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Small Business Tips

Marketing Automation Tools for Small Business

Victoria Morrison
Marketing automation explained

As a small business owner, you probably already know how important it is to have a great website and active social media presence. But updating social media, growing your audience, and staying in touch with customers can be time-consuming. To ease the pain, this is where marketing automation software comes in.

What is marketing automation?

According to digital marketing expert Neil Patel, "Marketing automation is the process of using software and technology to optimize, automate and measure repetitive online marketing tasks." There are virtually thousands of applications and websites that can help you automate various operations, including e-mail and social media marketing.  Marketing automation exists to help you build a relationship with your clients so that you can make more sales. But, with so many apps on the market, it makes it hard to know which ones to use.  In this article, we will review how marketing automation software can serve you, and provide examples of what some of the most popular applications can do. Hopefully, this will help you narrow down which strategies might be of use for your business. Accordingly, you should be able to spend more time generating actual revenue and less time writing e-mails and trying to grow your social media following!

How to automate e-mail advertising campaigns

Imagine you have a website that gets 500 visitors per day. Some of these visitors are very interested in your services, while others are not. Some may spend hours reading every blog post you've ever published, while others leave your site as soon as they've landed on it. In other words, different visitors will have different levels of engagement.  In most cases, it's not possible for you to communicate with customers who visit your website and leave almost right away. Hence, you need to create some type of opt-in that will make prospective clients want to give you their e-mail address.  Most companies today do this by creating a newsletter you can sign up for on their website. If you've tried this without having a plan for what you will send your subscribers, you might already know that this strategy doesn't work too well. We all get so many sales pitches and newsletters we don't read ‚Ķ who in their right mind would sign up for more?  This is an opportunity to get creative. The best way to engage with prospective customers is to create a free product that readers will receive in exchange for giving you their e-mail address. Don't be vague with this step. Tell people exactly what you plan on sending them.  

Gift voucher template. Vector illustration.

Here are a few ideas for free gifts you can send your subscribers:

  • A free e-book (you'll need to write one first, which can be time-consuming, but e-books don't need to be that long. Plus, once the e-book exists, you can send it to people over and over again)
  • An informative PDF that will help customers better understand your services or provide a taste of what you're selling or examples of your work
  • Registration to a free webinar
  • A free course (a few popular course ideas include those that can help subscribers make more money, get motivated to do something, or learn a new skill), OR
  • A special introductory discount on their first purchase.

Although, you'll need to put work into creating your initial offering, remember that you can use this same offering to reach out to hundreds of prospective clients. And once you have a client's e-mail address, you can reach out to them again and again until you make a sale.  That doesn't mean you should spam your subscribers! A competent marketing automation tool will help you to build a relationship with your prospective customers over time.  Remember those 500 daily website visitors mentioned earlier? Even if one percent of those people subscribe to your newsletter or react to your opt-in, that's five people a day you could be targeted. That adds up to 1,825 people per year.

How to use marketing automation to generate repeat business

Marketing automation tools can also help you turn first-time customers into repeat customers. How does marketing automation do this? Here are a few ways:

  • Upselling. This practice targets prior customers with information on how useful your next-level product might be for them
  • Cross-selling. This practice can help you keep the customer by offering complementary accessories
  • Cycle-based selling. If you sell a product or service that doesn't last, you can generate repeat customers by offering them a deal a few months after the initial sale. This rule applies to service-based businesses, but it can also work for perishable products or anything that is bound to be used up after a season.

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How to use marketing automation to garner customer feedback?

Marketing automation tools can also send out customer satisfaction surveys on your behalf. These can help you generate positive feedback on social media or review sites, which will help you attract even more customers.  Customer satisfaction surveys can also alert you to unsatisfied customers who might otherwise harm your brand image by leaving a negative review on Google, Facebook, or another platform. Reaching out to an unhappy customer with an apology or a gift can help turn things around. In fact, this can even result in that customer giving your business a second chance.

What's the easiest way to set up e-mail marketing automation?

If you want to automate your e-mail campaigns, newsletters, and opt-in offers, there are many tools you can use. Some popular ones include ConvertKit, Mailchimp, and ActiveCampaign.  Although a successful e-mail marketing campaign usually requires a series of well-written e-mails sent over multiple days, once you set things up with marketing automation software, the e-mails will send themselves. You will need to go through the process of creating them initially, but once the materials exist, you won't need to think about them again unless you want to change them.  

Social media app multi-channel icons on Ipad, iphone

Automate your social media activity

In addition to e-mail marketing campaigns, marketing automation tools fit in with social media.  With more than 200 social networks on the web today, it's impossible for any small business owner to remain active on all of them at once. In fact, according to Neil Patel, most marketers use at least five social media accounts every day.  Even if you're only active on two or three social media networks, you know how annoying it can be to repost the same status update on several accounts. Luckily, marketing automation software can post on multiple accounts on your behalf!

Expand your social media presence

Buffer is one of the most popular marketing automation tools for social media management. The app lets you link up to three social accounts for free, or you can pay a monthly fee to link even more accounts.  Another free social media marketing automation tool that might be useful to you is IFTTT, which stands for "If This, Then That." As the name implies, this tool lets you program certain actions in response to other actions.  For example, you can repost all of the content your favourite media company posts to the social media account of your choice. If you're a blogger yourself, you can also program this tool to publish your content across many channels.  Looking to get more Twitter followers? Automation tools like Tweepi or ManageFlitter make it easy for you to follow your followers' followers.  That being said, be wary of automating comments to grow your Twitter or Instagram followers, as this practice can seem disingenuous. Most people on social media can tell when comments are coming from a bot rather than someone who is genuinely interested in their content.  Automating likes on a platform like Instagram, on the other hand, can be a good idea. This approach is less aggressive and can help you gain new followers who are interested in your content. If you would like to try automating your Instagram likes, check out RoboLike, which you can set to 'like' posts based on your tags and search criteria.

What are the best marketing automation tools for small business?

If you're just getting started with marketing automation, check out the free services first.  When it comes to e-mail marketing, MailChimp is both free and easy to use. It features drag-and-drop templates and supports multiple users. This attribute means you can log in to create the copy, and then your graphic designer can log in to make it beautiful (or vice versa).  If you want to automate your social media, Buffer is free for up to three accounts. This tool can help you schedule posts, engage with your audience, and analyze the performance of your social media marketing.  Once you become familiar with marketing automation and decide you want to develop your process even further, you may want to look into investing in a comprehensive tool like GetResponse, Infusionsoft, or Hubspot. These tools include campaign wizards and dashboards that allow you to segment your audience according to how they've interacted with your brand.  If all of this seems overly technical to you, consider hiring a copywriter who specializes in e-mail marketing campaigns. A professional will be able to help you design a professional opt-in product or sales funnel that you can use to target prospective clients.

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