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How to Incorporate Marketing Automation Into Your Existing Strategy

How to Incorporate Marketing Automation Into Your Existing Strategy

When you started your business, you had a smaller customer base and it was easier to keep in touch with everyone. However, as your business has expanded, customer base has grown, and prospect pool has widened, you have more and more people that you’re hoping to reach with personalized messaging.

Fortunately, marketing automation tools can help you get all of that done. Many of the marketing tasks that you do now can be automated in a way that allows you to be targeted in your messaging and frees up time in your day to get other work done.

But if you haven’t used a marketing automation tool in the past, you might be overwhelmed by your options or not quite sure where to start. Today, we’re going to take a look at how to incorporate marketing automation into your existing strategy to ensure that you get the best results out of the tool.

Understand Where You Need Help

There are a lot of marketing automation tools out there on the market. Some are comprehensive, offering features for email, social media, and websites. Others are more niche and are focused on only one or two channels.

The first step to settling on the right tool for you is understanding the gaps in your current approach. This means turning back to your existing strategy. If you had big plans for your social media marketing but are consistently struggling to keep up with a regular posting schedule, that’s a sign that automation of scheduling and publishing to your social feeds might be useful for you.

If you’re having trouble growing your newsletter mailing list, then that might indicate that your lead capturing approach on your website could use some help. If you find that lead conversion is not as strong as you would like, an automated email follow up campaign might help you to keep pace with incoming requests from prospects.

Focus on the Tools that Work for You

Once you have a handle on where the weak points are in your marketing approach, you can then start to hone in on the tools that make the most sense for you. This will also, of course, be dependent on your budget and team’s level of tech-savvy.

If you’re looking for a tool that solves a narrow part of the marketing automation issue, it’s possible to find a low- or no-cost option. If strengthening your social media approach is a goal, a tool like Buffer or Hootsuite can help you to manage your social media post schedule and better engage with your audience.

If you want to improve your email marketing approach, a tool like MailChimp offers all of the basic features you could look for in managing a mailing list.

However, if you’re looking for a more comprehensive tool that brings together site tracking, email automation, sales and CRM, plus other features like SMS messaging, you’ll want to consider a platform like ActiveCampaign, Ontraport, or InfusionSoft.

These all-encompassing tools have manageable subscription fees for small businesses, and if you have the budget and bandwidth to implement a full-scale automated system now, it might save you from having to migrate from individual tools to something larger in the future.

Prepare Your Data for the Switch

If you’ve been managing your customer list in a spreadsheet or sending out your newsletter through your Gmail account, chances are your data is not in its most organized state.

Part of the power of marketing automation is its ability to communicate with specific subsets of your population based on their attributes or actions. However, in order to take full advantage of email segmentation, you need to teach your marketing automation tool how you want it to communicate with your audience.

As you prepare to migrate your data into a marketing automation tool, begin thinking about how you want to slice and dice your list. This exercise should be driven by how you define your ideal customer. Are there certain features your ideal customer has like age, gender, location, or job title?

You’ll want to be sure that you have all of the relevant data on your existing customers that will make it easy for you to implement an effective segmentation approach. So take the time before you implement the system to scrub your data: get rid of stale contacts, fill gaps in relevant information, and make sure you’re starting your new system with a clean data set.

Once you get your marketing automation tool up and running, you’ll be able to undertake behavior lead scoring to understand the actions that typically lead to conversions, which will allow you to create an even more detailed profile of your dream customer.

Define Your Goals for the New System

Whenever you implement a new tool, you want to be sure you’re getting the most out of it. The best way to do that is to set concrete goals for what you intend to accomplish with your newly automated approach.

When defining those goals, be specific. Rather than, “I hope we’ll get some more interest in our mailing list,” try for something like, “I want to increase our open rate by 5 percent.” This kind of specificity will help you to understand what you need to do to give your automation approach its greatest shot at success.

Help Your Team Get Up and Running

If your sales and marketing teams are used to the old way of doing things, getting used to a new marketing automation system will take a little bit of time. And while a marketing automation tool can take a lot of work off your team’s plate in the long run, it’s only able to do that if it’s being used correctly.

You can help to ease the transition by first clearly communicating the changes. Give your team a head’s up about your intention to implement a new system. If you have employees who have used a marketing automation tool elsewhere in their career, get their advice before you make your final selection. Getting buy-in early on is one of the keys to successful implementation.

Once the new tool has been selected, clearly communicate your goals for the new tool, and make it clear how these goals align with your existing strategy. How will email follow up campaigns help you to increase sales? What will site tracking do for the way you behavior score your leads?

Finally, once you’ve shared your goals and approach, you want to provide adequate training and support during the transition process. Check in regularly with the teams who use the tool to see if they have any feedback or issues, and work to address concerns that might pose a problem in implementing your strategy.

When you’re used to running your marketing efforts without the help of a marketing automation tool, the thought of making the switch can be daunting. But when you’re thoughtful about selecting a tool that complements your existing strategy, you can set you and your team up for even greater success with less busy work.

If you liked this post, check out our Small Business Guide to Marketing Automation.

4 Ways to Get Creative with Marketing Automation

4 Ways to Get Creative with Marketing Automation

A lot of salespeople and marketers are already aware of what marketing automation can do to nurture leads and convert prospects. When you’re trying to stay on top of communicating with leads, marketing automation can help keep that conversation flowing and ensure that no one fall through the cracks.

But the potential applications for marketing automation technology extend well beyond the bounds of just communicating with prospects. Here, we’ll take a look at ways you can get creative with marketing automation when communicating with existing customers or even your own team.

1. Automate Your Social Media Approach

Social media is the best way to meet your customers where they are online. According to Pew Research Center, most adults have at least one social media account, and most check them daily.

But it’s the daily nature of social media that can make it so difficult to keep pace on this channel. When you need to be creating and updating content for social media each and every day, that takes up a lot of time and energy.

Automating at least some of the social media processes can help to ease that burden. There are a variety of platforms—like Buffer and Hootsuite—that allow you to schedule social media posts across platforms in advance, meaning you can set one day aside each week to upload the following week’s posts, rather than having to do that piecemeal each day.

When you put together a cohesive social media strategy, rather than throwing content up on various channels here and there, it allows you to develop a clear, distinct voice for your business. Having a clear voice and tone helps to build trust, which is not only critical in winning over prospects; it also turns one-time customers into repeat business.

