What if you could get the same amount of work done in less time?
Moreover, what if you could get the same results (or better results) with less work?
What if you could get the same amount of leads, the same amount of conversions, and the same high retention rate without working so many hours? That way, you could focus on polishing internal processes, improving advertising methods, and managing the people who look to you for support.
Such is the plug-and-chug dream of marketing automation.
But it’s not just a dream. For many businesses, it’s a reality. On average, marketing automation drives a 14.5% increase in sales productivity and a 12.2% decrease in marketing overhead. Additionally, 80% of users see an increase in the number of leads using marketing automation software and 77% also see an increase in conversions.
That makes sense, doesn’t it?
After all, if you could map-out a detailed plan to get more done in less time, that wouldn’t just give you bandwidth for more important tasks, it would also increase the quality of your work (having a detailed plan, by itself, increases effectiveness; something that is absolutely vital to the marketing automation process).
But, in case you’re new to this, let’s get our definitions in order.
What is Marketing Automation?
“Marketing automation refers to software platforms and technologies designed for marketing departments and organizations to more effectively market on multiple channels online and automate repetitive tasks.”
Wikipedia – Definition
That’s the gist of it — marketing automation is, put simply, creating a detailed plan and automating your marketing efforts. This saves time, makes the ROI of your efforts more measurable and your winning/losing tactics more attributable, and it often increases the effectiveness of your efforts (because you really have to think about what you’re doing).
Practically speaking, marketing automation has tons of different applications.
You could create a followup sequence…
You could purchase behavioral marketing software that targets customers based on actions they’ve taken or not taken…
You could get a CRM that automates marketing lead flows…
You could even build a chatbot on your social media channels…
That’s the good news: the sky is the limit. You can automate practically anything that you want to automate (but that doesn’t mean you should automate everything — more on that a little later).
Here’s how you do it.
How To Automate Your Marketing Efforts (5 Steps)
The biggest mistake that marketing automation beginners make is diving headfirst into an automation strategy without really understanding the ultimate goal or the repercussions of that thrown-together strategy.
(Automating your work-load is an exciting prospect, after all)
We recommend slowing down a bit and really thinking through your marketing automation strategy using the below 5 steps. You’ll be glad you did.
Step #1: Determine Your Marketing Automation Goals
The first step is to determine why you want to build out a marketing automation strategy. Saving bandwidth is a common reason, but make sure you know what those extra hours are going toward once manpower is freed up by your automation efforts. Ideally, plan to put those extra hours where they’ll be most impactful and drive the most results (that will help you sell your automation plan to your team, as well).
Maybe, though, you simply want to make your marketing efforts more measurable and attributable. Or maybe you want to increase lead-gen, ROI, or conversion rate using automated tactics.
Whatever the case, write it down. Also, write down how automation will help you to accomplish that goal.
Why? I want to use marketing automation to make our efforts more measurable, iterations more smooth, and success more attributable.
How Will Automation Help? Automation will allow all team members to get on the same page about how we’re interacting with prospects and customers, measure the results of those actions directly, and iterate accordingly.
Then (do not skip this step) bring those high-level answers to your team or your higher-ups — everyone who should be involved in the process — and ask for their honest feedback. This should be a collaborative process whenever possible.
Step #2: Choose 3 Things You Want To Automate
Once you and your time are on the same page about why you’re building a marketing automation strategy, it’s time to choose what you want to automate. Start off simple, with a foundation you can build on down the road.
Choose 3 things you could automate that you believe would have the biggest impact on results. Consider choosing at least one short-term win (e.g. abandoned cart email sequence) and one long-term win (e.g. 3-month drip sequence).
Here’s a list of options to go over with your team.
Email Segmentation (Based On Sales Funnel Position, Interest, Desire, etc)
Social Media Automation (Retargeting Ads, Post Scheduling)
Re-engagement Email Campaign
NPS Tracker Email Sequence (Get Happiness Ratings From Customers)
Step #3: Ensure That Automating Those 3 Things is a Good Idea (Check With Team)
I just want to touch on this one more time: do not move forward before everyone is on the same page. You might be surprised at the concerns people bring up when you show them your plan — there will likely be obstacles you hadn’t considered. Most importantly, bring your plan to the people who it will directly impact and make sure they’re on the same page; ask for feedback and listen to what they say.
