“I just wish I could clone myself.” It’s probably the phrase most often uttered by overworked, overstressed and underpaid small business owners.
How many times have you wished you could get someone else to do what you do all day? Yet, you can’t afford another employee, and you can’t even fathom getting all that crazy stuff out of your head in a way that someone else could understand. Even if you could, would you trust that person to do it as well as you do? Or with as much passion?
It’s a common Catch-22 in the small business world.
Big businesses attempt to solve this problem on a daily basis by throwing bodies at the problem. I’d argue that they’re not always more successful at solving the problem than small businesses, but they have the resources to attempt a solution. The other way they attack this problem is through the use of elaborate, expensive software solutions: CRM (fancy customer database), marketing automation, ERP, SFA, etc., etc., etc..
But what if you can’t afford a multimillion-dollar software implementation?
No sweat. The technologies available to small businesses are improving every day. Here is a list of five ways you can automate your marketing (I’m focusing on marketing because it’s typically the most neglected, and most important, aspect of small business). This is how you’re going to clone yourself and actually get the work done you know you need to get done.
1. New Lead Follow Up – We’ve all heard a million times (and studies back it up) that people buy after seven touches. Actually, most studies show that 80 percent of people buy between sales contact #5 and #12. Yet, most people stop following up after attempt #3. Essentially, when you stop early you’re just prepping your prospects to buy from someone else. The key here is to plug that hole in your business. Ensure that you follow up appropriately with every new lead that comes through the door (physically or electronically). Never let a lead slip through the cracks again. Today’s autoresponders allow you to set up a series of e-mail communications that are automatically sent out on a schedule that you determine. All you have to do is make sure that every new lead gets into your e-mail marketing program and gets started on that autoresponder or follow-up sequence.
Tip: Using an autorepsonder with a little intelligence (one that can adapt the message based on the prospect’s behavior the same way you would) will increase response. Also, use an autoresponder that allows you to incorporate direct mail, voice messages, social media, and fax or text messages. This intelligence and use of other media is called E-mail Marketing 2.0. When you allow your prospects to respond to their favorite medium, you’ll get a much better response.
2. New Customer Follow Up – Another major hole in most businesses occurs right after the sale. How many times have you purchased something, never to hear from the company again? Even worse, how many times have you ignored your customers after they’ve purchased your product or service? Again, it’s hard to follow up in a timely fashion when you’re mired in the responsibilities of your business. By using autoresponders with new customers, you can ensure that you wow every new customer, continue to build the relationship, and provide an experience that is much better than they expected.
Tip: When you treat your customers this way, you increase word of mouth, you can comfortably ask for referrals and get a ton of them, and lastly, you can upsell and cross-sell to your customers like never before. We all know that it’s easier to sell an existing customer than to sell a new customer. So, why not use automated marketing sequences to make that happen?
3. Long Term Nurture (a.k.a. Let Them Buy When They Want To Buy, Not When You Want To Sell) – We all know that people buy when the time is right for them, not when you’re anxious to sell. So, if you follow up with your new leads and customers and they don’t bite on your initial offers, you’ve got two choices. First, you can assume they’re bad leads/customers and ignore them by moving on to your next batch of hot leads. Or, you can use an automated marketing campaign to “drip” communications to them over the coming months. If they responded to your initial ad or marketing message, there’s a good chance they’ll eventually get around to buying what you offer, you just need to wait until the time is right. If you’re the person who has continually provided value to them, kept in touch, and built a relationship, you’ll get the business. If not, they’ll buy from someone else.
Tip: The core of this campaign is that you need to be of value. If you’re always selling, you’ll tick people off and they’ll begin to ignore you. Be the valued expert by continually providing useful tips, tricks and ideas that help your prospects and customers.
4. Collections – Initially this may not seem like a marketing function, but at further examination you’ll find that it fits beautifully. Not all businesses deal with collecting accounts receivable, but those that do know that it can be a pain, and it’s an area where you can lose your shirt. I’ve seen many small businesses thwart this major problem by setting up automated collections campaigns. A couple of weeks before a credit card expires, their e-commerce system triggers a “Your credit card is about to expire” campaign that encourages customers to update their card before there is a problem. If the card is declined (because it expired or is over its limit), the e-commerce system triggers a “Unfortunately, your card was declined” campaign that encourages the customer to enter new credit card information so that their service is not interrupted. I’ve seen collections double in many circumstances using this technique, while the amount of work that went into the effort was reduced by 50 percent or more.
