Wouldn’t it be nice to have all your marketing efforts taken care for you by some new, fancy software?
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could be sipping margaritas on the beach while a program sent out emails and posted on social media on your behalf?
Marketing automation sounds like a dream, but there are many pitfalls and tactics that you need to get your head around before you can use it effectively.
Firstly, it is important to understand exactly what marketing automation is and how it can benefit and hinder the growth of your business.
What is Marketing Automation?
The best definition of Marketing Automation comes from Marketo, which states-
“Marketing automation is a category of software that streamlines, automates, and measures marketing tasks and workflows so that companies like yours can increase operational efficiency and grow revenue faster.”
Marketing automation is designed to help you execute your marketing strategies in a more streamlined and automated way so you can spend more time tending to growing your business.
Marketing automation is not about cutting out marketers or spamming users, instead it is about making marketing strategies more effective and able to be completed on a larger scale.
The ultimate goal of marketing automation is to increase revenue for your company by directing more traffic to your site and having that traffic convert into paying customers. Marketing automation can also bring these results about much faster and on a larger scale thanks to the power of the technology and software behind it.
The trick with marketing automation however, is that it has to look authentic and genuine and it has to help you create a more personalised experience. This is where many businesses fail.
While there are many benefits to having things automated for you, if you allow things to become too robotic, chances are you could loose your customers and ruin relationships with the followers you have spent years cultivating.
Think of Marketing Automation the same way you would processed food. While you don’t want to be eating cardboard, having some amount of processing can help minimise preparation time and can still taste just as good if there is some love and care put into it.
How Marketing Automation Can Help You
We have briefly touched on a few of the benefits of marketing automation, but there are also many secret benefits that many people fail to talk about.
Here are the top 4 most overlooked reasons why marketing automation could be worth considering for your company-
- Marketing automation helps you to add dynamic content that can be sent to specific targeted users. For example you can tailor content exclusively for women and have it sent only to your female demographic.
- Marketing automation helps you to categorise potential customers by different traits, interests and demographics which will help you segment your audience for more effective marketing.
- Marketing automation will help you to develop optimal marketing patterns to help your business more effectively test different variables. For example, which day is most effective for your email campaigns.
- Marketing automation helps you to integrate across all marketing channels so you can create a comprehensive and organised content and ads. This in turn, can help you to boost conversion rates and nurture leads.
Marketing automation can also help your brand to see an increase in qualified lead generation, sales opportunities, sales productivity and revenue, as well as a decrease in the sales cycle, marketing costs and lost sales opportunities.
The biggest myth surrounding marketing automation that it is simply “spammy”. While this can be true when it’s used incorrectly, marketing automation can actually help you to deliver more specific and personalised content to your audience.
It also gives you the ability to learn more about your customers and provides the tools you need to custom-tailor specific offers or messages.
Remember, marketing automation is not about blasting audiences with advertising messages. Instead it is about nurturing leads through your conversion funnel in a more effective way.
How to Use Marketing Automation Effectively
Marketing automation is a lot simpler than it seems. In fact, your business may already be using marketing automation tactics and not even know it.
Take your email list for example. You probably use a software program that allows you to send mass emails to your followers, however what about offering a more personalised touch?
That is where marketing automation steps in and helps you to create tailored emails for a specific group of your followers that is more relevant and therefore, more likely to generate profits for your business.
Instead of personally sending the emails and categorising your followers manually, you can install software that does it for you and sends the right information at the right time to the right sorts of people.
Marketing automation is often used as part of workflows or conversion funnels to help you determine the best next step for your individual customers.
For example, if the customer does XYZ they are sent to landing page A or sent email A. If the customer does ABC they are sent to landing page X or sent email X.
Marketing automation can also be used for lead nurturing. For example, you can have a pop up triggered with a discount coupon if someone wants to abandon their shopping cart and so on.
In fact there are many ways you can use marketing automation including –
- Creating a welcome program
- Creating templates
- Repurchase programs
- Reminder programs
- Retargeting programs
- Social media scheduling
- “Win Back” strategies to help inactive customers become active again
- A/B Testing
These are all examples of where you can use automated processes to help you retain customers, and know which customers are worth nurturing and which ones can be shelved for another time.
This can help you to save a lot of time and resources and can help you to focus on other things, such as growing your business.
