I have yet to meet a business owner who has never been in need of a great marketing automation tool. 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 one automation tool that does it all”).
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 to bring customised experiences to your website…?
Automated Solutions to Tackle Marketing
But maybe you have been doing all your b2c or b2b marketing the “old school” way, and you want to get some of the piling work volumes off your shoulders while keeping your investor relations warm and customer success stories piling. 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 So, you either work on out-innovating your competition or your practices get inefficient and your business becomes outdated pretty quickly. Enter marketing automation.
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 and why it is the next big thing in the coming years. You will also learn how to save time with the power of automation platforms and tools used to their fullest potential.
Remember, you can’t turn your eyes away and pretend the business innovations don’t affect you. The evolution of technology has left the station and we’re heading full speed towards a complete digital transformation. 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 marketing automation tools 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 digital marketing and your life.
“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” – Steve Jobs
Why do businesses should focus on inbound marketing?
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 marketing processes to anticipate the wants and needs of potential consumers so they could satisfy them more effectively in comparison to its competitors. Several decades later, B2C and B2B marketing automation use complex data and scientific methods to measure and design specific procedures to sell more to more people.
Entrepreneurs took inbound marketing and sales teams digital transformation seriously. And it’s no longer just printed ads in papers and magazines, some media ad package or lump mail ads. With the technological revolution in digital ads, especially the Internet and social media’s worldwide blitz, we’ve opened several channels enabling us to communicate more effectively, generate leads and build relevant relationships with our customers. These type of marketing strategy focused on inbound marketing will be driving revenue down your sales pipeline. What it means for marketers like you is that the need for a more sophisticated marketing channel and technologically enhanced approach with complex, multivariate sales funnels is required even more so. Hence, marketing automation becomes your new base marketing.
Auto-responding marketing automation systems on the rise
What Marketing Automation meant up until 2018
Despite the overblown claims and inflated selling slogans, marketing automation is NOT an artificial intelligence (AI). The real AI doesn’t exist (yet), and we’re likely far away from it still. Some marketing departments use “semi-AI”, but it’s misleading because the “semi-” isn’t clearly defined and could mean anything. I 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 save time, money and energy, marketing automation solutions bring a real and quantifiable added value to any marketers plan.
Although the philosophy of project management and marketing program remains intact and pretty solid, the tools and methodology seem to evolve and set new milestones almost every week.
This raging evolution is largely due to sales and regular increases in their annual revenues, and large enterprise continuous investments in new technologies.
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, personalise the copywriting and increase customer retention.
So new marketing software is springing up like mushrooms. Is this the end of repetitive tasks… ?
Let’s step back to something basic, like MailChimp, which is an auto-responding email system. Their cloud platform is free (to the extent) and allows for:
- Building your marketing campaigns with easy integration on your website so you can quickly grow your email list
- Getting your customer and contacts data in an engaging form (MailChimp’s Lead Magnet)
- Designing an auto-responder and a drip campaign with a drag-and-drop visual builder and dynamic content
- … finally, sending pre-programmed and targeted emails to your recipient’s list using marketing automation campaign management
To get you started with marketing automation, here’re a few triggers you can use:
- Message your tagged contacts directly – Send personalised messages when you add a tag to a contact.
- Welcome new subscribers – Introduce yourself to people when they sign up for your list for an effective lead nurturing.
- Say ‘happy birthday’ – Build strong customer relationships 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” newsletter sequences to grow your business on autopilot.
Did I mention it’s free? 😉
Start small with setting up simple campaigns that run on autopilot
The top 5 essential reasons to automate your marketing
To summarise, here are the top 5 essential reasons for marketing automation in the area specific to marketing processes:
- Automated marketing tools build complex digital campaigns, 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 software and service highly personalised (e.g. UNLESS)
- Bots – the ultimate marketing and sales automation tool – aim to leave your customers informed, happy and engaged (e.g. Quriobot)
- Data analytics enables you to quickly run ab tests and change the direction of your effective business strategy (e.g. CustomerLabs)
- Automated sales and machine learning software makes your efforts more efficient, faster to adapt and help you scale your sales teams and digital campaigns (e.g. DataGran)
Bonus Tip for e-commerce: you can engage customers with interactive product images and improve bounce rate and sales conversions (e.g. “done-for-you” e-commerce solution Vistag)
Marquees driving Yandex self-driving fully automated 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 features your company should expect from automation tools 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 and lead management 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 application of marketing automation and optimisation in the area of social media marketing is so granular, and it developed so fast, that some people stood to consider its ethics and what we want as a civilisation.
Nevertheless, the value of marketing automation in sales and closing deals is so obvious and tempting that it only makes sense to continue using it. Providing the primary incentive of your online marketing efforts is to quickly “help” your prospects who are travelling the distance from being a bystander to a raving fan (i.e. paying customer). And the distance, no matter the length, is measurable and categorisable via a sophisticated Google analytics tool. Therefore, prone to endless optimisations (and exploitation).
Are marketing automation systems difficult to enter into?
As of today, experts agree that to learn different ways how customers interact with businesses, pretty much guarantees qualified leads, high conversion rates and big revenue jump. For this reasons, social scientist and marketing departments flock to find the best marketing platform that deals with customer relationship management, business intelligence and, ultimately, help them grow revenue. Meanwhile, Marketing Automation SaaS companies try to meet their prospects midway offering easy to understand but potentially vastly scalable in its application digital software. In fact, lowering entry level is now the name of the game with most marketing automation software.
One such marketing automation software is FullStory. The software works based on simple principles of detailed customer data collection but the results, which it draws through different modes of user interpretation, provide comprehensive and quite elaborate customer journey maps, customer stories and if put into action, customized experiences.
