Tags: Automation

Fear of Marketing Automation (#FOMA): Lack of Human Resources

Practical Marketer • January 9, 2018

Marketing automation has become a bit of a buzzword, and I’m guessing you have heard it thrown around quite a bit. It’s okay if you still don’t fully understand what is involved in marketing automation. To explain it in layman’s terms, once your company reaches a certain point, it’s impossible to have one-on-one contact with everyone. Therefore, marketing automation involves using software to automate certain marketing tactics and workflows. That way you continue to nurture relationships with your customers while still bringing in new business. In other words, marketing automation can give one person the power of ten (or more!) and erase any fear of a lack of resources. You can do all this without having to spend your time emailing customers or scheduling social media posts. Therefore, it can save you tons of time down the road and free you up to do the most important things in your business. The Biggest Myths About Marketing Automation The popularity of marketing automation has grown tremendously over the years with roughly 59 percent of B2B companies implementing some form of it. And for good reason -- marketing automation increases sales productivity by 14.5 percent while reducing overhead by 12.2 percent. So if that’s true, then why aren’t more companies adopting marketing automation? Obviously, there are still a few holdouts left. What’s the deal? Well, the reason really boils down to one word: fear. Many people don’t really understand marketing automation so certain fears and myths still persist around the topic. Let’s look at a few of them, shall we? Marketing Automation is Impersonal This is probably the biggest fear most people need to overcome. So let’s clear up one thing right from the start -- marketing automation does not mean that you are delivering cold, impersonal content to your customers. It’s actually the exact opposite. Because it gives you the bandwidth to reach more people in a more strategic way, you can take the time to create exceptional content that will deliver more value to your customers. So rather than automation being synonymous with spam, it actually allows you to communicate in a more meaningful way. And the research backs this up -- out of all the companies using marketing automation, 80 percent saw an increase in leads and 77 percent reported an increase in their conversion rates. It’s Only Useful for the Marketing Department This myth is understandable given the name but the truth is, marketing automation extends beyond your marketing team. It can help anyone who is interested in taking more redundant tasks off their plate. It gives you more time to focus on strategic, big picture thinking like how to continue to nurture leads or coming up with new campaign ideas. It can also be hugely beneficial to your sales team because it makes it easier for them to qualify leads. You probably already know that not all leads are created equal. After all, what is the point of lead generation if it only seems to attract people who have no interest in buying your product or service? That’s why a huge benefit of marketing automation is that it ensures not just that your company brings in new leads but that it brings in quality leads. It does this by providing important customer data like job position and industry. It also reveals digital data about how your leads behave online. All of this information can be used to help your company sort and quality those leads, which we will get to shortly. Marketing Automation is Too Expensive for Small Businesses This is another persistent myth and if it were 2011, it may even be true. But now that are tons of marketing automation tools available and many of the most basic plans are completely free. And don’t write off the more affordable plans -- the majority are intuitive, simple to use, and have many of the same capabilities as more expensive plans. Tips for Implementing Marketing Automation So now that we have cleared up some of the biggest myths and fears about marketing automation, how do you actually get started? This is a good question because truth be told, it is only as useful as its implementation. Going forward, it’s important to find the right mix of strategies and tactics so that your company can find the biggest return on investment. Let’s look at a few tips on how you can move forward. Start With a Plan It’s important to understand that the beginning period will be the most difficult, time-consuming part of the process. However, marketing automation will save you time down the road. Before you choose your marketing automation software, make sure you have a plan in place. What objectives and goals is your company looking to achieve? Once you have identified this you can put a plan in place. I would recommend starting small and then build out your plan from there. Begin deploying what you are already doing first and then you can always add on as you continue to gain confidence. Once you have a plan in place and everything seems to be smooth sailing, it’s important that you continue to evaluate what’s working and what isn’t. Continue to monitor your data and test out new ideas. You’re never going to be done learning and it will always be a work in progress. Sort and Qualify Your Leads Do you understand how your customers are interacting with your website? Are you familiar with their browsing habits? And most important, do you know how to use that information to develop future marketing strategies? Your marketing automation software can help you do just that. You can use it to gauge customer interest based on opens and clicks through rates. And the data you receive makes it easier to segment both leads and customers based on their behavior. That way you can create messaging that is specific to each type of lead or customer. The term “segmentation” makes a lot of people nervous but it’s actually pretty simple. It’s simply a strategy for dividing customers and leads into different groups based on similar traits or online habits. To get started, you first need to make sure your data is accurate and reliable. Many businesses have databases that contain tons of outdated and redundant information. In fact, according to this study, 60 percent of companies have data that is unreliable. Once you have cleaned up your data, you can focus on segmentation knowing that your efforts will produce the best results possible. However, this is also a process that will never be finished. Your motto should always be to test...and then test some more. Outsource What You Can So what if you don’t have a big marketing department to handle all of this for you? Does this mean marketing automation isn’t for you? Absolutely not. Thanks to the rise of the freelance economy, it has become easier than ever to outsource some of your work to other people at an affordable price point. For instance, freelance platforms like Upwork allows you to connect with over nine million freelancers in 180 different countries. With over 1.5 million freelancers, Guru is another great alternative for outsourcing work. This not only puts a wide pool of qualified candidates at your fingertips but it allows you to build long-term relationships with the freelancers you hire. And scaling your business will be easier when you already have a remote team put in place. Many people get nervous when they think about outsourcing important business tasks to freelancers. We’ve probably all heard stories of associates who were taken advantage of. And hiring the wrong person can definitely hurt you more than it can help. A good plan is to ask for recommendations from colleagues for freelancers they used and were happy with. And again, I would recommend you start small in this area. Start out with some basic tasks and then build from there as you gain a level of trust with that person. Conclusion Once your email list gets beyond a certain level, it’s impossible for you to personally interact with everyone. Thankfully, marketing automation allows you to continue to build relationships with your customers and leads while still maintaining a shred of sanity. Hopefully, now you understand not only how powerful marketing automation is but also how feasible it is for you to implement in your own business. It’s a great way to automate the things you just don’t have time for so you can continue to bring value to your customers. What are some of the marketing tasks you plan to automate first? Let me know in the comments!

