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If you are like most business owners, you probably have not had time to work on your marketing automation. Some of you (probably a lot of you) haven’t even heard of marketing automation. That’s okay. If you are here, its probably because you have read a little bit about the topic, but you have not found anything very useful. I know because I have been in the same boat as you.

Not long ago I found myself with a lot of prospects, but not a huge amount of customers. I so wanted their business, but there are only so many hours in the day, and I can only call back so many people. You have probably experienced the same issues. There is money on the table, but  its just a few inches out of your reach. That is where marketing automation can really help.

Marketing automation is really just a fancy way of saying that these machines we all know and use everyday can do a lot of the heavy lifting for us. Im sure you have had emails from companies out there that address you by your first name and offer you something that you are (or were) interested in. Thats marketing automation at its core. It is not rocket science. Its actually pretty simple. Let me get into some of the steps now.

Step 1 – Let them know who you are

Now, I know this must sound like a crazy idea, they are talking to you (or your company), either in person, over the phone, or via your website. Just like a sales pitch in person or over the phone, most people wont have any idea who you are or what you do. In order to get the ball rolling on marketing automation (of which, a lot has to do with email engagement), you have to introduce yourself, your company, and ask for their permission to send them some more stuff.

Have you ever downloaded a white paper or e-book, and they asked you for your name and email? This is the first step. Often times (primarily for CAN-SPAM Act protection) they will ask you to verify that it was you asking for this piece of content. This is your double-opt in and is very handy to defend you against being spammy. I (and many others) have written in great detail about the pros and cons of double opt in versus single opt in (DOI vs SOI). The long and short of it is this, with the DOI, you get fewer people who actually subscribed and more loyal followers who did. For growing a list it sucks, but this really is the way to do it.

Step 2 – Engage with your audience

Of course, most of the time, if you are trying to get on the good side with your audience, you better send them something great. When I started a marketing agency, I wrote out a checklist of everything I would do for the clients. Granted, I would use tools that would streamline the process from 500 hours down to about 20 minutes, but I showed them, in great detail, everything we would do. Step by step. I skipped nothing. When I talked to people on the phone, I would tell them that I completely understood that their business may not want what we offered, but that they could really use the help. So, as my lead in, I would say that I would tell them, and show them step by step, everything that I would do. Sometimes, I would have them check their email while I was still on the phone with them. Instant gratification – for me!

While I knew they were “not interested” or they “have to think about it”, this was the ultimate tool. I could show them, in a 300 page document, everything they needed to do to get the exact same results as I would give them. This was completely true and I missed nothing. I included notes, tips, and shortcuts where needed. They saw this as a royal pain in the ass, and would regularly just sign up with me to save them the headache. It goes without saying that my team and I would do the work as promised, I just had the tools to speed it up. 

This is the initial engagement, and always keep it short and sweet. If you are going to give someone something, make it a short email (100-200 words), and then give them what they came for. Thats it. Don’t try to sell them something in this email. This will always get your prospects to be more hesitant if you are selling to them or lying to them right off the bat.

Step 3 – Relate To Them

This is always the hardest part of any marketing automation sequence. The reason is because you dont know what they want. If you sell houses, you can be pretty sure that the people you are contacting are people in the market for housing. If that the case, relating to them does not mean send them your newest listing. This means that you want to let them know about the general housing market in their area (if you are a realtor in Nashville trying to get customers in Denver, dont bother). You should tell them about great restaurants in the neighborhood and about school districts that are up and coming. You get the idea. Its all about giving them VALUABLE information that has nothing to do with your sale. This is the key step in building trust with them.

Lets say you sell picture frames, though. How do you get relate to them without talking about picture frames. A picture frame is a low cost, low incident purchase. This means that if they bought your frame for $50 and didnt like it, they could always return it or potentially give it as a gift. Someone who wants to engage with a seller of picture frames, though, is probably they creative type who likes to decorate their home or office. So why not send them a few different ways they can show their pictures that arent in traditional frames. Show them some new and cool designs where they can take their photos, have them printed, and just paste them on a bathroom wall to make a very unique and interesting collage. You have not sold them anything, but you have gotten their attention and built some trust and good faith with them.

Step 4 – Now start selling!

You have probably heard that email marketing is dead. I heard the same thing. And I heard it 10 years ago. And 8 years ago. And 5 years ago. And 3 years … I think you get my point. If it were dead, why do you still get email from every company that is worth anything at all. The reason – Email is not dead. Not even close. This is the silent sales superstar working all the time, for very little money, no commissions, and doesnt even take the last cup of coffee from the pot. It can do so much more for you than most of your sales team combined.

How do you start selling via email, you ask? If we take the same examples as above, the realtor and the seller of picture frames, you would market the same way (no, not really, I just wanted to make sure you werent asleep by now). To the people looking to buy a home, you should send them your new listings, or better still, pocket listings (if you have any). But dont just send a generic link from the MLS. Send them a showcased listing for THIS house. Tell them the benefits (highlighting the features of the neighborhood, schools, restaurants) that you sent them when you werent trying to sell them. This shows uniformity in your communication. At the beginning and at the end of that email, tell them that you thought this house was PERFECT for them and that they should call you soon to schedule a visit. You can use a sense of urgency, saying that you expect to have multiple offers or are about to put it on the MLS, but you wanted to show it to them before it went to the rest of the world. This will allow you to make the customer feel special, but in fact, it was just a few extra clicks of the mouse and thats it.

