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While marketing automation has been a hot topic for some time, a recent survey found that 98 percent of small businesses owners are shopping for marketing automation software for the first time. Searching for the right automation tool as a small business owner can be overwhelming, because it may not be clear what a quality or cost-effective marketing automation tool looks like.

Fear not. Consider this an brief introductory course on marketing automation; it will cover the basics of what it is, it’s different functions, and how to get the most out of the software you choose.

What Is Marketing Automation?

On the surface, the phrase is deceptively simple. Everyone knows what marketing is and  everyone knows what automation is, but if you ask someone to define the concept you’ll probably get a different answer every time with a lot of discrepancies in-between.

At its core, marketing automation is about recognizing that there are numerous touch points between initial contact with a prospective new customer (creating interest) and the ultimate conversion (turning that interest into a sale). This is where marketing automation comes in. For a local business owner who is focused on delivering quality products or services, collecting customer data and emailing them to generate new and repeat business is a non-starter. So rather than endlessly typing out e-mails, posting on Facebook, and updating Excel sheets, local business owners should look to implement a technology that automates these tasks.

What Can Marketing Automation Do?

Approximately 50 percent of qualified prospects are not ready to immediately make a purchase. Automated campaigns help push these customers closer to a sale by deepening their connection to your brand and giving them the information they need to make a purchase decision.

For example, Signpost’s e-mail and SMS marketing campaigns automatically grow subscriber lists and send potential leads special offers and other information to encourage them to make their first  or next purchase. They also track clicks and engagement so small businesses can easily measure the effectiveness of their campaigns.

Other functions include:

  • Creating detailed user profiles for personalized targeted offers
  • Promoting reviews on Google+, Facebook, and Yelp to improve your online presence
  • Sending the right offer emails at the right times to drive new and repeat business

Best Practices

Once you’ve figured out what you’re looking for from marketing automation software, it’s important to get the most out of it. Surprisingly, 59 percent of companies don’t fully utilize the marketing tools at their disposal.

The first step in maximizing the utility of your software is to ensure all of your customer contacts have been added to your customer relationship management (CRM) system, or in other words, a database that houses all of your customer information. This ensures that customers receive a consistent experience (email messages) throughout the entire journey with your business. Check out completely hands-off technologies like Signpost which help you automatically aggregate and centralize your customer data.

Next, establish your priorities. Everyone wants more revenue growth and conversions, but what specific metrics are you looking to improve? Are you focused on increasing new customers or repeat business? Signpost allows you to do both! Automated remarketing ensures that your new customer base continues to grow and your repeat business keeps coming back.

Bottom line: Marketing automation allows you to keep your brand in front of the new customers you worked hard to get. The beauty of a marketing automation software like Signpost is that you don’t have to lift a finger. Once the Signpost engine starts, you can simply let it run.