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Fear of Marketing Automation (FOMA): Lack of Marketing Automation Strategy

Fear of Marketing Automation (#FOMA): Lack of Marketing Automation Strategy

Practical Marketer • January 8, 2018

Marketing automation can seem scary. “Giving up control to the machines? No way.” “I don’t know. It’s so complicated… I’m probably better off doing this on my own.” Fun fact: Industry stats tell us a very different story. In fact, this study shows that marketing automation increases sales productivity by 14.5% and drives a 12.2% decrease in marketing overhead. Doesn’t seem that scary now, does it? It isn’t. Most marketers still hesitate to take the automation leap, especially because they feel they don’t have a good enough “strategy” to do that yet. Here’s the good news: You don’t have to wait. You don’t need a complex, out-of-the-world strategy. Your marketing automation strategy is right there in front of you. It lies within all the things you are already doing manually. You just need to find it. We are here to help you do just that. Follow these three simple, super-easy steps to find and deploy your perfect Marketing Automation strategy 1. Start Simple First of all, stop worrying about doing everything all at once. You don’t have to automate all your marketing or sales processes in one day. When you start simple, you have a clear idea of where you stand, and where you want to go from there. This gives you more control over your decisions, and you’ll end up with a better, more effective automation strategy. Automate the Basics Start with the most basic stuff already part of your sales process. Think about it: what kind of emails do you typically send out? Don’t you think you can save a lot of time by automating those emails? You could invest that time into more important things. Like actually creating an amazing email. Here are some basic marketing processes you can easily automate when you start off initially: Welcome Series If you have a sign-up or subscription form anywhere on your website, blog or store, you should at least welcome your new subscribers. If you already do that manually, think about how much automation can help you out. Automating your welcome emails will do more than just save a lot of your precious time and energy. You will also know exactly when and what your visitors will receive as soon as they hit that subscribe button. Being aware of what your visitors can expect helps you optimize your future marketing efforts. If you manually send your welcome emails, you’ll never fully understand the effects of what you send out. What if you sent that one email two minutes earlier? What if you forgot to welcome those other two subscribers? The list goes on and on. Automating your welcome emails ensures your visitors get an immediate response from you, which can do wonders for their experience, help you save time, and increase your sales at the same time! Promotional Emails New products in your e-commerce store? An upcoming event you need to promote? A SALE?? Of course, you need to send an email about it! What if some of your subscribers never opened your email? Maybe they just scrolled past and missed it. Or maybe they just weren’t interested at that time. Whatever the reason, you need to follow up with them. That’s where you automate. Automating your follow-up emails can help you send personalized emails to the right people, at just the right time, which is an integral part of your automation strategy. You no longer have to worry about tracking down who to send them to, because automating the process will simply send pre-designed follow-up emails after a set time to the right subscribers, based on whether they opened your promotional email or not. Sending automated follow-up emails will save you tons of time, and will also minimize, if not eliminate, the chances of missing out on following up with some subscribers. It’s also very effective when it comes to increasing sales, and getting people to notice your promotions. Cart Abandonment & Repurchase Programs According to the Baymard Institute, the average shopping cart abandonment rate is 69.23%. That’s a LOT. And if you run an e-commerce business, you already know the importance of trying to win these “abandoners” back. Look at it this way: These people showed interest in your products. All they need is a little nudge in the right direction! Cart abandonment and repurchase programs can easily become an effective part of your marketing automation strategy. Instead of manually trying to reach every single person who showed interest in your product, automate the whole process! This ensures your “potential” customers receive timely, personalized emails, which can dramatically increase your conversion rates. For added impact, you can also throw in automated discounts and promotions on the items they showed interest in or abandoned. 