When marketing automation software was introduced, it was seen by many as one of the best things ever to happen to online marketing. Many advertisers thought they could tell the marketing automation software what ads to place and where, and then just sit back and relax. That fantasy was short-lived, however. While marketing automation is an incredible tool for efficiently engaging customers, the reality is that the process still requires regular oversight to ensure consistent performance.
However, when used correctly, marketing automation has the capacity to take the information provided by the advertiser and create hundreds, if not thousands, of effective ads in real time. Marketing automation is also beneficial in helping advertisers understand:
- Which ads are most likely to convert. Marketing automation uses the most current information from thousands of data points to make decisions about which ads or bids will provide the best possible outcome. This is something a person simply cannot do, as they are limited by how much time they can spend on an account and the amount of data they can manually process.
- How much to pay for the ads. Rather than just setting and forgetting bids, marketing automation software can constantly optimize an account’s bid limits based on factors such as volume, how well the ads are converting, current marketing trends, competition, user behavior, etc.
- Which ads to serve to which prospects and when. Marketing automation streamlines advertising performance while saving advertisers a significant amount of time – freeing them up to focus on other marketing initiatives.
There are many different levels of automation, from simple Google AdWords automatic bidding, to more complex marketing automation programs that can dynamically create thousands of ads based on information that’s either input by the user, or generated from ads on a website. Determining which options to use will depend on your individual needs, resources, and budget.
Whether you’re just getting started with marketing automation or you’re trying to optimize an existing process, there are three simple steps to follow to help ensure your success:
- Create a baseline. It’s critical to determine where you think your bid level and cost-per-acquisition (CPA) level should be before you start using a marketing automation platform – even a free one. For many, creating a baseline may actually involve using a manual process in the short term, but it will help you drive results faster in the long term and make your process more efficient if you choose to use a more complex automation tool.
- Evaluate your key performance indicators and explore the areas where you’re seeing vulnerabilities within your process. Common issues include paying too much for a conversion and low click-through rates. Gaining that knowledge as quickly and early as possible makes it easier to evaluate CPA bidding opportunities, ad delivery settings, and creative (ad copy, etc.) to ensure that they are optimized for clicks and conversions based on your goals.
- Update and optimize the weak areas within your process based on what the data shows. For example, if your target CPA is $10, but it’s currently $20, consider reducing it to $15 for a few weeks. Then to $12 for a week or so. Slowly lowering your CPA, as opposed to quickly dropping it from $20 to $10, will help ensure that your changes don’t cause a complete disruption to traffic.
Once you’ve established a baseline and are developing a process for consistent oversight and optimization, consider starting your automated marketing process with a free tool, such as those available within Google AdWords and Facebook.
In Google AdWords, there is a simple tool within the interface where you can tell Google what you want your CPA to be and Google will use that information to decide how much to bid for each click. This type of marketing automation can be beneficial to almost any advertiser.
** A tip for using Google AdWords: Advertisers often set their ads to rotate evenly, which means that Google will serve every ad with the same frequency. However, it’s often more effective to let Google serve the ad it believes will be most likely to convert based on its algorithm, which takes into account an extraordinary number of variables and complex user behavior.
In addition to offering automated CPA bidding, there are many marketing automation tools that allow you to upload a few different images, descriptions, and headlines. They will then mix and match them to create hundreds, if not thousands, of different ad combinations and figure out which are most likely to speak to individual users. Conversions are not guaranteed, but it’s a great way to test a vast quantity of ad combinations.
Whether you’re using automation for Google AdWords or Facebook, or paying for a more robust platform, there are a few dos and don’ts to keep in mind.
Do set realistic goals and targets. For instance, if you are using an automation tool to work on cost-per-acquisition bidding and set the CPA too low, your ad might never serve and you won’t benefit from any of the automation.
Do ensure you are regularly checking outcomes and bids. It’s essential that the automations you apply to bids are changing ads in the way that you want. Ideally, you should check your bids’ performance a few times a week. With that said, if you are working with a high-volume account, then your bids should definitely be checked more frequently, if not daily.
Do make sure you have enough creative supply. For example, if you’re using Facebook’s marketing automation tool to serve multiple ads, then it’s important that you have enough images, headlines, and descriptions for your ads so that the automation tool can create enough unique combinations to test. And if your marketing automation software writes ads based on the content available on your website, it’s also important to check that the ads are clean, legible, logical, and brand-aligned.
Do consistently check your KPIs on the account.
Don’t ask the automation tool to perform miracles. While platforms might provide great lift, none are perfect. Just setting a CPA limit doesn’t mean that you’ll achieve it. That’s the goal, but it’s not a guarantee.
Don’t assume every decision the software makes is the best decision.
Don’t set it and forget it. If you do, you’ll likely find that you’re spending way too much on bids or not bidding enough. You also might encounter landing page issues, which can mean that your ads aren’t being served or that they are being directed to a page that is broken.
There’s no question that marketing automation can be an efficient way to post online ads. But in order for it to be a smart, effective strategy for driving sales for your company, it’s important not to remove the human element – you. When you work in tandem with your marketing automation software, you’ll be able to maximize your reach, serve the right ads to the right people, generate better ROI, produce better analytics, and … sit back and relax a little.
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