It’s easy to get lost in a new software or in your existing setup. These marketing automation tips will help you stay on focus.
Over the past years we’ve helped a number of businesses start using marketing automation tools. We’ve also worked on optimizing existing systems and making them work better and easier for people who have to manage them on a daily basis. We’ve found that a lot of the same things, that we consider common knowledge, are not as intuitive to business owners. We combined the best of them in this post
Even though our tips are focused on Ontraport and its users, most of them are universal and will improve the quality of your relationship with you automation software.
1. Start with your business goals – if you don’t know what you want, you won’t know what you need.
2. Do a thorough research on the available opportunities – just because your friend is using one tool, doesn’t mean it would work for you.
3. Have an implementation plan (and follow it) – it’s easy to forget some smaller steps and details when you are setting up your system for the first time. Make a list of every single element you need to move/create and check as you go. We always build system maps for our clients – it helps both us and them track the campaign.
4. Ask for help – support, a consultant, a friend (using the same service), the online community, chat support, Facebook groups. It’s almost impossible that you’re the only one having the same problem or idea.
5. Clean your list before importing – Keeping a clean list is important for your deliverability and campaign success. Remove everyone who has not interacted with you for over 6 months. Remove fake emails. Don’t be afraid to cut your list in half – it is worth it. You can use an additional service like Brite Verify to make sure your data is valid.
6. Keep your list clean – Once you’ve started, have a routine of checking people who have been inactive, who opted out or just bounced. Delete those who are not interested in communicating with you. You’ll feel better afterward.
7. Add website tracking scripts – If your marketing automation tool provides this feature (and it should!). Those scripts would allow you to segment people, send relevant campaigns, re-engage after cart abandonment and much more.
8. Learn one feature at a time – Don’t get overwhelmed with technology. If you decide to start using everything simultaneously, you’ll be making mistakes. Start with the basics and move on only after you feel really comfortable with the feature. Read everything on the knowledge database, imagine use-cases to implement and ask yourself questions. It would be a lot easier to connect two elements if you know how they work separately.
9. Start small – Don’t plan your first campaign to be the biggest and most important of the year. Try simple interactions to test your understanding and setup.
10. Map it before you build it – and keep all the maps together for easier reference. It takes time and it can be tedious, but it is a great way to see your campaign at a glance and find out your errors and missing steps beforehand. We use LucidChart to create and update all our maps.
11. Focus on the funnel – you collect leads and then you sell them your product? How do you nurture them, what are the intermediate conversion goals they are expected to take, do you expect them to just wake up one day with the idea to give you their money?
12. Focus and deliver – It’s Okay to start working on something and then change its focus. But it’s not Okay to change the whole idea and marketing goals Every.Single.Week! If you do, don’t be confused when you see the (missing) results. Oh, and most probably your team will quit.
13. Nurture the leads – When people join your list, do you just ignore them? Or do you immediately start building trust and engagement? The latter is the way to go – create 3-4 emails with important and engaging content that solves problems. Space them out for the first 7 days after a contact has joined. Then add them to the big list.
14. Re-engage inactive leads – Have they opened or clicked on an email for the past 3 to 6 months? No interactions at all might mean that they are not even receiving your emails. Add those people to a re-engagement sequence where you send them an email or two. If they decide to engage with your content again – that’s great! If they don’t – it might be time to say goodbye.
15. Score your leads – Lead scoring seems like a hard thing to do but is too valuable for you to skip it.
16. Don’t be afraid to remove worthless leads – Your goal is to build a list and removing contacts seems a bit counterintuitive. But if they are not engaging with your content, would they ever buy something from you?
17. Segment your list based on emails opened – People who often open your emails but never click are an interesting segment to experiment with. They are not completely lost so it’s up to you to convert them. Think of coupon codes, promotions, offers.
18. Segment your list based on the links they clicked on – Your most engaged contacts are valuable – they have the tendency to be fans and to follow you everywhere. Don’t forget to say “Thank you” every once in a while. You could also segment people who have clicked on specific links – for sending them interesting information on that topic.
19. Segment people based on the pages they visited – Have they seen your latest promotion? Did they purchase? No? Then send them an offer. If you don’t know who they are, you can’t convert them.
