How Emotion-Detection Technology Will Change Marketing

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Imagine someone arrives at your website, Facebook Page, or advertisement. Now, imagine that you could change your marketing dynamically, right there on the spot, in response to their emotional reactions.

It would be nothing short of a game changer for your business, right?

Yet this is not fantasy. Exploding with investment and technological advances, the world of emotion detection and recognition technology will change the face of marketing in the years to come.

Emotions are what drive your audience to purchase. In fact, studies by the neuroscientist Antonio Damasio found that people with damage to the part of the brain that triggers emotions — in other words, people that are unable to feel emotions — find it extremely difficult to make decisions.

The lesson? If your marketing is not evoking an emotional response from your target audience, you are making it extremely difficult for your prospective customers to purchase from you. That’s right, your own marketing is potentially causing prospects to turn away from you and your brand.

What’s a marketer to do? Let’s dive into some research. 

The Power of Emotions

Many of the most successful marketing campaigns and initiatives are focused on emotions. Take Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign, which was an attempt to change the conversation around women’s beauty. Or Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign, firing up the inner-athlete in everyone. Or MasterCard’s “Priceless” campaign, which has been powering brand success for a whopping 19+ years.

All of this marketing aims to move your heart, and then relies on the experience to build a lasting bond with the brand. What it doesn’t do is rely on feature sets, discounts, or new technology to move you to a sale. None of it speaks to the number of offices, employees, or years in business of the brand. Google Senior VP of Global Marketing, Lorraine Twohill, states, “If we don’t make you cry, we fail. It’s about emotion.”

Twohill is not alone with this sentiment. Multiple studies point to emotional marketing as more effective than other forms of marketing (e.g., product-focused marketing). Based on an analysis of 1,400 successful ad campaigns, the book Brand Immortality by Hamish Pringle and Peter Field reveals that advertising campaigns focused on emotional content performed approximately twice as well (31% vs. 16%) as those with only rational content.

The power of emotional content should not come as a surprise. After all, emotions drive us to action. As consumers, we first decide on a purchase based on emotion, and then try to justify it through the more rational parts of our brain. Longer-term, emotions are what cause people to prefer brand names, even if generic alternatives are available.

Findings from a 2015 Nielsen Consumer Neuroscience study of 100 ads across 25 brands in the consumer goods market revealed that ads with the best emotional response generated a 23% lift in sales, meaning that emotional marketing is not merely effective as an engagement vehicle but also as a true business driver.

And don’t think that emotion-based marketing is applicable to only B2C marketing and individual consumers. Business buyers are also creatures of emotion. In fact, successful B2B companies like GE, Cisco, IBM, AutoDesk, and Qualcomm all focus on emotions in their marketing. Similar to the Pringle and Field findings, the research report “From Promotion to Emotion: Connecting B2B Customers to Brands” by CES and Google explains that B2B brands achieve roughly twice the impact with a target audience when appealing to the personal value to the buyer including emotional benefits. 

A Mountain of Investment

In consideration of the power of emotional marketing, it should be no surprise that the emotion detection and recognition market is projected to be worth $ 22.65 Billion by 2020, according to the market research firm MarketsandMarkets. As a result, investment in the space is exploding.

Apple, one of the most valuable companies on the planet, has been keenly interested in emotion recognition for years. In 2014 the company filed a patent that described software for analyzing and identifying a person’s mood based on a variety of signals, including facial expression. Earlier this year, Apple acquired Emotient, an emotion-recognition technology company.

Emotient has a patent for a method of collecting and labeling up to 100,000 facial images a day, supporting a computer’s ability to recognize facial expressions. It’s reasonable to believe that Emotient’s emotion recognition technology will start appearing in iPhones and iPads before you know it, and then possibly used as a platform for more targeted and dynamic engagement when users are in their browsers.

Last year the consumer-research company Nielsen bought Innerscope, which uses biometrics such as brain scans and galvanic skin response (GSR) to measure subconscious emotional responses to media and marketing.

