The Most Useful Marketing Automation Tool You Have

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As a small business marketer, you probably have a lot of sales and marketing systems at your disposal. Your toolbox should include lead tracking, segmentation, automation, autoresponders, email marketing, form handlers, a CRM and landing pages.

But believe it or not, with all that firepower in your back pocket, the most useful tool in your arsenal may be a blank piece of paper or that whiteboard hanging next to your desk.

Marketing automation implementations often fail because we get starry-eyed by the incredibly long list of things our sales, marketing and automation systems CAN do instead of setting quick goals for practical implementation. Without setting goals and starting small, making a smooth transition from practically no automation to a logic-driven marketing machine capable of almost anything in a short period of time is practically impossible.

Start Small

Instead of trying to take the “0 to 60” approach, take a blank piece of paper, erase last year’s sales plan from that white board and sketch out a single, well-thought-out marketing campaign.

For example, below is a campaign that I sketched out recently for a blog post I was writing about driving charitable donations for nonprofits.


Executing this campaign requires very little: an email list, a landing page and a few email messages. But going through an exercise like this will help you accomplish the following critical objectives:

  1. Start with a single marketing campaign to help you connect the dots. A single project or task, will help you get all of your most critical systems — website, email marketing, possibly CRM — to “talk” to each other in a meaningful way.
  2. Prioritize tactics. Leverage a variety of tactics to drive your campaign, including email blasts, email autoresponders, landing pages and lead tracking, This gives you useful pockets of experience and familiarity that you can build on.
  3. Use the project as a blueprint for the future. The campaign you create today could serve as a model for one you run next year or you can use it as a building block to help fashion larger campaigns over time. In my example campaign above, at the end of the chain of events we essentially have two types of people: those who made a $25 donation and those who did not. We ended each potential outcome with the suggestion that we come back at a later date and ask the donors for more money and the non-donors for less. Each of these possibilities would likely yield additional campaigns.

A small marketing campaign like this one can be set up in just a few hours or less, a minor investment that gets you up and running with automation quickly.

And it all started with a blank piece of paper.

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