20. Segment based on a minimum number of focused interactions – Just as discussed above, but think outside of the email. Have they purchased your product more than once? Been subscribed to your monthly offer for over 6 months? Know who they are and keep an eye.
21. Produce quality content for every segment – If you know your audience is split in its interests, don’t send them the same promotion. Evaluate every piece of content based on the segment’s interests.
22. Leverage the power of your system and it’s (hidden) features – do you use fulfilment lists, link tracking, lead scoring, and built-in landing page software? Investigate all your additional software expenses and check what can be done within your automation program.
23. Don’t fear the opt-outs. There are ONLY two reasons why people opt-out: they don’t care about you and your offers (meaning they were not good leads) or you were communicating badly with them. If it is the latter, try to find a pattern – did they receive 5 emails from you over the course of an hour?
24. Ask your contacts to whitelist your email address. And for Gmail users – instruct them how to add your email messages to the Primary tab. You can create a dedicated page for that – point them to it in your welcome email or on the Thank you page after they’ve signed up for your list.
25. Always follow up – after a demo, a trial, a free webinar, a purchase, a non-purchase. All that valuable relationships are there and waiting to happen. Maybe they didn’t buy today but you have the chance to change that or to build a connection with some of those contacts.
26. Collect new pieces of data every time – You are sending your leads to opt-in for a webinar, promotion, free training. On the opt-in form, add one field for data you don’t have from them. Phone number, Country of residence, Company, Position. Don’t make it required if you don’t feel like it. But always try to collect more relevant (and segmenting prone) information.
27. Train your email subscribers to expect your broadcasts – Keep a tight schedule. Send out the newsletter at the exact time and day every week/month. For even better results, tell them when to expect messages in the first welcome email they get from you.
28. Export your list monthly – This is not something you’d do because you don’t trust the backups of your marketing automation company. Your list is your most valuable asset – download it once a month and make sure you export all data.
29. Plan campaigns in advance – Prepare every piece of content needed well before the launch. Don’t expect to magically keep up with the schedule.
30. NEVER add dummy text to emails in a LIVE sequence. You either learn it the right way or the hard way.
31. Integrate – make a list of all the programs and services you use, think of the value and need of integration between them and your marketing automation service and start searching for solutions.
32. Always choose the easier way/setup – There are always many different ways to do something. Go for the easiest and most comprehensive one. And the easiest way is different for each campaign and person. So as long as it’s working and you can keep track of it, it’s the best one!
33. Don’t be afraid to use custom fields – Custom fields of data are the most important part of customizing your software. If you need information to be easily accessible – manage it with custom fields. Date fields, checkboxes, dropdowns – they could also be used for creating a survey.
34. Be consistent – Don’t stop a campaign in the middle of it. Don’t get bored and forget to finish that nurturing sequence. Start with a task, finish it, and then move on to the next one.
35. Don’t be afraid of single or double opt-in – There is so much said on the topic, but you need to know one thing – it’s not important the type of opt-in confirmation you use. It’s important to have an engaged list.
36. Invest in knowing your system – team training, bootcamps, consulting calls, etc. If you want a high ROI, you need to use it to the maximum and sometimes you just can’t keep up with all new features and strategies.
37. Don’t copy-paste a strategy – no matter how much money it made for someone else, if you blindly copy it, you will lose. Take the best parts and adapt to your audience and business.
38. Don’t copy-paste your emails directly – If you are writing your emails out of the system, paste the text into the HTML field and then move it to the WYSIWYG email editor. Trust me on this one!
39. Simple is better – newsletter templates, landing page designs, opt-in forms, content delivery, offers, checkouts. Don’t make it hard for yourself and for your audience.
40. Check your email SPAM score – and learn to understand what it means. Some services would show you the SPAM-assassin score. Keep it under 2.9 and you’re great!
41. Be helpful to your audience – At the end of the day, they all know your goal is to sell. But if you only try to do that, you’re going to lose your leads too fast.
42. Always A/B test – but do it wisely. Split-test your subject lines, or your CTA buttons. And always test one change at a time – otherwise it would be hard (or impossible) to understand what was the reason for better (or worse) results. Ideas for testing: different offers, images, button position, button texts, form fields, subject lines.
43. Analyze your data – Your newsletter offers a great opportunity to find working patterns. Filter out the best subject lines (based on Open Rate %). Then filter the best emails by Click-through-Rate. There was something that your audience loved about them. Was it the wording, the timing or something else?
