marketing automation

How To Kick-Start Marketing Automation for Small Businesses

indexThere is so much “talk” about marketing automation, and we all know it is here to stay, but there is very little talk about what this means for small businesses.

Online conversations surrounding marketing automation have predominantly been about choosing or reviewing the marketing automation tools with players like HubSpot, Marketo, Pardot, and Eloqua. However, many small businesses are not even at the “tool” step in their process – they still need to understand how this applies to them, and if it can dramatically increase efficiency and output as it claims to do for so many larger brands.

I’ve outlined below a few tips on how to get started with your marketing automation. I hope that it will help you determine if this is even something worth investing your time, and if so, whether to start on a small scale or outsource it to a marketing agency.

Assess Your Needs: Before you can determine if you need MA, first review your current level of online marketing tools including PPC, web, and social media. Look at what is working and what is not. Look at your lists – how large are they and what type of responses are you getting from them? Are you running individual online campaigns that require manual segmenting of email lists? How much time do all these tasks take and what revenues/leads are being generated by them?

Create a Strategy: For best results, you need a marketing automation strategy and it should be revisited regularly, adjusted, and optimized. You need to clearly spell out what type of MA you are willing to invest in, what lists you will use or acquire, and most importantly from where you will get your content.

Content Development: In the world of MA, content is still king, so you will need a content library. Do you have an in-house resource or will you work with an agency that can provide you with content? These need to be value-add pieces that resonate with your audience.

Just the Basics: Consider starting out small with a technology that offers very basic functionality, but once in place can yield significant results. Even if you don’t have time initially to take advantage of all of the capabilities of marketing automation, just building one or two early-stage lead-nurturing campaigns can increase your quarterly volume of qualified leads by 120%— a very small time investment for game-changing results.

We as small businesses are set to become some of the biggest beneficiaries in the age of automation, but whether it’s the right time for your business or if it’s even the right fit for your business is worth exploring.

Do you think you know enough to start assessing the value for MA in your business?   If not, what would you like to know more about to help you decide if it’s right for you?

3 Myths About Programmatic Advertising Every Business Should Know

programmatic-topt-tipsContinuing along the theme of automated marketing, I wanted to discuss programmatic advertising as it has changed the face of online advertising. As a fairly new concept, I wanted to debunk a few myths that are already surfacing about it.

“Programmatic” ad buying is like using machines to buy ads. Software purchases digital advertising, as opposed to the traditional process that involves human negotiations and manual insertion orders.

Myth 1: Robots are replacing people
Yes and no. Technology is being used to replace some of the more menial tasks that humans have historically had to deal with, like sending insertion orders to publishers and dealing with ad tags, but they’re still required to optimize campaigns and to plan strategies. Programmatic technology will probably mean there are fewer ad buyers in the world, but it could also allow both marketers and sellers to spend more of their time planning sophisticated and customized campaigns instead of getting bogged down in bureaucracy.

Myth 2: Programmatic advertising takes humans out of the buying equation
While it is true that digital ads were bought and sold by ad buyers and salespeople and that programmatic advertising technology has replaced them in this role, the human element in programmatic advertising is in the strategy. Think of it like this – the machines are the brawn and humans are the brains.

Myth 3: Programmatic advertising is the same as real-time bidding
Real-time bidding (RTB) is a type of programmatic advertising but not all programmatic advertising uses RTB. Programmatic advertising refers to the purchase of ads through real-time auctions, but programmatic software also allows advertisers to buy guaranteed ad impressions in advance from specific publisher sites.

Programmatic ad buying is definitely on the rise and some agencies are eager to buy as much media as possible through programmatic channels. Some major brands have also dedicated programmatic ad buying to their in-house teams.

Although it is still mainly online ads that are traded programmatically, it is clear that on the horizon and coming to an agency near you is the opportunity to buy “traditional” media this way, including TV spots and out-of-home ads!

Do you think programmatic advertising is something only for large brands and agencies? Are you currently using programmatic advertising for your company? After reading this blog, will you be considering this for your business? I look forward to your comments.

Kick Start Your Automated Marketing – Not With Technology

Screen Shot 2015-07-21 at 8.35.58 AMMarketing automation (MA) can seem quite a complicated, misunderstood, multi-faceted beast to some organizations because it is more than a centralized platform to handle all online communication – with its many moving parts and strategic decisions, it’s hard for many to get started.

The media would have us believe that MA is all about choosing the right technology and voila, you have MA! Well, sorry to break it to you, but buying the technology is a small part of the story; it’s really all about creating a framework and a strategy.

Knowing your MA strategy will require you to do all of the thinking upfront BEFORE you invest in the software, I have outlined a few key aspects you should consider to kick-start your MA program:

  • Conduct some research up front, including outlining what you want to get out of this program, and making sure to put your audience at the centre of your MA
  • Build an MA team comprised of key stakeholders from customer service, marketing, sales, and product development. You may want to include an agency representative or MA consultant at this point.
  • Conduct a situation analysis outlining where you are now, what systems are in place, what content, and what data do you have today and what is planned for the full rollout of the program
  • Set business objectives to be clear as to why you are doing this, including ROI, reducing overhead, KPIs, communicating better with a target audience, or improving the customer experience
  • Develop strategies for scoring, nurturing, website, and content marketing framework
  • Set tactics with a 12-month view but look at a 3-month window with tactics and clear goals
  • Set responsibilities to be clear who is going to do what when, and if a controller is needed (externally or internally) to help measure success, and create and measure the program to a project plan
  • Review the various MA platforms available to decide which is the right one for your business e.g. Hubspot, Infusionsoft, Pardoc, Marketto are a few leaders
  • Begin implementing by adding a tracking code on your website, landing pages, etc.
    • Assess your reach including how much traffic, social media engagement, email contacts
    • Document audience personas and then create segments to better understand who these personas are (company size, level of person in company, etc.)
      • Processing leads from initial engagement to opportunity enables you to build and nurture workflows in line with the objectives laid out in your tailored strategy.
    • Align segments with your CRM campaigns (e.g. SalesForce opportunities)
    • Building content framework is key to this type of program so keep building on it depending on your objectives. The content could be awareness content like whitepapers and webinars, or inbound-focused with downloads.
    • Leads will not be created by this software, but rather will be created by your ability to provide or repurpose amazing content which the software then serves up
      • You will target, segment and personalize on relevancy, which turns sales into customer service. Nurturing your customers from cold to warm enables you to give them what they are looking for.
    • Analytics will score each visitor interaction on the basis of profile and behaviour, resulting in a prioritized marketing database.

MA allows us to imagine a world where machines and not your staff perform the majority of your marketing activities including reviewing analytics, creating performance reports and data visualizations, writing and scheduling social media updates, determining blog post topics, copywriting, curating content, building strategy, and allocating resources. The result of implementing a solid MA program is that the marketer’s primary role will be to collect and enhance algorithm-based recommendations and content, rather than to devise them.

Are you armed with the knowledge to launch your automated marketing strategy or do you need some help? What help would you need to get started? I look forward to an active discussion!