A Step-by-Step Guide for Small Business Owners and 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 processes(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 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: Build a Mobile Friendly Website
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 R85 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.
Next you’ll need a building (website) to house your plant and equipment.
It’s important that you build your website 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 players like The New Yorker, BBC America, Sony Music, MTV News, Beyonce and eBay Inc to mention a few.
Step 2: Set Up Performance Tracking
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 system 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 2: Set Up Email Marketing Software and/or Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software
Apart from your virtual real estate (domain name) and your factory building (website), your customer and lead lists (databases) are 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 something simple like MailChimp.
It integrates 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.
MailChimp is 100% free to use when you send 2,000 or less emails per month. It does not offer automation possibilities in the free version, but it is still a valid, and very popular, way to get your feet wet with email marketing.
When it comes to a CRM there are hundreds of options to choose from, many of which a free versions. The most important selection criteria is how it integrates with your Email Service Provider because this will save you a lot of time and missed opportunities.
Step 4: Get Active on Social Media
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 R9 000+
- Content Management System (WordPress) = Free
- WordPress installation = Free (if you use the correct hosting company)
- Professional WordPress setup and basic customization = R2 500+ (optional but recommended)
- Premium website theme and installation = R2 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 R80 and R295+
- Domain and website hosting = R80
- Email marketing software = R225+
- Customer Relationship Managagement software = Free
- Social Media Management software (Buffer or Hootsuite) = Free
- Monthly maintenance (updates, backups, etc.) = 3 hours+ (outsource this or train a ‘maintenance worker’)
Step 5: Build Automated Workflows and SMarketing Campaigns
The challenge of using so many different tools is feeling like nothing is working together. But that’s where the magic of the customer factory metaphor and the power of WordPress come back into play.
The primary purpose of any customer factory is to turn unaware prospects into happy repeat customers. Putting it another way: To get and keep customers.
To do that your factory basically needs five assembly lines:
Line 1: Drives traffic to your website (getting visitors)
Line 2: Convert website visitors into email subscribers (getting leads)
Line 3: Convert email subscribers into first-time buyers (getting new customers)
Line 4: Convert first-time buyers into repeat customers (keeping customers)
Line 5: Selling more to existing customers (monetizing customers)
Aim for at least 1 campaign or workflow in each line. Most small businesses end with between 3 and 5 in each line.
It’s important to point out that most campaigns have both a customer or front end workflow, and a back end workflow that your customers won’t see.
Let’s use Line 2 as an example of how easy it is to build a bare-bones assembly line to collect email addresses from new visitors to your website.
The visitors workflow (front end workflow)
From your visitors perspective the workflow looks like the one below.
Tip: Always use double-opt-in to protect yourself from Spam complaints. The extra step will lose you some subscribers, but it’s a small price to pay for a clean list.
The back end workflow
The back end and tracking software workflows looks slightly different and includes a few additional steps which your visitors won’t be aware of. The purpose of these steps is to help you optimize and improve your workflow.
Step 6: Optimize and Improve Workflows and SMarketing Campaigns
Once you have the basic assembly line up and running you can expect about 1% of your website visitors to subscribe to your list. That’s nothing to get excited about, especially if your website is not getting a lot of traffic.
Fortunately it’s very easy to improve your subscription rate. Offer your visitors something valuable in return for their email address. We call this a Lead Magnet and this article from Optin Monster has 30 lead magnet ideas you can use to grow your email list.
It’s just as easy to get more traffic to your website. You simply go to a traffic store (Facebook or Google AdWords) and you buy targeted traffic. The secret though is to send them directly to the page where you are offering your Lead Magnet.
Need help with your SMarketing Automation? Get in touch or call Di-Di on 082 416 7145
Your Job as Business Owner or Manager
Your job as owner or manager is to understand the strategy behind the workflows and the steps of each workflow. It’s not your job to build each of the steps in the workflows.
Trying to do that is like expecting an architect to know how to pour the foundation, build the walls and roof, and run the electricity and plumbing. An architect does not need to know how to do all of those things. Instead she understands what’s needed and then she monitors the quality of the work of the building contractors.
To this day I don’t know how to write the code that goes into making everything in a marketing automation system work.
I understand the strategy, and I understand how to design the workflows needed to implement the strategy. I then hire people who are great at building the workflows. This way, we all do what we are best at.
If you would like to learn more about customer factory strategy check out these posts on the Game Plan Geek blog
[Video] The Virtual Customer Factory Model
The customer factory model is not simply a mechanical process for cranking out paying customers, but rather a well designed system for making happy customers
Frequently Asked Questions About Marketing Automation?
Marketing automation is the foundation of a productive and scalable virtual customer factory. In this article I answer a handful of frequently asked questions about this new technology stack.
Update: This article was originally published on July 5, 2016. It was updated to keep up with the most recent trends and technology on March 1, 2017.