Small Business Marketing Automation - 4 Ways You Can Get Started Today

I'm a big fan of business marketing automation, whether it's B2B or B2C focused. Not to the point where it's spammy or counter-productive, but definitely to the point where it makes sense, it's more efficient, it increases ROI and it saves valuable time. So, today I had a bit of a think about a few different ways that various marketing processes can be automated and I came up with four that I think are very relevant to small business owners.

Specifically, these automated processes should help save you time and effort in the following areas:

  • Generating leads 
  • Improving lead management 
  • Making sales 
  • Keeping up with social media 

So, here goes with 4 ways you can automate your small business marketing processes:

Build your own small business marketing auto-bot :-) 

1) Set Up An Automated, Email-Based Lead Nurturing Process

I think one of the biggest headaches facing small business owners in terms of their marketing processes is caused by the difficulty in properly managing leads. For example, it's quite normal to have a stream of enquiries come your way made up of the following type of prospect:

  • Some who are 'just looking' or researching 
  • Some who haven't decided on a supplier yet, but are intending on purchasing soon 
  • Some who are set on buying from you 

Now, the problem for small business owners here is that they somehow have to find time on top of running their business to manage their enquiries. I bet we've all done at least one of these things at some point or another:

  • Left it too long to call someone back and lost a deal 
  • Left it so long we were too embarrassed to call back at all 
  • Missed an arranged call because we got stuck on something else 

These are all things that happen every day to small business owners and they are nothing to feel bad about. However, the thing is that they also cost us business. So, how can we make sure these things don't happen all of the time?

We can set up a lead nurturing process, which will essentially 'hold hands' with our prospects and walk them through the buying process for us (at least the majority of it anyway). For more information on this, please see the lead nurturing section of this blog. 

Industry leading software providers include Infusionsoft, Aweber, Eloqua and Marketo, in case you wanted to look into a system now (you can also check out this guide which discussed the type of features you really need).

To my mind anyway, a good email-based lead nurturing process is probably the best route in B2B marketing automation that you can pursue. After all, it's been shown that this type of process can improve your sales pipeline by up to 80% by resolving bad lead management practice (Source - Yankee Group Study).

Here's quite an informative marketing automation video from Marketo:

2) Set Up A Lead-Generation Focused Google Adwords Campaign

Another problem that small business owners face is that we spend so much time working on projects for our clients that we have very little time to spend developing new revenue sources or finding new leads. The idea scenario is that we have a constant stream of nurtured, qualified inbound leads flowing right to us - how amazing would that be? While it might not always work out that way, it's certainly possible to at least set up a process that allows this to happen for you.

One of the best ways that I think a small business owner can generate new enquiries is to set up a Google Adwords campaign, which would - in effect - automate your new lead generation process. It would take a bit of time to properly research and set up, although once it's done, it's done. Then you just need to keep an eye on it and make sure nothing is going to awry with it.

This would be particularly effective if you had it running in tandem with your lead nurturing process mentioned in point one, above. You could direct visitors from your Adwords campaign to a specially designed lead generation landing page, which would collect contact details in exchange for an e-book or whitepaper, for example. The contact details would then be automatically fed into your lead nurturing process and developed until they were ready to become paying customers.

For a bit more information on your PPC options, please see this post or head on over to Google Adwords to set up your account.

3) Use Hootsuite (Or Another Social Media Management Platfrom) To Schedule Social Media Posts

Another pain-point that I see for small business owners comes from the pressure of keeping various social media accounts active. Even if you only use 2 or 3 social networks, it can be a bit of a pain in terms of keeping them updated. Also, if you go for a while without posting anything, it can look bad on your business and might put some potential customers off contacting you. However, there is something you can do to take the pressure of a bit.

Put simply, all you'd have to do is head on over to Hootsuite or Tweetdeck (there are others, these are just the ones I like), which allow you to write up posts in advance and then automatically send a fixed date in the future. For example, you could write up a month worth of posts, each one scheduled to go out on a particular day. You'd have to spend a few hours looking for articles, sites, posts etc to link to as well as general things to say, but it would mean your social accounts would be kept active.

Just to be clear, I don't recommend that this becomes your complete social media strategy - I think you should only use this kind of automation as a 'buffer' for when you are too busy to use the networks properly. You could also set up a month of scheduled posts and then add random posts each day as and when you have time too.

Here are a few examples of useful social media marketing platforms: Hootsuite, Tweetdeck (Twitter Only)

4) Set Up An Affiliate Marketing Campaign

I'm not really sure if this one counts as marketing automation to be honest, although it still delivers the same benefits. If you are new to affiliate marketing, the process works a bit like this:

  • You would create Ads with tracking links and give them to other website/blog owners 
  • They would display these Ads on their site 
  • You would pay them a commission for any sales that were generated by people clicking on those ads 

Although you would have to spend a bit of time setting up your affiliate partners and Ads, the major benefit is that when this is done you'd have a team of virtual sales people working for you 24/7. All you would have to do would be to deliver the product or service as and when the sales are made through your affiliate partners. So, although this might not be strictly marketing automation, I think it ticks enough of the boxes to warrant implementation, or at least a good look.

Here is a guide that you'll hopefully find useful if you're new to the idea of affiliate marketing for your small business.

In Sum

Hopefully the above four points can help you begin to look at business marketing automation solutions for your enterprise. It would take a bit of time to set these things up, although when they are up and running, that's it - save for a bit of maintenance each month.

Of course, you don't have to do all of them - why not start with one and see if it makes any difference to your working day or week?

Thanks for reading,

By Alan MacDougall

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The Revenue Builder Blog is a small business marketing strategy and tips blog designed to help small business owners and startups maximise sales revenue.
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