Marketing automation allows you to capture and interact with leads.
Ideally, you’ll provide each lead with personalized and relevant content that eventually convinces them to make a purchase.
With the right systems, this can be done automatically and extremely profitably.
Instead of asking your sales staff to reach out to each lead even if they are very early in the buying process, and follow up with them regularly until they’re ready to buy, what if you had a system to engage your audience and send your staff only the best leads?
What if your sales department received only sales-ready leads so that their closing process became more an issue of fulfillment than anything else?
A good automation system can do all this and more, saving you time and money. In fact, Forrester Research found that companies that excel at lead nurturing get 50% more sales-ready leads at 33% lower cost.
That being said, Marketing Automation isn’t right for every company.
Things to Consider Before Making the Move
It’s important to know whether or not marketing automation is currently a good fit for your company.
The first thing I like to remind people is that marketing automation is not a lucky lottery ticket. You don’t just cash in and watch the money flow into your lap. The process takes work. You have to consistently monitor and adjust your efforts as you observe your results.
You will be testing methods and strategies routinely.
Marketing automation helps make your processes simpler. It eliminate a lot of redundancies.
It isn’t just another tool; it may affect your entire strategy.
This is one reason why I emphasize the effort you’ll need to put in at the onset, because although the long term work load will be lessened, it takes some initial effort to set up your automation system.
Could Your Company’s Systems Benefit From Automation?
Marketing automation software works best in specific cases. Examples include:
- Large Market/Lots of Leads
- A Longer Sales Process
- A Content Rich Site
- Systems in Place to Coordinate
Large Market/Lots of Leads
Typically, if your company has a lot of leads to sort through, automation can help identify the more qualified leads and send out content based on the actions those leads take. If you don’t have a large list of leads (10,000 or so), but your market is projected to be large, you could also benefit from an automation system in place when you begin to secure some of that market.
On the other hand, if your business works on mostly referrals and has a limited customer base, automation isn’t overly helpful.
A Longer Sales Process
One of the main benefits of an automation system is monitoring leads throughout a longer sales funnel.
If your product is expensive or requires a large investment of time, the sales process will typically take longer. Automation can help move clients through the channel, as well as track their movement.
This is not to say that companies that sell items like clothes or merchandise do not need automation.
For instance, to borrow an example from MarketingProfs, what if you are a sports merchandiser? You sell jerseys and memorabilia. Sales of specific products depend on the sports season and the luck of the teams. What if you automated your systems to send out emails to fans when their team won?
This is a clear example of how useful automation can be for transactional item companies.
A Content Rich Site
Automation only works if you have information to give to your customers. It helps to have content on your site to explain your product, answer common pre-sales questions, and otherwise inform users. If you don’t have this in place, you will need to generate it.
Of course, you can create content while you automate.
Many companies that we work with don’t have good content in place when they set up automation. All this really means is that the setup process will take more work and time.
Systems to Coordinate
If your company has a number of systems in place for sales and marketing (CRM, email, campaign planning, etc.), an automation system can manage the coordinated efforts.
On the flip side, reworking a number of systems and retraining staff can be costly and time consuming. Smaller businesses with fewer systems can often more easily make this transition and implement automation.
The Final Decision
There are a lot of factors which can go into the decision with no single answer. I have personally worked with companies setting up automation systems and seen many of them capitalize on it. I’ve interviewed people where marketing automation helped to hugely grow their business (here’s one of them).
Still, it takes the right company with the right kind of strategy. My staff and I have practiced our craft long enough to know what elements are necessary for automation to work.
What Marketing Automation Can Do
In order to understand what you can do with automation, it helps to look at the different sections of a marketing automation funnel.
We define top, middle and bottom of funnel depending on where your leads are in their purchase decision. The lower on the funnel, the more qualified they are and the more likely they are to become customers.
Top of Funnel (TOFU)
At this stage, leads are just discovering your site. This is where you convert them from visitors to subscribers, using lead magnets, opt-in forms or other segmentation prompts.
In most cases, there is not a lot of trust between your company and your leads at this stage, so you’re not likely to collect more than their first name and email.
Once these contacts have given you their information, they have entered the sales funnel.
This is where a great Inbound Marketing campaign has a strong effect. Creating the right content compels leads to come to you, which is a stark change from the traditional marketing efforts.
When you tailor your content towards a specific niche or towards satisfying a specific concern, you can drive more organic traffic to your site.
