If you're working on promoting your small business, you've likely seen or heard about marketing automation. It's an important part of any marketer's toolkit.
But what exactly is marketing automation? How can you use it effectively in your business?
In this guide, I'm going to walk you through what marketing automation is, and will share some benefits, best practices and types of marketing automation campaigns. Then I'll show you how to prepare a simple marketing automation campaign, and how to follow up on your campaign for best results. By the end, you'll know exactly how to do marketing automation to get more attention for your business.
What Is Marketing Automation?
Let's start with a basic marketing automation definition. Marketing automation is the use of apps, software, tools and processes to replace certain manual marketing tasks with automated processes.
Despite the automated element, marketing automation often involves personalization. That's because if you market to everyone, there's a good chance you'll be sending information to people who don't need it or want it. Marketing automation helps you avoid this wasted effort and focus your marketing on those who are most interested in your products and services.
A good way to get started with automating your marketing is to create an email newsletter which includes automatically generated content. You can find hundreds of stunning email templates on Envato Elements and ThemeForest.
Marketing Automation - The Stats
So, should you be using marketing automation in your business? The stats suggest you should. According to Email Monday, more than 51% of companies are currently using marketing automation, and 58% of B2B companies plan to.
Some 48% of marketers use marketing automation tools to give their customers more personalized experiences. Automating aspects of email marketing is the most popular strategy among marketers, with email marketing technology used by 82%. Next are social media marketing (67%), marketing analytics (60%), and CRM/sales tools (54%).
Marketing automation is important for three main reasons that are the bedrock of any business: to attract traffic to your website, to help turn that traffic into leads, and to generate sales from those leads. With the right marketing automation tools, you can make this process happen automatically.
How Marketing Automation Works
Here's an example of how you could use marketing automation, focusing on email marketing automation, as it's the most popular type. Say you've attracted visitors to your site and they're browsing your blog. Instead of having a generic request to sign up for your email list, you could tailor that request depending on what they're looking at. So, someone who's looking at content about PowerPoint templates will see a different message from people looking at content about Microsoft Word templates.
You can deliver that message as a popup box, a message that slides into the page, a popup chat window or use other automation options. When people sign up, rather than going into a generic list, you'll use what they've been looking at to tag them in your email marketing software so they receive relevant messages in the future.
Another common email automation is a retargeting email. If you've ever shopped at Amazon, you've likely received one of these. When you look at a particular type of product on Amazon (for example, a brand of cell phone), you'll get an email in the next day or so promoting that same product category. On-site retargeting works almost the same way, using small files called browser cookies to ensure you see ads for products you've been looking at, no matter where you go online.
Abandoned cart emails are also forms of marketing automation, designed to get people to complete purchases. Leave something in the cart, and you'll automatically get an email reminder, and may even be offered an additional incentive for buying.
What's important to note is that if ten people visit the same site and look at different items, the follow ups they get will be different, and tailored to their individual behavior.
Other Types of Marketing Automation
As you've seen, email automation helps you send specific emails to subscribers based on rules you've got to set up in advance. But email marketing isn't the only marketing task you can automate.
Here are some examples of how you can automate marketing tasks:
- You can use customer relationship management (CRM) software to keep track of all interactions with leads and customers, so you can customize all your communications with them.
- You can use content marketing tools to automatically create landing pages, sales pages and other marketing pages, populating content based on preset rules.
- You can use marketing automation software to monitor the success of your overall marketing strategy and take certain automated actions as a result.
- Social media marketing automation tools can help you automatically share content of different types to various social media channels.
- In ecommerce, there's dynamic pricing software that can adjust the price of items based on visitors' interest, location, and other parameters.
- There are also tools that combine multiple functions, letting you manage lead generation, marketing, and sales automatically from a single dashboard.
Some popular marketing automation tools include Hubspot, Salesforce Pardot, ActiveCampaign, Keap (formerly InfusionSoft), Oracle Eloqua and Marketo. Many email marketing providers, like Mailchimp, also offer automations.
Learn more about creating a system for your marketing in:
Benefits of Marketing Automation
Marketing automation helps businesses in many ways. One of the main benefits cited across multiple studies is saving time by automating repetitive tasks. That's hugely beneficial, especially as your business grows. But apart from that, there are many other advantages.
For example, since people are more likely to respond to relevant communications, targeting and personalizing messages makes them more appealing to your target audience. That makes them more likely to respond to or act on those messages. In turn, that improves ROI on marketing.
Related to that, using marketing automation improves the quality of your leads. That's another benefit of better targeting. Inevitably, better leads mean more sales. If you've attracted more people who are truly interested in your business, then they're more likely to buy.
With the right tools, you can also make it easier for marketing and sales teams to work together for the goal of improving revenue.
Using marketing automation can help you increase brand awareness, whether that's by automatically sharing your fresh content, or creating targeted landing pages for particular audiences.
And you can use automation to nurture your relationship with customers. For example, when people sign up for your email list, a welcome series helps them get to know you and realize the value that you offer. And you can also use an automated approach to target dormant subscribers or customers. After all, it's easier to get the attention of people who've been customers in the past than to win it from brand new prospects.
