Owning a small business means that you end up wearing several hats to keep your shop up and running – owner, bookkeeper, clerk, IT support, maybe even janitor! Marketing is one of those vital components and without a team of several individuals in place to execute a full-scale strategy, it’s likely you’re not reaching your full potential in this department. Luckily, with all the advances in user-friendly technology, small business owners can now harness the same marketing power as their big business competitors by utilizing readily available marketing automation tools.
Marketing automation is essentially the use of technology to streamline, automate and measure marketing activities. Think tasks such as:
• Campaign management
• Lead nurturing
• Cross-selling/Up selling
• Relationship building
And it doesn’t stop there. Much of the software available for marketing automation includes CRM integration, marketing analytics, landing pages, social marketing, etc.
The most obvious benefits are efficiency and time-savings. There are components to it that are in the realm of “set it and forget it” – but don’t go in with the impression that it will completely run itself! (More on that later). Other benefits include metrics providing insight into which marketing programs are winners and which can be abandoned; sales pipeline tracking; simplified customer information acquisition; increased productivity; and uptick in revenue.
You don’t have to pay big bucks to see results from your marketing automation efforts. Here are some everyday tools you can use to automate your business and marketing operations.
With the majority of your customers spending an average of two hours per day on social media, it would be a huge misstep not to greet them when they get there! Hootsuite allows users to manage all of their social media pages through a single dashboard. Talk about efficiency. This means that you can schedule posts, search for content to repost, keep your content organized in online libraries, and even pull posts directly from your web browser without having to log in to multiple social media accounts. The service will also track messages and mentions along with analytics on post performance.
Have a blog? Remembering to consistently post entries can be easily overlooked. But, if you’re hooked up with a WordPress account you can write your posts well ahead of time and automate them to post to your site on a set schedule. This particular platform also has hundreds of ways to customize your blog and is used by the likes of CNN and TechCrunch.
If This Then That is a free app that allows you to create applets. Applets are like a series of triggers you can create among your different applications, such as WordPress and social media. For example, you could use an IFTT to trigger newly published blog posts to get posted to your social media accounts. IFTT works with a number of applications—news, email, Google Sheets, and more, so you can use it to automate marketing and general business activities.
Most email platforms (Gmail, Outlook, Apple Mail, for example) allow you to set conditions such that specific emails get filtered into specific inboxes. If potential customers, current customers, contest entrants, or other audience members are contacting you via email, you might be able to use smart inboxes to organize your incoming messages. For example if you told contest entrants to email you with a promo code in the subject line, you could set a rule for all emails with that promo code get routed to one central location.
Smart inbox folders can help you in organizing and tracking your various marketing activities, and can reduce chances of missing an email, emailing the wrong person, or having to dig through your history before responding.
As you can see, marketing automation can bring some real value to your business, but, there are a few things to be wary of once you get going. First and foremost, you still have to create a well thought-out marketing strategy before setting up any automated services. While these tools will assist you in the execution of your plan, they won’t generate one for you.
Second, don’t get trigger happy. Just because you can send emails and post to your social media pages without so much as a click of a mouse doesn’t mean you should start spamming your customers or clogging up their newsfeeds. Be methodical and stick to a premeditated marketing strategy.
Third, don’t rely on marketing automation too much. This seems a bit counterintuitive to what we’ve been telling you, but these tools can only do so much. The people and processes in place behind them are what will make you a success in the marketing automation world.