A recent Adobe Digital Marketing survey found that for every $92 companies spend to drive people to their website, they only spend $1 to optimize their site conversion funnel to help convert this traffic into sales, upgrades, or renewals. Here is how you can do both:


Whitepaper download ....................................................... send an automated email!

Webinar registrant ............................................................. send an automated email!

Free Trial signup ................................................................ send an automated email!

New customer needs onboarding .................................. send an automated email!

Customer renewed ........................................................... send  an automated email!


Look familiar? I just went through your whole customer life cycle.  But wait, there is more:


Web visitor viewed multiple webinars ................................... send a targeted email!

Web visitor viewed multiple whitepapers ................... send them a targeted email!

Prospect currently in a trial ...................... send an email asking offering assistance!

Customer not using a core feature ............ send an email highlighting the feature!

Customer is an upsell candidate ....................... send an email pushing an upgrade!


That is certainly a lot of emails!  Email marketing has two major challenges going forward as I see it:

  1. Email marketing is not real-time. I do something on your site, or in your web app.  I get an email asking for more information, to complete an action, upgrade, etc.  The problem is that this email most likely either got buried in my inbox and potentially lost or deleted due to the overwhelming pre-existing volume of my inbox or I saw your email, but have already moved onto the next thing on my list.  I am interested, but will never be as engaged as I was when I was on your site or in your app.
  2. Email marketing competes against every other email in a person’s inbox.  We all know the feeling of being overwhelmed at work and then looking at your inbox and letting out an “Uggh” when you see the number of unread emails in your inbox.  So what do we do?  We look for the low hanging fruit to delete right away.  What is the low hanging fruit?  Anything that seems sales/marketing related or automated.  Even if your email doesn’t fall into those categories, there is a high probability they will get sped through when read as this person is looking for any reason to delete, not reply, or not have to create a follow-up task. Your email is guilty until proven innocent sitting in that person’s inbox.

Cold Hard Stats About Email Marketing

Email volume is rapidly increasing.  Epsilon publishes a quarterly report titled “Email Trends and Benchmarks”.  Epsilon found that from Q3 2012 to Q4 2012 there was an average email volume increase of 17.7% emails per client!. 

From Eplison’s Email Trends and Benchmark report: 

  • Average email volume increase:             17.7%
  • Average click through rate:                        4.5%
  • Average response rate:                             0.29%

ExactTarget has done extensive research on this topic as well.  ExactTarget found that people take an average of 2.6 seconds to decide whether to delete your email or keep reading.  That is a very, very small window of time.

Putting These Stats Into Context 

For every 1,000 prospects and customers you put into email marketing campaigns:

  • You have only 2.6 seconds to catch someone’s attention in an email to try to get them to actually read it, and hopefully complete the action you want them to (register, sign up, log on, etc)
  • Only 45 people out of that 1,000 will click through the links in the email (4.5%)
  • Less than 3 people will actually respond to the email - good, bad, or indifferent (0.29%)

For every 30,000 prospects and customers you put into email marketing campaigns:

  • You still only have 2.6 seconds to attempt to get them to read the email
  • 1,375 people will click through the links in the email (4.5%)
  • 87 people will respond - good, bad, or indifferent  (0.29%)

You have 2.6 seconds to engage the person and get them to actually read your email.  Of those people that actually read your email, only 4.5% (1,375) people will click through the links, and only 0.29% (87), people will respond out of 30,000 emails.  Even worse, the response is not even guaranteed to be a good response!

What We Learned About Email Marketing

Email marketing is hastily increasing in popularity and volume (17.7% increase in volume Q4/Q3 alone), but its effectiveness remains low (4.5% clickthrough rate, 0.29% response rate).

Put bluntly, the number of emails each person receives is increasing at a pretty rapid pace.  The more emails someone receives, the more emails you are competing against.  The more emails you compete against, the lower the probability that your email will be effective.

Although the success rate of email marketing is nowhere as high as people like to think, it can be effective for driving people to your website or web app.  But if you succeed in driving someone to your site, what do you do with them once they get to your site?  How do you personalize the web experience to get them to keep coming back and eventually become a customer? How do you get your customer portal to be one of the precious few they enjoy logging into?  Enter Real-Time Web Personalization.

