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Marketing Automation: The first (and worst) things to do

Disclaimer: If you are new to marketing automation, and would like a good introduction, check out my last article, Marketing Automation: How to Market Like Ironman and Jarvis and then this material will make more sense!

The task of setting up marketing automation is a mix of left- and right-brain thinking. It’s rooted in numbers, data and processes.

But to pull it off well—in a way that feels real and personal—is an art. You must not only think empathetically, i.e., “Would I actually enjoy getting this email?” but also logically so you can set up the automations responsibly from the beginning to avoid things going wrong in the future.

First: Start off clean.

When setting up just about any marketing automation tool, there first has to be testing, including dummy forms and email templates and the like, to make sure everything is “talking” correctly and you’re able to set up your workflows.

But very often the excitement of the new tool makes people skip the important step of cleaning up all of that information before starting the actual automations. When the testing is done, the automations are set up and looking good, you may be confident you can start using your marketing automation tool—don’t.

Take one day.

Use that time to look in every folder, every section of your tool and delete everything that isn’t absolutely necessary. Remember, when a “dummy lead” gets sent emails and hard bounces, it impacts your deliverability. When an automation that you never set up triggers, it can confuse and actually interfere with other processes, sometimes even breaking them, which can cause a lot of hard work to be lost.

Worst: Don’t do this: HI [FIRST NAME] [LAST NAME]!

Ever receive an email that started like that? I know I have. And it makes your targets feel like just another number. This all comes down to testing, but this is a damning mistake when it comes to email automation.

Now, having these variables in your email can be extremely powerful; I am not suggesting you shy away from it. I’m simply saying that if you are not 10,000% sure that the variable field names you’ve set up are working properly, it is a much better idea to avoid using them at all.

Another red flag: inconsistent naming conventions in your tools. For some, “First Name” and “Last Name” are totally different fields. Others say “Full Name” and that’s it.

Well, now what do you do? The true fix is to make sure your data is congruent before you upload it or marry the two tools together. But if that is impossible, you have to play this intelligently. Do you work in an industry that it’s okay to address your customers by first name alone? Or do you work in an industry where it makes more sense to start an email with a Mr./Mrs. “Last Name”? Let that be your guide.

The bottom line: Don’t use variables unless you have tested everything, exhaustingly. It’s much better to get an email that says “Hey there!” or “Hello” than what is mentioned above.

First: Tie your client email in. (This is a big one)

Just about every tool I’ve ever had my hands on had the ability to link your email to your marketing automation tool. This is crucial, because there are plenty of conversations that happen via email that aren’t sent from your marketing automation tool.

Linking your email client (Outlook, Gmail, whatever your company uses) with your marketing automation tool lets you catalog conversations, keep everyone at your company up-to-date, and makes it easier for you to decide when and what to send to your customers more effectively.

Note: Be absolutely sure to turn on the “not including internal conversations” functionality. It’s very important. It gets very, very messy if you don’t.

Worst: Take it easy.

As I said earlier, empathy is a big factor in an effective marketing automation campaign.

Always ask yourself (in an unbiased way): “Would I read this? Would this bring value to me?” To be perfectly blunt, most of the time the answer is no.

Don’t hit them with too much. It’s more tasteful, and much more effective, to email them less, but with higher quality content. If you send an email once a month with stellar content, you’ll get more opens and clicks. Yes, automation is a numbers game and you want to stay top of mind as much as you can. But if you don’t have great content to share, or a good reason to send a communication, don’t. Be conservative.

It all boils down to striking the right balance of left- and right-brain thinking. Get it right, and the results will follow. Get it wrong and, well you know.


Director of Digital Operations


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