Marketing Automation Best Practices
In spite of its name, automating your marketing isn't a way to avoid dealing with customers at all. In fact, done right, it can help you achieve better customer relationships and make more sales. Here are some marketing automation best practices to help you achieve that.
The bedrock of any successful marketing is knowing your audience. Marketing automation is no exception. You need to know who you're marketing to, and that means building up customer personas. If you're not quite sure who your customers are, take the information you already have based on their behavior and use Hubspot's Make My Persona tool as a starting point.
Similarly, you need to know your goals. In the email marketing examples shared above, some automated sequences aimed to onboard new customers, while others aimed to win business from dormant ones.
The third part of this is to know your customer funnel. This means understanding:
- how your customers find you
- what they typically do when they land on your site
- what kind of content they need to see before becoming leads
- what typical interactions they have before buying
- and more
Next, create content to use in your marketing. This must be relevant and valuable. Work out how you're going to get the lead information you need. Depending on your business, this might be:
- a name and email address
- job role
- business type or size
- company revenue
Collect as much information as you need but bear in mind that long forms are a turn-off, so it may be better to collect this information over multiple interactions.
Score your leads, so you can easily distinguish between those who are ready to buy and those who need more nurturing and send the appropriate messaging.
Provide a seamless cross-channel experience, so people get consistent interactions whether they're talking to you on your website, via email or on social media channels. Make sure that your marketing is mobile-friendly, as 80% of buyers (per Smart Insights) use mobile devices at work.
When you know who your audience is, and what your and their goals are, you can use automation to make your communications relevant. For example, when you read a piece of content on a blog, you may be invited to grab a free eBook. If you sign up for that, you'll get a follow up email about a related resource or webinar. Each email deepens their knowledge of you, enabling them to send more and more relevant emails.
Always think about what's in it for your subscribers and customers. You may be sending automated email, but it still has to feel personal and important to them.
Finally, track your results. No matter what type of marketing automation you use, you'll be able to collect statistics on opens and clicks, likes and shares, leads and sales. You can also experiment with split testing headlines, subject lines and content for different platforms. This will allow you to measure success and adjust your segments, tags and workflow based on behavior.
How to Prepare a Marketing Automation Campaign
Here's how to set up a simple welcome email automation using Mailchimp.
Go to Mailchimp's automation builder. Choose the type of automation you want to send. In this case, you can choose Welcome new subscribers. Then decide whether you're sending a single welcome email or a series.
Give your campaign a name and choose your audience (this is the email list to which you're adding new subscribers).
Click Begin to go to the Emails section, where you can design emails in the usual way and put them in the order you want them to run in. This is similar to the process for designing an email newsletter, where you include:
- the name of the email (for your records)
- the subject line
- preview text
- sender name and email address
Then, you'll choose or import your email template, and create your email content. Click Save and return to workflow to go back to your automation setup.
A typical welcome email series could include:
- an email thanking people for subscribing, giving an initial introduction to your business, and telling them what to expect (such as how often you'll email them and what kind of emails you'll send)
- a second email pointing subscribers to a useful resource
- a final email highlighting another resource
An important part of each email is the call to action (CTA). This is what tells subscribers what you want them to do next. It's not always about sales. A good CTA could ask subscribers to:
- follow you on social media
- read another article
- grab another resource
- check out a deal or offer
Once you've designed your emails and put them in the right order, click Confirm, then review your automation. Once you're sure you're ready, press Start Sending.
Other types of marketing automation include email courses, emails that mark customer milestones, followup emails after events, survey and testimonial requests, and even automatically curated email newsletters.
To get more from using Mailchimp to connect with customers, check out these resources:
- MailChimpBest Mailchimp Templates to Level Up Your Business Email Newsletter 2021Brad Smith
- Email NewslettersMailChimp vs. Campaign Monitor: Which Is the Best Email Newsletter Software?Brenda Barron
- Email MarketingHow to Quickly Make Newsletters in Mailchimp With Pro Template DesignsSharon Hurley Hall
- Email Newsletters20 Best Free Email Templates (Top Responsive HTML Designs to Download 2021)Sharon Hurley Hall
How to Follow Up Your Marketing Automation Campaign
With marketing, it's not enough to automate and forget - you also need to follow up. For example, if you send a campaign and half your recipients don't open it, use your email marketing software to resend the campaign to non-openers, maybe tweaking the subject line a little.
Another way to follow up is to remember that your automations are moving your subscribers from getting to know you (the awareness stage of the typical marketing funnel) to when they want to work with or buy from you (the conversion stage).
It's important to follow up by giving them more information to continue to build the relationship, as in the Hubspot example cited earlier. With each interaction you can collect more information so you can personalize future interactions even more while still using automation.
Ready to Start Using Marketing Automation?
Now you know what marketing automation is and how it works, it's time to decide on how you'll use it in your business. At the very least, you can create a system for your online marketing. And you can get started with simple email automation, using Envato Elements email newsletter templates and ThemeForest email templates to make your emails even more appealing.
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