Affectiva, an emotion recognition technology developer, raised $ 14 million just a few months ago. Affectiva boasts the world’s largest emotion data repository, with 40 billion data points and close to 4 million faces analyzed using its technology.

Overall, those using emotion analysis to test audience reaction to their marketing include major marketers such as Unilever, P&G, Mars, Honda, Kellogg, and Coca Cola. For example, Kellogg’s used Affectiva’s software to determine its ads for Crunchy Nut cereal, with the goal of generating high engagement rates with the audience. Viewers were shown multiple versions of a commercial featuring animals. A version of the ad featuring a snake produced the most laughs, but low engagement rates when viewing the ad a second time.

The facial recognition software revealed that an alternative version of the ad featuring an alien produced the desired engagement levels. Kellogg’s therefore decided to rollout the alien-based ad instead, helping to drive the cereal’s sales.

Nothing Short of a Revolution

Being able to adjust one’s marketing dynamically, based on the real-time reactions of your audience, will empower marketers to provide the right message at the right time to the right person.

In the future, it’s likely that you’ll be able to calibrate your marketing mid-stream with just about any digital experience — no two prospects may experience a brand’s marketing in the same exact way.

Going beyond advertising, you can already see how Facebook is on a path to incorporating emotional reaction into a user’s News Feed by introducing “Reactions” this past February. Rather than simply “Liking” a post, users can now designate their reaction across six emotions: Like, Love, Haha, Wow, Sad, and Angry.

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Facebook interprets the use of Reactions as an indication that a person’s network on the social platform wants to see more of those types of posts. That type of primitive application is sure to evolve moving forward. Sammi Krug, Product Manager at Facebook, explains, “Over time we hope to learn how the different Reactions should be weighted differently by News Feed to do a better job of showing everyone the stories they most want to see.”

As of the time of this writing, Facebook Ads treat Reactions the same as Likes. Ad reports do not include a breakdown of individual Reactions, although the breakdown can be found in Page Insights. For ad delivery, as well, Reactions are treated the same as Likes. Of course the next logical step will be for Facebook to treat different emotional reactions differently, rewarding Love more than Like, for example, and demoting an ad’s visibility if users express anger.

The Future

It’s safe to say that we should expect a great deal of change in the world of marketing moving forward. Gabi Zijderveld, CMO at Affectiva, provides a peek into the future by explaining the evolution of emotion recognition technology:

Initially, the technology was used to understand how consumers engage with their brand content and advertising, and how these emotions then influence brand awareness and purchase intent. Now the technology is also used to infuse consumer experiences, apps and interactive advertising with Emotion AI. This will help to transform the face of marketing and advertising by reading human emotions and then adapting consumer experiences to these emotions in real time. The technology gives marketers the power to truly delight and engage their customers with uniquely dynamic and personalized interactions.”

Web development is already on the path towards more personalization. As emotion recognition technology becomes more sophisticated and more deeply embedded in our array of devices, it will become expected that our computers and phones provide us with a continual progression of customized triggers and messaging. The technology will be found even in future car dashboards, refrigerator doors, and conference room walls — essentially any surface will become a possible means for detection of emotions.

Social media will constantly focus on each user’s emotions. For example, in the future expect Facebook’s algorithm to focus just as much on one’s emotional reactions as it does to one’s historical click behavior, providing a unique social environment that goes far beyond prediction of the types of posts, pages, and ads one would like. Expect Facebook Ads to provide advertisers with the ability to hyper target not only based on age, geography, and job titles, but also on the individual’s emotional state or progression of emotional states.

Online marketing will likely evolve into sequential experiences, with deeper engagement upon recognition of positive emotional reactions. You can also expect more deeply embedded forms of marketing similar to product placement. Ultimately, expect emotion recognition to be just another core component of marketing, similar to how “digital marketing” is now really just “marketing.”

Emotion recognition technology is clearly bringing about a revolution in marketing. Are you ready to start capitalizing on the opportunity?

