Making Marketing Automation Work for Small Businesses

BY: ON MONDAY, JANUARY 18, 2016

As a marketer for your small business, you probably already know that email marketing is a critical component of any viable content marketing strategy. Promotional emails are great for driving sales, and newsletters keep customers updated about what’s happening with your business.

Relevant targeted emails are one of the best tools in your marketing arsenal to combat problems like shopping cart abandonment. According to the researchers behind Emma, an email marketing platform, relevant targeted emails produce 18 times more revenue than globally broadcasted emails.

The main reason for their success is that they encourage customer loyalty and engagement. They’re also an effective way to bring wayward customers back into the fold. In fact, relevant targeted emails are so effective that links within the email body experience a 119 percent higher click rate than links in globally broadcasted emails.

With so many types of emails — and so many different customers to target — it’s easy for a business of any size to become overwhelmed. Marketing automation is a solution to the problem of targeting the right kind of email to the right kind of customer at the right level of the sales funnel.


Some Stats About Marketing Automation

Marketing automation has seen a lot of success in recent years — as evidenced by the fact that 49 percent of companies employ this tactic. If the sheer number of businesses using automation isn’t proof positive, check out some of the things businesses are saying about it:

  • 91 percent of users identify automation as an important piece of business success.
  • Since they began using marketing automation, companies have seen an average increase in sales revenue of 34 percent. 75 percent see a measurable ROI in just 12 months.
  • Companies that use automation generate twice as many leads as those that don’t, in addition to a 53 percent higher conversion rate.


  • Automation for Small Businesses

    It’s clear that automation is changing the world of content marketing, but how does automation affect smaller businesses? Many small businesses and startups are understandably hesitant to jump on the bandwagon because of the imagined cost and time required to implement an automation system.

    There’s good news, however. Automation is actually highly viable for small businesses. According to the team behind Marketo, a scalable marketing automation solution, B2B industries were the first to adopt the technology, but small and mid-sized businesses now comprise the largest growing demographic of automation users.

    The researchers behind Pardot, a B2B marketing automation program, have found that 79 percent of top-performing small business users report that they will continue to use marketing automation. The technology has been highly efficient as well, and small businesses report that automating just a couple of lead-nurturing campaigns in the beginning of the process can increase the number of qualified leads per quarter by 120 percent.


    Email Automation With Drip Marketing

    One form of automation is called drip marketing, and it’s a fabulous way to nurture early-stage leads until they’re ready to convert. When you start a drip campaign, you’ll launch an automated process that directly emails targeted pieces of content to prospects and customers, tailoring individual pieces to different levels of the sales funnel. Depending on how each recipient interacts with the email, the automation will trigger new pieces of content based on their interests and activities.

    Drip campaigns are both popular and effective among marketers because they’re highly customizable and are designed with timing in mind. Named after drip irrigation systems, the messages in a drip marketing campaign follow the same process. They land precisely where they’re set to go, over a specified amount of time, or in response to a specified action, and with minimal wasted time or resources.


    What Drip Marketing Looks Like

    Here’s a graphic example of how a drip campaign could work, courtesy of Pardot. As you can see, not only can a drip campaign’s trigger points be customized, but so can its types of content. The end result is something like a “choose your own adventure” — but for the customer, what happens next is a surprise, and they are none the wiser that it’s coming.

    Here’s another example of how it could work. If a prospect subscribes to your blog’s newsletter, the drip system will trigger an immediate welcome email. Two days later, the system will send another email that shows off your content with the most shares and pageviews, encouraging your potential customer to explore further.

    Later, as the user clicks around on your site, the drip campaign will send new emails based on triggers you define. So if the user has visited your “Upgrade to Premium” page multiple times but hasn’t made a decision, the campaign could trigger an email detailing “X Reasons to Purchase the Premium Plan.”


    Thinking Outside the Box

    Lead nurturing is only one possible application for drip marketing. A drip campaign could also do any of the following:

  • Target competitors’ customers with a display of the benefits of switching to your brand.
  • Re-engage cold or dormant leads.
  • Provide limited-run promotions and special offers based on previous purchases.
  • Instruct clients on how to get the most out of your product or service.
  • In order to set your drip campaign into motion, you’ll need to have all your content ready to go ahead of time. Instead of manually writing and sending emails, the automation system will send one in response to an event, giving recipients the right information at the right time.

    Each message should be able to stand on its own while also building on previous messages and setting the reader up for messages to come. Marketing automation technology will also allow you to personalize drip emails.


    On the Automation Train

    Is it time for your small business to consider marketing automation? If personalizing emails based on customer activity sounds appealing but daunting, automation may be the solution you’re looking for. Using a drip campaign eliminates the effort of generating thousands of individual emails. By investing time and money in automation, you’ll garner the same effect — far more efficiently and affordably.



    Image via Shutterstock

    About the Author

    Adrienne Erin

    Adrienne Erin is a writer and designer who loves picking apart online campaigns to see what makes them tick. She writes common sense advice for small businesses on the topics of content marketing, social media marketing, web design, and SEO. You can read more of her work by following @adrienneerin on Twitter or visiting her blog, Design Roast.

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