Marketing automation is something that sounds scary and robotic for many companies, but it's not. Marketing automation allows one to efficiently and effectively market across multiple channels by automating repetitive tasks. This is why over 84% of top performing companies have used or plan to use marketing automation. Marketing automation will improve your business in many ways, one of these being converting leads into customers. All businesses desire more customers, so shouldn't you start using marketing automation? Or perhaps you are already using marketing automation but want to improve your efforts.

Marketing automation can also help to seamlessly combine your offline and online efforts. For example, say your top salesperson is presenting at a large conference and she puts up a slide showing her email address. She then tells the audience, if they'd like her presentation slides, simply send her a note.

Before marketing automation, she would need to manually respond to each email she received, which could be hundreds of emails. She would respond by copying and pasting the same message and attaching the same presentation repeatedly. Then, if she wanted to add the senders to her sales database as potential leads, she would have to manually add each single individual one at a time. Going the extra mile, she decides to copy and paste their offline contact information (e.g., phone, mailing address) from their email signature line to put into her database. These repetitive tasks chew up her time and energy. Time and energy she could be using to sell.

Marketing automation solves for these types of challenges. In this particular instance, marketing automation could respond to the email, send the presentation, and capture the senders' contact information into her database, all done without the salesperson touching anything.

Scenarios and solutions like these are why marketing automation can help improve your employees' satisfaction, effectiveness, customer service, marketing efforts, thought leadership, sales and more.

Whether you are new to marketing automation or a seasoned professional, a few basic, yet powerful, principles contribute to success. A successful marketing automation system must be (1) easy to use, (2) personal, and (3) provide relevant content.

Easy to use

If marketing automation is done right, it will save you and your team time and energy. However, if the marketing automation is complex, marketers will be spending more time and energy on determining how to use the marketing automation system rather than actually marketing. It's important to select the right system and deploy it properly to ensure you are spending time with your prospects and customers, rather than taking time to figure out the system. According to 86% of B2B marketing managers, ease of use is one of the most important criteria in marketing automation 2. Among CMOs, 92% said ease of use was one of the most important criteria 3. A few pro tips on how to know your marketing automation system/process is easy to use:

  • Make 'being a pro' easy. Knowing the ins and outs of the marketing automation system will make your marketing easier. Marketing automation that is simple and easy to use will allow you or your employees to become proficient and save time. Bottom line - simple wins.
  • Ask your marketing automation vendor to help you craft training language specific to the language your company and employees are familiar with.
  • Ask the question, How will this help my employees help the customer? If the answer isn't immediate and obvious, rework it until it is.
  • Provide an easy and informal feedback loop so you can constantly be making improvements beneficial to everyone using the system.

Shirley George Frazier, founder of, said a main benefit of marketing automation is how much time it saves her. She loves how marketing automation allows her to reissue a customized newsletter rather than creating a brand new one for each instance. But this wasn't always the case. Shirley was originally frustrated by marketing automation when she found many of the different systems and interfaces she tried were confusing and taking too much time out of her day. However, once she found a system that was right for her (GetResponse) in terms of message templates and newsletters, she realized just how easy marketing automation could and should be 4.

Please use these tips as helpful guides, but also keep in mind each organization is different. A good practice to implement around marketing automation systems and efforts is to always ask, What does success look like? The answers will vary depending on the employee and department. Ensure each voice is heard, and while there might not be a consensus, it's important for the group to agree on and understand what success does look like. If you don't set a success goal, you will hit it every time. Meaning you will hit something, but it might not be what will move the business in the right direction.

Be human

No one likes receiving emails from robots. That's why it's essential for marketing managers to provide personalized, valuable and relevant content to their customers and prospects. Ultimately, being human leads to successful marketing automation. This will help increase satisfaction and sales. It's important to start or deepen your marketing automation efforts today because by 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationship with a brand without talking to a human 5.

If you think marketing automation sounds robotic, your business might be making it robotic. Emails that contain personalized content improve click-through rates by 14% and conversion rates by 10% 6.

Pro Tips for making marketing emails human:

  • Send a welcome email. A welcome email starts a human relationship with a new lead. Subscribers that receive a .welcome note show 33% more long-term brand engagement 7.
  • Be available. Being available to your customers shows you are in fact a person who can help them. Having personalized, caring support can prolong your customer satisfaction and success. Being available with consistent and relevant communication is key when marketers are choosing a system, since 66% of buyers say consistent and relevant communication influenced their purchase decision 8.
  • Put yourself in the shoes of the recipient. What kind of emails do you like to receive? Would you want to receive the email you are sending? Answering these questions can give insight on what you should be sending out. Starting with a specific customer persona in mind, post images of the customer in your office as visual reminders, and working backwards is also helpful - this is called thinking outside/in versus inside/out.
  • Some companies have gone as far as setting teddy bears and dolls around the table in their marketing automation strategy meetings to represent the customer and ensure the customer isn't being forgotten.
  • Never deceive your customer into thinking they are interacting with a real person. Marketing automation is meant to make life easier for both you and the customer. Its purpose isn't to trick customers into thinking they are dealing with a real person. While some organizations make this mistake, it's not considered best practice.
  • Don't automate simply for the sake of automation; always question which programs and initiatives should be automated and which ones shouldn't. Make a 'not-for-now' list of items that you may automate in the future but aren't comfortable doing so today.

