Robots can vacuum your floor, beat out the best players in the history of Jeopardy!, and maybe—one day—even drive.
So why shouldn’t they handle most of your business marketing? If the idea of “marketing automation” sounds a little sketchy to you—as though your personal brand is going to be taken over by nameless robots who speak the language of spam—maybe it’s time we humanize this concept and gauge whether your business might be ready to learn to stop worrying and love the bot.
Defining Marketing Automation
Marketing automation is exactly how it sounds: a series of killer marketing robots will take over your business and decide how to run your ads. Fine—I mad that up. It’s not actually that nefarious. In fact, marketing automation can be accomplished with simple software that takes the grunt work out of your online marketing needs and streamlines it for your review. Done right, it can be a great way to reach out to new customers without spending your entire handling it manually. Here’s how to tell when you need to upgrade to marketing automation:
When Your Business Needs Marketing Automation
How can you tell when you need to automate? Unfortunately, there’s no automation fairy that will come down, sprinkle automation dust on your business, and tell you exactly what changes need to be made. But you can pay attention to each of the following variables:
Dynamic Content: Adding a Personal Touch Without the Expense
The most obvious sign your business is in dire need of marketing automation? When you simply can’t get around to every customer. As Pardot.com notes, the key here is dynamic content. Dynamic content is exactly how it sounds: the opposite of static. It changes variables—like a customer’s name—to suit the situation.
This enables a personal touch without the actual leg work of going in and talking to each customer individually. You’ll see this all the time in email marketing, in which you use sources like Constant Contact or Aweber to automatically fill in customer names. There’s nothing “robotic” or “impersonal” about dynamic content. If anything, it shows that your systems know exactly who they’re dealing with—and it’s an upgrade over static content any day of the week.
Stick to Platforms that Grow With You
As your company grows, your marketing platforms should grow with it. For starters, stay close to any marketing tool that will automatically grow along with the size of your business. Let’s stick with the example of email marketing. In email marketing, you’ll have a list to manage. As your list grows, your platform will necessarily grow along with it. But that’s not the end of the road. Your capacity for managing this list should also grow. Make use of Forbes’ tips for email marketing, such as employing a greater range of analytics to ensure you’re delivering the personal touch you need.
Where does automation factor in? With your list management. Let the analytics and A/B tests run themselves. Your users won’t know these analytics are going on behind the scenes, but you’ll know—and your email marketing will be stronger for it.
Don’t Let Marketing Take a Bite Out of Your Day
In your early days as a start-up, it may have felt like half your day was spent marketing: sending out proposals, deciding how to advertise, networking, following up on phone calls, and the like. But your business is growing. With consistent revenue, your day should be spent on making your business better and providing the quality products and services your customers need. If you ever notice yourself asking why you spend so much time on marketing despite running a successful business, that’s the most potent sign that it’s time to automate.
How to Upgrade to Marketing Automation
The natural question: what’s next? How do you upgrade marketing automation so you’re free to focus on other things? Let’s focus on three pillars of online marketing you can automate.
Pillar #1: Email
This might be the easiest to automate out of the bunch. Email software is easy to come by and easy to integrate with your website. You can also use email automation to…
- send an email when someone signs up to your list.
- send an automated email when someone completes a form to let them know it’s been received.
- regularly send out updates on your business to your list with advanced scheduling.
There are lots of names here: Constant Contact, MailChimp, GetResponse. Want to know the truth? Most of them will handle automation just fine. The key is getting started.
Pillar #2: Social Media
Automating social media can mean a great many things. Should you automate your posts? What about your social media advertising? Are there solutions out there that can handle all the above? It depends on your goals. A simple app like IFTTT can add customer information after someone Tweets at you, for example. But a more sophisticated service like Social Oomph to consistently promote your new content, such as blog posts, with predetermined scheduling. The key here: you want a consistent presence on social media, but not necessarily the consistent day-in, day-out effort it takes to do it all manually. That’s what the robots are for.
Pillar #3: Landing Pages
A well designed, plugged-in landing page is a bit like a garden. You leave it alone, and eventually it will bear fruit. LeadPages, Pardot, and Instapage are all big names here. You can also use these software offerings to create other items for your site, such as pop-boxes for capturing emails. Optimizing your land page means making the most of your web traffic once you’ve captured it. It’s essential for those latter ends of the sales funnel—you have eyeballs checking out your site, and you want people to follow through. Fortunately, you don’t have to handle every aspect of your landing page by hand.
Plug your landing page into your email marketing, advertise it automatically on social media, and you’ll start to see just how sophisticated a system you can build overnight. Next stop on the automation train: one of those vacuuming robots.