Businesses of all sizes are increasingly turning to marketing automation to get the most from their marketing resources. And for good reason – by automating your marketing workflows, you can:

  • Save time and resources
  • Engage your leads more consistently
  • Increase conversion rates
  • Make it easier to collect data on what works and what doesn’t

Keep reading to find out how:

What is marketing automation?

Put simply, marketing automation means creating processes that automate routine marketing activities. The goal is to let you (and your team) focus more energy on the aspects of your business that require a human touch.

There’s a variety of tools you can use to do this. Email marketing software is the most common choice, and you may already use it. There are also more advanced platforms that can automate interactions over social media, SMS, websites, pay-per-click (PPC) ads, and more.

These larger, more comprehensive marketing automation platforms allow you to capture lead information, reach out to those leads through various channels, and track their progress through the sales funnel. If this sounds like CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software, that’s because there is some overlap. The main difference is that marketing automation software offers more automation flows and ways to engage those customers you’re tracking.

One of the main strengths of marketing automation software is the way it helps you tailor content to your customers, based on their preferences or previous behavior. This is called personalization.

Let’s say you run an ecommerce business selling handcrafted children’s toys and your customer indicates they have a baby. Once you know that, you can make sure your next marketing email to them only features toys for children who are 0-12 months. Or, if they’ve bought certain kinds of toys in the past, you can make sure similar products appear on the homepage the next time they visit.

Examples of marketing channels you can automate

All stages of the sales process can be automated—before, during, and after conversion. If automating routine customer engagements is the goal, you’ll want to identify which parts of your process are the most repetitive and predictable. Lead nurturing in particular is a great place to start, since it’s so time-consuming.

Let’s explore a few different marketing channels and how they can be automated:

Email

Email is where most people start with marketing automation. A simple example is setting up an automation that sends a welcome email to new leads. In that email, you can thank them for their interest and include an introductory offer—say, a 10% discount code.

If they use that code to make a purchase, you’ve successfully converted them. But what if they open the email, but don’t click the link to browse your site? What does that tell you about them? Maybe they need more information about your offering. Or maybe they need a bigger discount.

With marketing automation, you can send targeted followup emails to your recipients based on what they do or don’t do with your emails. These kinds of conditional emails that are automatically triggered and sent are called “autoresponders.” They’re a great way to increase the amount of business and engagement you get from your leads or subscriber list.

Social media

Social media is another popular area to automate. When it comes to social media, scheduling posts is the best use of marketing automation. Instead of logging in to post new content every day, you can spend a few hours creating a month’s worth of posts. Then, you can schedule them for the exact days, times, and channels you want. After that, you simply need to monitor your social accounts for any engagement that requires a human response.

Automation can also help you track how useful social media has been to your business. Good marketing automation software will analyze your audience and track metrics like impressions and engagement. Rather than having to manually check in on these reports, you can schedule them to be delivered straight to your inbox. Keeping an eye on those reports tells you which social media platforms to invest more time and energy in.

Many automation tools can also help with social listening, saving you time as a marketer. You can track reviews, keywords, and mentions to learn how your audience is talking about your brand. Discovering and engaging with these conversations will help you connect with your audience better.

Notice that we haven’t recommended automated responses for social media? That’s intentional. Remember that while you can automate your replies, that doesn’t mean you should. Canned responses often come across as robotic at best and can be a PR nightmare at worst. Opting for a human touch instead will build a stronger relationship with your customers.

SMS

One of the most effective ways to cut through the marketing noise is by using SMS (text messaging). Whether you text your cafe’s repeat customers a discount code each week or you promote upcoming shows at the music venue you manage, if your subscriber base is loyal, local, and highly interested, SMS may be your best bet for keeping your customers in the know. After all, considering how tied we are to our phones, SMS content is almost guaranteed to be seen.

That said, the very thing that makes SMS so valuable for marketers—its hard-to-ignore nature—can also easily alienate customers. Some audiences and customers are more open to receiving texts than others, but you always need to have consent from leads before sending anything. If you don’t, you may be at risk for fines and other penalties, depending on where your business is located. Either way, unsolicited texts are not the reason you want your leads to remember you.