How Real-Time Web Personalization Works

Real-Time Web Personalization is behavior based.  It has a powerful rules engine to provide personalization at a granular, or individual level.  At any given time your site or app can recognize exactly who is looking at it.  The goal of real-time personalization is to make each individual feel like your website and customer portal were designed specifically for them.  They see the content, language, and offers that are specifically important and interesting to them.  This process is broken into two steps:

Step 1 - Collect the Data:   

Real-Time Personalization is based on three criteria:

  1. Who they are: Are they a Decision Maker? Influencer? Technical Evaluator? Researcher? What is their job title and responsibilities? Where are they located? What industry are they in? What are their requirements, pain points, concerns?
  2. What they have done: What content have they read/downloaded? What webinars/conferences have they attended? Have they trialed or demo-ed you product? Have they been a customer in the past? What site are they coming from? ( e.g. social media, google search, affiliate site, content site, etc.)
  3. Where they are in your customer life-cycle: Are they anonymous prospect? Qualified lead? Current Customer? Are they currenty in a free trial and need to be converted? Do they need onboarding? Are they a candidate for upsell? Are they a customer at risk to churn?

Step 2 - Change what the person sees on your website/web app in real-time:

The data from Step 1 is collected while a person is on your website or in your web app.  This data is  then used to personalize the web experience in real-time, the instant a person visits your site or app.  Your web page will instantly swap out content, language, videos, offers, based on who this person is, what they have done, and where they are in your customer life cycle.  The process is automated and in real-time.

Examples of Real-Time Web Personalization:

  • Potential Customer Personalization Example: A potential customer visits your site and sees content related to upgrading or a customer seminar.  This is not relevant to them and is wasted space on your site.  Real-time personalization recognizes this person as “John Smith, a non-customer”, and shows them content focused on getting them to fill out a form, demo, and eventually convert to a paying customer.
  • Free Trial User Personalization Example.  A free trial user of yours has been logging in multiple times.  At the surface level you would think this is a highly engaged user and has a high probability to convert. Your Real-Time Web Personalization solution tracks the user’s every clickstream movement.  After a deeper look, you notice that even with the frequent logging in, this user has never once used your most powerful feature.  A bad omen for conversion.  Never fear, thanks to your personalization software, you caught this early.  By setting a rule that upon their next login (or next several logins) to callout this feature and encourage them to check it out, you have greatly increased their chance of converting from free trial to paying customer.  An email is possible in this scenario, but I always go back to the power of real-time interaction.  This same scenario can be user for customer onboarding.
  • Current Customer Personalization Example.  A current customer visits your website and they see a content for a free trial.  This is wasted real estate on your site as they are already a customer so don’t care about a free trial.  If you had real-time personalization, your site would instantly recognize this person as “John Smith, current customer”, and instead show them more relevant content like an upgrade, upsell, or customer advocacy opportunity.

(Want more information on personalization, check here.)

How Real-Time Personalization Will Make You More Money

There is nothing more powerful that real-time interaction.  Think about it.  An onsite meeting is more valuable than an email, and a live demo or phone call is more valuable than an email.  So why don’t we bring that real-time value to you website and web apps?  Now we can.  Here is how to do it for each stage of your customer lifecycle funnel:

For increasing conversions of anonymous leads to qualified prospects:

Track return web visitor clickstream behavior.  Based off that behavior, change the content, language and offers they see on your site based on their keyword search, what site they came from, whey they are located, what pages they previously viewed, what content they read or downloaded.

  • For example, the prompt in the bottom right hand of the screenshot above will change with each click so it's adapting to user behavior.

For increasing conversions of qualified leads to free trial/demos:

Track web visitors clickstream behavior who have filled out a form (resource download, webinar registrant, etc).  Based off that behavior change the content, language, and offers they see.

For increasing conversions of free trial users to paying customers:

Track free trial customer’s usage behavior in your SaaS app.  Identify which features they are using, and which they are not using.  Based off that behavior change the content, messages they see in your app.  For example, if they have not used a core feature, they next time they log into the free trial show them a message that calls out this feature and why they should use it.

For increasing conversions of paying customers to successfully onboarded customers:

Identify new customers that have not been successfully onboarded.  Instead of relying solely on email and phone call onboarding you can automate the onboarding process by developing a personalized real-time navigational guide in your app.

For increasing conversions of successfully onboarded customers to customer renewals:

Track your customers behavior in your SaaS app.  Based on their behavior (completion of high-value actions), identify which customers are the highest probability to upgrade.  Additionally, identify customers who have NOT completed these key actions yet.  Engage these customers next time they log into your app and encourage them to complete these key actions, increasing their engagement in you app which increasing the probability they will renew.