A Step-by-Step Guide for New and Wannabe Customer Factory Managers
Marketing automation is powerful. It’s a business practice that separates great businesses from mediocre ones. It also levels the playing field, allowing small businesses to compete with the big players.
The big benefit of marketing automation for small-medium businesses is that it enables you to set up scalable systems (that run largely on autopilot) to generate new business, and to nurture your relationships with existing customers.
Marketing automation frees up time and resources you can spend elsewhere.
There’s just one problem: marketing automation tools (the customer factory infrastructure) can be prohibitively expensive.
If you’re just starting out, the price tag for tools like HubSpot, Marketo, Pardot and others are intimidating. These solutions can cost in excess of R37 500 ($2 500) per month! (It’s not a typo!)
Few business owners however are aware that you can build your own home-grown marketing automation suite for less than the cost of a decent business lunch for one person.
At Game Plan Geek we use Ash Maurya’s Customer Factory Model to explain the inner workings of marketing automation.
And in this article I’m going to show you step-by-step how to build the infrastructure for your own customer factory.
Step 1: Acquire a Piece of Land
Your first priority is a piece of real estate to build your virtual factory on. That means you need a domain name and you’ll need a hosting company to host your domain.
If you don’t have a domain and hosting company you can get one in a pretty upper-class commercial district for about R65 per month.
Caution: Many web developers will offer to register your domain name on your behalf. This is fine as long as they register it in your business name and not theirs.
Step 2: Build a Factory Building
Next you’ll need a building (website) to house your plant and equipment.
It’s important that you build your building with WordPress which is a content management system (CMS).
A content management system is the brain of your website. It lets you add new pages or blog posts and edit content without having to use a techie or learn any code. If you can use MSWord you’ll be able to use WordPress to manage the content of your website.
WordPress is free and ubiquitous. The code is open-source, which means a lot of people contribute to making it better over time. WordPress can power your entire website and blog and there are tons of add-ons (free and paid) that make it even more effective for a modern marketer.
Most web hosting companies have deep integrations with WordPress so that you can install it with just one click. No real technical knowledge is needed to find your way around.
There are thousands of free themes available which determine the look and feel of your WordPress website. It’s perfectly fine to use a free theme for a personal website. But because they tend to have little or no support I don’t recommend them for a business website.
Spend a little money (about R1500 should do the trick) to get a premium theme. I use StudioPress themes for all my websites because it’s built on the powerful Genesis framework, and their support is first class.
Caution: You’ll be tempted to invest money in interior decorating – getting a custom look designed for your website. Don’t go there yet. First focus your attention and resources on getting your virtual customer factory operational.
When using WordPress to house your customer factory you’ll be in the company of big dogs like The New Yorker, BBC America, Sony Music, MTV News, Beyonce and eBay Inc to mention a few.
Step3: Build a Data Processing Room
One thing that sets online media channels apart from traditional media channels is that you can measure just about every step of the customer journey, and also every activity in your customer factory. And when you can measure it, you can manage and improve it.
You don’t need a fancy enterprise level data room to get the metrics that you need to be successful.
You can use Google Analytics which is free and easy to install.
It will then tell you how many people are visiting your site, what content they’ve viewed, and how they’ve found you in the first place.
I’ve worked with big companies who use the free version of Google Analytics, so you’ll once again be in good company!
Step 4: Build a Communication Center
Apart from your virtual real estate (domain name) and your factory building (website), your email lists (database) is your most valuable marketing asset.
The ability to communicate directly with leads and customers is a priceless competitive advantage, and it’s a crucial component of marketing automation.
You have many software options to choose from. But I recommend you start with either GetResponse or MailChimp.
Both integrate directly with WordPress, so you can quickly deploy forms on your website that let people opt-in to your mailing list… again without knowing any code. And without hiring an expensive developer.
GetResponse is simply the best value for money email marketing solution currently available. Start with their Email Plan ($15/mo), irrespective of the size of your current email list. Once your customer factory is up and running you can upgrade your plan if you feel it warrants it. (They have a free 30 day trail.)
Your second option is MailChimp which is 100% free to use when you send 2,000 or less emails per month. It does not offer nearly the same automation possibilities as GetResponse, but it is still a valid, and very popular, way to get your feet wet with email marketing.
When the time comes to upgrade your MailChimp plan to a paid plan, rather switch to GetResponse to get their better feature set.
You’ll be in good company with GetResponse. They have 350 000 happy customers in 182 countries. And I’m one of them.
Step 5: Build a Cafeteria
The online marketplace is driven by social interactions and you’ll need both a Facebook business page and a Google+ page to become part of the “in” crowd. And to show prospects and customers that you have a legitimate business.
Even if you don’t intend building out a social media presence, create these pages. You need the Google+ page to show up in local searches. And you need the Facebook page if you want to get new leads and customers for your business.
Your social media presence is never something that can be 100% automated, even with a high priced marketing automation tool. Effective social media marketers interact in real time.
That said, you can, and should, automate the practice of content “curation”. That is, finding and sharing content that you didn’t create but that your audience will find helpful.
You can use either Buffer or Hootsuite and they both have robust 100% free options that will satisfy the needs of a new customer factory manager.
These tools offer you a way to automatically schedule and post interesting things you find around the web. From one place, you can automatically post to major social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus. You pre-determine the times of day things should post and the App automatically ensures that your content publishes at those specific times.
As a bonus, Buffer will also show you which social posts got the most engagement, so that you can hone in on what your audience cares about the most.
With these five marketing automation tools in place you have the infrastructure you need to start ‘manufacturing happy customers’.
Let’s summarize the cost of your factory infrastructure:
Once off: Between R0 and R6 000+
- Content Management System (WordPress) = Free
- WordPress installation = Free (if you use the correct hosting company)
- Professional WordPress setup and basic customization = R1 500+ (optional but recommended)
- Premium website theme and installation = R1 500 (optional but recommended)
- Google Analytics = Free
- Professional Google Analytics setup and configuration = R1 500+ (optional but recommended)
- Google+ page = Free
- Facebook business page = Free
- Professional Email marketing software setup, and integration with website = R1 500+ (optional but recommended)
- Labour cost (time needed if you don’t use Pro’s for the above and do it yourself) = between 40 and 80 hours
Monthly Fees: Between R70 and R295+
- Domain and website hosting = R70
- Email marketing software (GetResponse) = R225
- Or MailChimp = Free
- Social Media Management software (Buffer or Hootsuite) = Free
- Monthly maintenance (updates, backups, etc.) = 3 hours+ (outsource this or train a ‘maintenance worker’)
The next step is to design and build your first ‘assembly line’. I’ve included two additional steps showing how to do that in the expanded version of this article which you can download below.