Marketing automation has become a cornerstone of successful small businesses. According to a report published by Pardot (a Salesforce-owned company), in 2015, businesses that used marketing automation increased their revenue by an average of 34%. However, there is a very big difference between buying a marketing automation tool and knowing how to use it correctly.
Here are the five best automation tips for small businesses:
Expand your idea of content.
Content creation is one of the most important factors for small businesses and modern marketing — and it’s time to reframe how we think about content. Content is anything with a URL. Everything online has a URL, even each comment on your blog. Remember, the internet is so vast that you need to help connect your buyers to your content.
With this new definition, you have an unlimited amount of content to run in your marketing programs. Here are some tips and example phrases for incorporating URL links to build out your content:
• Link to thought leader Twitter accounts, i.e. “Do you follow Jay Baer? He’s one of my favorite thought leaders in marketing.”
• Include links to customer advocates’ LinkedIn profiles. For example, “I want to introduce you to the head of our community team. I’ve asked her to put you on the list for our local user groups.”
• Link to Quora questions, i.e. “Did you see this discussion on email segmentation? Very lively, with some interesting points.”
• Share a link to a relevant blog. For example, “This is one of my favorite blogs. I love the writing and insights.”
• Include a link to a SlideShare presentation, i.e. “Wow, talk about an eyeopening presentation.”
Master stage-based marketing.
Your content should be tailored to match each stage of the buyer’s journey. Customers prefer short- or long-form content depending on where they are in the sales funnel. According to BuzzShift president Eddy Badrina, who I spoke to at a recent panel hosted by Salesforce, “while many people in the education/consideration phase of sales prefer long-form content, e.g. e-books or blog posts, most want bite-sized, easily digestible content up front in the awareness phase.”
By breaking down your content to answer questions at each stage, marketers solve two major problems: First, you can provide more specific answers to increase the odds of initial engagement. Second, by only answering one question at a time, you save other content for contextual next steps. According to Salesforce research, stage-based content and delivery proved to be 40 times more likely to produce a sale because it is in line with the expectations of the modern buyer.
Build agile programs.
Before you build another marketing program, stop to think about what you can do with automation. You have the ability for real-time feedback and can build your programs over time. Learn to build your nurturing programs in an agile format, not all at once. Consider building your nurturing programs three emails at a time. This gives you a minimum of one to three weeks before you have to build the next set. Then your next email campaign will be based on data, not opinions.
The same setup also applies to social ads and retargeting display ads. Start small with what is known as the two-two-two method. Identify two segments of your sales cycle (i.e., consideration and conversion), create two different themes for your messaging and split-test the creative. Run the ads to the same audience group, but split the audience in two. Look at the results, pause or lower the campaign spend for the one that isn’t working, and increase spend for the one ad that is. Then create the next set of variants off of the winning ad. Rinse and repeat.
Get buy-in from your sales team.
One of the biggest use cases for marketing automation is removing manual tasks like lead follow up. While this is extremely helpful for the sales department, it’s difficult to get sales to buy into these programs. Here are the two things you must do to get buy-in:
First, work with your best salesperson. Have them hand over all of the emails they send and when they send them. Use these emails as is to build your nurturing programs, saving you the trouble of having to recreate the wheel. Second, ask them to outline their follow-up cadence. This will tell you how long to pause between engagements.
Once you have built your program, test it with your best rep. After you win a deal, hold the campaign up as an example. This is the key to getting the rest of the team to buy in. All sales reps want to be the best, and you just made that possible.
Leave room to grow.
There’s a wide range of automation tools available, from point solutions like MailChimp to standalone solutions like Marketo. There are also suites of tools like Zoho and HubSpot. All have their own advantages and disadvantages, but the only way to know which one is best for you is to do your homework. For example, if you want to score your leads based off of content engagement, you need to consider content format, where it should be hosted and how to score it. What if someone looks at the same whitepaper three times? What if they don’t come back to your site for 90 days? These may seem like basic ideas, but some tools can support these features and others can’t.
This is where most businesses find themselves in trouble in year two and three. They quickly outgrow their basic needs and find their tools are limiting their potential. The best way to mitigate this issue is to ensure your tool of choice has room to grow and has the best integration with your CRM system.
I cannot stress this enough — your data will not transfer to another tool. If you invest a lot of time building a database of customer behavior, you don’t want to start over from scratch. So, choose the right automation tools from the get-go to master your marketing efforts.