What is Flight School? An Introduction

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So you’ve been busy growing your business for the past few years - honing your product, selling and marketing to customers, hiring key people, delivering and fulfilling orders, and making ends meet. By and large, you’ve been successful in winning loyal customers, and your revenue is up and to the right.

Moreover, you’ve spent significant time and money on customer acquisition - advertising, online marketing, events, sales campaigns, and investing in partners. Your website or shopping cart is converting, your team can sell, and your referral or partner network is delivering. Yet you have that nagging fear that you’re missing out on leads and opportunities because you aren’t keeping up with your contact base.

Leads slipping through the cracks?

While some of your customers are purchasing regularly, many are only doing so occasionally, and many others you’ve lost touch with entirely. The good news is that coincidental run-ins, whether at industry events, on Facebook or Twitter threads, or when you happen to touch bases over the phone, are leading to positive outcomes.

The question is: how many more leads like these might exist? With a more systematic approach to when and how you engage your contacts, could you stay top of mind, be authentic to the brand you’ve created, and rekindle old conversations and leads from your hard-earned database? And, do you know the metrics and levers to grow your business faster online?

If these questions are eating away at you, then automating your customer marketing using marketing automation is a good place to start. Flight School - Autopilot’s training ground for online marketing - will take you through the strategies, tactics, and stories that the best companies use get quick wins and build a foundation for long-term financial growth.

An example: Golden Gate Wine

Golden Gate Wine is a Hong Kong-based importer of vintage California and US-based wine. The company was founded in 2004 by an expatriate couple who recognized a gap in Hong Kong and China for affordable, high-quality US wines. Their angle was to import a spectrum of mid to high-end labels from Napa, Sonoma, and the best wine regions in the U.S., and resell to HK-based individuals, hotels, restaurants, clubs, airlines, government, and distributors.

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Over the ensuing decade, Golden Gate Wine grew to staff of over 10 people, serving more than 5,000 clients. Sales were driven mostly by the inside sales team, and at events and trade shows. They built a popular brand with an active Facebook fanbase and sent regular newsletters that drove attendance and sales leads.

Yet staying in touch with customers and managing their sprawling contact base remained a challenge. So in 2015, they invested in marketing automation software to grow awareness amongst their customers, friends, and partners, including keep-in-touch emails, feedback surveys, and ongoing newsletters and promotions.

The impacts were immediate - with online sales growing by 150% after implementing automated marketing approaches. By first organizing their customer database, they were able to eliminate bad contacts while focusing on high-value customer segments including VIP status, paired wine preferences, business types, total purchases, or recency of meetings. Over a 6-week period, they created four customer marketing journeys engaging 3,500 former customers.

Customers who had “gone cold” for years clicked and opened emails, inquired about new wine labels, registered for events, and provided valuable feedback. Toby Marion, owner & CEO said, “I spoke to former customers who hadn’t bought in years - now they want to buy more today. We would never have thought to call him. Remarkable.”

Why top performers obsess over their customers’ journey

Whether we’re talking about a traditional and online retailer like Golden Gate Wine or a high-tech startup or financial services and consulting firm, the lifeblood of any small business is a steady supply of qualified leads who try and buy your services. Companies who invest in the customer experience and do a good job of staying in touch regularly, go on to earn loyal customers, benefit from larger repeat purchases, and enjoy word-of-mouth referrals.

Companies like Amazon.com, Apple, and Zappos know this and invest millions each year into understanding their customers’ buying experience. They break down the customer journey, or the set of decisions and hurdles that a curious person (a “lead”) faces as they evaluate a product or service. Marketers and product managers develop aggregate buying personas that helps focus their messaging and features and implement tracking to assess customer progress through a funnel - whether it be making a first-time purchase, activating a new feature, or offering a product review.

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Have you ever noticed that after you’ve clicked on a pair of shoes on Zappos or Amazon, then leave the site to do something else, you’re “followed” by eerily-specific ads that recall you to purchase the shoes you were reading reviews about just 20 minutes earlier? Or, after activating your Twitter or New York Times account, you’re emailed with suggestions on how to get more followers, improve your profile, or enjoy more free articles before your monthly allotment expires?

In each, you are being tracked and targeted with offerings that factor in everything these companies know about you, including your engagement with their websites and ads, your usage of their products, and your interactions with their agents. And it works. You are far more likely to respond to a time-limited discount offer for the pair of shoes you’ve spent 45 minutes researching, chatting to agents about, with guaranteed delivery to your home within three days of your next job interview, than you are to respond to a generic advertisement for a shoe store “supersale” the next town over.

Flight School: Your framework for growth

The companies who are most successful at attracting, acquiring, and growing loyal customers start by creating easy and compelling journeys to take the buyer on as they learn about the company. They automate processes and connect technologies, to deliver consistent, relevant valuable content to their customers online as well as offline, which in turn helps buyers resolve their needs and objections.

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Companies also measure key metrics like content engagement, funnel conversion, customer satisfaction, and database reactivation rates. They commit to ongoing testing, learning, and improving. And they build trust with people who are not yet ready to buy by nurturing them with educational content, insights, and news until the customer is ready to begin a buying process.

How is this all achieved? In the case of the enterprise leaders - the Amazons, Apples, and LinkedIns - through custom tooling and technology. Autopilot’s Flight School is dedicated to helping “the rest of us” automate our marketing throughout the customer lifecycle by organizing your customer database, creating rich profiles of your audience, finding and writing great content, implementing quick-win lead nurturing journeys, and browsing resources and guides that will help you grow leads, sales, and loyal customers.

This is a new breed of marketing automation - easy, visual, personalized, and multi-channel - the essentials to contact the right person in the right place, at the right time.

Now that you’ve gotten a feel for what Flight School is all about, take the time to understand what Warren Buffett has in common with marketing automation or get inspired by great examples of marketing →

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