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A Solopreneur’s Journey Into Marketing AutomationMARKETING AUTOMATION HUB 1
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That looks like math. Ew. You may be squirming already.
Let’s look at the pieces of the equation.
• Marketing’s hard. Automation’s mysterious.
• Marketing relies on psychology. Automation relies on technology.
• Marketing’s for creative peeps. Automation’s for digital dweebs.
The sum, of course, is marketing automation. It sounds complicated, maybe a bit messy, and without a doubt, time-consuming.
If you, like me, and millions more, are an over-taxed, spread-too-thin, and forever-stressed soloprenuer, you’d think marketing automation is something you should simply leave alone?
But you’d be wrong.
Like everything worthwhile, marketing automation does indeed require learning, but then wonderful things happen…
Many of the tasks you do to market your products and services become easier, cleaner, and less time-consuming. They also become more effective, meaning it takes you less effort to get more business and grow your revenues.
Yes, my friend and fellow sufferer of “too-much-to-do-and-too-little-time-to-do-it” syndrome, this story has a happy ending.
I’m going to make you glad you read it.
Marketing + Automation = Marketing Automation
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I didn’t do marketing automation. The truth is
marketing automation, as we now know it (even
if you don’t), came along relatively recently.
If I’m to backup to the beginning of my journey
into digital marketing, there was a decade or so
where I didn’t even do email marketing.
During that span, I suppose I thought of myself
as a digital marketer. I had a website. It had a
contact page with a form on it so visitors could
write to me from there. That’s about it.
Ironically, as a freelance copywriter, I was writing
a fair share of email for clients. For one gig, I
wrote a detailed article for an enewsletter about
email marketing, a “how-to.” The irony thickens
because I still wasn’t doing any email marketing
myself. Do as I say, not as I do, right?
It wasn’t actually until this decade, 2011 to be
exact, when I put together a WordPress website
and began blogging. It’s fair to say at that point,
I became a content marketer, a rookie content
Then, or soon after, though I’m not sure exactly
when, I started with email marketing. I dabbled.
I found it to be a time-suck. And considering the
fact that I didn’t have much of an email list (and
no strategy for growing it) my efforts didn’t have
much of an impact on my business.
I can’t even remember which company I chose
as my first email marketing provider (ESP), but
I do recall being very unsatisfied with the way
my newsletters looked. I switched providers
and began sending a newsletter I called “Get
My second email service provider offered templates that made it easier for me to create good-looking enewsletters
Once upon a time…
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Five years ago when I was schooling
myself about the possibilities of digital
marketing and fumbling through some of
the processes, I heard about HubSpot and
bought the book authored by their founders,
I learned a ton from the book about
how the various pieces of the inbound
marketing puzzle fit together, such as:
• Your website, which becomes your
• Your blog, which houses your content
• SEO, which can potentially attract
prospects with intent to buy
• Social media, which can increase
your reach, drive traffic and foster
• Calls to action, which inspire readers
• Landing pages, which feature forms to
• Email, which nurtures leads and
• Segmentation, which enables you to
deliver more relevant content to your
• Analytics, which reports what is and
• Lead scoring, management, and
customer relationship management
(CRM), which help you follow-up with
leads more effectively
I learned what marketing automation is
and what it’s for:
• Marketing automation is software (as a
service) designed to help you prioritize
and execute marketing tasks more
• Marketing automation helps drive
traffic, convert the traffic into leads,
and leads into customers.
• Marketing automation frees some of
your time, but doesn’t compromise
the authenticity of your content you’re
• Marketing automation helps you reach
your goals faster.
The book, Inbound Marketing, schooled me on the current state of digital marketing and inspired my
interest in marketing automation.
Then came a serious catalyst
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I wanted it all. All those features. All those
The problem was, I didn’t want to part with
the money it would take to run a serious
marketing automation platform. HubSpot
and many of its competitors offer a tiered
pricing structure that increases as your email
Buying into some of the marketing
automation platforms also requires a
paid onboarding process, which is time-
consuming and expensive. It also requires a
minimum commitment of one year.
As a digital marketing consultant, I’ve
recommended HubSpot to a number of
clients and worked with them after they
bought it. I must say, I like the platform. It
can be the engine of very effective inbound
But you must understand, a marketing
automation platform doesn’t magically
create customers. You don’t push the
automation button and watch money pour
into your receivables account. You have to
do the work.
If you do the work, and understand much of
the work calls for investing a serious amount
of time in creating content, you can enjoy
some delightful benefits:
• Improve traffic
• Increase the number of leads you get
• Improve lead quality
• Accelerate your sales cycle
• Lower marketing costs
I believe the number of companies that fail
with marketing automation exceeds the
number that succeed. Most companies are
simply not as commited, systematic, and
patient as they need to be.
In 2011, I wasn’t quite ready for making the
commitment. So I compromised.
