What comes to mind when you hear the words “marketing automation”? Over the last few years, marketing automation has become a buzzword thrown around by those discussing digital marketing strategies, much like “SEO,” “Big Data,” and “Mobile-First” once were. Beyond the buzz and hype, marketing automation boils down to one simple, yet fundamental business goal: cultivating client relationships.
Marketing Automation Defined
Officially, marketing automation has been defined by Marketo as “a category of technology that allows companies to streamline, automate, and measure marketing tasks and workflows, so they can increase operational efficiency and grow revenue faster.” HubSpot’s definition echoes this idea, saying that the goal of marketing automation is to “nurture prospects with highly personalized, useful content that helps convert prospects to customers and turn customers into delighted customers.”
Did you catch that last bit from HubSpot? The part about turning customers into delighted customers? To me, that’s a critical function of marketing automation that will ultimately make or break the success of your entire automation program. Unfortunately, it’s also the part of the process that’s most often neglected in favor of converting prospects to customers.
Components of a Well-Tuned Marketing Automation Machine
In this post, we’ll be discussing the process of marketing automation, rather than a specific type of software. The process or marketing automation can take many different forms and operate across multiple mediums and channels, depending on the goals, budget, and target audience of the business implementing it.
In the home improvement and AEC industries, a standard marketing automation system will typically incorporate the following channels and tactics:
- Customized landing pages
- Well-designed lead capture forms
- Personalized email marketing messages
- Segmented drip campaigns based on user behavior, intent, etc.
- Engaging, useful content designed to help, not sell
- A CRM process to track all of this communication (could be a simple spreadsheet or an advanced software platform)
This all seems simple enough, right? Create some landing pages with forms to capture leads, segment these leads into various lists based on specific parameters, and continue to deliver personalized messages, content, and other types of engagement with the goal of nurturing these leads into delighted customers.
Where Marketing Automation Tends to Fall Apart
Things typically start to unravel when I see home contractors, remodelers, and AEC firms fixating on the “automation” aspect of the process. Instead of viewing marketing automation as a way to cultivate client relationships over time, it’s utilized as an automated quick-fix to blast irrelevant messages to unqualified contacts. No bueno.
Here are some specific ways that the marketing automation process can breakdown:
- Not Enough Leads - Marketing automation is a middle-of-funnel strategy that requires a steady stream of leads to deliver results. Without a solid top-of-funnel strategy in place, your marketing automation process won’t have the incoming leads necessary to support a healthy, effective lead nurturing program.
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Impatience - It can take time to develop a steady flow of incoming leads, and the temptation to speed up the marketing automation process can cause some businesses to cut corners and buy lead lists. At best, these lists are tangentially relevant to your business, and more often than not, are nothing like your ideal customer.
Spam - When you start buying lead lists as a way to combat a weak top-of-funnel strategy, you’re putting your business on the fast track to Spam-ville. In addition to hitting these low-quality leads with irrelevant (not to mention, unwanted) messaging, you also run the risk of contacting them too frequently if the purchased list has a high rate of list decay.
Relying Only On Email - The assumption that marketing automation is an email-only practice is false. While it’s true that email is the primary channel used in most marketing automation strategies, many AEC firms are guilty of ignoring the role of social media, personalized web pages, SMS updates, chatbots, and even customized snail mail in the full marketing automation process.
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- Set It and Forget It - As mentioned before, the “automation” [art of marketing automation causes many business to adopt a “set it and forget it” attitude to the process. This is bad. If left unchecked, your marketing automation program will experience lead quality deterioration, outdated content served to stale contacts, and lost opportunities to effectively build lasting customer relationships.
As a result of these breakdowns, marketing automation can easily turn into a pain point among your client base, rather than a vehicle for building relationships and cultivating loyalty. Instead of delighting prospects and customers alike with personalized messages and engaging content, too many companies are employing marketing automation in ways that are completely ruining the client experience.
Marketing automation mistakes can have far-reaching consequences for a company’s image and reputation, not to mention their bottom line.
How to Ensure You Get Marketing Automation Right
Now that we know some of the ways that marketing automation can get AEC businesses into trouble, let’s discuss a few ways to ensure your marketing automation strategy is poised for success:
Make sure you have a lead generating strategy in place to keep the top of your funnel stocked. This is where your customized landing pages and lead capture forms can really shine. You should be consistently testing and optimizing your top-of-funnel strategies to keep your lead lists fully stocked.
Be patient and allow yourself some time to develop a solid database of qualified leads before launching a full-fledged marketing automation program. The results will almost certainly be worth the wait, and you’ll be able to iterate much more quickly and effectively than you would without a solid database to work from.
Be mindful of who you’re sending message to, and what that messaging is. Pay close attention to your reach and frequency numbers to ensure you aren’t oversaturating a segment of your database, and always strive to deliver useful, quality content to your clients.
Don’t limit your marketing automation strategy to email marketing. Experiment with personalized SMS and website site messaging, test out automated chatbot engagement, and perhaps send out some customized postcards to potential clients. Track your efforts, amplify what works, and cut what doesn’t.
And whatever you do, DON’T set and forget your marketing automation strategy. Pay attention to it, optimize it, and watch it turn your qualified leads into delighted customers over time!
What’s been your experience with implementing marketing automation strategies for your home remodeling or AEC business? Have you had success or run into trouble? Are there any tools of platforms you’d recommend? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below - thanks!