Sales and Marketing Automation software automatically manages the targeting, timing, and content of your outbound marketing messages in response to your prospects’ and clients’ inbound actions and online behaviors, thus giving you the ability to capture, measure and respond to a buyer’s or client’s digital body language in real-time.

It provides enhanced ability to start & sequence campaigns based on customer-driven actions. Campaigns adapt to prospect behavior, increasing relevance

Automation software facilitates ongoing dialogue with prospect to develop their interest until they are ready to buy.

And the cashier is open literally 24/7.

Very common results of using automation software are to:

  • Increase leads
  • Increase conversion rates
  • Increase revenue
  • Increase referral business
  • Grow sales
  • Reduce time spent “in” the business
  • Increase number of vacation days
  • Increase number of clients
  • Increase client retention
  • Reduce marketing costs
  • Reduce acquisition costs
  • Burst into spontaneous laughter (just kidding, and testing if you’re still with me…)

In short – Small Business Sales and Marketing Automation is a no-brainer. It has more benefits than I can even count, and I can count way past 1000.

HOWEVER….. (I hate to be the bearer of bad news!) Not everybody is ready for serious sales / marketing automation. You HAVE to be ready.

Automation is NOT, I repeat NOT a cure all for an ailing business or for someone without a sense of direction or without clear goals.

I will never forget how one extremely successful Infusionsoft user replied to a Facebook post where someone had referred to Infusionsoft as “Confusionsoft” (you must have heard that one before). His reply was priceless: “It’s called Confusionsoft because it reflects the business ower’s confusion” This is not always true, and not for everyone (some people simply have a bad start), but there is a TON of truth in it. The exact same, of course, applies to Ontraport or any other sophisticated automation tool out there.

Are you confused and looking for a magic pill, a quick fix? Forget it. Automation alone will not solve your problems.

Automation is not a strategy, it’s a TOOL.

Before you even THINK about automation:

6 Questions to Answer Before Automating Your Business

1) Do you have something to sell? Like an actual product or service?
First things first. You can’t and shouldn’t automate a business without a product to sell.

2) Do you have well defined processes and procedures?
An automated business is only as strong as the processes behind it. So before you even consider pulling the trigger, ask yourself:

  1. What processes have I developed for my business (e.g., lead nurturing, client follow up, affiliate management, sales cycle, shipping, managing contacts, hosting promotions, etc.)?
  2. Do I know these processes inside out and upside down?
  3. Could I replicate them in an instant?

Each question should be answered YES if you’re bound for automation.

3) Have you delineated responsibilities?
Ask yourself: what staff do I have now, if any? What do I pay them to do? And finally, are you or your staff overwhelmed by the amount of labor and leads passing through? Make sure you know precisely to whom you assign each task associated with your business. From there decide what you can delegate to staff and what resources can be allocated to an automated platform.

4) Do you have a website?
As far as business automation goes, you’re dead in the water without an online presence. There’s no way around it. There has to be a pIace for your prospects to go to learn about your business and buy your product.

5) Do you have a content strategy?
Content strategy ties directly to your lead nurturing process. After all, you can’t nurture leads without rich effective inbound marketing content. No lead nurturing process means no automation.

6) Have you made a full technology assessment?
Make a list of the technology you use to run your business. (e.g., Excel, Gmail, Google Apps, PayPal, email delivery, social media, CRM, etc.). Paper and pens count, too. How many systems are you using and how much time in a given month do you spend using each?
Your tech assessment might put you in one of two camps: you’re either overwhelmed by replacing manual tasks with technology you know you need, or you’re overwhelmed by the overabundance of technology you do have because it’s fragmented.

You HAVE to do the work

Whether you sign up for Infusionsoft or Ontraport or any other big gun all-in one small business automation suite – you need to be prepared to invest money and time to use it. Compare it to a gym membership – you don’t get fit and strong just buying the membership. You need to put the time into going to the gym….

Another good analogy is college: you get out of it EXACTLY what you put into it.

Prepare to never be done building and tweaking. But just with the simple automation alone, it should not be hard to cover its cost. I suggest to any one considering it, do a lot of homework first to make sure it is the right fit for your business. There are plenty of other options out there that may work better for you. Infusionsoft and Ontraport are not something to “try out for a couple years”. You have to be committed in order to make it work in your business.

You need some fire power

Alternatives to use if you’re not quite ready yet

There are thousands of low-cost or even no-cost tools out there. Too many to cover here.

The most important is that you start building your list. You can do that with a free website builder like Weebly and a free email tool like Mailchimp. If you need to sell stuff, you can get one of the really simple shopping carts, or simply get a free Paypal business account and place buy-now buttons on your website.

ActiveCampaign and AutopilotHQ have awesome features at a very low entry price tag (as long as your list is on the smaller size)

The point is that if you are still in figuring out what the heck you’re doing, who you serve, what your products and services are, etc. there’s absolutely nothing wrong with bootstrapping and patchworking some cheap or free tools together, until you become so successful and busy that the tangled mess of technology just doesn’t do it for you anymore.

If you need a bit more of a CRM, Zoho is a great choice.

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