A Beginner’s Guide To Marketing Automation
And yet these are things that are part of what you need to do in order to build a successful blog or online business.
So what is the solution?
How do you make it work when social media has gotten so out of control?
There are over 200 social networks, each with millions (or billions in the case of Facebook) of users all over the world. How can you, as a marketer, possibly manage to be constantly productive across all of them?
We all know just how hard it can be trying to maintain even one social network. That alone can be a full-time job. But luckily, there are ways to help ensure that you keep up with your Facebook, Tweeter, Instagram, Pinterest and any other social networks that you’re on all at once and all without exhausting yourself.
What am I talking about?
This is the answer to all your problems if you have been feeling overwhelmed by your efforts to keep up with multiple social media accounts.
In this post, you’re going to learn all about how you can use marketing automation to save time and increase your productivity when it comes to building and growing your business or blog.
As a marketer, you have most likely heard the term ‘marketing automation’ before, but it’s alright if you don’t know exactly what it means (90% of marketers don’t either).
But this is about to change for you because in this mega guide for beginners, I will not only show you what marketing automation is and the benefits of using it in your business, but I will also show you exactly how you can get started right away to grow your traffic, your following, and your leads on autopilot.
What is Marketing Automation?
When you conduct a simple search on Google, you get a lot of different definitions to this simple phrase, but we’re going to stick to the one that makes it the easiest to understand what we’re talking about here.
While some talk about marketing automation as being about tactics, software, or even as one of the subsets of customer relationship management, here we are going to define it as follows:
Marketing automation is … automating your marketing.
OK. I guess that is obvious.
But automation requires technology, and so that is the core part of the process. So for an even better understanding of the process, our definition could be as follows:
Marketing automation refers to the process of using technology and software to automate, optimize, and measure repetitive internet marketing tasks.
If you find yourself always doing the same tasks over and over online, then you can be sure that there is some way of automating those tasks. This is particularly useful for anyone whose goal in starting an online business or blog is to create time freedom for themselves.
Being able to automate many of the tasks associated with blogging and online marketing will save you tons of time as well as help you to become a better marketer because you will be able to spend more of your valuable time on the things that matter more in your business.
With marketing automation, you won’t have to spend any time executing the task, and you will be able to optimize how the particular task is done as well as measure the performance of that task continuously.
There are essentially three main areas that you can automate (to a certain extent) when it comes to online marketing:
1. Email Marketing Automation
You can use software to have emails sent to your subscribers after a triggering event like when they sign up for your newsletter.
Delivery and distribution are two ways of automating your emails. You can also automatically segment your email list according to who signed up and from where. Also, you can use autoresponders to automate your sales with emails.
2. Social Media Automation
When it comes to social media, there are dozens of great third-party tools that you can use to automate the distribution of your content across all social media platforms. You can also use social media automation to grow your business by engaging with leads and followers automatically.
3. Landing Page Automation
This is the third core sector of automation. Designing landing pages used to take massive amounts of time, and you had to code them manually using HTML and CSS but these days you can just take a template and copy the same design over and over again.
A/B testing also helps you (to some extent) to automate the copying of your landing pages.
We’re now going to take a deeper look into each of these three segments of marketing automation and you will discover how you can get started right away.
How to Automate Your Email Marketing
The first step in email marketing automation is to segment the subscribers on your list based on where they came from.
Whichever email marketing service you’re using, the steps are going to be similar, but for this example, we’re going to use MailChimp since it’s a free platform that a lot of bloggers and online entrepreneurs use when they first get started.
Go to the email list settings in your account and choose ‘List Fields and Merge tags’. Scroll down to ‘add field’ and click on that. A drop-down box will open. Give your list field a name which refers to the traffic source.
For instance, if the subscribers that you want to tag signed up from a particular blog post on ‘Facebook Ads for Beginners‘ then you can name that field ‘Facebook Ads Beginners’ or something like that.
To hide your form field, uncheck the box labeled ‘Visible?’ Underneath the list field options, take away all the choices but one and then name that one ‘Yes’. Just click ‘save changes’ and you’re all set.
Now, whenever anyone opts-in on a landing page that you drove them to from that Facebook Ads post, MailChimp will automatically check that field for you and those subscribers will be marked as ‘Facebook Ads Beginners’.
You can also complete this process in MailChimp directly by going to where it says ‘Sign up forms’ in your account and selecting ‘General forms’. You will then be taken to the menu where you can add fields on the right side.