2. Visualize Your Sales Process Now that you’ve automated some of the basic stuff you usually do manually, it’s time to take things a little further. To develop an ideal, comprehensive marketing automation strategy for your business, you need to look more carefully at your sales process. Visualize it. It’s a great practice to jot down all the steps involved in your marketing and sales process, from welcoming subscribers, offering promotions and discounts, to thanking them and asking them for feedback. Once you do that, it will be much easier to focus on each part, instead of being overwhelmed by the whole. Look for Opportunities to Automate The good thing about visualizing your entire sales process is now you can identify ‘openings,’ or opportunities to automate. Don’t just restrict yourself to the obvious. Look for the pieces in between. Thanking a customer after they buy your product? Automate it. Schedule an awesome ‘Thank You’ email that goes every time someone makes a purchase. That part where you ask for their feedback? You can automate that too. Other than the usual stuff, you can also use your creativity to start to fill in the gaps. If you collect information like your subscriber’s birth date, you can send out automated birthday emails to brighten their day! Enrich your automation strategy by exploiting new, untapped opportunities in your marketing and sales process. Work Backwards Great, so you have started to hunt for opportunities to automate. Now, how about you look at your sales process from a different perspective? Working backward, or reverse engineering your sales process, is a crucial step in developing an effective automation strategy. When you work backward, you start with the end in mind. Look at what sells, and which of your campaigns do well. Break it down and see what worked. What parts can you automate to get the same or even better results? 3. Learn from Others Use of Marketing Automation Never underestimate the importance of learning from other businesses, and all their different kinds of automation campaigns and strategies. Take inspiration from the best, and you’ll find that marketing automation is not complicated at all. Finding out what works, and following the trend, with some modification, of course, can go a long way in helping you develop that perfect automation strategy. Check out these examples of great automated emails for a healthy dose of inspiration: Example 1: Evernote Evernote is a digital productivity tool for collecting and organizing notes. Here is an example of their Welcome Email, which is sent as soon as a visitor makes it through their opt-in page, and downloads their software. Notice how they end their welcome email with a call-to-action for downloading their app across all other devices. Evernote’s Welcome Email is followed by a series of more short emails, which guide you step-by-step through the journey of using and understanding their app. Each email makes sure to end with a call-to-action. Check out the complete email sequence here. Example 2: Twitter Of course, you know about Twitter.  It’s one of the most popular social media platforms out there. Twitter welcomes its new users with a different, more actionable approach than others. Take a look at this example of the first email visitors receive as soon as they sign up and verify their email address on Twitter. What’s important to note here is this email is part of Twitter’s onboarding sequence. Which means that each email in the series is designed to get new users to engage with the platform, and start using it regularly. This first email helps new users ‘get started’ immediately and connects with them by showing them they are part of the Twitter community now. Notice the two calls-to-action placed inside the email. You can check out Twitter’s complete onboarding email sequence here. Example 3: Vimeo Vimeo is a popular video marketing and hosting platform. Here is an interesting example of Vimeo’s onboarding email sequence. Vimeo sends out this specific automated email to remind users about their weekly storage limit. Notice how the email also incorporates some calls-to-action to get people to upgrade to their PRO Unlimited or Business plans. As I said before, this email is part of Vimeo’s onboarding email sequence. The other emails in this sequence also talk about the PRO and Business plans in detail, with the aim of getting their users to upgrade and actively engage with the platform. Check out Vimeo’s complete onboarding email sequence here. Conclusion Developing your perfect marketing automation strategy is not as complicated as you think it is. You just need to reflect on the sales process you already have in place and find out where you can automate to speed things up and get better results. Did this article help you find a great automation strategy for your business? Let us know your feedback and comments!