2. Stay In Touch After a Purchase

One of the places where some businesses falter is right after a customer’s purchase. As Joey Coleman noted during his interview on our podcast, 20 to 70 percent of customers disappear after making their initial purchase because they’ve been neglected by the company.

Once you’ve put in all the hard work to convert your prospect to a first time customer, you need to follow through on the promise you’ve made of excellent, attentive service. Marketing automation can help you to make sure you don’t forget about those new customers.

Establish a set of emails that are triggered when someone makes a purchase. Let’s say you own a furniture company, and you have a customer that just purchased a dining room set. The first email that they might receive immediately after that purchase could contain a how-to video that walks them through assembly, plus basic maintenance and cleaning. Several weeks later, you might send a second email checking in on how they’re enjoying their purchase so far. This not only gives you an opportunity to address any issues, but you can also ask for an online review. Your third email might go out in the fall, and contain helpful tips for making the most of your dining space when having friends and family over for holiday dinners.

A set of follow-up emails after a transaction gives the customer the sense that you’re still invested in their experience. It wasn’t just about closing the sale—you genuinely want them to enjoy their purchase. This only helps to reinforce their trust in your business, and makes them all the more likely to become a repeat customer or to refer you to a friend.

3. Build Your Referral Program

Establishing a successful referral program is a great way to make sure that your business always has a steady stream of qualified leads coming from your existing customer base. Marketing automation can help you to grow this program by ensuring you stay on top of communicating with happy customers.

Once someone makes a purchase, this should trigger an email asking for a review or rating. If they don’t review immediately, you should have a follow-up sequence of emails set to go, reminding them to review and offering a way to get in touch with you directly if they have an issue with their purchase.

After a customer does leave you a favorable review, you can then kick off a series of emails introducing them to your referral program, outlining the benefits to them and those they refer, and inviting them to join.

Plus, marketing automation can help you establish a regular rhythm for communicating with all repeat customers, not just those who have signed up for your referral program. Whether it’s with a newsletter or emails alerting them first to new products or offerings, regular communication is a great way to stay top of mind so you’re more likely to be the business they think of when a friend asks for a referral in your field.

4. Use it for Employee Training

Typically, marketing automation is thought of as something to use on an external audience. But there are internal applications for these tools as well. Automating necessary training modules or an onboarding program for new employees can be a creative way to make sure you’re providing your team with the information they need to be their best, most effective selves at work.

Let’s say you own a pet grooming business. After doing some customer research, you’ve discovered that people don’t like your booking processes, so you’ve instituted a new online booking system and have revamped the way you handle incoming calls about booking.

In order to get your team up to speed on the changes, you can create a series of training videos, set to be emailed to your team on a regular basis. Each new email introduces another facet of the new approach, contains a quiz to make sure they’re absorbing and integrating the changes, or maybe a survey asking how customers are reacting to the new system (and if they have any thoughts on how to refine it).

Fortunately, you have a number of tools to choose from when it comes to a selecting a comprehensive platform. Our current favorite is ActiveCampaign.

Marketing automation is a powerful tool that can have many applications beyond follow up emails to prospects. When you get creative with your approach, you can nurture your existing customer relationships and even strengthen your team’s effectiveness and engagement.

If you liked this post, check out our Small Business Guide to Marketing Automation.

How to Create Effective Follow Up Campaigns

How to Create Effective Follow Up Campaigns

Follow up campaigns can be a tricky thing for small business owners to manage. Not only do they take time and energy to create, but there’s always that nagging question: What is the line between being persistent and being annoying?

While it might seem like you’re crossing that line, the reality is that most people don’t take you up on an offer the first time you make it. So if you’re not organizing a follow up campaign, you’re losing out on converting prospects that would have become customers if they had heard from you one or two more times. Or you’re leaving behind the chance to drive customers up the product ladder.

Today we’ll take a look at the elements that go into creating an effective follow up campaign and which tools can help you get it done.

Define Your Goals

The first step to just about any marketing strategy is establishing the why behind it. The same is true for your follow up campaigns. Begin by asking yourself what you want your prospects or clients to do as a result of receiving the campaign.

Maybe it’s getting a prospect to hop on a demo call with someone from your sales team. Maybe it’s getting an existing customer to join your referral program. Whatever the aim is, it’s helpful to get specific about the action you want the person to take so that you can tailor your whole campaign towards driving that action.

Keep Your Messaging Fresh

Anyone who has an email address knows that there’s a lot of mail coming your way every day. If you continue to make the same ask in the same way, over and over again, that’s a surefire way to get your email filtered out or deleted.

Even though you have a goal in mind, your follow up should not just be the same content copied, pasted, and re-sent. Let’s say you own a landscaping business and you reach out to former customers towards the end of winter, encouraging them to sign up for recurring lawn care appointments in the spring and summer.

You set your goal to be having clients sign up for a full package of 10 sessions, but each email should take a different approach. The first one might be a video, showing families spending more time together at the beach because someone else is taking care of their landscaping. The next one might be a set of testimonials from customers who signed up for the lawn care package last year and loved it. The third might be an offer to package your lawn care services with managing spring plantings, and the fourth might be a request to set up a call to discuss the services.

Be Strategic About Your Timing

There is a bit of a science to timing out when to schedule your follow ups. Send the communications too close together, and it starts to feel spammy. Leave huge gaps between communications and your run the risk of missing out on the opportunity to close a sale.

A good rule of thumb is giving at least two days between emails. For the most part, if someone is going to respond to your email, they’re going to do so within 24 hours of receiving it. That means you don’t want to send an email each and every day, but you also don’t want weeks worth of lag time.

The ideal timing will look different for every business. Part of getting the timing right is understanding your sales cycle and your customers. If you’re a B2B, you have a longer sales cycle, and a company’s decision to purchase your product or service likely has to go through an internal approval process. That means that you’ll want to allow more time between emails, so that your contact has adequate time to run your proposal by the decision makers at their company and come back to you—either with a decision or a request for more information.

The timing will be different for an e-commerce business who’s dealing with an individual consumer. Let’s say you’re a clothing retailer who establishes a follow up campaign that’s triggered when someone abandons a cart on your website. Those emails should be grouped more closely together, since it usually doesn’t take someone weeks to make a decision about a new pair of shoes or t-shirt.

