Videos to Help You Install BizConnector and Get Started

It has taken some time, but at last, here are some videos that you may find helpful. We’ll be adding videos to the list, so check back in when you need some help or inspiration.



Installing BizConnector
Getting Started with BizConnector
Building Your First BizConnector Rule (to Nurture Leads)
Testing a BizConnector Rule

Your First Marketing Automation Project – Learn From Other People’s Mistakes

Your first marketing automation project can be overwhelming – where do you start?

One way to look at this is to learn from other people’s mistakes. Knowing what not to do can often give you the insights you need to start off ‘on the right foot’, and the confidence to spend time and effort on the important things, and avoid the pitfalls. Basically, you get the benefit of someone else’s experience without having to make those same mistakes yourself – and waste time and money doing so.

The aim here is not to look down on others for their failures, but instead to applaud them for their courage in writing about them and giving us the opportunity to learn from them. The main points in the post were inspired by an article about a failed project [Marketing Automation – A Failure] – our thanks to the author who gave permission for this post.

Six ‘failure statements’ summarize the article – they are presented here.

1: “Our objectives for using a marketing automation product weren’t clear, and weren’t fully thought-through

As mentioned in a previous post, there’s a delicate balance between planning and execution that is pivotal in driving success or failure of this – or any other kind of – project. Sometimes described as top-down vs bottom-up, it goes something like this: The overarching strategy needs to be articulated before anything else – otherwise you find that you don’t know where you are going. So think through your objectives fully and clearly. But if you spend too much time at the strategic level before thinking about how you will execute your strategy, you lay yourself open to paralysis – ie. nothing gets done because your strategic thinking is not (ie. ‘never’) ‘complete’.

A healthy design process includes a ‘flexible dynamic’ between strategy and execution, where each provides feedback to the other. This is akin to ‘agile’ processes as practiced in software development – and other – industries.

2: “We didn’t have a marketing process to automate

The need to standardize and document the marketing process is not felt as strongly in smaller companies, where decision-making may be manifested in one or a few people.  But this does not mean that there is no business process in the marketing department – only that it is in peoples’ heads. This includes not only things like steps in the process, but also things like the status of a customer or prospect. ie. Lead from company x is rated ‘warm’ or is regarded as ‘not qualified’.

The design of a well-functioning business process – such as a marketing process – is not a trivial task. It takes time and skill to perfect. Trial and error are ever-present factors. This is truer for larger companies than for smaller companies.

So smaller companies should take heart. If your marketing process has not yet been documented, this is not a recipe for failure – only a motivation to start. Apply the same principle as above – ie. take baby steps.

3: “We didn’t have enough leads to nurture

This is a common lament for small companies. The best advice I can give for starting a marketing automation project is: Don’t, if you can already cope with the volume of leads that you have.

4: “We didn’t have the right content

Sending people relevant content – at the right time – is one of the most important areas that you should focus on in your marketing automation efforts. This goes by many names, the latest being ‘content marketing’ – something you can spend a lot of time searching on and reading. Depending on your budget, you may want to outsource this if you don’t have the in-house resources. Watch this space for guidance on how to plan and produce your message content.

5: “We never really thought about harnessing the tool to communicate with existing customers

Overheard at the water fountain: ‘There are no customers – only prospects’.

Well, this is not entirely true, and unless yours is a startup company, you most likely have a good sense of who your customers are.

The point is, however, that prospects have increasingly more ability to find out about your company, your products, and your services – with or without your help. And this goes for your customers too.

And given that you already have (some kind of) relationship with each one of your customers – whether weak or strong – it makes sense to take advantage of a marketing automation tool to reach them. You probably have more opportunities to connect with customers, as compared with prospects, because you can take advantage of existing touchpoints – especially if you use a marketing automation tool that employs triggered messaging, and is sensitive to changes in individual state. And you would naturally strengthen your relationships with your customers, which, as the lesson goes, would reduce your costs even further.

6: “We didn’t recycle leads

Just because leads/prospects don’t respond quickly to your initial outreach efforts does not mean that they are ‘dead’. Far from it! The lesson of the long tail has application here, and you may want to read this post. This is an area where flexibility of your marketing automation tool makes a big difference, because what you do need is an easy ability to communicate, perhaps in a modified (slower) way, with leads who may still be interested in your product or service – when they are ready. Don’t give up on them!