But, since it’s a generic, hidden field, your standard sign up forms will already contain it.
Scroll all the way down to the bottom and you will see the new field.
All you have to do now is to ensure that your new form only contains this hidden form for that location and not any others. Now scroll all the way to the top and then copy the sign-up page URL and you will be able to link people to that particular sign up form at the end of your ‘Facebook Ads Beginners’ posts.
So, as you can see, segmenting your list automatically is a great idea to get started with marketing automation right away.
But what about the ones who have already signed up?
You can segment lists of your existing subscribers simply by asking them. Tools like ConvertKit make this really easy to do and allows you to tag your subscribers depending on which links they click on.
So, if you send out an email with links to, say, a guide on creating content upgrades, then you could just tag those who click on that link as ‘interested in creating content upgrades.
This is a smart tactic that is used by a lot of marketers to segment their lists.
You could do it by sending out a question asking people to choose what they want to learn more about. Your subscribers will then automatically be tagged according to which links they clicked on.
After that, they will each receive more content about their chosen topic.
Whenever most bloggers publish a new blog post, they immediately send it out to their subscribers. They use a simple message to do this.
This type of email marketing can also be automated. If you want to ensure that your posts are automatically distributed in MailChimp, all you have to do is to go to the campaigns and click on ‘new campaign’.
Next, click on RSS campaign and then just enter the URL of your blog.
MailChimp will then find that RSS feed URL for you so you don’t have to bother with that part. You can set your email to however often you publish content whether it’s daily or weekly. Click ‘next’, and then you can start to design your email as usual.
All the posts that are sent out automatically will have the message that you define here.
This type of automation also makes it extremely easy to deliver bonuses automatically. Say you were to design a landing page where you give away a particular lead magnet.
Once your subscribers get to your landing page, you can choose to send them a customized email when they register.
This email delivers a personalized message with the link to the bonus you’re offering them. Once this is in place, you don’t ever have to worry about any of the tech stuff again. You just copy and scale the entire process so that each time you build a new landing page the settings will be copied with it and you’ll only have to change the link to your bonus.
When someone subscribes to your email list, you can use autoresponder services to send them a sequence of emails over a period of time.
You’ve probably noticed this plenty of times whenever you signed up for something and immediately started receiving emails from that site.
A day or two after that you get another email from them offering you valuable information for free, and then another a few days later.
Eventually, they slowly introduce you to a paid offer that is relevant to you.
None of those emails are written specifically for you.
It’s just not possible to write and send emails to every person who signs up for an email list one by one, but an autoresponder makes it easy to send them to everyone.
No matter what time that person signed up, they can get an immediate response automatically.
So as you can see, an autoresponder is a great way of connecting with your audience and taking them on a journey that leads to you eventually selling them something after you’ve established a relationship with them.
In MailChimp, setting up autoresponders is a paid feature. You can do this by clicking on automation and then setting up a series of emails.
When those emails get triggered, the process begins. If you want to see this process in action, choose a few of the leaders in your industry and opt-into their email lists so that you can see how they do it over the next few days.
Running Social Media on Autopilot
You can automate your social media in two ways. First, just like email marketing, you can automate the distribution.
This is most likely the most automated part of marketing so far. Many marketers post a lot of their content on social media using third-party tools. But, if you look a little deeper, you’ll find that you can also use this to partially automate your growth on certain social media platforms.
The average internet user has five social media accounts.
As a marketer, you probably have that many or more.
It’s only natural that you want to inform people about whatever is new with your business or blog, but have you ever tried to send out the same status update or message on five different social networks manually?
It can prove to be quite annoying, but thanks to marketing automation, you can now use tools to handle all of that for you.
One such tool is Buffer. The basic version of Buffer is free which makes it by far the best way to automate your social media updates when you’re just getting started.
Buffer lets you connect up to 5 accounts from various social media platforms. After setting it up, you can then Buffer your posts from right within your social media account. You can set different messages for each of the channels and schedule the specific time for the updates to be released.
Buffer even allows you to use Power Scheduler to post the same update many times over different channels automatically. Buffer’s pro plan starts at only $10 per month and lets you use up to 10 accounts and send up to 100 updates at any given time.
Continuing on from before, if you want to take your Social Media distribution automation one step further, you should consider tools like Edgar.
Social Media Automation – Edgar For Automating Distribution
Edgar is similar to Buffer but it takes all of your posts and creates a library. It then cycles all of them endlessly.
