Running your freelancing business

Why You Should Learn Marketing Automation

By Brennan Dunn

I recently released my latest course on marketing automation.

So far, over 9 hours of training lessons have been recorded and published. In terms of actual content, it’s my biggest project yet.

But I’ve also heard from a few of you, questioning how a course on marketing automation fit alongside courses and content on value-based pricinggetting clients, and offering paid discovery services.

If I were to really dig into that concern, I think the overarching issue was: Marketing automation is for companies who sell products or software online and not services businesses.

Two reasons you should care about getting good at automation

First, let’s look at what exactly I mean by marketing automation.

In a nutshell, it’s the ability to send relevant and targeted messages to people at the right time. Beyond that, it also means personalizing the messages you send.

At the basic level, you have neighborhood bakeries sending mass emails to their customers through tools like Mailchimp. And at the high end, you have enterprises like Amazon who send personalized emails based on what they know you’re likely to buy next.

You’re probably thinking you should have maybe a newsletter you send out to your clients, or maybe even an email course if you’re feeling adventurous. But the options available in some of the more sophisticated tools out there—tagging, conditional logic, and so on—probably seem beyond the scope of the typical small freelancing business or agency.

But here are two reasons why I think you should seriously consider learning this stuff:

1) You can automate big chunks of your business.

Qualifying new leads, learning about their projects, scheduling calls, onboarding new clients about your process, and soliciting referrals—all of this can be done automatically.

You might think that, especially as a consultant, you should be manually doing much of this. Or even that clients might be scared off and think you’re out of touch if you’re sending them automated emails.

But having set this processes up, both for myself and many of my agency clients, I’ve witnessed another benefit to streamlining and automating core business workflows: professionalism.

The thing is, when you have turnkey processes in place that do a lot of the heavy lifting for you, your client is able to see that you’ve obviously done this before. You’re leading them through a way of working, and nothing’s left to interpretation. Rather than following up with a new lead with a message that essentially reads, “Uh… we should jump on a call,” you can instead send a series of emails that schedules leads on your calendar and educates them about how to best prepare for your first call together.

Also, you’re able to just “set it and forget it.”

Let’s say that you want to qualifying a new client before scheduling a call. You have some sort of questionnaire that you send, and once they’ve responded (adequately) to it, your automation will fire off a link to schedule time on your calendar.

Well, what if they don’t bother filling out your questionnaire?

Your automation can follow up with them. Again, and again, and again. Until they fill it out. You’re able to take all of that overhead off your plate. Your job literally becomes to show up at sales calls—where you’ll be speaking with people who have already been educated about your process and prepared for your first call!

“But I only get like a lead or two a month.”

You might think that you should only bother setting up automation if you’re overwhelmed and can’t stay on top of leads.

I disagree. I might send a few invoices a month, and it only takes a few minutes to handle each. But invoicing is distracting. It keeps me from focusing, and it’s One More Thing I need to worry myself with. I’ve delegated it out, and my business has benefited greatly from that decision.

Similarly, you’re best at creating value for your clients. You create. And that’s why people hire you.

The contextual overhead of dealing with “did I follow up with that lead” and the back-and-forth of scheduling a call is not only a waste of time but a waste of cognitive energy.

You’re never “too small” to make your life easier.

2) You can deliver amounts of value to your clients by including automation

If you’re a web designer and you build websites that generate sales or capture leads, how much more valuable are you if you can help your clients generate more sales or more leads?

Automation is a great way of doing that because a lot of potential customers aren’t yet ready to purchase or key in their contact information. Email courses, lead magnets, and other incentives help establish the requisite trust that often keeps drive-by visitors from acting.

Or if you build apps for clients, how much more valuable are you if you’re able to help them better onboard new trial accounts and personalize the onboarding experience? Having run a software company, I can tell you first hand that the most valuable work I did for the business related to helping deliver a better experience to trial customers (thus converting more of them into paid accounts) and NOT in building new features.

Maybe you create content, written or video, for your clients. How much more valuable are you to your clients if you’re able to help put together well-designed campaigns that deliver your content at the right time, and personalized to the person on the receiving end?

When I started consulting, I built web applications using Ruby on Rails.

These days, I’m setting up high-value automation campaigns for businesses that significantly increase profits without needing to hire additional salespeople. (And best of all, the automation I setup never expects a commission.)

And the work I do—a mixture of setting up workflows in Drip, writing copy, and coding the occasional line of JavaScript—ends up with me working on projects where the effective weekly rate is usually upwards of $25,000.

I’m not saying that you should ditch the kind of work you do now for your clients.

But I do think you should augment your skills by offering automation to your clients. Virtually every type of freelancer and agency can upsell their clients on high-value automation work.

And it doesn’t take a lot of effort to learn how to do this.

You just need to understand the technicals behind whatever email service provider you happen to use and learn the associated tactics and strategies that drive results.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing with you some ideas on ways that you can begin to automate your business, along with more thoughts on how you could pitch marketing automation to your clients—even if they didn’t ask you for it, and even if you don’t consider yourself to be a marketer or writer.