I have yet to meet a business owner who has never been in need of automation. Today startups, SMBs and large companies have one thing in common – they’re all thrown in the game of pursuing the holy grail of business and marketing automation (The Automation Singularity).
As you’re reading this, I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve got your feet wet trying a marketing automation software at some point. MailChimp for example or even chatbots…?
But maybe you have been doing all your marketing the “old school” way, and you want to get some of the piling work volumes off your shoulders. At the same time you don’t want to hire, train, pay and manage additional employee(s). Well, I share your viewpoint, because running a business means innovation. So, you either work on out-innovating your competition or your practices get inefficient and your business becomes outdated pretty quickly.
I will try my best in this article to help you get started with choosing the lowest hanging fruit of marketing autopilot platforms. You should finish the piece having a grasp on what is marketing automation, why marketing automation is the next big thing in coming years. You will also learn how to use the power of automation platforms and tools to their fullest potential.
Remember, you can’t turn your eyes away and pretend the business innovations don’t affect you. I will argue here that 2018/19 is a perfect time to jump on board and benefit from at least some of the cheap and accessible business automation out there. As you read on pick one or two solutions and over the next few weeks try to integrate them for the betterment of your business and your life.
“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” – Steve Jobs
Why do businesses need marketing automation?
The traditional marketing as a scientific field goes back to early 1900s or even earlier with the development of modern capitalism and consumerism. In a nutshell, business owners and (modern) marketers discovered that by studying consumer behaviour they can predict and influence sales profits. Businesses then went on developing step-by-step processes to anticipate the needs and wants of potential consumers so they could satisfy them more effectively in comparison to its competitors. Several decades later we use complex data and scientific methods to measure and design specific procedures to sell more to more people.
Marketing and sales funnels evolved and it’s no longer just printed ads in papers and magazines or lump mail ads. With the technological revolution, especially the Internet and social media’s worldwide blitz, we’ve opened several channels enabling us to communicate more effectively and build relevant relationships with our customers. What it means for marketers like you is that a need for a more sophisticated and technologically enhanced approach with complex, multivariate sales funnels is required. Hence, marketing automation.
What Marketing Automation meant up until 2018
Despite the overblown claims and inflated marketing slogans, marketing automation is NOT an artificial intelligence (AI). The real AI doesn’t exist (yet) and we’re likely far away from it. Some moderate that and use “semi-AI” but it’s misleading because the “semi-” isn’t clearly defined and means anything. I just call it for what it is for now. Marketing automation is a set of logical rules, processes and tactics that run on autopilot, making some tasks or even segments of your business autonomous and independent from human input. Besides the obvious profits like time, money and energy saving, such marketing practices bring a real and quantifiable added value to your business.
Although the philosophy of business management and marketing orientation remains intact and pretty solid, the tools and methodology seem to evolve and set new milestones almost every week.
Today, marketing automation software has never been more accessible. And in such high demand. Entrepreneurs keep coming up with creative ideas and cutting-edge technology to help businesses design their perfect strategies to predict the needs and personalise the copywriting.
So new marketing software is springing up like mushrooms.
But let’s step back to something basic, like MailChimp which is an email auto-responding system. Their automated software is free (to the extent) and allows for:
- Easy integration on your website so you can quickly start building your email list
- Getting your prospects details in an engaging form (MailChimp Lead Magnet)
- Designing an auto-responder with a drag-and-drop visual builder
- … and Sending automated and targeted emails to your recipient’s list
Here’re a few triggers you can use:
- Email your tagged contacts – Send a targeted message when you add a tag to a contact.
- Welcome new subscribers – Introduce yourself to people when they sign up for your list.
- Say ‘happy birthday’ – Celebrate with an exclusive offer or cheerful message that will be sent out based on the birthday field in your list.
- Share blog updates – Help contacts keep up with your blog by sending new posts straight to their inboxes.
- Now you can essentially build “set and forget” email sequences.
Did I mention it’s free? 😉
Check this video on how to set one up with this step-by-step tutorial:
The top 5 essential gains of automation
To summarise, here are the top 5 essential gains of automation in the area specific to marketing:
- Automated marketing tools build complex customer journeys and sales funnels (e.g. MailChimp)
- Marketing artificial intelligence software learns your customers’ behaviour or who they are and tries to make your product and services highly personalised (e.g. UNLESS)
- Marketing bots aim to leave your customer informed, happy and engaged (e.g. Quriobot)
- Marketing analytics enables you to quickly test and change the direction of your marketing strategy (e.g. CustomerLabs)
- Automated sales software makes your marketing efforts more efficient, faster to adapt and scale (e.g. DataGran)
See Marquees driving Yandex self-driving car around California
Sales and marketing automation software – who’s on the frontend?
Let’s bring it down to a business application and see what benefits businesses can expect from automated systems in 2019 moving forward.
