If you run your own business, it’s hard enough to hand over the reins of a project to someone else, let alone a computer program, but doing so with marketing automation might yield a lot better results than you may think, as well as shave a lot of time off your already busy schedule.

Marketing automation refers to programs that brands may utilize to streamline repetitive tasks that may otherwise become tedious or burdensome for a live employee to do over and over again. No founder or hustler is afraid of rolling up their sleeves and grinding out even the most mundane of tasks, but face it, there are simply better ways for you to spend your time than constantly sending introductory emails or retweeting every mention. Marketing automation allows you and your company to release some of the burden onto programs that are simple to set up and easy to manage.

In other words, marketing automation helps you not just work harder, but smarter.

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The Customer Journey

There are many marketing philosophies that have proliferated since the golden age of advertising, and each has its own merits and values. In today’s age of highly choosy consumers, a brand must do much more than scream about its products’ advantages and prices. Brands must meet consumers where they’re at, talk to them how they talk to each other, and guide them respectfully through the customer journey from awareness to advocacy.

That’s a whole lot of hand-holding just to convert one person into a customer; however, with so many competitive options easily available for consumers to choose from, brands don’t have much choice but to conform their marketing tactics to fit their prospective customers’ needs. As the old adage goes, the customer is always right … even before they buy.

Marketing automation can help immeasurably throughout the process of guiding consumers along the three steps of the customer journey, saving business owners a lot of time and hassle. When done right, consumers will hardly notice it’s an automated process. In fact, they might even believe it’s the owner and founder themselves on the other end of the computer screen walking them through the whole process step-by-step.

Attracting Consumers To The Product

For most marketing philosophies, the first step in the customer journey is attracting prospective customers to the products or services of the brand. Traditionally, this has been done through advertising and other outbound marketing tactics in which the company casts a lot of lines to try and hook interested audiences. Inbound marketing, on the other hand, refers to the tactic of drawing consumers to your brand, to your website, or to your storefront because of the intrinsically valuable content you offer.

For example, consumers who have never heard of your company before might stumble upon a relevant blog post that had been published on your website, which then encouraged them to explore your corresponding products and services before becoming a customer. Or, they may have searched a hashtag used in one of your company’s recent Instagram posts, which thus attracted them to your brand and then your website.

Marketing automation assists with attracting consumers several ways, depending on the type of software. Two major points of value for helping attract prospective customers are lead generation and content curation.

Most business owners would do some questionable deeds in order get their hands on an email list of hot prospects, but even if they got them, most consumers are pretty resilient against cold calls from companies they’ve never heard of before. Many marketing automation programs help create that list for you, from consumers who actually want to hear from you, with a simple form that pops up on your website for visitors to fill in with their email. With a strong inbound marketing campaign and intrinsically valuable content like relevant blogs on your site, visitors will gladly pop in their email for a chance at more high-quality content.

Social media is another part of growing a brand that many business owners, founders or executives rarely have time to invest in themselves. Too often, it’s a chore delegated idly to a well-intentioned but inexperienced intern, whereas it may be relegated to a marketing automation program. There are a lot of ways to leverage marketing automation for social media, but a simple and easy one to attract prospective consumers is through content curation on platforms like Twitter. Programs that select and share content that fits the interests of your customer demographic saves you a lot of time while attracting a lot of targeted prospects to your brand.

Immersing Consumers Into Your Brand

Humans have always been naturally curious beings, and the 21st century consumer is no different, especially when comparing brands. Some want to follow you on Instagram for a few months before finally checking out your website. Some want to binge through your blog before eventually clicking over to view your products and services. Some want to fill their carts with various products but then abandon last minute before filling in their order information and exit out of their browser without a moment’s hesitation.

Each of those touchpoints is an opportunity for your brand to guide them along the customer journey towards the decision to buy, and each of those actions they take (“Follow,” “Read More,” “Add To Cart”) are Triggers that may be leveraged via marketing automation.

Even if you’ve transitioned to a strong inbound marketing strategy in which you hunt down prospects one by one, it is likely still frustrating to see all those attracted consumers fall out of the customer journey after the first few touchpoints. Automated responses that are triggered by consumer behavior can help keep many of those prospects in the funnel and ultimately convert into buying customers.

For example, many social media programs with automated marketing capabilities offer auto-responses to new followers, so your brand can direct message every single prospect simply and easily without you yourself having to lift a finger. Additionally, you may set up your website with automated popups that appear as visitors complete certain behaviors; i.e., when they reach the end of a blog post or attempt to abandon their cart.

The more immersed into your brand experience, the more invested consumers are into your brand offerings. In order to maximize their immersion, take advantage of each touchpoint by leveraging these triggers with marketing automation. Otherwise, they’re just wasted opportunities.

Extending The Relationship Beyond The Checkout

Do you know what’s better than a customer who buys your product? A customer who buys it twice.

Do you know what’s better than a customer who buys your product twice? A customer who buys it twice AND refers you to a friend.

Do you know what’s better than a marketing strategy that ends at the first point of sale? A marketing strategy that continues after the first point of sale and extends the relationship with the consumer well beyond the checkout.

By the time your customer has made their first purchase, they’ve already been attracted to your brand enough to explore what distinguishes it from your competitors, and they’ve already been immersed into your brand experience enough to take that leap of faith and click “Buy.” Though it may not have been comparable to a record-breaking roller coaster experience, they have at the very least gone through an emotional transformation from a consumer completely unaware of your brand to a knowledgeable customer and proud purchaser of your product. But the customer journey doesn’t end there — the final challenge is to convert them into a brand advocate to double, triple, maybe quadruple the ROI of all your hard work getting them to finally buy.

Brand advocates are more than just passive customers. They’re your champions, and perhaps the most valuable assets of your marketing arsenal. They’re leaving reviews of your service on Yelp. They’re sharing pictures of your product on Facebook. They’re planning on buying more for their parents on their anniversary or a gift card from your company for their best friend’s birthday. Brand advocates represent the puzzling integer of the viral coefficient in marketing; in other words, every time you convert a passive customer into a brand advocate, you apply a multiplier effect to that first sale.

The more extensive your relationship with them, the higher that multiplier effect will be. Once again, marketing automation helps guide that final stage of the customer journey.

Whether through email marketing tactics like sending a personalized email on the customer’s birthday or by targeted social media actions like retweeting each Twitter mention that includes a picture, there are many ways to leverage marketing automation to extend the customer’s relationship with the brand well beyond that first checkout.

It all begins with simply sharing the load. Your company can’t grow when it’s all resting on your shoulders — let marketing automation (and a team that knows how to manage it) help you assemble an army of brand advocates who can help expand your business exponentially.