Automation is a complex process that most people don’t fully understand.
A lot of people know about things like autoresponders that can make their lives a little easier, but there are actually many ways to automate your marketing that can save you unbelievable amounts of time and money.
You can automate everything from landing page creation, to prioritizing customers based on how likely they are to buy, to measuring metrics based on performance of campaigns.
Marketing automation can be used for:
- Lead generation
- Relationship marketing
- Measuring ROI
- Customer retention
- Upselling and cross-selling
- And so much more
If you’re not making use of automation tools and processes, you’re really missing out on a lot of potential. You could be saving so much time and so much money, and making your life so much easier… you’ll be kicking yourself when you realize you should have been doing this all along!
In this guide, we’re going to take a look at some of the ways you can use marketing automation to simplify your own business and to help you expand it.
So let’s get started!
First, let’s talk about what marketing automation is, and about some of the common misconceptions people have about it.
First of all, let’s talk about what it is NOT.
Most people have the misconception that marketing automation just refers to using an autoresponder for email marketing, but that is only a very minor componenet of marketing automation.
So what IS it, then?
Wikipedia defines marketing automation as:
Marketing automation refers to software platforms and technologies designed for marketing departments and organizations to more effectively market on multiple channels online (such as email, social media, websites, etc.) and automate repetitive tasks.
That’s a decent definition, but it really doesn’t delve into how much can be done through marketing automation. It can be used to guide leads through a complex sales funnel, from the lead generation process, to the initial sales funnel, to nurturing leads already developed, to closing sales, cross-selling, upselling, and even retention. It involves the entire life cycle of the customer.
Marketing automation can be used to boost a potential customer’s lifetime value (LCV – Lifetime Customer Value), boost loyalty, segment audience to bolster conversions, deliver personalized promotions, and so much more.
Marketing automation can be as simple or complex as you want or need it to be. It can be as simple as sending a customer a free report after opt-in to as complex as generating the lead, attempting a sale, segmenting the customer, retargeting the customer, selling, upselling, etc.
There are tons of different tools you can use for marketing automation. You probably already have an email autoresponder that you use to automate your email marketing. (If not, you need one!) But what about other types of marketing automation?
Let’s take a look at some of the best tools.
InfusionSoft is generally consider to be the ultimate in marketing automation tools, because so much is built right into the system. It has a bit in customer management service, marketing automation from lead capture to follow up with personalized communications based on email sends, opens, clicks, and even payment history, sales automation, and even the ability to be a complete e-commerce system.
The biggest problem for the average user is price. It starts at a whopping $199 per month for the “Essentials” package, which includes CRM and marketing automation, but not sales automation or e-commerce, and goes up to $2,999 for the one-time package called “Kickstart Pro”. It’s just a bit too pricey for the average marketer, and is more tailored for companies that are already successful and just looking to expand.
HubSpot also has CRM, marketing automation, and sales automation suites, but again, it can be quite pricey. Their basic marketing package starts at $200 per month, but that is billed annually, which means you need to invest a few thousand upfront to get started. Their software is packed with features and very highly reviewed, but it might be outside the average marketer’s budget.
SalesForce is an extremely powerful package that has a number of different apps to help you automate your marketing. They have one of the most robust overall systems, with more features than just about any other platform.
Their plans start at a reasonable $25 per month, but again, that is billed annually, so it can still be quite expensive if you’re just starting out. Their most popular package is $150 per month, billed annually.
If you’re looking to automate your social media, Buffer is a great place to start. They have a free level that will let you have one account per social media site and up to 10 scheduled posts per profile, but Pinterest is not included. If you want to post to Pinterest, or manage multiple accounts, you’ll need to pay at least $10 per month, or more if you have a lot of accounts to manage.
Buffer posts to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, and Instagram, and let’s you schedule posts to drip to your social media throughout the day to help you get the most possible attention.
It also has other great features, such as analytics, link shortening and tracking, and a tool that will help you determine the optimal timing for your posts to get the most attention.