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15 of the Best Email Marketing Campaign Examples You’ve Ever Seen

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At one point or another, we all need inspiration to do our jobs better. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a marketing veteran who has navigated through years of changing technology or a newbie fresh out of college — we all need examples of outstanding content. It helps us get through creative ruts, make the case to our boss for experimentation, and improve our own marketing.

Most of the time, inspiration is easy to find because most marketing content is publicly available. You can scour the internet or go on your favorite social network to see what your connections are talking about.

But there’s one marketing channel that is really, really hard to find good examples of unless you’re already in the know: email. There’s nothing casual about it — you usually need to be subscribed to an email list to find great examples of emails. And even if you’re subscribed to good emails, they are often bombarding you day after day, so it’s hard to notice the gems. Download our free guide here to learn how to create email marketing campaigns  people actually click. 

Because it’s so difficult to find good email marketing examples, we decided to do the scouring and compiling for you. Read on to discover some great emails and get the lowdown on what makes them great — or just keep on scrolling to get a general feel for each. However you like to be inspired is fine by us!

15 Examples of Effective Email Marketing

1) charity: water

When people talk about email marketing, lots of them forget to mention transactional emails. These are the automated emails you get in your inbox after taking a certain action on a website. This could be anything from filling out a form to purchasing a product to updating you on the progress of your order. Often, these are plain text emails that email marketers set and forget.

Well, charity: water took an alternate route. Once someone donates to a charity: water projects, their money takes a long journey. Most charities don’t tell you about that journey at all — charity: water uses automated emails to show donors how their money is making an impact over time. With the project timeline and accompanying table, you don’t even really need to read the email — you know immediately where you are in the whole process so you can move on to other things in your inbox.

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2) BuzzFeed

I already have a soft spot for BuzzFeed content (21 Puppies so Cute You Will Literally Gasp and Then Probably Cry, anyone?), but that isn’t the only reason I fell in love with its emails.

First of all, BuzzFeed has awesome subject lines and preview text. They are always short and punchy — which fits in perfectly with the rest of BuzzFeed’s content. I especially love how the preview text will accompany the subject line. For example, if the subject line is a question, the preview text is the answer. Or if the subject line is a command (like the one below), the preview text seems like the next logical thought right after it:

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Once you open up an email from them, the copy is equally awesome. Just take a look at that glorious alt text action happening where the images should be. The email still conveys what it is supposed to convey — and looks great — whether you use an image or not. That’s definitely something to admire.

Without images:

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With images:

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3) Uber

The beauty of Uber’s emails is in their simplicity. They let their email subscribers know about deals and promotions by sending an email like the one you see below. We love how brief the initial description is, paired with a very clear call-to-action — which is perfect for subscribers who are quickly skimming the email. For the people who want to learn more, these are followed by a more detailed (but still pleasingly simple), step-by-step explanation of how the deal works.

We also love how consistent the design of their emails is with their brand. Like their app, website, social media photos, and other parts of their visual brand, their emails are represented by bright colors and geometric patterns. All of their communications and marketing assets tell their brand’s story — and brand consistency is one tactic Uber’s nailed in order to gain brand loyalty.

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4) TheSkimm

We’ve written about TheSkimm’s daily newsletter before — especially its clean design and its short, punchy paragraphs. But newsletters aren’t TheSkimm’s only strength when it comes to email. Check out their subscriber engagement email below, which rewarded my colleague Ginny Mineo for being subscribed for two years.

Emails triggered by milestones like anniversary emails and birthday emails are fun to get — who doesn’t like to celebrate a special occasion? The beauty of anniversary emails in particular is that they don’t require subscribers to input any extra data, and they can work for a variety of senders and the timeframe can be modified based on the business model.

Here, the folks at TheSkimm took it a step further by asking her if she’d like to earn the title of brand ambassador as a loyal subscriber — which would require her to share the link with ten friends, of course.

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5) Mom and Dad Money

Think you know all about the people who are reading your marketing emails? How much of what you “know” about them is based on assumptions? The strongest buyer personas are based on insights you gather from your actual readership, through surveys, interviews, and so on, in addition to the market research. That’s exactly what Matt Becker of Mom and Dad Money does — and he does it very, very well.

