- Managing email lists and segments as well as newsletters
- Delivering the right messages to each segment, at the right time
- Responding to online leads in a timely fashion
- Even capturing leads amongst growing competition
- Reducing the amount of leads wasted because of poor management
For most people involved in marketing it's the time needed for these tasks that is the biggest problem - who has time to spend on such things when there are other, more immediate, issues to be dealt with?
Time is super-important for all of us and we just don't need to waste it on basic, repetitive tasks.
Luckily, there is a way to deal with this - marketing automation.
I like to think of a good marketing automation system as being like a full time employee - one that works tirelessly, 24/7 in the background, taking care of tasks that I just don't have time for.
And here's an added bonus - these systems actually take care of the job better than I would myself.
They're robots essentially. No corner cutting, no breaks. Just 100% efficient and effective.
Examples of what you could use your automated system for:
A good marketing automation system can handle all of the below for you, and more. Here are some of the things you should look at automating in your own business:
- Newsletters: Email address capture, list segmentation, email delivery and reporting/analysis
- Conversion tools: e-Book downloads, landing pages, A/B split testing
- Follow up: Autoresponders, delivery of information, e-Books, video, step-by-step guides
- Lead scoring: Working out who your best prospects with the highest possibility of conversion at any given time are
- Lead nurturing: Developing cold leads into hot prospects
The last point there is a really, really important concept. Massive, actually. The ability to progressively nurture leads through your marketing and sales funnels in an automated fashion is huge.
So huge, in fact, that a properly designed lead nurturing process can add up to 80% to your sales pipeline (Sources: Yankee Group Study, Eloqua Grande Guides).
The figure above hints at the second problem that is addressed by marketing automation - wasted leads. And make no mistake, this is a massive problem.
The same study above found that businesses without a marketing automation process in place wasted up to 80% of their sales leads - that's an unacceptable risk in this day and age. You wouldn't just throw away 80% of your profits, would you?
However, it's a problem easily fixed by automation. A good system will keep all of your leads in play until they are ready to make a purchase. No waste, no hassle, no throwing away of profits. Just 100% efficiency.
Not a bad deal so far, right? So, to recap up to this point:
- Marketing automation can take care of all of the tasks you don't have time for
- It can do them better than any human could - 100% efficient and effective
- It's just like having a full time employee working for you
- And, it can add up to 80% to your bottom line by reducing waste and keeping all of your leads in play
What's not to like?
Business benefits of marketing automation
Note: I mention a few statistics from studies below - you can read more about these on this page if you are interested.
Business Growth - 4x Faster
A good marketing automation system will help you generate high quality leads online - in fact, that's one of the things it will do best. The good news here is that businesses who generate 40% or more of their leads online grow an average of 4x faster than those who do not.
Starting to get pretty serious now, right?
Reduced Waste - 80% Less
As I mentioned in my last email, marketing automation also helps to greatly reduce wasted leads. While that might not sound all that impressive, think about this: You know how much a customer is worth to you over the long term and how much your current customer base is worth combined. Now, imagine that you could add another 80% of that value, just by implementing a lead nurturing process.
How much would that add to your bottom line?
Increased Profit - 4x More
As if growing 4x faster than your competitors isn't enough, the same study above found that companies that use lead nurturing/marketing automation also make - on average - 4x more profits than their competitors.
That's definitely significant and is in part possible thanks to the next point below:
Reduced Cost Per Lead - 62% Less
A good marketing automation system will help you generate leads online, whether that's through enquiry forms, newsletters or e-Book downloads, for example. And the great news here is that leads generated online cost an average of 62% less than those generate offline - that's a potentially huge saving for your business, right?
More Time/Less Hassle
While I can't quantify this for you, i can still guarantee that a marketing automation system will free up more of your time and leave you with much less hassle than you currently have. That's because the system will take care of menial tasks that tie up your day normally - think about following up with and managing leads, sending out marketing materials and managing prospect lists etc.
