What is Marketing Automation?

Simply put, it is scheduling and sending emails based on user behaviour with the ultimate goal of driving leads and donors to take action.

The purpose of marketing automation aligns pretty well with most nonprofits’ priorities. It can help you increase income from existing donors, boost acquisition, raise awareness through content distribution, generate leads, establish and retain a loyal donor base, and more. Granted, marketing automation could include more than just email, but, in this post, we’re focusing on email. It’s most likely where a nonprofit looking to get into marketing automation will start.

Benefits of Marketing Automation

Marketing automation has the potential to do a lot of good for your nonprofit, which will only increase your ability to do good in your community. It can save you time, increase efficiency and improve relationships with donors and potential supporters.

It saves time.

Marketing automation helps charities become more productive by effectively eliminating repetitive manual processes with an automated solution-oriented substitution.

The scheduling emails piece of marketing automation requires software – but fortunately most email marketing software includes some kind of automation feature. By using marketing automation software or an automation tool offered through your email marketing service provider, you have the ability to build entire campaigns with timelines and prescheduled send dates.

For instance, let’s say you want to send a follow up email to a recent donor one week after they’ve made a donation. Instead of doing this manually, you can set up a template to go out to that donor one week after their transaction.

While the setup requires a decent amount of work upfront, it can save you an incredible amount of time in the long run. It helps you connect with people at key moments, rather than being forced to wait until you have a spare minute.

It’s personalised

Automating your communications doesn’t mean that they becoming lifeless. Marketing automation strengthens customer relationships, scales fundraising campaigns. It makes it easy to create lead generation projects and acquire new donors online.

One of the most effective marketing strategies is to create and deliver personalised experiences to customers. Personalisation involves really getting to know your donors behaviours to provide content that is relevant and targeted to their individual interests.

The ability to provide more relevant content to your donors is one of the main benefits of marketing automation. With a well segmented email list you can create bespoke drip campaigns that can increase donor engagement.

Creating bespoke content journeys for different segments/personas/lists will lead to a more effective process for converting leads into donors. When potential donors are more informed–receiving the right information at the right times–they are more likely to donate more. The DMA reported that segmented at targeted emails generate 58% of all revenue, and that some markets have noted a 760% increase in revenue from segmented campaigns.

Increased engagement

Since it’s driven by user behavior, marketing automation allows you to deliver well-targeted content to subscribers. You have the ability to hit people at the proper, predetermined moment with content matched to their needs and preferences.

Learn what your donors and leads are clicking on. Improve your engagement rates by building upon what’s already working in your marketing strategy.

The Lyris Annual Email Optimizer Report shows that segmentation  helps boost open rates, drives conversions, and overall increases the quality of communication–making for successful emails that feel tailor-made for each unique recipient.

It drives donations

The whole purpose of marketing automation is to take someone who engaged with your nonprofit and lead them down a path that ends with them taking another specific action. The communication that happens between that first engagement and the desired action should establish a connection between subscribers and your cause, deepen that relationship, and inspire them to take a more invested interest in your work and eventually become monthly donors.

Maybe a visitor started as an email subscriber, but you want to turn them into a donor. Or maybe they started by signing a petition, but you want to drive them to sign up to volunteer. You’ll need to tailor these paths to your cause, but the bottom line is marketing automation can help you turn broad action into specific action that helps your nonprofit in tangible ways.

According to Aberdeen Group’s research study, “companies using marketing automation receive 53 percent higher conversion rates than non-users and an annualised revenue growth rate 3.1 percent higher than non-users.” Businesses notice the value of this technology and are taking advantage of its benefits to deploy successful campaigns.

You can test what works and improve it

By running the same emails over a few months you can generate enough views and clicks to get measurable results allowing you to test alternatives and further refine your campaigns for better results.

How Marketing Automation Works

Marketing automation starts with a trigger. This is the action that sets the whole process in motion. This could be adding a new monthly donor to a list, signing up for your newsletter, signing a petition, or registering for an event—the choice is yours. But this trigger is going to be what you use to determine who should be included in your marketing automation campaign.

Typically, you send a series of emails over a period of time, ending with an appeal for your subscribers to take a specific action. You’ll sometimes here this approach referred to as a “drip campaign”. You’re slowly “dripping” bite-sized pieces of content to people over a period of time. The journey between that first email and the final, desired action is about building trust. If you’ve successfully gained their trust, there’s a much better chance they’ll ultimately take that final action.

Once a subscriber is on this path, the content they receive from you is based on their behavior. This could be how they interacted with the last email they received from you or an action they’ve taken on your website. For instance, maybe you send one email to subscribers who opened your last email and a different email to subscribers who did not. The drip campaign continues, driving them from the trigger action they took initially toward a targeted, more beneficial action like making a donation or reaching out for your services.

Further refining marketing automation

Many more sophisticated email marketing tools allow you to create rules to nurture leads and donors through the donor journey, allowing you to target a individual based on their behaviours, for example sending an email when they visit specific pages on your website.
You might use these features to understand their specific interests and provide a series of content pieces based on that interest or to project follow asks based on the content that they react to.By automating the process you can send emails at the moment they are most likely respond.

Want to know what types of marketing automation campaigns to run?

You can see some examples of different types of marketing automation campaigns charities can use here >