Marketing automation is a term that is often misunderstood. This leads to many people believing it is complicated and expensive, so is not suitable for their small or medium-sized business.
However, marketing automation can be as complicated or as simple as you want it to be. In fact, you can tailor a solution to your business that can be managed by your current resources, that works for your customers, and that delivers a return on investment for your business.
What is Marketing Automation?
It’s important to define marketing automation before going further so you not only understand what it can do, but also what it can’t.
Let’s start with what it can’t do – marketing automation does not change the reality that people buy from people. Also, you can’t just flick a switch to turn it on. Instead, you need to spend time setting up marketing automation and you then need to manage it. In addition, you will still need your sales team to step in to close deals and win new business. So, what is marketing automation and what can it do? Marketing automation is an umbrella term for software applications and internet-based services that automate specific marketing processes.
Here’s a typical flow describing marketing automation in action:
- A visitor arrives at your website and completes a form. This turns the visitor into a lead, albeit a lead that is at the top of your sales funnel.
- The visitor completing your website form automatically triggers anemail marketing process. This results in your email marketing platform sending the new lead targeted emails over a period a time. There could be three or four emails, for example, over a period of two to three weeks. This lead nurturing process moves the lead further down your sales funnel.
- One element of the automated email campaign is links to landing pages designed to convert leads into customers.
- At this point, the lead should be deep enough into the sales funnel making it the right time for your sales team to step in.
What You Need to Get Started with Marketing Automation
There are lots of marketing automation tools with very advanced features, but you don’t necessarily need these features to get you going. Instead, you need the following four things:
- High-quality content
- Forms on your website
- Landing pages
- Automated emails
You will need engaging and interesting content to include in the automated emails you send in the nurturing phase of the automated campaign. Examples include eBooks, reports, blog articles, checklists, infographics, videos, and more.
You may also need high-quality content to get leads in the first place. In other words, you might offer visitors to your website an eBook for free. All they have to do is complete your contact form.
Forms on Your Website
Following on from the last point, you also need forms on your website that are connected to your email marketing software. The design of the forms should be attractive, and they should be easy to use.
Landing pages are pages on your website specially designed to encourage visitors to take a specific action. You may need them to help capture new leads, or during the lead nurturing and qualification stage.
Email Marketing Tools
Finally, you need an email marketing tool that manages your email list and lets you set up and schedule automated emails.
There is a lot more you can do with marketing automation, but the above represents the foundations. It is a good place to start for any SME.