Summer is finally here, and that can only mean two things. One, a much-needed vacation. And two, a much-needed vacation after your vacation. If you're one of the dwindling number of marketing managers who turns off their smart phone while relaxing on the beach, you'll come back to an e-mail inbox that will take another week to sift through. Worse yet, since other team members are also on vacation, you may come back to a marketing plan that's run off the rails.
The good news is that thanks to the wonder of marketing automation, you don't need to come back to a marketing strategy that's stuck in neutral. All it takes is a little bit of planning and foresight, and a good way to frame the marketing automation challenge is to break it up across delivery channels. Therefore, for our purposes, we'd like to explore your marketing automation options across Social Media, Email, and Blogging.
As with any of these channels, you'll want to ask yourself two questions. First, "Where are our prospects and customers?" And two, "What tasks do we want to keep in-house?" To the first question, if a majority of your customers and prospects are on Facebook, some sort of Facebook-focused social media automation tool is in order. Second, do you want your staff managing this tool, or do you want it outsourced? Given the fact that your team is primarily concerned with core marketing duties and, as noted, some will be on vacation, you may want to outsource this task entirely.
As you can imagine, there are no shortages of social media automation tools to choose from. Tools like Zapier monitors YouTube, identifies relevant content, and automatically generates a Tweet. Postplanner automates the sharing of content on your Facebook page. IFTTT identifies "trigger events" in social media and executes an action in response, like a Tweet. The list goes on and on. (If you're overwhelmed by the options and are you're looking for a good place to start, we can help.)
Odds are your department has a bit more experience within the realm of email automation, so dialing in this process shouldn't be particularly time-intensive. As a result, you understand that sending an automated email for the sake of it won't deliver much value. Make sure you automate wisely.
For example, implement some sort of trigger that signals the system to fire off an email. Let's say a prospect visits a landing page, fills out necessary criteria, and hits "Submit." Your sales staff is on a Caribbean cruise and can't personally respond, so your automated system takes over. The workflow should not only respond with an email, but should also link prospect characteristics to specific deliverables or pieces of content. A tool like Aweber, for instance, sends out a series of automated emails when someone signs up to your email list. Similarly, other tools and workflows can pull actionable prospect or customer data like page views, clicks, downloads, social media clicks, etc. In short: contextualize your automated emails.
Blogging automation can vary from the basic to the more complex. On the basic side, platforms like Wordpress allow you to schedule posts in advance. For example, before your vacation, you can go into Wordpress, write up a set of blogs, and stagger their publication, so while you're hiking the Sierras your post on "Six Reasons to Consider Hybrid Car" will go live on July 2th at 11:00 am. Of course, publishing posts is only part of the story — you need to actually promote the content on social media and other inbound channels. This is where blogging automation can get a bit more advanced and helpful. The tool Dlvr.it, for example, will automatically send out updates to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and other networks once a post is published.
With that in mind, we'd like to throw the conversation back to you. There's no shortage of marketing automation tools and techniques out there. Has your firm experimented with any of them? Which ones worked? Which didn't? What's the most challenging aspect of marketing automation, especially when your staff is on vacation?