Think Beyond Email

Email is a hugely beneficial part of any marketing campaign, and it’s certainly a useful tool for follow up campaigns. However, there are other channels out there. Sometimes in our tech-saturated world we forget about the tried-and-true communication methods like phone calls or snail mail.

With so much mail hitting a person’s inbox each day, sometimes it’s taking a less conventional, more old-school approach to reaching out that can get you noticed. A great follow up campaign will include timed emails, but should also integrate other means of communication. Plus, technology allows you to better utilize old-school approaches. Some of the examples we covered here of tech-enhanced direct mailers include sending highly customized mail to prospects, which include offers specific to that individual or even unique landing pages based on their interests.

Let’s say you run a law firm. You have someone who visited your website and filled out your form, requesting more information about one of your estate planning services. While this can and should trigger an email follow up campaign, you should also aim for a phone follow up. If you’ve sent a couple emails with no response, give your contact a call, mentioning that you’re following up on the emails and are happy to answer any questions or provide additional information. You can also incorporate mailers into your campaign. A few weeks after they’ve filled out the form, send them a pamphlet on estate planning, with a personalized letter attached, offering to speak one-on-one, if they’re interested.

Find the Right Tools to Get the Job Done

Using a marketing automation and CRM tool to track your interactions with prospects or customers and ensure that you’re actually following through on your follow up is a critical piece of the puzzle.

There are a number of tools out there that combine CRM and marketing automation capabilities. Consider a platform like ActiveCampaign or OntraPort to help you manage both the tracking and execution of your campaigns.

A joint CRM and marketing automation tool allows you to keep tabs on all points of contact you have with a person—whether that’s an analog form of communication like a postcard, or a digital one like an email. And the marketing automation component allows you to schedule out email follow ups, SMS campaigns, or other tactics, which can all be triggered by the client or prospect taking a certain action.

So much of making the sale or moving a customer further up the product ladder is about persistence. It’s sometimes difficult for one person to manage it all, but with the help of a marketing automation tool, you can easily set yourself up for success by establishing a campaign that, once you’ve created it, essentially runs itself.

If you liked this post, check out our Small Business Guide to Marketing Automation.

Why Behavior Scoring is the Missing Ingredient in Your Marketing Approach

Why Behavior Scoring is the Missing Ingredient in Your Marketing Approach

With inbound marketing becoming ever more popular in recent years, a marketer might be tempted to think broad when it comes to their approach. After all, when anyone can happen upon your brand, it means that anyone’s a potential customer, right?

That’s not quite true. In fact, the number of leads that actually become customers is only around 10 percent. So that means you should really be focused on creating highly targeted marketing messages that are likely to appeal to that small sliver of the population, rather than trying to please everyone.

But how do you find those people? And once you’ve found them, what can you do to make sure you’re speaking to them in a way that really resonates?

That’s where behavior scoring comes in. When you understand the behaviors that are most often exhibited by your customers, you can begin to identify your most promising leads and refine your marketing messaging so that it speaks directly to them.

What is Behavior Scoring?

Behavior scoring, sometimes called lead scoring, is assigning a numerical score or grade to prospects based on certain behaviors they exhibit. You start by analyzing the behaviors of your best existing customers. Are there ways they interact with your brand that consistently result in conversions? Is there a certain page on your website they visit, social media platform they follow, or email newsletter they sign up for?

When you understand the behaviors of your existing clients, you can then create a “composite sketch” of your ideal customer. Those customers who do X, Y, and Z convert a high percentage of the time, so your prospects who do those same things are given a high behavior score. They’re the people you want to focus your marketing time and effort on.

People visit sites or interact with brands for all sorts of reasons. Let’s say you own a tree care company. You may show up in search results for an apartment-dweller looking for advice on tending to her indoor potted tree, a student thinking about starting a lawn care business who’s doing research on pricing in similar industries, and new homeowner in the area who wants to replace some of the older trees on their property. Only one of these people has the potential to become a legitimate client, and since you don’t get full biographical information on those who visit your website, tracking behaviors can indicate their level of seriousness.

The woman in the apartment might watch a short video on plant care your site and then disappear. The student might beeline to the pricing page. But the homeowner looks at several pages outlining services and pricing, plus checks out your testimonials. If this is activity you’ve seen from past customers, then you know this is a lead worth spending some time on.

Lower Your Customer Acquisition Costs and Increase Customer Lifetime Value

Customer Acquisition Costs (CAC) and Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) are two critical metrics to track for your business. When you understand how much it costs to acquire your customers and how much value they produce once you have them, you can tweak your sales approach and pricing models to ensure your acquisition costs are covered and you’re still able to make a profit.

However, the reverse is also true: When you understand the behaviors that make someone a promising lead, you can lower CAC and increase CLV. By only marketing to those prospects exhibiting desirable behaviors, you stop wasting time on prospects who will never convert. This means that you’ll get more marketing bang for your buck overall, since you won’t spend dollars chasing those who would never become customers anyway.

Plus, as you begin to develop a more and more nuanced understanding of your customers’ behaviors, you can continue to refine your marketing approach to get even greater results and drive existing customers towards purchasing bigger and better products. All of this leads to an increase in overall CLV.

Understand What Resonates with Your Promising Leads

When you understand the actions of your ideal customer, you can create marketing campaigns that drive prospects to take those actions. Experimenting with website layout, calls to action, and your messaging and tone can all help to drive people who are interested in your business to take the steps that are likely to lead to conversion.

A/B testing is a particularly effective way to further refine your approach. Try running different variations of your web pages to see which gains the greatest traction.

Showing half of your hot leads one option and the other a variant of the same page allows you to understand the messaging and layout that works best. If there’s a significant difference in response to the two variations, that tells you something.

You then can do the work of analyzing the differences, identifying the aspects that made the one page so successful, and replicating that approach across other pages, platforms, and channels.

Further Refine Your Outbound Approach

Once you understand what resonates with your hot leads, you can move beyond inbound tactics and create advertising that’s highly targeted to those leads.

Facebook’s advertising platform offers business owners a number of ways to identify and target hot leads. With the Facebook Pixel installed on your website, you’re able to track visitor behavior—a key part of the scoring process. On the Facebook advertising platform itself, you can create lookalike audiences, groups with attributes that mirror those of your existing customer base, allowing you to target them with advertising.

