Get your messages to the right people at the right timeDigital technology provides many communication tools, from social media to email campaigns, webinars and more. Better yet, posting on these platforms doesn't have to be done manually. Enter marketing automation tools. Here's an intro on how they work — and when they might be right for your organization.
How automation helps
If your nonprofit is like most, your marketing goals center around bringing in more money and creating awareness of who you are and what you do. To meet these goals, you need people to engage with your online content. Then, the people need to be converted into leads, and then the leads into action — donating, volunteering, partnering, social sharing, and so on.
So how can marketing automation help? By:
- Nurturing leads and converting them into action
- Reaching every person or organization in your target groups
- Making your marketing efforts more efficient
- Creating a consistent presence across multiple channels
- Scaling marketing efforts with minimal manual resources
OK — but how does it work?
Examples of marketing automation in action range from auto-reply messages for each new follower on Twitter to a complex process that includes serial email messages, triggers and workflow automations.
For example, let's say your nonprofit is planning a webinar or other special event. You might plan a series of email messages to:
- Thank each person who registers for the event and encourage them to share details of the event on social media
- Remind each attendee of the schedule or log-in details
- Thank each person who attends the event
- Ask attendees for feedback
- Contact those who signed up but didn't attend the event, thanking them for their interest and offering other ways to stay involved
- Thank those who provided feedback and offer links to relevant site content
- Ask attendees if they'd like to become a member or volunteer
- Follow up with those who say "yes"
Lots of email, right?! With marketing automation, emails like these can be automated and personalized to suit your marketing goals.
Here's how it works: Once someone registers for the event, he or she is added to an email list. Emails can then be sent to that entire list before and after the event. Better yet, the content can be customized for those who attend the event and those who don't, those who speak at the event or serve as panelists and those who simply attend the event, and so on.
The style, tone and wording of each message is up to you. You can be as direct, clever or informal as you choose, responding just as you would have done manually.
Are we ready for marketing automation?
As helpful as marketing automation can be, it isn't necessarily appropriate for beginners. Instead, marketing automation is most effective for organizations that have already found some degree of marketing success and now need assistance streamlining and scaling up their processes.
If you're not sure, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do we have a clearly defined marketing plan and content strategy (as in, a plan for web content, social media outreach, search engine optimization, and so on)?
- Do we produce a consistent flow of organic, or non-paid, leads (as in, those originating from referrals or online searches)?
- Do we track leads across various channels?
If you answered no to any of these questions, it might be best to hold off on the idea of marketing automation — at least until your marketing needs mature.
If you're ready to put marketing automation to the test, start with budget-friendly platforms. Experiment to find what works best for your organization. Better yet, use various free trials to compare the options. Soon you'll have help disseminating your messages to the right people at the right time.
ClickDimensions: Introduction to campaign automation
VentureBeat: 8 free or super-cheap marketing automation systems by John Koetsier (2014)
Capterra: Free and open source marketing automation software: 10 options for $0 by Caroline Malamut (2015)
HubSpot: What is marketing automation? A beginner's guide by Alyssa Rimmer (2013)
SimplyCast: Top 10 benefits of marketing automation by Veronica Taylor (2014)