Using Marketing Automation to Catch The Ones That Get Away

Over the weekend I needed to hire a car so I did what most people do these days and searched Google, found a reputable car hire broker, entered my details and picked the best value car for my needs.

So far so easy.

I then entered all of my contact details and credit card payment information and pressed the big ‘Process Order’ button, for some reason nothing happened. I pressed it again and still nothing. How very annoying. I’m not sure if this was a problem with my Firefox browser or their website but either way it was a total pain. I closed down my laptop and cursing to myself vowed to do it the next day.

2 hours later I got an email from the company saying:

“We noticed that you did not complete the booking form on xxx for your car hire.

If you booked your car hire on xxx or with another car hire provider please ignore this email and accept our apologies.

Alternatively if you wish to complete the booking form and your car hire booking on 121Carhire.com please click the link below or copy and paste it into your web browser.

url to shoppingcart with my details already populated

If you are having any difficulty in booking your hire car, please email us and we will do all we can to resolve your problem.”

Now this is very smart marketing. All too often when we think of marketing we think about how to generate leads, however all the way along the sales process we need to make it as easy as possible for people to buy for us. This includes thinking ahead and preparing for what if scenarios.

This car hire company had done this. They realise that if someone has gone to the trouble of entering all of their details then they must be pretty serious about doing business. They also realise that sometimes things go wrong and by preparing for this they stand a chance of closing more business than if they just ignored this scenario.

With systems like Office Autopilot and Infusionsoft this kind of follow up functionality comes as part of their shopping carts and makes it very easy to fix these kinds of holes in the sales process.

So are there any gaps in your sales process that customers might be slipping through? Perhaps they visited your website and now can’t remember where it was or they tried to conduct a transaction but something happened in the middle of it. By thinking about and preparing for these kinds of scenarios you can close more sales without any extra marketing cost.

Marketing Automation – Be Sure You Know the Typical Buying Lifecycle for Your Business

So you are a business owner and have something to sell. You are looking for more customers and are considering marketing automation.

There are a number of things that you need to consider before you even look at marketing systems and software. If you answer these questions upfront and even map out your thoughts on paper first then it will make things much easier when you talk to autopilot marketing system vendors such as office autopilot or infusionsoft.

Over the next few articles we will look at some of these questions and what their answers mean in the context of marketing automation. In this article I want to look at the question of “how long is the typical buying cycle for your product or service?”

If you are selling something easily purchased such as a loaf of bread or dry cleaning service then the buying process is going to typically be very short. Something along the lines of: no bread – go to shop – buy bread. This kind of buying decision is made usually within a few minutes, and at the very most hours, of the customer identifying a need.

Contrast this with the buying cycle for a more complex purchase such as a new car or kitchen. In this situation the buying process can go on for months and might go something like this: need a new car – talk to friends – research cars online – visit car dealers – purchase car magazines – take test drives – talk to friends again – apply for loan – purchase car. This kind of buying decision can be very drawn out over many months or even years.

Clearly the type of marketing process and follow up for these two very different buying cycles is going to vary enormously. If you have a business with a buying cycle that is long and drawn out then marketing automation can be extremely important to follow up, educate and remind your leads that you are there. The trouble is that most sales people do not step back and think about this. They get a lead, can’t understand why they don’t want to buy right now and then move on to the next lead.

Once you know the buying cycle for your typical prospects then you can put in place a proper marketing system tailored to that buying cycle. So in the example of the car purchase if you were to capture the contact details of the prospect early on in the buying cycle you would then be able to communicate with them on a regular basis over a number of months. You could send them details of new models, a regular list of second hand vehicles available, testimonials of happy customers, brochures on new features, checklists on things to look out for when buying a car. There are lots of ways to follow up and remind the client that you exist.

But who do you think is going to have a better chance of making the sale in this example the one time salesman or the business owner who has taken the time to see things from his customers perspective and properly understand their buying process and cycle.

Here are some ways that small businesses users who have thought about the buying process are using marketing automation to put their follow up on autopilot.

Use a Contact Database But Make It Easy To Use The Contact Data You Capture

Surprisingly in this day and age a large number of small businesses are still guilty of not even keeping a customer or prospect database, with many still relying on Microsoft Outlook to keep adhoc information. This might work initally for a very small business when the business owner is involved in the day to day operation and may often know all his customers by name. But very quickly if the business is to grow in any way at all it becomes vitally important to keep contact informtion and notes on each prospect and customer so you aren’t left relying on your brain remembering every minute detail.

There are a number of software packages and online services that let you maintain a customer database, or for Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and using one of these will bring you on the right road to maximising your existing customer base and converting the most prospective customers.

However one failing with the majority of these systems is that even if you have captured the data there is still quite a lot of work involved in using that data to send communications to the contacts held in it. 

