Every customer matters. But when you run a business, you might not have time to create a one-off campaign each time you need to talk to your customers. With marketing automation, you can grow those relationships—and your business.
What is marketing automation?
Marketing automation is software that eliminates repetitive tasks and helps you build your brand, sell more stuff, and boost customer loyalty. You can target people based on behavior, preferences, and purchase history so that you can send the right message to the right people at the right time.
What does marketing automation do?
It helps you understand your customers.
This makes your interactions with them richer—and more profitable. Eighty percent of customers are more likely to buy from brands that offer customized experiences, according to a 2018 report.
Personalizations frequently drive customer loyalty, too. In a 2017 survey, 44% of consumers said that personalized interactions made them likely to buy from the company again. Customers appreciate it when companies treat them as individuals and not a sea of faceless consumers.
It lets you implement complex strategies.
Whatever your industry, it’s important to have repeated and meaningful interactions with prospects or potential customers. To do this, many companies use drip campaigns, sending out a series of pre-written emails at regular intervals.
The idea is to regularly deliver value to a prospect over a period of time, strengthening the connection as well as the prospect's perception of the company.
Marketing automation lets you add complexity to your drip campaigns because it makes it possible to send out custom messages to different segments of your audience based on their interests. You can time those individualized messages based on the prospect's actions.
It lets your team focus on higher-level tasks.
Automation is becoming more prevalent, and 86% of professionals say that it makes them more efficient and productive. About three-quarters report that automating manual, repetitive tasks would enable them to focus on the more rewarding aspects of their work.
When your team automatically schedules and sends out marketing messages, for example, you can focus on enhancing the customer experience and respond to inquiries or resolve issues.
It saves you time and resources.
Marketing automation can help you save time, improve engagement, and benefit your bottom line. It gives your customers personalized attention with thoughtful, authentic messages that sound like you’re writing to a friend, whether you have a hundred fans or millions of them. You can use merge tags in an email so that it starts with the customer’s name, for example, or you can reach out to people on big days like birthdays.
How does marketing automation work?
Automation depends on information. Each time someone subscribes to your newsletter, buys something from your store, or clicks on your ads, they’re providing you with valuable data.
If you use Mailchimp, for example, your contact data is all in one place so you can get a holistic view of your audience is as a whole. It also offers a visual breakdown of data, such as where your fans are located, how often they engage with your emails, and more insights that you can turn into action.
You can also use browser cookies to track people’s behavior on your website and record where they go, what they do, and what they buy.
Then comes the “marketing” part of marketing automation. You give your system a few pieces of information, including:
- What messages you want to send
- What segments of your contacts you want to target
- What circumstances should trigger a send
If it all goes as planned, your system then sends your contacts valuable content, right when it’s most likely to make them convert.
What does marketing automation mean for the customer journey?
Before making a purchase, people might read the website, consider what product they want, sleep on it, and eventually go back to buy. This wandering route is called the customer journey, and it’s different for everyone.
Here are some ways marketing automation can help you build lasting relationships:
It helps you connect with new fans...
If a person expresses interest in what you offer and enters their email on a subscriber pop-up form on your site, you can send them a welcome email to introduce yourself—and give them a reason to stick around.
...and sell more stuff.
When that subscriber starts to move toward a purchase, such as putting something in their cart without checking out, you can set it up so they receive an abandoned cart email from you.
Meanwhile, you can send occasional reminders to prospects that haven't interacted with you in a while. Retargeting emails, for example, remind people about the great stuff they saw on your site. Chances are, at least some of them are still interested and will respond if you reach out.
It cultivates a trusting 2-way relationship.
When you deliver relevant content to your prospects, you show them that you care about them. The more you target your communications, the more they will trust you to keep providing high-quality products or services. You can even use automation to send coupons or other discounts to people that meet certain criteria for loyalty or spending.
What are some marketing automation best practices?
1. Be specific about what you hope to achieve.
Collect all the data you have about your current marketing strategies and set goals for what you want to achieve with automation. Then you'll be able to measure your progress. You can also collect some examples of successful marketing automation campaigns to give you some ideas.
2. Think about how you want to segment your audience.
Marketing automation benefits you the most when it's as targeted as possible. How you should target it depends on your products or services—and your customer base. Segmentation is a key element of successful automation, so take your time with it. It’s better to do it right than do it quickly.
Maybe you have products that appeal to different age groups. In that case, you'll want to segment by demographic. Maybe your services appeal to people with different levels of responsibility in their companies. If that's the case, segment by career level.
3. Create a flowchart.
Marketing automation is all about if-then. Figure out your pre-selected triggers—such as joining your subscriber list, or maybe rewarding loyalty with a promo code—and then specify when to move your contacts forward.
If someone interacts with your welcome email, for example, then that person gets an offer related to the action that they took. If the person redeems the offer, then they are placed into a group that gets regular discounts and offers, and so on.
4. Test everything.
Keep track of how your campaigns are doing with A/B testing. Try different subject lines, images, messaging, or send times to find what resonates the most with your audience.
If some of your targeted messages aren't doing well, you can use that information and improve your next campaign. On the other hand, you can look at what your successful campaigns have in common and apply those insights to future marketing efforts.
Start automating your marketing
No matter what industry you’re in, it’s easy to set up marketing automation for any situation. Once you’ve chosen the type you’d like to send, your messaging, and your sending criteria, you can start cultivating lasting relationships with your audience.