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According to Emailmonday, in May 2021, 51% of companies are currently using marketing automation and more than half of B2B companies (58%) plan to adopt the technology.

Although marketing automation has become an essential tool for marketing in today’s digital world, you aren’t alone if you’re not sure of what marketing automation means exactly or how it can benefit your small business.

So, let’s start with a brief introduction:

What is Marketing Automation?

Marketing automation is the use of software that enables marketers to automate their activities.

Automation empowers marketers across many different industries and organizations, by saving them countless hours of tedious labor, preventing human error, and improving their customers’ experiences. This might include simple tasks like setting up an automatic welcome email that will be sent to every new contact in your database or developing more complex, multichannel, digital marketing campaigns.

Bruce Swann, senior product marketing manager for Adobe Campaign told us that “marketing automation doesn’t have to be complicated or intimidating: You can start small.” Depending on the aims and activities of your marketing team, marketing automation can be as simple or as complex as you require it to be.

What can marketing automation be used for?

According to invesp, 92% of marketing automation users said their main goal was to improve their qualified lead pipeline, closely followed by customer retention (81%) and the lead nurturing process (66%). So how can marketing automation help them to achieve these goals?

Targeted emails, triggered by defined conditions, are a popular use of marketing automation to generate leads from landing pages and signup processes online. Sendinblue offers 10 of the best onboarding email examples to help you engage new customers.

But aside from email campaigns, you can also use marketing automation software for activities on other channels like:

  • SMS messages — if you are shipping any products to your customers, you can keep them in the loop with automated updates sent directly to their phones to track their packages.
  • Social media — some platforms enable you to schedule and publish content across different channels, or send automated responses to messages you receive.
  • Contact management — you can simplify the process of managing your contact lists and segmenting contacts based on different criteria. For example, a contact might be added to your “qualified leads” list if they visit your pricing page.
  • Lead scoring — determining whether a prospect is likely to be worth your valuable time and energy.

Implementing a marketing automation strategy

So now that you know a bit more about marketing automation, how do you create a marketing plan that uses automation effectively? Take the following steps to help you decide what activities should be automated to benefit you and your workflow process.

1. Decide on your goals

Your starting point should be defining what you’re aiming to achieve. Is it to generate more leads? To make certain processes quicker? To improve retention? Depending on your goal, you can then decide how marketing automation can best help you get the desired results.

2. Identify the target contacts

Now ask yourself: ‘Which segment of customers will I target?’ This could be leads you have already acquired or certain website visitors that you want to convert.

3. Build your workflow

Now you’re ready to create your marketing automation workflow. This is the set of rules that trigger your desired actions for a customer journey. But don’t worry, it’s not as complicated as it sounds — many platforms come equipped with ready-to-use workflow templates for different scenarios, including follow-ups with subscribers who engage with a campaign or personalized emails to shoppers based on their activity on your eCommerce site. You can then customize these templates to your needs or create your own from scratch.

4. Monitor performance

Once you’re happy with your workflow, you’re ready to go.

…but hold on just a second, that doesn’t mean your work is done. To get the most out of marketing automation, it’s important to continually track performance. Your platform should offer the functionality of real-time statistics to track activities like the number of campaigns sent, or metrics around engagement and conversions. This will help you to continually refine and improve your strategy.

Sendinblue offers 10 free marketing automation workflow examples to help you get started.

Best practices for effective marketing automation

Plan out your user journeys

By mapping out the journey customers should take, you can determine how you want to build your relationship with your audiences. Uncover key stages of your relationship like discovering your brand or converting a website visitor to a buying customer. This will form the basis of your automation workflows. Appcues offers a great resource for building user journeys but there are many free tools out there to help you create them in ways that best suit your needs.

Get your messaging right

Even if you create the perfect automation workflow, without the messaging to match you’re unlikely to see results. It must fit who you’re targeting and where they are in the journey to becoming a paying customer. Do they already know a little about your brand’s offer? Are they showing signs of being close to conversion?

Don’t set and forget

While marketing automation has the potential to save you significant time in the long term, don’t just hope for the best and leave the software to do all the work. It’s important to keep a close eye on your key metrics to ensure you’re on track and help you pinpoint any areas for improvement.

Try marketing automation today

Marketing automation empowers you to be even more targeted in your communications with audiences, and more strategic in creating effective marketing campaigns. So why not try it today?