Getting help with lead generation, segmentation, lead nurturing, lead scoring, customer lifecycle marketing, cross/up-selling, customer retention and marketing ROI measurement. That all sounds great, right? If it’s done right, it might be. Marketing automation can help with all of those tasks, but first, you need to ask is marketing automation right for my business? While it’s one of the hottest areas in marketing right now, the truth is not every business is a good candidate for marketing automation.
How Marketing Automation Can Work
In an ideal world, marketing automation software and tactics allow companies to buy and sell like Amazon. Companies nurture prospects with highly personalized and useful content that helps convert prospects to customers and turn customers into delighted customers. Doesn’t every business want delighted customers? This type of marketing automation generates significant new revenue for companies and provides an excellent return on the investment required.
The good news is that while it’s not the easiest marketing initiative to execute, it also isn’t impossible. The key is to grow your marketing automation like you would grow a plant. Your hypothetical marketing automation plant needs fertile soil, the right seeds, and finally enough water and light to nurture those seeds into a blooming plant. So while it’s not foolproof, it is also not impossible.
The Sometimes Ugly Reality
Marketers, hearing all the good things that marketing automation can do, seek out automation software. The problem is a misconception that everything a marker needs for growth, including tools to generate new leads, all fall under this “marketing automation” term.
This misconception turns into marketers owning sophisticated tools to automate the middle of their funnel, but nothing to help them generate new leads to nurture in the first place. Then marketers turn to buying lists of email addresses to nurture instead of generating high-quality inbound leads. While those email addresses feel like a quick fix, they are not a long-term solution. And they aren’t going to turn into the blooming plant you thought you were growing.
Understanding Your Sales Funnel
Marketing automation particularly focuses on middle-of-the-funnel actions. It tracks and nurtures prospects along through the sales cycle. Your particular sales funnel will determine if marketing automation is a good fit for your business. For marketing automation to be successful your business needs to have a top-of-the-funnel foundation already in place. That steady flow of organic leads coming through the funnel is what will support middle-of-the-funnel marketing automation.
It’s also important to understand your companies path to purchase. What information does a certain type of prospect need to move closer to purchase? How does a prospect want to receive that information? When do they need to receive it to make a decision?
If you offer a product or service that is a quick sell or impulse buy, there may not be much time in the sales cycle for lead nurturing. That means that marketing automation may not be an appropriate tool for your business, or at least not for the initial purchase.
If your business focuses on the long-term relationship you are building with your customer, then even for a short buying cycle type product, marketing automation can be used to nurture that relationship. It brings customers back to interact with your brand with the hope that they will purchase again.
Bad Marketing Automation
When marketing automation is limited to one channel, typically email, it’s easy to become discouraged and say that email doesn’t work. When in reality treating email as the only avenue of communication with your contacts is the real disservice to both your business and the experience of your leads.
Bad marketing automation is like being on the phone with a sales rep who reads straight from a pre-written script, who doesn’t answer your questions, and who tries to sell you a product without taking your specific needs into account. Would you buy from that sales rep? Probably not. Yet businesses frequently send out standard email communication to their entire databases.
Traditional marketing automation often refers to triggering emails based on time delays or actions like email opens and email clicks. This type of automation fails to supply the marketer with any context about who the leads are, where they are in the sales funnel, or what they are inserted in.
Good Marketing Automation
Inbound marketing automation is centered around the prospect. This type of marketing automation uses all the information known about a prospect to understand what their wants and needs are, and delivers them the information they need to make a purchase, when and where they are looking for it.
Good marketing automation also takes into account the evolving needs of your leads and tracks their behaviors and interactions they have with you across all of your marketing channels. Having a fuller picture of a prospect’s challenges informs a marketer on how to guide them down the funnel. That means that good marketing automation not only collects data from multiple channels but uses those various channels to send their marketing messages as well.
Review your sales funnel to answer the question ‘is marketing automation is right for my business’. Remember that marketing automation is not lead generation and that it won’t do the marketing for you. Marketing automation solution is a long-term investment, but, if done well, marketing automation can save your business time, increase revenue, and better target those in your audience most likely to buy your product or service.