There are a couple of reasons for this. For starters, search engines are crawling the web looking for keywords and matching those with current searches. If you have content on your site that people are looking for, you are ranked better in those search engines’ databases.
The second reason is that if you have good content, you’ll get the attention of people who visit your site. They’ll absorb your content and give you a better presence online with backlinks and social shares.
It will take time to generate organic content and gain a following; however, with the right effort and attention, you will start to see the benefits of a shift from traditional marketing efforts to a more content driven strategy.
Marketing automation allows you to optimize your inbound strategy by sending relevant content to your TOFU leads. They initially found your site looking for answers. Your systems allow you to continue to satisfy their needs and allow them to trust your opinion.
All this moves them towards the next part of your funnel.
Middle of Funnel (MOFU)
This is the stage where you keep your leads engaged. You are becoming a source of solutions for them and since they are beginning to trust you, you can begin to convince them that your business has the solutions that they are looking for. All this can be done by developing the right kind of content.
At this stage prospects are looking for more detailed answers. By sending your MOFU leads the information they want, you are engaging in “lead nurturing”. Through lead nurturing you are conditioning them to trust you and look to you for the information they need.
The content you provide can be many things: webinars, training videos, white-papers, and more. You will want to create this type of content if you don’t already have it, as it will be immensely useful when nurturing your leads.
At this stage of the funnel, marketing automation works by segmenting your leads based on the criteria you choose and sending them the information most relevant to them.
Automation also has the power to score these leads based on their actions (for example, the pages they visit on your site and the links they click in your emails), which will give you a better idea of how interested they are and how close they are to a purchase decision.
Your sales team can now be provided with highly qualified leads, and you will begin to see faster conversions to sales. When you focus your sales efforts your conversion rates will soar (like IronTribe Fitness, whose close rates are a staggering 98% – even though their gym memberships are $300/mo) and you will get the biggest ROI from your system.
Once you contact a lead (or a lead contacts you) you can move them into the final level of the sales process.
Bottom of Funnel (BOFU)
The way people buy things has changed drastically.
Think of the last time you made a medium-sized purchase. You probably did online research, read reviews, or asked friends. By the time you were ready to buy, you had narrowed it down to a few choices that you already knew a fair bit about.
You are cultivating your leads in the same way with automation and content. They have been looking for solutions – for answers to their questions – and you’ve provided them with answers in the form of content. At this point they are checking pricing, final details of the products or services you offer, and the experiences of other buyers.
With automation, you can answer these questions easily. You can provide leads with case studies or technical reviews and comparisons.
You can also automate your systems to mark leads as ‘sales ready’ and send them over to your sales team. Your sales team has the additional advantage of knowing what content the lead consumed, in order to help prepare for the sales conversation.
Steps To Take If You Aren’t Ready For Automation
Some will argue the hassle of setting up an automation system is too much. My experience would indicate differently, but I can understand the hesitation. If you feel your company isn’t ready yet, there are a couple of things I’d suggest you focus on first.
Sales & Marketing Process
Get a monthly and weekly report from your sales and marketing team(s). The list should provide ideas on how well they’re converting and what your ROI is for the sales staff. Break up the data into metrics like:
- Website Traffic
- Opt-Ins/Subscription Forms
- Qualified Leads
- Leads Contacted
- Meetings Conducted
Track the conversion rates between steps and find problem areas. If you are getting a tons of Qualified Leads and contacting few of them due to time constraints, you have found an area with room for improvement.
If you are not able to monitor these numbers throughout your process, you need to update your systems.
If you understand where your company stands you can create a better picture of where you want to go moving forward.
Look at the amount and type of content you are creating, be it blogs, webinars, tutorials or something else. Is it enough to satisfy your leads?
Look at the keywords you’re ranking for. What do you want to be known for? Is your SEO strategy being complemented by your content?
Make a plan. Create or revise your editorial calendar, and begin creating content.
Setting up your marketing automation will take time and money. That said, it can make a world of difference to those who invest in it.
I couldn’t imagine running Bright Ideas without marketing automation systems.
I have built a number of custom campaigns, sent out countless pieces of content, and contacted leads at every stage of purchase funnel. With automation, this process was simple and effective. Without automation, it would have been time consuming and much more difficult, if not impossible.
If you are looking for a way to simplify your business and would like more information on marketing automation, please contact us. We specialize in building powerful marketing automation systems.
In the meantime, please share your comments below.
Does our company use marketing automation? If so, how has it worked so far? What do you like/dislike about it?
If not, what led to that decision? How do you manage your processes?