When entering a growth phase for your business and wanting to rely more on technology to help you execute your marketing strategy, marketing automation tools may be beneficial in helping you to manage incoming leads as you encourage sales. Marketing automation can allow you to better identify prospects and those who are most likely to become paying customers, so that you can allocate your resources in more effective ways.
Start with lead generation
While a solid digital strategy that includes clear branding and messaging, a robust online presence, social media, SEO, and paid campaigns, will drive visitors to your website, they won’t necessarily ensure any of them become your customers.
Lead generation is a tactic in which you create opportunities on your website to capture information about your prospects, so that you may better understand your potential customers, and follow up with them. Lead generation tactics come in the form of content downloads, newsletter or blog subscription signups, memberships and loyalty programs, pop-up forms, trials and demo requests, coupon or discount offers, and much, much more.
A digital strategist can help you to create these opportunities on your website, and implement a proper customer relationship management (CRM) system to log and segment your contacts. This is considered the first step in marketing automation, because in general your leads are generated automatically when a conversion is completed (such as when a visitor leaves their personal information) on your site.
Effective lead generation is able to turn almost every interaction a site visitor has with you into a potential opportunity for a sale. However, with good marketing automation, you will be able to separate those site visitors who are actually most likely to make a purchase by identifying which leads are generated that are considered marketing qualified leads (MQLs), and sales qualified leads (SQLs).
Nurture leads for sales
When leads have converted, and leave their contact information on your site, you don’t want to just leave them hanging. Following up with those who have expressed interest in your company or products and services, perhaps even before they are ready to make a purchase, is called lead nurturing.
Much of lead nurturing makes up the brunt of marketing automation. These activities to follow up with prospects to convince them to become customers can be done through an effective marketing automation tool, where you may set specific parameters and timelines, but the activities are completed automatically.
Your digital strategist should identify which lead nurturing activities can be the most effective for your particular target audiences, buyer personas, and industry. There are many different activities that fit into marketing automation, and that includes workflows, email marketing, lead scoring and smart content.
How to think about lead scoring
You can maybe understand that not every visitor to your business’ website is equal. Some who navigate to your site are not ideal customers, some are not interested in buying anything from you, and some may be exactly the right profile. Marketing automation allows you to identify which are which, through the contact information of returning users left on forms, and your site cookie tracking.
When you set up lead scoring in marketing automation, you can then set the parameters for the conditions that score leads higher or lower in terms of readiness for sales, or likeliness to make a purchase.
Some of the conditions can be things like demographic information: where is this contact located, what is their gender, what is their age, what is their job title? If you are only selling to a specific region, or older age groups, for example, you can set negative scores to contacts who are outside your target audience to ensure they are lower priority than those contacts that fit into your ideal personas. You should also score based on company profiles and industry, especially if you are a B2B company.
Other important conditions include online behavior and engagement. If your contact is highly engaged on social media, views many pages on your site, subscribes to your blog and frequently opens emails and clicks links within those emails, you know that this contact is primed for sales. Score each of these actions to increase the value of the overall score of this contact, so that you know if they reach the qualifications for being a marketing qualified lead or a sales qualified lead.
Make the most of smart content
Depending on where you host your website, and the marketing automation tools you use, you can also use a tactic called smart content, also known as adaptive or dynamic content.
Smart content is essentially different versions of on-page content, email content, or ad content that changes based on who is viewing it. When you use smart content, you can be more personalized to your target audiences, or persuasive to returning site visitors.
Smart content takes into account things like demographics, language, visitor location, device type, and referral source, to show the best possible variant of your content at the right time.
When unknown visitors reach your site for the first time, they can be bucketed into a default mode of your content. Your marketing automation tool will then look at cookie tracking to see their settings and preferences such as language, location, and device type, so that when they return, their experience can be more personalized if possible. If they convert on a form or landing page, and leave their contact information, you can get even more insights about this visitor, and as they return to your site and view more of your content, they can receive even better experiences each time.
As you get to know your users and customers better over time, you can be more accurate in your content delivery and helping create more personalized experiences.
