Automation marketing seems to be the new savior right now, and why not?
After all, it’s “set and forget” and most of the email service providers like Mailchimp and Get Response are upgrading their platforms to handle more and more automation features - it must be a positive sign of growth right?
Yes and no. In this article, I’m going to debunk a 5 automation myths and hopefully help you avoid making some costly mistakes in the process.
1 - Automation is “Set and Forget”
Okay, let’s get this one out of the way right away, “Set and Forget” anything is just bad business. However online businesses tend to get away with pushing this myth more than a bricks and mortar business ever could (could you imagine ‘set and forget’ ever working in a restaurant?)
The only constant in life is change, trends change, markets change...customer needs change, so how could building a ‘set and forget’ automation ever be a good idea? Not to mention technology changes all the time (I'm looking at you Google and Facebook).
The reality is that nothing is set and forget, anyone who is telling you otherwise is selling you something and counting on human laziness and/or greed to close the deal...so don’t fall for it.
You’re a business owner, and a big part of your day to day will be solving problems and adapting to these changes that are swirling all around you. Remind yourself of this and you’ll be less likely to fall into this trap.
2 - Perfect your process, then automate it
Why would you ever want to automate something that hasn’t been proven? Seems like a no-brainer doesn’t it? Not necessarily...stick with me here.
One of the many actual benefits of bringing automation into your business is that you can test different things ‘automagically’ without it costing you hardly anything in time or money.
Split testing one landing page vs. another and having the winner (determined by the one with the higher conversion) automatically switched to the default can happen with very little additional time. Thrive Architect can do this for WordPress.
Split testing email sequences, testing email frequency or long versus short emails or long emails vs. sending to a web page can also be tested in ActiveCampaign and a winner determined based on a goal being achieved.
These are just two examples where you can use automation to cost effectively figure out what converts...to refine your concept.
In other words, you don’t have to wait until you have a proven system in place to automate it, you can use automation to also prove your system!
3 - Automation is easy
Automation ain’t easy.
Vendors selling automation software want you to think it’s easy, because then you’ll pay for their SAAS offering month after month after month. If for some reason you can’t seem to get it to work right, or you don’t see your business explode overnight on ‘auto pilot’ - then it must be your fault.
If it’s your fault...then cancelling the software is not that their product has failed...it’s an admission of guilt on your side. Can’t have that can we? Better keep paying for that software each month and see if we can make it work. This is one of the more insidious automation myths.
But newsflash, automation isn’t easy.
First of all, if you’re not the type of person who can immerse themselves in if/else statements and devise a linear path from stranger to a repeat customer, then you will likely struggle with handling the automation duties yourself.
Are you ready to invest in learning about automation best practices? How to use your particular software (as ActiveCampaign, Drip, Convertkit, Infusionsoft and Ontraport all work different to each other)? How to integrate these systems with your website? Your Shopping cart?
Plus...how to measure whether any of this automation stuff you just built is actually improving your business versus taking up your time, resources and attention?
And don’t forget all the things that have to go into your automation, copywriting, landing pages, sales pages, countdown timers and limited time offers. Also there’s A/B split testing and then making sure that all of these different elements play ‘nice’ with each other.
The truth is, automation ain’t easy. If it was...everyone would have ‘autopilot riches’ from evergreen automated funnels converting at 77.7% all day, every day.
4 - Automation is Complicated
In direct opposition to my previous point, is the myth that automating your online business will result in a lot of needless complexity. Sure, this could happen - especially if you or the person building out your automated processes is inexperienced, it’s easy to end up with a rabbit warren of different paths that don’t need to exist.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler"
The best way to make an automation is with a clear goal in mind and a piece of paper and a pen. Map out what needs to happen, and ideally have a single goal for your automation. Not only will this keep your automation sequences clean and easy to troubleshoot, but they’ll also be easier to gauge its effectiveness by setting up a goal as the end result.
With that in place, you can easily see whether your automation is succeeding or failing to meet your expectations...and you can take steps to correct it.
When it comes to automation, I like to follow the words of Albert Einstein:
"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler”.
Build automation sequences that are focused and goal based and they are easier to measure and troubleshoot, a true win/win scenario.
Complex automation systems aren’t necessarily bad, in fact they can help make your business much harder to ‘reverse engineer’ by your competition.
They can function like a secret ‘black box’ in your business that helps to make you more defensible from competitors looking to rip you off - and there’s always a place for something like that.
5 - Automation is “Cold and Impersonal”
Anyone who says that automation is cold and impersonal has either been the victim of lazy marketing or is a lazy marketer themselves.
It’s very easy for automated messages to be cold and impersonal if you:
- Use standard ESP provided text for confirming opt-ins
- Copy and paste other people’s emails verbatim and use them as your own
- Fail to think of your audience and their problems when you address them
Again, your automated messages don’t have to be like this if you’re willing to actually consider your audience first and take the time to customize your messages and make them truly your own.
First of all, write like you actually talk...not like you’re trying to impress an English professor.
Next, take the time to customize any of the ‘system’ messages that are sent out when someone first subscribes to your email list. If you’ve enabled double opt-in, you’ll have a confirmation message and a thank you message that you can customize - take the time to do this...it is well worth it.
Now, focus on your audience. What is their current problem and what is the shortest path to getting them to a result?
Can you give them what they need in 500 words instead of a super-fluffy 1,500 words (because you read somewhere that 1,500 words is the industry benchmark you need to hit to win the online marketing game)?
When you write as you talk, ditch the default text from your provider (all of them suck) and write in full consideration of your audience and their problems, you’re on the path to creating what I call “More Human Than Human” automation.
This is automation that is considerate and helpful to your audience while being able to scale far beyond what a single human could ever do. Humans get tired, cranky, need to eat and sleep and get burned out if they’re working 12+ hours per day.
But your automation can keep on ticking, 24/7 without missing a beat and if you designed it the right way, can become an extension of who you are so you could truly serve your audience like never before.
And what is cold or impersonal about that?
Automation is increasingly marketed as a ‘set and forget’ or ‘autopilot’ solution when it’s actually more like “cruise control” instead of “autopilot”; there to assist you and enhance your capability...not to replace you.
So yes, you can’t be lazy and await your autopilot millions to show up just because you took 30 minutes to set up a squeeze page and a follow up auto responder message or three.
You will need to think, solve problems, divine the shortest path to the desired outcome and represent it in the various automation if/else steps.
You still need to give it the words to “speak” on your behalf. To design it so that it accomplishes your business objectives as a consequence of serving your audience.
This requires an investment of time and effort on your part, you may need to partner with an automation service provider to guide you through how to accomplish these steps on your particular automation platform.
But in the end, you will have created an asset in your business that can fuel future growth for months and potentially years to come.
Like a well that you can turn to again and again and again for fresh, clean water after putting in the time and the effort to dig out a giant hole in the ground.