If you’re reading this article, you’ve probably heard of marketing automation and are trying to assess if it’s a good fit for your business. You’ve heard a few big names – Hubspot, Mailchimp, Pardot – but aren’t sure why you should pick one over the other, or even what they’re capable of. In this article we’re going to explore how to get started with marketing automation.
Far too often, the marketing automation conversation starts and ends at the software. If you’ve ever shopped around, you know what I’m talking about. Sales reps are all too happy to get on the phone with you and talk up their shiny new features that no one else has. And no one would argue that the tools have gotten exponentially more powerful over time. Even a basic automation tool suite is leagues ahead of last decade’s best tech. What I will say is this: your software matters far less than you think. Strategy is the name of the game. Without a cohesive marketing strategy, the most powerful software in the world won’t a difference. So let’s get started.
Regardless of the tools involved, you need some way to collect contacts to market to. If you use any sort of CRM, you’re already got a head start. Chances are you have a robust list of potential and previous customers stored up over the years. Or, you may have a client list saved somewhere. You can even look up all previous recipients in your email browser and put a list together from that. The more quality emails you’re able to gather, the better. That is to say, emails of real people who you think may have a genuine interest in your content. Don’t add junk emails to your list. Don’t email people you haven’t contacted in years. For the love all that is holy, don’t buy email lists online. It’s a waste of money and will just increase your bounce rate.
Design Your Campaign
So you’ve got a few lists together. Now comes the work. Designing an effective email marketing campaign could be a book in of itself, so we’re going to stick to the principles. At its best, your marketing campaign(s) should nurture your leads with personalized, helpful content that encourages conversions. I cannot stress this point enough. You need to provide something of value to your prospects if you ever want them to open your email. “Wait, random internet person! How should I know what content is valuable!?” you shout as you read this. To that I say, pull yourself together reader! Of course you know what’s valuable to your prospects! You offer value every day in form of a product or service, don’t you? Let’s imagine a pool company. Their bread and butter are new pool installations and seasonal maintenance. But they’ve acquired thousands of emails, including previous customers and homeowners just shopping around. Think about the wealth of information required to own and maintain a pool. Construction, cleaning, design, hosting parties… these are all entry points for effective marketing automation campaigns. The company could offer product recommendations. Pool care tips. News blasts about exciting new consumer products. The point is, only you will know what content your readers want.
Get Some Software
Ok yes, at some point you’ll need to cough up some cash and commit to some marketing software. There are a number of solid choices, and when getting started most will fit your initial needs. When you plan your campaign, write out your questions for the inevitable sales demo. Ask your rep, “Hey, can this software do X, Y, and Z for me.” You may not know the ins and outs of a particular system, but you should have a clear idea of what you need and use those needs to inform your purchasing decisions. If you already have a CRM, they may offer a marketing automation add-on. Even if they don’t, most software toolsets integrate with one another these days. Search for ‘best marketing automation’ software online and you’ll be able to find some good breakdowns from independent tech guru sites. You should know what to do from there.
Send and Measure
Once you’ve created your marketing materials, it’s time to send them out. All marketing software will come with an analytical component, so you’ll be able to see the number of opens, click throughs, rejects, etc. This is where A/B testing can be really powerful, as you can mix and match different elements and see what resonates with your readers. Again, there’s a wealth of information online on marketing automation metrics, but the point I want you to understand is that marketing automation should be actively managed throughout its life cycle. This isn’t like a billboard where you’re slapping up a graphic for 3 months next to a highway. People can actually engage with your content if they like it! A “set it and forget it” approach is only going to be a disservice to your clientele and your business. Even if you’re running a relatively simple single-email blast, you should absolutely be tracking the results and taking notes on ways to improve your engagement. Experimentation is the name of the game.
With so much out there, it’s all too easy to get lost in the weeds of digital marketing. Hopefully, this article will help you appreciate that messaging matters. You can have the prettiest website or email template, but if you don’t know why you’re doing it, your content’s going to get lost in the shuffle.