I moved to a lower stakes table (three times)
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Determined to keep my costs low, I shopped
the marketing automation market and chose
a platform called Optify. The software wasn’t
as robust as HubSpot or the marketing
automation platforms (MAPs) competing
in the enterprise space, but in addition to
email, it gave me tools to create and host
landing pages, capture leads, and analyze
I was off to a decent start in marketing
automation. I was content. But not for long.
Optify announced it was shutting down. At
the time many of the companies in the MAP
business were operating in the red. Optify
didn’t have the resources to endure.
The shutdown of the company was abrupt.
Emails from them warned customers to
extract the digital assets they could and
move on. All services and hosted pages
would soon cease to exist.
I did as I was told and made a quick (and
poor) decision to go with another platform
that would allow me to practice marketing
automation on the cheap. I found the
solution clunky and difficult. The support
was also very sketchy.
I moved yet again to an automation
company I believed to be an up-and-comer.
I even managed to reduce my bill to $0
because I struck a deal to work in trade. That
is, in exchange for having a gratis account, I
would provide the company writing services.
My opinion of the company’s platform are
mixed. While it has many strengths its email
functionality is limited. I moved on yet again,
this time stepping up to a more expensive
platform with a strong reputation for
It’s powerful, but far too complex for my
taste. So… I’ve moved on yet again. As the
title of this eBook suggests, it’s a journey.
GetResponse hired me to write this
eBook. I’ve begun checking out their
new solution. I’ve read some of their
materials. Watched some video. And
I was given a demonstration. I like
what I see. The platform looks ideal
My marketing automation at work
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I’ll tell you where I’m at now and what I’m
doing with marketing automation and how
it’s helping me accomplish my objectives.
• Popup forms—I’ve created multiple
forms that popup for new visitors and
experimented with different offers and
triggers such as: upon arrival, invoked
by scroll depths, and exit intent. The
results have been good.
• Embedded forms—It’s simple to create
forms to capture email addresses
from those that want to subscribe to
my general email list. I use one in the
sidebar of many of my web pages and
another at the bottom of many blog
• Call-to-action popups—While this is a
trickier operation, I have managed to
put in place click-triggered popups to
offer content upgrades (cheatsheets,
etc.) from within specific blog posts.
• Lead capture—I have created multiple
landing pages for the purpose of
most MAPs, though integration with
transactions systems are generally
• Hosted media—To facilitate access to
eBooks, content upgrades and video,
I sometimes opt to use the content
hosting services provided by my MAP.
This makes it fast and easy to fulfill
requests for gated content instantly.
• Welcome series—Lead nurturing is
probably the most important function
of marketing automation. To introduce
new subscribers to my services, I’ve
created a 13-part welcome series,
which mostly focuses on free content
and tools I offer. The emails are
programmed to “drip” out over the
course of 45 days. This is a strategy
all email marketers should employ
because it generally requires multiple
touchpoints to earn a client, so the one-
time delivery of a thank you email or
offer email is insufficient.
• Newsletters—I don’t create
newsletters or digest style emails as
often as I once did. Only occasionally.
Though some subscribers value them,
I find them less effective than emails
offering downloadable content (lead
• Thank you pages—New subscribers to
my lead capture pages (and checkout
pages) are automatically and instantly
served relevant thank you pages. In
some cases, I’ve embedded video of
me in an effort to create a stronger
• Product pages—One my reasons
for upgrading my MAP was to sell
information products. It’s still early
for me on this front, but I’ve created
some of these and found it easy to
update them as needed. I’ve also
created product pages to offer and sell
consulting packages and have achieved
• Coupons—I’ve been able to create
coupon codes which can be applied to
specific products, offered to specific
buyers, and honored for specific time
• Checkout pages—My platform
enables me to accept orders, manage
transactions and issue receipts. This
type of functionality is not offered by
focused on a singular objective.
Newsletters generally offer multiple
links to multiple resources. At best,
they generate traffic and help establish
expertise. At worst, they confuse and/
or annoy recipients.
• Content updates—I wish I could
tell you my MAP makes it easy and
automatic to send updates when I
publish a new blog post or podcast.
This function is made possible by
many ESPs and MAPs (including
GetResponse) with an RSS-to-email
feed. Unfortunately, I must manually
create emails of this nature, though I
have created a template to facilitate the
• Special offers—As I introduce
information products or discount
them to create traction, I use email to
deliver special offers with deadlines.
Urgency and “fear of missing out” is a
psychological play for marketers, which
can produce rewarding results.
• Segmentation—To use marketing
automation to its potential calls
for segmenting your audience,
meaning you don’t send everything to
everybody. You target per preferences,
timing, personas, or specific user
behavior. Segmentation is achieved by
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assigning specific tags to subscribers
(e.g. “attended copywriting webinar”).
I’m working on this and making some
progress. Yes, there’s a learning curve.
• Sequences—A vital component of
marketing automation, which separates
it from basic ESP functionality, is the
ability to create custom sequences.
These generally involve creating
rules that dictate a specific stream
of email correspondence. I’m now
experimenting with several sequences
and tweaking this and that.
