Marketing automation can be a great way to streamline your marketing processes, but those processes have to actually be in place to begin with, before they can ever be streamlined.
Without a solid content marketing strategy driving your business forward, your marketing automation efforts will be pointless.
Of course, it’s tempting to simply ‘switch off’ and turn to marketing automation for all of your marketing needs, but the easiest routes in business are rarely the most profitable.
Here’s the thing; you don’t need marketing automation to get leads. You need a website, quality content, and a marketing plan.
First Things First
Think about it - how are you supposed to automate your marketing processes if they don’t exist yet?
The whole premise of marketing automation is to create a system that automatically provides your customers and potential customers with relevant materials based on their specific wants, needs, and behaviors. But if you don’t know your customers, how are you going to market to them?
This is where small businesses make the mistake of putting the 'cart before the horse', as they get lured in with promises of easy leads and new business.
The reality is that you have to put the work in if you want to see results, and your marketing automation processes won’t work if they’re not supported by a content marketing strategy that supports your key business objectives.
If you’re running a small business with limited resources, then you should be focusing on the basics before even considering implementing marketing automation.
Here are a few questions you should be answering ‘Yes’ to before investing in marketing automation software:
- Do you have an overall marketing plan in place?
- Do you have a content strategy in place? Does it align with your key business objectives?
- Do you have means to create and publish quality content on a daily basis?
- Do you know your customer? (i.e. clearly defined buyer personas)
- Is your site already attracting decent organic search traffic and leads?
- Do you have a growing database of leads?
- Do you have the resources (i.e. people, revenue, time) in place to implement and manage the software?
If you haven’t answered yes to at least half of the above questions, then it’s probably not a great idea for you to start automating your marketing at this moment in time (as awesome as that new platform may look).
Before you can get started with any kind of marketing plan, you have to figure out who you’re targeting and why. You have to find out what they’re interested in and what will make them interested in your business.
This relationship building is how you humanize your marketing efforts and these personal connections are vital for small businesses as a lot of your initial business will be generated via word of mouth, testimonials, and online reviews/recommendations.
The problem with marketing automation is that it outsources a lot of the tasks that you should be in direct control of as a small business. And if it’s not properly monitored, you’ll lose that ‘personal touch’ that’s so crucial to your success.
The most important thing about your marketing and social media channels is engagement with your audience and potential audience.
Automated marketing often takes the ‘social’ out of social media and can make your company come across as cold and uninterested in its customers. You need a human at the helm to drive conversations and grow an online community around your brand. Nobody wants to be that company with 90 followers that spams Twitter with promo links every hour of the day.
To follow on from the lack of engagement, marketing automation can have a pretty harsh impact on your social selling techniques.
Automated social posts can lack the impromptu and personal feel of a real person - even when they’re carefully curated. Social selling is an integral part of a brand’s identity and if you get it wrong it’s going to have a seriously negative effect on how your brand is perceived. Your small business will benefit from personal touch.
Remember, social selling is SOCIAL - the clue is in the name - which means it should always involve real people talking in real time to other real people. So, leave the bots at the door for this one.
Automating your email blasts is a great idea when you’re a medium or large business with hundreds (if not thousands) of potential leads that need contacting. But what works for a large business won’t necessarily work for a small business that’s just starting out.
When you automate your email marketing as a small business, you risk alienating your clientele or leads with generic and impersonal content. A small business will have much more success by personalizing a good template to ensure that the potential lead feels like they’re valued and not just another @ on a list.
What a lot of small businesses don’t realize is that branding is absolutely everything when it comes to your marketing. Without a strong brand identity and content strategy, your marketing can come across as vanilla, generic, and lifeless.
We’ve all seen the brands that start trying to sell before they get their marketing nailed down properly - and it’s not a good look. Small businesses often don’t have the resources to get all of these things in place and you need all of them in order to automate your marketing effectively. Without these key ingredients, brands can end up looking dehumanized and listless.
Still Think Marketing Automation Is Right For You, Right Now?
Marketing automation is a great time-saver for businesses with a lot of leads and clientele and it can be valuable for small businesses too - in fact, here are 8 ways that it can increase your ROI. But this will only happen when you have the proper foundations in place to begin with.
Once you have your ducks in a row, you can have a field day perusing the vast number of marketing automation systems on the market!
To help you out, you can also check out our post on choosing the right marketing automation platform for your business.
Are you considering implementing marketing automation in your small business in the future? Have any particular platforms caught your eye yet? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.