Here’s an example of an email I got in my inbox a few weeks ago. Design-wise, it’s nothing special — but that’s the point. It reads just like an email from a friend or colleague asking for a quick favor.

Not only was this initial email great, but his response to my answers was even better: Within a few days of responding to the questionnaire, I received a long and detailed personal email from Matt thanking me for filling out the questionnaire and offering a ton of helpful advice and links to resources specifically catered to my answers. I was very impressed by his business acumen, communication skills, and obvious dedication to his readers.

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6) Poncho

Some of the best emails out there pair super simple design with brief, clever copy. When it comes down to it, my daily emails from Poncho, which sends me customizable weather forecasts each morning, takes the cake. They’re colorful, use delightful images and GIFs, and very easy to scan. The copy is brief but clever — some great puns in there — and aligns perfectly with the brand. Check out the copy near the bottom asking to “hang out outside of email.” Hats off to Poncho for using design to better communicate its message.

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7) Birchbox

The subject line of this email from beauty product subscription service Birchbox got my colleague Pam Vaughan clicking. It read: “We Forgot Something in Your February Box!” Of course, if you read the email copy below, they didn’t actually forget to put that discount code in her box — but it was certainly a clever way to get her attention.

And the discount code for Rent the Runway, a dress rental company that likely fits the interest profile of most Birchbox customers, certainly didn’t disappoint. That’s a great co-marketing partnership right there.

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8) Postmates

I’ve gotta say, I’m a sucker for GIFs. They’re easy to consume, they catch your eye, and they have an emotional impact — like the fun GIF in one of Postmates’ emails that’s not only delightful to watch, but also makes you crave some delicious Chipotle.

You too can use animated GIFs in your marketing to show a fun header, to draw people’s eye to a certain part of the email, or to display your products and services in action. Here are the best places to find GIFs on the internet, and here’s an easy Photoshop tutorial for making your own.

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9) Dropbox

You might think it’d be hard to love an email from a company whose product you haven’t been using. But Dropbox found a way to make their “come back to us!” email cute and funny, thanks to a pair of whimsical cartoons and an emoticon.

Plus, they kept the email short and sweet to emphasize the message that they don’t want to intrude, they just want to remind the recipient that they exist and why they could be helpful. When sending these types of email, you might include an incentive for recipients to come back to using your service, like a limited-time coupon.

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10) InVision App

Every week, the folks at InVision send a roundup of their best blog content, their favorite design links from the week, and a new opportunity to win a free t-shirt. (Seriously. They give away a new design every week.) They also sometimes have fun survey questions where they crowdsource for their blog. This week’s, for example, asked subscribers what they would do if the internet didn’t exist.

Not only is their newsletter a great mix of content, but I also love the nice balance between images and text, making it really easy to read and mobile-friendly — which is especially important because their newsletters are so long. (Below is just an excerpt, but you can read through the full email here.) We like the clever copy on their call-to-action buttons, too.

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11) Warby Parker

What goes better with a new prescription than a new pair of glasses? The folks at Warby Parker made that connection very clear in their email to a friend of mine back in 2014. It’s an older email, but it’s such a good example of personalized email marketing that I had to include it in here.

The subject line was: “Uh-oh, your prescription is expiring.” What a clever email trigger. And you’ve gotta love ’em for reminding you your prescription needs updating.

Speaking of which … check out the clever co-marketing at the bottom of the email: If you don’t know where to go to renew your subscription, the information for an optometrist is right in the email. Now there’s no excuse not to shop for new glasses!

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12) Cook Smarts

I’ve been a huge fan of Cook Smarts’ “Weekly Eats” newsletter for a while. The company sends yummy recipes in meal plan form to my inbox every week. But I didn’t just include it because of its delicious recipes … I’m truly a fan of its emails. I love the layout: Each email features three distinct sections (one for the menu, one for kitchen how-to’s, and one for the tips). This means you don’t have to go hunting to find the most interesting part of its blog posts — you know exactly where to look after an email or two.

