Marketing automation for small business part II

Action plan to grow your small business with marketing automation

A few weeks ago, we published a blog post about how to build the perfect marketing plan for a small business. Now, we are going to tell you how to actually turn this plan into action. Are you ready?

Let's be honest: being an entrepreneur isn't always a bed of roses. It's more like climbing the Everest. You carry a ton of weight on the shoulder while trying to go up and breath calmly at the same time so you won't pass out or give up in the middle of the track.

Mostly SaaS startups, whether they are B2C or B2B, find some trouble when managing everything at the same time while thinking of growing. But once you're aware of the challenges you might face in your journey, you can develop your plan to go through it without problems.

That's why we've developed this guide with all the steps that must work without trouble in order to grow your small business with marketing automation. These five main steps are necessary for:

  • bringing business opportunities to your company;
  • start and maintain a relationship with customers;
  • make them purchase the solution you're offering;
  • making sure you keep them close to you and don't leave your business;
  • manage every single process to identify what's working and what needs improvement

If this "ideal customer journey" is followed, your leads turn into customers and keep buying from you. With that, your company can properly scale while you maintain a healthy sales funnel that doesn't leak.

Now, let's take a look at each and every process that should run flawlessly in your business - and with the help of marketing automation, this is possible:

1. Lead acquisition:

This is where customers first give you permission to reach them. This happens when they access your website, read a good-looking piece of content and fill a form with their name and email address. Since converting website visitors into leads is the first step of the marketing funnel, it should be connected with the other processes along the way. That'll ensure everything goes fine throughout the journey.

In order to increase the number of leads (thus the number of potential customers), a small business must work on its first impression. Well-designed landing pages, with objective content and even more objective forms are necessary to earn potential buyers.

How automation can help: not everyone has the technical knowledge to build an effective landing page from scratch, or programming a responsive web form to be applied in a survey page, for example. Yet, both of them are crucial to acquire information from visitors.

The good news is that there are different tools to design landing pages. But the difference of doing it within a automation software is that the action the comes after conversion can be conditioned by how visitors react or fill out the informations. Rather than the robotic "thanks for signing up" email, try an engaging message that actually talks to the lead.

Since this kind of tool has "personalization variables", you can use them to call leads by their first name, thank them for reading your blog content several times before, ask them how it is to be a C-level from a company with more than 500 workers, and so on.

You probably don't have many hands to engage with new leads soon after they sign up, so a good welcome email can do wonders to start a relationship with them. Remember the good first impression I mentioned before? The welcome email is the second one. Try making every impression amazing.

2. Lead nurturing:

After the welcome email, you shouldn't lose touch with leads. Commonly, nurturing implies a sequence of three to five emails sent periodically to leads, with relevant content that drives them through the marketing funnel.

That's the common way of doing it. But small business need a smarter, automatic process that can turn more leads into potential customers faster. This will mean not having to click "Send" hundreds of times every two or three days to engage with leads. Here enters advanced nurturing.

How automation can help: here, the concept of nurturing stays the same. What changes is that the path in the flow that a lead can take may change depending on its interactions. If they're opening but not clicking on your emails, they get a different, more appealing message next. But if they're clicking, it means they're interested in the content and can continue receiving the next message.

Once fully developed and running, an advanced lead nurturing flow converts leads without you having to keep an eye on it. It can follow many paths, meaning that you'll have more opportunities to engage leads and help them really find what they're looking for.

There's more: with attributes from leads beyond demographics, it's easy to create "smart segments" of prospects. That's useful for creating groups such as "leads who accessed the blog in the last 7 days", or "contacts who downloaded two ebooks". This means highly targeted actions, thus more chances of turning leads into opportunities through content.

3. Customer engagement:

This is where many small business usually can't keep up with the work. With an effective digital marketing strategy, there are more people interested in your offer. And with that, you can't afford to lose touch with these leads. Or even with people who already bought from you.

It's important to engage with people before, during and after conversion. After all, how do you build a relationship without talking? That leads (no pun intended) to another question: how to keep touch with so many leads, prospects and customers at once?

How automation can help: much like the advanced lead nurturing we've discussed before, automated marketing can help you engage with your contacts, according to their behavior, with your website, blog or web product. Emails, in-app and in-site notifications, live chat, and even SMS (through app integrations) can be used to keep in touch with everyone.

When all interactions from contacts can be found in the same place, it's easy to provide a great customer service. Even if you don't have a 24/7 customer success team to take care of every request.

Here are some quick tips to engage with people according to their position in the sales funnel:

  • An email with benefits of your product for leads who've accessed the Pricing page and didn't come back for the last 5 days;
  • An in-site notification in your blog, telling subscribers that a new blog post has been published;
  • A live message to all online users in your blog or product, with a special offer for those who purchase your product;
  • An in-app message for who's already a customer of your SaaS, showing your platform's cool new feature

And remember: the messages are automatic, but not the communication tone. Always be friendly (and more important, human). After all, people don't feel comfortable when talking with cold-hearted robots.

4. Customer retention:

Retention is maybe the most important stage of every company, local or global. Even though selling is important, it's more important to keep customers buying from you and paying for your services. A small business can successfully grow when there's more new customers than lost customers.

More important than having new one-time buyers is winning their hearts and having them buy forever. Satisfied customers can refer your product or company to others, and it's a good thing since 73% of people are highly likely to trust a recommendation from others. This number increases to 82% when the recommendation comes from a micro-influencer.

How automation can help: have you ever heard of a retention flow? Much like a lead nurturing flow, it's an automated, behavior-based flow which keeps a customer engaged after the purchase. Along with product newsletter and rich content, the customer can make the most of what you're offering. With that, chances are they won't leave your business. It works like this:

  • The customers choose a subscription plan or buy the product online;
  • the retention flow is triggered, sending "onboarding steps" for new customers;
  • after a few days, buyers get an email or in-app message with product tips;
  • ebooks, tutorials or guides are shared too, helping customers to achieve greater results

For SaaS or website-based companies, where engagement is important for business, the way customers engage with the web-product or website may determine if they're "losing interest". It' a sign that customers might be planning to say goodbye to your product.

The good thing is that marketing automation is event-based. It means every interaction from leads, prospects and customers is stored, which can be used later to start new automated flows. This event tracking capability gives great insights to discover what your customers are doing in your platform. This way, you can grab every customer by the hand and show them the best way of using your product. You can literally guide them through your app.

5. Business intelligence:

After all your strategies are up and running, you need to keep a sharp eye on everything. All gears in your digital marketing machine must be connected in order to achieve better results. But as you might guess, this is not always an easy task, especially for small businesses with limited resources (both human and financial).

How automation can help: two magic words - Business intelligence. As we've shown earlier, automation connects everything in the same place, including reports and relevant data about strategies. It makes it easy to extract useful information and insights for your business.

Business intelligence also helps you to create personalized reports with the most valuable metrics for your company. After setting it up, there's no need to collect data all over again for every weekly or monthly analysis. In other words, it's easier to know if your efforts are paying off.

It might be a long and exhausting trip to plan and follow all of these recommendations. But as any other challenge, it's essential to be prepared and practice a lot before achieving the long awaited success.

Note that marketing automation is the most reliable resource for small businesses looking to grow in 2017. It's not a coincidence that more than 49% of companies from all types of industries are already using marketing automation, and this adoption tends to grow month after month. This happens because businesses are finally discovering a way to automate their processes and increase productivity from acquisition to conversion, and beyond.

There you go. Now you have all of the resources you need to grow your small business with marketing automation. Don't forget to build a great digital marketing strategy using the tips we gave you, and come back to us again later to share the results.

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