Taking Marketing to the Next Level with Automation Platforms

August 24, 2016 |

Marketing automation – not to be confused with email marketing – has changed the way companies communicate with clients, candidates, prospects and staff. And, with a properly implemented marketing automation tool in the hands of a well-trained marketer, an audience member can feel like a valued contact at any point in the lead lifecycle. These intricate systems can be used to qualify leads, increase sales and productivity and reduce marketing overhead.

A well-designed and well-managed marketing automation tool like Marketo or Eloqua can successfully nurture and funnel qualified, warm leads to the right people at the right time, and potentially speed up the sales process while creating a holistic view of an organization’s lead lifecycle. Without marketing automation, figuring out the right way to structure a company’s lead nurturing process can be confusing and time-consuming. But, with a properly implemented marketing automation tool, getting to know the sales process and figuring out the way leads develop and mature is a much easier process. Connecting the right leads – those who are ready to buy – with the right sales people can make a huge impact on a company’s bottom line.

Getting Beyond “Batch and Blast”
In the past, many companies used email marketing services such as ConstantContact or MailChimp to engage with current and potential customers. Some still use these services as they provide a cost-effective, simple solution for their organization. But for companies with big goals and the requisite budget, marketing automation platforms can take marketing to the next level.

Leads can be managed from the moment they enter the sales funnel until well beyond their conversion into customers. The real value is the ability to align content to the exact location of a prospect in the buying cycle. For example, early in the cycle leads are in the awareness phase. They are researching and seeking information about how to solve a particular problem or fill a need. This is where educational resources should be mapped to them in order to have the most impact. These resources include whitepapers, research reports, how-to articles and videos, best practices, tip sheets and educational webinars.

As the prospects move farther down the funnel they begin to evaluate potential solutions. This is the appropriate time to tell them more about how your product or service works and how it differs from the competition. Pertinent content at this stage includes product webinars, case studies, relevant testimonials and reviews, demonstrations and FAQs.

At the bottom of the funnel, they’re close to making a purchase and they need information about how to do business with you. Information to present here may include price lists, discounts, free trials, and estimates. Offering to consult or meet with a prospect in person are also valuable at this stage. In many instances, a prospect may need content to help them make a business case for buying your product or service.

Mapping Marketing Content to the Buying Cycle

Every email click, web page view and whitepaper download can be monitored and tracked, allowing a marketer to score prospects and determine sales readiness, passing them to sales at just the right moment. In addition to monitoring leads as they move through the funnel, these powerful systems contain advanced features including the ability to conduct progressive profiling – where additional lead details can be gathered over time – the development of personas for ideal customers, and welcome programs, to name a few.

As robust as these systems and platforms are, the truth is most organizations will only ever tap into a fraction of that power, leading some to question their decision about investing in marketing automation at all. Everyone must remember the tool is only as powerful and valuable as the marketer running it.

It’s all About the PEOPLE Running the System
Marketers must take the time to learn the system inside and out in order to be able to use it strategically. By doing so, they will be able to finesse the system to better meet their company’s business goals and objectives. Online and in-person training is available for these systems and can be very helpful for those who are new to marketing automation. Some systems also offer certifications for advanced super users. Be sure to take full advantage of any included training or consulting hours, these are especially helpful as you set up your instance of the platform. Online forums and communities are great for idea sharing and getting help with common issues.

The person or team in charge of the system must also be able to explain how it works and set realistic expectations so management doesn’t expect too much, too soon. It will take time to set the system up for success, and that will involve creating naming conventions, implementing a tracking code on your website, devising a filing structure to organize your campaigns and programs in a way that makes reporting easy and insightful later on, and potentially integrating the platform with your existing CRM – a large undertaking in its own right.

When hiring for a new Digital Marketing Manager, Digital Campaign Manager, or Marketing Automation Specialist, the most important thing to look for is someone who can be a steward of the platform. Experience with an organization’s specific tool is less important – the nuances of a particular platform can be learned – but a company will benefit most from someone who understands the organization and appreciates its marketing automation goals. Also, the ability to distill actionable insight from an overabundance of data is crucial to a marketing program’s success.

Even here at McKinley, we have been able to learn a lot since implementing a marketing automation tool a few years ago. We are now able to better reach clients, prospective clients, candidates, and contractors, and we have experienced tremendous growth. By implementing a strategic plan and putting the right people in place with the right tools, our marketing and sales goals are achievable.

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