Take It From The Robots

In the idyllic days before the sh*tstorm that is Covid-19 descended upon the United States, I worked for a credit card processing company as a copywriter and social media coordinator. My coworker friend and I dreaded the start of a new month, knowing that we would have to begin the slow march that is content scheduling yet again. Even with a platform (we used MeetEdgar) that allowed us to store multiple variants of each post we created and determine how often backlogged content was published, we still struggled to fill our calendar each month. Keeping up a vibrant social media presence was a battle, and we were losing.

To be fair, “credit card processing” and “vibrant” aren’t really terms that go together in a sentence, and I’d really love to see those marketing experts who claim that all it takes is five simple tricks to make the most boring concept seem riveting take a stab at finding a way to get people excited about low-tech payment integrations for QuickBooks.

Anyway. The problem was that our efforts were directionless. We didn’t need our social media to bring in leads, and we didn’t have any good examples of companies in our space with engaging social presences because the demographic that gets excited about low-tech payment integrations for QuickBooks doesn’t really hang out on Instagram. Our traffic was so low that our metrics were basically irrelevant. Audience engagement was nonexistent. The most exciting (and possibly only) interaction I had on any of our social accounts was a brief, punny exchange on Valentine’s Day with the person who runs the Salesforce Twitter.

And still, we trudged on.

Until I got laid off, that is. Now, in hindsight, with several HubSpot marketing certifications in my pocket, it’s easier to see how we might have put our time and energy to better use rather than trying to reinvent the wheel every month (in the case of this particular company, it probably would have served us best to just let MeetEdgar post the backlogged content at regular intervals while we wrote and designed ebooks and other informational content that would pull in email leads).

But let’s assume that your business idea is intrinsically fascinating and you know that you can build a thriving social media presence because your content is attention-grabbing and your wit is sharp. The problem is that you’re spread so thin trying to keep up with the demands of your other marketing efforts that even just thinking about setting up social media accounts for your business gives you a headache.

That’s where automation comes in. You know, that big scary concept often presented in conjunction with AI that countless people have lost their minds over because they don’t want to lose their jobs to robots? Yeah. That’s the one. Contrary to hysterical belief, it’s actually going to streamline your marketing practices, increase your revenue, and free up the bandwidth you need to get those social channels poppin’ – and then help you put those on cruise control too.

The key fact of the matter is this: Your business can’t grow if you’re using all your available resources to do the same tasks over and over again. Putting tasks on autopilot and creating workflows with automatic triggers gives you the time, energy, and brain space to be able to tackle more complex challenges and engage with your customers more effectively so that you can achieve your desired results – which can usually be boiled down to “increase revenue” and “expand customer base.”

The secondary fact of the matter might be a little less obvious: If you’re not employing automation strategies, you’re losing leads. Not only do consumers have more product and service options than ever before, they also have more ways to communicate and interact with the businesses that offer those products and services. If you aren’t delivering a purchasing experience that’s tailored to your individual buyer, that buyer is going to find what they’re looking for elsewhere. Leads need to be nurtured.

Now that you know you probably have a leak in your funnel, you need to pinpoint where it is. Creating user personas [LINK “Know Your User”] to help you understand who your buyer is and what their journey looks like will help you find the stage in the process that’s turning your warm leads into cold ones. Then you can “plug the leak” by reconfiguring your sales and marketing processes to include a timely touchpoint that keeps your potential buyer engaged.

This is the beauty of marketing automation: You don’t need to manually track each of your leads and make sure they’re receiving the right content at the right time. If you design an effective strategy, create solid content, and build workflows that account for customer behavior, your automation tools can take it from there. They can streamline segmentation to direct relevant content to different interest groups and demographics, tailor messaging to individual customers based on the data you’ve collected on their habits and preferences, and create consistent, compelling messaging across all of your platforms for a cohesive, satisfying experience. With automation tools, it doesn’t matter if you have 10 customers or 10 million – each buyer’s journey will be both personalized and seamless.

Sounds pretty good, right? Here’s the part you don’t want to hear – but stick with me. To take advantage of the benefits automation offers, you need a CRM (that stands for customer relationship management). Think HubSpot, or Salesforce, or Monday. You’ll probably also need some additional services, like MailChimp for email campaigns and Shopify for eCommerce. Use of these platforms isn’t free, but it will be worth it. Promise.

You know where your leaks are. Hopefully you know what your goals are (if they’re just “increase revenue” and “expand customer base,” that’s perfectly fine. I like your style). You have a CRM, so you need a marketing automation platform that integrates. You also want one that integrates with your preferred analytics dashboard and offers A/B testing. This will save you a lot of headaches and give you more insight into what interests your customers, faster.

Whether you chose Oracle, Marketo, Zoho, HubSpot, Dynamics 365, or another platform entirely, it’s time to put those automation tools to work. You’re going to need a lead-scoring strategy that solves for the leaks in your funnel, and you should also pick some high-value metrics that are in line with your goals and set up tracking for those. Then you can start creating automated, trigger-based campaigns for key segments of your audience tailored to their interests, where they are in the buyer’s journey, what their past purchasing history looks like, how you acquired their information, what you know about their habits and preferences, etc.

Kind of. Once your campaigns have been active for a predetermined amount of time (say, 30 days), you can start reviewing your metrics to determine what worked and what missed the mark, and then adjust your strategies accordingly. But in the meantime, you’ll have more bandwidth for creating content, building landing pages, developing resources, and finally getting your brand social channels up and running to bring even more value to your already delighted customers.

Setting up automated campaigns might sound like more effort and/or expense than you have the capacity for on the front end, but it will transform your marketing processes. What might seem like a pointless time drain now can become your business’ main revenue driver, optimizing your ROI and increasing your conversion rates (and your revenue!). By putting your lead nurturing processes on autopilot, you’ll be able to deliver a better, smoother, more personalized purchasing experience to your customer – which is totally ironic, but the best things in life usually are.

Don’t keep busting your butt trying to reinvent the wheel – the cavemen already did that. What you need to do is stop wasting time on marketing efforts with sub-optimal ROI and get your conversion rates and revenue performance trending in the right direction. Automation is the self-driving car that will get you where you want to go. Gas it up and start the engine.

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