A number of these systems can facilitate email, however when it comes to sending postcards or letters or SMS messages these systems cannot do it. Often they expect you to export the contacts for printing on address labels or some kind of mail merge function. The big failing with this as we see it is this is still very time consuming and not easily managed once your contact list grows to more than a few hundred.

This limitation is the key reason why businesses that have captured this information still do not often use it to the best of their ability.

Autopilot Marketing Systems can change this. At the core is a robust contact management database, but where it differs is with the integration to send letters, postcards, emails and SMS messages built into it. Sending a message, or a sequence of messages to customers and contacts is now much easier. All fulfillment is automated so you don’t get bogged down in the menial tasks of printing out and sticking address labels.

The result is better communication with clients and contacts which can’t help but strengthen relationships and increase sales.

How Autopilot Marketing Systems Can Save You Money on Admin Staff

One of the biggest obstacles to growing a small business is trying to do everything yourself. Often small business owners are caught in a chicken and egg situation where they know they can grow their business if they could free up their time but they cannot afford to take on an admin staff member to help them.

One area that can take a lot of your time is keeping in touch with your prospective and existing customers. If you have to send out marketing materials, follow up with people that enquired a few weeks ago that you haven’t heard back from, or many other tasks then you can quickly become overwhelmed.

Sending out a letter to 100 people could easily take the best part of 5 hours by the time you have printed out the letter, addressed the envelopes, stuck on the stamps and dropped them off at the post office.

With Autopilot Marketing Systems all of this is automated for you. You simply decide which of your contacts are to get the letter, add them all to the sales letter campaign and press the save button. Suddenly that 5 hour task only took you 15 minutes. All of the letters are printed, addressed and stamped and sent out for you.

Even if you value your time at little over the minumum wage rate of €10 per hour you can see that in this simple example Autopilot Marketing Systems has saved you €50 for this one mailing alone. If you are sending out lots of mailings, postcards and emails in the course of a month this could easily run to €500 or more worth of your time.

Better still if your time is now freed up you can focus on other activities in your business, or even treat yourself and finish work early. With plans starting at under $30 per month Autopilot Marketing Systems could be the cheapest employee you ever hired – and it won’t call in sick on a Monday morning!

How a Restaurant Could Use Autopilot Marketing Systems To Keep Diners Coming Back

If you own or manage a restaurant the chances are that the main focus of your marketing is to get new customers to come through the door. This is all well and good but often restaurant owners who focus purely on new customers are not maximising the income that they could be making if they shifted some of their marketing focus to following up with their existing customers.

These days it is not enough to simply give diners good food and service and hope that they will remember you and come back again. You need to be a bit more proactive. However if you are on a limited budget what can you do to get diners back through your doors that won’t require too much hard work?

In the past setting up something like this was often time consuming or prone to human error. With Autopilot Marketing Systems we can make this much more straightforward. Our system is set up with mailing houses aready so all marketing materials are sent out automatically with no need for you or your staff to actually print, address or lick a stamp.

The first step is to devise a way to collect the contact details of your diners so that you can start to build a list of them. By using something simple like the above form and having your waiting staff give this to each customer with their bill you can start to capture your guests details.

Then it is simply a matter of having one of your staff enter the details into the contact manager of your Autopilot Marketing Systems (AMS) account. You can then set up a number of different campaigns that can run automatically for each contact added to the system.

For example you could send an email a couple of days after they dined with you thanking them for their business and making them an offer to come back, or maybe introducing another of your services, such as outside catering, that they may not have been aware you offered.

You can set up seasonal campaigns so for example you might set up a Valentines campaign that makes an offer of a free bottle of wine to all diners who book the Valentines meal special. This could be set up to send out an email, postcard or letter say 10 days before Valentines day.

Or if you have captured the birth dates of your diners you could then send them targetted offers in the run up to their birthday. AMS allows you to set up campaigns based on dates or based on a sequence of steps. All marketing pieces that are sent from the system can be completely personalised with the recipients details such as their name – this has been proven to increase response rate.

AMS can also be used to fill your restaurant at the last minute. If bookings are looking thin for a particular evening then you could send out a SMS message to all off the diners on your list offering them a great special if they come in that evening. Response rates for this kind of targetted SMS offer can sometimes be as high as 30% and the cost of this type of campaign is relatively low.

So I hope you can see how powerful AMS is for capturing your customers details and then allowing you to keep in touch with them at meaningful times of the year.

We can even help you in creating marketing pieces, or you can choose to outsource the data entry of the lists to us as well. We want to make it as easy as possible for you to use AMS to maximise the income from your restaurant.

What to Do With All The Business Cards You Collect at Networking Events

Using Autopilot Marketing Systems for targetted lead generation. Attend a lot of networking events? Put a follow up plan in place: