Do you use marketing automation software to reach your members, prospects, or partners in a targeted way? That’s awesome! Many marketers have some trepidation about using marketing automation software, since it can take some time to learn and set up. But that didn’t stop you. So you’re probably the type of person who wants to make sure you’re using your marketing automation tool in the best way possible, right?
If so, you’ll find this list helpful. It’s nine things you can do to optimize your use of marketing automation. If you find you need to make improvements, don’t feel bad. Any mistakes you might have made are probably common ones that have also been made by the best in the business.
Let’s dive in.
- Create a strategy
Know your strategic goals for using the platform going in and how you’ll reach them. For example, maybe one of your strategic goals is to reduce email fatigue among members. One of your tactics could be to use marketing automation to segment and personalize your campaigns better.
You can have the most powerful tools in the world, but if you don’t have a plan for how you’ll use them, you’re right back in the position of firing off emails and hoping magic happens.
Tip: Watch The Association Marketer’s Guide for 2022 Planning webinar for some help with developing goals and processes.
2. Create achievable goals
So you convinced the board to invest in this great new technology platform, and now you want to show them they made the right decision by taking it from 0 to 60 in 30 seconds. You might be tempted to tackle a huge email campaign right away, but smaller steps will serve you better. Master the essentials before moving on to giant workflows and alternate paths for numerous subscriber types.
Tip: Our favorite campaign to start with? New member onboarding! Our campaign “cookbook” is a fun way to approach building automated campaigns. It’ll walk you through the ingredients and step-by-step plan of creating your own onboarding campaign.
3. Leverage more of your database
A marketing automation platform is only as powerful as the data you put into it. If your data isn’t flowing in, it’s difficult to create relevant, personalized messaging. What good is being able to deploy emails if your audience’s information is out of date or you have to spend lots of time uploading lists? With the right marketing automation platform, integration should be easy, and you should be able to act on that data as well as the data from your marketing automation platform.
Tip: Take a step back and think carefully about the data you think you’ll need for your campaigns.
4. Move away from the same email to everyone
The best part of a marketing automation platform is that you can send the right message to the right person at the right time. You have the tools you need to personalize, so that your audience feels like you really know them.
For example, the Australian College of Nursing started using dynamic content, a feature of marketing automation, to personalize their email newsletter for members. At ACN, every department can include the content they need to highlight, but only the stories of interest to each recipient appear in their version of the email.
Tip: Dynamic content is an easy place to start. Try it in one email and see how it works – then branch out from there.
5. Take advantage of all the features
A marketing automation platform is a great investment for your organization. And just like it’d be a waste if you bought Adobe Creative Cloud and only used it to crop images, it’d be a shame to invest in a marketing automation platform that’s stocked with a broad range of functionalities and capabilities, then use it only to schedule one-off emails. It’s more than worth your time to learn what your tool can do and take all those features out for a spin. You’ll gravitate more toward some than others, but at least you won’t be missing out on something you didn’t know was there.
Tip: A marketing automation platform can do more than just send emails! When you’re building a campaign, you can include things like reminders – for example, if you need the membership team to reach out during a renewal flow, build in a notification to remind them when it’s time to make calls. See what else you can implement besides just sending emails.
6. Plan ahead
Marketing automation saves you numerous steps and frees your staff from mundane, manual tasks. In fact, our marketing software for associations, Higher Logic Thrive Marketing, includes automated campaign templates to get you started! But there are still some pieces you’ll have to think through – particularly campaign design and content creation. So make plans for your campaigns to make the best use of the platform.
Tip: Our campaign “cookbook” walks you through the ingredients and step-by-step plan of creating your own automated email campaigns.
7. Use marketing automation to help other departments
A marketing automation platform can benefit nearly every part of your organization. While your marketing or comms department will typically be the owner of the platform, departments like sales, events, membership, PR, and others would benefit from automation. For example, you could set up a campaign for sales that alerts them when a big company downloads a sponsor prospectus or visits parts of the website that indicate they might be in buying mode.
Tip: Form productive cross-departmental relationships and educate the whole organization on what the platform is, what it can do, and how it’s being used. This will lead to more cohesive strategies, informed campaigns, and better managed expectations, as well as a better understanding of what you do.
8. Test and tweak
You get good at something by experimenting and discovering the best way to do it, then practicing it so that it becomes second-nature. Marketing automation is no different. You may find something that works well, but does that mean there’s nothing else that might perform even better? No. Test every aspect of your emails and campaigns by continuing to test subject lines, CTAs, landing pages, and formats. Your members will show you what the winners are. And once you learn what works, you should apply what you learned to everything else you’re doing.
Tip: Don’t rely on “best practices” when it comes to marketing! Andrea Huggins, Senior Marketing Manager at AASHE, shared in a recent podcast episode about the importance of knowing your audience.
9. Tighten up your email lists
You don’t want members to get two different emails from the same campaign because they somehow wound up in two different audience segments. Keeping your lists well maintained will help you reach your goal of more personal, relevant communication. Check the lists and segments of every campaign so you can make sure contacts aren’t getting duplicate emails on a regular basis. Otherwise, your efforts might make members think you’re not paying attention – the exact opposite of what you want!
Tip: Checking for overlap shouldn’t be too difficult a task. What’s a little more difficult is doing regular housecleaning on your database so that only your most engaged recipients receive emails.
The Bottom Line: Keep Marketing & Carry On
Even if you’re currently making several of these mistakes, don’t despair! You are light years ahead of those who don’t even know they’re making mistakes at all. Don’t feel you need to achieve immediate perfection. Even if you went down this list and took one baby step to solve for each, you’d find yourself moving in the right direction and seeing positive returns for your efforts.
Beth’s marketing experience encompasses more than twenty-five years of marketing strategy and member/customer engagement in various industries, including puzzles and games, training, education and aviation.
In addition to marketing, Beth has worked in event management and web development, wearing a variety of hats in different positions. She has also been an adjunct professor of marketing at Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia.
Beth received a Bachelor of Science degree in Merchandising from James Madison University, a Certificate in Event Management from The George Washington University, and a Masters of Business Administration/Marketing from the University of Phoenix. She has earned numerous awards for her marketing, including two Top Digital Marketer of the Year awards.
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