10 Marketing Automation Best Practices You Need To Follow

June 8, 2015

Why Are Marketing Automation Best Practices Important?

Marketing automation is an incredibly powerful tool for any business. I’ve seen businesses literally double their profits with the flip of a switch by implementing marketing automation! The problem is putting your marketing on autopilot can just as easily burn out your list and set fire to your dreams of success.

Leverage works both ways…

The good news is that failure is not an option if you simply follow marketing automation best practices I have outlined below. There are a lot of them, but I’ve narrowed it down to the 10 I feel are most important based on my time in the trenches as a marketing automation specialist.

1. Don’t Over Complicate Things

If you have read The Lean Startup by Eric Ries you’ve likely heard of a minimum viable product (I will use MVP for the sake of length). Your MVP is your product or service reduced down to the point that if it anything else was removed it wouldn’t be your product or service anymore. Typically this entails removing features and nice to haves.

Apply the KISS principle to your marketing automation - Office Meme

The same holds true for your marketing automation sequences. Instead of building based on assumptions, your specific implementation should be based on a minimum viable sequence and then built up over time based on data. Everything you add will either increase your results or detract from them. Yes, you heard right, detract from them.

Adding unnecessary pieces won’t just not help you… It will hurt your results. So start with minimum viable sequences, measure your results, and build from there. Over time you can make additions by studying the data, making educated guesses, and testing those assumptions.

2. Dont Send Broadcasts To Prospects In A Nurturing Sequence

Marketing Automation Best Practice #2: Don't Overlap Your Campaigns And Broadcasts

Once a prospect has opted in for your lead magnet you need to leave them alone and let your automation strategy lead them to the promised land of buying your product. Many, many, many marketers consider a prospect fair game for every email blast right out of the gate and until they are a customer, but this is a huge mistake!

By sending broadcast emails to contacts who have recently opted in and are in your sequence you are confusing them and actually hurting your chances of closing. Consider email broadcasts a hail mary for people on your list you weren’t able to close initially via your lead nurturing sequences.

To better visualize this imagine you are a car salesmen selling a prospect a car. The prospect has seen your commercials, ads in the newspaper, and finally arrives in the lot and is looking for a certain model of car. You approach, find some common ground, build rapport, and happily learn the prospect would like to go for a test drive.

A broadcast email to a prospect in your sequence would be like you calling a coworker and having them come pitch the virtues of a different model of car to the buyer ready to take a test drive. It confuses the message and sends the prospect back to the drawing board instead of closer to buying your product. This is one of the most often neglected marketing automation best practices!

3. Adjust Your Email Frequency Based On Their Interest Level

Best Practices: Fast Track Vs. Slow Track Funnel Tactic

There is a lot of grey area around the popular discussion of “how often should I email my list?”. And even more posts out there offering answers that are misleading and typically wrong. Not even typically… I don’t think anyone gets it right.

The answer is actually very simple, it just requires that you look at it from a different perspective.

In my own experience I have successfully emailed prospects 6 times a day and had them overjoyed, and have also been read the riot act over emailing someone 2 times per month. It’s obvious there is no one size fits all answer here in a conventional sense. You have to look to the prospect’s interest level.

Consider the 6 emails per day prospect who went ahead to buy my product. They had opted in for a lead magnet, and ascended to my qualifier via the thank you email which was a live webinar. I then sent them reminders up until the webinar and a follow up immediately after reiterating the bonuses for purchasing that day. Once they purchased they of course got a welcome aboard email.

On the other end of the spectrum I’ve been threatened to be turned in to the Better Business Bureau for emailing a prospect two times in a month! (People quickly turn into elementary school children on the playground if emailed more frequently than they like!)

If a prospect is interested it is your job to get them to the solution as quickly as possible. If they are not you need to back off. Because of this you should always build a fast track and a slow track in your sequences.

4. Only Allow A Prospect To Be In One Sequence At A Time

As your marketing automation campaign matures you are likely to have multiple lead magnets, each with their own sequence pushing the prospect to your qualifier. A common mistake that automators make is allowing the prospect to be in several sequences at the same time. Or even unknowingly promoting this by offering other lead magnets in their sequence and not pausing campaigns when a prospect could potentially be in more than one.

This greatly confuses the message and introduces the opportunity for you to burn out your list by over emailing them. Heck, it’s not even an opportunity… You WILL burn out your list if you allow prospects to be in multiple sequences at the same time.

5. Always Push The Prospect Forward

As a rule of thumb you should always be pushing your prospects forward. Your lead magnet download should not lead to another lead magnet download. That is the cowards choice! You should instead be pushing you prospect to your qualifier. In your qualifier they are pushed to the sale, and after the sale they are pushed to upsells.

