Marketing Automation typically refers to software platforms that automate, workflow-driven marketing tasks, such as lead nurturing or trigger-based activities, and therefore help to improve customer acquisition and prospect engagement. The functions of marketing automation platforms often include an ability to create landing pages. These are website pages that marketers use to drive their audience to, which include a call-to-action, such as a downloadable piece of content like a case study or an eBook, in exchange for email contact details.
Marketing automation software provides marketers with the tools to manage lead data; conduct SEO reviews of their websites; manage and share content through social media platforms; email contacts on a personalised or segmented basis; and set up targeted lead nurturing programmes. Principally, the advantage of a marketing automation platform is not just its breadth of functionality, but that by having so many functions, you are able to collect data on every aspect of your website’s marketing performance.
Giving you, as a marketer, a comprehensive, accurate and real-time view of campaign activity and ROI. In addition to extracting standard web analytics data – such as pageviews, average time on site and bounce rates – marketing automation can also illustrate how individual activities and marketing channels are performing. As a basic example, the conversion rates of landing pages connected to offline activities, such as telemarketing or events, can be compared to those of individual email campaigns or social media activities. Finally, marketing automation software is a critical component of tracking the progress of individual contacts moving through the sales cycle via lead nurturing and determining when a contact is suitable for passing to a sales team.
According to Aberdeen Group, the effective use of marketing automation software leads to:
- 107% better lead conversion rate
- 40% greater average deal size
- 20% higher team attainment of quota
- 17% better forecast accuracy
Most online visitors are not ready to buy when they first arrive on your website. Even when they download a case study or an eBook, it is highly likely that they are doing so as part of their information-gathering research and will not welcome a direct sales call in response to their providing their contact details. Simply, they’re just not ready yet. This is the greatest cause of misalignment between sales and marketing – leads that are not yet sufficiently qualified are passed from marketing to sales prematurely.
Therefore, marketing needs to qualify the leads further before handing them over to sales. This is where lead nurturing plays its part. It is a systematic, ideally automated, process of maintaining contact with leads to ensure that when they are beyond the “information gathering” stage and ready to engage, your proposition is front of mind. Simultaneously, as the lead has gone through the information gathering stage, the lead nurturing process extracts increasingly more information on the individual prospect to aid the sales team when they engage.
Effective lead nurturing programmes include using a combination of engaging content, ideally hosted on your company website, which is promoted across social media and using email marketing to send offers of fresh, relevant, content on a personalised basis at predetermined intervals. As the prospect engages with more content, the ‘relationship’ grows and a picture builds up of their needs, interests and degree of “sale readiness”. On the flip-side, if they do not engage further, then it is clear they are not ready to buy and would have been a wasted effort had they been pursued by sales.
The core concept therefore is that by staying in touch with your leads by offering content of value during the “information-gathering” stage of making a purchase decision, you will be front of mind when they are ready to purchase. This means that sales teams are therefore only fed high-quality, well-qualified leads from the marketing department.
As a result of the need to define the degree of qualification so finitely, lead nurturing
programmes are often supported by lead scoring mechanisms. Here, each engagement by an identified lead (e.g. a download of an eBook or case study, a website visit, an engagement with your social media profile) is given a certain score. Only once a pre-defined threshold is reached, the contact is then passed to the sales team as a qualified lead. Does it work? According to Forrester Research, well-executed lead nurturing programmes generate 50% more sales-ready leads at 33% lower cost per lead. Can you afford to miss out?
Tips for Effective Marketing Automation
These eight helpful hints are a combination of the advice most commonly cited and also those that our marketing campaigns have shown to be the most valuable:
- Create a content grid – identify the reasons prospects come to you and create
material that proves your knowledge about these issues – examples of thought leadership in the guise of eBooks work well. Demonstrate your experience in solving these issues or challenges by providing access to customer case studies.
- Build attractive, high conversion rate landing pages – there are many considerations when building landing pages, ranging from the position of the form, the use of calls-to-action to other materials and of course what text should be used. These are all of course important, but the underlying rules are simple: be informative and clear in what you are promising, who it would be relevant to, why they should convert and how to do so.
- Don’t put too many fields in the early forms and don’t put too few in the later ones – when you are trying to encourage a lead to fill in a form for the first time, limit the information you ask for to the bare minimum. Once you have the prospect in a lead nurturing workflow, you have gained sufficient trust to ask for more detail of their background.
- Make sure the lead nurturing emails are personalised and are offering relevant content – sounds simple right? But the fastest way to drive someone to the delete button, or worse, the unsubscribe button, is to undermine their initial trust in your brand by sending them material that is unrelated to their original enquiry, and is not even addressed to them individually.
- Don’t spam them, but don’t let them forget you – the second fastest way to frustrate a would-be lead is to send them lead nurturing emails too frequently. You want to make sure you keep in contact with them and make sure they don’t forget you when it comes to deciding to go further with their sales decisions. But this doesn’t require daily communication – equally, only contacting them once a year is unlikely to be enough!
- Always be valuable – if you are ever unsure of the worth of a landing page, piece of downloadable content or an email, ask yourself whether it’s valuable. Are you helping your contact understand the issue better, or are you trying to push them to a sale? Is your lead ready to be sent a price list, or do they need to understand more about your business, and service offering first?
- Test, improve, test, improve – most marketing automation packages allow you to perform A/B tests on various elements of your landing pages. Take full advantage of this and determine for yourself what works and what doesn’t. But never stop testing!
- Always integrate your marketing automation with your CRM – make your sales team’s life easier by making sure that any leads generated from your lead nurturing efforts instantly and automatically have transferred in their entirety across to the CRM, whether it’s Salesforce.com, NetSuite or any other.