Alex Gammelgard from ActiveCampaign discusses the importance of customer loyalty and how customer experience helps brands in achieving that
“It no longer matters what you say about your brand, it only matters what your customers say about you “
1. Tell us about your role in ActiveCampaign and your journey into this market?
I run the Go-to-Market team for ActiveCampaign, focusing on how we tell the Customer Experience Automation (CXA) story through our CXA apps, solutions, and industries. My background is in software, but have spent time in retail tech, robotics, and HR organizations, and in all instances, I’ve seen that customer experience is the single biggest reason brands thrive or die.
While more businesses are beginning to understand why customer experience is important, very few brands know what makes a good customer experience, and even fewer brands understand what processes and technologies are required to achieve it. This is especially hard for SMBs because we marketers have led them to believe that achieving a sophisticated and tech-forward marketing strategy requires inordinate amounts of money.
But I found that’s not true when I learned about ActiveCampaign. We are making a flawless, personalized customer experience accessible to businesses of all sizes, and turning ambiguous concepts like “a great customer experience” into easy to follow, prescriptive automation templates that apply to all customer touchpoints (email, web, SMS, social, etc.) The ability to crack the code and the goal of making this accessible to all companies is what makes ActiveCampaign a rare company, and I am happy to bring my expertise to help grow as we go from 120,000 global customers, to whatever the next frontier might be.
2. How do you think technology is upgrading the marketing sector?
In a perfect world, businesses could clone their best employees, could make time to personally and individually connect with every customer, and could have a superhuman memory for every customers’ preferences. That’s just not the reality.
To maintain strong customer relationships, benefit from customer advocacy and viral marketing as well as stand out against new and low-priced competition, that personal touch has to be part of the experience customers receive.
The right technology enables this. As customers engage online more, and customer relationships are managed across websites, social channels, email, chatbots, and apps, businesses generate almost an infinite number of data points about their customers. That next step – interpret and act on that data, and manage communications across all of those channels – is where technology levels up what marketers are doing.
This step is where CXA is emerging as a unique category, and where we hope to be guiding the next wave of martech. There are already legacy solutions that solve for channel specific coordination (email marketing, CRM, etc.) and there are all-in-one tools that offer a platform approach with specific sets of functionality, but the idea that SMBs can build an affordable and sophisticated technology stack with their best-in-class tools, and then leverage a tool like ActiveCampaign to make all those solutions play nice together, learn from each other, and run outcomes-oriented automated campaigns across all of those tools, is quite new.
Technology makes marketing teams smarter, more data-driven, and more agile, and it’s the only reason we can scale messages and programs across large customer sets.
3. How has a customer-centric approach helped marketing organizations grow?
Whenever I am in the market for something new, the first Google search I run is, “Best .” If I am torn between two products, I’ll look for user reviews to help me separate the “marketing speak” from the reality. I’m not the only one who does this.
It no longer matters what you say about your brand, it only matters what your customers say about you.
The best thing you can do to be an effective marketing organization is to do really great things for your customers. This is something ActiveCampaign has done from the beginning. We offer free 1-1 strategy sessions as well as complimentary implementation and migration for new customers. Our founder, Jason VandeBoom, also reads thousands of customer reviews daily to learn which areas to invest in next. I know that these authentic actions we’re taking to overinvest in our customers is worthwhile because we have an unheard of amount of referral growth. It’s a little like karma: when you are truly customer-centric and authentic in your desire to support customers, it shows. If you’ve invested in your customers, they will invest back in you. That is what CXA is all about.
4. How do you define customer experience automation?
CXA is the next step beyond marketing automation. It’s moving past the acquisition phase to consider the entire customer lifecycle across all channels and touchpoints. The points that matter of CXA are:
• Organizations need to communicate with customers across all channels they’d use (email, website, sales calls, support tickets, etc.)
• Organizations need new ways to solve the hard problems: orchestration across tech stacks; deep segmentation using all customer lifecycle data, 1-1 personalized content; and automated campaigns that span the martech stack.
• Because we connect the dots between legacy applications, email marketing, marketing automation, CRM and support solutions, we are in a unique position to help businesses orchestrate across these solutions to deliver a complete but connected experience.
5. How do email and message personalization based on customer action contribute to better customer acquisition?
Think about the loyalty customers express for brands like Apple or Netflix. These companies have great products, but their real secret to loyal customers is their ability to wow customers with their experience. When you achieve that level of customer loyalty, it’s hard for even lower-cost competitors to steal your business
We work with 120,000 customers globally, and we’ve learned from that experience that there are some tricks to wowing customers with email. First, understand the history of your customer. This is essential for knowing the best way to engage with them next. No matter if it’s how they engage on your website, the purchases they make, the channels they contact you through, the time of day they read your emails — your customer is continually giving you clues about how they want to be treated, and what they care about. Second, leverage those clues to create content that is perfect for them. Too often, the businesspeople making content and promotions aren’t in sync with the customer-facing people who need to carry out these promises. Avoid that mistake, and you’ll create that wow experience like Netflix or Apple.
6. Can you explain what specialties of email marketing still give it an important place in the strategies of marketers?
A company website and an email strategy are the table stakes of any marketing program. We can assume that every consumer has an email address they check, and they all expect legitimate companies to have a site. I think of email marketing as the information engine of the customer experience. Customers want to receive relevant information from you about their orders and your promotions.
Often, email marketing ends there and the acquisition phase. Where email becomes a powerful tool for marketers is when you leverage it to convert customers into loyal ones or even advocates. Consider asking customers for product/service reviews, invite repeat customers to digital events, share content they’ll find useful like a holiday recipe or OOTD as it relates to your business. This will make them think of you as a valued resource, and then they’ll want to tell their friends about you. That’s creating a great customer experience.
7. What advice would you like to give to SMBs?
Success can sometimes be your own worst enemy. As you grow, don’t lose sight of the things that made you successful. We see this a lot: a company will start with a bespoke product and a personalized approach to working with customers. But when they grow rapidly, they struggle to scale the customer experience. Suddenly, that great personalized connection they were known for doesn’t exist. I recommend emerging companies automate aspects of their customer experience early, so all the bugs are worked out, and you don’t lose that customer experience along the way.