As a marketer, you’re constantly being pushed to do more. Drive more leads. Create more content. Generate more engagement. And in most cases, you can do it.
But what about tracking anonymous users on your website. What about nurturing leads—scoring each one based on their specific behavior?
How do you scale that?
Are you supposed to do this for thousands of individual leads?
No. And you’re not expected to. That’s why there are a number of marketing automation platforms slugging it out for a significant slice of your marketing budget.
YOU know you need automation. But do you really know WHY?
To understand why you need IT it’s helpful to have a baseline understanding of what IT is.
Simply put, marketing automation is any platform that automates the repetitive tasks in your marketing campaigns. By creating workflows for common scenarios, you free up time to focus on the more critical facets of your marketing role – areas like strategy and asset creation.
Two questions that continually come up when we talk about marketing automation include:
- Is it easy to implement? and,
- How quickly, if ever, can a real ROI be achieved?
We’ll come back to those questions shortly.
When implemented properly, you have a huge opportunity to increase engagement, qualify and nurture leads, reduce human error, gain deeper insights, personalize your messaging, and improve retention…practically automatically.
But did you know—marketing automation can automatically segment your prospects, and drive actual sales?
That caught your attention, right?
Marketing Automation by the Numbers
The adoption of automation technology is growing at a staggering pace – and for good reason:
- EmailMonday claims that on average 51% of companies are currently using marketing automation, with more than half of B2B companies (58%) planning to adopt the technology.
- According to Nucleus Research, marketing automation drives a 14.5% increase in sales productivity and a 12.2% decrease in marketing overhead.
- Marketo states in a recent white paper that 63% of their users planned to increase their automation budget in 2017.
- VentureBeat reports that 80% of the companies using marketing automation saw an increase in leads and 77% of them showed an increase in conversions.
- In SharpSpring’s “State of Marketing Automation for Agencies” infographic, they note that nearly 90% of agencies using automation consider it to be a successful strategy.
With the ability to automate, streamline, and personalize your efforts and gain more information about your contacts, you can more effectively communicate your message and keep your contacts engaged for the long term.
You may be thinking, “OK, that all sounds great but what exactly IS Marketing Automation?” Let’s dig a little deeper so you have a better understanding and can see how you can put marketing automation into action work for you.
An Overview: Using Automation to Hyper-Target Your Audience
In B2B marketing and sales, your messaging and the context in which it’s presented is key. There is no such thing as an incidental transaction.
Your prospects extensively research the options available to them.
You need to consider the many factors that are at play when you interact with them, including their role within their organization, where they are in their buying process, and which products or services might solve their particular challenges. Obviously, how widely these variables fluctuate can result in vastly different approaches to the conversation.
Here’s the good news. Based on behavior, you can get a really good idea of who these prospects are, and tailor your messaging for the proper context—automatically.
For example, if you’re a software company, you might market several different features on your website. When a contact expresses interest in a specific feature by downloading a case study (or even viewing a page), you can assume they are likely in the research phase of their buying process.
Based on this activity, you can then automatically trigger an email sequence tailored to their use case with more information. If they return and view the product pricing page, you learn they are closer to their purchasing decision and you can change your messaging to an appropriate message based on that stage in their journey.
Use Personas to Further Personalize Messaging
Contacts researching products or solutions come from all different walks of life. When you know more about them, you can take your personalized content one step further by establishing personas for the different types of people you want to interact with.
For example, a CIO researching software is going to have vastly different concerns than a mid-level marketing employee. Using this information, you can assign a persona to each contact and curate your interactions with them appropriately.
An important part of building your marketing automation strategy is understanding exactly whom you’re targeting.
In a sales conversation, it can be easy to go with the ebb and flow of the relationship. But, when you’re automating that conversation, it’s important to do this kind of research ahead of time.
This allows you to truly personalize their experience and do a better job of both understanding and adhering to their requirements.
Increase Your Quality of Leads and Nurture Them
At the end of the day, all your marketing efforts lead to increasing both the number of leads you get and the quality of the ones you secure.
Most of your contacts aren’t quite ready to purchase yet, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore them.
Using a marketing automation solution, you can gather more insight into who your leads are by monitoring their behavior and even scoring them appropriately.
For your contacts who are still in the research or “early funnel” stage, you can trigger a sequence, providing access to webinars, white papers, blog posts, etc. to nurture your prospect and help them with their buying journey.
