What is Marketing Automation?
A definitive guide to marketing automation for health, fitness and nutrition-focused business owners and entrepreneurs. Want to try out the software? Get started for free. Enter your details below and check your email. We’ll be back in touch soon.
Why the interest in marketing automation? Maybe you’ve heard the term mentioned by others in your industry and you’ve come to see what all the fuss is about? Maybe you are ready to take the plunge and pay for automation software? You might even be a seasoned veteran having used automation within your business for years. If you’re completely new to marketing automation, this guide might just transform your business and change your life. If you are the seasoned veteran, there is a good chance you are still only scratching the surface of what is possible.
A cloud of confusion surrounds marketing automation. This is largely because there is no clear distinction between marketing automation as a concept or definition, and marketing automation as a service or software. Too many people jump headfirst into marketing automation with no real idea of what they’re hoping to achieve, no idea of what can be achieved, and no clear roadmap of how they plan to build and nurture their client relationships. This guide has been designed for health, fitness, and nutrition industry professionals, in an attempt to strip away the confusion, and provide a clear understanding of marketing automation. What it is, what it can do, and how it can be applied within your business.
2..Marketing automation as a concept or definition
There is a good chance you are already doing some kind of marketing automation. If an automated response is sent to a client when they sign up for something on your website, you have automated some part of the marketing process within your business. This could be considered marketing automation.
If you Google marketing automation however, the majority of information you will find is not the concept or definition, but rather the modern services or software. Essentially, these are the new tools which allow you to execute marketing automation, or automate marketing processes within your business, on a larger scale. Marketing automation has been around forever. Only recently has it been built into a user-friendly tool, packaged, and sold as software.
3..Marketing automation as a service or software
Marketing automation software includes any software which allows you to automate your marketing process in some way. The important thing to take into consideration, is that marketing automation software can be as simple as a feature allowing you to create an autoresponder email to send when a client signs up. Or as complex as feature allowing you to build a sequence of emails to send a new client as they move through a series of varying paths based on their online behaviour and buying history.
Marketing automation software is offered in many different shapes and sizes. Companies like MailChimp now offer marketing automation services as an additional feature to an existing product like email marketing. Other companies like ActiveCampaign offer marketing automation as the primary service. Marketing automation is now almost exclusively offered as SAAS (software as a service). All this means, is that you pay a monthly or yearly fee to be able to log into your own account online, build automation processes, and manage and connect with your client.
In addition to all of this, companies who offer marketing automation as the main feature may also offer a range of additional features. Things like form builders, in-built CRM’s, landing page designers etc. A good dedicated marketing automation software service will allow easy integration with your existing services and software. Think of every online interaction or touchpoint a client has with your business. You might have booking system software entries and updates, payment gateways, social media interactions, website visits, landing pages, contact form submissions, online chat, email, the list goes on. All of these interactions can be, in someway, improved, automated, and connected.
4..So why use marketing automation software?
From the very first moment a client shows an interest in your product or service, a relationship forms. It’s your job to nurture these relationships. Truth be told, the future of your business depends entirely on your ability to maintain and build relationships. We are always online. From the moment we wake, to the moment we sleep. As is the case with any relationship, you need to connect with and nurture your client regularly without being too aggressive or annoying. If you can’t do this, your competitors will. Forget the specifics of whatever product or service you are selling, what you are really offering your client is a healthier lifestyle. And this is not something that can be achieved in one or two hours a week. If you are unable to regularly connect with your client and become part of their life outside the walls of your business or service, you are unlikely to keep them.
Every single relationship your business creates, builds, retains or loses, will be influenced by your online presence and interactions. Each client will be at their own unique stage of the relationship. You need to provide the smoothest possible pathway for this relationship to grow with the least amount of friction. As a business owner, you don’t physically have enough time in the day to do this as well as you should.
Think of marketing automation as your personally appointed relationship advisor. Marketing automation will tell you which relationships are worth pursuing, which relationships are providing the most value, and which relationships require more attention. Better yet, marketing automation will help you increase the value of your relationships all while reducing the amount of time and money required to do so.