44. Keep a schedule of your email campaigns – If your newsletter goes out on a Friday, you don’t want 10 more messages from you to be delivered to a contact on the same day. Try to create a promotion schedule – test it, tweak it, change it – the goal is to make sure your contacts don’t get overwhelmed.
45. Understand the difference between a message broadcast and a sequence – A message broadcast is a one-off scheduled-delivered situation. You select a group of contacts and they are the ones to receive it. A sequence allows you to add rules, add people to it after the initial setup and change the timing.
46. Send broadcast messages as broadcast, not as sequences – Unless you are scheduling your newsletter broadcast well in advance, there is no need for you to create a specific sequence. Keep it simple.
47. Don’t forget to click the “Copy from HTML” button in the email editor. Or you might end up sending a message with 2 separate contents (and get marked as SPAM).
48. Think again before hitting Send. Or Publish. Or Resume. You get the idea.
49. Personalize your campaigns – use merge fields in a smart way and where adequate. First names, company names, websites, birthdays, blog categories, purchased products. Think personal and you’ll find great solutions for your campaigns.
50. Review your campaigns regularly – having everything on autopilot is fancy and easy. But don’t forget to test out the setup once in a while. Check landing pages, payment processing, emails, links in emails. It might be something simple that is breaking your sales process.
51. Write better subject lines – If you are experiencing low open rates on your campaigns, revise your subject lines. Find ideas and inspiration in your own inbox. What made you click today? Track your open rates over time and benchmark with those stats to know what’s working and what’s not.
52. Sequences – Unsubscribe people after the last step or not? Sometimes you don’t even need to know what that means. If you’re offering free downloads on your website, you do. By unsubscribing people after the last step, you make sure that if they decide to download the file again (because people forget), they’ll receive it. Use it also for Payment declined sequences.
53. Set a Public name for your sequence to allow your subscribers to manage what promotions they want to receive – If you don’t want people to unsubscribe from your main list, make sure you give them the option to opt-out from some sequences. “Show this sequence on the Subscription Management Page” – this is the settings you need to find and edit.
54. Hire a copywriter for your emails, if you’re not confident in your writing skills – This can be a great way to start. Discover what you like, what feels natural and what your audience sees as authentic. You don’t need to be a novelist to engage those people. But some initial help can deliver a lot more value than you expect.
55. Provide new free content regularly – Don’t just use the same old ebook from 2010. Update your best content, create new guides, leverage your acquired knowledge. Marketing automation is fueled by content – email copy, landing pages, free resources. Be ready to be constantly creating new content.
56. Every once in a while, send out a personal email. – Yes, I know. You don’t have the time. But spend just 3 minutes a day to ask a customer how he’s doing. Add a line that shows you know his personal interests. And make sure it goes out from your inbox – not from the system. The value is outstanding, people feel special (and they should be special to you!), and you might learn something interesting for your own company.
57. When in doubt, ask your contacts – You are working on a new event or product but you’re not sure if it’ll be interesting for your contacts and customers? Ask them directly! If you never ask, you’ll never know the answer. It might save you time, money and frustration.
58. Use video for greater impact – Interactivity helps build engagement with new prospects. You should have at least a couple of videos in your marketing content – about you video, thank you video and a special offer. You might feel strange seeing yourself on camera but ignore the feeling. It gets better in time. System Management
59. Use naming conventions – things tend to get messy pretty fast unless you have a simple (or more complicated) way to keep all your tags, email, sequences, forms, and pages named. A simple and useful example: Company:Department:Product:Year:Campaign:Target Audience:Message
60. Revise your naming conventions every 3-6 months – you might need to rename a couple of entries or change the whole strategy. But don’t forget that the longer you wait, the harder it becomes.
61. Group everything – group your leads based on tags, sequences, actions. Group your pages, sequences, messages based on name and purpose.
62. Add the year to the name of your message/sequence/form/page – I know, I’ve already said that. But imagine the day you need to check data from 3 years back and you have thousands of forms/messages/sequences. A simple four character code fixes the confusion.
63. Have templates ready for different situations – A cart abandonment email, declined payment, rules for managing a webinar, sequences for webinars and simple campaigns… Whatever works and doesn’t require extreme personalisation and changes – save it as a template. Your team would thank you for it.
