How Small Businesses Can Take Advantage of the Power of Automation

Written by Jeff Cole on July 17, 2017

Process of leads production on the conveyor belt. Marketing automation concept in flat style. Lead generation vector concept.

Success in marketing your budget digitally can seem impossible to achieve without the help of dedicated professionals who do nothing else but engage in social media, SEO, and other efforts during the week.

Enter marketing automation. Still a relatively new concept, it can help your business optimize its efforts without increasing the time spent on digital marketing.

Understanding Marketing Automation

Many definitions exist for this concept, but the basic meaning is in its name. Marketing automation describes software that helps businesses automate their marketing efforts, building more strategic and consistent outreach strategies that ultimately increase your marketing ROI.

As marketing automation software provider HubSpot explains,

Inbound marketing automation uses all the information we know about a person to understand what their wants and needs are, and delivers them the information they need to make a purchase, exactly when they need that information, in the place they’re looking for it.

When you do it right, it pays off. In fact, 78 percent of marketers say that automation has increased their revenue, while 75 percent of brands see positive ROI in less than 12 months of using the concept.

4 Simple Ways to Implement Automation in Your Digital Strategy

So much for the theoretical benefits of marketing automation. To take advantage of them yourself, you can take a number of steps that – sometimes with an implementation time of less than a day – can elevate your marketing efforts almost immediately.

1. Automating Your Social Media Messages for Consistent Success

Let’s begin with the most straightforward aspect of marketing automation: social media scheduling. Research indicates that for maximum reach and engagement, you need to post multiple times per day on the social media networks you use for marketing purposes. Brainstorming, writing, and publishing quality posts every time is necessary but comes with an immense time investment.

So what if you could schedule some of your more evergreen posts ahead of time? It can help you build a baseline for content that you can supplement with more immediate, live posts. The result is a more consistent output that your followers can appreciate at all times of the day.

Used correctly, social media automation can be a godsend. That’s only true, of course, if you don’t rely exclusively on scheduled content but pepper in relevant, real-time content as well. And it’s simple: some networks (like Facebook) allow scheduling from within the platform itself, while you can schedule a post for others using tools like HootSuite.

2. Generating More Leads Through Automated Live Chat

Automation can also find its way to your website. Here, potential customers are likely browsing to find out more about your brand, and they will probably have questions about your products or services before they actually become customers.

Through live chat, you can solve these needs in real-time. Traditionally, this type of software requires time. Unless you offer very limited chat hours on your website, you need to pay a representative (or external provider) around the clock to answer both questions and concerns.

Unless, of course, you go with an automated software solution. A chatbot can engage your visitors on your behalf. When driven by artificial intelligence, it can learn from past interactions to build a more relevant library of answers over time. You can still jump in when necessary, but your live chat will do the heavy lifting on your behalf.

3. Building an Effective Lead Nurturing Flow

Through your live chat or landing pages, you will generate inbound leads that you can target for more focused marketing outreach. But do you really have time to follow up within an hour, as most new leads expect, let alone an entire flow of emails that gently nurture your leads toward becoming customers?

For most small businesses, the answer is a clear no. But, and this won’t come as a shocker at this point: marketing automation can solve this need. In fact, the original use of automation in marketing was limited to email workflows that fired off automatically based on your leads’ actions.

The potential applications of this ability are numerous. In its simplest form, you can set up a lead nurturing flow that sends a series of targeted messages to new leads that provide more information about your company and industry. Leads that are nurtured in this way are more likely to become customers and generate almost 50 percent more revenue when they do.

4. Scoring Your Leads to Find the Perfect Time for the Pitch

Finally, even lead nurturing efforts can be ineffective if you miss the right time to make your sales pitch. Do it too early, and your leads may be turned off by messages that are too promotional before they’re ready to buy. Too late, and they might have already chosen a competitor.

That’s where lead scoring, the final component of marketing automation for small businesses, enters the equation. Most marketing automation tools allow marketers to assign point values to their leads, based on interactions with your content. Once they reach a specific point total, they are ready for the pitch.

For instance, you may determine that a lead needs to reach 50 points to be ready. Each email open is worth 5 points, a click is worth 10, and visiting your pricing page is worth 20. All points are calculated dynamically, once the setup is complete.

When a lead reaches the threshold, you can reach out and close the deal. Marketers who engage in lead scoring show a 77 percent increase in ROI.

Marketing automation, in short, can contribute significantly to your marketing strategy. Set it up right, and it’s the holy grail of digital marketing: it saves you time and money, while also increasing your revenue. The above four tips help you get to that point, maximizing your return on investment and growing your business over time.