The world of marketing automation can often feel completely overwhelming. New advice comes out all the time, and there is always a new, must do! way to achieve your goals. At a conference, a friend once described it as trying to climb a sand dune in constantly shifting sands.
I love this analogy so much. Each little marketing automation strategy and tool is like a little grain of sand. You’re doing your best to get to the top, but the little grains of sand are always shifting against each other and progress feels hard and infuriatingly slow.
It’s easy to get lost and overwhelmed in the desert of marketing automation. But there is hope yet! There are a few common mistakes that almost every business makes with marketing automation, and thankfully there are some very specific ways you can solve them.
These strategies will not only help you right those little mistakes but also cut through that overwhelm and help you focus on only what you need to do to succeed.
Mistake 1: Email sending frequency
Let’s get started with something we all worry about - how many emails to send.
Email frequency is a slippery problem. Some people send far too many emails. They tank their sending reputation; their emails end up in the spam folder and often they get their accounts suspended. It’s bad for the consumer, and bad for you. Too many emails can kill your marketing automation hopes and dreams.
The heavy senders with the spammy reputation make people at the other end of the spectrum worry about sending too many emails and coming across as spammy or pushy.
This concern causes an entirely different problem: not sending enough emails. When you don’t send enough emails, you’ll also have poor sending reputation, your audience will be unengaged plus you’ll end up in the spam folder too. Too few emails can also kill your marketing automation hopes and dreams.
How many emails should you send with your marketing automation tool?
So how do you find that goldilocks area in the middle of all of this? The just-right space where you’re sending enough to keep people engaged and happy and your sending reputation is strong so you’re actually in the inbox?
There are a couple of very practical things you can do to solve this conundrum. First, be very clear on what communications you need to send. Draw up a rough calendar. Do you send a weekly blog email? A monthly newsletter? Sporadic monthly sales campaigns? Armed with that information you can move onto step two:
Here’s the secret to the perfect email sending frequency: It’s all in the expectations you set.
If you are crystal clear about what you’re going to send and why, your subscribers will expect exactly that. There is no magic number to precisely how many emails to send. Instead, the focus should be on making sure you’re only sending information of value, and your audience is clear on when and how that will happen.
To do this, set the scene straight away after opt-in. The very first email in your welcome campaign should help people understand how you will communicate with them and what to expect.
Then keep an eye on the data. Watch engagement and make sure that you tailor your email strategy to what is working for you and your audience.
If you’re still wanting a rough timeline, we recommend weekly sending. This is generally enough email to keep them engaged, but not too much to be obtrusive. However, we always adapt this to your audience and the experience you’re striving to create.
Mistake 2: Being too focused on the tools and the tactics
In my marketing automation desert analogy earlier, we touched on how all the strategies and tools are like grains of sand that make up the giant dune you’re trying to climb. Sounds dramatic right?
The truth is actually somewhat similar. In April 2020 there were over 8000 marketing automation tools available for you to use:
Around 1960 tools were added last year alone. That’s a 24.5% increase on the year before.
Marketing automation is a multi-billion dollar industry.
You don’t need the whole sand dune… The desert just wants you to think that.
You only need a few carefully selected grains of sand to succeed. Businesses waste thousands of pounds every year by buying tools that won’t help them succeed.
How to choose which marketing automation strategy or tool to use
There is a sound and simple way to beat the overwhelm and make strategic choices around your marketing automation tools and strategies.
Start with your automation plan first.
Sit down and plan your customer and automation journey out. Start from how you want to be getting leads in, define how you will nurture and educate them, clarify how sales come in and then plan how you will fulfil and strive for customer lifetime value.
When you have this process mapped out, you’ll be able to do three things:
Have a clear idea of what your strategy is, and what areas you need to work on.
Identify where you will need tools to help you, and precisely what they need to be able to do in order to help your strategy.
Understand what tactics you’ll need to be using to execute your strategy.