5..Client journey marketing
At the end of the day, what most businesses are trying to achieve is not simply marketing automation, but rather, successful client journey marketing. Client journey marketing is a framework designed to help you acquire, nurture and grow your client base while you sleep. It’s all about putting in place an automated system which proactively encourages a client, at their unique stage of the buying cycle, in the right direction. Converting a visitor into a lead, a lead into a client, and a client into a loyal brand advocate.
Any Tom, Dick or Harry can purchase marketing automation software and automate marketing processes within their business. Very few people can leverage marketing automation to provide unique and successful client journey. In this guide, you’ll find the collective term client(s) used very few times. You should start thinking in terms of your individual client, and not your client(s). Every client has their own individual characteristics, health and fitness goals, needs and relationship with your product or service. As a result, each client should receive their own personalised marketing journey. As consumers, this is what we now expect, and this is what is required to gain the loyalty you need to build a remarkable business.
Independent, self-managed personal trainer.
Sally is a qualified personal trainer focusing in outdoor fitness and bootcamp style services. For the past two years, she has been building a client database who she keeps in contact with through Facebook and a weekly newsletter. Her classes have grown in size and she is now having big troubles managing payment and retention. She also fears she is losing potential leads because she can’t respond in a timely manner to new enquiries. After creating a new online payment method for her client base, Sally signs up for automation software. She imports her existing database and segments them into separate lists (clients and members, newsletter subscribers, new leads). When a new enquiry is made, an automated response is sent to the potential client with some information and a link to sign up and pay for an introductory class. If they are wanting more information first, they can click a different link which sends them a list of FAQ’s before directing them to a page where they can make a time to speak in person with Sally, or directly email her. This alone cuts weekly enquiries in half. As her automation software is synced with her payment system, Sally’s client is automatically sent reminders one week before and then one day before their payment is due. If they fail to pay after this, a notification is sent to Sally with their details. The software also sends a client who has attended more than three individual classes an offer to sign up to a monthly direct debit payment system.
Boutique fitness studio.
Beth owns a boutique strength and conditioning studio. On her website, she has a special introductory offer where a potential client can fill in their details to receive a free two-week introductory pass. When a prospect fills in the form, Beth’s automation software sends an automated email with information on how the client can claim their two-week pass. It also sends through some short ‘welcome to the studio’ information. Once the client opens the introductory email and clicks to book the pass, they are sent some questions about their fitness goals, an induction video, and a digital form which every member is required to sign. Beth’s automation software is integrated with her booking system, and if after one week the prospect has not booked into the system to claim the pass, a notification is sent to her receptionist to follow up on the offer. Once the client has scheduled a time to come in, Beth’s calendar is updated and she is sent an email with all the client information. When the client arrives at the studio, Beth already has a deep understanding of their background, what they hope to achieve, and doesn’t need to spend additional time running through the studio induction information.
Online wellness entrepreneur.
Gerrard is an online wellness coach. On his website, he has a free guide ‘Gerrard’s top ten tips on maintaining a healthy lifestyle through nutrition and exercise’. Thanks to a successful social media ad campaign, the guide is getting hundreds of hits per week. Gerrard makes the majority of his income through personalised online wellness consultations, individual wellness plans, and a book he recently released through Amazon. He doesn’t have time to personally connect with every visitor who has downloaded his guide. The solution? Gerrard has created an automation which triggers when a visitor has downloaded the guide, scrolled right through to the very end of the guide, and visited his website more than three times. Once a visitor has taken these actions, they are sent a personalised email inviting them to a free 10 minute phone call with Gerrard which is booked automatically to his calendar. These visitors convert at a rate nearly 10 times higher than the average downloader. Those visitors who have downloaded and read the entire guide without visiting the website aren’t offered the 10 minute phone call, but are still highly qualified leads. Because of this, they are sent a free chapter from Gerrard’s book in the hope they will later make a purchase.
