Act-On and Waitrainer: Marketing Personalization and Customer Journeys

Waitrainer uses prospect data email to segment and personalize email marketing. The company's CEO, Todd Edman, shares his methods and explains the customer journey in a conversation with Michael Krigsman of CXOTalk.


Aug 15, 2017

In 2010, Todd Edman launched Waitrainer into the restaurant training space. He has overseen its growth over the last 5 years and helps working restaurants simplify their training. He uses data to personalize the customer journey as a key part of his marketing. Act-On is his primary toolset.

Edman explains that Google Analytics and other data are helping market the product to business owners as a solution that they may not realize exists.

“When you have content on your website, you can see what people are looking at,” he says. “You [can] see what stuff naturally rises to the top on that. And then, you look at that messaging and say, ‘What was that person looking for? And, is that thing that they were looking for, does that match one of our value propositions? And if it does, how do we direct them to it? How do we match messaging about our products and our marketing solutions, and our value proposition to the thing that they were looking for?’ So then, they go, ‘Oh! Maybe, that’s something that can help us.’”


Michael Krigsman: I’m Michael Krigsman, an industry analyst and the host of CxOTalk. And, I’m speaking with Todd Edman, who is the CEO of Waitrainer, and Waitrainer is trying to disrupt parts of the restaurant business.

Todd Edman: Yeah, so what we’re trying to do is help restaurants simplify their training. And so, we’re helping facilitate movement of restaurants from like a traditional training manual, like a binder, and shadow training, and move them onto an online training platform so employees can train on the fundamentals of the restaurants on their smartphone.

Michael Krigsman: So, you’re going from paper-based manuals to being a Software-as-a-Service company?

Todd Edman: Yup! That’s correct!

Michael Krigsman: Data is a crucial component. So, tell us about your marketing. Let’s begin there.

Todd Edman: Sure! So, we’re in a place where it’s a challenge because a lot of the people who are looking for training, right, and to train in a restaurant are not looking for an online training solution because we’re new, right? So, people aren’t thinking to themselves, “Gosh! There has to be some online tool to do this. Where do I find it?” It’s more like, “I’d like to train my staff on x, y, or z on this one thing we need help.” And so, our challenge is how do we market to someone where we’re providing a solution that isn’t what they’re looking for, but that is the solution to their problem, right?

And so, we have to look at a lot of the data and look at our messaging, and really try and match those two things up. What are people looking for and how do we get them to think about us, as the solution?

Michael Krigsman: That’s really interesting. So, you have a solution to a problem and because it’s new, people don’t think about it. What kind of data are you using? When you say, “Match data to your marketing message,” what does that mean? Elaborate on that.

Todd Edman: Right. So, when you have content on your website, you can see what people are looking at. So, you have blog articles and whatnot. And then you work with other people to syndicate those out, right, and their content partners and stuff like that. And then, you sort of see what stuff naturally rises to the top on that. And then, you look at that messaging and say, “What was that person looking for? And, is that thing that they were looking for, does that match one of our value propositions? And if it does, how do we direct them to it? How do we match messaging about our products and our marketing solutions, and our value proposition to the thing that they were looking for?” So then, they go, “Oh! Maybe, that’s something that can help us.”

Michael Krigsman: Can you give us a very concrete example? I think that will help us understand it.
Todd Edman: Yeah, sure. So, one of the things we got a ton of traffic on was opening a steak house, right? And so, lots and lots of people were opening a steakhouse. And so, we looked at that term and say, “Okay, there’s going to be one or two type of people that are going to be looking at this, right? Either they’ve never worked in the restaurant business before and they were thinking about opening a steakhouse, or they’re looking to open a first, or second, or third location,” right? “I’m thinking about opening a steakhouse;” not very interesting to us; but, “I’m opening a second or third location;” really interesting to us.

So, we kind of wrote a blog article that paired in with that, and then we delivered email marketing to that sort of audience that was engaged with that, that matched that message. You know, “If you’re opening your second location or third location of a restaurant, you want to focus on training so you get that consistency.” And then, boom! We can see the percentage of those people that converted and became good leads.

Michael Krigsman: These were people that arrived on your website through, say, searches or Google Adwords?

Todd Edman: Right. Yup. Searches or Google Adwords, content partners are remarketing our stuff that we work with. Or even, once we’ve figured out that was the target, then we can look at certain segments like steakhouses – multi-location steakhouses and then we can target them.

Michael Krigsman: What kind of tools are you using to accomplish all of this; to do all of this slicing and dicing and collection, and analysis?