After every update that you put in your library has been posted on your different social media channels, Edgar then starts that process all over again. So this means that you can just keep adding new posts as you go along and increase your library, which makes the posts repeat less and less.
Edgar does cost quite a bit more than Buffer, but if your business deals with a lot of content then it’s a great way to easily get that content in front of the masses again and again.
If you sign up for the premium Buffer account, you can also automate your RSS feed.
The RSS feed is a Rich Site Summary that helps readers keep up with the latest content on any given website. Following the RSS feed allows you to get the latest posts delivered to your RSS reader.
When dealing with your own business or blog, however, you want to re-publish every post that is published automatically.
You may also want to do this for some of the big players in your industry as well. All this automation can be done for free using IFTTT (If This Then That), a marketing automation service which lets you create the rules to follow this framework.
But that’s not all. You don’t have to stop at automating only your social media distribution. You can also automate the growth of your social media account.
Twitter is by far the easiest network to automate. There are lots of tools that help you automate growth on other social networks too, but for most bloggers, Twitter is the best one to automate, and there are lots of free tools that help you do it effectively.
So for this example, we’ll use Twitter.
On Twitter, a surefire way of growing your account is by following more people.
But, when you manually try to find and follow thousands of accounts, it can turn out to be a huge pain.
Luckily for you, there’s Tweepi. The basic version of this tool is free, and it allows you to see who follows you, who you follow, as well as who follows you but you don’t follow them back, and vice versa.
To see how this works, just sign up for the free Tweepi account and then log into your Twitter account where you will be taken straight to your dashboard.
There you should first follow everyone who follows you. These are the people who are already following you, and when you follow them back, you make it more likely that they will retweet your posts.
Also, this means that you will be getting in front of even more people’s eyes, and that’s an easy win. You will see a blue square there saying ‘You are not following back’. Click on that to go to the list of people that you’re not following.
You now can follow each and every person who follows you with just one click. Hover over the button written ‘following you’ and you will be able to click on ‘follow back’.
While this is still very much a manual process, it’s much easier to get this done because you’re able to follow hundreds of accounts back in a space of just a few minutes.
Tweepi makes this simpler by automatically jumping to the next use so that you only have to keep clicking until you’re done with that page. Just jump over to the next page if there’s more people to follow, and rinse and repeat.
Tweepi has restrictions and limits integrated within their platform so that you don’t have to worry about bulk following or un-following other people. They will tell you when you should stop. After you’ve followed everyone who’s following you, you can return to your dashboard.
You can also use Tweepi to follow new people and grow your account. But, how do you ensure that those people that you’re following are part of your ideal audience?
Easy: By following the people who follow the major influencers and big players in your industry.
Pretty smart, huh?
So, on your Tweepi dashboard just click ‘Follow followers’ and then set the account that is popular in your particular niche.
You will be able to see who follows them and then follow those same people too. Follow as many of those people on that list as possible, and a lot of them will naturally follow you back.
But let’s take this a step further and automate this process, too!
You can use a service such as ManageFlitter which offers a pro subscription for just $12 per month. This tool has all the features built in to automatically follow someone else’s followers. They spread this over time so that it looks natural.
ManageFlitter also has a bulk engage feature that allows you to tweet directly to 6 accounts each day so that you can talk to people one on one.
From there, you have to jump in manually to continue this process, but it’s a simple and effective way to spark more conversations. One more thing that you can automate on Twitter is Direct Messaging.
On Twitter, you can send someone a direct message only after they are following you.
But with a tool such as Crowdfire, you can automate this process. Just sign up with your Twitter account (just as you would with the other services) and once you’ve logged in, get to the bottom of the sidebar where you will see the button to ‘Automate’.
Checking that box will allow you to send DM messages automatically.
Now, you can add messages that you want to be sent to your new followers when the first contact is made. For instance, you can just send them a link to one of your most popular blog posts and get them to your site. Use Crowdfire to set four or five different messages and they will send one (at random) to each of your new followers.
You should get an engagement rate of up to 10% with this which isn’t too bad.
Use Bitly to make your link so that you can track how many people are clicking on each link. This is another way of determining which messages work well and which ones don’t. After implementing all of these tactics, watch how your Twitter account starts to grow on autopilot.
That’s it for the first two areas on our list of three core areas to automate when it comes to online marketing.
Now on to the third:
Landing Pages Automation
Here we’re going to discuss how to minimize the amount of time that you spend on designing your landing pages. While this process isn’t 100% automated, this is as close as you’re going to get.
