Need to do more with less? It’s a common challenge for marketers today. We’ve got limited budgets, limited time, limited staff – and yet our quarterly targets keep rising.
For many of us, this means it’s time to apply some elbow grease. It’s time to hunker down, call home that we’ll miss dinner, and work through until the job is done.
But you don’t necessarily have to work harder. In fact, I bet most of you are already pretty much at your limits. So when it’s no longer possible to just tack on more hours, it’s time to re-evaluate how you work.
It’s time to become more efficient. You want to be like Johnathan Cordeau, the Director of Marketing for Response Mail Express (RME). He increased RME’s monthly lead flow by 49% and cut the cost-per-lead by 68%. No extra staff required.
How’d he do it? Marketing automation.
While RME did commit to re-inventing its systems, it’s possible to get results from smaller initiatives. Many companies start with a marketing automation pilot program.
- It lets you start small.
- It keeps your plans flexible. Writing a massive 40-page marketing automation plan is great, but sometimes it’s better to jump in and fail fast.
- It lets you know what works and what doesn’t work for your company before you’ve sunk a chunk of budget into it.
- You’ll be building on success.
The next question is where to activate this pilot program. Which processes would most benefit from automation?
To answer that, you’ll need to step back. You’ll need to visualize your marketing systems as a whole. We like this model for that view:
Having a simple model like this can be helpful as you dive into the weeds of setting up your marketing automation programs (pilot programs, too). It’s important to be able to step back and judge what you’re working on according to how it fits into the larger whole. This keeps your efforts synchronized. It’s good for avoiding dead-end rabbit trails, too.
In some ways, the hardest part of marketing automation is to keep things simple. That simplicity takes work. It requires rigorous thinking and a crystal-clear understanding of your goals and how you define them.
As you know, that’s tough to do. So we’re going to tie each suggested way to get started with marketing automation to one of those marketing phases.
For starters, use social media post scheduling to free up your time. Also, be sure to re-share old content (particularly your best-performing content) so you can get more exposure for that material. It’ll get you more leads and traffic, too.
Already doing that? Great. How about this, Smartypants: Have you hooked up your pay-per-click campaigns and your SEO analytics so that you can tell which keywords generate the most business for you?
I’m not talking about just the first initial download. I mean hooking up those initial searches so they can follow each prospect all the way through their journey until they’re a paying client. Or even a recurring client.
Knowing which keywords actually deliver business should make you reassess which ones are a priority for you. That reassessment could affect all your other marketing initiatives.
Why sink money into a search phrase like, say, “Atlanta attorneys,” when it’s actually a keyword string like “best Atlanta estate planning lawyer” that’s paying the bills?
Have all forms automatically transfer information to your CRM software.
This might seem beginner-ish to some of you… but if you’ve been around the block with marketing automation or CRM, you know that marketing programs live and die by the quality of their data.
Data quality issues are also the #1 reason marketers resist full-scale investments in marketing automation. That’s according to Dun & Bradstreet and Ascend2’s survey, “Optimize Your Marketing Automation”.
The majority of marketers say marketing automation is “very important” to the overall performance of their marketing. And yet, 54% of these professionals still aren’t using it extensively.
The disconnect, D&B says, is due to data quality:
If marketing automation is so important, why are some marketers only using it to a limited extent, as opposed to optimizing it to its fullest potential? The answer lies in the quality of the data that marketers are using to fuel their marketing automation systems.
The truth is, many marketers feel lost at sea when it comes to implementing a marketing data management strategy that will improve their marketing automation system performance.
So even if you’ve got your CRM hooked up to your marketing automation program, ask yourself:
- How much do you trust your data?
- How much could inaccurate data be costing you?
Improving data quality is the first step we recommend for a pilot lead-management program in our ebook, the “Marketing Automation Quick Start Guide”.
But what if you don’t even have a CRM system yet? Then that might be the best place to start. As our online assessment tool, Are You Ready for Marketing Automation? explains:
Among organizations that use both marketing automation and a CRM as part of an integrated technology stack, 74% reported aligned sales and marketing teams and 77% met or beat their revenue goals.
Here’s where marketing automation shines. It’s also the use it’s best known for: nurturing leads. After all, at this point you’ve got all your new leads tagged and tracked. You’ve got data flowing into all the right places.
Now it’s time to use it. Gather up all your content (in all its formats) and figure out what’s the best series of messages for each type of client you’ve got. Map the possible decisions they’ll make along the way, and pair that with how you know most prospects behave.
Then map it all out. Perhaps like this:
Engagement is great, but conversion is what drives your business.
What we’re really talking about in this phase isn’t just conversion – it’s improving your conversion rate. Even an underperforming system will have some conversions (even if they’re only one out of a thousand leads).
What we want is more conversions.
The best way to do that is to test. There are thousands of things to test, though, and many ways to test them. How to choose? This is why smart marketers check their analytics all the time. They know where the weak parts of the sales funnel are. They’ll focus on optimizing – and testing ‒ those first.
In addition to those weak spots, you’ll want to get dialed in on the key metrics of your program. As the old saying goes, “what is measured, improves.”
So measure accurately. Measure often. And measure strategically – because too many metrics just creates data overload. You want to be like Goldilocks, choosing the “just right” amount of information.
Here’s our take on which metrics matter most (the graphic is from our Marketing Automation Quick Start Guide):
In our model of Attract/Capture/Nurture/Convert/Expand, the Expand phase refers to marketing to your existing customers – aka practicing “customer marketing.”
Many marketers overlook this phase of automation. There are two reasons why:
- They get completely focused on acquiring the customer.
- They assume customer service and sales will handle the relationship from there.
That approach may have worked in the past, but marketing departments are increasingly responsible for communicating – and expanding the relationship – with customers even after the first sale.
You’ve heard of this “marketing after the sale” stuff before. It’s called Retention Marketing. And it’s one of the most effective strategies around. (Don’t believe me? See #12 on this list.)
So how can you automate this expansion phase? Well, we mentioned an automated lead-nurturing program. How about an automated onboarding program – also known as a Welcome series?
This could be a sophisticated multi-media education course, or it could just be a series of simple emails. And as with all good marketing automation, it’ll be segmented (according to which products the customer has bought) and personalized.
Think something like a weekly report that summarizes what users have done with your product over the last week. Try squeezing in suggestions for how the customer could get even more out of your service. Something like the email shown above, from Grammarly.
It’s time for all of us to up our marketing game. And we can’t just cram in more hours to make it work – we need to completely rethink how we market to our customers.
Fortunately, we have some great tools at our disposal. Computers gave us the Internet and all its wild opportunities. They can also give us the tools to take that wonderful mess of metrics, content, and customer behavior – and turn it from a cacophony to a symphony.
Easier said than done, sure. But it’s doable. And the rewards are well documented.
Back to you
How much has your company embraced marketing automation? Are you holding back because of data concerns? Lack of software? Leave a comment and tell us where you’re at with all of this.