Setting up a marketing automation platform is way easier than it sounds. You do not need to break the bank to automate your existing marketing strategies or hire a specialist to set it up for you. If you know what your business goals are and the way you want to achieve the goals, you are good to start.
In this article, we will look at how to set an automation platform in 12 easy steps. Although not specific to any one platform, these steps should give you a really good base to work off of that could then make working with the rest of the system even easier!
Wait! Let’s Break Some Myths First
Before we dive in, let’s break some myths about automation platforms first to ensure we’re all on the same page.
Myth #1: Operating an automation platform requires tons of technical knowledge
Myth #2: Automation means no human touch
Myth! An automation platform allows you to delegate repetitive, mundane tasks to the software, such as sending thousands of personalized emails. However, an automation platform will deal with clients on behalf of you and streamline content for you; it only helps you to communicate more efficiently. If any responses come back interested, those go directly to you!
Myth #3: You need to change your entire marketing system if you adopt automation
Also a myth! You may need to modify a few steps in your entire marketing strategy but largely the processes can remain the same: just automated. Think this way: you’re just copying your marketing plan in an automation platform, and during the process, making a small change here or there. Also, you are learning and teaching your employees how to operate the platform. Remember, modification is not a reformation!
There are three stages of setting up an automation platform: creating a strategy, setting up workflows, and business development. Strategy creation is backend work where you brainstorm your marketing strategy and prepare to transfer it to your automation platform. Setting up workflow refers to adjusting your marketing strategy in the automation platform and check if the right tool is being used for each activity. Finally, business development is the way you are going to grow your business by leveraging the marketing automation platform.
Cool! Let’s begin:
Creating an Automation Strategy
Step 1: Lay out your marketing strategy
Depending on the size and type of business, your marketing strategy can be either straightforward or complex, involving multiple stakeholders. However, no matter what, every business has a marketing strategy. You need to create a blueprint of that strategy first. Define each step, even tiny details. Our suggestion is to create a raw structure first, such as social media > sign up > contact list > follow-up > meeting > close deals. When you have the basic structure ready, put tasks under each of these steps. For instance, you can put content posting, inquiry handling, and tracking under social media.
Step 2: Identify the steps to automate
Remember, not all the steps need to be automated. Your marketing strategy will still require human intervention. However, you can certainly automate the steps that you find too much time consuming and repetitive. To start, identify every step in your marketing strategy. For instance, you cannot automate comments on your Facebook page, but you can certainly automate the process of posting content. You can automate the contact list generation, a few tasks in the follow-up process, and schedule meetings, but you cannot automate the sales-closing conversation with a potential client.
Step 3: Identify the tools needed
Now, as you have identified the tasks you need to automate, you can check for the tools to automate those tasks. Need to automate a chain of emails? Find an email marketing tool. Need to automate an acknowledgment message? Try finding an autoresponder tool. Do you want to enjoy the weekend without any office work? Schedule content across social media by using a social media automation tool. For instance, you can schedule content across multiple social media channels like Facebook and Twitter.
Step 4: Import your marketing strategy to your automation platform
Now, as you have sketched your marketing strategy and decided what types of tools and services you need in order to automate your marketing strategy, it is time to bring it into the automation platform and create a workflow. Depending on the platform you are using, you will have different ways to create a workflow. For example, SimplyCast provides a user-friendly interface with a drag-and-drop editor to create workflows. If your campaign involves email marketing, SMS marketing, CRM, and other communication tools, you can bring them here and create a basic workflow. For example, you have a basic marketing campaign: asking clients to sign up via a form, collect the information, and send a chain of emails to pique interest in your product. To do this, you would put the signup form first, a contact form after that, and a series of emails after the contact form.
Once you know which element comes after what (according to your marketing plan), you will have to connect them. Again, depending on the platform you are using, you might have to do it manually, select options from a drop-down, or simply drag connections from one campaign element to another. Connecting these elements will construct a basic workflow for your marketing strategy.
Step 5: Set up criteria to trigger each connection
This is the most vital component of your marketing automation platform setup. Let’s think this way: you have connected all the elements needed but they are performing erratically. Like, prospects are getting a “thank you for purchasing” email right after they sign-up and freaking out because the post-purchase email was sent instead of the post-signup acknowledgment email. Total chaos!
To prevent that from happening, you need to set-up criteria for each connection. Remember, in complex marketing strategies, many steps can overlap. A customer could abandon a cart after adding items, so you might want to remind them about their abandoned cart and want to promote a new product at the same time. The same contact could be on two different contact lists, signed up for three different services, etc. Therefore, you set strict criteria for the connections among different elements. For instance, consider these criteria between different tools:
- Prospects will stop receiving emails IF they reply “STOP” to any of the follow-up SMS messages
- Prospects will be contacted ONLY via SMS IF they select SMS as their preferred communication channel
- A prospect will not be followed up IF they are converted AND instead, they will be contacted to schedule their one-on-one training session.
