It’s no secret that cultivating and nurturing customer relationships is the key to good business. So, it’s natural for small business owners to have some concerns over automating your marketing process with so much at stake. But with marketing automation credited with increasing conversions 77%, according to a recent survey, it is fast becoming a necessity to the success of any business. With these simple steps, you’ll find you don’t need to sacrifice the human element for the sake of progress.

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1. Cultivate your lists personalizing marketing automation

A successful campaign always begins with a quality list. Whether it’s email or SMS, it’s vital that the people receiving your messages want to be receiving them. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s also a vital part of the equation. Needless to say, email blasts to a prospect list that you’ve purchased should be avoided. The goal is to continue to engage customers online and in between visits. With repeat customers being anywhere from 40-65% more likely to make a purchase than new customers, and the added value they’ll bring through word of mouth, there’s plenty to focus on. But it doesn’t stop there; encourage customers to opt-in to your email and SMS lists (perhaps by providing exclusive offers and incentives), but always give them the chance to unsubscribe easily. At no point do you want them to feel trapped or frustrated with your business.

2. Customize content where possible

This might seem like a tall order when automating, but by personalizing your content wherever possible, you stand to maximize your return even more. An Experian report found that personalized emails generate on average 6x more revenue than their non-personalized counterparts. By tracking purchase history you can segment your lists and provide custom recommendations, let customers know when their favorite items are back in stock and send them targeted offers that they are more likely to redeem. Signpost simplifies this process by providing customizable Email Newsletters templates so that you can easily reap the benefits of this approach. Always make sure the content you’re sending is current and a good representation of your business.

3. Diversify your channels

With 60% of mobile users reporting they utilize their mobile device as their primary or exclusive internet source, it’s essential to make their experience as native and seamless as possible. While it may be easier than ever to check your email on the go, 76% of consumers said they are more likely to read a message sooner if it’s SMS than email, and 70% feel that an SMS or text message is a good way for a business to get their attention. Catering to your audiences by utilizing their preferred methods of communication  shows your customers that you value  their time and can go a long way.

4. Make engagement a priority, even beyond automation

Remember that marketing automation is one tool in your arsenal. Don’t lose sight of your end goal: Driving engagement with new and returning customers in order to stay top of mind. Be sure to connect and respond with customers on your social pages and review sites. Whether it’s responding to negative feedback, resolving customer service issues and neutralizing the situation before it has the chance to impact your business, or answering questions about products or services, it’s essential to keep the conversation going both on and offline.