There are tons of landing page software tools like Instapage, Unbounce, and LeadPages that you can use. They each have massive libraries of templates that allow you to create amazing landing pages with the slightest of adjustments.
You can publish and use these instantly.
You never have to worry about finding a coder or trying to figure out your CSS code and all that. And what’s more, you can test which copy works better than others automatically using A/B split tests.
For this example, we’re going to use LeadPages.
While LeadPages doesn’t have a free plan, their platform is one of the best for beginners to use. It’s easy to use and the support is excellent if you need help figuring it all out.
LeadPages has a massive marketplace full of beautiful and proven templates that you can use to create professional landing pages.
If, for instance, you’re an affiliate marketer and you want to create a webinar registration page, you just log on to LeadPages (after signing up, of course) and go to the Templates section.
They sort the pages by purpose, which is great for new users.
Select ‘Webinar’ and then sort by conversion rate. Doing this ensures that you get the templates that convert the best to show at the top. Select the particular template that you want, and you will be taken to the editor. Click on any element on that template page and you’ll be able to change them at the click of a button.
To add the sign-ups to your email subscriber list automatically, just click on the registration buttons.
You can also segment the lists by adding those hidden form fields (that we previously discussed in Part 1 of this series) when they’re signing up. Your subscribers won’t see this field, but this will allow you to know where they came from.
Once you’re done with this, you can save your page and then publish it on your site using the LeadPages WordPress plugin. Link to it as you would any other page on your site.
The best part about all this is that once you’ve done this, you can use this same page for your next webinar registration page.
Whenever you need to do this again, a new version of the page that you created will always be available to you and ready to go in seconds which means you don’t have to start from scratch again.
How awesome is that?
But what about the copy?
Each time you edit your LeadPage, just click ‘AB Test’ and this will allow you to create two different versions of that same page.
But, instead of a duplicate, these two will be saved as one split-test page.
Both versions will automatically be shown to your visitors and LeadPages will tell you which of the two converts better than the other.
This is an effective way of automatically testing the copy of your landing pages to find out which copy is converting better.
Marketing Automation: Bringing it all Together
Okay, so between this and the previous post, we’ve covered a lot of marketing automation and now it’s time to bring it all together and line up the pieces with automated funnels.
We’ve talked about marketing funnels in previous posts, and just to help you remember, marketing funnels are just a series of events that your visitors go through, the goal being to convert them into customers by the end.
When you combine email marketing with social media and landing page automation, what you get are fully automated funnels.
Say you want to run a webinar promoting a course on marketing automation.
You would naturally schedule a bunch of tweets about a week before the event and also make an automated direct message that you will send to any new followers about the webinar.
This means that people will be sent to your webinar registration page automatically from your Twitter account, and there they will sign up to attend your webinar.
As soon as they are signed up, you can immediately tag them with that hidden field as ‘interested in marketing automation’ and also as ‘registered’ for the webinar.
But, rather than just wait for your audience to show up at the webinar, you could have a series of autoresponder emails attached to that tag for marketing automation. That way, your subscribers will immediately get the first email in the series of emails focused on your course.
If the autoresponder series sends the emails over a span of 10 days, it doubles your chances of converting the subscribers into customers.
They can either attend the webinar or watch the replay where you will be introducing them to the product, or they can learn about it from your autoresponder a few days later. You can even use a webinar that you previously recorded to create an evergreen funnel.
Even if your subscribers choose not to purchase anything you will still have them on your list and you’ll be able to send them new content automatically which means that they will stay engaged until you run your next promotion.
By now I hope you can see how powerful marketing automation can be.
This simple idea of a funnel (outlined above) shows you how you can use this to make sales on autopilot. While you may be doing things a certain way right now, you have to acknowledge that after your traffic reaches a certain point, you won’t be able to talk to each one of your many fans personally.
That’s just the reality.
At that point, you’ll have to use automation. But don’t worry, if used ethically, marketing automation will still allow you to build great relationships with your audience and you’ll always have the option of continuing (some of) those relationships in person as time goes on.
Marketing automation also allows you to provide lots of value to even more people than you could manage without it. But this shouldn’t be misused to send spam emails to your customers, as that will make them lose trust in you.
Use this Marketing Automation Beginner’s Guide to help you automate the things that you don’t have time for and allow your customers to follow a constantly flowing stream of value.
So now all that’s left is for you to decide what you will automate first.
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Updated: Originally updated July 5th 2018