Wouldn't it be great to have an automated process in place that could handle that for you?
Questions to ask yourself before you start
Although it's really tempting to get stuck right in and start implementing your own process, you should spend a bit of time mulling over this question:
How Complex Are Your Needs?
It's really, really important to think properly about your goals before you set up a system. That's because you want to make sure that you purchase the right system for the job. For example, if you only want to send out automated newsletters, you might be okay with a budget system. However, if you also want the system to track who your hottest prospects are, then you'll need a more advanced setup.
There are so many features in modern marketing systems that you might find they can handle just about all of your marketing needs - as I said in my last email, you could even start to think about them as a 'robot employee' in some cases.
Anyway, it just makes sense to know exactly what you want, rather than realise it after you've invested in a system that can't handle your needs.
Here's a few other basics to consider before you move on:
- What are my needs, exactly (see above)
- How many leads do I need the system to manage?
- How often do I need the system to contact my leads?
- What types of content will my system deliver?
- What is my budget?
- How tech savvy am I? Will I need help with this?
- Do I need the system to score leads, or am I happy to do that manually?
- Do I need the system to handle list segmentation, or am I happy to handle that manually
These are just a few points - the main thing I want to get across here is that you have to think properly about what you need before you rush into anything. A bit of planning now will reap dividends further down the line.
The minimum you want your system to be able to do
As you have probably guessed from reading the above, you can set up a system to seamlessly manage almost every part of your marketing process. However, this can be very expensive and - in most cases - needlessly so. It's really about finding the balance between need and cost.
For most small business owners, I'd say that the following features would cover most bases:
- The ability to automatically handle new subscribers as well as unsubscribers
- The ability to track email opens as well as clicks
- The ability to set up multiple autoresponder 'tracks'
- The ability to set up segmentation rules and the ability to automatically move users/email address from one 'track' to another, based on behaviour
- The ability to set up landing pages/squeeze pages, or at least integrate with other landing page/squeeze page systems
Most of the above is pretty straightforward, although point five might need further explanation. It's also very important, so just so I'm clear, here is an explanation:
- 'The ability to set up segmentation rules': by this, I mean that the system should allow you to set up automated rules. For example: 'if a user downloads e-Book A, move them onto autoresponder track C'
- 'The ability to automatically move...': by this, I mean that the system should automatically make the move for you (this probably goes without saying, but just to be clear)
By having a system that handles these points, you'll be well on your way to having a super efficient marketing automation process in place. Sure, it would be great to have every possible feature under the sun, most just aren't needed as a small business owner. They would be the icing on the cake - very, very expensive icing at that.
Here is a real life example of excellent marketing automation. This is an example of a business that used automation to achieve the following:
- Re-engaging a user that had abandoned their platform
- Without them having to do anything manually
Here's how well it worked:
- I signed up for a software as a service application after seeing it on the Chrome Web Store
- I didn't 'get it', so I quickly removed it from my laptop and forgot about it
- However, I received an excellent autoresponder from the company in question, which helped me 'get it'
- I then re-installed and have been a delightfully happy user ever since The Autoresponder Email
So, as I explained above, I had signed up to Workflowy but then quickly forgot about it - quite simply, I was in a rush, scanned it too quickly and didn't give it a chance. Anyway, as far as I was concerned, it was gone.
However, then came the email:
Talk about an awesome email! Here's what I liked:
The Tone Of The Email - Rock On!
You can tell by reading this email that this isn't a company that takes themselves too seriously, at least I didn't think so. There's nothing stuffy or pompous about it at all. It screams personality - a friendly, engaging and helpful one at that. So, 10/10 for great pitch and tone.
The Headline: It's 6am - Where Is Your Brain At?
Well I didn't even see the email until 8am and that made me feel a little sheepish :-)
I have no idea where my brain was at 6am - should I know? Should I feel bad that I don't know? Anyway, the subject header engaged me to the point that I had to open the email. So I did - again, 10/10 on the subject header.