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7 Tips for Running Automated Marketing Campaigns While You’re Out of the Office on Vacation

Beyond • December 5, 2017

Sometimes it’s more stressful to go on vacation than stay in the office. With marketing automation, you can change how you feel about this scenario. If you’re planning on heading out for maternity leave, a long-awaited trip, or personal days, remember the following eight tips so your campaign will practically run itself. That way, you can focus on fun in the sun, family, and personal time instead of work. 1. Choose the Right Strategy What you market, how you market it, and when you send your automated email campaigns will dictate how the campaigns perform. Establish your customer journey in each of your emails as well as throughout your automated campaign. Talk through your strategy and messaging with your team to resolve any questions or hiccups that might hinder conversions. Also consider A/B testing options your team can implement on the fly if a campaign isn’t working as well as you’d hoped. Marketing can be somewhat of a guessing game, but creating the right strategy based on solid data and your business’s specific needs before you leave the office can help set you up for success 2. Test Your Campaign Actors don’t go on stage and wing an audition or performance. Likewise, marketers shouldn’t blast their automated campaigns without taking them for a test drive. Before you go on vacation or head out of the office, test your campaigns. Ensure they work across different browsers, devices, and accessibilities and that your internet connection can handle the traffic. It’s always easier and less stressful to give yourself time to tweak glitches and optimize for results instead of doing damage control when you’re trying to enjoy a cocktail on the beach. 3. Go Simple with Your Tactics Automated campaigns run the gamut—from interactive bells and whistles to cut-and-dried text and image. While you may be tempted to incorporate tactics such as segmenting dynamic content to bump up click-through rates, go simple with your approach. Come up with a strong and sensible marketing message that appeals to your entire audience and launch with that. When you get back from your trip, you can work on incorporating more complex campaigns since you’ll have more time and attention to devote to them. 4. Prepare Your Team for Your Absence Drip campaigns are a type of automated marketing campaign that needs follow-up engagement. And if you’re doing your automated marketing correctly, most of your campaigns will need nurturing as they run. While you can schedule your emails to go out at a certain time, you’ll need to have your team ready to respond to leads, comments on social, and other kinds of customer interaction. Have a meeting before you leave to tell your team how to respond to queries and give them a time frame for when and how they should manage these messages. 5. Use Marketing Tools The right tool for the job will help you enjoy a worry-free vacation as well. Enter Automation Pro. With the right automation, you can run entire marketing campaigns while you’re soaking in rays at the beach. Each new subscriber can get the same Welcome Email you’d send when you’re in the office and you can even automatically follow-up when you run a promotion based on each individual subscriber’s interactions with your email campaigns or website. You’re even set up for success with several strategy templates that puts everything in place for you. All you have to do is plug in your email campaigns and lists. 6. Set Expectations Your team should be able to take the reins on your automated campaign while you’re away. To help them own this responsibility, set benchmarks and expectations. Write down daily target goals they can aim for and optimize if the campaign isn’t performing as you expect. It’s always smart to hand off a detailed checklist and foolproof directions for your stand-in manager to abide by while you’re out. 7. Check In Depending on your work/play boundaries, you might want to check in on your campaign occasionally, and the tools listed above can make that task easier. If anything seems off, you can fix it on the fly or pause the campaign and address the issue when you get back to work. Or, if everything is running perfectly, you can truly relax. Automated campaigns take a lot of the work out of your marketing duties. When you use the previous eight tips, you’ll be able to set up, deploy, and profit from your automated campaigns easily—especially when you’re out of the office.