All of this becomes a positive feedback loop. As your marketing approach is refined, you continue to attract more qualified leads. These leads in turn give you an even more nuanced picture of what your ideal prospect looks like, which allows you to further tailor your marketing approach. Over time, you generate greater and greater results.

Pass on the Leads that Will Never Convert

The fact of the matter is that there are plenty of leads who will never convert, no matter what you do. If you spend your time and energy reaching out to every person, the majority of your energy is being dedicated to people who will never convert.

That’s why a critical part of behavior scoring is not just assigning positive points to those leads who exhibit certain behaviors that often lead to conversion, but also taking away points from those who exhibit less-than-promising behaviors.

Leads who consistently delete your emails without reading, have only been to your website once or twice, or are in a location that your business doesn’t service are ones that you should not spend time pursuing.

Inbound marketing can sometimes make you feel like you need to be everything to everyone. In reality, the most effective marketing strategies—inbound and outbound—are those that speak directly to the small percentage of the population that actually need the solution your business offers. When you use behavior scoring to better understand the actions of your best customers, you can create messaging that resonates with the leads who have the best shot at conversion. All of this saves you time and money, and it makes your customers happier, because they know they’ve found a business that really gets them.

If you liked this post, check out our Small Business Guide to Marketing Automation.

Where Marketing Automation Fits Into the Customer Journey

Where Marketing Automation Fits Into the Customer Journey

When companies incorporate marketing automation into their approach, they often focus on the middle of the marketing hourglass. They use the automation tool to stay in touch with existing customers or to reach out to prospects who are very near to making their first purchase.

However, marketing automation can be used throughout the entirety of the customer journey to great effect. When you’re smart about automating marketing processes, it frees you up to do more of the prospecting and lead nurturing work that only a real human can do, while taking some of the more tedious and time consuming parts of the marketing process off your plate.

Here, we’ll take a look at the various features that make up marketing automation, and how best to use them throughout the customer journey.

What is Marketing Automation?

Before we dive in, let’s provide a quick definition of marketing automation. It’s the process of using a software platform to automate some of your repetitive marketing tasks. It can be used across channels, and includes social media, email, and certain website actions.

The software allows you to group users by certain attributes or behaviors and to target them with messaging that is most relevant to them. For example, you might group people in the same geographic location together, or group people who have made multiple purchases from your business.

Marketing Automation for the “Know” Phase

At the very top of your marketing hourglass, people are encountering your brand for the very first time. Maybe they’re someone who’s in desperate need of the good or service your provide; maybe it’s someone with a passing interest in your field. How do you sort things out this early on in the game?

One of the first things that marketing automation tools can do is help you with lead capturing efforts. Using the same form across your website allows you to gather the same contact information for everyone who fills out the form. From there, you can begin the process of analyzing their attributes and behaviors to figure out whether or not they’re serious prospects.

Behavior scoring (otherwise known as lead scoring) asks you to take data on your existing clients to build a composite profile for your ideal prospect. Where do they live? What profession are they in? What kind of actions do you expect them to take before they convert?

When you know what your ideal prospect looks like, you can then use your marketing automation tool to compare each lead against this dream prospect. If they’re ticking most of the boxes, this is a lead you know is worth your time. They’re likely to convert, if you play things right, so it’s smart to spend some marketing dollars courting them.

Leads that fall completely outside of this ideal picture are likely not worth your time. They’re just not the kind of person that realistically needs or wants what your business offers, so no amount of time or money will result in them changing their mind.

Marketing Automation for “Like” and “Trust”

Once you’ve identified those leads that are worth approaching, you can begin to use your marketing automation tool to create an effective email campaign.

Marketing automation tools allow you to segment your audience so that you can send specific messaging to different groups of people based on their attributes and interests. It’s also possible to use the tool to personalize the email, setting it to auto-populate with name, company, and job title based on the information you have in your database.

For prospects, you can establish a set of prospecting emails that slowly and methodically introduce them to your company and the problems you can help them solve. Only 23.9 percent of all sales emails are even opened, so it will take several attempts to get a prospect’s attention.

You should start by creating a handful of emails that contain different offers so that prospects can come to know and like your business—an invitation to access a white paper on your area of expertise, an opportunity to join a monthly webinar that you hold, or an offer to book an introductory call with a member of your sales team.

You can then set these messages to send on a regular schedule, with a built-in trigger to turn off the next email in the set if the current email leads to a conversion.

Your marketing automation tool can also help you to tailor the content on your website to the profiles of your visitors. The tool can show specific content that you know will be valuable to a given prospect, and you can create dynamic content that is replaced based on actions a prospect has taken or interest that they’ve expressed in a particular topic. This level of personalization makes a prospect feel seen and heard, which goes a long way to building likability and trust.

Marketing Automation for “Try” and “Buy”

Once you’ve proven to prospects that you understand their specific needs and have the perfect solution for their problems, you begin to move them into the try and buy portion of the hourglass.

Using marketing automation to target them with messaging that is triggered by a specific action can be an effective tactic here. At this point you already know a bit about the prospect, so you can get even more specific about giving them information you know they’ll be interested in.

For example, let’s say a prospect has signed up for your company newsletter, you can use this action to then trigger messaging to drive them to the try phase in the hourglass. Maybe this means a pop-up on your website that invites them to a free trial of your service. Or perhaps it’s an email invitation to an upcoming event on the topic you cover in your newsletter, with a friends and family code so they can attend for free.

Once someone’s made their first purchase, you can set your system to automatically follow up with them. Send them a welcome email that gives them additional information on how to get the most out of their purchase. Then automatically send them an email again in a few weeks’ time to make sure they’re still happy and to offer support with any issues they may have encountered.

Marketing Automation for “Repeat” and “Refer”

You’ve already used your marketing automation platform to get your prospects to convert, but you can continue to use the tool to influence the remainder of their customer journey.

Once a customer has made a specific purchase, you can offer them related products or target them with communications that are focused on their areas of interest. In a recent Marketo survey, 78 percent of respondents said they would only pay attention to promotions that were related to their previous interactions with the brand. That means that most consumers would rather have no deal offered to them at all than have a generic offer sent their way.

Marketing automation can also help you to establish and maintain a strong referral base. With the ability to set up regular communication with your existing customers, marketing automation tools help you to stay top of mind so that customers are likely to have your name on the tip of their tongue when their friend asks for a referral in your field. Additionally, if you choose to establish a referral program, you can use email segmentation to stay in touch with members of that program, offer meaningful rewards, and target new leads coming to you via referral with specialized messaging.