The Content - An Easy To Get Started With Guide
What I really love about this email is the step by step advice on how to get started with WorkFlowy. As you can see it's a really simple process, although during my initial look I was just in too much of a rush to give it a chance. However, in looking at this simple explanation, I could see exactly how it worked, how easy it was and - more importantly - how I could use it myself.
And that's what I did - I went straight over to the Chrome Web Store, installed the app and have been using it daily ever since.
Just one point. Ideally, I'd have liked to have seen the email addressed to me personally, although to be fair I can't remember if I gave them that when I signed up. That's the tiniest of complaints though.
In Sum, It's Just Great
Although everyone will have a different opinion, I think that this is my favourite autoresponder of all time, bar none! Just to recap, here is what I think made it work and what I'd suggest you think about as you build your own:
- A great subject line that got me thinking and instantly engaged - I had to open it
- A great tone - friendly and helpful, not stuffy at all. These sound like the kind of people I like working with
- Great content - an easy to use, easy to understand guide with a clear call to action. No frills, but it works perfectly
The beauty of this process is that it's sent on autopilot, without the need for human intervention. Can you imagine if you had to send this email every time it looked like someone was going to stop using your product? You could easily forget, things could up and before you know it you've lost the prospect for good. Here's the important thing to grasp from this email - a good marketing automation system will never, ever let that happen.
Can you see why this is such an important process to have working for you? The above is only an example, you could have your system taking care of dozens of tasks for you. To see exactly how automation can help you stay on top of tasks like these, watch this video by Infusionsoft - it's definitely an eye-opener.
A terrible example of marketing automation
In the Terminator movies, the human race is fighting for survival after 'the machines' made by Cyberdyne/Skynet became self aware and then began killing off mankind. That's an extreme case of automation going bad in my book :-).
In this case study of sorts, I wanted to write about less serious case of automation going wrong - specifically, when your email system starts delivering emails that can make you look pretty spammy.
Some background on where this example came from.
The reason I was prompted to write this was that I received a series of autoresponder emails from a reputable company recently. Although I actually like the look of the company and they seem very successful, the emails were - in my opinion - lacking, to say the least.
The First Email - After I Signed Up For An e-Book
So, I came across a promoted tweet on Twitter which was promoting the following e-book. I liked the sound of it, so I clicked the link in the Tweet and was taken to a registration page. Now, I can't remember if I filled out a form or if it auto-populated my details from my Twitter account.
Either way, I received the following email with the e-book download link:
As you can see, it's a nice, clear email template - it tells you exactly what you are getting and how to get it. Good job so far.
However, even at this stage, I was a bit annoyed at the fact that my 'name' was 'Revenue'. However, given that they'd just given me a free e-book and that the form probably auto-populated from Twitter, it was actually quite a small thing to be concerned about.
Then came the lead nurturing campaign.
The Second Email - Oops
The first thing that got me about this email was the combination of it coming from a personal email address, yet it clearly wasn't a personal email. Again, my name was written up as 'Revenue'.
Now - as I said above - I get the fact that there was probably the Twitter auto-population issue, but that is a school-boy error. There could have been an extra step that asked for your real name upon registration.
I understand that this could reduce conversion rates, although if someone isn't willing to give you a name, can they really be counted as a lead, or even a contact? (Please note: I didn't ask your name when you signed up to this series as I'm not generating business leads, I'm only providing information. If I was trying to sell something, then sure, I'd make sure to ask for a name).
Anyway, here is the next email, which I didn't answer, nor did I click on the link provided.
The Third Email
Now onto the third email. Here you can see that they are trying to move me through their qualification process. They're giving me more (free) information and they are testing the water to see if I'd be open to having a conversation with them in the near future.
However, I didn't reply or click any links in this email. Again, calling me 'Revenue' just took away any real credibility in what they were offering or trying to tell me. I wasn't even interested in reading the articles they were sending.
