You’ve heard the term marketing automation. You may even have some inkling of what it means, but if don’t have a marketing automation plan for your business, you’re already falling behind rivals who have invested the time and effort into building systems that work for them while they sleep.
For many small business owners, the main barrier to getting started is just breaking through their confusion and prioritizing. Here, I’ll give you a step-by-step guide on how to get a simple marketing automation program up and running.
What is Marketing Automation?
Think of any action that a customer or prospective customer might take – visiting your webpage, purchasing a product or downloading a case study – as the equivalent of them pressing a button in your system. When that button is pressed it will generate a pre-programmed response such as showing a popup or sending a sequence of email messages at timed intervals.
Here is an example of a relatively simple automation sequence:
- A visitor fills out a form on your website
- The system creates a database record for the visitor and adds him to a list called “Prospective Customers”. This list has a predetermined “welcome sequence” attached to it.
- The Prospective Customer begins to receive a series of 5 emails spread over several days or weeks.
- The Prospective Customer clicks on a link in the third email of the series and makes a purchase on your site.
- The system logs the purchase and discontinues the initial sequence.
- The System now moves this person’s email from a list of “Prospective Customers” to a list of “Customers”.
- The new customer receives a series of 5 emails spread over several weeks designed to up-sell a complimentary product or service from the site.
You can see how this sequence could evolve in complexity as more and more detailed levels of segmentation are added to your prospect and customer list. You could also segment by product type purchased, location or any other details you can glean from customer information and behaviours.
What tools do I need?
Here is list of the tools you’ll need to get started with a simple automation sequence:
- A website
- An email marketing service such as Mailchimp, Constant Contact or Aweber. Most have automation features – check to confirm that your plan includes these.
- An email capture form. This form is actually an extension of your email marketing provider’s service. You just need to embed it on your site.
- A shopping cart, ideally one that integrates with your email marketing provider. This is assuming you sell products online. If you are a B2B business, you can still use automation to generate convert leads by tracking sales in a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software such as Salesforce.
How to get Started with Marketing Automation
You can – and should – start very simply by designing a basic across the board response to anyone who submits contact information to your site.
- Design an offer or incentive
This is what you will offer as bait to get people to join your email list. Common examples include a discount code or case study. Look at competitor websites to get ideas for what your offer could be.
- Write a Series of 3 (or more) emails in a word processing application.
This is what you will send to “prospects” who join your email list. The sequence could go something like this:
- Day 1 – Send a “thank you for joining our list” email along with the discount code or promised incentive. You should also encourage people to follow you on social media by providing links to your Facebook page etc.
- Day 4 – Send an email containing testimonials of people who have bought your product with links to your website and social media
- Day 10 – Send a list of your best selling items with links to your website
- Connect your signup form to your website.
Information on how to do this will be provided by your email marketing service. You can also have your technical person handle it – it’s a very simple process.
- Connect your shopping cart to your email marketing provider
If you use a common cart such as Woo-commerce (for WordPress) or Shopify, there is already a simple app or plug-in that takes care of this. Again, read the documentation or get your technical person to handle it.
- Copy and paste your email copy into your email marketing provider and enable automation!
Subscribe yourself first to test that everything is working as it should.
Given the accessibility of the technology, marketing automation is not something that you can afford to defer to a later date. It is the foundation for most marketing in the 21st century and one of the first items you should be planning when launching a business. Even after you’ve got a basic signup form and email response in place, you should be constantly rethinking your programs and increasing the sophistication of your automation.
The most important thing is just to get started. Design an incentive offer and write out a sequence of messages that you will send to potential prospects. Once they are written, getting them into a system is primarily an administrative task that can easily be easily sorted out.
I’ll be following up in the coming weeks with a deeper dive including a walk through of how we’ve used Marketing Automation at our e-commerce business. Subscribe to be updated when this post goes live.