Marketing Automation Software
There are many software tools that can help you with marketing automation, however it is important to pick the one that fits your brand and what you are trying to achieve. Some of the more popular software programs include:
When choosing the right software, pay attention to CRM integrations, import and export features of customer data and how well the software can be tailored to suit your individual needs.
Marketing automation software is often underused because it can be tricky to understand and does require a bit of a learning curve. Keep this in mind and be sure that your software offers training and instructional videos.
You may also want to consider opting in for a free trial to see if the program works for your businesses specific needs.
It is important to remember however, that marketing automation is not all about software. Even though software makes up a huge component of the process, as QuickSprout points out-
“We may not realise it, but software conversations are currently leading thought leadership in the area of marketing automation space. It is easy, as a result to start equating marketing automation with software. The fact, however, is that marketing automation is not about software. It is about psychology and the conversion funnel.”
Marketing automation helps you to understand your customers and relate to them on a more personal level, which is why it is so closely connected with psychology. This is also the best way to ensure that your marketing automation strategies are not used in a spammy way, and are instead used to offer a more personalised and tailored approach for your leads and customers.
At every stage of the sales funnel you can have marketing automation set up that will help customers taking specific actions to be nurtured the rest of the way.
Executing a Successful Marketing Automation Strategy
When it comes to implementing your marketing automation strategy, here is a simple 5-step process to help guide you along the way and ensure that your plan always stays on track-
- Set Your Goal: it is important to work out what your intention is when it comes to implementing a successful strategy. Marketing automation can help you to drive sales opportunities, can increase sales productivity and can help you to determine who your qualified leads are. All of these are excellent goals to start with. For the sake of ease, let’s say your goal is to convince all of your customers who have purchased Step 1 of your program to purchase Step 2, we will use this example throughout to help you better understand the process.
- Understand audience incentives: determine what drives your audience by understanding who they are and what their needs are. This will help you to start shaping your strategy. To follow along using the example, this would include working out what your customers took away from Step 1, how they felt in regards to their purchase and if Step 2 contains information that would be of value to them.
- Define Your Strategy: Assess any workflows or content that you already have in place in regards to your goal and what needs to be improved or fixed to help serve your goal. Remember to keep your customers in mind and what their needs are as well. Before deciding what to automate, you need to understand the natural path that your customers are taking and work on building upon that. You may also want to draft your workflow on paper before you start implementing anything with your software. For our example, at this stage you may want to look at what you are currently doing to reach your customers, how they are responding and how you can better educate them about Step 2.
- Segment Your Leads: Don’t have a lead nurturing strategy? You may want to read this first. Otherwise, start assessing your lead nurturing track and how you may want to segment your leads for more effective results. This is where you can use your software to help you create the segments. For our example, you may separate your leads into customers who loved Step 1 and are highly qualified, and customers who were not impressed with Step 1 or haven’t been responsive since their purchase.
- Align Your Conversion Funnel: now that you have segmented your audience, you may want to put different triggers in place that align the needs of your different segments with your conversion funnel. For the example we are using, this includes perhaps sending a different set of emails to those leads who are more qualified, or more resources and training videos to the leads who have been unresponsive. What you set up will of course be determined by your goal and overall strategy.
These 5 steps are going to ensure that you are always considering your ultimate goal, your audience and how you can align all of this with your conversion funnel.
It is also important to ensure that your conversion funnel and customer journey is up to scratch and that it is focused around awareness, engagement, consideration conversion and retention.
When it comes to running successful marketing automation strategies, there has to be some personal dimension to what you include. If the automated workflows, interactions, offers or content don’t have a personalised or targeted touch, your strategy will never be successful.
Even though we have highlighted a simple 5 step process, it is also important to keep in mind the following so you can more accurately determine the success of your strategy-
- How easy the software is to use and if there were any learning curves in regards to setting up the strategy
- How efficient the current workflows have been and if they prioritise the customer and brand mission
- Whether there are sufficient content and offers to be used through the funnel and if they are delivered in a timely manner
- How customer-centric your focus has been and whether your marketing automation strategy is geared to nurture or alienate
- How your users have been responding to your marketing automation processes. (Remember, true success is determined on how the needs of your goal are met and how you customers have been responding)
- How you have been monitoring the analytics of your strategy and if you have been measuring, tweaking and repeating your processes for optimum results.
