One of the buzzwords and a key trend in marketing is automation. Even though it may sound complicated and unaffordable for small businesses, the opposite is true — you only have to know where to begin. If you know what to focus on, choose the right software and analyse your efforts, marketing automation can truly get your business to the next level.
Marketing automation is, as the name suggests, a category of technology that streamlines your marketing activities. It gives you the power to focus on customers with the highest potential and saves your time by triggering messages (campaigns) across multiple channels without you having to start them manually. A miracle, I know.
There are more arguments to start using a marketing automation tool:
- It saves you time by automating manual effort.
- If done well, it increases the revenue and saves cost.
- It allows you to nurture your most valuable customers and focus on new customers with the highest potential.
- It guides customers to better outcomes.
- It creates unique marketing experiences on social media.
- It elevates your customer care efforts.
- It uncovers new business opportunities with a variety of intelligent workflow.
Stop. Doing. Manual. Work. Period. Let technology help you automate. It’s not as hard as it looks.
Here’s our guide to help you through the very first steps to start using marketing automation that will take your business to the next level.
1. Set your priorities
Be clear about what you want to achieve and how you’ll track it. This is a prerequisite to get started. If you don’t clearly set your expectations, you won’t know where to go and you won’t recognize when you get there.
Do you want to save time? Great! Are you more interested in increasing your response rate? That’s cool too. Would you like to generate more leads? That counts as well. Goals and expectations should come out of your status quo — no one will help you here, just you, so start by defining your goals.
2. Define the customer journey & touchpoints
Know the journey of your customer. You can only optimize if you know what leads your customers to purchase. We are fans of marketing funnels that help you (in a simplified way) understand the customer journey. Draw one for your business — you will get a better idea of where your customers get stuck.
Let us give an example here. Say you run your real estate business. Your primary selling point is your website with all the listings and offers. You run Google, Bing and social media ads to generate traffic. You might send some newsletters too.
Your primary goal is to generate leads and close them, right? There are multiple touchpoints throughout the customer journey (before you close the deal).
3. Find out what can be automated
Now that you know how your customers behave — you’ve identified the touchpoints, let’s slowly start automating. Or better said, let’s find out what can be automated. Tools like Hubspot, ActiveCampaign or Keap are mostly focused on email marketing, social media ads, search & display ads, SMS, widgets and pop ups on the website. These represent the channels that you can use to get in touch with your audience.
4. Choose the right automation software
There are plenty of tools to choose from. Going back to your potential question: “Are these tools affordable for small businesses?”, note that you don’t have to pick Marketo or Hubspot to automate your efforts. These are tools mainly for enterprises that operate with big marketing budgets. So do your research and choose the solution which works for your business. To avoid a costly mistake, do not invest in Marketing Automation without a plan that is fully in line with your marketing and business goals. Otherwise, you will not realise the full benefits of the investment and may as well be doing it the old way. As mentioned the best way to understand your Marketing Automation needs is to start with the development of a thorough Inbound Marketing strategy. An Inbound Strategy will help you understand your buyer personas and their journey from prospect-to-customer, so you know what content and processes need to be set up to generate, nurture and convert leads from strangers, into loyal customers and raving fans!
5. Analyse your efforts after some time & improve
Make sure to come back and analyse your efforts. As Peter Drucker said, if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it. Analysing what works and what doesn’t is crucial. We recommend running continual AB testing to optimise every step of your funnel and every touchpoint with your customers. All tools that have been listed above allow you to do so easily.
These are the 5 easy steps to get started with marketing automation. Some of them might seem obvious, but believe me, there is no shortcut. Set your priorities first, define the customer journey and touchpoints, find out what can be automated, choose the right tool(s) and after some period of time, come back, analyse and improve.