The Fourth Email
This was the email that really made me wince. If you look closely, you'll see that the email is written in the first person, but it's signed off from the 'Gigya Team'!
What happened to Kevin, who had been sending me the emails up to now? At least he was a real person.
The Fifth Email
This email - the last one I have received to date - was sent with the same subject line as the one above, so Gmail stored it as part of that conversation in my inbox.
This time though, you can see that they are being very direct in what they want to achieve, they use the first person again but they sign it off as the 'Gigya Team'. Unless the Gigya Team is suddenly sprouting artificial intelligence (ah, Cyberdyne!) then I'm really quite peeved with this now.
At this point, I emailed them with my thoughts and haven't had a reply, or any further lead nurturing emails, at this point.
So, now I've given you an idea of how the process went, let's think about it in a bit more detail.
In Theory It Works, Badly Executed Though
In theory, I like the process and what they tried to do:
- It started on social media - win
- They then gave me a free and useful e-book - win
- They then tried to move me through their lead nurturing process, using relevant and useful materials - win
I like all of that and have written about it a lot on this blog. However, a few couple of things let it down badly, in my mind anyway:
- First person emails being signed off by the 'Gigya Team'
Although these may seem like small things, they actually have a strong impact. It takes away all personalisation and means I can't really engage with the emails or the offer on a personal level - it's way to clear that I'm just one of many that they are casting their net to.
What Can You Learn From This?
Well, following on from the above, it's probably quite clear that there are couple of things to learn here. Here is a quick round up:
- Make sure that you can properly address your emails, even if this means adding an extra field to make sure you catch the person's real name and not a business name. As I said above, this may mean that conversion rates drop slightly, but if someone won't provide their name, are they really a contact or a lead?
- Also, make sure that your emails are consistent and are signed by a real, named person at your company. - - Writing emails in the first person and then signing off as your business name - or a team - doesn't really gel
- Make sure you test your autoresponder to make sure it comes across well. This one came across very badly and even a quick check would have spotted that
- Don't just 'set it and forget it' - check it regularly for anything that could be going haywire
And What About The Unsubscribe Link?
This might be a very small thing, although just as a side note, I really don't like the way that the unsubscribe action is worded. I think it should be a plain option, not something that looks like it's designed to make you question your own judgement. Again, I just think that little things like this can really make a big impact on perception
Just To Say...
Although I didn't have a great experience with Gigya's email system, I actually really like the product and what it's trying to do - this post is in no way meant to have a go at them. I'm just using the series of emails as a case study to write about here. You can head on over and have a look at what they offer here - gigya.com.
Also: this was my own personal experience with their lead nurturing process - they are a good company and I'm sure there were many more success stories with their campaign. It's just that on this occasion, it didn't quite work.
Hopefully the outline above has given you something to think about when you design your own lead nurturing or marketing automation process. As always, if you have any questions, please ask and I'll be happy to help.
Wrapping up - the case for marketing automation
We've discussed marketing automation in quite a bit of detail up to now, so let's have a quick look over what we've highlighted so far:
- We've explained what marketing automation is
- We've looked at the things it can do
- We've looked at a great example of marketing automation
- We've looked at a really bad example of marketing automation
We've also looked at a few pretty staggering statistics. Here's a few:
- Businesses grow 4x faster with marketing automation
- Leads generated online are 62% less expensive
- Marketing automation can add up to 80% to your sales pipeline
And that's not to mention the time and effort that is saved by employing these systems. And that's a good point in itself - the fact that when you set up a system like this, it's just like having a full time employee working for you, 24/7 in the background, making you sales.
What's that worth to you?
I think the only way for you to find out for sure is to have a look at setting up your own process now. Wouldn't it be awesome if you could realise all of these benefits in your business, and pretty quickly at that?
I'd think so too.
Thanks for reading,
By Alan MacDougall
Got a nagging marketing question? Ask me here.
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Revenue Builder is a small business marketing strategy advice blog, written to help small business owners and startups maximise sales revenue.