If you’re a marketer, there are simply never enough hours in the day to accomplish everything on your list. Automation is more than something cool used on assembly lines, it’s a critical requirement for digital marketers today. However, automation can potentially go horribly wrong — posting crazy content to your company’s social media accounts at all hours of the day or night, for example — so how can you make sure you’ve got automation tools that will work with you instead of against you?
Remember in the good old days, where you created a marketing plan at the beginning of the year and simply worked the plan? Yeah, neither do I. Marketing is an ever-changing beast, with new tools and best practices driving shifts in your strategy on a monthly if not weekly (or even daily!) basis. Marketing automation is more than the latest in a string of never-ending buzzwords. It’s the practice of creating and continually adjusting a sustainable customer journey through actions that occur based on other actions. This could be anything from mundane Facebook posts to an intensely complicated, multi-step omnichannel nurture campaign. Every marketer dreams of being like Amazon: able to present the next-best option, personalized for each individual, based on an organization’s deep knowledge of buying habits, timing and pricing strategies. Unfortunately, the reality is much different.
Automation Can’t Solve Poor Strategy
All automation can do for poor strategy is amplify it — definitely not the direction that you want to go! Marketers are constantly seeking the Holy Grail of automation, a tool that will essentially generate leads and close sales without external input once it’s properly deployed. The truth is that there’s no quick fix or magic bullet that will support the ideal marketing funnel. There are definitely some tools that will help you deliver a more targeted and relevant user experience, resulting in better engagement and increased sales at each stage of the marketing funnel.
Top of Funnel
When you’re attempting to entice a user to interact with your brand, few things get people more excited than interesting and relevant content. How do you define relevant? Targeted marketing helps, but finding the right audience for your message is crucial. Are you likely to message a product for middle-aged, stay-at-home mothers on Twitter? Instagram? Facebook? LinkedIn? Obviously, there are some options that are better than others, which is why understanding your audience is crucial. Top of funnel automation tools are meant to help deliver your message in such a way that you’re encouraging a deeper interest — and hopefully driving a click to your website.
Social media management can be all-consuming, but these tools excel at keeping you on track. Pre-schedule messages to post during times your audience is fully engaged, and enjoy a dashboard that provides social listening to gauge brand sentiment (and respond in real time!)
- HootSuite.com – Perhaps the best-known example of social media management tools, Hootsuite offers a full “suite” of services and analytics and easily manages multiple brands.
- Sendible.com – Built-in access to Canva, a fabulous design tool, makes Sendible a true contender. The slick user interface makes it easy to engage your audience and manage daily marketing tasks.
- Buffer – If you spend a great deal of time aggregating stories, then Buffer is the app for you. You can quickly grab content from the web and schedule it for reposting directly from your browser — even from your mobile device.
- Sprout Social – Like several of the other tools, Sprout Social allows you to assign tasks to team members which makes it ideal for larger marketing groups. Plus, the smart platform blocks duplicate messages so you can’t accidentally post the same article twice.
Middle/Bottom of Funnel
Once you’ve attracted eyeballs to your site or message, you need to slowly begin reeling them in with an offer or freebie. Once you have their contact information, you can more easily launch a string of targeted messages that will encourage a deeper involvement with your brand. Pop-ups on your website are the ideal way to offer value to visitors in exchange for contact information, and these tools will help you make the most of it:
- IFTTT – If This Then That is a tool that appears very simplistic at first blush. When some action occurs, you program a resulting next step. Easy, right?!?
- Facebook Messenger – The bot invasion has begun, and they’re not from outer space — they’re from Facebook! These easy automated messages allow you to target communications, answer questions, even help customers place an order.
- MailChimp / Shopify – eCommerce organizations will love the one-two combo of MailChimp and Shopify. The tight integration means you can target messaging and upselling based on the purchase and viewing behavior of customers on your site.
- Marketo – Perhaps the most user-friendly of the big-business marketing automation tools, Marketo provides integrated campaign management tools that can track every aspect of your business. From full integration with external databases such as an eCommerce engine to SMS texting, emails and personalized website interactions — Marketo does it all.
The above options are only a select few of the dozens of tools that fit in each of these categories — but they’re some of the best that can scale for businesses of all sizes. Technology has entered the marketing arena in a really big way, and savvy marketers are always looking for ways to make the most of it!