When done right, marketing automation can improve efficiency, increase customer retention, and generate more sales.
Marketing automation has become a necessity for small business owners. Automating repetitive tasks is a time savior and it also helps to improve business productivity.
Around 75% of marketers have said that they're using marketing automation to streamline their tasks. Moreover, the global marketing automation technology market is expected to reach more than $17 billion by the end of 2020.
It's no brainer that almost half of your business revenue comes from your existing customers. Hence, it becomes crucial to nurture your current customers and educate them about different offers to increase repeat purchases or high-value subscriptions.
Marketing automation helps to improve customer retention and allows you to build robust experiences to acquire new customers.
In this article, you'll learn what marketing automation is and how you can use it to optimize your sales funnel. An optimized sales funnel is the gateway to improved business revenues.
What is marketing automation?
Marketing automation refers to a marketing technique that uses a combination of tools to automate repetitive tasks like scheduling social media posts, sending drip emails, scheduling appointments, nurturing leads, etc. It improves operational efficiency and reduces the chances of human error whether or not you or your staff are in the office or working from home without direct oversight from a manager - the new reality for many businesses.
What are the advantages of marketing automation for small businesses?
Marketing automation is a great choice if you're looking to expand your customer base in a short period but may not be able to hire as quickly. Even if you're able to hire, it's still an ideal way to become more efficient:
1. Provides a full view of your leads. Marketing automation helps map your entire customer journey. You can see multiple touchpoints where your potential customers are interacting with your business. Hence, you can deliver the right message at the right time leading to more conversions.
2. Segments and nurtures leads. It allows you to segment your customers based on their behavior. All the leads are scored according to the chances of conversions. This makes it possible to focus your attention on the right prospects. Moreover, you can nurture the leads with targeted follow-ups based on the market segment you've assigned to them based on their behavior.
3. Optimizes your sales team. Cold outreach is now supplemented with inbound or pull methods that generate demand for a product. You can use marketing automation to reach out to everyone who has shown interest in your product or services.
Automated tools track the behavior of prospects and pick the best leads that match your ideal buyer persona. This gives you deeper insight into individual customer profiles so when notifications are sent to the sales team, they're better equipped to close the deal.
4. Manages repetitive tasks. The primary benefit of marketing automation is the management of repetitive tasks. Equip your sales and marketing team with robust automation tools so that they can offer a better experience to your customers, leading to improved productivity and enhanced customer retention.
How to implement a marketing automation strategy from scratch
Marketing automation is one of the top trends in digital marketing. Whether you’re running PPC campaigns, launching SEO plans, or investing in influencer marketing, automation is the key to drive the maximum ROI. Follow the below steps to build an automation strategy for your small business:
Establish your goals
No campaign can be successful without a set of clearly defined goals and marketing automation initiatives are no different. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
Who is your ideal customer?
What path do they take to find your business?
How many steps are there in the customer journey?
What are the micro-moments? Is your business present in those micro-moments?
What are the tasks your marketing team finds repetitive?
What are the tasks that your sales team finds redundant?
What are your KPIs for the automation campaign?
How will you identify qualified leads?
How will you convert engagements into conversations?
What is your maximum cost to acquire a new customer?
How do you plan to retain a new customer?
Answering questions like these will help you to better define your marketing goals. You can then plan a marketing and sales strategy that uses automation at the right stages to acquire new customers and retain current customers regularly.
Prepare a buyer persona
A buyer persona is a fictional representation of your ideal customer. It helps target your marketing messages to different buyer groups.
Here is how you can prepare an ideal customer persona:
Research your audience and gather details like age, language, location, gender, interests, spending habits, etc. You can use Facebook Audience Insights, Google Analytics, or demographic surveys to collect this data.
Perform a social group and follower analysis of your competitors. Find out the people who are continually referring to or engaging with your competitors' social media posts. They can be your target customers.
List down the pain points of your customers. Find out the features that your competitors are missing in their product and compare your USP with them. Ask yourself whether your product can solve your customers' current pain points that your competitors aren't able to?
Note down the goals of your customers. What are they looking for? Instead of trying to sell what you have to offer, give your customer what they need.
Give a name to your buyer persona and add details like age, social media profile, interests, profession, buying habits, platforms where they spend the maximum time, level of disposable income, etc.
