According to emailmonday.com, around 51% of companies are currently using marketing automation and more than half of B2B companies (58%) are planning to adopt the technology. Social Media Today contends that 75% of marketers are currently using marketing automation tools.
Sound promising? It is!
Marketing automation is a hot topic in the realm of marketing for good reason. However, many businesses still debate whether they should apply automation in their marketing strategies or not. One reason some businesses may be hesitant might be because of the scary stuff they hear about marketing automation. Like the one that says in order to implement marketing automation, you need to hire a few computer experts who also know every aspect of marketing! Or maybe, businesses assume they won’t benefit from implementing marketing automation.
In this blog, we are going to discuss marketing automation and a few easy steps to transform traditional marketing strategies into automated marketing strategies.
Let’s begin with defining marketing automation!
What exactly is marketing automation?
According to Techopedia, “Marketing automation is the use of software and web-based services to execute, manage, and automate marketing tasks and processes. It replaces manual and repetitive marketing processes [emails, social media, certain website actions] with purpose-built software and applications geared toward performance.”
In simpler words, marketing automation is the process of delegating boring, repetitive, time consuming, less productive marketing tasks to computer software or apps. If you look at your marketing activities closely, you’ll find that a significant number of tasks shouldn’t require any human interference. When you delegate those tasks to an app or tool and focus on the ones that need a greater level of human touch, you are taking steps towards automating your marketing strategy.
It can start with just scheduling emails.
It can start by setting auto-replies to messages on social media.
It can start by sending personalized SMS to a list of clients.
It can be a combination of all three mentioned above.
Basically, as long as you have a marketing strategy, there is room to automate.
Some of the tasks that you might think are “impossible for machines to do” may not actually be. Back in the era of Netscape, people would consider sending personalized emails to thousands of clients within a minute a fairy tale. But, technology can do so many things these days that make the lives of marketers more convenient.
Let’s give you an example of a recent marketing automation breakthrough. Usually, marketers take time to design web form templates in HTML/CSS or they use form generator tools to create web forms. Microsoft recently came up with Sketch2Code technology that will create HTML-based webforms after scanning hand-designed forms on a piece of paper (thanks to Microsoft AI).
It started getting more interesting, eh? Let’s learn a bit more about creating a marketing automation strategy, shall we?
Marketing Automation Strategy
Marketing automation strategies are nothing but regular marketing strategies that utilize automation platforms, superior workflow design, and better, objective-driven task delegation systems.
So, when you are installing automation in your existing marketing strategy, that process will synchronize all the stages in your current strategy and set criteria to trigger each stage based on your decision.
Automation turns good marketing strategies into great marketing strategies!
Not clear enough yet? Here is an example:
In a traditional email marketing strategy, you ask prospects to sign up if they want a PDF. Once they sign up, you will download the list and from that list, export the email addresses to a notepad. Then you will compose an email and attach the PDF. Then you will put all the email addresses in BCC (putting them on in the CC is not a great idea) and then hit the send button. Everyone will get the PDF!
However, in the new strategy (automated), you would use an automation tool to set up an email marketing workflow. That workflow would contain a signup form, a contact list, and a pre-set email template. As soon as anyone signs up, the email address would be added to the contact list, and that would automatically trigger the next event: an email would be sent automatically to the person who signed up (PDF attached).
Now bring this concept to your entire marketing strategy and imagine: from the beginning to the end, every possible task is automated and you don’t have to spend hours after hours copying names from an excel sheet to the email composer and hitting the send button hundred times or manually typing in the details of prospects in the CRM or creating pie-charts from an excel sheet for the next board meeting!
Let’s be honest, it is a big job. But if you break your entire marketing strategy down to the level where all the individual tasks are visible, then you will realize that it is not as difficult as it seems to automate.
Basically, you can start with the basic areas of a marketing strategy. There are four areas you can automate. Once these areas are synchronized, you can complete the automation of your marketing campaigns.
Here are the areas:
- Marketing Communication- This area covers all the marketing activities between the initiation of promotion and cracking a deal/sale. For instance, posting a Facebook ad, writing a blog on your service, or launching a PPC campaign on Google.
- Marketing Insights- This is the data you collect through promotions. Usually, it is the extracted information from the sign-up form or the web traffic, for instance, from the source from which you get more traffic is likely to see more investment. If Facebook brings you more sign-ups, then you are likely to spend more on Facebook ads.