64. Don’t overwrite data – if you want to reuse a form/email, just duplicate it. Overwriting does not erase previous stats – so you will have no way of knowing what really happened with your campaign.
65. Optimize images for emails – it’s best to upload the exact dimension you need (thank you, MS Outlook). And use an image optimizing software like TinyPNG. Keeping the email messages smaller in size is a rule of thumb.
66. Don’t use header images for emails (if possible) – a test among Gmail users showed that your message has a better chance of hitting the promotions tab if you include a header image.
67. Contact your email deliverability support in case of strange stats – really odd open rates, opt-outs, complaints. Everything that doesn’t seem to be working as planned needs to be checked.
68. Track important stats. Have daily, weekly and monthly report – based on what’s important for you. Don’t just assume that the default dashboard is great. Personalize it so you see at a glance the most important information for you.
69. Know when to evaluate a campaign/broadcast message – if you check stats 6 hours after hitting the Send button and feel bad, it’s your fault.
70. Know your limitations – most of the marketing automation programs offer endless possibilities and focus on that in their promotional campaigns (strange, ha?). But sometimes you might find yourself in the situation where you imagine something super awesome and it just can’t be implemented.
71. Just because it sounds cool, it doesn’t mean that you need to do it. A new autoresponder schedule that sends out 100 emails for 200 days? A great copy you found in another campaign? Fancy new ideas like emojis in subject lines and gifs in the body of the email? Doubt everything and put yourself in the shoes of your leads – would you like that?
72. Test and fix, test and fix, test and fix.
73. Track the time you spend on marketing automation – including planning, copywriting, communication with your team. If it takes too much of your work hours, you need to get help. Evaluate your mistakes, hire someone to help or talk with a marketing automation consultant – we tend to have great ideas when it comes to optimizing stuff.
74. Create checklists for procedures that tend to repeat – The first step to delegating a process is to understand it. A checklist could help you train new employees or help you identify your mistakes.
75. Use tables for simple email design – This tip is for those of you who prefer plain HTML templates. If you don’t like complex newsletter templates but still want to give your emails a cleaner look, go for a simple table. Add one row, one column, 600-650px wide table with no border. And center it. Then just write your email content inside and voilá! – You have a great looking email that is also easier to read!
76. Test tracking in an Incognito window – if on Chrome, click CMD/Ctrl+Shift+N and paste the URL there. Really valuable when doing split testing for pages, want to see if a visit is tracked – or test the affiliate tracking is being recorded as it should be.
77. Learn about new features of your software and how they can be valuable for your business – New announcement? This should be exciting for you. Marketing automation companies are constantly adding new features – you’ll be surprised to know how easy it is to optimize your costs by canceling subscriptions to additional products that you no longer need.
78. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! – Is a funnel converting better than expected? Learn from it. If you want to optimize it, do so with A/B testing. Don’t lose your current success by totally overwriting the whole campaign. Do a step-by-step experiment.
79. Set a calendar reminder for when a campaign is over – A campaign is ending. You need to check stats, close sales pages, and export reports. What a better way than a calendar reminder coming straight to your email?
80. Create maps for your current campaigns (if you haven’t done so before building them) – the easiest way to not get lost is to follow a logic that’s easy for you to understand. I recommend mapping each individual sequence first and then adding the additional elements – forms, pages, tags, etc.
81. Know your Customer Lifetime Value – that’s the best one. If you know how much value a single customer adds, you know how much to spend for the acquisition of new ones. Learn more about CLV here.
82. Build a break-even funnel – This one is harder to achieve but once it’s working – pure magic! For every $1 invested in acquiring new customers, you get $1 in return. At the end of the day, you are not making any profit. BUT think of it this way – those customers are buying a cheaper product. Once they trust you with their money, you have the opportunity to increase their lifetime value. Everything after that first sale would be pure profit – you are not paying for acquisition anymore.
83. Use coupon codes to entice purchases – but don’t send them straight away to your audience. They will get used to waiting for one every time. Send one for their birthday, important date, a special offer to most engaged users.
84. Know what upsell forms are and how they work – A customer just bought a product and filled in his credit card details. On the thank you page you offer them to buy another product – an addition to the first one. Do you ask for their credit card details again? Of course not! Upsell forms are great and they have great conversion rates.
