Automation is a critical part of any organization’s digital strategy. Whether you’re just starting out or fully immersed in automation strategies, there are ways to make automation work for you to maximize your practice and deliver better results.
Because, let’s be honest—while the goal of automation is efficiency, it can first take an investment of time, effort, and even money to realize that gain.
In our recent webinar, Why Automation is Essential to Your Digital Strategy, we dove into the value of automation, recommended tools (including ones you may already be paying for or can access for free), and discussed specific areas within your digital strategy to deploy automation.
Half of the participants present said their organizations either didn’t have many automation tools employed at all or wished they had more. This is not uncommon. The good news is that there are relatively easy paths to starting out with automation, and organizations at any stage can see results.
First, what do we mean by automation?
To get an understanding of what we’re talking about when we talk about automation, let’s look at some specific applications:
Automation in your Customer/Contact Relationship Management (CRM) tool can mean the processes in Salesforce, HubSpot, EveryAction, Charity Engine, and other common tools that filter audiences into segments based on their actions as donors, subscribers, event attendees, and more. CRMs can also use automation to pull data into meaningful analytics.
Hint: If you use a CRM, you’re likely already paying for automation tools! You can discover new ways to optimize automation power without a new budget.
After CRMs, the most common way mission-driven organizations employ automation is through marketing. “Drip campaigns,” or a series of timed emails triggered by actions like sign-ups or donations, are a common way organizations use automation to provide steady, responsive information to audience members right when they’re ready to engage.
Social media automation
Like CRMs, using automation tools in social media can not only reduce staff time in posting content, but provide cross-platform data and analytics that inform your strategy. Tools like Hootsuite, HubSpot, and Sprout Social can be used to schedule upcoming or recurring social posts, analyze what posts are getting the most traction, and engage in “social listening” to monitor and analyze mentions of your brand, campaigns, or key topics.
Conversational marketing automation
Chatbots are becoming more common in the nonprofit space, as organizations automate frequently asked questions or help users navigate complex sites to zero in on key information. Organizations active on Facebook can use the built-in chatbot in Messenger for free, while tools like Drift and Flow XO can range in price based on the complexity of the bot.
Automation is playing a key role in simplifying complex decisions about paid advertising, including the Google Ad Grants many nonprofits deploy. Adopting the suggestions available for selecting keywords and pricing can be much more cost-effective than struggling to devise a strategy every time.
Hint: The platforms know their algorithms better than you! Adopting tools like Dynamic Creative on Facebook can result in higher-performing, lower-cost ads.
How are other mission-driven organizations effectively using automation?
Forum One uses automation in all the ways described above for our own communications, and we’ve been fortunate to partner with organizations to innovate in automation, at all levels.
The Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), is a membership organization providing events, research, and guides for its thousands of members. When the pandemic forced many events online, and when members were spending more time turning to the website for resources, CASE deployed a chatbot to answer FAQs and guide users through registration processes and the hundreds of materials available online. CASE went beyond the basics of chatbots by creating a brand-aligned character, Casey, a wombat good at “digging up information” to make the automation feel personal and connected to the organization’s mission.
Within an omnichannel marketing plan, the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE) used Salesforce for audience segmentation and an email response plan for lapsed subscribers. If a subscriber opens emails for several weeks and then stops, the system is triggered to send a re-engagement series, with information customized to reach readers. This automation is just one part of PIIE’s email marketing plan, serving their goals to communicate about non-partisan economic policies and grow engaged readers beyond Washington, DC.
How to get started?
There’s no need to get overwhelmed by automation or unlock all the tools of automation at once. But to get started, look at how you and your teams are spending time. Could valuable staff time and effort be freed up by automation? There’s a place to invest.
Second, look at your goals and KPIs. In your highest priorities, how could automation help? If user engagement is top of your list, explore how automated email campaigns could respond more proactively to users who’ve recently taken an action. If site traffic or social media growth is your priority, look into targeted advertising or advanced social tools.
Want more ideas? Watch our on-demand webinar to learn more about how your organization can leverage automation in your digital strategy.