Do you have a failed marketing automation project to report? Please let us know if you do.


Are you ready for marketing automation?

As marketing automation is gaining ground and is being considered by small businesses in efforts to compete, this question presents a challenge that you may be facing at this moment. So how do you fare?

Here are some questions that will help you decide:

  • Can you identify a target market, that you interact with currently or in the future, where the volume of interactions, by email, phone, or other channel, is more than your company can handle without automation?
  • What is the likely outcome if you fail to interact (eg. follow up) with this audience?
  • Are you losing sales to your competitors because they are using this technology and you are not?

Hopefully these questions will spur you to consider marketing automation as a possible solution for your business.

A General Approach:

Given that you are motivated, where do you start? I usually suggest these first steps to my clients and prospects.

1) Define strategy first

If the overall strategy relating to the area of need (marketing, sales, service/support, other…) has not been articulated, this should be done before anything else. This typically has the effect of forcing you to  more clearly define where marketing automation should be addressed, and to prioritize these needs if there is more than one.

However, we need to be careful here. I do not wish to imply that this be a top-heavy exercise. Rather, it should be the opposite – I typically encourage people to take ‘baby steps’, and not try to solve the whole requirement in one fell swoop. I regard this as one of the most important aspects of this process, and I have seen more than one case where a (pure) top-down approach where everything has to be defined before the start (usually felt necessary by perfectionists) leads to failure.

So I would say ‘the light touch’ is important here.

2) Align implementation with strategy

Easier said than done!

It turns out that BizConnector makes this easier for you. Because BizConnector is rule-based – with rules defined by the client, it has a built-in advantage. And that is, that if you have articulated your strategy clearly, then there is a very good chance of having a one-to-one alignment between an expression of strategy and a rule.

ie. the (piece of) strategy can be expressed as a rule.

3) Other factors

In pursuit of the above, there are many things that need attention, not least of which is the design of content, feedback mechanisms, as well as training, effecting culture change, etc.

4) Test, and test again

This point cannot be over-emphasized. It’s too easy to fall on your face because the wrong messages were sent out to live people (at the wrong time).

5) Refine and expand

Basing the implementation on a non-top-down approach, it is easier for clients to increase their level of marketing automation sophistication with the confidence that arises from successful first steps.

I hope this gives you a good place to start.

I welcome inquiries from anyone who would like to know more.

How Are Customers Using BizConnector / Lead Follow-Up?

An informal survey of BizConnector customers shows that the tool is being used in a number of different ways by different customers. Here, and in posts that will follow, are brief descriptions of some of them.

The most prevalent use of the tool is for lead nurturing.  Applications implemented in this category range from very simple to sophisticated.

A simple lead nurturing application  is:

  • New leads are added – via Salesforce ‘web2lead’ – when people fill out a form on a website page to express interest about a product or service.
  • A rule matching the profile of the new lead fires and schedules five to ten emails, distributed evenly over a period (usually weekly). The sequence of emails is often referred to under the category ‘drip marketing’.
  • Changes in lead ‘state’ – eg. was the lead contacted? – are usually not taken into account.

So for example, if this applies to one product or service, the effort required is to:

  • Articulate the strategy that drives this rule (the most difficult step)
  • Write the email content for the five to ten emails (hours or days per email, depending on a number of factors)
  • Create the rule (minutes or hours), test it (hours or days), then switch to ‘production mode’.

Even with such a simple application, customers report a huge benefit in that they are relieved from the tedious task of manually following up with new leads. This is a great timesaver with a big impact on the bottom line – lower costs.

To implement a more sophisticated lead nurturing application, additional todo items are:

  • Leads are given an initial rating of ‘warm’ (values can be hot, warm, cool, cold).
  • A rule matching the profile of new warm leads fires and schedules at least seven (*) emails.
  • There are more fields in the rule condition than in simpler applications, to take the ‘state’ and other factors into account, such as whether the lead has been contacted or not.
  • The ‘Check Before Send’ feature suppresses emails if the lead fields no longer match the rule conditions. This maintains relevance, so that leads are not receiving emails about products and services they are no longer interested in.
  • If a lead does not respond with the period of the rule (say, ten weeks), a ‘cool’ rule takes over (because the warm rule updates the lead rating to ‘cool’).
  • The ‘cool’ rule schedules, say, ten emails over a longer period (say ten months). This rule is effectively dealing with the ‘long tail’.

