Does anyone else feel like marketing is an endless cycle of repetition? No sooner have you finished a task, it needs doing again. The blogs that need writing each week. The social posts that need to go out daily. All the newsletters to be sent. All the ads to be created.
On and on… wouldn’t it be nice if you could just remove a huge chunk of that work, while also improving your results?
Well, you can. Automating your inbound marketing efforts is not only far more efficient, it’s more effective, and allows you to do a load of cool stuff that’s actually very difficult if you’re not automating it.
But what exactly is marketing automation? And why do you need to automate your inbound marketing? Here’s all you need to know…
What Is Inbound Marketing Automation?
Automating your inbound marketing involves precisely what you’d expect: the automation of marketing efforts that draw people to your business. Content marketing, PPC, lead magnets, email marketing, and various other elements of a comprehensive marketing strategy can all be considered inbound.
These days, any online business (which really should be every business) will get more out of its digital marketing efforts by creating an inbound funnel. A funnel is a system that attracts (through organic and paid efforts) ideal customers to your business’ website, entices them to sign up to your email list, then nurtures your relationship with them until they are ready to buy from you.
There are multiple ways of achieving this, but the majority breakdown into a simple formula:
- Provide free content of high value to attract people to your website.
- Offer them something of even greater value, on the same topic, in exchange for their email address and permission to market to them.
- Send them a series of emails providing them with even more value, introducing your brand, and highlighting your offerings’ benefits.
- Offer them a low-price product or service that allows them to easily buy into your company, without a big commitment.
- Upsell them on higher ticket items.
- Ensure they’re happy with their purchases/services, so they continue to buy from you in the future and recommend you to others.
There are vast swathes of the inbound funnel process that can be easily automated so that you don’t have to think about them. Then, when done well, all you need to do is ‘feed’ the funnel at the ‘top end’ by consistently creating fresh, free content like blogs, videos, and social media posts.
And to be honest, you can automate a lot of that, too.
When done well, automating your inbound marketing ensures you consistently and continuously generate leads and sales. Not just during working hours while the office is open. Not just while you’re putting the effort in and directly working on it. But all the time.
All day, every day.
Automating your inbound marketing means making money in your sleep.
And who doesn’t want that?
Great, What’s The Catch?
If you’re looking around, waiting for the other shoe to land on your head, you’re not wrong. While many marketing elements can be automated, it’s not a foolproof method. You have to be extremely smart about it, and even then, things go awry.
We’ve all had emails gleefully greeting us with ‘Hi, “First Name”!’ and cringed. We’ve all experienced conversations with a brand on chat that didn’t involve anyone of the human persuasion.
There’s some stuff that technology can’t emulate, others that it can, but without anywhere near the same level of success, and still more than it can but really shouldn’t.
Does It Work?
That said, automated marketing can effectively help you with a lot of other aspects of your marketing strategy, like:
- Email marketing and newsletters
- Cross-channel marketing campaigns
- Lead generation
- Lead nurturing and scoring
- Cross-selling and up-selling
- Analytics and reporting
- Measuring ROI
- Website personalisation
- Pre-scheduling blog and social media content
Automated marketing is set to grow significantly in the next couple of years. But stats also show that marketers lack the right strategy to profit from inbound marketing systems.
So yes, while automation works, it’s not enough to whack everything you can on autopilot. Instead, you need a carefully constructed strategy tailored to your business model, needs, and goals underpinning that automation.
The Funnel Vs. The Flywheel…
The most frequent mistake in automated marketing is that people tend to think of it in terms of a funnel instead of a flywheel.
Given that we’ve all spent years learning how to craft inbound marketing funnels, this is hardly surprising. But technology has evolved (and continues to grow) new and increasingly sophisticated ways of automating content.
The impulse is to focus on sending the same content automatically to everyone.
Instead, we should be focusing on creating custom content to share with different segments of your audience according to the stage they’re at in their buyer’s journey, which element of your business they’re interested in, and how engaged they have proven to be with your content in the past.
The ‘one size fits all’ approach to automation, which sees you create a single nurture sequence that goes out to everyone, for everything, just doesn’t cut it. Even if you’re creating an original series for each point of signup, you’re not doing enough.