Todd Edman: Yeah. So, you know, we use Google Analytics. We lean really heavily on that. We do a lot of testing with Google Adwords about different search terms and looking at search volume. We use MailChimp a lot to manage kind of our entry-level, brand new, top of the funnel campaigns. But then, to kind of coalesce that data and really chew on it, we use Act-On. And then, Act-On really kind of becomes the hub for all those others and it really allows us to kind of segment lists and see what percentages of lists are digesting what information.

And, you know, when we look at kind of creating our marketing personas, we use those marketing personas of different types of people; people who have been in the restaurant business before, people who are running a multi-location chain, people who have run one restaurant for a really long time, family-owned restaurants; and then we take those personas and create different automated campaigns on Act-On around those personas and then track that activity on the website.

Michael Krigsman: So, which parts of Act-On are you using the most? You say that it’s the hub. Why do you say that?

Todd Edman: Well, so when we think about our marketing and scalability, to me, email and marketing is the ground game, right? It's running the football. If you don't have that down, I think it's really hard to be successful. And so, when you look at any hub for what we do for our data, it's going to be for me, and any company I do; it's going to be email marketing-based. And, Act-On really allows us to kind of spit out those campaigns, those automated campaigns, and then continue to tweak and adjust to messaging and see, "This particular leg of the automation campaign got this much better percentage of opens with that tagline, matching that customer persona." And it allows us to tweak and measure, and continue to adjust and optimize.

Michael Krigsman: So, this is the core of your process, and then you’re constantly iterating over that same process, refining it over and over again.

Todd Edman: Yup! And, you know, we kind of… You start going, "Okay, well, we've got to get people warmed up on a product; we drive people into leads as quickly as we can," so we want to take people and jam them into the funnel quickly when you start because you want initial traction. And then, it becomes more about optimizing and pushing people further down-funnel, right? And so, as we kind of go through and look at the effectiveness of the campaigns, we evaluate which segments aren't coming down-funnel, which segments aren't converting to leads, which segments aren't converting to closes. Is it because our value proposition doesn't match? Or, is it because our marketing messaging is incorrect and we're not properly evaluating our funnel?

Michael Krigsman: And, you obviously take, can we say, remedial steps. You look and see what’s working, what’s not, and how do you tweak it.

Todd Edman: Yeah, and we do A/B testing, too. So, that's really helpful because of time of year; I mean, the last two weeks, right? So, it's July-ish right now; August. But, the last couple of weeks in July are dead in the restaurant business because, after the fourth of July, a lot of restauranteurs take their summer vacations now. And so, when you start looking at data for that, if you're testing a campaign now, we perform wildly differently than when you try it in two weeks. So, A/B testing, I think, is really important to be able to compare apples to apples.

Michael Krigsman: And, what about the metrics? Do you have specific metrics for success that you’re looking at? Or is it just the results of, “Test A is better than Test B?”

Todd Edman: Uh, you know, I think of course there are opens, right? And then, there are click-throughs. And then, depending on where they are in the funnel if they're way down-funnel, you want to see those click-throughs. You want those to be high, right? If they're way up the funnel, you want opens, and just some sort of engagement. And so, you now, then you do your A/B testing to see, "Can we improve in the click-throughs on this particular segment? Or, can we improve on engagement in that particular segment," right? And so, you kind of look at that. "Can we take people who've never been on the website before and get them to go there?" And so, it just depends on where they are in the funnel and which automation campaign they're in, and how we work to push them down it.

Michael Krigsman: And finally, what are your future plans for marketing and your use of personas and customer journeys?

Todd Edman: Yeah! So, when I think about the nice thing about email marketing and digital marketing, right, is if you're measuring it all. If you have something like a good tool to be able to measure on-site engagement and email marketing and Adwords, and roll it all up and get a good picture of your customer. You can look at industry-standard reports, like what's the average return to SMB's in the hospitality space for emails campaigns? And then, you can look at your numbers, and kind of start to think, "Okay. My customer acquisition cost is like X for email marketing." And then, you look at, "What will “in print” be for me?" And then, you can look at some industry standards and you can kind of get a pretty good idea of what it looks like. So, you're like, "Okay, I'm going to enter the market. I'm going to do email marketing and Adwords, and then I'm going to do some print, and then I'm going to do some trade shows and see if those numbers across the industry start to line up." And if they do, it really gives you an idea… Well, we can run really, really fast. Our first is going to be email marketing; our next is going to be trade shows because that looks like, based on the industry, it should be really effective for us. It kind of lets you put together your whole go-to-market strategy.

Michael Krigsman: Okay! Todd Edman, from Waitrainer. Thank you so much for speaking with us today!

Todd Edman: No problem, Michael! Thank you!

Published Date: Aug 15, 2017

Author: Michael Krigsman

Episode ID: 462