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So What Exactly Do I Need To Automate? An Automation Guide For Your Business

Beyond • December 4, 2017

From startups to the largest corporations, automation has become accepted as business must-have. Automating workflows across all areas of your organization can help save time and money. Not only that, but it will reduce the need for your valued employees to carry out repetitive, redundant tasks. Ultimately, marketing automation supports scalability and will help increase the success of your business. So, the question becomes: what exactly should you automate? And how should you implement automation within your organization? Are there things you simply can’t automate? Our automation guide will give you all the information you need, along with some ideas on how to successfully adopt automation across your business. Market Research Every business model begins with market research. But it’s not just for startups: the most successful organizations will be continually refining and developing their offerings in line with up-to-date market research. Listening platforms such as Brandwatch and Google Alerts can be set up to automatically keep track of the latest market trends and competitors in your sector. The next stage will be using this data to ensure that your content strategy, internal processes, and sales funnel are evolving with the times. Market automation won’t tell you what to do — but it will help point you in the right direction. Reduce time-consuming research, and use market research and social listening tools to harness insights from billions of conversations happening online every day. Social Media Many businesses begin their journey into automation with popular social media tools — social media marketing lends itself to automation, and social automation tools are becoming evermore sophisticated. From scheduling posts in advance to automating responses to customers through social channels, they even give you the ability to automatically assign tasks to relevant internal departments. Platforms such as HootSuite and SproutSocial have allowed social media editors and communication managers to automate all aspects of an organization’s social media strategy — except the actual strategy bit. From communications to customer service, social media platforms can help you automate many tasks — but they can’t help you define your social strategy. That will be up to internal brand managers to define and refine. Email Along with social media, email is another popular area where businesses of all sizes and types can easily embrace automation (especially when it comes to the ‘promote and follow up’ sales sequence). From simple, time-saving tasks such as automatically sending welcome emails to forwarding contact form submissions to the relevant departments, there are countless opportunities to implement automated email sequences. These can help you scale your customer service operations, and ensure you operate an ‘always switched on’ business. Combining email with retargeting adverts is a powerful combo that drives people back to your website. Use email platforms to set up retargeting ads to recapture people who have already taken that first, crucial step of expressing interest in your brand. Don’t forget that quality copywriting and attractive visuals are essential for email success — don’t pour precious advertising money into poorly-constructed and weak email concepts. E-commerce From shopping to shipping, there are many ways that e-commerce automation can be implemented to save time, simplify the sales process, and encourage customers to re-purchase through your e-commerce site. Automation is a fantastic way to recover abandoned carts (friendly reminders to people who leave your store without checking out). By using analytics tools and email platforms, you can pretty much run abandoned cart email campaigns on auto-pilot, complete with incentives and personalized offers. Once sales have been made, automation can also be used to save you time and money in shipping costs.  Dropshipping is a fantastic example here – you can avoid getting involved in the entire fulfillment process by automatically forwarding orders to warehousing & delivery partners. Even if you prefer to keep fulfillment in-house, there are plenty of inventory tracking tools that can help you part-automate your shipping. The e-commerce dream of a fully automated store you can run from your mobile may be here — but customers are still customers. They will have questions, complaints, and queries — and no amount of automation can make up for some human intervention from time to time. Having brand guidelines and customer service avatars and scenarios in place will help empower frontline staff to deal with tricky customer service situations. People buy with their eyes and shop with their hearts. Make sure that you invest resources into creating a beautiful brand, as well a well-oiled e-commerce machine. Sales CRM platforms can be used to automate a company’s interactions with new and prospective customers. CRMs have a sales-focused approach, but they are also about putting the customer at the heart of a business development plan. They will help you listen, as well as sell. Automation is a big part of a CRM’s offering. CRM software providers like Infusionsoft allow businesses to send personalized communications to every contact without manual input. CRM platforms are increasingly intelligent and can help you automate almost every interaction with your customers, but they won’t be able to save a brand or product who have got their alignment all wrong. A great automated sales pipeline won’t make up for service or product offering deficiencies — make sure that sales automation doesn’t take precedence over product development. Internal Processes It’s exciting to think about how automation can help the customer-facing aspects of your business, but automation can also offer great benefits to internal functions. Popular apps such as Google Drive and Docs allow teams to collaboratively save, share and work on a range of business documents without manually having to send them to each other. Project management & team communication platforms such as Basecamp can help automate internal processes in a range of business functions. For example, by making sure that relevant team members receive automated updates about their projects, or by automatically checking in with staff on their progress on a daily basis. HR platforms give HR departments the power to automate holiday & sickness records and extract useful insights from the data they collect. This could lead to an improved holiday policy or lower instances of staff churn. Finance teams can use automation software to streamline many of their processes. Online bookkeeping apps such as Quickbooks can hugely simplify the invoicing process and allow employees to automatically track mileage and expenses. Automation can be very practical as well. Thanks to a large network of partners and service providers, IFTT can help you automate things from turning the porch light on when your pizza delivery is on its way, to tweeting your Instagram posts as native Twitter photo —  the possibilities are truly endless. Don’t automate everything though — there is still a real need for human intervention on important HR and finance tasks. Use automation as a way to collect data and ‘plug in the gaps,’ but don’t let your tools run your business for you. Implementing Automation When you come to implement some of these automation ideas, make sure you have a proper plan in place and involve all stakeholders. Map out existing business processes to work out how many hours your organization is currently spending on tasks which could be automated, and prioritize the most promising areas regarding time and cost-savings. Calculate potential automation ROI – how much human resource, time, and money will you save by implementing a specific automation process? How much extra value could that new process add to your business on top of these savings? And don’t forget to think about the potential security issues involved, including storing data on external platforms — adding unforeseen vulnerabilities to your business. What Have We Learned? From pizza to retargeting, this guide has shown you how automation can increase productivity, save time, and improve margins across your entire organization. Prioritize your business automation goals and put a solid plan in place to implement change. You will soon reap the reward, without having to be there at every stage of the process.