As with all marketing, make sure what you’re sending via SMS is genuinely interesting and useful. This will encourage engagement and discourage unsubscribes.

Website

One of the most exciting aspects of marketing automation for your website is dynamic content. This means your site can automatically adjust and personalize itself for visitors.

These adjustments can be triggered by a variety of factors. Let’s say your business holds in-person networking events for local customers. This information is relevant to people who live within 50 miles of your office, but not to people who live on the other side of the country. Personalization tools can identify where a site visitor is located based on their IP address, then display information about the events only to people who might be interested. This allows you to serve specific content for different regions without making people in other areas feel left out.

Another idea is to have different content display based on the search terms the visitor used to find you. If you sell sports equipment, and a visitor landed on your site after googling “affordable tennis rackets,” you can show only tennis equipment on your homepage. Not only does this show the user that your site has what they’re looking for, it also offers you opportunities to cross-sell other products that they may not have seen if they went straight to the tennis rackets.

What is multichannel marketing?

So far, we’ve covered strategies that only take place on one marketing channel. However, as you scale your marketing automation efforts (and your team), you may consider a multichannel approach.

Multichannel marketing is a broad promotional strategy that aims to reach potential customers through the platforms or medium they use most often. Instead of thinking about campaigns in isolation, multichannel marketing creates a cohesive content environment. That way, no matter where your customer looks, they’ll find a way to connect with you and your products.

Imagine you do marketing for an online vinyl record store. To increase interest, you might set up social media accounts on Twitter and Facebook, send out a newsletter to people who sign up on your website, run an advertisement on a podcast, and sponsor a booth at a music festival. These campaigns don’t need to be connected (and often aren’t, until marketing automation enters the picture), but they work together to create a cohesive brand experience.

The key to multichannel marketing is not to grow faster than you or your team can handle. It’s better to do one or two channels well than to do six channels halfheartedly. Marketing automation software, like Zoho MarketingHub, can be a big asset here, as it helps you maximize your marketing resources. Rather than having to hop from one platform to another—checking on each campaign independently—a marketing automation platform shows you everything in one interface. This saves time, as well as helping you measure and compare the performance of different campaigns. With that knowledge you can pinpoint which marketing strategies work best for each channel.

What is cross-channel marketing?

Cross-channel marketing, on the other hand, focuses less on breadth and more on depth. It aims to craft targeted campaigns that travel with a potential customer as they move from one channel to another. If you don’t have the bandwidth to manage different campaigns on multiple channels, a more focused cross-channel strategy might be a better choice. With this approach, you can build an effective customer journey that escorts your most valuable leads through a custom purchasing funnel.

Let’s assume you work for that same record store and you want to run a Twitter ad promoting holiday deals on jazz records. Traditional social media marketing would have you put the ad up, and then measure success based on the number of clicks you get. With a cross-channel strategy, you could take things a step or two further.

After someone clicks on the link in your ad, you can direct them to a custom homepage that displays your most popular jazz albums, as well as your new “Jazz Album of the Month” subscription box. Then, if the potential customer starts to sign up for a subscription box but closes the window halfway through, you can trigger a cart abandonment email two days later reminding them that they can still give the perfect gift by completing their order.

How do you improve your marketing automation? Personalization.

Marketing automation offers a huge efficiency boost for any business. But to do it right, you have to know who you’re talking to and what they want from you. That’s where personalization comes in. By pulling out important insights from the data you have access to—including search queries, website navigation patterns, past engagement behavior, lead source, and more—you can personalize your content and offerings to speak directly to each potential customer’s pain points.

Because the truth is, everything you do as a marketer—every email you send out, every ad you post, every banner you display—is competing for attention against a mountain of other offers. With so much demand for their attention, modern consumers have become more and more skeptical about traditional marketing. To pierce that skepticism, you need to create a message that speaks to them directly, even if it’s coming from an automated system.

How to Create an Actionable Marketing Automation Plan
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