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If you run a small business, it can be hard to stay connected with customers when you’re trying to keep up with everything else on your to-do list. That’s where marketing automation comes in.

Marketing automation is software that helps you find your audience, engage your customers, and build your brand.

Unlike manual campaigns, automations can be left running in the background, taking some repetitive tasks off your plate. And not only do automations talk to your customers just like you would, they also help you make more sales. A lot more.

It’s like having a second brain to help you run your business.

No matter the size of your budget, you can use MailChimp’s free automation tools to build an audience of people similar to the customers who already love you, or set up ongoing campaigns triggered by an event, activity, or date. For instance, you might want to use automation to:

  • Find new customers similar to the ones on your list with Facebook and Instagram ads
  • Send a welcome email when people join your list
  • Follow up after a purchase
  • Say happy birthday
  • Notify a customer that their order is on the way

In this article, we’ll cover how marketing automation can help you reach the right people with the right message at exactly the right time, so you can grow your audience and sell more stuff.

How automation works

Instead of creating a one-off campaign every time you need to introduce new shoppers to your brand or ask for a product review, you can set up an automation in just a few clicks, and never have to worry about customers slipping through the cracks.

To help you get started, MailChimp offers a variety of pre-built automations based on common events, like abandoned cart series and order notifications. And if our preset options aren’t what you’re looking for, you can create a custom automation instead.

We’ll also help you buy and run ad campaigns across multiple channels, including Facebook and Instagram, so you can streamline your marketing and expand your reach. MailChimp automatically finds your list contacts on those platforms so you can encourage them to return to your store, or target a new audience of people similar to your existing customers.

When you design and send automations through MailChimp, we’ll handle building the audience and placement, so you get more hours back in your day.

Support the customer journey

Our customers often tell us how hard it is to keep up with the latest tools and techniques for marketing their business, especially when they wear many hats. We’re always looking for ways to make this easier, so our customer journey is designed to guide you to the right tools to connect with customers.

Understanding how people go from hearing about your brand to making a purchase gives you the power to provide the right information for where they are in their journey. And using automation to personalize your marketing will help you retain more customers after they make their first purchase. Boosting your customer retention rates by just 5% can increase profits by 25% to 95%.

When you create a new campaign in your MailChimp account and choose to let us guide you, you’ll see our most powerful campaigns categorized by marketing goals, so you can choose which campaign types are worth spending your (very limited) time on.

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Choose the best service

Automation helps business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) companies eliminate repetitive tasks and maximize the efficiency of their business, but they each have different approaches to implementing automation.

Since B2Cs are focused on creating individualized journeys for their customers, they need a service that allows them to create relevant campaigns with action- and event-based triggers that generate revenue with every send. Studies even show that personalized campaigns result in more than double the transaction rates of non-personalized ones.

You can use segmentation and merge tags to add personalized or dynamic content to your automation emails based on the people you want to reach. For example, insert the *|FNAME|* merge tag—which pulls in the first names of recipients—into your re-engagement campaigns, or send promo codes to VIPs to show your appreciation. And with your store connected, you can add a product recommendations block to showcase items they’re most likely to buy.

Most B2B companies use automation to generate leads for their sales teams. Although MailChimp automations can help nurture leads, our tools are primarily designed to help e-commerce businesses create personalized customer experiences.

We’ve democratized powerful automation technology previously reserved for large enterprises in order to help small businesses grow.

How much you should invest

To make sure you’re getting your money’s worth, you’ll want to estimate the lifetime value of your customers. A customer’s lifetime value (CLV) is their potential net profit during the time they’ve been engaged with your brand, and looking at lifetime value as opposed to transactional value is an important gauge for how much you’ll end up spending on customer retention versus acquisition.

Since MailChimp’s automation features are free, it’s easy to get started while you begin calculating CLV. And the time you invest in setting up automations will pay off quickly. Certain workflows, like our abandoned cart automation, even pay for themselves. In fact, our average user earns enough money from abandoned cart to pay for their entire MailChimp account.

Where to start

We’ve published a series of educational resources to help you figure out the triggers that generate the most value and how to combine different automation types, and to show how other businesses have found success with marketing automation.

For starters, check out our in-depth guide to marketing automation.