Startups are often operating on a shoestring budget, and every last penny must be accounted for. There usually isn’t a lot of money for lavish marketing initiatives — but marketing is vitally important nevertheless. So where does a new and relatively cash-strapped businesses turn? To marketing automation software, a key function of a modern marketing program.
A word of caution, don’t let the technology lead your marketing strategy. Always always always, start with strategy. For more on this, you can read my thoughts and a bunch of other smart marketing automation leader’s opinions on common misconceptions of marketing automation.
But back to our tasks, these five tasks, carried out by marketing automation software, can help provide the smarts and scale that is invaluable to your fledgling business.
1. Create a Valuable Database
Every time a customer makes contact or you generate a lead, you get valuable information that could deliver long-term benefits. But this information needs to be harvested, and then it needs to be stored in a way that makes finding what you need a quick and simple process. Fortunately, this is one of the main tasks carried out by marketing automation software.
Customer data is grouped in a number of ways — usually by demographic groups. This allows you to target relevant people with the right kind of marketing message, rather than simply hit every potential customer with the same message.
Tip: as you think about evaluating an automation or enablement tool, consider how likely it is to be used. Will your team provide the right kind of input, will you prospects and customers be synced the way they should be. The whole sales and marketing system works only as well as the data that’s in it’s database – so make sure to pick tools that are easy to use and capture what your business process demands.
2. Convert Leads Into Sales
It’s one thing to inspire interest in your products or services, but getting an interested party to actually part with their cash is another matter entirely. According to Gartner Research, lead management by marketing automation software virtually guarantees a return on investment. This is why more and more marketing automation packages come with built-in CRM capabilities.
The link between marketing and sales teams isn’t always an effective one, but marketing automation puts in place a tried-and-tested process. For example, based on the information in a database, lead management software can suggest discounts or special offers that might work. Other mechanisms include abandoned cart retrieval and automated messaging when customers don’t follow up their initial interest with a purchase.
Tip: Use lead management intelligently and kindly. Golden rule applies here.
3. A/B Testing
Marketing is never finished, we should always be improving. Better yet, always be testing. Wondering how your landing page could convert better? Test it. Just a few differences to your website, your social media updates or any of your other digital marketing channels can be the difference between a conversion and a lost opportunity. Some marketing automation software can manage your A/B testing campaigns to see which messages resonate with which consumers.
You can perform marketing experiments, then gauge which strategies deliver results and which just aren’t working for you. As data is gathered, the software can communicate it in a way that gives you the market intelligence you need.
Tip: keep tests simple and focused on so you don’t introduce too many elements at once.
4. Segmented Email Marketing
Remember number 1, the importance of a good database. Well now we need to communicate with them, but as close to 1:1 as possible. One of the great things about email marketing is the simplicity it promises. Create a marketing message, then fire it off to a group of email addresses in your marketing database. In reality, however, it isn’t always that simple.
Mass email marketing delivers patchy results at best, and can actually alienate the customers who receive inappropriate or irrelevant offers. Instead, marketing automation can manage the email marketing process in a smarter way. Contacts are divided logically, then sent the specific messages that are most likely to appeal to them.
Tip: don’t over complicate this. Even segmenting by lifecycle stage or persona type will give you a great running start. You can evolve as you go.
5. Social Media Content Management
While human involvement in social media is absolutely crucial, there are elements of the process you can leave to marketing automation systems. For example, while you will remain in charge of creating content, the software can publish it at a future date you specify. Software can also help you with ideas based on keywords, and perform “listening” tasks that keep you updated on developments within your industry.
Tip: Make sure to strike a healthy balance between your brand and cultivating conversation and other sources in your social channels.
Most startups need all the help they can get with complex and essential tasks such as marketing. While purchasing a marketing automation package involves a significant outlay now, it could save your business a small fortune in the long run.
Strapped for time. Download our checklist for a quick, 10 minute daily social media monitoring ritual