85. Choose your payment gateway wisely – It’s not only taxes and fees that matter. Make sure you’ve read the full documentation on how to integrate that payment gateway to your software. Be cautious with PayPal Standard, as it’s more restrictive for recurring payments.
86. Always have a minimum of 2 payment gateways ready. Because the worst can happen. If your account gets suspended, you might lose the option to sell products and services online. Imagine if this happens in the middle of a launch… Ouch!
87. Use tracked links to manage promotion Opt-outs – Don’t just expect people to go to Manage subscriptions and unsubscribe only from that promotion. Add a link in the emails (in the P.S.) that leads to a simple page. Set a rule to remove people from the promo sequences or tags. You just kept a subscriber happy!
88. Increase your sales with a partner program. The so-called Affiliate partners can help you grow your business faster. You need to decide if your current customers could be included in the program – if they like your products, they’re already recommending them to other people. Empower them with a monetary incentive.
89. Customize your invoices – It’s fast and easy to use the built-in invoice template, especially in the beginning. You don’t need a separate invoice template for each product either. But you can customize the colors, add additional information, choose a better send from and reply to email and names.
90. Use Wistia for video hosting – If you need to know when did viewers stop paying attention to your Video Sales Letter (VSL), Wistia is there for you. Expand it with FuzedApp to tag people based on how far in they went. And now you can segment them – did they see your offer or not? Send them awesome emails based on that!
91. Don’t forget your current customers – Marketers sometimes tend to overlook the fact that their best audience is their current one. Don’t invest all of your time and resources in acquiring new customers – offer value to existing ones, send them coupon codes, thank you emails – show them that you care and appreciate their trust.
92. Track your links, track your ROI – Do you use UTM-tagged links to track campaigns in Google Analytics? ONTRAPORT takes this one step ahead – you can see the revenue, the number of new leads, the number of views, and much more – for every tracked link shared. The only thing you need to keep in mind – the tracking script should be on the page.
93. Be genuine with your offer scarcity and deadlines – You limit the number of products sold just because it looks cool? You claim to be closing the cart on Friday, but I can still purchase 3 days later? Authenticity and trust are hard to earn and so easy to lose. If you have a real reason to limit the timing and volume of sales, clarify it and stick to it. Don’t prolong the deadline suddenly “due to high demand”. Keep your deadlines, honour your own decisions. Or quit.
Other ONTRAPORT tips
94. Learn the ins and outs of ONTRApages – this landing page builder allows you to add pre-designed blocks of elements and edit them. The best part – all pages are mobile responsive and you can’t mess up the elements. It’s also FREE even for non-ONTRAPORT users.
95. Build beautiful responsive email messages with ONTRAmail – Build mobile responsive emails in a minute. The setup is the same as ONTRApages, but the blocks are designed to create beautiful emails.
96. Explore ONTRAforms and their endless possibilities – Once more – a feature based on block-design that provides mobile responsive results. Create opt-in forms with a top-notch design and experience.
97. Create a consistent user experience with ONTRApages, ONTRAforms and ONTRAmail – for full impact, keep a consistent design between all elements of a campaign. Surprise your contacts and see better conversion rates.
98. Use the Marketplace – A marketplace is always the best way to find relevant content or design if you are stuck. Browse through the templates and choose the one that resonates best with you – in colours, fonts, structure or text. Then customise it.
99. Don’t get automation-envy – Just because someone else is achieving great results with his setup, doesn’t mean that you need to mirror his strategy. Think before you act, analyze and collect ideas. Same goes for other software – don’t switch providers just because “everyone is using X” – evaluate your needs, evaluate your current solution, evaluate competitors. And then be honest with yourself – is it really worth it? If you believe it, go for it. Try using both solutions for 3 to 6 months.
100. Revise your setup every 3 to 6 months – It was working perfectly while you had 3 campaigns and 2 products. Now that you’ve tripled in size – is it still easy to navigate and find what you’re looking for?
101. It gets better (and easier) with time – but you need to be proactive and know how your system is configured, what are your procedures and workflows (ask for maps).
I hope this short list helps you identify areas in your marketing automation that you can optimize and update. I’d be happy to learn which one is your favorite or most unexpected tips from the list.