There are thousands of tactics and tools out there. But with a strong customer journey and automation strategy, you’ll be able to find the one or two that work for you. No wasted money, no overwhelm.
Mistake 3: The wrong lead magnets and entry points
“You don’t have enough entry points and your lead magnets are all sales-focused”, is probably one of the most common sentences I say when I’m critiquing marketing automation strategies. I always feel mean saying it, but clear is kind, and I’m here to make your marketing automation awesome after all.
Lead magnets trip businesses up time and time again.
We plough so much time and energy into creating them, before putting them out there and then… Crickets. Not enough leads.
Worse, the ones that do get opt-ins to generate poor quality leads that don’t convert.
Traffic to the lead magnets aside, assets that generate poor leads and low conversion rates are usually a symptom of having the wrong lead magnet in place.
Lead magnets are your marketing automation fuel. They bring people into the process so that you can nurture, educate and engage them. Without good leads coming into the system, the whole machine grinds to a halt and you can go no further.
How to improve your lead magnets to fuel your marketing automation
The classic mistake with lead magnets is making them something that isn’t actually solving a problem for your audience.
Your audience has very specific wants and needs at each stage of their journey towards finding the solution to their problem. You’re an expert and you can help them with that problem - all that needs doing is matching where they are in the journey, to your fantastic advice.
We call this process your consumer goes through the awareness journey. Mapping out the awareness journey is a powerful exercise that will help you understand exactly what your audience needs at each stage in the process, and how you can help them along the way.
Not only will you be able to create something that solves a real challenge for them, and they really want to consume, but you will also see how you can create multiple lead magnets.
Every business should have an array of lead magnets across different stages of the awareness journey. This means multiple entry points to your marketing automation, and more leads to fuel the system.
Once you have those leads in the system you can then cascade them through their awareness journey until they are ready for sales. Marketing automation heaven.
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Mistake 4: Poor follow up and engagement
You’ve done such great work getting the lead, they’ve opted-in and they’re ready to be educated and nurtured. Nicely done! Then you go straight in for the hard sell. You lose their interest and their trust because you went for the sale too early. Not so great.
Worse yet - you get the lead in and then… Nothing. No follow up, no engagement. No conversion for you.
Poor follow up and engagement are extremely common mistakes, but also cardinal sins in my book. Marketing automation is all about the engagement and the follow up!
This is where your tools should be shining. The quality of your follow up determines the quality of your leads, and how engaged your audience is. It’s also something that can be completely automated so you can focus on those leads that are ready to buy.
If you think this might be an issue for you there are some simple ways to identify this problem - you may be experiencing one of the following symptoms:
- Lack of engagement from emails
- Poor conversion
- High opt-outs
- Spam complaints
Low engagement is nebulous, you can have a great sized list - but unless they actively engage with you - they are worth nothing.
Instead, focus on your follow up and enjoy a responsive list of high converting customers that keep coming back for more.
How to increase engagement and improve follow up
There are a few basic considerations for when you’re planning for world-class follow up. The first is to consider the relevancy of that follow up.
Where has the lead come from? What have they done? What are they interested in? How can you add value relative to these?
World-class follow up is all about adding value and educating your audience. Focus on providing relevant content for where they are in their journey. As we discussed in Mistake 3, the awareness journey will help you understand where your consumer is and what would be valuable to them in that moment. This is where your focus should be.
Good follow up is also very mindful of whether or not your consumer is ready for the sale. You want good quality leads that are ready to convert, and your marketing automation should be focusing on providing those for you. Build your follow up plan around awareness and you’ll be providing content that is relevant and valuable in the moment.
But don’t stop at lead magnets and sales! Nurture is forever. Make sure you also have long term nurture in place to help keep your audience highly engaged.
Mistake 5: Poor segmentation
Have you heard the term scattergun marketing before? A scattergun is a type of gun that fires lots of little balls of ammunition at the same time (similar to a shotgun). It sprays the pellets out in a chaotic and disorganised pattern. Like its namesake, scattergun marketing is throwing your message out there in an untargeted and disorganised way.