- Lead Nurturing- These are communication activities that convert leads into hot leads. By hot leads I mean the prospects are now willing to buy your service instead of asking for more info.
- Sales- Simple! It’s the endgame: converting leads into customers and counting cash!
Each one of these areas consists of a plethora of tasks. As discussed, many of these tasks are not worth doing manually because they will consume a lot of time and resources. Our goal is to find these tasks and automate them. If it is not possible to automate them all due to budget or resource restrictions, then do as many as you can.
Why Should I Automate While My Existing Marketing Strategy Still Works?
Good question! Why fix things that aren’t broken?
Sadly, in modern business, this theory doesn’t work. Do you see any Kodak cameras around? When did you last update your MySpace profile? Did you move Netscape to your taskbar?
As the world evolves, so do the ways of marketing. If you do not catch the train right now, there is a high chance your competitors will and they will beat you with more efficient, automated marketing strategies.
Here is a fact for you:
According to the Digital Marketing Institute, businesses that incorporate automation in their marketing strategies have seen increased leads and sales, driving a 14% in sales productivity and a 12% reduction in marketing expenses. On one hand, you are driving your productivity and on the other hand, you are cutting costs!
Let’s start the step-by-step instructions!
In these instructions, we will be using a scenario from an alternate universe. In this scenario, an education-based company sells online professional courses. They follow a manual marketing strategy. However, they are now willing to upgrade and adopt a marketing automation strategy for their business. So, we will create a marketing automation strategy plan for them.
Note: You can download the blank template here and start customizing your own marketing automation strategy as you go.
Also, this example is a rough approximation made just to help you understand how to automate your marketing strategy from scratch. For practice, you can come up with more complicated scenarios when you start using marketing automation tools.
Okay, let’s start!
Business Scenario for You
MarkeTrainers Ltd. is a private organization that provides university students with on-campus marketing training. Their training modules cover several areas such as basic graphic designing, digital marketing fundamentals, strategic marketing planning, etc. Basically, they aim to equip university students with professional marketing knowledge so the fresh grads can hit the ground running as soon as they land a job.
Recently, the CEO of MarkeTrainers Ltd. decided to push the annual sale, which is increasing the number of students in each batch. Usually, they have 10-15 students per batch while they can accommodate 20-25 students. Therefore, the CEO decided to hire a part-time marketing specialist (which is you) to streamline and automate their existing marketing strategy to meet the objective.
Currently, MarkeTrainers only collects prospect information via their signup form that is embedded on their website. Once a prospect signs up, they follow up with them manually either via email or via telephone. If a prospect is found interested, the sales team tries to enroll the prospect. Otherwise, they are removed from the prospect list. They can do two follow-ups with the existing resource, and each one is done manually.
However, with aggressive promotion, the CEO expects to see a surge in prospects. Since MarkeTrainers Ltd. lacks resources to follow up with all these prospects in a timely manner, automation is a necessity for them.
You need to evaluate the current marketing strategy and reconstruct it using automation tools to make it smoother and more efficient. Remember, the goal is to land more students.
Ready? Let’s get your students!
Step #1: Set Up Your Objectives
Before anything else, you need to know why you are adopting a marketing automation strategy? Is it to gain awareness? Is it to get more followers? Is it to boost sales?
In our situation, we need to boost sales. Therefore, our marketing strategy objective will be divided into three parts: lead generation, lead nurturing, and conversion.
To generate leads, we need to promote the courses via multiple channels. Assuming we already have a list of previously-generated leads, we are just going to add more leads. The more leads we obtain, the higher the chance to meet our objective faster. After that, we will analyze the collected data and see which area needs more focus. For instance, which course is getting more attention or which course will get us more revenue, etc. Then, we need to make sure that those leads are followed up with constantly (nurturing) so they eventually turn into hot leads from prospects. Finally, we will make sure that those hot leads are converted, which means they are enrolling in the training courses.
We aim to get at least 20 students per term!
Now, as we have already set our objectives, let’s see what are factors are affecting our current marketing strategy.
Step #2: Create a Clear Layout of Your Existing Strategy
A layout of your existing marketing strategy will consist of the stages and tasks in each stage. Setting up a clear layout is important because once you have the whole framework in front of you, you can then look at all the tasks and find out where a potential client might have friction and the points where you can improve your efficiency by adopting automation.