If you are that picture frame seller, you would do things slightly different. Hopefully, you would have tracking in place on your website, tracking what products they were looking at. If so, you can send them a special offer for those frames, giving them 15% off those frames. If not, you can send them special coupon codes giving them 3% off the entire order, or 6% off any purchase of $2,000 or more. If you could not tell, I am being very sarcastic with these numbers. Never off less that 10% anything that is $500 or less. Most people will want at least 15% off. Consumers today feel that 10% is almost a slap in the face. Successful e-commerce businesses today know that 20-25% is a great discount offer and will usually get the sale.

Because you have not tried to sell them right off the bat, these potential buyers are more likely to become real customers by the simple virtue of trust. This is always the goal.

Step 5 – Up-Sell, Down-Sell, or Cross-Sell

As we are already on the topic of selling, after you make your initial sales pitch, you need to track what they do (more on that in step 6) If the potential customer does buy (easier for the picture frame example), after the sale, why not try to sell them some more. This is where you are able to really segment your customer base into various categories. That person who bought the frame from you may want to save an additional 30% on another picture frame, but he can only get that deal if he buys it RIGHT NOW! No? Not a problem. Maybe they can buy a specially priced frame, which usually One Million Dollars but right now its only $20? No? Not a problem. Maybe he want to print out his photographs on special paper or mediums? You can direct them to a company you work with or are an affiliate for. Still no, not a problem. He is already a customer, not just a prospect.

Now, the realtor is a little different, as its very hard to repeat a buying process when that item is a house. But thats not to say you cant offer insurance, escrow, title, a contractor, or a designer/decorator for your new clients. I know the rules (laws) say you cant get a commission from referring clients as an agent in most instances, but thats okay. What you can do it work with great people who give great service. This can often lead to referrals from them (sending businesses both ways is not against the rules). Another happy benefit is a happy customer. Now, you wont get as many referrals as you would like, but thats better than the opposite. Even if they had a great experience with you, that shady contractor you sent them to ripped them off for $10,000. They will tell an average of 5 people how bad the experience is, up to 3 steps deep. This means if a friend referred you to them, they will tell five people about how bad the contractor was, what a horrible agent you are for sending them to that contractor, and how you arent speaking to Bill and Joan anymore for sending them to you in the first place. Ouch.

Step 6 – Segmenting and Metrics

If you are reading that title and saying WTF, you arent alone. As you have been reading, you are probably thinking to yourself, “How can all of this be automated, everybody is in different steps of their sales cycles?” You are right, and this is where segmentation and data collection are crucial.

Using the e-commerce example is too easy. You can add tags, utm strings, analytics data, cookie data, etc, to find out who your customer is, what they bought, when they visited, how often they have been back, when you have engaged with them, and all the other data associated with them. If you have not tracked this and dont know how, thats bad. You are probably losing a lot of money right now. Thats for a later conversation and you can always contact me to find out more 

The realtor, however, needs to segment very badly. Lets say, for example, our realtor has met a nice young woman at her open house, and she is looking for her first home. She isnt working with an agent. Great! Should we immediately put her into the campaign which talks about which decorator to use, or why ACME Title Company is who you recommend? No.

If you use a simple tag for the first week that says she is new, then she can be on the list which sends info about the area. You can, on this first encounter, send her a bit of info about the house she just saw. Then, if you know when she is looking to buy, you can tell her about those pocket listings, new listings you may have. A simple function within your CRM of mail software can automatically add and delete these tags, moving the prospect from one set of emails to the next. You can ask questions in your email that can change the email campaign that person is on. This is segmentation, and it is most useful for looking like a real person, and not just an automated bot. You can (and should) track if they open your emails, and adjust if they dont. These little tags can change the course of the campaigns they are on, and will greatly improve your chances of turning that prospect into a client.

And, by tracking all of those emails, you will have the metrics needed to tweak your results to get the best possible results in the future. This will also allow you to know your numbers so you can use your marketing dollars most effectively.

Step 7 – Rinse and Repeat

While you cant always just use the same tactics over and over, you can keep those people interested in your business. With the marketing agency, I found out very early on that in order to keep my clients happy, I needed to touch them every 2 weeks or so. In that business, a touch was either a phone call or an email, but calling every 2 weeks, when you have over 2,500 clients, would be very difficult. I found that an email to them, about what it was that we were working on, was very effective. Granted, we had a very organized system in place which allowed everything to run on the exact same time cycle for everyone, but that isnt true for most businesses. The fact is, though, that most clients just want to know you are still there and that you are still working for them.

I still get emails from my realtor, telling me about the state of the market, but its only about once a month. Anytime anybody asks me for a good realtor, I give them his name and number. He doesnt send me every listing, but he is there just often enough that I wont forget about him. If you have segmented, you can still keep in touch with your customers in a way that lets them know you are still around, but not intrusive.

While these are 7 steps of successful marketing automation, the truth is that there are probably 500 more steps. The real success is understanding what can be done and implementing it. As you know, I work on business process mapping and re-engineering all the time. These 7 steps are more of the foundation than the finish. You can break down every task to build each campaign. Break down every sentence in every email. Every sequencing trigger time. Dont worry about all of that yet, though.

Without the data, you wont know how to finish. You have to start in order to get the data, so go out there and start. If you dont know where, some tools you can start with are Mailchimp (cheap and/or free), Zoho (great CRM and automation software and relatively inexpensive per month), Infusionsoft ($200 – $500 per month, top quality), Hubspot ($800 or so per month, also top quality), Marketo (over $1,000 per month) or Pardot (a Salesforce company, so you know its not cheap, but integrates fully).

Now, stop reading this, and get out there and start automating your marketing efforts. You will be very glad you did.

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