I also love Cook Smarts’ “Forward to a Friend” call-to-action in the top-right of the email. Emails are super shareable on — you guessed it — email, so you should also think about reminding your subscribers to forward your emails to friends, coworkers, or heck, even family.

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13) HireVue

“Saying goodbye is never easy to do… So, we thought we’d give you a chance to rethink things”. That was the subject of this automated unsubscribe email from HireVue. We love the simple, guilt-free messaging here, from the funny header images to the great call-to-action button copy.

Not only are the design and copy here top-notch, but we applaud the folks at HireVue for sending automated unsubscribe emails in the first place. It’s smart to purge your subscriber lists of folks who aren’t opening your email lists because low open rates can seriously hurt email deliverability. We sent out a similar email in December 2015 when we automatically unsubscribed people once they became unengaged, which you can read about here.

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14) Paperless Post

When you think of “holiday email marketing,” your mind might jump straight to Christmas, but there are other holidays sprinkled throughout the rest of the year that you can create campaigns around.

Take the email below from Paperless Post, for example. I love the header of this email: It provides a clear call-to-action that includes a sense of urgency. Then, the subheader asks a question that forces recipients to think to themselves, “Wait, when is Mother’s Day again? Did I buy Mom a card?” Below this copy, the simple grid design is both easy to scan and is quite visually appealing. Each card picture is a CTA in and of itself — click on any one of them and you will be taken to a purchase page.

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15) Stitcher

Humans crave personalized experiences. It’s science. When emails appear to be created especially for you, you feel special — you’re not just getting what everyone else is getting. You might even feel like the company sending you the email knows you in some way, and that they care about your preferences and making you happy.

That’s why I love on-demand podcast/radio show app Stitcher’s “Recommended For You” email. I tend to listen to episodes from the same podcast instead of branching out to new ones. But Stitcher wants me to discover (and subscribe to) all the other awesome content they have — and I probably wouldn’t without their encouragement.

I think this email is also quite a brilliant use of responsive design. The colors are bright, and it’s not too hard to scroll and click — notice the CTAs are large enough for me to hit with my thumbs. Also, the mobile email actually has features that make sense for recipients who are on their mobile device. Check out the CTA at the bottom of the email, for example: The “Open Stitcher Radio” button prompts the app to open on your phone.

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These are just some of our favorite emails. Don’t just follow best practice when it comes to your marketing emails. Every email you send from your work email address also can be optimised to convert. Try out our free email signature generator now. Check out some more of our favorite HubSpot marketing email examples.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in October 2013 and has since been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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Does Your Nonprofit Need Marketing Automation?

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Every marketing team is overworked. We’re all looking for ways to maximize the ROI on our efforts. For many organizations, using a marketing automation tool and workflows can provide a quantum leap forward in marketing results.

Of course, implementing a market automation system takes some money and know-how, which raises the question whether the investment makes sense for any given organization. It may well for your organization. Don’t buy into the overhead myth and assume higher marketing costs are a bad thing for your organization. The increased costs can be the best expense you make if they’re going to increase your membership and donations.

But not every organization’s marketing team is ready for automation. If you’re not already set up to take advantage of automation’s potential, that’s when you spending money and energy without getting the return. Your organization has important work to do with its funding. It’s no good spending it on marketing automation before you’re ready to make the most of it.

Here’s an overview of what marketing automation is really about, as well as a checklist you can run through to determine if you’re organization is ready or has some marketing gaps to fill in first.

What Marketing Automation is Really About

Most importantly, don’t think you can sit back and “set it and forget it.” That’s a big myth. Marketing automation doesn’t do your marketing for you. It amplifies the processes you already have in place. So if they’re good processes – terrific! If they’re not so good this checklist is a great starting place for your team to start building its own content marketing framework.

Creating a good framework means you’ve got a reliable system in place for publishing valuable inbound marketing content. Content that will attract and generate a strong, steady stream of leads you can nurture along to become members or donors. If your current challenge is generating traffic as well as leads using your content, focus initially on getting your system in place, and creating the desirable, valuable content your personas will want. 