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Free Holiday Email Templates

Free Holiday Email Templates

Practical Marketer • November 29, 2017

The season to be jolly is right around the corner! That’s right! Holiday cups are back at Starbucks, Christmas music is already playing in every store. Decorations are right around the corner, if not already here. It always feels too early to start celebrating the holidays, but it’s never too soon to plan your holiday email marketing design. Holiday Email Templates Who doesn’t enjoy spreading some holiday cheer? Benchmark Email helps you get your email marketing in the holiday spirit with dozens of festive holiday email templates. Here are some things to keep in mind when using a holiday email template: Stay true to your branding. Don’t make your logo a color your subscribers have never seen it before, just to match the holiday motif. Same goes for buttons and other colors that are consistent across your email campaigns. Dress it up for the holidays, but don’t become something unrecognizable to your subscribers. Keep it simple. Don’t overdo it. You don’t want to be the house on the block with lights covering every square inch of the exterior and lawn with lights. You can’t look at that house without sunglasses. Don’t limit it to the template. Extend the holiday cheer to your subject line as well. That way it won’t be a surprise when your subscribers open your holiday email. Templates To Automate Aside from the great holiday email templates available to you, we’ve also created strategy templates to let you automate your holiday email marketing. You can send a promotion and follow-up with your subscribers based on if they opened the email, clicked a link or visited a specific page on your website. Don’t wait for 2018 to take your email marketing to the next level. Get a head start on your New Year’s resolution and close out 2017 strong. We also put together some tips and ideas for your Christmas and Chanukah marketing campaigns to be automated. Share Your Tips Have you run a successful holiday email marketing campaign in the past? Or maybe a favorite one you’ve received? Share your tips in the comments. We love to hear them!

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