Automation is one of those marketing terms that generate a lot of hype.
According to a report I just read, automating marketing tasks can save your team eight hours a day. That is more hours than the average person works daily.
The figure made me wonder just how many people were on the marketing team doing simple tasks…
A separate report by Oracle went on to say marketing automation reduces marketing overheads by 12.2%. That was a headline stat. There were other facts and figures in the report that I found more credible. For example, you’ll see an increase in conversion rates by automating certain marketing tasks.
I wrote this guide to separate the hype from the BS. The article provides a straightforward overview of the kinds of marketing tasks you should be automating at your SaaS company. I’ll also share my thoughts on the dangers of automating tasks for the sake of it.
What is SaaS Marketing Automation?
SaaS marketing automation involves using marketing automation tools to streamline routine software marketing tasks. It allows you to deal with those monotonous tasks so you can engage in other more interesting duties.
SaaS marketing automation can improve the efficiency of marketing and sales teams. Some of the ways businesses use SaaS marketing automation today include:
- Email marketing automation
- Posting on social media
- Handling ad campaigns
- Self-service support
- Product adoption
- Lead management automation
- User onboarding
- CRM automation
That’s a lot of ways you can use automation to improve systems at your SaaS company. To what extent you can utilize automation to really move the needle at your company is what we’ll touch on next.
The Dangers of Automating Every Part of Your Business
Automation evangelists seem to imagine a world where you can almost leave the office unstaffed because you’ve managed to automate almost every critical business task. In reality, very few tasks can be completely automated. The Return on Investment (ROI) decays over time if you don’t monitor things closely.
Take email marketing as an example.
Email automation allows you to set up welcome email sequences, send reports to people who landed on a sales page and generated a touch point, and more. Automating email campaigns is awesome.
Here’s the danger, though.
Over time, the report you automatically send to subscribers stops being relevant. That can happen because the PDF you send has your old branding or you’re providing outdated advice. All of these things can create a negative impression of your business.
You’ll face a similar issue with paid ads. You can set up a paid ads campaign that works great initially. If you leave the Pay Per Click (PPC) campaign on autopilot, your Return On Ad Spend (ROAS) will steadily decrease. That’s when you need to go in and tweak the system.
Any automated marketing task that delivers content to your audience needs to be periodically reviewed.
The second issue with automation is people set up automated systems because it seems clever. For example, you might integrate Slack with Airtable. This lets you get an instant notification when someone takes an action on Airtable. Just to be safe, you might send people an email notification too.
If your goal is getting people to pay attention to Airtable, automation might not solve the problem.
People get in the habit of creating automated workflows for the sake of it. You create workflows that don’t solve a problem. They just add an extra layer of complexity to simple tasks.
How to Create an Effective Automation Strategy
Effective marketing automation should do one of four things;
- Improve team collaboration
- Save time completing a task
- Reduce the cost of doing a task
- Support customer success goals
Essentially, automation should improve the lives of your employees or customers in some way.
To ensure the task you want to automate will achieve one of those targets, answer the following questions:
- What’s the problem?
- What do you want to accomplish?
- Does the cost justify the reward?
- How will you automate the task?
- Did automation work?
It’s just a simple thought exercise to run through.
Essentially, if you want to automate a task, you should be able to explain the reasoning to a colleague quickly and easily. Take running daily standups as an example. Here’s how you might validate the need for automation:
- What’s the problem: we want to do daily standups. However, because things come up, we sometimes forget to do them. People also turn up to the daily standups late.
- What do you want to accomplish: do a quick daily check-in at the same time each day.
- Did the cost justify the reward: Yes. It will take five minutes to set up, and there was no learning curve.
- How will you automate the task: we’ll use a free tool to run our standups at the same time each day.
- Did the automation work: Yes. We hold the standups at the same time each day, and our standups take less time than previously.
You should be able to run through this checklist for any task you want to automate. But bear in mind that it’ll take time to tick all the boxes. Here’s what I mean.
The first two questions are pretty straightforward and can be answered before setting up the automation. However, you’ll need to actually implement the automation for some time to determine whether the cost is worth it, how the automation works, and if it helps you achieve your goal.
SaaS Marketing Automation: Tasks That Deliver an ROI
That covers the theory for identifying repetitive tasks your marketing team can automate. To help get you going, here are five ways to optimize your operations utilizing SaaS Marketing Automations.
1. Use Automation to Manage Simple Tasks
Routine daily or weekly tasks are a logical focus for your marketing automation efforts. For example, here at Crunch Marketing, we automate our daily standups. Everyone gets a quick message asking what they achieved yesterday, what they want to accomplish today, and if there are any blockers.
Setting up this automation was straightforward. The insights from the standups help our managers identify and solve blockers and determine where people are falling behind on their work.
