The Beginner’s Guide to Marketing Automation
What Marketing Automation Is, Why You Need It, and Getting Started
As digital marketers and brand advocates, we spend a great deal of resources engaging with people through websites, blogs, and social media in an effort to convert audiences to leads, and leads to customers. However, developing a personalized user experience – featuring meaningful content offerings, carefully considered design, and an easy to navigate website is only a part of what facilitates the potential-customer-to-loyal-customer relationship.
The other essential aspect: marketing automation.
Marketing automation solutions leverage technology that enable sales and marketing teams to:
- Know more about site visitors
- Provide content with context
- Qualify leads, and
- Ensure timely follow-up interaction.
We all know that sales cycles can vary, and people are often in different stages of the decision-making process when searching Google or browsing your site, but this is where a marketing automation can make every bit of positive difference. Marketing automation for many organizations acts as an inside sales person, scrubbing through the tire-kickers and accurately providing insights about a user who is ready for a phone call or personal email. As the name implies, it takes out the human element of guess-work, and in turn allows sales personnel to focus on closing deals and managing in-person relationships.
While investing in a marketing automation platform will require a bit of technical development (read as: time and money) the return is well worth what your organization will save in creating and maintaining valuable relationships, both off and online.
Getting Started with Six
For as sophisticated as technology is, nothing is truly plug and play or out-of-the-box ready. From a back-end perspective, there are strategic planning, current environment, system integration and optimization considerations. Following that, you’ll need to configure the technical elements of the user experience to make sense to your brand’s audience. Keep in mind the sources from which prospects will find your site, what they might be looking for, where you would want them to find it, and the action you want an individual to take. Regarding front-end or content development requirements, your brand will need to speak to the customer as he or she journeys through the sales, purchase, and loyalty cycle. The following six areas are what you’ll need to get started in understanding and effectively implementing a marketing automation system and strategy.
Make sure your site is set up to drive a strong marketing automation program and conversions. You’ll want to design your site pages to be simple, easy to navigate and contain clear calls to action (CTAs).
- A strong SEO, PPC and local listing strategy will attract users and an easy to navigate site will keep them engaged.
These are eye-catching areas of a site page where a user takes a desired action like “download” or “learn more”. Most times these are short descriptions, a visual and button driving site visitors to a landing page for valuable educational content.
- Keep these to one per page. It should be very clear what action we want the user to take.
- Create simple but effective forms with only information needed to begin to qualify your lead. I typically recommend “first name, last name, email and a unique qualifier” for your business.
- Don’t be too intrusive right off the bat, this could dissuade a user from returning.
This is material that a user wants on your site, but must pay the toll of a form submission to receive. Often this comes in the form of a guide, case study, whitepaper, webinar or eBook. However, it must have value in order to acquire those cherished leads.
One rule of thumb is don’t make everything on your site “gated” or locked behind a behind a form. Only request information for the most valuable content. I often go with the 1/3 rule or 33.33333333333333% of your content should be gated.
- Many automation systems will allow you to set values on your content. Content that is entry-level, educational material may be considered top of the sales funnel content. Someone looking for top of the sales funnel content is typically not as qualified. Content that provides great detail on your product or service and the most valuable content is often considered bottom of the funnel. People requesting this information are usually further down the buying process and typically a warmer lead. By assigning a point value or tag, you can immediately tell what type of lead you’ve received. Bottom of the funnel may be ready for a phone call, whereas top of the funnel visitors may still be in research mode.
Set up simple landing pages geared towards your offering. The landing page should offer the user a bit more information on the content they are after but encourage them to enter in contact information (such as name, email, phone) to receive the desired content. Once they have submitted their form the user would be taken to a confirmation or thank you page, letting them know they have successfully completed the process.
- One tip – make sure landing pages are oversimplified. When visitors arrive from paid search ads, we recommed simplifying navigation and limiting the number of “escape hatches” that can allow the user to leave the page without taking action.
For an automation system you’ll want to have a customer relationship management (CRM) solution in place to collect and manage new contacts. Once a person visits your website, and submits a form to acquire content, that form submission will trigger them to enter into your CRM and ideally segmented into a list. Popular systems such as HubSpot can provide both a suitable CRM and marketing automation platform for your program. When researching and choosing a CRM, however, make sure it has the ability to integrate with automation platforms – with that being said, your CRM and automation solutions don’t necessarily have to be products of the same brand.
- Make sure your business and sales processes are up to par before firing up an automation program. You don’t want to capture leads and take calls if there isn’t a qualified resource ready to close the deal.
- Email Drip Campaigns – Once that user submits a form, they are immediately entered into your CRM and in turn your automation program, it is recommended that the form you have set up immediately fire off an “Autoresponder” email (this is often a simple thank you message). This is also where you’ll begin to develop workflows, timing, frequency and a lot of the logic behind an automation system.
Don’t drive yourself crazy trying to create the perfect drip campaign. Get some content out. Personalize the messages and don’t sound like a robot. Use the data from the first campaign as a baseline and build out your more targeted drip campaigns from there. Data points include email open rates, clicks on links within the email, and website interactions.
Automation systems are a great addition to your digital marketing strategy. Most of the leg work will need to be done upfront with strategy, content generation and impactful workflows. But, once those processes are established the content and drip campaigns will warm up the leads for you, allowing you to focus on other business issues. Capable automation systems such as MailChimp, HubSpot, Pardot, and Marketo can be as simple or as complex as you’d like. These marketing automation platforms can provide cutting edge enhancements like lead scoring, lead qualifying, intelligent workflows, smart content, progressive profiling and custom reporting. However, it’s best to start simple, learn from the data and evolve your efforts over time. If you get overwhelmed we’re always here to help.