It may also be worth noting that marketing automation tends to work best on lists that have been organically created and not ones that have been paid for. This helps you to actually implement strategies on people who have genuinely sought out your business and are genuinely interested in what your brand has to offer.
Marketing automation is definitely the future. By 2020, it has been predicted that 85 percent of businesses will be able to manage their customer relations using marketing automation.
Whether or not this is true, the trend is definitely there. When you have a customer base of thousands or even hundreds, it can be difficult to offer all of them personalised attention.
When you put marketing automation strategies into place however, it helps you to add that personal touch with very little effort.
Common Marketing Automation Pitfalls to Avoid
If you are not smart about your marketing automation strategy you could potentially create a negative customer experience and waste your time and money. You may also discourage social referrals and repeat business.
We have said it before, but we will say it again- marketing automation is about adding a personalised touch and it not about spamming your users.
Aside from that, here are the biggest mistakes that businesses fall into when they first start using marketing automation and how you can avoid them-
- Automating Bad Processes: bad processes include things like buying email lists and ignoring the needs and desires of your customers. Simply automating these “bad” processes are not going to solve anything and will instead, more likely result in your business being driven into the ground. When it comes to marketing automation, you need to ensure that the customer is your number one focus and that the strategy will lead to long term gains. If your automation is not highly targeted, personalised, valuable and timely, it is likely going to be a mistake.
- Not Nurturing Your Database: if you are not nurturing your database and consistently replenishing your funnel with new leads, then automation may not be the best fit for you. Marketing automation is a great way to qualify and nurture leads, but if your leads are outdated or not being replenished regularly, there really is no point.
- Viewing Your Workflow in Isolation: you may have the best workflow set up that will help your customers feel supported and nurtured every step of the way, but you also need to remember that your audience is not working in isolation. Your leads are not sitting around waiting for your specially crafted email. They are constantly met with distractions and if you don’t keep this in mind, it could lead to several missed opportunities and a far too rigid strategy. A way around this is to use marketing automation as a helper and not as the fixer of all your problems.
- Focusing on Features Instead of Solutions: Putting in a shiny new automated email may seem all well and good, but if it doesn’t provide a solution then you are not going to have much success with it. Instead of creating a laundry list of features and automated processes, consider assessing whether you have a problem and whether it can be solved before automation is introduced. Focus on the solution rather than building in new features.
- Lack of Alignment between Sales and Marketing: Marketing automation is to help both the marketing and sales team. This is why both teams need to work together to create an effective strategy. Chances are what looks good to the marketers may not always look good to the sales reps, so it is important to ensure that both sides are catered for. Marketing automation cannot work effectively if one side is ignored.
- Sending General Messages: when you send general marketing messages to a huge chunk of your list, they are likely to get deleted or even flagged as spam. Sending a broad message to your entire group is not going to deliver long term results and defeats the purpose of marketing automation. Instead, send personalised, tailored messages that are actually relevant to smaller segments of your list.
By understanding these common pitfalls you can help avoid them and be aware of what to do if you ever find yourself in one.
Overall, the best thing to keep in mind is that automation is a shift in thinking and is not just about technology or software. Think of it as a tool that allows you to connect with your audience, improve efficiencies, increase sales and determine which of your leads are more qualified than others.
It is also important to keep in mind that like anything, marketing automation requires patience and constant testing so you can get it running in an optimal way.
While you may still have dreams of sipping margaritas on the beach while your marketing is taken care for you, it is unrealistic to think that this is what marketing automation is all about.
While marketing automation can help you to automate some parts of your business, it is less about becoming a robot and more about giving your customers the individual attention they deserve without diluting the time you spend on other things.
For all of us, generating high quality leads is at the top of the list, and marketing automation can help you to do that when used in the right way.
Marketing automation allows you to greater visibility and access into what your leads are doing, how they are moving through your conversion funnel and how they are responding to your emails and other content sources.
Using marketing automation to monitor and measure your leads can essentially show you where you may need to make tweaks and how you can better provide your leads with what they are looking for.
Marketing automation can bring about impressive results, so consider testing it out with your brand today to see if it can help you reach your marketing goals and increase overall sales, revenue and profit.