Focus on Quality: Prequalify Your Leads with Lead Scoring
Lead Scoring is a simple concept, though the power behind it lies in its versatility and unique ability to let your leads prequalify themselves based on their behavior.
As contacts engage with your content more frequently, you can assign scores to each interaction (page view, email opened, media viewed, etc.).
As their scores rise, you can assume they are closer to making decisions. If they stop engaging the scores decay and go cold.
Not all leads are created equal, and an effective scoring strategy means your sales team can spend more time on prequalified leads, instead of manually having to qualify them. Your sales team needs to focus on closing deals, so it’s important to keep it focused on the leads they can convert into sales instead of dealing with the guesswork of prospecting.
Leads below a certain score can remain engaged with a sequence of automated interactions based on the topics, products, or services where they’ve expressed interest.
If done effectively, their scores will rise to a point when a more personal touch is appropriate and the sales team can reach out to these new, hot leads.
When your leads’ scores begin to decay and drop below a certain threshold, you can swap automation strategies and find out what went wrong. This is a chance to learn if they’ve chosen another provider and why.
Or, you may discover that your messaging wasn’t relevant enough to keep their interest. From there, you can use that information to adjust your approach moving forward.
Either way, it’s a win/win scenario.
Gather More–and Better Information with Progressive Profiling
The more information you have about your contacts, the better you can fulfill their needs and ultimately turn them into customers. The tricky part is gathering that information.
It’s a well- known fact that the more fields you put into forms online, the lower your conversion rates will be.
There’s also a contextual element to determine when it’s appropriate to ask for certain types of information. You wouldn’t ask someone for their FICO score on a first date, right?
This is where Progressive Profiling comes into play. When contacts provide their name and email to download an ebook, you begin to track them.
Using marketing automation, the next time they engage, you can then ask them a different set of questions…maybe what companies they work for and their roles.
This accomplishes two things:
1) The contacts don’t have to enter the information that you already know, more than once. This further personalizes their experience.
2) It provides your marketing and sales teams with that much more information to tailor your messaging, and further the contacts along the sales cycle.
Increase the Long-Term Value of the Customer Lifecycle
In a post-sale workflow, you can continue engaging with customers to make sure they remain happy, successful, and loyal.
Many B2B customers require an on-boarding process to help them get fully up to speed with the products and services they’ve chosen. Automating this process by providing resources to help them become successful, as customers, keeps them engaged and satisfied.
You can also inspire them with new ways of using your products to solve problems they may not have even realized they face. This is also a great opportunity to up-sell or cross-sell additional complementary products or services, in a completely automated way.
Additionally, if you have a good grasp of your typical product sales cycle, you can automate a re-buy message, even years down the line to make sure you never miss a recurring opportunity.
These are all relatively simple concepts as a marketer, but automating the process leaves no stone unturned. It provides you with the opportunity to measure and optimize your strategy, instead of spending your time focused on the implementation.
Personalize Contextual Content Marketing
So far we’ve covered a lot on personalized messaging and interacting with contacts in an appropriate way based on their personas, needs, roles, and progress throughout the buying process.
It’s important to emphasize that content is still king.
While marketing automation allows you to get content to the right person, in a highly efficient way, the key is still providing the right content.
This is where automation gets a little tricky, and lends itself to a slightly higher barrier to entry for many companies. The worst-case scenario is automating a sequence with irrelevant interactions being sent to uninterested contacts.
You need to make sure that, regardless of context, you provide your contacts with incredibly valuable content and interactions that will keep them engaged as they work their way through the buying process.
On the other side of that coin, since you know more about your contacts, you might consider more broad scope marketing campaigns to use your information.
Think of it as fishing with a spear versus fishing with a net.
Sure, it takes more time and effort to hit the target perfectly with a spear but when you do, it’s exponentially more precise and powerful (and you get the fish you want.)
Designing Effective Landing Pages
When launching a campaign, highly targeted landing pages are crucial for keeping your contacts engaged with specific topics of interest.
A general website with links to every product, feature, or piece of information about the company is great for teaching them who you are.
A landing page is perfect for targeting a specific solution to a need they have. A clear message, with a strong call to action, helps drive conversions, helping contacts through their buying process.
Using marketing automation, you can even create dynamic content, again tailored to your contact’s persona.
