Marketing automation tools can be a great way for small business owners to get more done in less time. These tools are not a silver bullet. If you are considering implementing a marketing automation solution, one of the first questions to ask yourself is what will you be automating?
For many small businesses, marketing automation isn’t just about a new set of tools; it often requires a new approach to marketing and sales. Automating an ineffective process won’t lead to success.
In my experience, those businesses that use automation to bombard people with information are typically frustrated with their automation efforts while those who use automation tools to improve their ability to send the right message, to the right person, at the right time enjoy much greater success.
Automating the Process of Bombarding Prospects
This is the easier (but less effective) way of implementing a marketing automation system. This method is the modern day equivalent of dropping by to deliver brochures and other materials without ever asking for feedback or engaging in a meaningful conversation about their business.
Systems set up this way pretend to have a conversation, but it’s the type of conversation where the seller does all the talking. Too be fair, many consultants and vendors exacerbate this problem by describing scenarios where a visitor fills out a form on your website and they are automatically sent 7 messages over the next 12 days culminating with an invitation to have a sales conversation.
Automation of this type makes you feel like you are being more efficient, but is often not very effective.
Automating the Delivery of Personal Attention
A different approach is to use marketing automation tools to help you emulate an in person conversation by discovering what the other person is interested in then delivering information that is relevant to their situation.
In order to do that, you must not only think about automating what you say, you need to think about how to use the tools to listen.
This type of personalization is very different from just inserting the person’s name somewhere in the message.
One way to start this type of conversation is to ask questions. I’m guessing you already do this when you meet a prospect in person. You may ask about:
- the size of their business
- their industry
- how they help their customers
- how they make their money (business model)
- goals they want to accomplish
- challenges they need to address
You can ask these same questions in a number of different ways online and vial email by:
- Presenting surveys or questions
- Presenting information related to different business problems and noting which ones they select
- Observing topics they interact with on your website or newsletter
- Using techniques like progressive profiling (asking for additional pieces of information as you deliver more materials)
Those are only a few examples. The important point is to use the information shared with you to provide relevant information back to your prospects and customers. We’ve all been in conversations where the other person asks for information about us and then continues to deliver a canned presentation. It’s frustrating and there is no need to automate that experience (unless you goal is to aggravate more people faster <g>).
Increase your chances of success with marketing automation by focusing on delivering the right information, to the right person, at the right time.
Bill Brelsford Small Business Marketing Consultant