What is intelligence-driven marketing automation and how can you implement it?
You don’t just want to sell to your customers – you want to build a relationship with them.
Marketing automation creates a data-driven, personalized conversation with customers. You can learn about individual preferences and use that data to deliver a more effective follow-up method.
But, so often, the automated follow-up we end up using falls short of that goal.
Intelligence-driven marketing is here to help – but you still have to know how to do it.
This post will tell you:

  • What intelligence-driven marketing is
  • The 3 processes that power intelligence-driven marketing (and help you reach more customers quickly)

What is intelligence-driven marketing?

Intelligence-driven marketing is when you give each person a unique experience – created based on the information you have about them.
No two people are the same, so no two people should have the same experience.
The content of your messages and the timing of your messages are tailored to that single contact — who they are and what they want. What you’re sending is relevant, so they’re more likely to…

  • Open your emails
  • Click on a call-to-action

But isn’t it easier to mass email everyone? Targeting each contact is SO much work.
Yes, that is easier. And sometimes an email blast is useful. But there’s a catch.
The problem with traditional email marketing —  both email blasts and autoresponder sequences — is that every contact gets the same message.
Depending on the types of emails you send, that can get confusing for customers — because some of what you say is on target, but some of it isn’t.
This leaves them unsure of two things:

  • If you understand their exact needs
  • If your solution is right for them.

So, intelligence-driven marketing is powered by these three processes:

  1. Know your audience and the experience they need
  2. Personalize the content you give them
  3. Customize send times that work best for them

 1. Know your audience

To really know your audience, you need to go beyond their name and phone number
You need to ask questions that will help you understand more about their goals and the problems they’re trying to solve.
This information is your gold mine.

Setting up your marketing automation so that it can “listen” to your contacts is the crucial first step to more focused, targeted, and personalized messaging.
So how do you make it “listen?” How do you learn about their interests?

  • Custom form fields
  • Site and event tracking
  • Behavior monitoring
  • Lead scoring

Custom form fields

A short opt-in form can definitely be more appealing to fill out. But there’s something to be said for knowing exactly what messages a contact should (and shouldn’t) receive.
You can test to see whether adding a single question to your opt-in in form will help you find a contact’s exact interests. Make it easy for them to fill out (and you could even make it optional).

Your form can be whatever you want it to be.
At first, the test might look like a bust if your opt-in conversion rate decreases. Don’t worry! You could see a purchase conversion increase because of your more targeted follow-up sequence.
And you can use a service like ConvertFlow to do progressive profiling so that you can dynamically display different fields on forms. That way you’re always collecting new information.
Features you need:

  • A form builder
  • Custom fields

Resources to help you get started:

Site and event tracking

A big part of intelligence gathering is setting up your marketing automation to “listen” as your contacts give you signals.
Site tracking “listens” and lets you to see how your contact interacts with your website.

Say that a contact views 10 pages in a certain category of your site. You can assume that the category of products or information is their main interest.
Based on that, you can create an automation that tags them as “Interested in X” and use that tag to begin a more targeted follow-up sequence.
Event tracking lets you monitor specific behaviors like logging in, watching a video, and more.

To get started, we’ve given a list of great resources below.
Features you need:

  • Site Tracking
  • Event Tracking
  • Tagging

Resources to help you get started:

Monitor different behaviors

“Actions speak louder than words.” – Abraham Lincoln 

Not to say that words don’t help too, but actions can tell us a lot.
With this approach, you don’t directly ask someone “What are you interested in?” Instead, you’re simply watching what choice they make when given multiple options.
Say you offer two free whitepapers and they download one. Which one? Did they choose both (or even none)? You can pinpoint what value they’re after or what problem they’re trying to solve based on decisions like these – and then send what they need.
ProBlogger does this really well at the end of each blog post:

When someone clicks a choice, ProBlogger can use that information to send a more targeted follow-up with content that solves their problem, like a specific course on a topic they’re interested in.
Features you need:

  • Event tracking or site tracking
  • Campaign link click tracking
  • Tagging

Resources to help you get started:

Lead scoring

Lead scoring lets you condense behavioral data into a single number. You can score based on many different types of behaviors that show interest like:

  • Repeatedly viewing products
  • Viewing multiple pieces of content in the same category
  • Requesting resources like videos and white papers on a topic
  • Clicking certain links in email campaigns

When you create a score based on this data, you’re able to gain a more accurate feel for where their interests lie.
You can set up a different score for different products (if you only have a few) or categories of products if you have a lot of products.
Once you know their interests, you can customize the messages you send to include content, products, and offers they like.
Features you need:

  • Lead scoring

Resources to help you get started:

Just ask contacts what they like!

People won’t bite, you can straight-up ask them for information (and make it worth their while to give it).
How?
You can send a survey to your users and give them a discount or special access to a resource in return. Here’s a great example from online printing company, Mimeo:

I like this email because:

  • It describes how the survey will help them
  • It emphasizes how quick the survey is
  • It offers an incentive.