In addition to the benefits that marketing automation provide you throughout the customer journey, the tools offer bigger-picture benefits as well. You should be using the data you collect on the effectiveness of your marketing efforts throughout the customer journey to refine each of the steps you take along the way.

Marketing automation tools compile a lot of information on the effectiveness of your marketing approach across channels, which allows you to identify holes, find logjams, and then invest the time in fixing those issues. When you have a better understanding of your complete marketing approach along the entire customer journey, you’re empowered to create one that is even more optimized for future customers.

If you liked this post, check out our Small Business Guide to Marketing Automation.

Lead Scoring

The ROI of Lead Scoring

According to the Content Marketing Institute, more than 85% of marketers consider lead generation to be their top priority in 2016a telling statistic on the priorities of the modern marketer. However, lead generation neglects a critical element for creating a real return on investment: lead scoring.

As evidenced by the CMI study, many small business owners and marketing practitioners are laser-focused on new lead generation through content creation, digital marketing, conversion rate optimization and the like.  But the unintended consequence of our collective lead generation obsession is that the task of actually determining which of the leads generated are sales-ready is relegated to the back-burner. That ultimately results in sales teams being sent troves of contacts who are either unable or not ready to buy.

Lead quantity vs. lead quality

Regardless of your company’s size or industry, focusing on lead quantity over quality is almost always a mistake for the simple reason that the intermediate result (increased lead generation) isn’t properly aligned with the ultimate business goal (gaining new customers).

Often, this is a product of the “quantity drives quality” line of reasoning – the higher the volume of leads generated, the more likely it is that some of them will be “good.” Of course, this is (1) not necessarily true, (2) sets the stage for a massive waste of sales resources and (3) usually results in the “good” leads being squandered along with the “bad” ones.

Implementing a lead scoring system addresses this issue and bridges the divide while providing tangible, bottom-line benefits to your company. In fact, Marketing Sherpa found that companies using lead scoring mechanisms increased their ROI for lead generation activities by 77%; a later study found that 68% of “highly effective and efficient” marketers attribute their success to lead scoring processes.

What Exactly is Lead Scoring?

At its most basic level, lead scoring is the process of ranking leads based on their perceived value to your company. Traditionally, this is accomplished in one of three ways:

  • Profiling = evaluating a lead based on how closely it resembles your ideal buyer persona (company size, role, budget, location, industry, etc.)
  • Behavior Scoring = evaluating a lead based on the observed activities and behaviors of the individual across multiple channels (attending a webinar, viewing an RFP, downloading a thought leadership piece, scheduling a call with Sales, etc.)
  • Hybrid = uses both Profiling & Behavioral Scoring to assess the viability of each lead

The important thing to note from the definition above is that lead scoring measures that value of a lead to your company. The individual behaviors recorded and data points assessed will differ from company to company and industry to industry – but the result is a consistent, data-driven framework for prioritizing and segmenting all of those leads generated by your content and marketing initiatives.

For your sales team, a well-designed lead scoring program means pre-qualified, high-potential leads on which to focus all of their efforts; your marketing team gains audience segments that can be nurtured through automated programs until they are sales-ready, and an increased understanding of which types of content are effective at driving/nurturing leads (along with which ones are simply ineffective); finally, your company profits from higher close rates, fewer leads lost and increased sales productivity.

How Lead Scoring Increases Marketing ROI & Sales Productivity

The goal of a lead scoring program is to provide a data-driven framework to evaluate leads through the lens of your business – after all, what good is done by having sales call a lead who can’t afford your product or who works in an industry you don’t serve?

Each lead passed onto sales comes with a price tag: not only is the salesperson’s time valuable, but each bad lead has a pair of hidden opportunity costs: (1) it takes away from the time that sales can spend building a relationship with the “good” leads and (2) trying to sell leads before they are ready to buy often alienates them – resulting in the loss of a potential future customer and a sunk lead acquisition cost.

It’s important to note that a lead generation program is not a panacea to bad marketing and lackluster salespeople; it’s a tool to be used as part of a broader new business strategy. When used appropriately, it will help your organization increase revenue, cut unnecessary expenditures and deliver better customer experiences by:

  • enabling you to see what content, tactics, and channels are driving qualified leads;
  • ensuring that you are appropriately “segmenting” leads generated based on their sales readiness
  • focusing your sales team’s time and effort on those leads that are qualified
  • creating a personalized user experience for each lead based on their interests, behaviors, and readiness to make a purchase
  • providing a mechanism to continuously re-engage those leads who aren’t sales ready in a productive manner

Getting Started: The Next Steps To Implement A Lead Scoring Program

Many companies I’ve worked with have had the same reaction when the topic of lead scoring is discussed: “That sounds complex and expensive.”

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

The first step to creating a successful lead scoring program is bringing together your executive leadership, marketing team and sales staff to sketch your ideal buyer persona(s), behavior(s) and customer journey(s). This need not be an exhaustive, in-depth process (although if you are interested, Marketo provides an excellent guide) – start by reviewing your business offerings and past sales. Some key questions to consider for creating your target buyer profile:

  • Who is an ideal customer for us (industry, company size, revenue, etc.)?
  • Where are our ideal customers located?
  • How long is the sales cycle for an ideal customer (week, month, year, etc.)?
  • Who are the decision makers at an ideal customer (CEO, VP, Director, Manager, etc.)?
  • Where in the buying cycle is this lead (timeline)?

While that may sound like a lot of information to gather in a simple lead form, the good news is that many companies provide accurate data appending services – so you need only ask a few questions (Name, Title, Company, E-mail) on the form; the rest of the blanks can often be completed by the data appending company. Given that forms with fewer fields tend to result in higher submission rates and more accurate information, it’s usually safe to say that an appending service will pay for itself.

The above questions provide key insights into your ideal buyer – the next critical piece is determining which behaviors indicate that your buyer is “ready to buy.” Assuming you’ve configured your analytics goals, you can often see what behaviors drive goal completions; from your CRM, you should be able to track which goal completions ultimately resulted in sales.

