Getting started with marketing automation can be overwhelming. Where do you start? What’s going to deliver ROI? What can you pull off on your own?
But the truth is...it's 100% worth the effort. When compared to businesses who don't use marketing automation, those who do achieve 25% more revenue attainment, spend 22% less time selling and source 25% more of their pipeline from their marketing efforts (Source: Marketo). And according to the same 2011 study, the majority of those companies start seeing results in a year or less.
So, to help all the agrimarketers out there make the most of the off-season, here are three simple marketing automation projects you can complete this winter.
Project 1: Improve Your Subscription Management
Did you know that a poorly managed, out-of-date email list could hurt your chances of reaching potential clients and leads?
If contacts you email aren't engaged and mark your communications as spam, that negatively impacts your sender score. And according to Return Path, 83% of the time an email isn't delivered, it's because of the sender's reputation (i.e. sender score).
So subscription management should be about more than CAN-SPAM or CASL compliance. It’s an opportunity to improve the health of your email list, while giving your subscribers an option other than a full opt-out if they don’t want to receive all of your email marketing.
This project assumes that you’re currently using email marketing software that can handle the basics of unsubscribes and mailing lists. So if you’re still sending via Outlook, this whole project can be summed up as, go open a marketing automation account (e.g. HubSpot or MailChimp).
For the rest of you, here are the steps:
1. Use an integrated sign-up form.
A good sign-up form is user-friendly and integrated with a marketing database. Every major email marketing platform comes with its own sign-up forms that can be embedded on (and styled to match) your website. Or your CMS might have a widget that connects its forms to corresponding forms in your email marketing software. Either way, if you’re still adding contacts manually, you need to re-evaluate.
2. Turn on double opt-in.
When you have the double opt-in feature turned on, new subscribers will be sent a confirmation email asking them to consent to receiving email communications from you. Those who click "yes" in the email will be added to your contact list, while those who fail to do so will not.
This is a best practice for maintaining list health, as it ensures that you are sending communications to more engaged users. Unfortunately, it frequently gets pushback from marketers afraid to lose a subscriber that doesn’t confirm their subscription. My counter-point is that allowing that unengaged subscriber to drop-off early is better than waiting for an eventual unsubscribe or allowing them to drag down your open rates.
3. Decide what types of email to send.
This is the biggest challenge when improving subscription management, because it’s all about setting expectations. You should have 3 – 5 defined lists or email types that encompass most of the email you send to your subscribers. For instance, a crop protection company's lists might look like this:
- Product promotions & information — encompassing everything from info on grower programs to new products coming down the pipeline
- Pest management tips & tricks — seasonally relevant links to curated and original content about insect, weed and disease control
- Ask the expert Q&A — user-generated questions answered biweekly by expert agronomists
- Updates from the field — weekly aggregate list of important events happening in the industry
Remember, you can always add new email types as you grow, but starting with options like Company News, Events & Webinars and Monthly Newsletter should cover your bases.
4. Let your contacts choose.
Now that you know what you’re going to send, you should allow your clients to choose what they want to receive. Whether you do this on your subscription form, on the confirmation page or in a follow-up email, the goal is to explain what you send and how often. If they ignore that opportunity, feel free to sign them up for everything.
Project 2: Add Segmentation Fields to Your Database
Segmentation is a big deal where efficiency is concerned. According to a 2015 study by DMA, 77% of email marketing ROI came from campaigns targeted at segmented lists.
This one sounds easier to tackle than it really is, because you need to add those fields strategically, and you need to fill in that data as completely as possible. I’ve seen too many systems with a dozen yes/no fields used to track event data from two years ago for the sake of 22 contacts.
Some commonly added fields in the ag world include:
- Crops Grown (Multi-Select)
- Farm Size (Option Set)
- Industry Role (Option Set)
The important thing is that these fields allow you to target your subscribers more effectively and they work in conjunction with your email types from the project above. For example, if you’re having an event that would interest canola growers, you could be able to send it to anyone that grows canola and has opted-in to your Events & Webinars list.
These fields should be added to your lead capture forms. You should go through your database and assign values to as many contacts as possible. You won’t get 100%, but this will set you up for success over the long term.
Project 3: Build a Simple Branching Email Campaign
Did you know that B2B marketers can boost their sales pipeline by an average of 10% by using marketing automation?
Next to a solid contact database, workflows (aka sequences, journeys, etc.) are the most important part of marketing automation. They’re simple to understand, but many ag marketers just use them to schedule emails, which is something you can do with an Outlook reminder. The real power is using branching logic to send emails based on the actions of your recipients.
To get started with branching logic, you don’t need a massive campaign with a bunch of paths. A single send, with a yes/no branch based on whether the contact submitted a form will help you master the basics and add some value. To set it up you’ll need:
- A new eBook, event or other content offer requiring a form submission.
- A piece of follow-up content for contacts that submit the form.
- A pair of related blog posts or a video for contact that don’t submit the offer.
- A landing page for your content offer.
- A lead capture form for your landing page.
- An email template with an image, some copy and a call-to-action button.
That sounds like a lot, but there’s a good chance you have the blog posts and the follow-up content lying around. The same is probably true for the email template. The heaviest lift will likely be the new content or event, but if you’re planning any customer events in the winter months, this process is perfect for rea
Without getting into the weeds, the general of the flow of the campaign should be; send an email promoting your offer, wait three days, check to see who submitted the form. Anyone that submitted gets the follow-up content. Anyone who didn’t gets some related, ungated content likes blogs or videos.
Each of these marketing automation projects is something the average, non-technical agrimarketer can tackle this winter. They won’t transform your entire marketing machine, but they’ll grow your skills and set you up for success moving forward!
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