You can attach a contact’s responses to their customer profile and use it to personalize your messaging. These responses are also a valuable source of insight into your audience at large and can help you tailor your messaging overall.
Features you need:

  • Form builder or
  • A survey tool that integrates with your marketing automation solution

Resources to help you get started:

2. Personalize message content

Once you know your audience, you can give them the most relevant content and offers. This will make contacts want to open and read your messages.
When you give them a call-to-action, they’re more likely to engage with it simply because they know that you understand their needs. They feel that your product is a match for them because your messaging “gets them.”
How do you do this? Here’s how:

  • Tailor the follow-up to the interest
  • Customize messages with conditional content
  • Skip sending irrelevant messages

Create follow-ups to match different interests

The most basic way to use contact data is to send different follow-up sequences per product or interest and send contacts through accordingly.
But if you don’t collect interest information right off the bat when they opt in, you could have a general follow up sequence that applies to everyone. Then pull them out (using a Goal action at the bottom of the automation) and drop them into the targeted sequence when you collect that data.
Features you need:

  • Workflow builder
  • Tagging
  • Goals automation action

Resources to help you get started:

Use conditional content to customize email messages

You can make parts of your email campaigns conditional based on what you know about a contact.
Rather than having multiple follow-up sequences for each area of interest, you can have a single follow-up sequence and simply change the message content based on interests and tags – tadaa, conditional content.
You can swap:

  • Sentences
  • Paragraphs
  • Images
  • Offers
  • Call-to-action
  • Links to content

You could say, “Only show this section if they’re tagged as X.” Or, “Show X if they’re tagged as A and show Y if they’re tagged as B.”

A conditional content block modal in ActiveCampaign.

In this way, you can have a single campaign, but have the message customized for the contact. There’s one message, but it’s different depending on who is receiving it.
Features you need:

  • Conditional content

Resources to help you get started:

Skip over messages that aren’t relevant

Sending an email just to send it is not a good reason.
Remember the event tracking mentioned before? You can use it to know which behaviors people have and haven’t shown. With this information, you can alter your follow-up message on the fly – and send a message that’s actually relevant.
As they complete a target behavior, that sequence of messages can end and a new one can begin. This is how your follow-up sequence adapts to different contacts. It doesn’t send messages that are irrelevant.
As soon as a contact does what you want them to, it skips ahead to the next series of messages that lead to their next intended action (and on it goes).
The best way to implement this is using our Goals feature which is a way to have a contact jump forward and skip over messages once they perform a target behavior.

How to create goals in ActiveCampaign.

Features you need:

  • Goals action
  • Event Tracking

Resources to help you get started:

3. Customize send times & frequency

When you think about customizing send times, you often think of sending according to a contact’s time zone or sending at the moment when they’re most likely to be in their inbox.
But a more effective method of customizing is to send campaigns exactly when they are more relevant to the contact. In other words, send campaigns that are triggered by events the contact reaches.

You know a contact just did X and so they’d be interested in learning about Y.

What you send is only half of the equation. The other half is how often. Too frequent messaging can turn off an otherwise interested prospect – that’s when they tune out or unsubscribe.
More motivated and interested prospects might prefer a less frequent send schedule. Rather than trying to strike a happy medium, you can have people going through your follow-up at speeds which suit them.
Here’s what you can try:

  • Send triggered emails
  • Invite people to personalize their sending frequency
  • Adjust sending frequency with lead scoring

Send triggered emails

Behavioral emails are some of the most opened campaigns (after welcome emails).

Triggered emails have a click-through rate 152% higher than traditional emails. (Source: Email Monks)

Some examples of behavioral emails:

  • An email sent after signing up for an offer
  • An email sent after a purchase
  • An email sent after a visit to a web page
  • An email that is sent after logging into a website or app
  • An email that’s sent after an item is added to a cart

Basically, if you can record an online event, you can send a responsive message. And you can record most online events with a tool like event tracking.

An example of a triggered post-purchase follow-up automation.

Why do trigged emails work so well?

  • They’re perfectly timed
  • You know exactly what that contact just did
  • You know exactly what they need to do next

“You just finished this video on beginner fly fishing? Check out our advanced course that will have you ready for your first trip in a week.”
NOTE – it’s important to keep in mind that you can use a behavior-triggered message like this without coming across as creepy. You can use the behavioral data to send a highly relevant follow-up message and move contacts through the next steps.
Features you need:

  • Automation workflow builder
  • Site Tracking
  • Event Tracking

Resources to help you get started:

Invite people to personalize their sending frequency

In addition to customizing the message content, you can invite contacts to customize your sending frequency to their preference. Send messages more frequently to contacts hungry for information, and at a slower pace for contacts who need a little time and space before making a decision.
This is a great way to avoid unsubscribes and allow people to tailor their experience.
Features you need:

  • Campaign link click tracking

Resources to help you get started:

Adjust sending frequency with lead scoring

With this technique, you aren’t directly asking what frequency they like, you’re simply adjusting a score every time they open and then using that score to tailor your frequency.
This could be done as simply as “If a score is over 10 opens in the last 30 days, start this aggressive follow up.” If it’s less than 10, begin this more spaced out follow up.”
Features you need:

  • Lead scoring

Resources to help you get started:

Getting started with intelligence-driven marketing

A good place to start is to create buckets for your contacts. Each of these buckets is a group of contacts that should receive different messaging.
These buckets might be for different segments of your market, people looking for different products or solutions, or trying to solve different problems.
Then, decide what information you need to place customers into those buckets and find ways to collect that information. If all else fails, find a way to just ask them.

Just ask!

From there, it’s a matter of setting up your follow-up sequences and messages and then peppering in triggered emails in response to key events.
Any time you spend setting up this type of intelligent marketing follow up will pay dividends by starting a positive feedback loop that impacts your entire business.
Your contacts will find your follow-up more engaging, so they’ll be more likely to open and click through your campaigns. This will result in improved deliverability.
More of your contacts will be getting your messages, and they’ll be paying closer attention (which means more people will respond to your calls to action). Soon after you get to see a growing customer base that goes on to refer more customers to your business.