And if you are feeling adventurous, these additional steps make for a powerful application:

  • Create a rule to fire when recipients click on a link in an email
  • Embed a question in one or more emails to get instant feedback

More effort is required here than in the first example, but is still manageable:

  • Articulate the strategy that drives the two rules and the relationship between them.
  • Write the email content for the emails for both rules (hours or days per email)
  • Create the rules (minutes or hours), test them (days), then switch to ‘production mode’.

In addition to the benefits as for simple applications, customers love the ‘intelligent’ responsiveness of:

  • suppressing emails when they are no longer relevant
  • switching over to the ‘cool’ rule for non-responsive leads
  • rules firing when recipient click on links in emails
  • getting responses to the embedded questions directly in the records without having to mess with cumbersome uploads from spreadsheets, etc.

Automated lead nurturing was ‘top of mind’ when Lead Follow-Up was first released on Salesforce AppExchange in 2007. But it is not the only reason why customers use the tool – workflow applications can be implemented too. Come back again to see more posts on this.



Getting Instant Feedback From Your Emails

One feature that has been available for some time now is Instant Feedback. This is a closed-loop feedback mechanism that works by embedding a question in an email, and updating the recipient’s lead or contact record in real time when he/she responds. It’s a gem that deserves more attention.

Here’s an example:

You would start by creating a custom field in (let’s say) the lead record that will receive the response. In this example the custom field, with name When Expect To Buy, is a picklist created in the Salesforce Setup area under Customize Lead Fields.

With this in place, it’s a simple matter to embed the question in an html email. In the html editor Instant Feedback tab, you would make selections something like this.

Custom field selections

You would then set the insertion point by clicking where in the email body you want the questions to go, and then click Insert. The question would then appear in the email, with a look as follows:

Although they look like radio buttons, they are actually links which, when clicked, update the lead record in real-time.

This is a ‘self-service’ feature, the advantages of which should not be missed.

  • The effort required to make changes in lead records is eliminated – the prospect does this for you
  • It provides an opportunity for interaction, which interested prospects and customers appreciate
  • It can take advantage of the ‘Check Before Send’ feature to move a prospect or customer to another rule more relevant to his/her needs
  • It can be used to automatically segment your database – without you lifting a finger!

This is automation at its best, and it has been used effectively by many users. Is this something you would be interested in?

A Little BizConnector History

At this juncture, with the start of a new year and the relaunch of this website, it may be useful to take a look at the history of BizConnector since its appearance in 2005, to relate it to its offshoot ‘Lead Follow-Up’ on, and in a future post, to describe its expected evolution and roadmap.

BizConnector started off as ‘a web-based email communication tool that enables ‘contextual interaction’ with recipients, addressing the needs of companies seeking to cultivate their customers and grow their businesses by using the latest web technologies to manage marketing campaigns in an intelligent way’. Essentially, it was a mass-emailer with interactive ability – a trail-blazer in many ways.

The original BizConnector had a place for business rules, but it was the development of Lead Follow-Up – a marketing automation app on Salesforce AppExchange – that featured real-time business rules as its core architectural foundation. As the name implies, Lead Follow-Up was built – with a more restricted vision than the original BizConnector – to address the needs of marketers to nurture leads and prospects. Integrated deeply with through the API, its basic modus operandi is to use events in Salesforce data to trigger ‘drip marketing’ campaigns and workflows. It was expanded to attach not only to Leads, but to Contacts, Accounts, Opportunities, Tasks, Events, and Cases. And it incorporates features such as landing pages and a closed-loop feedback mechanism that makes it a powerful tool, despite its apparent simplicity.

BizConnector can now be described, at its core, as a (Near) Real-Time Business Rules Engine for small business. With the development of ‘channels’ that can be used for business rule triggers and actions, BizConnector now has the ability to connect with external systems and applications, be triggered by events outside Salesforce, and pull content from multiple sources. Channels are open-ended, and can be developed by third parties. And the forthcoming BizConnector API, to be announced, will provide a platform for new and exciting applications.

Please visit here again for more information about the BizConnector roadmap.