There is no denying that Marketing Automation is an incredibly powerful tool. Utilised correctly it can save a business time and money in a way that few other technologies can. However due to the nature of Marketing Automation small mistakes can end up costing a business dearly. There is a reason we always give this bit of advice to anyone beginning their Marketing Automation journey; keep it simple.
It’s absolutely natural to get carried away with all of the possibilities that Marketing Automation brings, even the most basic platforms are capable of highly complex automation sequences. The correct question is rarely ‘what is the platform capable of?’ but rather ‘what are we capable of?’ Or even ‘what is our agency capable of?’ There are a handful of behaviours and common mistakes I’ve observed in businesses that are implementing Marketing Automation for the first time over the last few years. With retrospect I have to admit I was guilty of some of them when I first got my hands on a fully functioning Marketing Automation suite. Hopefully my experience can prevent you from making some of the mistakes I’ve observed over the last half a decade.
1. Plan or map every Campaign!
We’ve all been there, you’re taught a process or methodology that you know is important but after the 5th, 10th or 15th time using the framework it begins to feel like second nature; like you don’t even really need to follow all of those steps. Obviously it’s needed for beginners but after this many implementations, cycles or campaigns it’s fair to say you no longer feel like a beginner.
With Marketing Automation you will never reach a level where you are ‘good enough’ to skip the mapping and planning sections of the process. A simple mis-click during set-up could mean that your whole process is working on a timescale of hours rather than weeks. With workflows, tasks, lists, analytics and multiple other factors all having to work together accurately you’d have to be a superhuman to keep track of every single interaction in even a simple automated campaign. A detailed plan or map allows you to trace any issues back to their source without wasting hours pouring through separate pages of your website and automation platform. These have the added bonus of making your campaigns far more easily repeated, measured and benchmarked.
2. Don’t take the transfer of knowledge and skills for granted
Marketing Automation is most successful when the responsibility and accountability for it’s success or failure rests on an individual or close-knit team. However this does not mean that the individual or team should be the only people working with the technology. A few hours worth of ‘hands-on’ experience begins to open a considerable skills-gap, the longer this goes unaddressed the harder it becomes to communicate across it.
The comparison I often use is building a cupboard that has dovetail joints. Whilst someone may understand the concept, the specific design and the manufacture process, it remains very unlikely that they will produce a perfect cupboard as their first piece of carpentry. Unfortunately it’s almost impossible to give all of the staff all of the time they need to reach a comfortable level of competence with a new technology. This certainly isn’t unique to Marketing Automation but it is more critical than with other Digital Marketing Technologies. Documenting processes, problems and solutions from the start of your implementation rather than from when the first handover is imminent means that the skills and knowledge gaps are far more easily navigated.
3. Don’t be afraid to purge your database of inactive contacts
Building a ‘list’ or contact database from scratch correctly is often a long and painful process for small businesses. If it’s taken 4 years to reach 10,000 opted-in contacts then the thought of culling half of them is understandably going to be an unpleasant one. However, having a database full of unengaged and inactive contacts isn’t just a harmless vanity, it can harm your deliverability rates and ultimately is a waste of resources.
Before removing contacts you can actively seek re-engagement to make sure you’re not losing a contact of any value. A simple email alluding to the fact the contact doesn’t seem to have been enthused by the content lately and that you’ll stop sending it on that basis is all that is required. Any customer that is likely to convert, that wants to remain in contact and actually has a chance of becoming active again will take this chance to engage. Those that don’t aren’t a loss to the businesses anyway.
4. Pick the right platform for you and be realistic about it’s limitations
The financial reality of running a SME (small / medium enterprise) is that you will never be able to have all of the tools and technologies that do everything you want in the way you want. A more complex CRM (customer relationship management) system or ERP (enterprise resource planning) system may necessitate a more basic automation platform and vice versa. The ‘best’ platform for you will depend on your business, having an explicit set of requirements and a no-nonsense attitude with the Sales Reps should help to determine whether each platform is capable of what you need it to do.
If you find yourself in the situation of needing to do something that is very difficult or unproven on your chosen platform it is prudent to step back and assess whether spending time to force a solution could be better spent looking for an alternative or workaround. Working and developing with the platform is fine but if fundamental incompatibilities begin to appear it’s easy to become fixated on making this solution work rather than fixing the problem in the most effective fashion.
5. Make sure you understand ‘The Funnel’
The timing of the events that draw a contact through your marketing funnel will have a direct effect on the amount of those contacts that eventually become customers. The exact time spans vary from industry to industry but some constants remain;
- Pushing a customer through the funnel at an artificial pace will negatively affect your reputation and your bottom line.
- If there is no increase in urgency throughout the length of the funnel the contact engagement will drop.
- Failing to properly direct contacts through the funnel is as bad as pushing them through it too fast. A contact should never be wondering what to do next, your Calls To Action and follow-up should leave them in no doubt.
Increase the effectiveness of longer running campaigns by keeping a contact's attention using remarketing. Fine-tuning the time it takes to pass through a specific marketing funnel is tricky. It sounds obvious but the risk of contacts becoming disengaged can be minimised by producing engaging and informative content. A dozen pieces of sub-par content placed in a perfectly timed campaign will still convert but the amount of possible leads missed will be huge.