Once everyone agrees, make sure that all team members understand how the new automation(s) will impact their daily tasks.
Step #4: Document Your Automation Plan & Assign Workflow Tasks
Now that everyone agrees, it’s time to document your marketing automation plan on paper (or in a digital tool), save it, and assign workflow tasks. Because even though you’re creating automations, some of the work will still need to be done by humans. Just like factories still need humans to make sure the robots are doing their job correctly, your automation process will also need to be looked after.
Someone, for instance, still needs to write the email sequences, design the emails, double-check that everything is working correctly, assign tasks within CRM lead-flows, and oversee internal processes.
Schedule a meeting and decide who is doing what — now to create the automation and later to maintain and iterate the automation… which brings us to Step #5.
Step #5: Create a Feedback Loop & Iterate When Needed
A feedback loop is an internal process for testing, measuring results, and iterating. Here, we’re talking about creating a feedback loop related directly to your new marketing automation strategy.
There’s no way to get around it: your first version won’t be perfect. Some of the emails you create won’t receive promising engagement, some of the workflows will be clunky, and some automations might even create more maintenance work than intended.
That’s why creating a feedback loop is so darn important. Ideally, your feedback loop should include bi-monthly metric reports, monthly deep-dive reviews, and quarterly iterations. Try, test, improve. Try, test, improve. That’s the process for creating a marketing automation strategy that saves time and drives revenue.
BONUS: Case Study Example
To give you a better idea of how different marketing automation strategies apply in real life, here is a case study example of a business that used marketing automation with great success.
PaperStyle is an e-commerce company that sells physical invitations for parties, weddings, baby showers, and pretty much everything else.
For a long time, they’d been sending the same email to the same subscribers at the same time without any sort of segmentation or personalization. When they realized that open rates and click-through rates were suffering, they sought out the help of a marketing agency, Whereowhere.
Whereowhere’s solution focussed on PaperStyle’s biggest market: wedding invitations. And rather than send everyone the same marketing materials at the same time, they created a simple pop-up form on their website to segment PaperStyle’s email list…
The idea was to reach out to each segment chronologically with what they needed, when they needed it.
That’s just one example of how marketing automation can make a big impact on your revenue and drive real, tangible results.
The (Rarely Talked About) Dangers Of Marketing Automation
The benefits of marketing automation are vast, often discussed, and hard to miss. You can save lots of time, you can increase the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns, and you can even clean up internal processes.
But what about the dangers of marketing automation? Is there anything you should be careful of doing?
Yes. In fact, there is.
Here are a few things you should try to avoid.
Automating Without a Detailed Plan — Don’t dive headfirst into marketing automation without creating a detailed plan of execution, discussing it with your team, and building out a consistent feedback loop for future iterations (just follow the 5 Steps from earlier in this article).
Automating Something That Requires The Human Touch — Be careful of automating something that requires consistent human ingenuity. You could, for example, create automated emails to announce just-published blog posts, pulling the header image and first 100 words and adding a “Read More” button. But if your business has a strong personal connection with its audience, you might be better off having a copywriter craft each individual blog post announcement email. That’s just one example. But the point is, don’t let your desire to automate negate the impact of the human touch on your marketing efforts.
Clunky Personalization — Before adding basic personalization to your emails, make sure everything is working correctly. If you don’t have first-name data for some of your subscriber, you don’t want those same people seeing the merge tag text (<first.name>) within the email… awkward.
Integrations That Don’t Worky Properly — Marketing automation requires a lot of different software and digital tools to play nice together. So test everything. If you notice an integration isn’t working properly, try using Zapier.
Also, here are some video resources that will help you understand what marketing automation is and how to apply it to your business.
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