Remember, not every step will require automation. Maybe in the future, but not today!
Anyway, for MarkeTrainers Ltd., the existing strategy is something like this:
Step #3: Find Out Which Points Contain Repetitive & Less Productive Tasks
In simple words, find your pain points. There are tasks that require a lot of repetitive efforts that shouldn’t be there in the first place.
Once you identify those points then you can attempt to find ways to automate those tasks.
Based on the existing strategy and marketing roadmap, here are the pain points:
- Manually posting ads on social media and sending sign-ups to contact lists
- Downloading a CSV file every time new prospects sign up and update the list of prospects
- Manually send emails to every prospect
- Not knowing if leads are opening an email or not
- Moving leads to hot leads based on email answers
- Not knowing if anyone is not interested or not so follow up emails are causing a bad reputation
- Not having real-time data
Step #4: Look for Appropriate Resource to Delegate those Tasks
It is easier to find tools when you know exactly what you are looking for. For instance, if you are looking to automate your email follow-up process, you can search Google and find tons of email marketing tools. Same goes for SMS marketing, web tracking, even sign-up forms.
Based on our observation, here is the list of areas you can automate by using automation tools:
- Social media: You need a tool that will help you schedule content on social media (e.g. Facebook & Twitter) so you do not have to manually enter content every time the deadline is near.
- Sign-up form: You will need a tool to create a dynamic sign-up form. That form must be linked to an initial contact list in a CRM.
- Contact list: Your contact list needs to be updated in real-time and designed in such a way so you can extract the necessary information quickly.
- CRM: Your contact list needs to be integrated into a CRM where you can update the status of each prospect and then make prospect groups based on their statutes.
- Automated Email: You need to set up a system that will allow you to send emails automatically either as soon as a certain time is reached or a certain action is done. You will need a tool to design emails so they are easy to view and navigate via desktop and mobile.
- Automated SMS: You need a tool that will allow you to automatically send personalized SMSs either as soon as a time is reached or a certain action is done. The SMS should incorporate short links to trigger further actions.
- Automated voice marketing: As with SMS and email, you need a tool to send personalized voicemail to prospects as soon as a trigger point is reached.
- Web traffic monitoring: As you are promoting your sign-up forms in several places, you need to have a tool that will help you to track the traffic coming to your landing page. You can then reconstruct your marketing strategy based on the hot traffic touchpoints.
- Campaign analytics: Not every prospect will behave the same; some will focus on a cost-benefit analysis and some will focus on the material and learning they are receiving via your training courses. These analytics can be easily obtained via the sign-up form and other data stored in the contact list.
So, we know what tool we need. Here, after proposing the automated tasks by using these tools, here is what the raw marketing automation strategy looks like:
Step #5: Synchronize the Manual & Automated Tasks
So far the only manual tasks we found that are still required is to create content for promotions and follow up with the prospects who showed interest. The rest can be automated.
So, after using the automation tools, here is what a hypothetical automated marketing strategy looks like.
You will launch extensive promotions, including Google PPC, social media marketing, affiliate marketing, etc. The content will have a tracking link, based on which your tracking software can analyze the hot traffic touchpoints. The tracking link will drive the viewers to the sign-up form. Here is where the automation truly begins.
As soon as your prospect signs up, they will receive an automated confirmation email and SMS (plus attached content). You will wait for one day and then you’ll see the first follow up SMS, email, and voicemail messages are sent to the lead. Email will be used as the primary follow-up channel, while SMS and voicemail are secondary ones. Automated platforms usually have built-in tools to tell you how many emails and SMSs are opened and read. Each SMS and email will contain a link that will trigger an action (e.g.- Click on this link if you want one of our experts to talk to you). That action will put them in a separate contact list for HOT LEADS and they will receive a confirmation email and SMS.
Your sales team will follow up with those leads and attempt to covert them. Converted ones will be removed from the HOT LEADS and the sales team will update their status in the CRM.
Those who didn’t respond at all to the first follow-up email will get another email or SMS after three days automatically. Similarly, if they click a link in the email or SMS, they will be added to the HOT LEADS and will receive a confirmation email and SMS. They will be followed up personally and, if converted, removed from the HOT LEADS list.
