emails they’ll receive from you and how often they should expect to see your company’s name in their inbox. Finally, why not incentivize them to make a purchase with an exclusive, time-limited offer?

2) Educate them on their purchase

You and your employees probably always get the same questions about your products. Be proactive and send your customers the answers before they even have to ask. Do you have tips to share with your customers, best use cases for the product they bought, ideas of unusual uses, maintenance instructions? Make sure they receive everything they need to know about their purchase by email.

It will make their experience so much more positive, and that’s obviously a good thing (for testimonials, word-of-mouth recommendations and repeat purchases). Set up that automatic email that will be sent when a customer buys a certain product or type of product.

3) Would you like fries with your burger?

Cross-selling (suggesting an additional, complementary product to people who have made a purchase) is an old tactic that is still very effective. And guess what? It works like a charm with email and marketing automation!

Map out your different product categories (A) and figure out what category is complementary to each (B). Finally, set up an email that will be sent when someone makes a purchase of A that will contain information and an incentive to buy B (a special offer, a coupon, et cetera).

I know a mattress retailer that started offering pillows, sheets and mattress covers to people who buy mattresses. They significantly increased their average customer lifetime value by doing so—all with automatic emails.

4) Receive testimonials on autopilot

I’m pretty sure that most of your customers are happy with their purchase and have a positive opinion of your brand. It's just that if you don’t ask them, they'll rarely tell you.

Why not send an automatic email to all your customers asking them for feedback after a certain time delay that makes sense for your product? Keep it short and simple; just ask a few questions. You’ll be surprised to see how many good testimonials you receive. Then you can use them on your website and on social media to help you make more sales.

Invest a bit of time and effort in setting up these emails, and you’ll see that marketing automation will truly help you grow your business!

Antoine Bonicalzi has been involved in digital marketing since 2009. Occupying key roles in several agencies, he has helped hundreds of small businesses succeed with digital marketing. Today, as the marketing director for Cyberimpact, a Canadian email marketing platform, Antoine has the responsibility of growing its user base across the country. His role involves communicating the secrets of email marketing to Canadian businesses and organizations through articles, training workshops and seminars.