While you may have chosen an ideal path for potential consumers to interact with you online, the truth is that you have no control over it.

Triggered marketing enables you to prepare in any way your audience chooses to engage. In this article, we’ll cover all about trigger marketing, including its benefits, examples, and steps to take advantage of it.

When you hear about marketing automation, you often think of detailed graphs of emails sent to different segments, segmented by email engagement, drawing a line from prospect to customer?

This has become the norm But this approach has a flaw. It starts with the marketer’s timeline, not the prospect’s timeline.

Marketers sit down to define what information the prospect will use next, what action the prospect will take next, and the path the prospect takes from being a prospect to becoming a customer.

But if we are honest with ourselves, we will admit that the world is not that simple.

Using the traditional stages of the funnel, from prospect to customer, we often view things in a linear fashion. A prospect downloads an eBook, then becomes MQL when they start a trial, then SQL when a salesperson follows up with that prospect, an opportunity when they make a trial review call, and a customer when they buy.

But what if they start a trial and then download the ebook? Or what if they get into a sales conversation after downloading the ebook, never become a customer, and then get lukewarm before starting a trial a few months later?

The reality is that you can’t control the behavior of your prospects or the order in which they behave. What you can control, however, is how you react to potential customer behavior.

This is where automation and triggered marketing become powerful.

A “triggering” event can be anything your CRM and automation software can measure. Here are just a few examples:

  • form conversion
  • Email opens (or not)
  • Pages viewed
  • Chatbot Interaction
  • abandoned cart

Here’s an example: On my birthday last year, wine brand McBride Sisters, a brand I’ve approached in the past, sent me birthday wishes and a discount on their products.

McBride Sisters Trigger Marketing Example

In this case, the trigger event was my birthday – a piece of data they collected at some point.

As a result of triggering events, you can use marketing automation software to automate tasks and actions such as:

  • Send them an email (or email sequence).
  • Update their CRM records.
  • Add them to the list.
  • Assign them to sales reps.
  • Start an internal ticket.

The benefits of trigger marketing

The biggest benefit of trigger marketing is the ability to respond quickly to consumer behavior.

We can’t always predict how users will behave – however, we can make sure we’re ready to respond in line with our goals.

Flower Girl Trigger Marketing Example

Trigger marketing also allows you to automate certain marketing strategies so you never miss an opportunity to convert leads.

Plus, this strategy is a great credibility, trust, and loyalty builder for your audience. From welcome messages and birthday wishes to order confirmations and discount reminders, all of these interactions enhance your customer experience and foster positive relationships with your audience.

1. Know your buyer persona.

It goes without saying in the context of any marketing campaign, but in marketing automation, understanding your buyer persona is critical.

If you carefully consider your target audience’s life cycle stages, pain, and motivation, you can develop better trigger marketing strategies to guide them along the purchase path.

The goal of marketing automation is to deliver great experiences at scale, and part of that means meeting them right where they are.

This is why collecting data early is so valuable, because you can use these insights to develop effective trigger marketing strategies.

2. Think in terms of “if” and “then”.

The software is simple. It sees in black and white, not the complex results you’re heading towards.

However, you can reverse engineer a great trigger marketing strategy using automation by thinking about your results and the path to get there through a series of if/then statements:

  • if X happens, Then do Y.
  • if Prospective clients fill out this form, Then Send them this email.
  • if A potential customer visits the pricing page, Then Notify representatives.

“If” is the norm. “then” is the action you want to take.

3. Find your trigger event.

In order to get your message to the right person at the right time, you must identify the “trigger.” (In HubSpot, it’s called “Registration Standard.”)

This is the “if” part of the equation, a concrete indicator that software can use as a green light to perform an action.

Triggering events are limited to the functionality of information and marketing automation in the system. Common ones include:

  • Action taken on the website.
  • Criteria met in the database.
  • Responses to past emails or events.

For example, if an email subscriber has opted out of your last four newsletters, you can trigger the auto-unsubscribe button and then send the subscriber an email.

4. Decide what you want the system to do.

Once you know your “trigger” or signup/start criteria, then you can decide what happens next. This is the “then” part of the equation.

Common actions include:

  • send email.
  • Register in turn.
  • Categorize contacts in the database.