The most common use of marketing automation software appears to be in sales, but this limited utility expands very quickly.
eMarketer reports that only 5% of companies have never benefited from marketing automation (I couldn’t dig their source though, so take it with a grain of salt). But that makes sense, given the power of computing and how technology penetrated the entire world of economy. It is clear that customer journey maps are extensively used by Googles, Amazons and eBays of this world to accurately map out how customer behave in relation to businesses. And the same applies to Social Media giants like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Their optimisation is so granular, and it developed so fast, that <a some people stood to consider its ethics and what we want as a civilisation.
Nevertheless, the value in sales is so obvious and tempting that it only makes sense to continue using it. Providing your primary incentive is to quickly “help” your prospects who are travelling the distance from being a bystander to a raving fan. And the distance, no matter the length, is measurable and categorisable. Therefore, prone to endless optimisations (and exploitation).
Is marketing automation software difficult to access?
As of today, experts agree that by learning different ways how customers interact with businesses, pretty much guarantees big profits. For this reason, social scientist and marketers flock to use all sorts of automation tools that help with just that. Meanwhile, Marketing SaaS companies try to meet their prospects midway offering easy to understand but potentially vastly scalable in its application software. In fact, lowering entry level is now the name of the game with most marketing automation software.
One such software is FullStory. The software works based on simple principles but the results, which it draws through different modes of user interpretation, provide comprehensive and quite elaborate customer journey maps.
“See your site through your users’ eyes. More than the sum of its clicks, FullStory replays your customer’s journey – like a DVR for your website – so you can search, see, and understand your user experience.”
There is certainly a learning curve associated with implementing any new system or technology. However, with much lowered entry-level bars the fruit has never hung so low.
Large Data Set Calculations – how to optimise your website running costs and business spending for free?
It’s free and offers a tremendous amount of actionable data that is automatically gathered and calculated from your website, ads and email campaigns, to mention just a few sources.
It’s also worth mentioning that Facebook, Pinterest or LinkedIn Ads platforms use sophisticated dashboards which present calculated data in any way you want. It takes time to figure it all out, though. I’d suggest to start with finding answers to simple questions like:
- What is my website’s monthly traffic?
- Which of my ads increased traffic the most?
- How long an average visitor spends on my homepage?
- Is my traffic local or international?
- Using what device (mobile/tablet/desktop) people are visiting my website?
- Which of my web pages are most popular?
- Where is my traffic coming from?
The Rise of The Marketing Bots
One of the most significant aspects of marketing automation is the sudden spread of bots and various auto-messengers. Apart from built-in Facebook Messenger Bots, platforms like Quriobot and MobileMonkey are rapidly developing and are more and more sophisticated in methods of visitor engagement on your website. The key to a great visitors engagement appears to be:
- the speed of response
- 24/7 availability
- useful and relevant bot responses based on the keyword and intelligent intent recognition
- and so-called “triggers”
Speaking of “triggers”. These can be heavily customised to adhere to the customers’ behaviour on your site and provide visual and heavily targeted responses. For example, imagine you have someone checking on your “Home Page” then going to “Pricing” where they spend two minutes and decide to leave. Normally this particular visitor could be classified as a prospective customer, that you may want to engage further. Therefore, at each individual stage, your bot can enhance your visitors’ experience by way of targeted messages, additional content and offers. Even at the point of departure, a bot can be configured to throw an “exit intent” trigger and, hopefully, stop the visitor from leaving the website.
The “AI” in bots gets also increasingly sophisticated. For example, tools like ActiveChat try to mimic human-like responses and with it infinite visual building blocks you can make it up as complicated as Lego’s Star Wars Millennium Falcon set. It can also integrate with e-commerce systems so you can have an actual “digital counter” right on your website.
No wonder bots are the next big thing and we will hear about them more and more.
“I think that’s the single best piece of advice: constantly think about how you could be doing things better, and questioning yourself.” – Elon Musk
It may be hard to start learning all these platforms today. However, in the long run, it will pay back immensely. Also, know that 99% of your competitors aren’t doing it.
So, it’s better to start giving marketing automation some attention before it is too late. Whatever industry you’re in, it will be driven by the same principles as any other, whoever puts in the hours to innovate will increase the odds of success over the business owners that procrastinated and neglected to do the homework.
You may not have enough resources to go all in with learning the marketing tools, but there is no harm in trying. I have probably been guilty of procrastination more than anyone in the business. But eventually I have learned to take little steps from early on, and over time I realised that I made a quantum leap in growing my business and developing myself. So, if you are reading this article right at this moment, stop wasting your time and jump right in.
These are obviously just a few tips and the ocean of automated tools is filling in with more and more fish. There are few more things that I have learned over the years, so pop back in and check this article for updates. But most importantly start with making your first marketing automation funnel, no matter how big your goals are. From my experience, the right actions will pay off. I wish you good luck with your marketing automation journey.