Let’s face it: sometimes we have dumb goals. We want to be fitter, happier, more productive without bothering to sit down and figure out why and how.
SMART goals is a popular framework used for productivity and management to break down those lofty goals into something feasible. The idea is that if you deliberately design your objectives, you can better set yourself up for success in accomplishing them.
The SMART acronym provides 5 criteria to help set effective goals:
Bringing clarity and concreteness to goals clears the path to actually taking steps. With a well-defined, worthy objective, you can tell how you’re faring in reaching it and figure out what you need to get there.
Applying the SMART goals approach is also useful for planning great emails — which, like all human goals, has an inclination to stay fuzzy until we deliberate on them.
Here’s a 5-criteria checklist, adapted for SMARTening up your emails:
You can use SMART goal-setting for any type of marketing email, but it’s especially handy to apply to lifecycle emails. SMART goals can provide a blueprint for architecting a lifecycle email program that increases engagement, builds trust, and gets people where you want them to go.
The first step to getting lifecycle emails right is analyzing your customer’s lifecycle. Your hope is that people will perform key actions to derive value from your product at certain stages of interaction. Frameworks and funnels like the pirate metrics model can help you plot out these key actions. These are the conversion goals around which you’ll orient your lifecycle emails.
Here’s how SMART helps determining and refining those goals:
Let’s take a look at MailCharts, an email marketing intelligence tool that e-commerce marketers use to track their competitors, create competitive email marketing reports, gather email ideas, and keep up with industry trends.
Here’s how MailCharts typically wants to see people behave. A new customer:
Now, let’s zoom in on MailChart’s onboarding flow in particular. After someone signs up, we want them to gather their first email insight using the app. Now, this sounds like a vital step — without seeing what type of insight the tool can deliver, new users won’t be able to experience the value of MailCharts.
But when you apply SMART criteria to this goal, you start to see how it isn’t specific enough. MailCharts wants new users to gather email insight so that they can experience one of those “aha!” moments and start realizing the value of the MailCharts app. It’s a great first step because we’re thinking about what the benefit is for the user, plus it seems very relevant, achievable, and timely.
But the goal of “gathers email insight” isn’t specific or measurable yet. What does gathering your first email insight mean in MailCharts? What features or actions does that involve? We need to break it down further into discrete steps like:
Now we have a SMARTer onboarding flow with specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based conversion goals.
Now that we have some clear conversion goals, we can build on them by adding in behavioral emails (triggered messages based on what people have done) to educate and convince users to complete the goals. Let’s continue applying our SMART criteria as we plan this communication layer.
Let’s look at MailChart’s onboarding flow again, from signup to paid subscriber. We’ll map out the conversion goals and the communication strategy for a drip series at each step.
Goal: Prompt new users to run their first email search in MailCharts
✉ Show how easy it is to search with a gif
✉ Show the value of email search by framing it as new A/B test ideas
✉ Highlight a cool feature like search by email type
✉ Provide the results of a sample search and share 3 types of insight
sample MailCharts email prompting users to run a search
Goal: Prompt new users to generate first report with MailCharts
✉ Talk about the different types of reports you can run in MailCharts
✉ Send snippets of a sample company overview report to show what it looks like
✉ Offer suggestions on how to analyze a report like looking at send-time strategy
✉ Show an example of a report and the types of insights you can glean
part of sample MailCharts email showing value of their reports
With behavioral emails, you’re able to stop a series mid-drip once the user accomplishes the conversion goal or exclude them from getting it at all. For example, you might get one series of messages encouraging you to generate your first report and not get the email search messages if you already did it.
As Olark’s Sunir Shah says, “A huge mistake with drip emails is asking users to complete actions they have already done.” This way, you start crafting a personalized email experience based on the specific actions and journey of each individual user.
Goal: Returns to app during free trial to continue creating reports and searches
✉ After running 3 reports or searches, send a high-five and a freebie resource.
✉ Remind users that MailCharts can add companies to the database on request.
✉ Send a weekly digest of activity.
People abandon their apps all the time, but that’s no time to abandon your users. Learn some lessons from abandoned cart emails by reminding users of your value and offering help to make progress on their goals. Maintain or increase engagement with positive reinforcement, celebrating achievements and delivering value and insight based on past activity.
Goal: Trial user becomes a paying customer
✉ Time’s running out.
✉ Social proof story.
✉ Reminder of some of the user’s insights and activity.
Goal: Superuser becomes a paying customer
✉ Awesome work getting email insights. Do you want to upgrade?
✉ Do you want to upgrade? Here’s an incentive for our VIP power-users.
✉ Social proof story.
✉ Time’s running out.
Here’s a great example of how thinking about SMART criteria can unearth some new email opportunities with your conversion goals. Even within your typical free trial, different kinds of behavior may emerge — which means you want to further personalize your goal and message.
If a new user seems to be getting a ton of value out of your app right away, then it could be an opportune time and a relevant and achievable goal to speed up the ask for a paid subscription.
After you plot out your SMART conversion and communication goals, go back and fill in your recipient segments and the timing for those triggered messages. Now you’ve created a basic lifecycle email plan that’s actionable for you to create and actionable for your users!
It’s easy to say that lifecycle emails are all about delivering the right message at the right time but like personal goals, it takes a bit of smarts and effort to translate that into reality.
p style=”border: double #FFD700 10px; padding: 15px;”>We’re cooking up a whole ebook on how to plan and create powerful lifecycle emails! Learn how to build your email-based growth machine.