Then when you’re steadily getting new leads, and your team becomes overwhelmed trying to respond to them, that’s the time to step up into your marketing automation system more completely. Turn on those lead nurturing and re-engagement campaigns. Start testing one lead nurturing email sequence against another. Tweak. Refine. Improve.

Marketing automation done well means leads won’t get ignored. The best of them will also automate the personalization of the content that you send. This is where marketing automation can take you a quantum leap forward.

Marketing automation is about scaling all the great marketing you’re already doing, so it’s executing the campaigns you design at a pace and volume that your team couldn’t possibly do manually. But you and your team need to still be at the heart of it all.

So Is Your Organization Ready?

Go through these questions with an objective eye to gauge whether your organization could benefit now by implementing a marketing automation tool.

1) Are you generating a constant stream of new, qualified leads?

To realize the benefits of marketing automation, your database needs to be a good size and constantly growing. Furthermore, the new leads coming in need to be good fits to convert into members and donors. If your database is too small, automation will just overwork the leads that are there. People will start to feel spammed and you may well see your list shrink rather than grow.

For more tips on this first crucial step, check our our introduction to inbound marketing and lead generation for nonprofits >>

2) Does your team feel overwhelmed by the number of leads pouring into your database?

If so, you may well benefit from marketing automation to make sure all these leads get their due attention.

3) What emails are you sending manually right now? Do you have email series that can be put into an automated workflow?

To reiterate the main point about what marketing can and cannot do, it can’t make a blah email series to re-engage dormant constituents, that only has middling results, into a success. What it can do, is take a string of your best performing nurturing emails and put them on autopilot for you. 

If you want to improve the efficiency and automate your lead nurturing campaigns, marketing automation can help with that. If you’re content to send one-off emails on a campaign-by-campaign basis, then marketing automation may not add much value  for you. 

4) Are you engaging with leads, members, and donors across multiple channels?

The more information your marketing automation system can gather about the people in your database, the more it can do for you. This means that marketing automation becomes more powerful the more you already engage with people through multiple channels. It’s easy to think of marketing automation only as email, but that’s selling it short. You can automate workflows that rely on other digital channels both to gather intel and push out content.

5) Do you already have manual “triggers” you use to push out relevant content to leads?

A lead who visits your donor page a certain number of times. Or a member who downloads your most recent annual report. A lead who watches a new video about the organization’s work. These can all be triggers. Do you know when your leads take relevant actions? If you do, do you have a plan that you execute that’s relevant to the action the person took 

These are all steps that marketing automation relies on. You can tell the automation system what triggers to identify and what to do with them once trigger conditions are met, but you need to know first.

6) Got the content needed to support personalizing and scaling up your marketing efforts?

The triggers and data collection intel are all about sending the right content to the right lead at the right time.  So you need the right content that speaks to different leads who are at different points in their journey. You don’t want to send a solicitation letter to join your highest donor circle level on someone’s first download. Maybe send an invitation to join your newsletter instead.

If you need sufficient input (leads) into the marketing automation machine to make it work, you also need sufficient output (relevant content). Your team needs to be producing and publishing content that’s mapped to a lead’s journey so they can be successfully nurtured further down the path.

Getting Your House in Order First

Content marketing is a continuous growth process. When you first start with inbound marketing, you learn along the way what messages and formats get your audience to respond at different points in their journey. As you refine your content and the donor’s journey, you start building workflows and criteria that make putting new campaigns and content together more efficiently

The next step in this process is marketing automation that moves your workflows from manual to automatic. The timing to move to automation makes sense when you have a steady stream of leads coming in, along with list segmentations, and lead nurturing campaigns that are getting good results.

If you’re not there yet, don’t worry. Start working on the steps on this checklist. You’ll start to see great advances in membership and donor amount drives every step of the way towards marketing automation.  Inbound Marketing for Nonprofits Crash Course


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