The rest, unconverted and unresponsive leads, will be placed in a separate contact list for future communication such as sending deals, offers, etc., unless they decide to opt out or unsubscribe.
Here is what the framework looks in a diagram:
You must be wondering whether you will have to subscribe to tons of software to make such an automated marketing strategy! Well, you don’t have to if you try SimplyCast, the world’s first all-in-one engagement automation platform.
You will enjoy all the tools you need under one platform
If you use SimplyCast, here is how your automated marketing strategy should look in the workflow platform.
I have created this rough workflow to demonstrate the way an automated marketing strategy is visualized in SimplyCast 360.
Don’t worry! It may look a bit sophisticated, but it is not when you start designing your strategy! SimplyCast has one of the most user-friendly interfaces with convenient features such as drag-and-drop elements (look to the left).
Also, this campaign won’t be activated unless you hit the button!
Anyway, back to action! As you have automated your marketing strategy, it is time to move to the next step: review and find loopholes.
Step #6: Review Your Strategy & Test to Find Loopholes
Do you know what is the best part of the modern marketing automation platforms? They allow you to simulate your marketing strategy even before you launch it.
Earlier, companies had to design a campaign, launch it, and then wait for days to find out where prospective customers are experiencing frictions. For instance, I know a company that did everything right but there was ZERO conversion in the first few days. After digging deeper, they discovered that despite being interested, their clients were not converting because they couldn’t pay! The country in which that company operated has restrictions on international credit cards, and the only way to make payment was having an unrestricted, international credit card.
I know another story where a company did everything right, but the follow-up email that was supposed to drive the leads to the payment page missed the “Click Here” button. You can imagine the consequences! Yikes!
So, reviewing your strategy is as important as finding loopholes in your automation strategy.
I am pretty sure there are loopholes in this automated marketing strategy too as well as room for the strategy going wrong. I’ll leave that to your imagination on how you can improve this strategy! Consider it your homework!
Step #7: Set Up Metrics for Each Stage
Once you are done with your review and you have refined your automated marketing strategy, you need to set up metrics for each of the stages to measure the success of the strategy.
You might ask me why not just put final sale as a universal metric since that’s what matters. I agree. But it is important to set up metrics for each stage because then you have the opportunity to identify and improve steps that are underperforming.
For this marketing strategy, we will set up metrics for these key areas:
- Marketing communication
- Lead nurturing
The metrics are asynchronous to the key marketing areas so we can measure those in real-time. For instance, we will aim to generate 1,000 sign-ups through promotional activities (measuring marketing communicating). We will then aim to turn 20% of these leads into hot leads by follow-up emails, SMSs, and voicemails and the 200 hot leads will be added into the HOT LEAD contact list (measuring lead nurturing). We will then aim to convert 10% of the 200 HOT LEADS via personal follow-up (measuring performance of sales). Which means, we are enrolling 20 students!
Do you see the benefit of segmented metrics?
You know that you need to get 1,000 sign-ups first. So, if you are getting fewer, say 800 sign-ups, then you need to push harder with follow-up. Again, say, you have 1,000 sign-ups, but you could add only 10% in the HOT LEAD contact list. This means you either need to improve your follow-up or improve your sales technique so you can convert more out of 10%.
These numbers and statistics are the “marketing insights” you are extracting from the campaign metrics, which help you make decisions.
It all depends on the type of business and your goals. So, set up your goals accordingly.
Step #8: Launch Your Campaign
Once the goals are set, the strategy is ready, every potential loophole is checked and marked, and risk factors are addressed with solutions (if something goes wrong), you are ready!
What are you waiting for? Start your promotion and don’t forget to click the activate button! Now, wait to see the number of sign-ups you are getting (or anything else based on your goals).
Want to Try it Out?
The best way to check if your strategy works is to check it yourself!
Ready to re-design your marketing strategy with the power of automation? Get a free trial of SimplyCast 360. In this platform, you will find every single tool you need to help you automate your marketing strategy. With 20+ applications, you have the liberty not only to automate communication processes but also to customize your strategy based on your goals. You can schedule communications, set criteria for each of the prospect groups. Most importantly, it comes with free Sonar web traffic monitoring and a powerful CRM tool.
What are you waiting for?
Click the button below to get your free 14-day trial of the SimplyCast platform.