Working backward from converted leads (i.e. leads that became customers), examine the individual goal completion paths. Look for what pages on your website those individuals tended to visit. Did they view a product demonstration, request a free trial, sign up for an account, download a whitepaper, watch a webinar or visit a services page? Identify those pages that frequently appear in the journey of your customers – and assign each a value just as you would for an analytics goal value.

Finally – and this is critical – make sure you assign “negative” values for behaviors and profiles that indicate the prospect is not legitimate or interested. This might include: having a title like “student” or “intern”, unsubscribing from your e-mail newsletter, cancelling a free account, visiting to a “Careers” page or not not opening more than X e-mails – this helps to filter out “false positives” and ensure that you are delivering the best leads to your sales team.

Once you’ve completed the above steps, determine an appropriate threshold value for “profile” scores and “behavior” scores – those above that level are “sales-ready”; those below can be placed into a lead nurturing program. Keep in mind that your lead scoring program can be as complex as you would like it to be – you can have seven different “threshold” values for both profile and behavioral scores, along with a customized path for all 49 different customer types. You can have multiple buyer personas. It’s your lead generation program.

As you are going through this process (and often, it takes companies less than 2 hours to complete once everyone is in the room), remember that the goal is to begin to foster alignment and secure buy-in from everyone involved. This approach works because it aligns everyone’s efforts – and that’s only possible if everyone is bought in and willing to do their part.

Once you’ve outlined your program and how you’d like to score each lead, find a platform that can implement what you want to do – too many companies find a vendor first, then are frustrated that the scores they want simply aren’t possible with the out-of-the-box versions of the software provided.

First understand what you want to measure as part of your lead scoring program, then find a partner with the technology to help you do it. This same approach whether you’re a small family business or a large corporation – and there are solutions out there for any budget. As an example, Saleswings start at just $11 per month and InfusionSoft provides an all-in-one CRM for just $199 per month.

In the end, remember that lead scoring is essential if you want to get the most out of your marketing initiatives and sales team. While it may seem daunting, there are hundreds of web resources to help you through the process.

If you liked this post, check out our Small Business Guide to Marketing Automation.

Sam RuchlewiczSam Ruchlewicz is the resident data expert and Senior Digital Strategist for Warschawski, a Baltimore-based Advertising, Marketing & PR Agency. He’s successfully helped companies across the B2B, B2C & B2G spaces use their data to overcome their marketing and customer acquisition challenges – and is always willing to help. Drop him a note here.

5 Keys to Adopting Marketing Automation

When it comes to online marketing, there’s a lot to keep up with. What messages should you send via email? Who is interacting with your social media pages? What are prospects looking for when they visit your website?

One way to keep up with all of your marketing channels and messaging is to use marketing automation. But that takes a little more than simply buying the right software and blasting your list with messages.

Done correctly, successful marketing automation will increase your number of leads and conversions. In a VentureBeat survey of over 700 marketers, 80 percent of marketing automation users saw their number of leads increase, and 77 percent saw their number of conversions increase. If you’re looking for that kind of success, keep these tips in mind.

1. Get your lists in order.

List management is crucial to marketing automation success. You’ll need a big list, but that doesn’t mean you should go out and buy a bunch of contacts wholesale. Reaching out to a cold list can come across as awkward and misdirected, especially at the beginning of a sales cycle.

Take the time to build your list organically through your website, social media pages and other marketing efforts. If you do buy leads, make sure they’re qualified. Here are some other list management best practices:

  • Clean up. Remove non-deliverables and spam addresses. Validate all the email addresses on your list.
  • Once your list is clean, start segmenting. MailChimp found that segmentation can lead to a 15 percent higher open rate 59 percent higher click rate. The way you segment your list will depend on your industry and buying personas. You might want to consider a position in the sales cycle, geography, interests, age, gender, industry, etc.
  • Make sure people aren’t being duplicated on multiple lists and, thus, receiving too many messages.

2. Get your content right.

Invest in good content that engages your target prospects and calls for action at the right moment. Remember there’s a difference between well-written content and content that performs well. A few things that can help you succeed:

  • Know your audience and tailor your content appropriately.
  • Understand the value your product or service offers.
  • Create a messaging strategy for your different lead segments at every stage of the sales funnel (this would include welcome emails, follow-up messages, thank-yous, special offers, and more)
  • Take full advantage of marketing automation (for SEO, lead capture forms, landing pages, reporting) to develop a content strategy that speaks to your leads.

Aligning content strategy with marketing automation is no easy task, so it might be worth the time and money to hire a content strategy professional who can help you improve your messaging.

3. Have a lead generation strategy.

If you already have a lead gen strategy, prepare to automate it. If your process isn’t established yet, start by determining how you’ll drive traffic into your sales funnel. This is another area where content will come into play. Depending on your industry, you can offer various content assets (research reports, whitepapers, e-books) in exchange for contact information.

You can use all types of content to find out who people are and what they are looking for, then move them through your sales cycle. In-person events, online tools, webinars, and marketing partnerships can also be great ways to generate leads. All of these steps can be automated — to a degree — with the right software tools, which means you can scale up.

4. Establish goals and expectations.

Although your marketing team is probably singing the praises of marketing automation, it’s important to know that it won’t solve all your problems. When done correctly, automated marketing will expand your reach to more leads and convert more leads to customers, but you have to establish your goals and create a strategy in order to make that happen.

While you’re at it, make sure you get buy-in from your business leaders and executives and communicate clearly to them. One study indicates that only eight percent of companies see increased revenues within six months of adopting marketing automation. But after just one year, 32 percent see increased revenue, and after two years, that figure climbs to 40 percent.

It might take a while to see ROI from marketing automation, but the rewards are steep for those who endure. According to a 2014 report by Aberdeen, companies using marketing automation achieve 53 percent higher conversion rates than non-users, plus an annual revenue growth rate 3.1 percent higher than non-users.

5. Go all in.

Whether you’re brand new to marketing automation or you’ve been using some of these tactics for a while, it’s a good idea to think through your efforts and make changes, where necessary.

Buying marketing automation software won’t solve all your problems. You have to put people, content, and processes in place to make the whole strategy work. Set goals, create a plan, and shore up your lists before you purchase any software. Otherwise, you might not get what you pay for.

If you liked this post, check out our Small Business Guide to Marketing Automation.

Megan PacellaMegan Pacella is a contributor for TechnologyAdvice.com, with specializations in B2B marketing and sales. She has also written for USA Today, Bearings Guide, 10Best Nashville, and other publications.