6..Core features and cost
As previously mentioned, marketing automation software can include any piece of software which allows you to automate a marketing process within your business. Because of this, many services will advertise marketing automation features, but then fall horribly short on delivering the full marketing automation experience. Because most people aren’t aware of the full capabilities of marketing automation, they get sucked into a mediocre service never really getting a taste for what automation can do. Worse yet, many people purchase automation software without ever using the features to their full potential. Marketing automation software can cost anywhere from ten dollars a month to ten thousand, it all depends on the number of clients you work with, the features you require, and the level of support you expect. But contrary to what many people will tell you, you can actually get entry level access to the full spectrum of marketing automation features for less than $20 a month. Here are the fundamental features you should be looking to explore.
Marketing automation should have an easily accessible and editable client management system. Similarly to a CRM, each client should have their own unique profile which includes information like name, email, phone number, company etc.
Progressive profiling, lead nurturing and lead scoring
Unlike most CRM’s, marketing automation software should have the ability to learn about your client, building their profile based on behaviours and actions. Purchasing actions, website visits, social media interactions, just to name a few. This data should grow progressively as your client interacts more frequently with your business, allowing you to build automated sequences and workflows based on these actions.
Targeted email and outreach features
Marketing automation is often confused with email marketing. This is because the final outreach or connection made with your client will be through email. There is a big difference however, between an automated newsletter which is sent to all clients each month. And a unique, personalised email with a perfectly timed upsell offer triggered by actions taken by an individual client rather than a date on the calendar. In addition to an email feature, automation software should also facilitate SMS sending and site messaging.
Segmentation tools and user-friendly workflow design
Advanced segmentation tools are essential, allowing you to search for, group, and connect with a client based on their unique characteristics and behaviours. Segmentation tools should work in unison with user-friendly workflow designs. You should be able to easily create workflows with multiple paths and actions.
Easy and open integration
This is perhaps the most important feature. Marketing automation software, no matter how good, isn’t going to cover all your bases when it comes to marketing requirements. Your website will be separate, you might have separate booking systems, your social media accounts, landing pages and external lead capture forms all exist independently. You want to ensure all of your main touch points can be easily connected to your marketing automation account.
7..Attract a wider audience
Let’s imagine for a second that you’ve just opened your own smoothie shack in a small town with a grand population of 100. You know that 99 people living in the town are crazy for banana milkshakes. Love them. There is one person however, against the grain, who really loves blueberry smoothies. You’ve decided to purchase a large billboard just a block from the shack. Would you strap up a huge advertisement of a blueberry smoothie? You wouldn’t. And while this sounds stupid, there is a very good chance that you and most of your competitors are making the same mistake with your approach to marketing. You are appealing to only a fraction of your potential market.
Around 80% of your new online visitors are in the awareness stage of the buying cycle, meaning they are only vaguely interested in your product or service, and have no immediate plans to make a purchasing decision anytime soon. 15% are in the consideration stage, meaning they are definitely interested in the product or service you are offering, but will be doing a lot more browsing before making a purchasing decision. That leaves 5% who are ready to make a purchasing decision now, but still haven’t necessarily decided on a business or provider. Of this 5%, less than 1% have come ready to buy from you.
Believe it or not, most businesses have a marketing framework designed to sell primarily to the negative 1%. These are the businesses advertising blueberry smoothies in a town of banana lovers. The good news, is that through redesigning your marketing framework, and with the help of marketing automation, you can change this. Just because a client isn’t ready to purchase your product or service right now, it doesn’t mean they should be ignored.
Free educational material, improved contact and chat features, and effectively advertised and followed-up free trials or heavily discounted introductory offers are all great ways to broaden the entry of attraction for a potential client. With a little work, you can completely adjust your marketing framework in order to account for the 95% of your audience who would otherwise go unattended to. Smart businesses have implemented strategies to automate marketing in order to appeal to the wider 80%, freeing up time to deliver a more personalised outreach to those more closely positioned to a purchasing decision.