While the landing page may be focused on the solution, the way it’s presented can then be personalized to resonate with the contact, depending on how much information you’ve gathered on them.
Deliver Genuine Value with Email
While a lot of automation can be done cross-channel, email remains the backbone touch-point with your contacts.
Think about your own email and what engages YOU.
You probably receive dozens (if not hundreds) of emails per day, so you know the value of content contained within them must be paramount to the prospect to be successful.
Remember, trust and loyalty are built over time.
A one-off email can certainly provide value, but as you nurture early-stage leads, you need to prove that you can consistently provide content that will help your prospect eventually decide on a solution that will fulfill their needs.
Marketing Automation Workflows in Action
Let’s look at some common scenarios and how the corresponding automation workflows might look.
Below are a few examples of how you can let your platform take the reins on repetitive tasks, increasing engagement, and freeing up your time to focus on other matters.
Gated Content or a Lead Capture Workflow
Gated content (asking for information before access) is relatively common these days because it works in two different ways.
First, it shows a high level of interest if someone is willing to provide their information to access a piece of content.
Second, it begins the sales process for those who do share their information.
When a contact interacts with specific pages or downloadable content, they’re showing interest in a product or service you provide. This gives you the insight into what their needs might be, allowing you to address them more specifically.
Here’s how the flow could look:
- Contact fills out an opt-in form.
- Contact is sent to a thank you page and receives an email with topic-specific resources.
- OPENED BUT NOT DOWNLOADED? Send a series of reminders.
- OPENED AND DOWNLOADED? Add contact to an Engaged Customer List.
- NOT OPENED? Send a series of reminders, spaced out.
New vs. Returning Customer Workflow
Along the theme of customizing your interactions with contacts, it’s important to both make the right first impression for new customers, as well as foster loyalty.
That workflow could look like this:
- Contact makes a purchase on the website.
- NEW CUSTOMER? Send thank you email with discount code.
- RETURNING CUSTOMER? Send thank you email with cross sell, and add to loyal customers list.
Event Attendee Workflow
Events are a great way of to attract new prospects and engage with current, local clients.
Creating a workflow that reminds attendees as the event date approaches, as well as follows up with them after the event has taken place can increase the value of the event itself, both for your business and the attendee.
- Contact RSVPs or signs up for an event reminder.
- Contact added to event attendance list.
- Contact receives Thank You email with event schedule.
- Contact receives reminder 7 days before event.
- Contact receives reminder 2 days before event.
- Contact receives post event Thank You with any relevant resources.
- Contact receives follow up 7 days after event with offers.
Re-engagement or Cold Lead Workflow
Some contacts may seem to disappear over time, especially if it’s been a while since they’ve engaged with you.
Using set criteria, you can adjust their status within the system and trigger a sequence designed to get them excited and engaged again.
That could look like this:
- Contact added to “inactive contact” list based on time since last engagement or low lead score.
- Contact receives re-engagement email with discount or special offer.
- Contact receives follow up email 7 days later.
- OPEN EMAIL? Remove from inactive contact list and send follow up offer.
- DID NOT OPEN EMAIL? Contact remains on inactive contact list.
Marketing Automation – Next Step
The possibilities of marketing automation are only limited by your imagination.
The key to a successful strategy and implementation, however, is to remember that the technology to deliver automation is just another powerful tool in your marketing bag of tricks.
Let’s go back to the questions we mentioned at the start of this overview. As far as the ease of putting marketing automation into place, you can be confident that with the right strategy, planning, and guidance, your campaigns can get up and running quickly.
To successfully use tools like this, you need to focus on how automation can be implemented to achieve your goals. Ultimately, you need to provide genuine value to your contacts in the right context, at the right time, instead of focusing on just the automation itself.
And, that’s where the true ROI comes in. By adding value in your engagement with your contacts, you’ll see improvements in moving and qualifying leads through your buying cycle.
The manual work you’ve done in the past, gets automated, saving you time and cycles to focus your resources on creating your next amazing campaign – isn’t that where you’d rather focus, anyway?
So, let’s get started right now.
Find out why landing pages are so important for your leads capture, download our ebook ‘Seven Super Secrets to High-conversion Landing Pages’. We’d love to hear what steps you’ve taken towards implementing marketing automation and any challenges you may be struggling with– give us a shout today.