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13 June 2017
Marketing automation is a potent B2B weapon, but it’s not not the sort of weapon that works like a nuclear deterrent. In other words, possessing automation software is no use. You need to make it your lethal weapon, one that you deploy using a variety of attack vectors. That’s how you convert more leads. To gain that all-important advantage over your competitors, there are a number of ways that marketing automation can be set up.
The phrase ‘automation’ can be misleading, for the whole point of marketing automation is that it’s personal. It might be a computer despatching emails on your behalf, but it’s you who’s writing them, making each one highly specific to the needs of the individual it’s directed to. The more personal you can make each email, the better the response rate. This doesn’t mean unnerving contacts by revealing everything you know about their browsing habits: rather it means identifying specific needs they have and crafting content that will help address that need. Yes, you’re looking to steer your audience towards purchasing your services, but first you’re looking to help them. Make yourself useful and you’ll increase the open rate of the emails you’ve automated as well as generating the sort of trust that’s integral to clinching a sale.
Before you write so much as a subject line for your automation campaign, you need to research the different customer types you’ll be attracting. Let’s say you’re a sports nutrition brand with three different landing pages on your site. One’s a guide to getting lean in time for summer, the other is an article on building muscle and the third is an ebook called 10 Bodyweight Exercises You Can Do at Home. Instantly, you’ve got three distinct groups here, but it’s not as clear-cut as assigning each one a separate automation sequence.
It’s true that the getting lean group should be interested in weight-loss and dietary tips, with the view of selling your fat-burner somewhere along the way. It’s also true that the muscle building group may be interested in protein, but since many bodybuilders go through bulking and cutting phases, the fat-burner might also be of interest to them. What about the third group, who’ve downloaded the bodyweight exercises ebook? Their buying intent is low and they will require careful nurturing if they’re to be converted into customers. Moreover, their interest in bodyweight exercises will be finite: you’ll need to find something else to discuss over the course of the next 10 emails or they’re rapidly going to lose interest.
Research starts with identifying buying personas, but once you’ve pinpointed your customer types it doesn’t end there. After setting up automation sequences, you’ll start to gain an insight into which subject lines, topics and products are generating the most interest. This is where you can get really smart with automation and create separate automation campaigns targeted at contacts who’ve expressed particular interest in a certain subject. Our sports nutrition brand was an example of automation in a B2C context, but let’s consider a B2B example. Say you’re a payment provider and you find that one of your emails, pertaining to blockchain-based technologies, is attracting an unusually high open rate. This suggests that your audience would be reciprocal to learning more on this topic. A follow-up email targeted exclusively at this subgroup could encourage them to check out a white paper, online guide or webinar you’ve created on this topic, whilst alerting them to the blockchain services that you provide.
Every time one of your contacts performs a specific action, like clicking on an email link or visiting certain pages on your website, configure your automation so that a corresponding tag is applied. This will create numerous groups, each containing a subset of users who are at a different stage in the sales funnel. Segmenting your contacts using tags might seem like a laborious process, but once it’s been set up the system will take care of itself, populating a series of lists which will start to fill up with contacts who are ripe for targeting with highly personalised marketing messages. That’s the beauty of automation. According to one study by The B2B Lead, 50% of sales time is wasted on fruitlessly nurturing prospects. Highly targeted automation will allow you to put that wasted 50% to good use, directing your energies at contacts who have unwittingly shown that they have an interest in certain products via their browsing habits.
So you’ve put in the work, nurtured the lead and eventually made the sale. What now? Now you want to nurture that customer, looking to build their trust and develop a relationship that will make them open to upselling. When it’s used as a blunt instrument, with zero marketing intelligence, attempts at upselling are as likely to deter the customer as they are to entice them. But with marketing automation, you can lay the groundwork via an email sequence that helps the customer get the most out of the product they’ve already purchased, before alerting them to a complementary product when the time is right.
Although we’ve focused on email automation, this isn’t the only means of delivering marketing messages to your segmented lists. If you have a mobile app, for example, users who conduct a certain action or who use the app in a particular way could be segmented and then sent push notifications that will help them get more out of your app – as well as nudging them closer to the bottom of that sales funnel. This is why, if you’re to use marketing automation to your advantage, you need to combine your data streams. Every app, social network, landing page and email you create has the potential to capture a rich source of data about your contacts. On its own this data is valuable, but when combined that power is multiplied exponentially.
It’s extremely rare for a sale to be nurtured and completed via a single channel. A lead might first learn of your services on LinkedIn before receiving follow up information by email which directs them to a landing page on your website which in turn coaxes them into making a purchase. Marketing automation can pool all of these disparate data streams. As a consequence, you’ll gain a fuller picture of where each lead is at in the sales funnel and will be able to use the power of analytics to target leads that have the highest chance of converting.
Marketing automation doesn’t need to be complicated, but to be effective, it does need to be dynamic. In other words, don’t settle for creating an automated sequence and then leaving it to its own devices. In acquiring and setting up your weapon, you’ve already done much of the hard work. Now it’s time to refine it, because every time you retrain your automation its aim becomes more accurate and your sales messages become deadlier. Implement, optimise and go for the kill.