The marketing function has experienced a significant transformation, as potential buyers have taken charge of how they access and absorb information. While traditional marketing tactics still play a role, marketers have had to adopt a much more customer centric approach that’s more in tune with buyers’ needs and behaviors. The concept of inbound marketing is really very simple—rather than forcing information on buyers who may or may not be interested, inbound marketing is about understanding how your audience interacts with your company, so that you can align your communication tactics with the individual buyer’s journey. And, with the advent of web analytic tools and data, and, now, marketing automation, companies are able to find more ways of nurturing leads with more personalized and relevant communications.
Understanding Inbound Marketing
Before we get to how marketing automation fits in with all of this, let’s take a minute to talk about inbound marketing; what it is and how it works. In a nutshell, inbound marketing refers to the method of attracting users to your website, and nurturing potential leads with compelling and relevant content. A good inbound marketing strategy will take into account the unique information needs of each visitor according to where they are in the sales cycle. To better understand inbound marketing, think of it as a process that buyers go through, from initial awareness, to understanding the problem; identifying the solutions; considering vendors; and deciding and purchasing. To move visitors through these stages, marketers will map content to the right prospect they progress through the sales lifecycle.
How Marketing Automation Works:
There is a misconception among marketers that marketing automation’s sole purpose is to facilitate the personalization and deployment of emails. While this is a big part of it, marketing automation offers so much more, especially when it’s integrated with an inbound marketing strategy. Here is an example of what a typical automated inbound workflow will look like:
- Target your ideal client: I cannot say enough about the importance of understanding who your audience is comprised of. You can gain a lot of insight by analyzing your existing customers and building profiles based on their specific pain points, needs, demographics, and past purchasing behaviors. This information will help provide the basis for our processes of website attraction, lead generation, conversion and retention.
- Drive Traffic to your website: The objective here is to attract new visitors to your website through various marketing channels, which may include social media, brochures, direct mail, or email. Once they arrive at your site, you want to keep them engaged with compelling content that aligns with where they are in the buyer’s journey.
- Email Capture: This is where good content is especially important. The idea is to encourage users to provide their email address and contact information in exchange for reading/viewing/downloading content that is available on your website. Examples of content include: webinars, e-books, product demonstrations, whitepapers, brochures, or video. The better the content, the more receptive the prospect will be to learning more about your company or product.
- Lead Qualification: Based on the information collected, marketing automation can group leads into respective buckets based on factors such as: how much information was provided; which form was filled out; which web pages were visited; the frequency of visits; and past purchases (if any). These leads are then scored based on viability and how close the individual is to making a purchase. If more personal information was provided, lead scoring can be applied to various characteristics, such as; age; number of employees (for B2B prospects); title; company revenue; industry; area of interest, etc. In addition to analyzing the information collected via forms, marketing automation leverages the Cookies from a web visitor’s browser to provide further insight into how the prospect is engaging with content, and how far along they are in the sales lifecycle.
- Lead nurturing: This refers to the process of automatically generating personalized emails or web content according to how the lead scored during the lead qualification stage. Not only does this enable a more customized and personalized communication approach, it also saves marketers time from having to manually set up landing pages or other contact points, as well as generating and deploying emails.
- Conversion: Conversion is when a lead turns into a client of your business by buying a product or contracting a service. When integrated with a Customer Relationship Management system, like Salesforce.com, marketing automation software can automatically notify a specific sales lead when a prospect is ready to make a purchase. In the case of on an online business (E-commerce), we can trigger specific workflows or a series of emails with offers or reminders when a lead reaches a certain score. Information regarding a prospect’s online behavior and history is used to inform the content of the communication.
- Retention: Marketing Automation’s usefulness doesn’t stop once a lead is converted. Rather, it’s provides us with an arsenal of information regarding the engagement and preferences of each one of our clients. This allows us to deploy personalized automated retention emails, (or other processes such as follow up calls) specific to each one of our clients or client segments.
Wrapping it Up
Whether you have a B2B or B2C business, the benefits of marketing automation cannot be overlooked. When used correctly, it helps marketers more effectively engage prospects with information that is directly relevant to them. This translates into building more credibility with your audience, while accelerating the sales process. Marketing automation is also great for providing powerful analytics regarding potential buyers, as well actionable insight into how your campaigns are performing and what gaps may exist. Whatever it’s used for, one thing if for certain—marketing automation has transformed the way that businesses engage with potential customers. And, used in conjunction with a solid inbound marketing strategy, it not only saves time my automating repetitive tasks, but it offers the opportunity to significantly improve your conversion rate with better relationship-building and lead nurturing techniques.