Using Marketing Automation Tools to Boost Your Customer Referral Program

Using Marketing Automation Tools to Boost Your Customer Referral Program - Duct Tape Marketing

photo credit:”Pexels

The benefits of referral marketing have been recognized for a long time. Compared to traditional advertising, a positive referral from a happy customer is one of the most valuable forms of marketing. People pay twice as much attention to recommendations from friends and family members than any other source, according to the Wharton Business School. On top that, a referred customer is 16 percent more valuable over a lifetime than any other form of customer.

Earning positive referrals requires more than providing a valuable service or product, although that’s certainly a key requirement. It’s important to automate the process and empower customers to make recommendations. When marketing automation works, it boosts efficiency, lessens your workload and helps generate new customers.

A happy customer needs only a little nudge to share their experience with their network, and automating the process allows you to focus on whatever your company does best. Utilizing marketing automation tools — whether it’s on social media, emails or websites — is critical for the long-term success of your company.

The numbers on marketing automation speak for themselves:

  • Companies using automation for email marketing earn twice as many leads as those that don’t.
  • 75 percent of companies using marketing automation see a return on investment in a year.
  • Companies using marketing automation increased sales by an average of 34 percent.
  • 91 percent of those using marketing automation say it is “very important” to the success of their program.
Using Marketing Automation Tools to Boost Your Customer Referral Program - Duct Tape Marketing

photo credit:”WebpageFX

Develop Your Strategy

Marketing automation tools come in all forms and typically aren’t free. Before you decide which tools to use, it’s best to determine your strategy. Doing otherwise is could lead to negative results. Far too often, marketers try every tool at their disposal without thinking about what will actually work with their customers.

The name “automation” sounds like something mechanical and impersonal, but the most effective strategies feel highly personalized to customers.

Implementing marketing automation for referrals is destined to fail if your leads are weak from the start. Think of existing leads as money in the bank and marketing automation as a way to grow that money. If there’s no money to begin with, it’s impossible to see any growth.

A good automation strategy recognizes ripe opportunities and builds upon them. Like a plant, leads need to be nurtured and cultivated. An abundance of spammy, impersonal messages can stunt any growth.

To begin, think about your goals. Do you want to generate new leads? Or do you want to convert existing leads into loyal customers? Maybe it’s something else entirely. No matter what it is, it’s good to take a close look at your absolute best customers. This close circle is the most valuable because they’re more likely to spread the word and make recommendations from friends.

Choose Your Tools

Marketing automation is a fast-growing industry that’s been valued at approximately $1.62 billion annually. With this fast growth comes a number of tools for businesses to use. Some of the most popular include Hubspot, Infusionsoft, and Marketo. The merits of these tools are debated endlessly, with many people touting their own reasons for one being superior to the other.

The tools are varied, but many of them come down to social media, email marketing and websites. Here are some examples of what marketing automation can do for each platform. Many of these tools are interconnected:

Social media

Social media can be a time sink that takes up too much of the day, but it’s important because social media is typically the face of your company. Social media should always have a personal touch, yet automation can help round out your social media strategy and save lots of time.

Social media can be a time sink that takes up too much of the day, but it’s important because social media is typically the face of your company. Social media should always have a personal touch, yet automation can help round out your social media strategy and save lots of time.

For example, your automation can help new website posts go directly to social media or allow you to easily curate content. Some companies use automation for customer service queries, but this strategy sometimes backfires when companies accidentally pester customers with useless information. It’s important not to be over reliant on automation. Social media works best when there’s a sense of immediacy instead of a series of static, long-planned posts that were scheduled to post automatically.

Email marketing

Marketing automation has its roots in email marketing, so the possibilities are robust. For starters, lists can be formed automatically. The most active users or long-dormant users can be welcomed with a new email. Or a new email can be used to upsell a recent customer and you won’t have to lift a finger.

The possibilities are vast, yet it’s possible for automation to run amok. Nobody likes being bombarded with emails, so you should weigh the importance of each communication.

Your website

The success of your website relies on traffic from social media and email marketing. It’s possible to cater dynamic content based on a person’s viewing habits, geographic location, and so on. Offers can be targeted to viewers that fulfill certain criteria.

Regardless of what strategy you adopt and what tools you use, it’s critical to always test what you’re doing. Extensive testing can turn a doomed campaign into a successful one by stamping out flaws. Failing to adequately test can turn away loyal customers. Always test your strategies, either by running the plan by others or segmenting your audience into a small test group. It’s worth the effort.

If you liked this post, check out our Small Business Guide to Marketing Automation.

Sara LandrumSarah Landrum is a marketing specialist and the founder of Punched Clocks, a career blog focusing on happiness and success in life and at work. Follow Sarah on social media for more great tips! You can find her tweeting @SarahLandrum

How to Use Marketing Automation Throughout the Customer Journey

Today’s Guest Post is by Sarah Burke – Enjoy!

The customer’s journey is often defined in 3 stages: Awareness, consideration and decision. For small business owners and marketers, keeping track of each and every customer, and where they are in this journey, is one of our biggest struggles.

Luckily, this job can be made much more efficient with marketing automation, which – when used intelligently – is vital in helping marketers and business owners do their jobs to the best of their abilities.

According to TFM&A’s 2014 marketing automation report, the top three reasons marketers use automation is:

  • It takes repetitive tasks out of their hands (36%)
  • It helps improve customer targeting (30%)
  • It helps improve customer experience (10%)

So, the question goes, how can we map how we use marketing automation to our buyer’s journey?

Stage 1 of the Customer’s Journey: Awareness

At the awareness stage, your prospective leads aren’t doing research with the intention of purchasing anything from you. Instead, they’re simply looking for answers, entertainment, or information! Approximately 96% of visitors that come to your website are not ready to buy.

And that’s exactly why, at the early stages of the customer’s journey, we create content that is educational and entertaining. We lure them in, with the hopes that when they are ready to buy, they’ll think of our business.

To get this content in front of eyeballs, SEO and social media marketing play a huge part.

Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot via freedigitalphotos.com

Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot via freedigitalphotos.com

Social is a powerful thing. Searchmetrics’ Correlation 2014 study showed that social signals actually affect your content’s visibility in search results.