5. Create a personalized message.

Research shows that consumers are more likely to buy after a personalized experience.

If your actions (“then” statements) include marketing tasks, such as email sending or event registration, it is critical to understand exactly how this contact is different from other contacts in CRM and which messages are uniquely appealing to them . Ask yourself:

  1. Where are they on the journey?
  2. How do I provide value and move it to the next step?

6. Identify and eliminate repetitive marketing tasks.

If you’re still not sure where to start with marketing automation, start by creating a list of your most repetitive tasks.

For example, if you are sending the same email to multiple contacts over and over, using automation to eliminate this task from your day will increase productivity and thus performance.

This will help you focus on higher-impact tasks that cannot be automated.

7. Increase the value of your CRM.

Your marketing automation is limited to the CRM and the data that powers it.

Marketing automation can hurt you if your data is messed up. If your data is incomplete, you won’t be able to make advanced personalization and segmentation that can change the world.

With that in mind, learn how to get the most out of your CRM. Part of this comes down to using automation to update CRM records and categorize contacts, but ultimately you have to think about how your organization uses its CRM and ask yourself the following questions:

  • What data (and when) can you collect about your prospects to help you improve the effectiveness of your campaigns?
  • How can automation be used to ensure database cleanliness and accuracy?
  • How often can you audit the database to ensure the integrity of these efforts?

Trigger-Based Marketing Email Example

Trigger: Educational offer downloaded.

If you don’t have any trigger emails set up, this is a good place to start, as this is the broadest trigger — reaching potential customers at the earliest stages of the buyer’s journey.

Send Content: Transactional Emails with Next Calls to Action

In this case, your trigger email can be a transactional email – confirming the download and including any information related to that download.

For example, if this is the next step in downloading an eBook, include the eBook’s name and PDF link.

Trigger Marketing Example: Hip Skin

Once you understand the basics of transactional information, it’s time to think about what you want your prospect to do next. You have their attention – use it.

Do you want them to convert with offers in channels like demo requests or free consultations?

Or do you want to encourage them to share this offer with their network to expand the reach of your content?

Think of ideal next steps and include a call to action in your follow-up emails.

Trigger: A series of actions are taken, but the next action is not taken.

Let’s say your prospect is about to take the action you want—like making a purchase—but they haven’t quite reached the finish line.

This is your chance to follow up to get them across the finish line.

Sending Content: Related Content and Alternative Actions

Perhaps because of some hesitation, they did not complete that action. They don’t want to fill out the form, or they have some other question.

Trigger Marketing Example: Amazon

This is an opportunity to follow up on cart abandonment emails, remind them of their items and offer related items for consideration.

Triggers: Viewed high-intent content.

Say you have high-intent content, like a product page or a product-focused blog post. When site visitors view this content, you can use this data in future communications with your users.

What to send: Tailored follow-up content

Whether you trigger emails immediately or save this intelligence for future communications, the data you collect about what people view can be used to make your marketing more relevant on a one-to-one basis.

In this case, a visitor viewing high-intent content may signal someone is ready to watch a demo or talk to a sales rep.

With this in mind, you can trigger a series of emails designed to guide that user further into the buyer’s journey.

The key takeaway here is to consider the various behavioral data points you have about your prospects and what you can draw from them.

Triggers: High engagement (or disengagement).

Find out what your bar is for a highly engaged prospect (perhaps they downloaded at least three ebooks and viewed at least ten blog posts) and a non-engaged prospect, and respond and market to them accordingly.

Send Content: Timely Next Calls to Action or Re-engagement

For your highly engaged prospects, you again have attention that you can tap into. A great option is to encourage them to share what they just downloaded.

When a prospect becomes highly engaged, this is a great opportunity to inform the prospect’s sales rep that this is a good time to follow up with the prospect. For non-engaged leads, send proactive re-engagement emails.

Trend-triggered marketing example

You might even want to have multiple trigger points (e.g. no email clicks for three weeks, three months, or more) where you can send different campaigns to re-engage these leads or unsubscribe them.

When done right, trigger marketing can yield higher results than typical linear marketing automation campaigns.

Using some of the same techniques, you can reposition your marketing to work around a prospect’s timeline rather than your own, while continuing to drive the actions you want.

new call to action

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in April 2014 and has been updated for completeness.