I’ve previously written about content marketing and its importance to small businesses trying to connect with customers.
An associated concept is marketing automation. It’s a term that gets thrown around a lot these days, but it remains very nebulous for many entrepreneurs. What exactly gets automated? And how does it work? Well, the answer can be confusing to say the least.
At its most basic, marketing automation refers to software tools that do marketing tasks that small businesses might otherwise do manually.
These tasks include communications with customers and prospective customers via email or social media as well as measurement and tracking of information.
Ease your workload
One example for lessening your workload might be managing social media content on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn with a tool like HootSuite. With it, you can schedule posts ahead of time on all your social media properties from a user‑friendly dashboard.
Another example would be sending an automatic thank‑you email when someone submits a request to you, using the “contact us” form on your website. It’s easy and respectful.
These are very simple examples, but they show how marketing automation tools and strategies can save you time in managing communications and marketing campaigns.
Generate more sales leads
The idea of streamlining tasks is very much at the heart of marketing automation, but there is much more to it. Generating sales leads (or nurturing them) is also at the core of marketing automation.
There are many tools that allow you to communicate with prospective customers when they’re making buying decisions. They help you to put the right content in front of the right people at the right time.
Consider, for example, a customer relationship management (CRM) tool that allows you to identify all your customers in Vancouver who have purchased more than $1,000 in the last year. The tool also allows you to identify who in this group follows you on Facebook. Now you can use that information to target those customers with a Facebook ad offering them 10% off their next purchase.
Deliver segmented email content
Another example might be an email segmentation tool that allows you to send specific content in your email newsletter to subscribers based on what you know about their preferences.
So, let’s say a clothing retailer keeps track of the gender of his or her email recipients. The retailer can now send gender specific content like deals on skirts and blouses to women and pants and shirts to men. Those individuals only see the things that interest them, ultimately increasing the chances that they will make a purchase.
Examples of automation tools
Here are some marketing automation companies that may be familiar to you.
These tools and many others like them help businesses collect better data and streamline marketing processes.
How much sophistication does your business need in its marketing automation software? That depends on the maturity of your digital marketing efforts and what kind of resources you can afford to devote to automation.
Use the right tools
Do you have a lot of social media followers and/or channels to manage? Do you have a lot of content to generate and publish in the course of a week? Do you have a lot of communication touch points with your customers? Are you collecting information from your customers on a regular basis?
The answers to these questions, and others like them, will help you decide what marketing automation tools you need.
Automation tools can provide awesome benefits to your business, but they don’t give you permission to take your eye off the ball. On the contrary, you always have to be reviewing your communications, customer feedback and online data so you can continually improve your marketing efforts.
It’s not set it and forget it
For example, you have to be careful about the context in which you are automatically publishing content.
You absolutely do not want an automated tweet to go out at the same time that the Twittersphere is exploding over a major disaster or a horrific terrorist attack. Marketing on full autopilot without oversight is a bad idea.
Does your small business using marketing automation tools? Which ones? How are they working? We would love your comments.