As a business owner, do you wish you could clone yourself? If only there were extra versions of yourself to answer every call, chase outstanding invoices and deliver ongoing marketing to our customer base!
If you’re serious about growing your business, there will come a time when you need extra help. For money management, this can come in the form of an accountant or bookkeeper. You may enlist the support of a VA to manage your calendar and handle phone calls.
For marketing, the good news is you don’t always need to hire a full-time person. A great deal can be taken care of with automation.
What is automation?
The term ‘automation’, when used in marketing, refers to automatically programmed content and communications you can share with your clients based on their actions.
Smart software now acts as your round-the-clock sales and marketing rep, speaking directly to your customers on social media, via email and/or with text messages from the moment they discover your business.
For example, when a customer requests a quote, they can fill out a form and the information they seek will be automatically generated and emailed to them. If they don’t then email to make a booking or purchase, your automation can follow up with them, without you being directly involved.
There’s not doubt automation is incredibly powerful but it can be overwhelming to get started. Until you know how to map out every step and figure out the back-end, it seems like too much work.
However, the beauty of automation is you only need to set it up once for it to reach pretty much every customer. For small businesses, this can be a game-changer.
The following guide outlines the steps you need for end-to-end automation, broken down into three phases. These will keep every client on a continuous journey with your business, even after they have made a purchase. Throughout the guide, you’ll see why automation is a huge part of the puzzle when it comes to driving your organisation past the 7-figure mark.
PHASE 1: LEAD GENERATION
The first three steps are all about getting noticed by your ideal clients.
Step 1. Master your message
First things first. Before you start automating, your business needs to be clear on its message, its values and the tactics it will use to appeal to its target audience.
This is important so every message you share is consistent and reflects your brand.
A brand document or style guide can really come in handy here. This doesn’t have to be extensive, just a few pages outlining your vision, mission and values, plus the tone of your copy.
Include a description of your ideal customer (aka avatar or persona) and add in some of the words and phrases which you would definitely or never use.
To clarify your message, ask the following questions about your business:
What makes us different?
Why do our customers love us?
Are we a budget or a premium provider?
What are five words to describe our products or services?
What values do we prioritise (e.g. innovation/honesty/friendliness/creativity/fun)?
What actions do we want our customers to take?
How do our customers feel when they use our products or services?
Why should our customers choose us over the competition?
Write your responses down and use them to form your brand guidelines. Keep this document somewhere central so your team and your marketing people can refer to it easily.
FOR EXAMPLE: A youth-focused brand can have fun using slang words, lingo and abbreviations in their communications. They can say “Thanks heaps for buzzing us!” instead of “Thank you for getting in touch”, which is what you would expect from a legal firm or dentist’s office.
Does your business have brand guidelines? Y/N
Step 2. Choose your channels
The internet is key to your automation strategy as most missives will be delivered online.
Few businesses need to be all things on all platforms. Select the social media platforms and tools where your audience is most likely to spend time. Focus on the one or two which will drive the most success, rather than spreading your efforts too thin.
When it comes to social media, there are tools which make things easier. Hootsuite, Buffer and others allow you to upload content in batches and schedule it to be posted at regular intervals. LinkedIn Helper can send personalised invitations to 2nd and 3rd contacts and build targeted mailing lists, among other things.
There are also tools like Missing Lettr, which will mine your blog archives and share evergreen posts on social media, making it easier to extend the reach of the content you create.
Of course, email is one of your most important communication channels. Find software to simplify and automate your messages so you’re not constantly spending time reaching out to your contacts. This will help you segment customer lists, easily create templates and set up ‘if this, then that’ rules based on how customers respond to your missives.
FOR EXAMPLE: BoostFIT Gym is a B2C business. It posts member offers and inspirational messages on Facebook and Instagram, using Hootsuite to schedule content. Members receive emails about recruitment drives and automated reminders about lapsed payments with the help of InfusionSoft and Xero.
Do you have a clear strategy covering the channels you use to reach your audience? Y/N
Step 3. Lasoo your leads
Once you have defined your message and started putting it out there, you need a way to grab information from your prospective clients (aka your leads).
It’s all well and good to capture attention on social media and via email but the next step is to bring your customers to your website and give them an incentive to take action. This is where landing pages and lead magnets come in.
Your lead magnet is something you offer your clients for free or at a generous discount. It could be free shipping with their first purchase, a helpful ebook or a pdf checklist.
A landing page is a standalone page within your website. It could offer a course, a special deal or a single product. The content on your landing page will sell the benefits your product or service provides to your customers and ask them to register, enrol or buy now.
If possible, capture interest in your lead magnet or on your landing page with a short term offer. Giving people a limited time to make a decision creates a sense of urgency and pushes them to take action. At the very least, get them to submit their first name and email address, which you can then use in your future marketing.
You’ll need everything running smoothly on the back end to deliver your lead magnet. Generally, a new customer entering their email address will trigger your automation system to send an email with a discount code or a link to the pdf of their ebook.
FOR EXAMPLE: Jim sells and installs woodburning stoves but things always go quiet for his business in summer. His lead magnet is 10 per cent off and free delivery outside of peak times, which he promotes on social media. Even if customers don’t end up buying, he can get back in touch to tempt them with another offer.
PHASE 2: SEAL THE DEAL
Once you have your customers’ information, it’s time to lock them down and SELL.
Step 4. Confirm your CRM
Your Customer Relationship Management tool (CRM) acts as a central hub for your customer relations.
This online software takes care of communicating with almost everyone who comes into contact with your business. Your CRM digitally standardises business interactions and has the potential to save you hours of time, while boosting your profitability.