Lead nurturing based on a prospects lifecycle stage is a straight forward concept, yet many do not embrace it. An important note is to make sure that your sequences are pausing the previous sequence as the prospects move forward in your marketing funnel.

From a psychological standpoint we are breaking down the commitment of purchasing our product to a bunch of smaller micro commitments. As the prospect moves down the funnel they build momentum towards the sale and following upsells. Of all the marketing automation best practices this one is one of the most comfortable to break. It feels good to have prospects opt in for other top of the funnel offers instead of moving forward and asking for the sale. The reality though is the initial reason you implemented marketing automation was to make more sales.

The bottom line? Determine a specific goal for every campaign and push towards that goal like a relentless 3 year old.

6. Determine The Hierarchy Of Your Sequences

Because we want to be always moving our prospect forward in the path to becoming a customer it is absolutely critical that we are determining the hierarchy of our sequences. The easiest way to do this is by breaking down you sequences by customer lifecycle stage or their place on the buyers journey.

Marketing Automation Best Practices - Remember The Buyers Journey

Once a prospect has passed a stage we want to only move them forward and pause sequences that are behind their new position (Best practices 4 and 5). An example of this would be:

  1. Lead Magnet Delivery Sequence
  2. Webinar Sequence
  3. Promo Offer Sequence

7. Get Inside Your Prospects Shoes

Get inside your prospects shoes when designing your automation campaign emails...

The best way to ensure the success of any campaign is to use a little empathy and get inside your prospects shoes. Realize that they have a problem they are trying to solve, and hold their hand along their way to the solution… And that solution just might be your product.

Your prospects are people with their own problems, their own aspirations, they own families they are trying to support. Instead of considering them as a number, shifting your view in this fashion will immediately have a profound effect on your results.

8. Segment Based On Interest

Make sure that your automation sequences are segmenting prospects based on their interests. What starts as general assumptions based on the average of all your prospects can quickly be dialed in if done correctly.

Best Practices: Segment your prospects based on their individual interests

In pretty much every marketing automation software platform there is a way to track interactions and segment users based on them. Whether that is by page views on the website, or emails clicks you need to have a strategy to determine a prospect’s intentions based on their behavior and then tailor the message based on the behavior.

An example is a printing company I set up campaigns for. They had a wide variety of customers looking for their plastic business cards. Some of these potential clients were interested in designing their own cards, while others had no design sense at all. By watching to see if they viewed our art specs page I could safely discern whether they were a designer or not. (A non designer would not download an Adobe Illustrator template).

[Organize Your Campaign With This Free Tool]

9. Only Push One Goal At A Time

The next marketing automation best practice has it’s roots in the psychological fact that humans are literally paralyzed by choice. Give someone too many options and it is unlikely they wil do anything at all.

Because of this you need to remain focused in your emails, in your qualifiers, and in your offering. Pushing more than one of anything only confuses the prospect and lessens the perceived value of your offerings.

Personally I break my automation campaigns up into sequences (each with 1 goal) and then each email into one message and one goal.

[Download my marketing automation campaign planner]

10. Try Multiple Angles For Your LeadMagnets And Qualifiers

If at first you don't succeed...

Lead magnets and your qualifiers take a lot of time and thought to put together. Whether we are talking about a live webinar, eBook, or downloadable information you have likely spent as much or more time on this as you have building your sequences. Because of this it is a best practice of mine to label them from multiple angles in an effort to resonate with more visitors.

Remember: Value is perceived by the end user based on the specific pains and desires they have at that moment.

The same webinar event for this example could be pitched as “Free Training”, “Live Demo”, “Live Lesson”, etc. and on slightly different goals. We are trying to resonate with what the visitor is trying to achieve at that moment.

Consider a webinar on building your email list… This could be hit from different angles using the following verbiage:

  • Live Training: How To Take Your List From Zero To 1,000 Subscribers
  • Live Training: How To Build A List Of Ready Buyers For Your Product
  • Live Training: How To Increase Your Blog Subscribers
  • Live Training: Three Expert Tips On Accelerated List Building

10.5 Remember It’s Okay To Break The Rules

Consider these marketing automation best practices as merely guidelines for an effective campaign. As with anything there are always reasons to break the rules and throw convention out the window. If you are starting out in automation however I would recommend following these guidelines to a “T” until you get the ropes and find your own style in campaign design.

[Download My Best Practices Cheat Sheet And Campaign Planner]
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Marketing Automation for Small Business Should Grow Results Over Time

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