Keep in mind for new product initiatives you may want to handle the majority of the components manually at first. The reason is you don't know a lot of factors like demand, customer response, customer tone, product glitches and so on.

Remember the old adage, you don't get a second chance to make a first impression. Before launch, you should scope out where you believe marketing automation would be most beneficial. This way during the launch, you can pay closer attention to not only where marketing automation would work well, but also how it could work best.

Before launch you should also test with friendly fire. These tests should be comprised of people both inside and outside the company that aren't afraid to voice their opinions. You don't know what little thing could upset someone or get him or her hung-up. While this won't solve for every possible scenario in the real world, it definitely gives you a head start.

Provide Killer Content

(Good) Content is King. Understanding who your audience is and the content they want to receive is key to providing them with valuable content. People often ask how many messages they should send per day. There is no set number, because if the content is good and valuable to the viewer, you can send an infinite amount. Whereas, if the content isn't found valuable, then even one message is too many.

Some key tenets to success include leading with the headline and spending an inordinate amount of time at the top of the funnel. Most individuals are not going to read your formatted content like a novel, so you need to hit them over the head from the beginning - with the headline. How are they going to benefit from spending time reading this? It seems obvious, but you could have the greatest marketing or sales closing strategy in the history of mankind but if nobody ever makes it to this step, it's worthless.

Many companies find it useful to repurpose their valuable content. Ways to repurpose your content include:

  • Turn an e-book into a series of blog posts simply by breaking the e-book into shorter, digestible content.
  • Turn a video webinar into a series of blog posts. Take the valuable content your company produced for a webinar and turn it into a series of blog posts or upload to SlideShare.
  • Create an infographic out of previous statistics. Use the WOW statistics your research uncovered and make them into an interesting infographic.

Repurposing content is only useful if the content provided is relevant for your reader. In fact, sending relevant emails drives 18 times more content revenue than broadcast emails 9. When thinking about the content you are sharing it is important to think about the following:

  • Who is my audience?
  • What will my audience gain from this content and communication?
  • Am I providing my audience with valuable information they need to know?
  • Put away your promotional hat and put on your empathy hat.

Think of what your audience needs. Do they like long detailed e-books or short concise lists? Will they find videos or case studies to be of more value? Knowing the correct persona allows for leads to be generated into sales. Making sure to nurture your leads correctly can allow your company to generate 50% more sales ready leads 10.

Along with providing great content comes understanding how the content should be designed and shared. When it comes to marketing automation it is necessary to take the approach of designing content strategies versus simply writing or creating content.

For example, the mobile accessibility of your content can either drive business toward or away from your company. It's critically important to be mobile friendly. According to Shopify, over 50% of eCommerce transactions are occurring via mobile devices 11. This means you could be losing more than 50% of your business by not being properly optimized for mobile interactions. How can you make your content mobile friendly? App Data Room shares the following tips for a successful mobile campaign:

  • Use fewer photos
  • Use easy to read paragraphs
  • Use bullet points for important information 12

Being mobile friendly is also important for newsletters. Kenneth Hart, founder of The Thirsty Swagman, discovered 50% of his subscribers were reading his newsletter via mobile interfaces. If your content is not easily accessed via mobile devices you are negatively impacting your open rates and losing potential leads 13.

Many also fail to budget time for content review. To avoid this pitfall, some savvy companies are scheduling formal weekly content review meetings with important stakeholders. Other organizations function more like a high-energy media organization having daily morning briefings to bounce around content ideas and determine cover stories, lead, and supporting stories. Budget enough time to fully analyze your content before launch. Most importantly, once you launch that's not the end but rather the beginning of tweaking, analyzing and optimizing your content to benefit your readers and ultimately produce the results you are striving for.

Marketing Automation is the Future

Marketing automation is the future and the future is now. If your company is not using it, you should be. Marketing automation will allow your organization to be more responsive to the customer while saving your employees time and energy - resulting in an increase in productivity. Revenue will also increase as a result of your efforts. According to Position2, 78% of high performing marketers have said marketing automation has improved revenue contribution for their companies 14. If you follow the 3 Musts of Marketing Automation, success is sure to follow.

Erik Qualman

Author * Professor * Speaker * Entrepreneur

Often called a Digital Dale Carnegie and The Tony Robbins of Tech, Erik Qualman is a #1 Best Selling Author and Motivational Keynote Speaker that has spoken in 44 countries.

His Socialnomics work has been featured on 60 Minutes to the Wall Street Journal and used by the National Guard to NASA. His book Digital Leader propelled him to be voted the 2nd Most Likeable Author in the World behind Harry PoRer's J.K. Rowling. Qualman is a visiting professor at Harvard & MIT's edX labs.

His latest book What Happens in Vegas Stays on YouTube is a 2015 Pulitzer Prize nominee.

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