Here are our top 6 marketing tasks to automate:
This is a big one. Without Marketing Automation the process of setting up, timing and executing a series of emails to nurture leads from prospect-to-customer is nigh-on impossible. With Marketing Automation code being capable of tracking how leads interact with content, highly sophisticated nurture programmes can be created - regardless of the digital channels used. Most Marketing Automation platforms use workflows (or lead flows) to set the rules for the nature and timing of follow-up offer communications, based on that behaviour. And with the right strategy in place, you can also use automation to ‘progressively profile’ leads as they engage with content over time, so you can put your time into nurturing only the most valuable leads.
Blog + vlog publishing
Blogging and vlogging are still the number one ways your Inbound content will be discovered through organic search. By writing and publishing multiple blogs with supporting video, you will grow the organic reach of your content. Not all Marketing Automation platforms include blogging functionality or native video hosting (but HubSpot does!). If you can automate your blog + video publishing, you can efficiently produce, schedule and report on the effectiveness of your blogging/vlogging programme. Bonus tip Consider automating your blog subscription process. By allowing people to select how frequently they want to receive blog updates from you, and setting blog notifications as automated email alerts, you can eliminate the dreaded monthly newsletter. (There’s at least a day back a month).
Social media publishing
With so many social media channels available to Marketers to connect with their target audiences, it’s becoming a nightmare to manage and monitor what’s going on at any one time – and what’s actually working. With the right Marketing Automation platform, you can solve both those problems. All your publishing for all social media channels can occur in one place – and you can see at a glance the programme of activity across all your channels. A bonus is that you can also write, approve and produce posts in bulk and in advance, then use scheduling tools to publish your posts when you want them to appear.
Examples of Social Media Automation in Action
Some of the ways social media automation could be put into action include:
- Use chatbots to respond to user messages
- Schedule Facebook posts weeks ahead of campaigns
- Send tweets when your audience levels peak
- Get notifications of social conversations
Ah, the dark art. Well, the good news is that with the right Marketing Automation platform, the SEO of your Inbound Content should be well and truly catered for ‘out of the box’. And if you’ve adopted Inbound Marketing as the way forward, the mere fact that you’re doing Inbound is an SEO strategy in itself. If you’re producing great, helpful content that people are searching for, then you will be blessed in the eyes of Google. Sure, there are some instances where a technical or more comprehensive SEO audit and strategy is important – particularly if you’re dealing with a legacy website that has had many reincarnations. But on the whole, if you’re doing Inbound using a reputable platform, your basic SEO should be sussed.
Customer lifecycle communications
Here’s where your sales team gets really excited. Most Marketing Automation platforms extend through the prospect-to-customer lifecycle and allow your Sales team to automate standard communications to help nurture customers through the onboarding process and beyond. No more rogue emails from ‘that’ sales rep who insists on doing it his/her own way. No more forgotten emails that leave your precious customer (who you’ve been spending months nurturing) hanging.
Reporting and analytics
And the ‘piece-de-resistance’...with Marketing Automation, everything we’ve talked about above can be measured and tracked to the ‘enth’ degree. As most of your marketing activity is being driven out of one platform, all the data is RIGHT THERE, real time, all the time - so you can see what’s happening. The beauty of this is that not only can you report on the ROI of each channel, but you can also watch, learn and tweak as you go to optimise your Inbound Marketing efforts. No longer do you have to wait till the end of a campaign for your agency to send you results. With Marketing Automation the power is in your hands to see exactly what’s going on and adjust your content campaigns while they’re in market to get immediate improvements
So where is Marketing Automation is heading into 2021 and beyond?
Customers today are micro-influencers. Their loyalty to brands will promote purchases among their own networks. It’s already started, but we can see Marketing Automation platforms shifting focus to retention and delivering customer loyalty functionality. Marketing Automation programmes are starting to step up the personalisation game when it comes to loyalty programmes. And the multi-channel capabilities of these platforms is the perfect fit for your customers’ (whether they be B2B or B2C) multi-channel experiences. What does this mean for you? Wherever your customer interacts with your brand, you can be sure they will be treated like royalty!