By now, just about everyone is familiar with Iron Man:
the genius billionaire playboy philanthropist super hero who uses his brains and money to save the world as part of the Avengers.
Robert Downey Jr.’s role as Iron Man is one of the most beloved in the Marvel franchise today. But for me personally, the coolest thing about the Iron Man movies isn’t Iron Man. It’s Jarvis, Iron Man’s A.I. personal assistant/punching bag who understands and speaks English, anticipates next tasks and generally is there to help Tony do whatever he needs to do: save the world, assemble cars or put out fires.
Full disclosure: I very, very badly want a Jarvis of my own. But I’m not a genius billionaire playboy philanthropist super hero (sorry to say)—so I’m not sure I’ll be able to build my own Jarvis. But in the digital marketing space (what I love to do), creating your own Jarvis is a little closer than before, thanks to marketing automation.
“Marketing automation” is the buzzword in the digital marketing space right now, and it should be. I absolutely love automation, in any aspect. The advancements that have happened in this space, in particular, within just the last year have been impressive.
But, sadly, marketing automation also conjures up ideas of dry, poorly written emails with the bare minimum of personalization. We all get those emails… and purge them as fast possible. These are not what marketing automation is supposed to be. At no point should marketing automation water down your messaging. If you write personal, casual, succinct emails to your customers when it’s a one-on-one conversation, then your marketing automation should do the exact same thing, or it’s just going to annoy your customers (just like it annoys you).
Just Marketing Automation or More?
The new trend (and one that is incredibly important) is the combination of marketing automation platforms and customer relationship management systems (CRMs). You want your emails to be targeted. You want to gather more information from your customers over time. But is that messaging/information really valuable if you have nowhere to store it? Is your bottom line really going to improve if your sales team can’t use the information you gather to help them close more deals? Honestly, no.
So, one thing to look for is if your marketing automation platform has a native CRM or can integrate with the CRM you have up and running. We use SharpSpring exactly for this reason. SharpSpring has all of the marketing automation capabilities that you could hope for, and it has a CRM built right in. It also is one of the most economical in the space right now. In our opinion, it’s the biggest “bang for buck” and the most user-friendly marketing automation platform out there.
(We are also HubSpot Certified, Pardot Certified for our clients with Salesforce and have experience with other platforms like Bridgeline, Marketo and more—but the tenets are the same across all of these platforms.)
Always look for:
- CRM and marketing automation capabilities in one platform.
- Easy-to-use email designer.
- Easy-to-use landing page designer.
- Customizable forms.
- Ability to set up workflows that can segment your customers automatically.
What Marketing Automation Is Supposed to Look and Feel Like
Marketing automation is meant to help you send more targeted messaging to your customers or clients. It’s designed to help your sales team close more deals by gathering more information. But first and foremost, it’s something you use to provide more value to your customer.
Jarvis doesn’t walk around telling Tony Stark about his wonderful programming all day. That would be annoying. If you only send boring, self-aggrandizing emails about your company to the people in your CRM, you will NOT help your bottom line. Too many companies are only talking about themselves. Too many companies are asking for something from their customers in every email and not giving anything in return. A good rule of thumb is 80% value, 20% ask. Approximately 80% of the emails you send customers should be all about them and about giving them something, whether that’s information, trends, a downloadable PDF, a tip or interesting article. Don’t gate that material. Don’t make your customers jump through hoops. Just give it to them because it will help them. The other 20% of the emails should contain a call to action that will help your business: asking customers to set up a call or to fill out a form for a report. If you’ve done this correctly, customers will know who you are, they will trust you as a thought-leader in your field, and your conversions will increase because of that relationship.
The days of “We’ll blast emails and ask for sales” are long gone. The days of “Let’s build a relationship with our customers over time—automatically—and capitalize on that when everyone is comfortable and ready” are here.
Some pointers about email:
- Be direct and personal.
- Avoid talking about yourself too much.
- Show some personality in your copy—be human and friendly.
- Don’t frequently ask your customers to do something; it gets old.
- Send fewer emails that add real value than a frequent stream of “fluff” emails that do nothing for your customer.
Something Not to Be Missed: The Auto Thank You
When someone opts in to your email list, becomes a customer for the first time via an online sale or gives you their email to send a follow up, program the marketing automation system to send them an email immediately: the sooner, the better.
These introductory “Thanks for signing up! Here are some other things you may be interested in” emails have some of the highest open rates in the business—as high as 70% to 80%. Customers just gave you their information, so you are top of mind. The chance of them opening your email is much higher. Capitalize on that. Just be sure to give them something of value, and they will at least look at it. It’s a good way to start a relationship with your customers.
Marketing automation is making leaps and bounds in its sophistication, and there are zero signs of it stopping anytime soon. Used correctly, it’s an invaluable tool that can help you speak to your audience in a more targeted way, while requiring very little effort on your part. Hopefully, some of these guidelines have helped you think up some good strategies and helped you avoid some common pitfalls.