List of Top Seven Things Marketers Need to Know about Marketing Automation
Marketing automation is a beautiful thing. If I had any musical talent, I would write a song about it. It would be an ode to automated workflows, email campaigns, dynamic content, easy to create landing pages, and lead scoring. Beyoncé and Adele would co-perform the song, and it would make CMO’s weep at its beauty and its simple yet powerful lyrics… but I digress.
Marketing automation is an incredible tool for marketing departments of all sizes. Whether you are a one person B2C marketing department looking to grow or an international B2B company trying to stay on the forefront of industry trends, marketing automation is a tool that will simplify lead nurturing and provide real time data on the health of your campaigns and lead database.
Sound’s great, right? Let’s step back for a minute (before you get caught up in the Beyoncé-Adele duet of the century), and discuss the seven things you need to know about marketing automation before jumping in.
1. You Need Content!
Answer this question: Do you have a library of content to support your products and the top, middle, and bottom levels of the sales funnel? If you answered yes, skip to number two. If you answered no, let’s take a step back and discuss the relationship between content and marketing automation.
Marketing automation is not a tool for content creation. Marketing automation is a tool for engaging with customers, implementing and assessing conversion points on your site, managing email campaigns, creating landing pages, providing personalized / dynamic messages to your leads, and nurturing leads through the sales funnel. But none of these features work if you don’t have content. Think of it like this: marketing automation is a car and content is the gas. A car is a great tool to take you from point A to point B, but it can only do that if you fill it with gas.
You will only receive value from your marketing automation platform if you have content that supports the top, middle, and bottom levels of the sales funnel. Why? Because you need to give visitors a reason to convert from a visitor to a lead. You need to have content to build into workflows and email campaigns. To create dynamic content for your users, you need to first have a library of content to pull from. Landing pages’ lack purpose if you are lacking content to offer on them.
The phrase ‘content is king,’ is over used but true. When it comes to marketing automation, content is king, queen, court jester, and the stable boy. Content is everything.
2. Marketing Automation is a Commitment
This is not a set it and forget it tool. Marketing automation requires weekly, or sometimes daily, maintenance and monitoring. You will receive email reports on how many leads you have acquired, how workflows are progressing, and the state of running campaigns. This will give you the necessary information to make changes within the platform.
If you do not use this information to adjust workflows, lead scoring, and campaigns (just to name a few), you risk having a bloated database with inactive leads, improperly nurturing leads with information they do not want, reaching out to leads too frequently or not enough, or allowing an unsuccessful campaign or workflow to remain while it continues to turn away leads instead of incentivizing them.
Marketing automation is a commitment, so be prepared to spend at least a few hours a week in the platform making changes, maintaining existing features, and assessing your leads. But it is so, so worth it.
3. Set Up Requires More than a Credit Card
Let’s pretend you have a wealth of content that rivals the Library of Alexandria, you answered yes to number one and you are ready to purchase your marketing automation platform. Yay! Celebrations ensue, there are streamers and funny hats. You are partying like it’s 1999. So now what? Can you just jump right in and start automating workflows and creating campaigns? No, you cannot (so please hold off on popping that champagne).
Once you make the decision to invest in marketing automation there is typically a 60- to 90-day implementation phase. This includes placing a tracking code on your website that facilitates analytics, creating and placing forms, creating and placing unique calls-to-action, and setting up lead tracking. This phase should also include one-on-one training with a marketing automation professional on how to use the platform. This is a minor hurdle in the road to marketing automation nirvana, but something that all marketers should be aware of. It is unlikely you will be able to show immediate results and ROI, so save the champagne and pop bottles when you are an automation expert with the results to prove it.
4. Your Contact Database Can’t Hit the Gym, So Don’t Allow it to Bloat
As mentioned previously, this is not a set it and forget it tool. You need to maintain your system and most importantly maintain your contact database. The majority of marketing automation providers base pricing off the number of contacts (active or inactive) that are in your system. This is fine if you are nurturing all the contacts currently in your system, but can quickly become an expensive problem if your database is bloated with inactive leads, leads with incorrect contact information, or leads that are not appropriate for your product or service.
The best way to avoid database bloat is to maintain your platform and implement workflows that detect inactive leads. Those leads have either lost interest or are incorrect. Remove them from your database. You can always pass the list of inactive leads over to your sales team so they can privately check back in with them.
Don’t pay more for leads that are not providing value. Keep your database slim and trim to see the best results.