This Time, It’s Personal…
One of the biggest up-and-coming trends has been personalised content for a few years. And this goes way beyond adding a person’s name to the top of an email.
We’re talking about segmenting your email list according to the newsletters people engage with or ignore. We’re talking about sending tailored content recommendations to those segments based on their previously enjoyed content. We’re talking about showing different content to people when they browse your website, depending on their previous browsing habits.
The problem with creating generic content is that it gets generic results. You may have people in your audience who are incredibly interested in one of your offers, but have zero interest in all the others. It’s easy to turn a future sale into an unsubscribe simply by sending one to many newsletters about a subject that isn’t relevant to why they’re following you.
Not only does the generic content approach produce poorer results, but it’s also borderline spammy. For example, you may find people don’t realise they signed up to your newsletter, because the reason they did was so divergent from a piece of content you sent them that they’d never link the two together.
The result can be spam reports, or worse, claims of GDPR abuse.
You also have people in your audience at various stages along a journey. The relevant message to them at the start is likely to become irrelevant once they’re clients. A product or service frequently solves a problem, or improves an aspect of life that makes a person unhappy.
Your message resonates with people while they have that problem or seek that improvement, but once they’ve bought your doohickey and become a customer, or worked with you as a client, that should ease.
You can help them with other things, but your message needs to change to convert them to that next step.
Not repeat the original message.
Where Is Marketing Automation Used?
Let’s do some basic examples before digging into proper marketing jargon.
You are looking for a new product or service to buy. After some research, you find the perfect website and click on the “add to cart” button. Yet, something stops you from actually making a purchase. You go on with your day, almost forgetting about the product you left in your cart: then the website sends you an email reminding you to complete your purchase.
That’s automated marketing!
You go and try a famous restaurant. Since its owner was extremely clever, they invested in some essential web development features, and you could book your table and pay online. A couple of days later, you receive an email asking you to leave feedback on the meal you had.
You had a great time, so you left a positive review. That review helps other people find the restaurant, generating organic traffic without the restaurant or owner having to do something.
That feedback request was automated.
It’s almost Black Friday, and one of the online shops you buy from sends you an email to let you know about their enticing new offers on products that are similar to the ones you bought last time. Of course, you HAVE to go and take a look, and maybe you will even indulge in purchasing something you hadn’t before.
That’s well done, appropriate, automated marketing.
As you can see, most of the platforms or services you use daily benefit from the joy of having something automated.
And you benefit from it, too!
If I get an email from Killstar (favourite clothing brand) telling me something I previously looked at but didn’t buy is back in stock, odds are I’m going to buy it and be very happy. Because it irked me it was out of stock when I first looked, but I’m super forgetful and would never have gone back to check it regularly.
Should You Automate ALL Of Your Inbound Marketing?
Quick answer: no. Please, don’t. Automated marketing is a fantastic tool, but you shouldn’t use it for EVERYTHING.
Let’s take social media as an example: there’s nothing more annoying than a Facebook page replying to all of your comments with the same automated formula. It’s not good for the engagement in any way.
Likewise, bots that trawl around accounts on Instagram adding comments like ‘Promote it @SomeShadyAccount’ are a form of automated marketing done very poorly.
Social media engagement needs to be done by a living, breathing person who can engage in genuine dialogue with other accounts and answer questions on chat correctly.
There’s nothing more annoying than messaging someone’s Facebook page, Insta, or ‘Live Chat’ on their website and finding you’re speaking to a bot who can’t tell you a thing of use.
Want The Ultimate Automated Inbound Marketing Funnel?
If you’re thinking that setting all this up sounds like an absolute ballache (or whatever the female equivalent is), you would be right. The ultimate automation for marketing is just outsourcing the whole process to an excellent digital marketing agency that can do it for you.
We’re here to map out the perfect inbound funnel, set up all that bespoke, personalised automation, create a load of killer content, and generally ensure your marketing is shit hot.
Give us a call or book a free consultation, and we’ll get your marketing set up to generate leads and revenue while you sleep…
Our Head of Marketing, Hazel Butler, is an award-winning author, copywriter, and editor. Part ghostwriter, part blogger, part videographer, and part strategist, when she’s not endlessly penning content for our clients Hazel’s happily concocting the perfect marketing plans to propel their businesses forward.
Get to know her...