8..Client retention and leverage
It’s no secret that retaining a client is far easier and far cheaper than gaining a new one. We won’t go into any great detail about client retention now, but there is a good chance that increasing it is, and always will be, the single most important consideration within your business. Not only is client retention essential to building a sustainable and successful business, but high retention rates generally equate to loyalty. And a loyal client will do a far better job attracting new leads to your business than any marketing strategy or software ever will.
Marketing automation software can play a crucial role in helping you retain, identify, reward and leverage your client base. First, you need to define a clear picture of what a happy and loyal client looks like. You then need to identify the characteristics that indicate a client is moving toward or away from this picture. You need to create a framework which moves a client through identified stages or milestones, from prospect to loyal client.
Independent yoga and pilates studio.
Jackie is the owner of an independent Yoga & Pilates studio who work predominantly with a female client base. She has approximately 70 regular members on record, but only 25 of these have signed up on a direct-debit contract and membership basis. Low numbers of contracted members means revenue fluctuates month to month. This unpredictability makes it difficult for Jackie to hire an additional teacher she desperately needs to grow the business. Some weeks she is overstaffed, other weeks she is understaffed. Jackie signs up for marketing automation software which integrates with her booking system. When a non-contracted member attends more than three classes in a week, they are sent an automated email with a breakdown explaining the money they would save on a contracted membership allowing unlimited classes. A day after this email is opened, the client is sent another email with an offer for the client to trial the membership for the entire month with no commitments. They are also invited to attend a free weekly outdoor yoga session which Jackie has decided to offer only to her contracted members.
Online supplement store.
Stephen is the director of an online nutrition and supplements store. His main product is an organic whey protein. The store has been operating for just over a year now and Stephen has noticed he is having to continually up his marketing budget to meet company targets. With no client retention plan in place, Stephen is having a hard time building a sustainable business. Stephen decides to invest in marketing automation software. Every time a client purchases a 1kg bag of whey protein they enter an automation and are awarded a point in a lead scoring system. After a few weeks, Stephen notices that his most loyal client members are reordering from him, on average, every two months. Through automation, Stephen creates two client retention strategies. Two months after ordering, if a client hasn’t reordered, an automated email is sent to his client with a $10 voucher to be used toward the client’s next purchase. In addition to this, when a client reaches a lead score of five points, they are sent a shirt, protein shaker, and access to a private Facebook group where they can discuss any questions or concerns they have with professional athletes endorsed by Stephen’s company.
9..Word of warning. Marketing automation is not a panacea
It is probably clear by now that marketing automation isn’t going to do everything for you. You’re still responsible for creating the lead magnets, creating the content, and stepping in to provide a more personalised experience with your client when it’s necessary. More importantly, you’re responsible for determining which client behaviours indicate a client is at a certain stage of your buying cycle. Marketing automation is a facilitator. It works well only when you have a clear vision and map of how you plan to transition a client from where they are now (whatever stage of the relationship that may be), to where you want them to be. If you come to marketing automation without this clearly defined roadmap, things aren’t going to end well. For those who have come to marketing automation with a clearly defined plan, there is still a lot of work to do. Having said this, the initial work is far outweighed by the end result, which is a highly sustainable marketing machine.
Even with a clearly defined roadmap, don’t expect that the introduction to your marketing automation journey will be a breeze. It won’t be. Things are almost guaranteed to go wrong. You will upset a client by sending them unwanted and irrelevant material. Your workflows and segments won’t work as expected and you will miss deals. Integrations will break. Templates you create will look terrible on different devices. Content and offers you thought would increase leads and build stronger relationships will fail. But as you continually refine, adjust, assess, execute and repeat, you will slowly build a marketing framework which will sustainably and predictably increase qualified leads and client retention, while reducing the amount of time and money you need to invest to do so.
10..Is my business a suitable fit for marketing automation?