Buyer Personas are key
You have probably heard about them before. Marketing Automation is all about becoming more efficient and more targeted in your marketing approach. So defining your buyer personas, gathering data about them along the way of mutual interactions to better understand them and catering to their needs is key. You can read more about how to generate buyer personas here.
Set up automatic workflows
Workflow is a term used to describe a couple different things, when it comes to marketing. In one way, a workflow can be a set of tasks completed in order to ensure projects are finished on time, and teams are managed properly. But when it comes to marketing automation, a workflow can be something quite powerful.
Workflows are the marketing automation machines, quietly running in the background, ensuring that your prospects are moving closer to making purchases. Whether you are an e-commerce company, or a B2B SaaS platform, workflows can help you make contact with your leads at the right times.
You can set up different workflows with enrollment triggers depending on a number of actions or user qualities. Typically a standard workflow could be something like a lead is generated by downloading a piece of content such as a whitepaper, or enrolls in a membership. The workflow may then trigger follow up actions like automated emails, list segmentation, smart content delivery, lead scoring, or contact assignment to sales staff.
Use a strong email marketing strategy
Email marketing is often a large component of marketing automation and workflows in particular. Email marketing is a great way to nurture leads, monitor interest and engagement, and show appreciation and support to your prospects and customers through every phase of their buyer’s journey.
Once a lead has left their contact information, you may now have a green light to send them content and offers directly (depending on their GDPR consent, or legitimate interest). These emails can work to entice potential customers to make a purchase, such as through sending them offers, coupons, or targeted items based on personal preferences or previously viewed pages. Or, you can send them newsletters that contain relevant information, updates about your products or services, or original blogs or curated content that can work to increase your credibility and customer perception and trust.
Email marketing also provides excellent opportunities to see how engaged a lead may be. If you find that a lead is simply not opening or clicking your emails, they can be sorted into an unengaged segmented list, indicating they may not be ready for purchase, or have lost interest in your company. This way, you can avoid spamming prospects who may potentially come back around and show interest again at a later date. Also closely monitoring the performance of your email marketing is a great way to gain insights about what your prospects want and need, and the types of content that lead to more sales.
Measuring the success of marketing automation
A good marketing automation tool is especially useful for tracking important metrics in terms of marketing and sales performance. Because a large amount of data is captured through your site and automation tools, you can more easily evaluate what is working and what isn’t, when compared to traditional marketing and sales methods.
With marketing analytics, you can evaluate conversion rates for things like lead generation. What percentage of users are visiting landing pages or viewing forms and actually submitting their information? What percentage of site visitors or social media ad viewers are clicking call-to-actions (click-through-rate)?
With workflows you can see how many contacts are enrolled in and “complete” the workflow, and what percentage of those originally enrolled become actual customers. With email marketing, you can look at important metrics such as open rates, click-through rates, and contact engagement.
By evaluating these metrics, you can more easily calculate against important KPIs to understand the success of your overall digital strategy. It becomes easier to then find if you are having a positive return on investment (ROI) of your marketing efforts, what the average cost per customer acquisition is (CAC) and with continued customer service experiences, the percentage of customers who become repeat buyers, which improves the overall customer lifetime value (CLV).
A good digital strategist and marketing automation tool will help to show you how your strategy is impacting your bottom line.
Finding the right marketing automation tools
A good digital agency will assess your company’s needs and capabilities to find the right solutions for your automation needs. Often times automations can be set up quickly and easily, but may become more complex over time as you evaluate and adjust to what your leads respond to, the performance of your existing tools and where they fit into your overall campaigns.
There are tools on the market that offer very specific types of automations, and others that are considered more full-stack, such as the HubSpot suite of tools. A platform like HubSpot can allow you and your digital strategist the full range of capabilities, turning your website and social media accounts into fully automated, data-capturing powerhouses that give you real-time insights into the performance of your digital assets, and keep you fully engaged with your contacts, leads, and customers at each stage of their buyer’s journey.
Together, you and your digital agency can build out an end-to-end automation strategy that will save you time and money, improve your return on investment for marketing and sales, and allow you to spend more of your efforts on building and growing your business.