With so many ways to communicate with your clients and potential customers, how do we make Marketing manageable? With Automation.

By: B.W. Ellis

Imagine a juggler at the circus, he has a ball, an apple, a chainsaw, and several flaming torches all up in the air at the same time. Occasionally he takes a quick bite of the apple as the array of objects fly under his graceful control, the byproduct of years of practice and many dropped balls.

Is this how your business looks when juggling the marketing assets that define your outreach to new clients and returning customers? Are your hands smooth and confident with the way you find new people, gently guiding them into the next phase of their decision-making process?

If you are not sure, ask yourself this: How do I track the decisions my clients make, and what do I do with that information? If you don’t know then you are juggling blindfolded, and there is a pile of balls at your feet that could still be in your hands moving gracefully along.

Email, your weblog, social media, direct mail, Pay Per Click, banner advertisements, video productions, and all the other balls that you can juggle to attract new and returning business work to a point on their own but fail when not seen as a bigger picture.

What happens when a visitor clicks from an email to your site? Where do they go? A properly configured marketing automation strategy can help to answer that question.

Marketing automation is an older concept that is enjoying a renaissance, partly due to the economic collapse of 2008 that required companies to re-think and eventually re-engineer their systems. Running a leaner more efficient control of the information pulsing through the company’s veins is now such a priority that companies that specialize in this marketing approach are making huge returns for their clients.

Most marketing automation programs start with companies that gross $5 million at the lower end and move up from there but the greatest sector of growth in the use of market automation techniques are the small and medium-sized businesses.

In all of this, it is easy to miss the idea that market automation is a strategy, not just a software package. It’s a perspective for finding the truth about the level of commerce your company is performing with and the best response to that activity.

The implementation of web-based tools such as WordPress and Google Analytics handle a great deal of the actual work involved. By collecting the numbers and showing them in their relative context, the finite marketing efforts of a small business can become the most effective part of the entire entrepreneurial endeavor.

One of the more effective ways of taking advantage of this strategy is the triggering event. When one thing happens it triggers another thing, and so on and so forth.

A regular email newsletter (properly formatted) can be sent out as always, but with a small detail. One of the recipients is the blog on the website that automatically converts the email into a new posting. Both the post on the blog and the email direct the visitor to the page that delivers the offer or coupon or deal designed to cater to that group of clients.

The email adding a post to the site’s blog triggers several actions to occur. The first is a ping sent to several of the Search Engines that tells these resources that there is fresh information available. This refreshing of the Site Map XML files keeps the site looking up to date and new (to the Search Engines) with every marketing email sent.

Another action that can be triggered from the new posting is a status update on your social media resources. From a Facebook update with an image to a tweet sent out to your business’ followers to a pin on Pinterest and a listing on Google+, the triggering actions can involve as many or as few channels for communication as you like.

At the center of this is the analytics software that tracks all of the visits from the email, the blog, the social media resources, and the search engines telling you what works and what doesn’t.

If you include video submissions on YouTube or Vimeo, direct mail advertisements with quick response codes or standard links to the site, web or print advertisements with customized links, or an assortment of other communicating tools the marketing for your business transforms from a random collection of individual acts to a coordinated stream of organized messages.

For the average small business, this would be more than enough to start the process of getting people through the door. Larger scale businesses dig deeper into the data and further automate the process to include all manner of regional and social distinctions that hone and develop the process further. The budgets are bigger and the results are more specific but the basics are the same. Creating a system where vital information is collected and used to make effective and meaningful changes to the way the company communicates with the client.

Since the tools for these functions are either free or relatively inexpensive and the return on investment (ROI) is so great the economy of scale can work effectively for a small business that keeps its focus tight and its messages clear.

Marketing automation is not a panacea, it cannot instantly produce results and it is not as easy as flipping a switch, but it will vastly reduce the amount of time spend on preparing materials while providing a measurable and potentially very profitable return on your investment.

The next time you get a customer from your website, from a mailer, or an advertisement, ask yourself how they found you and what you could do to get more people like that to show an interest in what you do.