Marketing Automation Explained

Whether you’re a B2B or B2C company, it’s advantageous to manage your customers and prospects in one of the many customer relationship management (CRM) systems. This obviously allows you to match your customers with sales transactions, but more importantly for marketers it allows you the option of layering on a marketing automation system that can deliver targeted messages at the right time without continuous management by additional personnel.

If you’re like many companies, you employ a marketing individual or team to collect your contacts information and execute campaigns in somewhat of a batch and blast situation. You may even be sophisticated enough to break down your list by sales group, product, region, or industry. What you probably don’t do is automatically trigger your selective content to send out when a customer is on your website, when a prospect has downloaded your sales whitepaper, or when the system has identified a customer within their annual buying period.

Marketing automation, what is it?

Marketing automation combines technology, typically hosted, with business processes that score leads based on fixed criteria like title and size of company, as well as dynamic criteria, such as which web pages the person viewed, whether the individual attended a webinar or clicked through to an offer. Ultimately this information allows the marketer to better target messages and promotions to individuals based on their stated and implied interests. That process is generally called “lead nurturing,” which is a popular buzzword in the industry. – Joe Chernov, Eloqua (in an interview with Venturebeat.com)

3 reasons you need marketing automation:

  1. You can “set it and forget it”. Once you do the work up front to create your content and your set of rules, your program will run with little oversight. Your programs will also be able to run outside of your companies work hours. With the expansion of mobile devices and tablets many people continue to work after they get home or into late hours. Turn your marketing into a 24/7 sales generating machine.
  2. You can scale your processes. It’s very demanding to send a personalized “Thank you” note to every one of your customers on the same day they make a sale. This business requirement would require monitoring, notification, editing, proofing, and executing for every item. Automate processes like these and scale the number of touch points, leads generated, and sales routed.
  3. You can eliminate human errors. How many of you have seen those “sorry, our mistake” emails from well-intended marketing teams who mixed up their data or their content? Probably everyone. This type of thing happens all the time because human touches are heavily involved. Errors and mistakes can be eliminated, or at least mitigated, by creating a rigid step-by-step program or process. Do the work up front to build, test, and approve then let the computer do the thinking.

10 best practices that utilize marketing automation:

  1. Contact Registration – Capture your customer or prospect’s information at every chance you get. Offer them something of value in exchange. Can you solve a quick problem of theirs with a whitepaper demonstrating your expertise?
  2. Welcome Email – Trigger and email that expresses gratitude that your customer or prospect has taken the time to interact with your brand. This is a great opportunity to provide additional resources or guide them to your call-to-action. Also, this eliminates the confusion when they get an email from you later and ask “Why am I receiving this?”
  3. Identify Customer Intent – Some marketing automation solutions can integrate with analytics tools so you can see exactly what content they care about. It sounds a bit Big Brother, but your sales team would love to know if one of their top customers just browsed the new product page and downloaded the demo video. Great way to identify a potential easy cross-sell.
  4. Lead Scoring – Not all prospects or customers are the same so they certainly shouldn’t be treated the same. Identify your triggers for contacts with the highest propensity to buy and jump on them first. You only have a limited number of resources in a day so prioritize accordingly. Segment customers by title, location, sales history, advertising referral source, website content browsed, or any other data point that is important to you.
  5. Assign to Sales Representative – Automatically notify one of your sales reps to take action and update your CRM reflecting it. Build rules that remind them via email or text message after a certain number of days of no activity. Create a backup rule in case a sales rep is on vacation or out of the office. A list of 1,000 leads in Excel handed over to a sales team seems like a “job well done” from a marketing perspective, but is overwhelming if you’re the one making the calls. Instead, trickle the leads automatically as they come in. Much more manageable.
  6. Nurture Email – You’re spending all this time and money to get valuable information into your system. Make sure you don’t forget to continuously communicate with them on a regular basis. Send a newsletter, product updates, and thought leadership material on a schedule that your customers feel is appropriate. Measure how effective you are with engagement metrics such as open rate, click thru rate, and additional actions on your website.
  7. Engaged / Unengaged Survey – Segment your audience by how engaged they are with your website, content, and emails. Similar to lead scoring except you’re looking at their actions, not their demographics or company information. Take the time to craft a short survey and get a feel for how you’re doing. Ask them “How likely is it that you would recommend this company to a friend or colleague?” and begin measuring your Net Promoter Score.
  8. Upcoming Renewal Date Email – If you’re a B2B company, you’ll sometimes have annual renewals or a period of time when your customer is evaluating their options. Use this date field as a trigger to get out and front of their questions and concerns. Emphasis your additional value and why they went with you in the first place. This is also a great trigger to ping sales reps or customer relationships managers. You have a mass communication solution, might as well use it for internal messages as well.
  9. SMS Communication – There has been a boom of success stories relating to SMS marketing campaigns. It’s a very personal medium that consumers tend to guard unless they initiate the opt-in. Once you get that opt-in permission however,  you’ll get their full attention as 98% of all SMS are read. This is a great way to get timely and promotional messages directly into your customers hands. Use your marketing automation system to trigger alerts when they’ve reached a certain threshold or when their eligible for a special deal.
  10. Social Media – Not really in the same bucket of a usual marketing automation solutions, but I still put it in the same category because some of it can be automated. Utilize tools such as TwitterFeed.com or Ifttt.comto automatically tweet or share your latest blog post. Although I like to screen who I follow, you can automate following someone that follows you or unfollowing someone that unfollows you on Twitter. Again, I like to make my responses personal but if you don’t have time for it you can automatically thank a person that mentions you.

