About a month ago my dog died. And I'm not going to lie – it was pretty rough.
Receiving this email a few days after my dog died just added to the despair.
But this post isn't about my dog. It's about about email automation and how it can go awry.
This company made a few mistakes. And they're actually pretty common mistakes. It's easy to think of email automation as a tool to make money automagically. But to make it work you have to care how someone signs up, what you're providing, and what their experience looks like.
Did I Even Sign up??
Their first assumption was if I provide an email address that I want to be added to their newsletter.
And that's not always true. In this case this was a one time event. They're an emergency vet. We have a vet 3 blocks from our house that we love. And we go there for any non-emergencies.
Coffee shops do this all the time with Square. I'll get an email (since my email is already in Square's system) for some promotion by a coffee shop. And 9/10 times I'll immediately unsubscribe.
If you send promotions rarely and people can easily subscribe this isn't a big issue. But it is annoying.
Lesson: If I provide an email address for billing purposes don't add it to you list without asking.
How I Got on the List
The second assumption they made is if you show up at the clinic that you want to hear about their other products.
Again, this is an emergency vet. Assuming we do want to hear more from you talk about your emergency vet services. Maybe you now have 2 doctors on staff 24 hours instead of 1 doctor. That's related to the service that I used.
For every other vet service like shots I'm going to go to my regular vet.
Lesson: Segment your list. Understand the needs of your users and send them useful information. Don't blast them.
If I buy your product or sign up for your service I signed up for your list for a reason. Maybe I want up to date news, or a discount on products, or maybe I want to learn something in your area of expertise.
If I sign up to your list for a 10% off coupon. Deliver the coupon. Don't make me wait a week for the coupon (I've had that happen).
When someone signs up for your list they're giving you something. And it's usually an exchange. They give you their email address in return for something. Provide that thing before you hit them with the marketing emails.
Lesson: Immediately after signing up for a list deliver that value.
In this case, provide some tips on mourning you pet. Refer me to a pet loss support group, send me to an article about what to do when your pet dies (ex. how to decide if & when to cremate your pet).
Be Careful & Empathetic
And lastly, be careful around sensitive topics. If you're a vet and you want your business to last 10-20 years 100% of your clients will go through pet loss.
If 100% of your clients go through anything you should build that into your automation. Especially with something hard like losing a pet.
This is where it's helpful to have personas. Use those personas to imagine their experience.
If you're a 24 hour emergency vet you should have a “holy shit everything is going bad” persona. Someone who has never been to your company & they are only coming for this one emergency.
You can design a flow just for that one persona and design different flows for other personas. Someone who might be interested in your other services.
Email Automation is a Skill
I don't doubt that this is a good company. I know they know their stuff when it comes to pet care.
But be aware that email marketing / email automation is a skill. It's more complicated than a light switch. It's something you build & improve over time.