Marketing automation started life way back in 1992, but wasn’t widely available until the mid 2000s when products were launched into the market for the masses to use.
Despite having been around for close to two decades though, marketing automation is STILL only being used in dribs and drabs by companies here in the UK.
Automation is being used by many as a tool to do one or two things, rather than as something that mobilises an entire strategy and guarantees automatic progress across an entire company.
But with the proper use of marketing automation, businesses can move their prospects through to a purchase, maximise customer spend and save time internally - all while they go about their day-to-day lives.
So what automation strategies should you be weaving into the fabric of your business’ setup and culture?
What is Marketing Automation and What Does it Do?
By definition, marketing automation is the use of technology to do stuff you don’t want to do.
Ok, that’s not the official definition, but it’s our in-a-nutshell version.
Marketing automation tools do exactly what they say on the tin: manage sales and marketing processes automatically, in the background, while you go about your day-to-day life.
The strategies you use to set them up and the goals you have your chosen tools achieve is where the success lies.
Think about it like Uber: you can’t just expect the car to turn up outside and pick you up. You still need to set up your order.
In the same sense, once you choose your automation tools, you have to decide where you want them to take you and instruct the driver accordingly.
Once you do, though, automated marketing miracles begin to happen.
From automating the process of lead qualification to delivering entire campaigns as and when people interact with your business, automation simplifies a business world which is growing more complex by the day.
As soon as your campaigns roll out, you can concentrate on other essential tasks and then analyze and tweak your automated output periodically to ensure you squeeze every last drop of a return from your investment.
So, rather than just getting tools and using them in part, what overall strategies should you be deploying in order to make significant improvements to the way your business runs?
1. Lead Nurturing
Lead nurturing, in a marketing automation sense, is all about the way you communicate to leads as soon as they’re generated to aid the process of warming them up and turning them into paying customers.
Sadly though, many businesses out there are still relying on an approach which involves nothing more than an outbound sales team calling a lead and maybe sending over some more information.
According to a report published by Annuitas Group, businesses making use of marketing automation lead nurturing strategies experience a 451% increase in sales qualified leads.
That’s a serious amount of extra qualification.
One of the crucial aspects of nurturing your leads successfully is to understand that every lead is unique and that marketing efforts need to be specifically tailored to each contact that comes in.
This is difficult to accomplish manually, which is why many businesses turn to marketing automation.
Your strategy should be to create a set of buyer personas which feature the specific challenges your business solves.
For us, for example, those key challenges would be generating better awareness in the market, generating more quality leads, lead nurturing and improving close rates.
Next, alongside each persona, create a set of content which discusses those challenges and genuinely helps your site’s visitors, with useful information that doesn’t sell your company, but instead discusses how the work you do can be of value to the reader.
You’ll also need to create a lead magnet, which acts as a reason for someone to part with their details. This is usually in the form of a downloadable how-to guide that’s directly linked to the persona you’re targeting.
As soon as someone interacts with the lead magnet and you have their details, you can trigger a workflow of relevant content to go to them periodically via email, educating them not just on the challenge you know they face, but also on how your business can help them to solve the problem.
This ensures your communications are relevant and personal to the lead, proving your value and know-how to the prospect in a non-salesy way.
In a funny sort of way, while you may not have a relationship with the prospect yet, they will have a relationship with you. So when you do pick up that phone, they won’t react as if to say “Who?”, but instead, “Ah yes, how’s it going?”
That’s the power of proper automation.
For more on this, read Sales Objections: The Perfect Response to "Call me in a few months”.
2. Customer Nurturing
These days, due to the high levels of competition in pretty much every industry on the planet, maximising your share of each customers’ wallet is paramount to success.
It’s far cheaper to maximise the spend customers you already work with than to acquire new ones, so using automation strategies for customer nurturing is key to sustaining any business’ success.
Similar to marketing automation strategies for lead nurturing, it’s key to understand your customers and plan based on your personas.
Instead of focusing those personas on challenges, however, you’ll want to focus your customer personas on the products and services you offer which interlink.
The classic example is that if someone has just bought bread from you, entering them into a workflow on butter in a week’s time would make a lot of sense.
The best way to build this strategy out is to start with your products and services, asking which are logical cross-sells.
Next, assess your data and segment your data by who’s purchased what.
From there, based on which products offer the biggest cross-selling opportunities, build out the relevant content and emails in order to create your automation workflows and start moving existing customers towards a new purchase.
Whether you decide to implement exclusive offers and discounts in your strategy is entirely up to you, but can be a great way to show your customers you appreciate their loyalty.
3. Internal Processes
Finally, as touched on in our introduction, value and ROI doesn’t just come from more sales, but also from reducing the rime invested each day in your internal processes.
Another effective marketing automation strategy therefore revolves around automating the most time-heavy internal processes of your business.
The kinds of tasks you can automate are vast, so your strategy should start by assessing the processes within your business to work out which take up the most time.
Those should of course be your priority for automation.
From there, go about researching which tools exist to help you automate each task. 99 times out of 100, one will exist.
You may decide to find an accounting automation tool to generate invoices at a rate of knots, a social posting automation tool to cut down time in sharing content or - as mentioned in previous sections - an email tool to automate parts of your sales and marketing process.
The key thing is to open your mind to the idea that a better way might (and probably does) exist. Far too many businesses are still doing all of the heavy lifting themselves just because the leadership doesn’t know of a better way.
As an owner/director, it’s therefore your job to go about finding out what that better way is and implementing it to aid your team’s success.
Thanks for reading. Interested in learning more about how automation can enhance your sales and marketing processes? Next, read our related post, 10 Insanely Effective B2B Marketing Automation Campaigns.