What is marketing automation?
Given our role at Business France, we often meet with French companies coming to the U.S. to set up operations. While most of them are well organized and have amazing products, they often have no clue what marketing automation is. In short: Marketing automation is here to help you best address your potential customers with the right message at the right time in order to (1) help you save time, while (2) increasing your conversion rates for sales, upsales, cross-sales,.. (NB: please note that marketing automation is particularly effective for SaaS tools).
Setting up a marketing automation system implies you already have the basis for a marketing strategy by delivering strong and valuable content (a website allowing your clients to download white papers and follow webinars, a presence on social medias or at least a weekly newsletter) and a CRM.
The latter, such as Salesforce or sugarCRM, give you a well built and easy to use database of prospects and clients which is great, yet the problem every company has is dealing with it appropriately as it is usually extremely heterogeneous. Prospects can be at very different stages of interest (see figure below) and in different verticals (see article on verticalization) therefore your efforts have to be distributed accordingly to the stage they are in.
To help you better visualize this, imagine that on the workflow above, marketing automation basically automates all Calls To Action (CTAs) and all transitions from one stage to the other. Your job is then to tailor this workflow the best you can (metrics are usually given through beautiful dashboards) rather than focus on tedious tasks. Keep in mind the final objective here is to move your prospects forward in the pipeline while keeping the highest conversion rates possible.
The name of the game is simple, get your prospects to become paying clients. Your marketing strategy (if well executed with search engine optimization and adds) should now be giving you a continuous flow of visitors on your website (also called inbound leads) that can now be considered as prospects thanks to cookies (yes they are anonymous but we’ll get to that later). Monitoring the journey of anonymous prospects on your website with marketing automation tools will allow you to have a good idea of their level of interest in your solution. For instance, if they spend 5 minutes looking at the “feature page” and then move to the “pricing page” you can consider that there is a high probability of having that person purchasing your product. Yet if someone goes straight to your “careers page”, then the probability of that person purchasing your product is very slim. Marketing automation will keep track of all these actions and rate your leads to move them along your pipeline. That is done through a mechanism called “lead scoring”.
Although marketing automation tools automate the scoring of your leads, they will not build the scoring process for you. You know your customers better than anyone else therefore you have to be the one setting it up. Don’t worry, we’re going to help you in the process.
Defining lead scoring is extremely simple once you’ve set solid foundations. The whole system is built on defining your buyer’s persona and the possible stages of their lifecycle (in the example below, there are 3 but you can have as many as you’d like) and define the score it will take for them to be allowed in the next stage of the lifecycle.
If we take the example of persona 1, the scoring card on the left gives you an idea of how he can improve his score while he is in the awareness stage (criterias can also include: Engagement/lack of activity, lead source,…)
Once he reaches the target score you’ve defined (let’s say 30) and has entered his email address then he can be moved forward in the pipeline to the “consideration” stage.
At this point, many new criterias can influence your prospect’s score:
With time, you will have to update your scoring depending on new competitors, tools etc… Analytics should normally provide you with plenty of inputs to do so.
Let’s recap, if you have a website, a marketing strategy (with content to share) and a CRM then you can set up a marketing automation system. To set up that system you must define at least one workflow per buyer persona and a different strategy for each stage of the lifecycle they’re in. You then establish a scoring card to take prospects from one stage to the next one with clear CTAs every time they move up the lifecycle.
There many more concepts we haven’t tackled (A/B testing landing pages,lead nurturing, sales process,…) but hopefully this article has already given a good oversight of what marketing automation tools can do for you and how to generate inbound leads with close to no effort.