Tip: When people’s credit card expires or is declined, don’t make them feel bad. Start your communications with a pleasant tone: “Bob, our first communication about your credit card must have slipped past you. We know it’s sometimes hard to keep on top of everything. Your card was recently declined, and since we don’t want to lose you as a customer, we’d like to give you 5 extra days to provide a new card.” Then, the communications can get progressively more aggressive, ending with “Bob, if you don’t provide a new credit card within 48 hours, your service will be terminated.” But always give people the benefit of the doubt first. They’ll appreciate you for that and reward you for it.
5. Workflow – Here’s where the cloning really comes into play. Well, it’s not actually cloning, but you can now do what you used to do in about one-fifth the time that it used to take. Some of the newer, cutting-edge marketing and sales automation tools allow you to bundle your commonly repeated tasks and actions into “one-click tasks.” For example, you often answer the same sales questions every day. When you finish with the call, you typically send a follow-up email; you might want to start that person on an autoresponder (or follow-up sequence) to provide more education; and you might want to “flag” the person as someone you need to call again in a few days. All of those actions might take five minutes if you did them manually. Instead, automate your workflow by bundling those actions and completing them with one click. It’s like magic.
Tip: By using electronic systems to automate and track your workflow you reduce the potential for human error. Most people are bad at remembering all the things they “should” do after every sales call and they’re even worse at following up a few days later. By using sales and marketing automation, you can ensure that all necessary actions are performed every single time.
Armed with the latest in sales & marketing automation tools, small businesses can act and market like big business, but they can do it on a small business budget.
Your point 5 about workflow is the one that has stuck in my mind. That’s what I need to do and just about every small biz owner I know. It isn’t cloning, as you say, but simply creating smart systems that allow you to get more done with less effort. I’d like to see some more insights on this, Tyler.
Great tips. Follow up is a great one. Realizing that after the sale your work has just begun can sometimes be forgotten.
Sounds like you have been watching people like me reinvent the wheel with every new enquiry! But it is quite the art to write a cookie cutter message that applies to everyone? Have you got any other examples, or recommended site for tips on putting together different autoresponder sequences?
Nice article Tyler. Automation is the name of the game. The more you can automate, the more effective you can be. I particularly enjoyed the tip with automating new customer follow ups
Great article. I’ve been reworking our company systems (Killer Bee Printing) lately and found your advice very helpful. Thanks!
Thanks everyone for your comments and tweets. Andy, you bring up a great question. Here’s a link to a cheesy video I created to teach some simple, yet powerful copywriting techniques: http://www.infusionblog.com/small-business-management/the-mountain-man-method-for-writing-copy/
Also, realize that when you’re writing copy that will be sent automatically, it’s not so much about what you say as how you say it. It still can come off very personal and very relevant if you write in a conversational manner.
Lastly, this works best when you have a way to segment your audience so that each person is getting a message that is targeted and relevant to them. One-size-fits-all messaging will always perform less than targeted messaging.
Thanks Tyler, that answer was even better than my good question! I understand now, and once we have 1000 leads, Ill know how to and where to come to manage them.
You mention that it is helpful to have an autoresponder with “a little intelligence.” What autoresponders fit the description (besides InfusionSoft obviously)?
Good question. Infusionsoft has been doing this for 5+ years, but there are a few exciting developments in our space that have come up in the last couple of years. There are a few ways to approach it:
You can get powerful marketing automation (some of the intelligence) with solutions like Eloqua and Marketo. These are great systems, but the cost is usually out of range for small business, plus you need to connect each of these to a CRM (Salesforce.com) which adds multi-system complexity.
In the small business range of pricing & simplicity, there are a couple of solutions I’m aware of (and more are cropping up each day): Office Autopilot/Sendpepper, SwimCart, & Kutenda.
Robert – Ben@kutenda.com will be glad to show you how our autoresponder works or answer any other questions you might have about our online marketing system.
Tyler – Thanks for the mention!
I like what you wrote here Tyler. I guess the real question for me has always been, what is my workflow? What should I follow up with? I think that I’ve seen the greatest success in my business when I have set aside time to think through in depth what my process should be. Usually after I discover what my process should be, I can back it up with good technology.
Hey Gabe, I really like the way you’ve said this: “I
Thanks TJ. Funny you would comment on this today, as that is what I am doing now. Carefully writing, drawing, and thinking through a single business sector so that I can know every nook and cranny of it. I found this great site called cacoo.com that I have been using recently to help me draw out what I am thinking. Maybe you’ll find it helpful too.
At Chargify, we know that collections can be a time consuming problem for small business owners to tackle(from experience!). That’s why we have a dunning feature in Chargify, which takes care of sending out the dunning emails to the customer reminding them to update the credit card information or let them know their credit card is about to expire. Saves us (and hopefully others) a lot of time when doing billing.
Superb tips, Tyler! Following up with customers is really important for the long term success of a business. Thanks for putting up these tips together here 🙂