The first two examples above are clear examples of setting up criteria for automation. The first one can be a criterion for SMS messages (and is usually done automatically by the system) while the second one is a criterion between a sign-up form and a follow-up message.
But the third one looks a bit non-automated! Because the third one, despite being a part of an automated marketing strategy, needs human intervention to resume the automation process. So, here is the next part: delegate tasks to appropriate personnel.
Step 6: Delegate human resources where necessary
In most of the cases, human intervention is needed when a prospect is getting ready to buy. For instance, if you have a series of leads in the CRM that are all near the end of your sales cycle, you might also need someone to call them manually and follow up. In this case, a salesperson follows up with the leads, and if anyone is converted, he/she transfers the contact from the ‘prospect’ list to a ‘customer’ list. Then, that converted contact starts getting pre-set emails regarding service updates. Delegating human resources is necessary because sometimes, a human touch is more important than automation. Obviously, if the product is a commodity of low cost like $5, a constant chain of email might prompt the customer to visit a certain webpage and purchase the product but when the product is about $500,000, the customer would likely prefer to talk to someone instead.
Step 7: Run a test campaign
This step is easy and stress-free! Once you have completed the design, set up the tools and elements, connected them and set up criteria for each of the connections, ALWAYS try it first BEFORE launching it. I mean, you can always pause any campaign after launching, but why take the risk? You can test your campaign with some test email accounts. For instance, you can sign up by using a test account to see if all the connections are working according to the pre-set criteria. You can also check the messages received and fix any issues you find.
Done? Great, your automation platform setup is almost done! Now it’s time to look at business development. Let’s do it in the next stage.
Step 8: Clean your existing contact list
Even a Startup company has a few contacts before it even begins to map out its marketing strategy and map it to an automated platform. Now think about a large company with thousands of prospects, clients, and other stakeholders. Let’s assume this company is going to use an automation platform to automate its marketing strategy. Shall they discard all the old contacts and start fresh? Of course not!
Every CRM has a way to manually enter all the contact list in the system. Even if a company is using a different CRM and wants to use that CRM with the automation platform instead of the one within the platform, it is possible in most of the cases. Therefore, you don’t have to toss your old contacts and leads. However, it is nice to know which of your contacts are still valid and which ones removed their email addresses a long time ago. Checking duplication is also a good practice. In general, you need to verify each of your contacts before adding those to your marketing automation platform. Remember, sending an email or an SMS will cost you money, so it is better to deliver your messages to active numbers/emails.
Once you have cleaned up your old contact list, import all of those to the automation platform.
Step 9: Create a master contact list
There is a saying in the business world: always save a fresh copy of your raw work and work on a duplicate version! The master contact list will be the raw copy of all your contacts: old and new. For instance, you can import your old contacts in a MASTER contact list and set up a criterion so every new sign-up will eventually be added to the master contact list. Then, from the master contact list, you can create sub-contact lists and modify them as needed.
Step 10: Drive contacts into the sales funnel
It is quite normal that your previous contacts will be in different stages in your sales funnel. As you have already replicated your sales funnel in the automation platform, now you can simply move those contacts in different stages of that sales funnel so you don’t have to initiate a conversation again with a hot lead who just asked for details to make a payment. Naturally, new prospects will be added to the beginning of the funnel (and to the master list if you want!).
Step 11: Create Content for Each Funnel
Once all the contacts are moved to different funnels, you can now create content for each of the funnel stages. This is similar to setting criteria to trigger connections. Here, as soon as a contact is moved to a different funnel stage, they will start getting pre-set messages.
Step 12: Launch the System
Once you are done with setup, tools, criteria, the delegation of tasks if needed, and tested the platform to see if your sales funnel works perfectly, it is time to launch your automation platform.
Take a deep breath and hit the launch button. Now, just relax and keep checking the data in real-time and make necessary adjustments (if required).
Congratulations! You have successfully set up your marketing automation platform.
Want to Try?
Want to see how you can use a marketing automation platform to boost your business processes. We have a perfect solution for you: SimplyCast 360.
The SimplyCast platform comes with over 15 tools including email, SMS, voice, autoresponder, and gives you ample freedom to create your workflow and set up criteria as you deem useful. SimplyCast 360 is one of the most user-friendly platforms with a simple user interface. The drag-and-drop interface generates a visual workflow that can be adjusted based on your needs.
Want to try it for yourself? Click the button below to get a free 14-day trial!