Imagine a small business with a staff of three: the owner, an assistant and a bookkeeper. The assistant is in charge of responding to all e-mail and phone inquiries regarding products and prospective business. Then the assistant catches the flu and is out of the office for a week. That same week, the owner is on vacation and the bookkeeper is at a conference. E-mails begin to pile up in the inbox and by the time anyone is able to respond, the customers have gone elsewhere.
Automated marketing can alleviate this problem by sending response e-mails based on your parameters. A single, timely e-mail response ensures that your customer feels tended to and in good hands. Automated tools can also track people on your website and put relevant content and inventory in front them. These platforms can track and respond to your leads every step of the way, with the ideal end goal of converting a sale or client.
Marketing Automation Platforms
Marketing automation platforms utilize specifically designed software to automatically generate e-mails, responses, etc. as part of your marketing efforts. At its best, marketing automation takes repetitive tasks and automates them to give your existing and prospective customers seamless and quality service.
What Can a Marketing Automation Software Platform Really Do for Me?
The marketing logistics and potential of these software platforms is really quite impressive. Using one or more automation tools, you can customize and automatically send behavior-based e-mails. You can also track and set up automatic follow-up of prospects and leads. Some of these programs allow you to automatically send newsletters and customized e-mail campaigns. All of these platforms are designed to assist you in converting leads and purchases.
There are various excellent paid options for marketing automation:
- We recommend Active Campaign, which is an industry leader in the space and has lead generation at its core.
- Salesforce has an impressive array of opportunities but comes with a hefty price tag and is really more appropriate for large organizations.
- Infusionsoft and Marketo are both big players in marketing automation and offer some great features as well.
If you’re eager to give marketing automation a try on your own, though, there are some free options that are worth considering.
Free, Open-Source Marketing Automation Platforms
For a small business that has limited resources and budget to invest in a marketing campaign, a truly well-developed marketing plan that utilizes free, open-source marketing automation gives the company an opportunity to compete with companies with bigger budgets.
A small business may not have the staff or payroll needed to grow without assistance. By automating many of the marketing processes, a business owner like you can maximize the reach of his or her advertising with minimal out-of-pocket expenses.
Open-source marketing automation services are a great resource, because they mean your desire to automate a portion of your marketing doesn’t have to come with a steep price tag. There are many free, open-source options that may work for you.
Leadsius is a good example. The free version of this program allows you to have 2,500 free contacts, one user and unlimited e-mails. If your needs exceed these parameters, you always have the option to upgrade for a fee ($75/month).
Another free, open-source option is Jumplead. Jumplead gives you much less than Leadsius in the free version, but the upgrade price is significantly lower at just $49/month. The no-cost version gives you 200 contacts, 200 website visitors, 100 emails and one user. Depending on your campaign goals and scale, these may be viable marketing automation options.
Using Marketing Automation Software for Its Intended Purpose
In the best of worlds, these software platforms allow you to build your customer base and increase sales by contributing to the success of your marketing efforts. When properly implemented automation happens, you are able to customize and increase efforts.
Which brings us to an important aspect of automation software: what it can’t do. Many people become frustrated with these platforms because they don’t know what is and isn’t appropriate. Marketing automation can’t be the end-all, be-all of your campaign. These tools need to be used in conjunction with your overall marketing plan. They are complementary to your strategy, not the whole strategy itself.
Automation also should not replace organic efforts:
- You shouldn’t run out and buy e-mail contact lists and use automation tools to blast automatic e-mails to this list expecting conversions. This is one strategy, but will usually generate a poor return.
- Your content and customization should be strategic and doesn’t replace a personalized touch. You still need to demonstrate that you are a subject matter expert in your field of business.
- You should be cultivating relationships with clients and possible referral sources. Social media should be a tool in your toolbox and posting relevant and frequent content should be a priority.
Marketing automation can make all these things easier, but shouldn’t replace them.
Technology brings with it a wide range of opportunity. Resist the temptation to become solely reliant on marketing automation options. When used correctly, as a piece of the entire marketing effort, these platforms can make your life easier and substantially increase your investment.
Marketing Automation Help
It’s certainly possible for a small business owner to set up a marketing automation program in-house, though setting it up can be a challenge if you’ve never done it before. We’re happy to have a complimentary strategy session with you to establish your goals and design an overall marketing plan that uses automation where it works best and still establishes a high level of organic growth.
Book a session with us today!