To get people clicking, liking, sharing, tweeting content, you need to be sharing that content on social media platforms consistently. Unfortunately, the process can be awfully routine, and unless you have a dedicated social media team, it can be very time-consuming. You’re the perfect candidate for marketing automation!

With just a few clicks (and about 20-30 minutes), you can easily schedule your posts to be published at specific times throughout the day – even when you’re not necessarily there to do so. Buffer and Hootsuite are probably the most well-known and effective social media management tools out there.

Stage 2 of the Customer’s Journey: Consideration

Once your customer has moved from general browsing to specific research, then they’ve moved into the consideration stage of the customer journey. At this point they’ll be looking at free trials, reviews, competitive information and… unbeknownst to themselves, how well you can nurture them.

One of the best ways to nurture leads is by tracking their activity. Once you know what pages they’re visiting, what links they’re clicking and emails they’re opening, you can create triggers that then send relevant messages to them.

For example, if a lead visits your pricing page, you might then send them a coupon code 24 hours afterwards if they haven’t bought anything.

Of course, targeting leads like this would be humanly impossible normally.

But marketing automation isn’t human – it’s technology! It can be hard to choose the right marketing automation software for lead nurturing campaigns because there are a lot out there. Some of the better-known ones include JumpLead, Infusionsoft and Leadsius.

Stage 3 of the Customer’s Journey: Decision

It’s not just about generating leads folks! Retaining them is just as important.

Support Emails are a great way to ensure that your users are happy with their experiences.

For example, if you’re a software company you might receive alerts from a specific account that something isn’t working. Rather than waiting until your customers are fed up with the difficulties, take this as a great opportunity to automate an email response that reaches out to those customers offering assistance.

Being in tune with your customer’s needs is extremely important, and marketing automation helps you reach your customers in a more targeted, meaningful and relevant way.

Conclusion

By using marketing automation throughout the customer journey, you’re improving the customer’s experience while also freeing up your own time so you can provide an even better service/product.

So where’s the downside?

Well… you can’t just “set it and forget it” if you want marketing automation to work. It needs a lot of tweaking, testing and monitoring. But the good news is: the time you save on the automated processes is much more than the time you will spend tweaking and improving the automation.

If you liked this post, check out our Small Business Guide to Marketing Automation.

Sarah BurkeSarah Burke works as a Digital Content Marketer for GetSpokal.com, an Inbound Marketing Automation software that’s designed specifically for small businesses. She creates useful, helpful and engaging content aimed to help small businesses and startups compete with the big behemoth businesses of the world. Before joining the Spokal team, she was an English and History secondary school teacher, and she has an MA in Gender, Sexuality and Culture. Connect with her on Twitter!

1 How to Use Marketing Automation Correctly

Today’s Guest Post is by Zach Watson – Enjoy!

marketing automation

Photo via PhotoPin

Marketing automation can’t be described as a new concept anymore. It would be more accurate to say it’s a difficult undertaking because automating anything requires precision and constant maintenance.

But it’s not impossible to use this strategy effectively. The fact that marketing automation is no longer a new, mysterious technology provides small businesses with the one resource they need to capitalize on this software: best practices.

The biggest risk of automating your marketing is that you will do it incorrectly, and your customers will be left confused and alienated. But by using other marketers as a guide, you’ll be better positioned to avoid the common pitfalls of automation. Here are a few:

Common Uses for Marketing Automation Include:

1. Content Marketing

Educational or entertaining content can be used both as a means to grow your email list and a way to increase engagement from your subscribers. If you’re offering a product or service, then using content as a means to move buyers through the sales funnel is an excellent use of marketing automation.

The key to this strategy is to create campaigns that use if/then logic to deliver personalized content for the interests of each prospect. This builds rapport and trust between your company and your audience while also moving these prospects closer to using your product or service.

2. Onboarding

As software as a service has become a more common delivery model for software products, so has the onboarding email chain become a more common tactic for marketers. Many organizations devote a great deal of effort to getting prospects to sign up for free trials of their software in order to get them in the sales funnel.

Once the prospect signs up, it’s critical that they use the software to its full extent. After using the software becomes a habit, then the free trial user is exponentially more likely to become a paying customer.

The key to automating onboarding emails is to sync your marketing automation system with the software you sell so you can target users based on what behavior they have or haven’t taken.

The approach is similar to content marketing, but instead of a series of educational pieces of content, onboarding campaigns are usually personal emails discussing how to use specific features of the software.

3. Promotions and Discounts

These are often the bread and butter of e-commerce retailers as well as brick and mortar shops. Sending discounts is an effective strategy for driving both online and instore purchases, and it can be tempting to blast your best offers to everyone. However, like the other two tactics, you need to base these campaigns on user behavior to make sure your offers are as targeted as possible.

Now that you’ve got a framework for what you can do with marketing automation, it’s important to examine what you should not do with this type of software.

Don’t send the same emails to everyone

Marketers new to automation software often worry that creating automated email campaigns and scheduling other types of interactions along the sales funnel will make them sound like a robot. That’s not true — unless, of course, you send the same emails to your entire audience.

Failing to appreciate the differences in the interests of your customers is precisely what will make you sound like a robot. Fortunately, marketing automation products make it particularly easy to track user behavior on your website, in your email campaigns, and on your social media.

Use that information to make your marketing personalized, and your communication won’t sound robotic or mass-produced.

Don’t set and forget

To gather all the correct information you need to segment your marketing campaigns, you’ll need to test different approaches with different audiences. For example, “Does offer A work well with customers interested in product 2, or does offer B work better?” Test early and test often. You need to monitor your campaigns on a daily basis and make changes as necessary.

One of the cardinal sins of marketing automation is creating a single campaign for each segment and simply letting that campaign run without oversight. This is a massive mistake. It’s unlikely you’ll create the perfect marketing formula the first time around, so testing provides a way to improve quickly.

Marketing automation vendors don’t just make software that only huge businesses use; many make products for businesses of all sizes. But a cheaper price doesn’t take the pressure off of the marketer. Automation demands a lot of work.

You’re essentially playing the role of an engineer to construct a marketing lifecycle for your prospects. Be sure to follow industry best practices and constantly monitor your results to succeed in your automating endeavors.

If you liked this post, check out our Small Business Guide to Marketing Automation.

Zach WatsonZach Watson is the content manager at TechnologyAdvice. He covers gamification, healthcare IT, business intelligence and other emerging technology. Connect with him on LinkedIn.