If you are a franchise owner or are exploring acquiring a franchise, one thing we’re pretty sure of is that you’ll need paying customers to make it a success. And, good news—the tools available to acquire those customers continue to evolve.

One of the most important innovations is the ability to automate marketing tactics – making them quicker, easier and more scalable to execute—without losing that personal touch. Enter marketing automation!

What is Marketing Automation, really?

As with most marketing topics, it depends on who you ask. At its foundation, marketing automation is a set of tools that help you execute meaningful, multi-touch marketing that FEELS like you took painstaking care in handling each and every detail while, in reality, you wrote some emails, created an article to download, built a flow chart (more or less), and pressed the “go” button. Good marketing automation starts with a good CRM (Customer Relationship Management) platform.

CRM: The Foundation of Marketing Automation

By the early 1990s, CRM platforms finally became within reach of most small businesses and a new network of networks—the world wide web—became available to the general public. Things were coming together, but it wasn’t until the mid-2000s when technology emerged allowing marketers to integrate CRM platforms into their marketing mix.

Franchise owners tested the waters by distributing emails to existing and potential customers announcing new products, pricing structures, new distribution channels, and promotions. But, if there was a strategy, another budget line for overhead and implementation costs came with it.

For innovative marketers who saw the effectiveness of merging CRM data into their marketing campaigns, they were all in, but they began looking for a way to make the system more efficient—easier to implement and less costly.

Enter entrepreneurs who developed seamless, sales-oriented platforms and marketing-oriented platforms and basically automated what insights came in and what messaging went out. This new technology dubbed Marketing Automation allowed marketers to reach out to people in ways well beyond email through a number of continually increasing media channels.

Today marketing automation is a billion-dollar-plus industry and growing. And, one of the biggest reasons for its success is its ability to save business owners time and resources while generating valuable leads and recurring revenue.

The aim of modern marketing for B2B franchises like Allegra Marketing Print Mail is to target existing clients and likely prospects with personalized communications rather than disseminating standard, “boilerplate” messages to mass audiences. Marketing Automation doesn’t replace one-on-one personal contacts; it efficiently and effectively helps to nurture and deepen customer relationships.

Marketing Automation in Action

Most small business owners follow the four sales funnel stages: awareness, interest, decision, and action. Each stage requires a different message and timeliness. But all work together to ultimately generate and convert sales leads. Automation can ensure relevance and accuracy as prospects move through the funnel. One of the best and most commonly used types of Marketing Automation is email.

Email Automation

Email marketing is probably the easiest to implement, track, and modify—particularly for a small business. It’s proven to be an effective and powerful tactic. You build the emails ahead of time—just once—and they get sent based on timing you dictate or actions that your recipients take.

Automation saves valuable time and costs, allowing resources to be channeled into other areas of the operation.

Here’s an example of what a basic automated email campaign might look like:

Step 1: In the case of Allegra, you email your customer a message with a link to download a sell sheet on wide-format printing capabilities. As soon as they click the download link, the campaign status in their contact record changes to “downloaded.”

Step 2: Within 10 minutes of their download, each customer automatically receives a thank you email, which you’ve already written and included variable data to make it feel personalized.

Step 3: After three days, anyone who opened the email but didn’t download the sell sheet automatically gets a follow-up email reinforcing the value of Allegra’s wide-format services. It offers the link again. Lather, rinse, and repeat step 2!

Meanwhile, those who did download the sell sheet automatically receive a follow-up email with a link to download a special offer on their next wide-format printing job.

Step 4: When a customer downloads the wide-format special offer, they receive a personal email from their Allegra salesperson with the offer in it, and that same salesperson receives an email notification that their customer downloaded the offer.

If a customer doesn’t download the special offer, the product interest value in their contact record changes to “Promotional Items,” and 14 days later (you want to avoid inbox fatigue), they receive an email with a link to download information about Allegra’s promotional items offerings. Which takes them down a whole new path to a potential purchase!

Step 5: What about your salesperson? Now they get to spend their valuable time calling a warm lead that is ready to buy. This is marketing at its best: warming up leads for sales and prepping them for conversion. And, the customers who aren’t interested in product A start getting information about product B.

You’re keeping it relevant for them instead of beating them over the head with things they aren’t interested in!

The Tip of the Iceberg

This example of Marketing Automation shows how actions like email opens and links clicked can trigger other emails to be sent and notifications to happen, but this is only the tip of the iceberg.

Some platforms are capable of automation that involves meeting requests, landing page actions, website visits, and more. And, as customers or prospects take these actions, it’s recorded in their contact records. This can mean the collection of valuable data for future reference around which products they’re interested in and what type of content they want to interact with.

And, in Conclusion

People today want connection, and marketing has a history of generic language that is written for a scale that has to apply to everyone.

Marketing Automation can break down that standard, and that’s the best part. These features and technology can make your marketing be highly relevant and feel deeply personal—without taking much time at all!