HootSuite is very similar to buffer. It will let you schedule posts, has analytics, allows social sweepstakes, and much more. They post to the same networks as Buffer, but don’t seem to include Pinterest in their “Core Networks” list.
Like Buffer, they have a free level, and regular plans start at $9.99 billed annually, or $14.95 billed monthly.
If you build a lot of landing pages, using a system like LeadPages can save you a lot of time. LeadPages has a ton of built-in templates to make it easy to create the type of pages you want in a snap, and their pricing is reasonable, starting at $25 per month for the Standard package.
Instapage is an alternative to LeadPages. They have a host of amazing features, including HubSpot integration, email integration with MailChimp and Constant Contact, marketing automation integration, and drop-in pixel tracking.
They start at just $29 per month when billed annually.
Now that you know some of the tools that can be used for marketing automation, let’s take a look at a basic scenario in which automating the marketing process can help you.
Without automating the process other than lead capture and standard email marketing (delivering a lead magnet and sending basic marketing messages), your sales funnel will basically be:
- Customer opts in
- Customer receives lead magnet
- Customer receives marketing email
- Customer either buys or doesn’t
- If they buy, they receive other emails later
- If they don’t buy, they receive the same emails later
It’s all terribly inefficient.
What if that person bought something, and you don’t immediately deliver an offer that matches what they just bought? You’ve lost a shot at an additional sale.
What if that person did NOT buy something, and you didn’t segment them into a list of non-buyers so you could try different offers to them? You’d just keep sending them the same type of offers over and over, and they’d likely never buy.
Now, let’s take a look at how the process might look with marketing automation:
- Customer opts in
- Customer receives lead magnet
- Customer receives marketing message
- Customer does not buy, so is segmented
- Customer is retargeted with a Facebook ad for a second chance at the initial sale
- Customer buys the product upon second view
- Customer is moved to a segment of buyers from Facebook
- Customer can be targeted with similar offers, using Facebook as one of the methods of marketing
- Customer buys another offer
- Customer is sorted into a “regular buyer” list and receives special offers that are reserved for those customers
- Customer feels appreciated and buys even more
All those later sales would not have happened without marketing automation, because the initial sale would have been lost simply because the user was never retargeted on Facebook.
This is just one basic example of the process, but it applies to so many scenarios. No matter what type of marketing you’re doing, you can fine-tune the system and dramatically increase the average lifetime value of each customer by delivering targeted, personalized marketing based on their buying habits and interests!
This is the kind of powerful stuff that many people seem to think is reserved for mega-corporations like Amazon, but anyone can do these things! With the right tools, you can easily set up funnels that guide customers along a particular path that increases the likelihood that they will buy something, and that will even increase the amount of the money they spend when they do buy something!
You can use automation to deliver completely personalized results this way, which can boost sales considerably. For example, if a customer clicks a link in an email about marketing on Twitter, it shows an interest in Twitter marketing and you can then deliver custom marketing that puts products related to Twitter marketing right in front of them!
You can also automate all of your social media by putting a series of posts into your automation program and setting it to post at specific times or intervals.
This will let you market your website or products and grow your social media presence without having to be on social media all day, freeing up valuable time for other things!
If you thought marketing automation is all about email autoresponders, hopefully you’ve learned that is only the tip of the iceberg. Marketing automation goes so much deeper than that. You can use it for pretty much every step of the customer’s life cycle, from the initial lead capture all the way through retention!
If you’re hesitating and wondering if it’s worth it—don’t. IT IS. If you’re not already getting a lot of sales, you may not be able to afford some of the pricier options, but as soon as you can afford it, marketing automation can drastically improve your results. Make it a priority!
Remember, many of these tools have free trials. Don’t take a trial until you’re ready to put it to good use, because you won’t get another chance. But when you’re serious about automating your marketing, grab a trial or two and see what these systems can do for you.
Best of luck!