• Personalization—I’m less bullish on
personalizing emails than some digital
experts, however, I occasionally use
my system to address the recipient by
first name. In the future, I may create
more interesting personalization
strategies including birthday emails,
sales followups such as requests
for feedback, the use of PURLs, and
possibly other programmatic one-to-
one correspondence. My platform
tracks individual behaviors and
purchases, giving me the potential
to do research, deliver support
when necessary, and segment and
personalize in a variety of ways.
• Webinars—I recently began using
a webinar platform which offers an
integration of sorts with my MAP.
That is, the landing page that collects
registrants passes data through to
my platform. Conducting webinars
has enabled me to connect with
many of my subscribers and begin
selling “productized” variations of my
• Analytics—I don’t love the way
analytics are presented with my MAP,
however, a fair amount of data is
captured. I generally keep tabs on:
email open and clickthrough rates,
subscriber growth, and landing page
• Lead scoring—I’ve setup a basic lead
scoring system, but haven’t yet applied
it in the ways I should. I plan to learn
more about how to do this and use it to
better segment my list, and possibly, do
some list cleansing (via re-engagment
notices and automatic opt-outs). The
idea is to pare your list down to cater to
Marketing automation is “iffy”
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I suspect a lot of small business marketers
can’t clearly separate email marketing from
marketing automation. Not surprising. The
truth is, marketing automation is rooted in
email marketing and the bulk of marketing
automation is email marketing.
In my mind, the biggest difference is
marketing automation, when used
effectively, is based on user behavior. The
platform you purchase, then configure to
meet your needs, becomes “triggered.”
In more simple terms, the tiny word “if”
becomes the big deal.
So I’m calling marketing automation “iffy.”
With marketing automation, you setup your
system to things if and when subscribers do
things (or don’t). For example:
• If X is read, send Y.
• If X is visited, send Y.
• If X is purchased, send Y.
• If X is ignored, send Y.
The response, the Y, in each of these cases
are vastly different and therefore produce
far more relevant, right-timed messaging.
Email marketing alone generally doesn’t
track a prospect’s actions after clicking
through to your webste. Subsequent
communications are not tailored to each
prospect. If your goal is to nurture leads by
moving prospects along in their journey,
marketing automation is the engine that
drives the process.
Essentially, marketing automation can
transform subscriber data into a powerful
Let’s simplify your journey
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So marketing automation sounds like a
good idea, right? No doubt, it’s exciting and
frightening at the same time.
Take a deep breath. You don’t need to go
from zero to sixty in seconds. You can take
it one step at time. Simply automating
one process can have a significant impact
on your business. The secret is to identify
processes you’re missing or doing manually
and replace them with automation.
I’m going to present a guide to starting
smart. The following trio should be easy to
Create an email capture form or landing page.
You can offer visitors a simple opt-
in to your email. It may or may not
work. You’ll be more successful by
creating a lead magnet of some
sort (eBook, cheat sheet, customer
success story, video, etc.) and gating
it with a form on a landing page.
Respond with a thank you email
Write an email to thank new
subscribers for signing-up. Conceive
ways to add value to the emails. You
might offer additional content or a
discount. Also, tell subscribers what
to expect from subsequent emails.
Nurture your leads
Write an email sequence, 3-10
emails, to be “dripped” over a
period of 4-6 weeks. Send helpful
information to build trust. Consider
“soft sell” offers.
After you have these processes in place,
subsequent steps to consider might
Sales cycle emails
• Begin with order confirmations.
• You might create an onboarding series.
• Try upsell and cross-sell offers to
increase lifetime customer value.
• If your product is subscription-based,
use renew or replenish offers.
• Send abandoned cart messages to
increase conversion rates.
Increase segmentation or personalization
• Setup a tagging system based on user
• Target specific personas with specific
content and offers.
• Collect birthdates and send birthday
wishes. You can also schedule emails
to coincide with anniversaries (such as
one year of being a customer).
• Begin split-testing email subject lines
and/or A/B versions of landing pages or
• Promote events with invitations,
reminders, last chance invitations and
• Explore the possibilities of workflow
• Use reactivation messages to reach out
to inactive subscribers.
• Put a lead scoring system in place.
• Analyze your metrics. Replicate big
winners. Improve mediocre programs.
Kill the stinkers.
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Marketing automation may appear to be
a fit only for companies with marketing
departments. Not so. In fact, it may
be your ticket to greater productivity
and profitiablity because you don’t
have a marketing department—or any
You have you. Your talent. Your tools.
The marketing automation toolset that
fits your needs will enable you to capture
leads, nurture them with useful content
and convert into paying customers.
It’s time to automate
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Barry Feldman is the author of SEO Simplified for Short Attention Spans. Barry operates Feldman Creative and provides content marketing consulting, copywriting, and creative direction services. He contributes to many of the web’s top marketing sites and was named one of 25 Social Media Marketing Experts You Need to Know by LinkedIn. If you would like a piece of his mind, visit his blog, The Point.
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