What is automation?
Automation is a system designed to complete one or more tasks automatically. Used effectively, it can streamline your workflow and free up your time from repetitive tasks.
Automations are essentially a trigger followed by a series of actions. So, to start an automation, you need to have some sort of a trigger.
On a very basic level, a simple example of a trigger would be setting an alarm clock to sound every morning at 6:30 am. The trigger is the time set for the alarm to go off whilst the action is the alarm sounding.
Living in a world of mass connectivity gives us more advanced automation opportunities. Smartphones, websites, social media accounts, and marketing platforms all have the potential to be used as automation tools.
You could for example ask 'Alexa' to 'Update blog with financial news'; which triggers a call to get the top ten news articles in the financial sector, create a blog post, and post links to the new blog post on Facebook and Twitter. All from speaking a few words!
By leveraging this mass connectivity, you can build automation systems that work for you.
Why use automation?
There are many other benefits to adopting automation other than saving time. By developing well-planned strategies, you can learn a lot about your customers too.
Your automation strategies can work like sales funnels; sending customers down different routes automatically based on certain criteria. This could be if they viewed a certain product or took part in a webinar. With this information, personalised communications can be sent to your most valued leads.
By running automation processes you are in turn gathering valuable data every time it runs. This can be reported on and used to influence marketing campaigns or give the reasoning for making key business decisions.
Getting started with automation
With so many automation scenarios available, it can be hard to know where you should begin. Before designing complex workflows, you should work out what to automate first. What information would be valuable to your business/place of work? What would save you the most time so you can concentrate on more important matters?
Try this simple task. Write down all of the things you do at work on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. Here are a few examples to give you some ideas:
- Writing a Tweet
- Reading emails
- Report on website analytics
- Posting a LinkedIn document
- Sending an email newsletter
- Generate sales report
Now work out which are the most repetitive, which do you enjoy the least, or which take the most time? This should highlight tasks that could be automated.
Automation and our website CMS of choice; Webflow
Although Webflow isn’t an automation tool, it does contain features that can be automated. These include:
- Form submissions
- Site publish
- Ecommerce order
- Ecommerce inventory
- Create, update or delete collection item
By connecting Webflow to your automation workflow, your website can become a dynamic and personalised experience for your users.
The automation tool you use depends on what your goals are, their complexity, and what budget you have to invest. Listed below are several automation tools, organised into two groups.
The fewer tools that you use the better. A key part of marketing automation is organisation, and keeping as many tasks as possible under one roof makes life all the easier. With that said, you may need to add or combine tools to complete certain tasks, but having a main automation hub will help you keep organised.
Service Connector Automation Tools
The tools listed in this group are not all-in-one marketing platforms; they are better used to connect the different applications you use together to create an automation workflow.
You can get started with simple automation from your phone. IFTTT (If this then that) is a free mobile and web app that allows you to build your automation by setting up triggers and actions. There are paid features, but the basic level is enough to get going.
Within the app are plenty of prebuilt community automations for you to start using. This is great for giving you ideas on what to automate if you don't know where to start.
The simple user interface makes building your automation straight forward and you can get basic analytics to see how many times the automation runs.
Good for: Ease of use, getting started
Zapier is a web application designed to make powerful automation accessible to all. It enables you to craft workflows that connect a choice of thousands of apps.
The tool is easy to work with and provides enough features for both beginner and advanced users.
Webflow is included in the Zapier app database so you can begin building automated workflows right out of the box. This includes triggering automations when a form has been submitted, or even adding a new CMS item based on certain events.
Good for: Ease of use, huge app library
Another tool for visually connecting apps together is Integromat. It can be used for simple automation processes and will keep advanced users happy with its array of features ready for complex workflow building.
Good for: Advanced features
Full-Service Automation Tools
The tools listed in this group are platforms that aim to cover all of your marketing automation needs in one place. They range in features and pricing so choosing the right fit depends on the scale of your automation requirements and the size of business/place of work.
The use of Mailchimp far exceeds the sending of one-off emails. It has grown to be a globally popular all-in-one marketing platform aimed towards small businesses. There is a whole suite of automation features that are simple to use that will free up your time and give a better experience for the end-user.
Some examples are:
- Sending welcome emails
- A/B testing
- Email scheduling
- Customer journey mapping
You can use a service connector automation tool to connect your website forms with Mailchimp. This enables you to craft performance-driven landing pages capable of capturing leads.
Good for: Pricing, ease of use
Active Campaign is an all-in-one marketing solution that is notable for its affordability for small businesses through to large corporations. Its automation features include an easy to navigate automation map, email marketing, app integration, website tracking, CRM, and sales automation.
Similar to Mailchimp, use a service connector automation tool to connect your website with Active Campaign. You’ll then be able to unleash website personalisation to give each user a unique experience.
Good for: Pricing, app integration
Adobe Experience Cloud
For medium to large businesses, Adobe Experience Cloud offers a full suite of products and services under one roof.
The experience cloud allows you to manage full automation workflows, from data gathering of leads to content creation, customer journey mapping, and optimisation through artificial intelligence.
Good for: Full feature set, large organisations
What doors will automation open for you?
Connecting your tasks via automation workflows brings your campaigns clarity and purpose. It enables you to test and push further with the newly available insights automation brings.
If you have an idea but are not sure where to start with automation, drop us a message - we'd love to hear all about it.