Building Customer Relationships Through Customer Automation

An interview with Active Campaign's CEO, Jason VandeBoom

Want to know more about how marketing automation can help you scale your business? We sat down with Jason VandeBoom, Founder and CEO of ActiveCampaign, and one of our SAAS NORTH NOW speakers to chat more about marketing automation and sustainable growth.

Can you tell our audience a bit about yourself and ActiveCampaign?

I am the Founder and CEO of ActiveCampaign, a company I started in 2003 as an on-premises SMB software company to help pay for art school with offerings for email marketing, help desk software and live chat. In 2016, we made the choice to become a SaaS company, and launched the Customer Experience Automation category, which closed the gaps left by legacy email marketing, marketing automation, service and support and CRM categories.

Today, ActiveCampaign helps over 100,000 businesses in 170 countries meaningfully engage with their customers. The platform gives businesses of all sizes access to hundreds of pre-built automations that combine email marketing, marketing automation, CRM, and machine learning for powerful segmentation and personalization across social, email, messaging, chat, and text. Since 2016, we’ve grown from about 20 employees to over 600 employees worldwide, who are distributed across our headquarters in Chicago and hubs in Indianapolis, Dublin, Sydney, and Brazil.

What is the inspiration behind ActiveCampaign? What makes it unique in the marketing automation industry?

The inspiration behind ActiveCampaign is to remove the silos between sales, marketing, and customer success, giving businesses more freedom and agility than “all-in-one” marketing tools, to create ideal customer experiences with the perfect balance of automation and human touch. We orchestrate across 300+ solutions, so companies can create technology stacks that are personalized for their business needs, and extend automation, segmentation, personalization and AI across the entire customer lifecycle.

With ActiveCampaign, and the customer experience automation (CXA) category, we are helping businesses scale their 1-1 personal customer relationships through connected experiences that span the customer lifecycle. This enables businesses to automate a truly personalized experience that feels authentic, so their customer relationships can scale, no matter how large that business grows. Additionally, we have over 250 automation recipes that businesses can plug in to launch dynamic omni-channel campaigns. They are like built-in playbooks that automate best practices and strategies so businesses can be successful from Day 1. We also offer the industry’s first Customer Commitment, which includes free support, migration, and implementation, and a robust series of low-cost product training courses that are accessible to even the smallest companies.

How does a company know if it’s ready for marketing automation? Are there specific criteria that help you know when the time is right?

Delivering a personalized, high-touch experience is easy in the very beginning, but as a business grows—adding channels, additional teams, locations, customer segments, etc.— the complexity of managing relationships is too much, and that personalized connection doesn’t scale.

Once you are looking to scale the customer experience, you have to adopt automation. Because of this, most companies need some way to manage customer relationships fairly early in their lifetimes.

Customer Experience Automation provides incredible value, connecting tools across the entire customer lifecycle, and enabling deep segmentation using data to improve send strategy in real time based on customer behaviors.

For example:

  • A dentist office can use an appointment scheduled with Calendly to trigger a confirmation email and an appointment reminder SMS message.
  • A retailer whose customer abandons their shopping cart in the retailer's Shopify store can automatically add that customer to a Facebook Ads campaign that encourages the customer to return and complete their purchase.
  • A real estate company can use a Typeform form submission on their website to automatically increase a contact's lead score, enter a new lead into a Google Sheets table, and notify a real estate agent via Slack.

So, if you’re ready to start engaging with prospects and customers, you’re ready for marketing automation.

How important is marketing automation to a company’s sustainable growth?

As a company grows, if its systems and processes don’t scale along with its customer base, growth will ultimately become a barrier to success. This is especially true when it comes to customer engagement. Marketing powers a 1-many connection, as opposed to the 1-1 connection that is possible with Sales. However, today’s customers expect marketing engagement to be as personal as a 1-1 email they might receive from their sales rep. This means, Marketing must leverage automation to segment customers, scale personalized interactions, and continue conversations across every channel without interruption.

One of the most critical steps a business can take is to ensure that the personal experience customers had at the beginning, the experience that made them stand out in the first place, doesn’t get lost. This is why Customer Experience Automation goes beyond marketing touchpoints, to bring automation and personalization to every customer touchpoint, pre, during, and post-sale, for long-term, authentic customer relationships.

What are the key considerations or steps a company should take to ensure it is set up for long-term growth?

Sustainable growth was always a core focus for us at ActiveCampaign. One of the things we did early was make a commitment to invest in the things that drove the most value for customers. Rather than spending a lot on sales and marketing, we focused on the programs that drove value for our customers and looked at outcomes in terms of real customer value. This allowed us to spread organically, through positive reviews and word of mouth, which actually got us a bigger reach for less expense than if we had tried to expand that large through paid efforts. There is nothing better for low-cost, sustainable growth than happy customers.

That is probably the best advice I can give — invest in ideal customer experiences, where your product or service repeatedly proves its value. Any strategy centered around that core value will drive retention, expansion, brand loyalty and advocacy.

What can attendees expect to learn from your SAAS North session?

Attendees can expect to learn that there is more than one playbook for building and scaling a SaaS business sustainably. We’ll discuss some of the strategies we employed early on, including the things ActiveCampaign did differently than most, the risks we took and why, and how these strategies led us to where we are today.