We’ve also set up simple marketing automation for content production. We’ve just done a few simple things to ensure a smooth handover between writers, editors, and the rest of the content team.
2. Set Up Email Automation Workflows
Effective email marketing is the backbone of your customer journey. You can use it to introduce yourself to new prospects, develop a relationship with leads, get people to use your software, and educate them on how to use it effectively.
Great email marketing relies on simple email nurture workflows. There are a few critical email marketing flows you’ll need to create for your SaaS. They include:
- Welcome email series.
- Onboarding series.
- Re-engagement email series.
These are simple email flows you’ll need to engage with users at critical touchpoints and improve the overall customer experience. Read this post to find out more about the different SaaS email marketing workflows.
There are advanced email automation workflows you can set up too. For example, a tool like Convertkit allows you to send emails based on the actions of subscribers. That might mean sending a specific PDF to a subscriber who visited a certain page on your site. This allows you to send the right material to potential customers based on where they are in the sales funnel.
You can set up advanced marketing automation if you have the time. The first set of automated email series I suggested is essential. You need to set them up if you plan to use email marketing to engage prospects and generate leads. Automation tools like GetResponse work really well for these tasks.
3. Use Sales Automation Tools
You need a good CRM for your SaaS business to keep track of leads in your sales pipeline and customers. You can use a tool like Hubspot or Salesforce to do this.
Integrating your CRM with other marketing tools will improve your workflow. For example, B2B SaaS companies do a lot of sales and marketing activities on LinkedIn. You’ll need to set up an integration to connect Hubspot with LinkedIn Sales Navigator so your CRM can collect information about new prospects.
Integrating your CRM with other platforms helps you track customer touchpoints. That’s important for your sales team because they want to understand how the lead has engaged with the company.
Tracking customer touchpoints helps you better understand the customer journey and which marketing channels are effective. It also gives you critical customer data that you can use to enhance your marketing strategies. It can help you craft personalized messages based on the prospects’ interactions with your brand, for example.
This kind of automation can be a pain to set up, so it’s generally worth using a versatile platform that can do most of the tasks you need. That way, you don’t end up with a chunky tech stack or need to set up any complicated integrations.
4. Integrate Your Marketing Tools
The SaaS marketing automation software you use needs to sync with your current tech stack. Integrating your tech stack effectively improves project oversight.
For example, imagine search engines are your most important marketing channel. You could send a Slack notification to your team whenever Google Search Console identifies a big move in traffic. This notification can help managers get a top-level view of things.
That’s an example of simple marketing automation that provides value to your team.
You can use a powerful tool like Zapier to connect your technology stack. Setting up logical integrations where the cost justifies the efforts will deliver payoffs. Just make sure you don’t get stuck in a loop of automating tasks for the sake of it.
5. Focus on Reporting and Analytics
If you’ve got external funding or you have a boss to report to, you’ll need to deliver periodic reports. Your reports are a chance to show the results of your campaigns. You want to show things like the goals you’ve achieved, the number of prospects in the pipeline, and revenue figures.
You can use tools like Google Search Console or Hubspot to gather data from various sources and showcase them in a custom dashboard. Custom dashboards, like the one below, are great as they give you a top-level overview of your operations.
Effective reporting also enables you to identify any major issues that may arise and fix them promptly. This will help you map customer lifecycles, gain customer feedback and reduce churn rate. Without an automation tool, you won’t be able to monitor all the KPIs of your business.
SaaS Marketing Automation FAQ
SaaS marketing automation is the use of software solutions to automate various marketing activities, such as lead generation, lead nurturing, and customer engagement, for SaaS companies. Effective automation helps you streamline your marketing operations, which should reduce costs and improve team performance.
Before automating any task, you should answer the following five questions; What’s the problem? What do you want to accomplish? Does the cost justify the reward? How will you automate the task? Did automation work? If you can’t answer those questions, you shouldn’t be automating the task.
Ideally, marketing automation should help you optimize your operations by reducing the amount of time it takes to manage certain tasks. Cumulatively, effective automation can save your team hours or even days of work monthly.
The danger of automation is you start to automate tasks for the sake of it. That can result in bloated tech stacks and complicated workflows that do nothing to benefit your team or customers.
This guide provided a top-level overview of how to create an effective SaaS marketing automation plan. Before you automate any task, be clear on your goals, understand what you want to achieve, and assess if the cost of implementing the automation is worth the reward. If you do this, then you’ll implement sensible automations that benefit your business and customers.
Well, most of the time, at least. You’ll still make some mistakes because everyone does.
Nico is the founder of Crunch Marketing, a SaaS marketing agency. He works with enterprise SaaS clients like Writer, Right Inbox, and Surfer SEO, helping them scale lead generation globally across EMEA, APAC, and other regions.