What marketing automation is (and is not)
Marketing automation IS a term used to describe software-based solutions that are designed to automate marketing tasks and eliminate some of the overhead associated with repetitive marketing activities. A good option will offer some or all of the following: email marketing, list segmentation, campaign management, lead nurturing, lead scoring, landing page creation & optimization, social media scheduling & monitoring, CRM integration, and reporting & analytics.
Marketing automation IS NOT a marketing plan or strategy. Many businesses invest in marketing automation software with the expectation that this one, self-contained system will ensure growth and deliver leads. This is a common misconception that leaves countless businesses with little more than a sophisticated set of tools and frustration over an investment that provides little to no return.
Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it is too good to be true!
So, how can you use marketing automation to turn prospects into customers? Here is how a successful plan comes together.
Start with a smart strategy
The goal of any good digital marketing plan is to attract and nurture ideal prospects, those people looking for what you offer, by delivering highly-targeted content that helps them in their decision-making process. In doing so, you provide value and build trust, thereby converting more of your website visitors into leads, leads into customers, and customers into loyal fans.
Executing this plan successfully is not a simple task. However, doing so can generate significant amounts of new revenue for your company and provide excellent returns on the investments associated with your marketing efforts.
Conduct buyer research
Your first step is to uncover what your ideal prospects need and want to know about your product or service at every step of their buying journey.
Develop Buyer Personas that include insights about your prospects and their purchase decisions, such as:
- What happened to make the purchase a priority?
- What criteria does your prospect use to compare options?
- What expectations, experiences or impressions might prevent a prospect from buying from you?
- What constitutes a successful outcome for the buyer?
In essence, a buyer persona dives deep into the mind of your buyers and follows them from the point of pain to the purchase of a solution. Imagine how having that level of detail about your buyers could impact your success? The insights you gain are critical to getting in front of your buyer at the right time, in the right place with the right message.
Gather keyword intelligence
Next you need to research how people are searching for information about your product or service.
Develop a Keyword Database of the words, phrases, sentences and questions your prospects are using to search for a solution like yours.
Perform keyword research to determine exactly how your audience is searching for information. Knowing the terms people use to find the solution you provide helps you develop highly-targeted, personalized content that handles objections organically and builds trust at each stage of the buying process.
Detailed buyer personas and keyword research are the secret ingredients you need to create blog posts and content offers that are most desirable to your audience.
Drive traffic & capture leads
When you blog consistently with optimized content that your audience values, you will begin to see your site visits increase. When you add compelling offers and calls-to-action, readers will want more, resulting in lead conversions.
Once prospects have downloaded your content, it is your job to continue adding value using emails implemented with your marketing automation platform. Building smart and strategic workflows that match the buyer’s journey is critical. This is how you start to build trust with your prospects, by continuing to offer them information that is critical to their decision making.
Nurture leads with smart email workflows
An email workflow is a powerful automation tool that can help you more effectively scale the entire lead nurturing process. A smart workflow is based on a person’s behavior and is a series of “if this, then that” trigger actions that allow you to send targeted messages at the right time.
Workflows nurture leads through the funnel via a process of perpetual engagement. You want to show that you understand people’s specific needs and have a plan to meet them. Doing this helps build trust and assures your prospects that your company holds the solution to a specific problem. Consistency in both your message and its delivery are critical to making this work.
One important tip: Never try to rush people into buying decisions. Instead, target nurturing efforts at the awareness and consideration stages and feed their need for information. This will help you design workflows that deliver the right information to the right participants every time.
Score and segment your leads
Once you start seeing a steady stream of leads, you will want to segment them according to buyer persona as well as apply lead scoring.
Segmenting your prospects
Segmenting is a great opportunity to put your buyer research to good use. Chances are, your competition doesn’t have this level of intelligence about their buyers, so using that can give you a leg up.
Here’s a great example from one of our long-time clients, a large NYC HVAC company that services both commercial and residential customers. These buyers are essentially looking for the same service, but they have very different needs and pain points. By segmenting our client’s leads, we can send targeted communications to each audience that precisely addresses their needs and helps to nurture them closer to making a purchase decision.
Lead scoring helps you determine just how interested your new contacts are and where they are in their buying process. When you know that, you can send targeted communication with the right content at the right time. It also helps you prioritize lead value for your sales team.
The process of lead scoring is not difficult in and of itself but developing the right framework for assigning proper values can be. Engage your sales team, because they have the most experience interacting with your company’s prospects. Ask them what pieces of information they require to qualify a lead.
To effectively assign values to your leads, you will want to consider information such as:
- Who are your most valuable clients?
- What are the characteristics are your most valuable prospects?
- Minimum requirements that make a prospect more likely to purchase (such as industry, budget, company size, location)
- Online behavior prior to conversion (including content asset downloads, webinar participation, web page visits)
- Email engagement (including message open rates, click through rates, and content downloads)
- Social engagement
By doing a thorough audit of your existing customer base and carefully examining all the things that tie in with conversions, you will gain greater insight into how and where to start awarding points. Lead scoring on its own is a complex process, but fortunately there are numerous resources that can help you get it right.
Read this related article for more in-depth help on lead scoring.
To understand if your investment in marketing automation (and all the other aspects of creating and delivering a smart digital marketing strategy) is paying off, you must consistently watch and analyze your efforts.
Analysis and reporting are of vital importance, but equally important is making the necessary changes to improve results. Marketing is an ever changing, evolving process that should never be applied with a “set it and forget it” attitude.
Some of the key metrics to consider include:
- Traffic & Leads: month over month // quarter over quarter // year over year
- Traffic by Source: organic, paid, referrals, social media, email marketing, direct
- Keyword Rankings
- Top Performing Content
- Conversion Assists
- Landing Page Performance
- Social Media by Platform
Getting to the payoff
The bottom line is this: when it comes to marketing, there are no quick and easy solutions. The reality is that marketing automation alone will not generate new business. However, a well designed strategy based on your customers needs and challenges (implemented with the right marketing automation tool) will net good long-term results that you can take to the bank.
Want to learn more about how the inbound marketing process works? Download our in-depth guide.