Scattergun marketing leads to poor conversion rates. It usually takes the form of blanket broadcasting messages to everyone. Often those messages simply don’t connect with the intended audience because they’re so broad they’re not meaningful to the recipients.
Instead of a scattergun approach, you want a super targeted laser-like pew pew approach. Targeted messaging can be personalised to who your audience is and what they care about.
It’s this personalisation that allows your messaging to connect in a meaningful way. This means higher conversion rates for you and a much more enjoyable consumer experience for your audience.
If you’re not segmenting your audience based on their challenges and interests, you can’t give them this amazing personalised experience.
Most businesses do extremely rudimentary segmentation and they miss out on the higher levels of engagement you can enjoy when you segment your audience based on behaviour. No laser targeted pew pew for them.
How to segment your audience and increase engagement
Let’s talk segmentation and how to enhance it so you get all the good stuff from a targeted approach. To get started you have basic segmentation that you do by customer type. Things like:
- New Lead
- New customer
- Customer type (ie by product purchase)
- Past customer
- Repeat customer
And you can continue breaking them down - we have 13 customer types we have defined.
This information is great as it helps you understand who to send promotions to, and who not to. It also helps you understand who to onboard (new customers) and who to welcome (new leads). The deeper you go the more tailored you can bet with the messaging that you’re sending to these people.
But there is one thing it’s not telling you - what those people are interested in.
Interest-based segmentation is what does the trick for that. Interest tells you what information they would like to hear about from you. You can get this from asking them when they opt-in, or from tracking their engagement and segmenting them appropriately as they engage.
When you start to track and segment people based on engagement with content, you’re starting to behaviourally segment your audience. This is powerful for engagement rates as it means you’re only offering the information they are interested in.
But there is one level deeper you should go - tracking awareness-based engagement. Awareness tells you what’s a problem for them right now, and therefore what is valuable to them at this moment in time. Awareness information also lets you know how ready they are for sales. You can learn about awareness by the type of lead magnets and blog posts they read.
Awareness combined with interest and customer type makes for powerful segmentation. It means you can provide the right information to the right person at the right time. Super laser targeted.
Mistake 6: Not focusing on the whole marketing automation journey
Most marketing automation focuses on lead generation, and for good reason - it is amazing at it. But it’s not just for generating leads and then handing them off to sales…
Marketing automation is also about the engagement and conversion of those leads. It should be supporting sales in getting the best highest possible, and if you don’t have a sales team… It should be converting those sales for you.
But don’t stop there… It has a function after sales too. Marketing is also about keeping customers and your marketing automation should support you in increasing your customer lifetime value. It should be helping you onboard your customers, get repeat sales and get referrals and testimonials.
Unfortunately, too many businesses only use marketing automation to attract leads. It’s a huge, missed opportunity to keep customers happy and increase your profits.
How to use your marketing automation for the entire customer lifecycle
Automating, personalising and systematising your full customer journey is a fantastic way to leverage tools to increase your overall business efficiency and your profits.
Lifecycle marketing is the world-class framework we use to help our clients plan out their automation journeys. Splitting the process up into how you plan to Attract, Engage, Sell and Wow your customers means you get clarity on the full journey.
According to Bain and Co, you can increase your profits by 95% by retaining just 5% of your customer base for additional sales. That’s well worth the effort.
What to do now?
Earlier on we defined marketing as everything you do to get and keep a customer. We define marketing automation as leveraging everything you do to get and keep a customer.
Your marketing automation is a way to deliver personalised experiences at scale. By focusing on adding value and educating leads and customers alike you’ll be able to avoid the mistakes we covered here. You’ll increase your leads, your lead quality and engagement, your conversion rates and your profits.
Journeys like this require planning and consideration. Do the groundwork and you’re far less likely to make some of these mistakes because you’re working towards a proven world-class framework.
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