As business owners and executives we have all become used to marketing in the digital world.
Our marketing efforts have largely evolved from printed adverts in magazines and printed mailshots to become substantially or even entirely digital in nature.
This offers both challenges and advantages for marketers, and if your business is to succeed today you must learn how to overcome the challenges and embrace the advantages that digital marketing can bring.
One of the greatest advantages which digital marketing can offer is the ability to learn more about your customers, and even to establish long-term relationships with them by offering them personalized content that is chosen specifically to meet their needs.
An increasing number of marketers are seeing the revenue generating benefits that can come from personalizing their email marketing, social media, and related tasks.
For most major brands such as Amazon personalization has been an integral part of their business model from their inception.
It allows them to offer readers highly personalized content that draws new visitors on a customer journey from the casual reader, through to a buyer, and finally to a satisfied customer.
For established customers, personalization selects content for them based on their past purchases or viewing history.
To do digital marketing well takes time, and it does require some investment but if you can bring your contacts through a careful nurturing process the results will be richly rewarding.
Your ROI will climb and you will be producing repeat customers who will be enthusiastic brand ambassadors for your company.
The challenge of digital marketing
The most significant challenge posed by this type of marketing is the amount of time involved in working to the required level of detail.
The sheer amount of information with which digital marketers must deal means that the job can appear never-ending.
Successful digital marketing must cover all of the ways in which you promote your business.
This could include blog writing and promotion, email marketing and social media such as Twitter and Facebook. Significant activities would include search engine optimization (SEO), content marketing, search engine marketing (SEM), influencer marketing, campaign marketing, and all forms of data-driven marketing, as well as conventional e-commerce marketing, that is a lot of data to look at.
With only 24 hours in a day, it is no surprise that many small business owners find that digital marketing quickly consumes their time and prevents them from completing the day to day activities of their business.
One way in which marketers are responding to the challenge posed by digital marketing is by embracing marketing automation.
While digital marketing is certainly a time-consuming process many of the tasks involved are repetitive in nature and can be safely automated, leaving you time to get on with more profitable and creative business activities.
Do you have a detailed marketing plan?
When it is done well marketing automation can help to push your business to the next level by effectively engaging with all your prospects in an intelligent manner and guiding them through your sales funnel.
However, for many people marketing automation doesn’t work at all. It fails not through any fault in systems or tools but because they lack a clear marketing vision for their business.
For marketing automation to succeed you must have an understanding of what you want to achieve and you must have mapped out a clear path that will take each customer from where they are, all the way through your sales funnel.
You must be prepared to create at each stage content which is designed to meet them where they are and to take them on to the next level.
Start with lead generation
One of the mistakes made by marketers is concentrating on the middle of the marketing process. They buy all the automation tools they can find but their marketing efforts fail because they don’t have enough initial leads.
Before you can start to automate your marketing efforts you must already have some contacts or followers to work with, and you must have a steady flow of new contacts entering your sales funnel.
Some will try to jump-start their marketing efforts by purchasing long lists of email addresses.
This is rarely a good idea, at best it can operate as a short-term fix but without the capacity to generate your own leads your business will ultimately fail.
To really grow your business you must start from the beginning by building your list nurturing your leads from the start.
The simplest way to generate leads with marketing automation is to create a simple content-to-email workflow that will qualify your readers as prospects for a particular product or service.
Most marketers already have a website where people can sign up for their mailing list. The most effective way to persuade people to sign up to your mailing list is by giving away a piece of content.
You might offer a free book or report which new sign-ups can download. Once you have gathered some initial sign-ups it is time to segment your list and see how interested your contacts really are.
To effectively segment your list and ensure that you spend your time where the greatest rewards are to be found it makes sense to offer all those who have subscribed the second piece of content.
If they accept this second piece of content you can use an automation workflow to move them to your ‘hot prospects’ list. Software such as Drip or Marketo will allow you to do this using basic no/yes automation rules.
Automatic segmentation in this way produces results by allowing you to concentrate your ‘selling’ posts on those who are ready to buy while continuing to ‘warm up’ your other contacts until they reach the point where they are ready to buy.
How will you market to your followers?
Once you have segmented your list into suitable groups it is time to begin effectively marketing to your list members.
At a basic level marketing automation can be used to trigger emails based on simple factors including email opens, email clicks, and even time delays before opening.
While this approach has some value it doesn’t really have enough information to create an effective approach to lead nurturing. It tells you nothing about the interests of your contacts or how far they have progressed down your sales funnel.
Since emails sent out based on this data cannot be properly focused they create a poor user experience for your contacts and generate a poor ROI.
To build a positive user experience for your contacts you will need to gather all the information you have about each contact and build their user experience around that data so that they are provided with exactly the content they need to persuade them to make a purchase.
Not only must you offer the right marketing content but you must provide that content at exactly the right time and in the right format to create the desired effect.
Email will probably play a significant part of this marketing strategy, but to truly be effective you will need to go beyond email and automate all of your marketing channels.
You should be tracking and analyzing the behavior of each prospect across all your social and communication networks and then using these same networks to communicate with them appropriately so that you can guide your contacts through the marketing channel and reach the point where they commit to a purchase.
What tools should you use?
Your choice of marketing automation tools will depend on both your budget and the level of automation with which you are comfortable.
For a fully featured approach to enterprise level automation with CRM integration, Marketo or Eloqua would be a great choice for any large business.
They both offer a full suite of features which will enable your sales team to really dig in and deeply automate your marketing. Both options come with plenty of integrations allowing you to connect your marketing efforts to third-party services.
For a more flexible approach to automation why not consider Customer.io? Customer.io allows you to truly customize your marketing experience so that you can build automation tools to perfectly match your business objectives and take a truly individual approach.
If you don’t have the developer time and resources available to devote to that much customization then either Constant Contact or HubSpot may be your best option.
These marketing automation tools are marketed squarely at small businesses and enable you to get started quickly for a much lower cost than the enterprise level alternatives.
HubSpot, in particular, takes an all-in-one approach which goes far beyond basic email marketing and provides you with at least basic functionality covering a range of marketing channels.
Marketing automation tools are becoming essential for today’s digital marketer. Not only do they free up time they allow you to engage with your contacts in a more personal way that would be possible working manually.
It is personalization that can give your business a competitive edge and allow your business to thrive.
Despite these advantages, marketing automation tools are not a substitute for planning and mapping out customer journeys to turn your prospects into paying customers.
Truly effective marketing automation must revolve around your customer and providing them with content that meets their needs.
You must learn to relate to your contacts as real people and nurture them based on their interests and responses as seen across all your communication channels.
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