Create content gates
Content gates are one of the most successful inbound marketing tactics. It entails offering valuable information in exchange for user details like name, email id, phone number, designation, etc.
Tools such as Autopilothq and KyLeads let you automate the entire process of managing gated pieces of content. Here is an example of how the automation works:
The user submits a form for an ebook download.
The download link is sent to the customer on the provided email address.
After a few days, the tool automatically checks whether the users downloaded the ebook. In case they haven't, the software sends them a reminder email.
If the book is downloaded by the user, then this lead moves to the next step of the sales funnel. A score is assigned to the lead, and the sales team can follow up.
The benefit of going this route is that you have a clear idea of what the prospect is interested in. This is especially helpful if you serve multiple markets or people who are in different stages of awareness when they come to your business.
Start a drip email campaign
A drip email campaign is a set of automated emails that are sent based on user actions at different micro-moments. The primary goal of drip email campaigns is to attract, nurture, and convert highly relevant leads.
Drip email marketing automation is essential to:
Boost engagement on your emails.
Segment your audience based on the actions they take.
Persuade the audience to move to the next stage in the buyer funnel.
Increase the number of conversions.
Lower the number of unsubscribes.
Here is how you can set up a drip marketing campaign:
Prepare clear and actionable email copy based on different stages of the sales funnel.
Decide on the number of emails you're going to send, when you send them, and the interval between each one.
Note down the user actions that will trigger the emails and how many points you'll score them for each action.
Measure the success of your campaigns and continuously optimize them to get the maximum conversions.
Automate social media
Improving your social media presence is essential for developing goodwill, increasing engagement, and converting negative brand sentiment into positive ones.
Social media is a place where people discuss your brand. Besides, it's the place where you can connect one-to-one with your target audience.
However, monitoring every mention of your brand on social media manually is almost impossible. This is where marketing automation is so helpful.
Tools such as Hootsuite let you set up automated streams that allow you to monitor brand conversations and keywords. You can automate scheduling content weeks in advance so that your followers don't miss any new updates.
Moreover, you can even build an app using platforms such as Chatfuel and automate the conversations you have with your customers. With automated and smart responses, it’s possible to personalize your campaigns at scale.
Perform lead scoring
Lead scoring is an integral part of marketing automation. It helps you understand which leads are ready to interact with a member of your sales team.
Visitors on your site interact with it in different ways. Some will prefer reading blog posts, some will subscribe to the emails, while others will show interest in downloading a free copy of an ebook. Based on user actions, marketing automation software will assign a numerical value to the leads.
For example, people requesting a direct consultation by filling the contact form will be scored higher than people reading blog posts. You can set the score for each action based on its importance to your business so the right prospects are being prioritized.
Automate your customer service requests
Automated customer service is a critical element of customer retention. People dislike waiting and 100% manual customer service is time-intensive and often leads to things going missing. Customer service automation helps alleviate this problem.
Chatbots powered by AI and machine learning minimize the need for human support so your customers get immediate assistance in the best possible manner.
A simple way to use chatbots is by creating user flows based on the most common support requests. The chatbot will ask specific questions and based on the answer, the user will be sent a prepared answer, a knowledge base article, or routed to a customer support rep.
You can also use chatbots as a sales tool and put your business phone to good use. Once the chatbot prequalifies a prospect, it can ask for a call back number and schedule a time for a sales rep to get in contact.
Conduct A/B testing
A/B testing ensures that each phase of the customer journey is well measured. Automated testing helps to identify customer behaviors concerning changes in marketing messages, design elements, CTAs, offers, etc. The winning variants are implemented to achieve the maximum conversions within a limited budget.
With the help of a split test, you can test the following elements:
Number of emails in a sequence
Type of emails (sales, educational, resource, discount, etc.)
Sales team follow-ups
You can make intelligent data-driven decisions that help you grow your bottom line incrementally. The key is to stick with it. A 10% lift this month, a 5% lift next month, and a 7% life the third month may not be exciting right now but it adds up over time.
Think about how those changes can affect your business when it's compounded over a year.
Start optimizing your sales processes by planning an automation strategy for your brand. Establish your goals early on and set aside enough time to evaluate and vet multiple tools before starting.
Automation can help grow your brand faster but only if it's given the time and attention it deserves. This guide has shown you how to get started but it’s up to you to follow through and earn the results you want.