5. Delay, Delay, Delay!
I’ve often thought that there should be a pop-up box that says ‘patience is a virtue’ that appears each time a person logs into their marketing automation platform. A common problem for companies new to marketing automation is the temptation to immediately reach out to a lead and try to close a deal. If it is a new lead who has recently converted on a top of the funnel offer, it is more likely that you will scare them away than convince them to purchase your product or service.
Companies need to understand that the purpose of marketing automation is to nurture leads, not just send them to the sales department. Leads should be given room to breathe, educate themselves on a product, and assess a company based on relevant content instead of a sales pitch. This is also true for workflows and email campaigns. Delaying that second email or the second stage of a workflow will provide positive results.
Three emails in 12 hours is aggressive and a major turnoff, but three emails spread across 14 days is a gentle reminder to your prospect that you are there to help them with their decision.
6. Listen to Your Audience
The value of marketing automation comes from the ability to engage and re-engage your audience, as well as the ability to better understand your audience. All marketing automation platforms will tell you where your audience originated, how they interact with your website, how often they visit your website, which forms or calls-to-action interest them, and what emails or content provide the most value. Use this information to make informed decisions on what is working and what is not working on your website or your marketing strategy in general.
Does your blog typically receive high bounce rates? A marketing automation platform will allow you to assess whether people are leaving your blog because they do not see value in your content or if they are consuming your content then coming back to your website a few days later to learn more. Listen to this information and allow your audience to dictate what is important and where you should expand on content or workflows. You may be surprised at the results.
7. Always Assume You’re Wrong (Even When You’re Right)
A marketing automation platform will not do the work for you, but it will provide the tools for you to analyze the work you have done. Campaigns, workflows, and lead scoring are all great tools, but only if used correctly and maintained. You should always assume you can improve upon your existing workflows and campaigns. You should always be looking for ways to refine your lead scoring. Assume you can do better, even when it appears you are already succeeding. If you have this mentality you will always be improving on your marketing automation processes or you will be gathering data that supports your original decision. Here are some examples of why you should always be monitoring, assessing, and experimenting within your marketing automation platform:
Campaigns – This tool will allow you to associate keywords, calls-to-action, forms, landing pages, emails, workflows, social posting, and more to a singular campaign. This is valuable because it allows you to assess the overall success of your efforts toward promoting a product or event.
This sounds great, right? Now pretend you have just set up the perfect campaign. You’ve set up a landing page, scheduled social posts, even created an email workflow to accompany it. Your campaign goes live, then five days later you review the success of a campaign only to see there has been no engagement with your landing page. You see the problem and come to the conclusion that you need to make some changes to your promotional messaging on social media and your landing page. If you had not checked the campaign until it was over at the end of the month, you would have had no idea that you weren’t engaging your audience and that changes needed to be made in order to succeed.
This is an example of making a change because you have found a problem. Let’s look at why a marketer would make a change, even though something appears to be working.
Lead Scoring and Workflows – Lead scoring allows you to associate a positive or negative value for opening emails, visiting specific website pages, and converting on a form or call-to-action. Lead scoring typically goes hand-in-hand with workflows because as a lead moves through a workflow their score is affected positively or negatively. Once a lead reaches a predetermined score, the lead is categorized as being in the bottom of the sales funnel and ready to buy.
Let’s pretend that you have determined a sales representative should reach out to a lead once they have a score of 50, and so far this has been successful. Your overall revenue has increased, and sales representatives have reported that they only need to call a lead twice to close a sale as opposed to five times. This sounds great, but can you improve on it? What if you add an extra step to the workflow? You decide to add one final piece of bottom of the funnel content for your leads to enjoy. A month later the sales team reports that they are closing most leads in one call.
Marketing automation is a constant process of trial and error. Just because something appears to be working doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try new tactics, add new content, or look for new ways to engage your audience. Your original plan may have been right, but now you have the data to support that decision and build upon it.
As you decide whether marketing automation is right for you and your company, keep in mind that content is the backbone of any successful marketing automation effort. Marketing automation is a commitment that requires more than a credit card. Do not allow your contact database to bloat, but also don’t be overly aggressive. No one wants to buy when they feel pressured. Finally, listen to your audience and always strive to improve.
Good luck, and keep your eye’s pealed for Beyoncé and Adele’s newest hit ‘Marketing Automation, A Love Story – Part 1.’
Yes, it’s only Part 1…