The simple answer to this is yes. It doesn’t matter if you’re the owner of a global franchise of fitness studios, or a personal trainer operating from the back seat of your car. Marketing automation is a cost effective solution to help you build a more sustainable and successful business. Executed well, marketing automation will boost qualified leads and increase client retention, while reducing the time and financial investment you are currently spending in an attempt to do so. A common excuse which deters most business owners is time. I just don’t think I have enough time to get started with marketing automation. If you are thinking this, you can guarantee you are desperately in need of marketing automation within your business.
With the range of software now available, you can undoubtedly find something to match your requirements and budget.
11. Getting started with marketing automation. A 10 step plan
The sad reality is, most people jump headfirst into marketing automation with no real idea of what they’re hoping to achieve, no idea of what can be achieved, and no clear roadmap of how they plan to build and nurture their client relationships. Pair this with the inevitable initiation woes, and you have a recipe for disaster.
There are a few planning steps you can take that will dramatically improve your chances at early success with marketing automation. You won’t be able to answer all of these questions while others will overlap. It doesn’t matter. It’s really important to get all of this information out of your head and onto an external document to so you can began mapping and planning your automation framework.
Write down all of the fundamental information about your business. Client numbers, industry, type of services, products, or memberships you offer, how long you’ve been operating, your unique selling proposition (what sets you apart), and anything else that comes to mind.
Detail your current marketing framework. Everything you are currently doing to market and sell your business, product, service. Everything from social media and PPC campaigns, to newspaper advertisements and mail drops. Where possible, also include the estimated spend and return on investment for each.
List all of your client touch points for both potential leads and existing client. In person, events, website, social media, booking system, billboard, radio.
List your current online services or softwares that need to be integrated. Website, booking system or payment gateways etc. Along with the core features and any additional features you expect the software to provide. Don’t sell yourself short here. There is a good chance that any online service, software or application you have can be, and should be, connected.
Detail exactly what your perfect, loyal client looks like. Outline their purchasing behaviour, transaction frequency, interactions with your business, referrals they provide, reviews they leave, and how they are rewarded.
Map your client journey. Literally draw a map with the different paths a client could take from initial interest in your product or service to becoming a loyal client. Include any significant milestones or stages a client might reach or pass through along the way. The more detailed you can make this map, the better.
Clearly define your business goals, objectives and targets. This should be an essential part of every business which is regularly reviewed and revised. If it’s not part of yours, now’s a great time to start. You should also list what you believe to be the current limitations standing in the way of you achieving these goals.
Draft exactly (with your current knowledge) what you hope to achieve from marketing automation. Which processes are you wanting to automate? Do you want to increase qualified leads, client retention, brand awareness? Are you looking to connect all your online interactions?
Do an online search for automation software. There are now endless software providers. But a quick search (literally 30 minutes) should narrow your options down to a few quality services which best fit your requirements, business, industry, and budget.
From all the information you have now listed, put together a one-page pitch to send the potential software providers you have found. Think of this as a job advertisement. List the key facts about your business and exactly what you hope to achieve through marketing automation. Identify the core features you require and any software or systems you are currently using which will need to be integrated. You can copy and paste this information into a support ticket or email it to a salesperson from the company. You will be surprised with the response time and level of detail you’ll receive back.
12. And that’s a wrap
At the end of the day, even if you do find the software best suited to your requirements, it’s going to take some getting used to. So long as the software you choose has the core automation features, good reviews, integrates with your existing touch points, and doesn’t lock you into an endless contract, it’s worth sticking it out for a while. Even though no two pieces of marketing automation software are exactly the same, once you’ve learned to use one, any additional services you move to will be far less difficult to get the hang of. In addition to this, you should also be able to easily export client information with all the collected data from one software service to the next.
From all the information provided in this guide, you should now have a deeper understanding of marketing automation. What it is, what it can do, and how it can be applied within your business. The key takeaway, is that marketing automation is a facilitator not an all-in-one marketing package. You should strive to deliver an epic client journey, using marketing automation software to execute this experience. Good luck!