Have you looked into how marketing automation can help you?

Inbound Lead Generation Campaigns

If you’re executing a digital marketing campaign, there is a good chance you’re ROI (return on investment) is based on how many emails, prospects, or customers you can get inside of your database. If you’re using a CRM (customer relationship management system) such as SalesForce.com or Oracle, those contacts have some real measurable value. Even more so when you can match them up with your sales data and discover little nuggets like customer lifetime value or simple conversions.

One strategy for getting more of them into the system is to offer something of value in exchange for the low cost of getting their email address. It’s not completely free, but it’s close enough. By giving them value up front, you are establishing yourself can begin to start the relationship.

Many companies try to double-dip their lead generation tactics by putting up a pay wall or going straight for the sale in exchange for their content. In today’s new economy, customers expect you to try and build a relationship before they open their wallets. This is true for B2B companies where there are sometimes hours of research or complex models involved. It’s also true for small companies or individuals wanting to brand themselves. If a potential employer visits your online resume and learns something, you’ve just jumped ahead of the bland one-pagers on their desk.

Customers want, or even demand, that you showcase your value by providing services or information on your website. It shouldn’t be a lone sales pitch with a form saying “give us your phone and email so we can call you 20 times during dinner”. Your website should be a tool driving conversation.

At some point in the conversation you can ask them to take the next step. That’s the point during inbound marketing where you ask for their contact information. That’s the point where you begin to target and nurture them via email, social media, and customer relationship managers. That point is only after you’ve given them something for free.

5 offers that add value and drive lead generation:

  1. Live or video demonstrations. Walk the prospect or customer through some of the best features of your product or put a face on your unique services. Leverage video testimonials and executives to add the personal touch to your website. Answer questions, talk about interesting facts, or reveal data that your company has access to.
  2. Informational whitepapers. PDF whitepapers make a great resource for your customers, especially when they solve a unique problem. What partners or resources do you have that could help your customers understand or act on a particular issue they’re having? If you can document a guide on how to accomplish something or educate them in an interesting area, you’ll be able to get their information quickly.
  3. Digital tools or calculators. Small and large companies usually have access to data and processes that customers don’t. If you can provide a lite version of your product or demonstrate some value with a free online tool then you’ll be able to generate some buzz and inbound traffic. Even if your product/brand is something tangible, you could create an online component to interact with it.
  4. Webinars and podcasts. Digital media is a popular tool for sharing information. They’re a quick and easy way to disseminate important information to large audiences. It becomes even more valuable when you make them interactive with surveys and live questions. The results of the webinar can be spun off into even more educational content.
  5. Community forum. Bring people together with a common background or interest. If you establish a secure place where like-minded people can come together and discuss their issues, you’ll get their information and generate content at the same time. Leverage your customer’s knowledge into shareable information. Keep everyone involved and don’t miss the opportunity for your company to jump in and be heard.

How do you attract customers to provide their contact information?

B2B Long Tail SEO Keywords

Before you start making radical changes on your website, in an effort to rank higher in the search engines, you first need to decide what keywords you’re going to rank for.

There are two types of keywords. Short-tail and long-tail keywords.

Short-tail keywords are the most popular, most searched, and therefore most competitive.  These are short one or two keywords that define an industry or product. If your company sells shoes, the single most popular short-tail keyword is “shoes”. This keyword would be very difficult to rank your website to the number one position.

Long-tail keywords are more specific versions of the short-tail keywords. These are less popular because they are more niche. If you sell shoes, but specifically athletic shoes, you could aim to rank your website for the keyword “blue athletic shoes”. Develop a strategy to rank for many long-tail keywords over going for the more difficult (sometimes impossible) short-tail keywords.

Long Tail SEO

Although this image above is a few years old, it still holds true. It also doesn’t only relate to B2B. It works just as well for B2C.

The point is to focus on the most descriptive phrases that have lower search frequency. They have low competition and are easy to rank for. If you develop a large number of long-tail keywords, you’ll be able to start driving traffic to your website quickly.

Next steps:

  1. Make a list of your ideal short-tail keywords that describe your website and brand.
  2. Add to that list be expanding each short-tail keyword to get more specific.
  3. Prioritize the keywords and order them for what keywords will drive the most business.
  4. Assign each of the specific keywords (1 or 2) to a single page of your website. If you don’t have a page that describes that keyword, plan to create one.
  5. Search each long-tail keyword phrase, observe the competition, and continually check to see if you’re content is showing up.