At its basic level, a CRM allows you to save client and prospect client details, categorising them and recording where they are in their customer journey. You can keep information like phone numbers and email addresses, and also record what your customers are interested in, what they have purchased before and how pleased they are with your service.
Once you get to a more advanced level, your CRM can keep track of orders and be used to deliver quotes and order forms. You can use it to create landing pages, manage enquiries and give your leads a ‘score’ so you know how interested they are.
FOR EXAMPLE: Sunflower Florists use their CRM to stay on top of quality control and boost their positive Google reviews. After every order is marked as delivered, the customer receives an email asking them to rate their experience. Those who give an 8 or above are then asked to submit a review.
Step 5. Streamline your Sales Pipeline
Imagine if you could email every lead to see where they’re at and remind them that you’re waiting to do business with them.
With a well-planned and functioning CRM, everyone who shares their email with you after interacting with your website will be automatically included in your nurturing sequence.
You won’t have to lift a finger while your CRM tracks and manages opportunities, communicates with your prospects, sends links to helpful blogs and forwards quote reminders. This system can also let you know when it’s time to pick up the phone, should that be necessary.
When executed well, this approach makes your clients feel important. They won’t necessarily know you have automation at play and will get the impression that you really value their business (which, of course, you do!).
FOR EXAMPLE: Jenny’s formal wear business gets a request from a bride asking how much it will cost to hire six gowns for her bridesmaids. After sending a detailed quote, Jenny can request her CRM to send two follow-up emails, one of which links to a blog on how to choose the right colour for your bridal party.
Step 6. Keep up the conversation
While nobody wants their provider to simply take the money and run, the reality of being a business owners means you’re always looking for your next prospect.
This step in your automation roadmap allows you to complete the onboarding process and make your customer feel special by thanking them for their business. It can also highlight the natural next step in the process.
So many businesses fail to leverage the customers they already have. Considering the lower cost of acquisition, it makes sense to turn first-time buyers into loyal ones. Again, automation will do this without you having to lift a finger.
FOR EXAMPLE: Tresses Hairdressers emails a client when they book an appointment, getting them to share more information and asking if they’d like tea, coffee or mineral water when they arrive. After their treatment, the client gets an email saying thank you and an offer of $10 off their next cut if they book within 7 days. A reminder follows so they don’t forget and another email arrives six weeks later if they fail to book.
PHASE 3 LEVERAGE YOUR CUSTOMERS
Happy customers are key to finding new ones so use them to your advantage as part of your automation process.
Step 7. Communicate (it’s great)
Again, communicating regularly is all about making your clients feel special. The good news is you can do it without taking up too much headspace or time.
Regular communications include:
Newsletters and links to blogs sent via email
Special offers and discounts
Referral incentives (ask for introductions to other people your business could help)
Birthday messages (these can be sent via text as well as email)
Celebrating their anniversary as a customer
Remember, your client is the ‘hero’ of their own life story. Pander to their ego, make them feel special and let them know what a favour they’re doing you by working with your business. Craft your message so they are the good guy when they take action.
Not every email you send will be opened. That’s ok! Often the brand name in their inbox will be a good reminder that you exist. Your customer will think of you when they next need a service like yours.
FOR EXAMPLE: Terry’s Car Detailing offers a free wax and polish as a ‘customer anniversary’ bonus, which is automatically delivered via its CRM.
Step 8. Refer a friend
Word of mouth is the best and one of the most cost-effective ways to grow your business.
Your automation can take care of referrals by directly asking your past clients to help you find new ones. A way to do this is send a simple email which looks personal. Have it say something along the lines of:
Tim from Win More Clients here.
Just a quick note to say thanks again for trusting me to help you with your marketing so you can get more leads with less effort.
Just a really quick question: Do you have a friend or contact who may benefit from working with me to grow their business? I’d love to chat to them about how they can find more time in their day with the help of automation.
If you can introduce me over email, I’d really appreciate it!
Speak to you soon,
Don’t forget to thank your client if they respond.
FOR EXAMPLE: Karate High offers two free lessons to each student who brings a friend if the friend then enrols and pays for a full term. Every student is emailed with the offer after they have completed their first term, then twice per year after that.
Step 9. Instantly integrate
Nowadays, smart software can be integrated with similarly brainy platforms.
This means your CRM can talk to your accounting software, your website and your payment platform.
Once you have set everything up, it will be connected and able to share data for even more efficiency. For example, once a payment is reconciled in Xero, your CRM will send a request for feedback. An overdue account can mean your accounting team gets an automatic notification. You can even set up your connected platforms to message your team members when you get great feedback from a client.
When you’re ready to get more advanced with the way you use automation, you can track customer behaviour, see your sales results and quickly identify ‘hot’ leads, all from simple dashboards.
FOR EXAMPLE: Signs4U is a nation-wide noticeboard company with several sales reps on the ground. When one sales rep has too many leads on their plate, the business’s smart software automatically transfers the data to a rep who isn’t so busy. It is added to their task list without the need for any back and forth, meaning nobody is kept waiting.
Take the Steps to Success
Now you understand the steps to automation success, skip the heavy lifting and enlist the help of an automation expert.
Once they understand your goals and processes as a business, this specialist can map out your top-level automation journeys. You’ll get help creating lead magnets and landing pages, deciding on the best CRM for you and putting together email sequences to drive your clients down the lead funnel.
As everything takes shape, you’ll finally feel like there are two and even three of you, working around the clock to deliver your marketing strategy. This will give you time to focus on growing your business and delighting every customer.