“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 digital marketing automation system or technology. However, with much lowered entry-level to any given marketing automation platform, the fruit has never hung so low.
Large Dataset Calculations
… Or how to optimise your website running costs and business spending for free?
Back in the days, gathering and calculating any large data sets was done by businesses who could partner with a good data analytics service or afford a full-time “numbers person”. So campaign performance, demand generation and even customer base management was reserved usually for enterprise-level companies and agencies, or outsourced and never looked at closely again. Today, with tools like Google Analytics or HubSpot’s CRM integration software you have quick and easy access to accountbased marketing automation that with a click of a button displays an almost complete picture of your company’s money flow.
The core of the analytics tool and marketing automation solutions is free and offers a tremendous amount of actionable data that is automatically gathered and calculated from your website, digital ads, ab tests and email campaigns, to mention just a few sources.
Data analysis in marketing automation and inbound lead generation
It’s also worth mentioning that Facebook, Pinterest or LinkedIn Ads platforms use sophisticated dashboards which present calculated data in any way you want. Thanks to their lead generation mechanics and marketing automation strategies (they’ve been pouring money into for years now), such platforms are true experts in providing lead score, lead capture and automation systems. And with pixel-tracker (a tool that tracks customer behaviour) they know about you more than your mother. In any case, it takes time to figure it all out. It’s hard to find a definitive guide to marketing automation, instead, I suggest to start with finding answers to simple questions like:
- How is my inbound lead generation working – what is my website’s monthly traffic?
- Can my business generate leads – Which of my digital ads increased the traffic the most?
- Do my customers engage with my website – how long an average visitor spends on my homepage?
- Is my digital advertising narrow enough – is my traffic local or international?
- How good is my mobile marketing – using what device (mobile/tablet/desktop) people are visiting my website?
- What other opportunities are we missing – can we launch new landing pages and increase revenue?
- Where is my marketing automation strategy most effective – which of my web pages are most popular?
- What is the average customer lifecycle for our business – can we nurture leads better?
- Is my website driving revenue and are my content marketers effective?
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 delivering personalised messages and visitor engagement on your website. The key to a great visitors engagement and customer retention appears to be:
- the speed of response to qualified leads
- 24/7 availability for massive demand generation
- CRM integration and building your customer base on autopilot
- useful and relevant bot responses based on the keyword and intelligent intent recognition
- and so-called “triggers” for a more effective lead capture
Speaking of marketing automation “triggers”. These can be heavily customised to track customers and adhere to the customers’ behaviour on your site and provide heavily targeted personalised messages and dynamic content. For example, imagine you have someone checking on your “Home Page” (or your other landing pages) 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 by your sales teams. Therefore, at each individual stage, your bot can enhance your visitors’ experience by way of personalised messages, additional content and offers tailored for closing deals. 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.
AI bots – chat marketing automation
The “AI” in bots gets also increasingly sophisticated. For example, marketing automation tool ActiveChat tries 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 and CRM systems so you can have an actual “digital counter” right on your website. And as if that wasn’t enough, built-in machine learning saves you time and makes your digital advertising efforts so much easier.
No wonder bots are the next big thing in “outsourcing” a lot of marketing tasks 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
Business Intelligence (BI) – the foundation of your digital campaign performance
Assuming you know a rough definition of business intelligence I will jump right to its role in digital advertising. You need Business Intelligence to gather and make sense of the ocean of data that is coming your way from your CRM integration, social media marketing campaigns, lead capture activities and overall digital advertising activities. BI in business is at the front of the information age and, as you can imagine, is incomprehensible without some kind of marketing automation system put in place to categorise and clarify the streams of data. To better understand how BI can work for your small business or sales teams, go to Google Trends and look around. It’s interesting how much depth you can draw from Trends even if it’s just to evaluate your e-commerce campaign performance against the Search.
From there you can step your marketing automation game a little bit and explore Google Analytics mentioned earlier in the article. You can spend your entire life digging the data and drawing conclusions for your website’s inbound marketing and campaign performance.
The intelligence alone that can be drawn from one of the best business intelligence and marketing automation platforms goes way beyond something you could build in Excel. And way past any marketing automation program, you have in place for your sales and marketing.
Google Analytics is the secret weapon that stands as a backbone for the entire Google ecosystem. And it’s all about Business Intelligence that informs your Marketing Automation Campaign.
It’s truly overwhelming. Therefore, I would encourage anyone to look for ways of simplifying your business intelligence data that your Google Analytics account gathers. A great place to start is Reportz. In a less than an hour you can launch a fully operational dashboard and auto-share that with your sales and marketing teams or even clients (relationship management on autopilot). Real-time data updates, dashboard templates tailored to your marketing automation needs and simplified graphs and visuals. It’s what Google Analytics Dashboard is trying to be but hasn’t been able to pull it off the way Reportz did in one fell swoop.
It may be hard to start with marketing automation and learn to launch a successful lead generation, a drip campaign or to automate at least some of your repetitive tasks. However, in the long run, it will pay back immensely. Also, know that 99% of your competitors aren’t doing it (yet…).
So, it’s better to start giving marketing automation some attention before it is too late. Whatever industry you’re in, to grow your business you will use the old principle: 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 digital marketing tools, but there is no harm in getting your feet in the marketing automation door today. I have probably been guilty of procrastination more than anyone before I took a deep dive into various marketing automation strategies. But eventually I have learned to take little steps from early on, and over time I realised that I’ve made a quantum leap in growing my online marketing 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 a few more things that I have learned over the years, so pop back in and check this article for updates. However, most importantly start with making your first marketing automation funnel, no matter how big your goals are or how fast you want to grow your business. From my experience, the right actions will pay off. I wish you good luck with your marketing automation journey.