When companies incorporate marketing automation into their approach, they often focus on the middle of the marketing hourglass. They use the automation tool to stay in touch with existing customers or to reach out to prospects who are very near to making their first purchase.
However, marketing automation can be used throughout the entirety of the customer journey to great effect. When you’re smart about automating marketing processes, it frees you up to do more of the prospecting and lead nurturing work that only a real human can do, while taking some of the more tedious and time consuming parts of the marketing process off your plate.
Here, we’ll take a look at the various features that make up marketing automation, and how best to use them throughout the customer journey.
Before we dive in, let’s provide a quick definition of marketing automation. It’s the process of using a software platform to automate some of your repetitive marketing tasks. It can be used across channels, and includes social media, email, and certain website actions.
The software allows you to group users by certain attributes or behaviors and to target them with messaging that is most relevant to them. For example, you might group people in the same geographic location together, or group people who have made multiple purchases from your business.
At the very top of your marketing hourglass, people are encountering your brand for the very first time. Maybe they’re someone who’s in desperate need of the good or service your provide; maybe it’s someone with a passing interest in your field. How do you sort things out this early on in the game?
One of the first things that marketing automation tools can do is help you with lead capturing efforts. Using the same form across your website allows you to gather the same contact information for everyone who fills out the form. From there, you can begin the process of analyzing their attributes and behaviors to figure out whether or not they’re serious prospects.
Behavior scoring (otherwise known as lead scoring) asks you to take data on your existing clients to build a composite profile for your ideal prospect. Where do they live? What profession are they in? What kind of actions do you expect them to take before they convert?
When you know what your ideal prospect looks like, you can then use your marketing automation tool to compare each lead against this dream prospect. If they’re ticking most of the boxes, this is a lead you know is worth your time. They’re likely to convert, if you play things right, so it’s smart to spend some marketing dollars courting them.
Leads that fall completely outside of this ideal picture are likely not worth your time. They’re just not the kind of person that realistically needs or wants what your business offers, so no amount of time or money will result in them changing their mind.
Once you’ve identified those leads that are worth approaching, you can begin to use your marketing automation tool to create an effective email campaign.
Marketing automation tools allow you to segment your audience so that you can send specific messaging to different groups of people based on their attributes and interests. It’s also possible to use the tool to personalize the email, setting it to auto-populate with name, company, and job title based on the information you have in your database.
For prospects, you can establish a set of prospecting emails that slowly and methodically introduce them to your company and the problems you can help them solve. Only 23.9 percent of all sales emails are even opened, so it will take several attempts to get a prospect’s attention.
You should start by creating a handful of emails that contain different offers so that prospects can come to know and like your business—an invitation to access a white paper on your area of expertise, an opportunity to join a monthly webinar that you hold, or an offer to book an introductory call with a member of your sales team.
You can then set these messages to send on a regular schedule, with a built-in trigger to turn off the next email in the set if the current email leads to a conversion.
Your marketing automation tool can also help you to tailor the content on your website to the profiles of your visitors. The tool can show specific content that you know will be valuable to a given prospect, and you can create dynamic content that is replaced based on actions a prospect has taken or interest that they’ve expressed in a particular topic. This level of personalization makes a prospect feel seen and heard, which goes a long way to building likability and trust.
Once you’ve proven to prospects that you understand their specific needs and have the perfect solution for their problems, you begin to move them into the try and buy portion of the hourglass.
Using marketing automation to target them with messaging that is triggered by a specific action can be an effective tactic here. At this point you already know a bit about the prospect, so you can get even more specific about giving them information you know they’ll be interested in.
For example, let’s say a prospect has signed up for your company newsletter, you can use this action to then trigger messaging to drive them to the try phase in the hourglass. Maybe this means a pop-up on your website that invites them to a free trial of your service. Or perhaps it’s an email invitation to an upcoming event on the topic you cover in your newsletter, with a friends and family code so they can attend for free.
Once someone’s made their first purchase, you can set your system to automatically follow up with them. Send them a welcome email that gives them additional information on how to get the most out of their purchase. Then automatically send them an email again in a few weeks’ time to make sure they’re still happy and to offer support with any issues they may have encountered.
You’ve already used your marketing automation platform to get your prospects to convert, but you can continue to use the tool to influence the remainder of their customer journey.
Once a customer has made a specific purchase, you can offer them related products or target them with communications that are focused on their areas of interest. In a recent Marketo survey, 78 percent of respondents said they would only pay attention to promotions that were related to their previous interactions with the brand. That means that most consumers would rather have no deal offered to them at all than have a generic offer sent their way.
Marketing automation can also help you to establish and maintain a strong referral base. With the ability to set up regular communication with your existing customers, marketing automation tools help you to stay top of mind so that customers are likely to have your name on the tip of their tongue when their friend asks for a referral in your field. Additionally, if you choose to establish a referral program, you can use email segmentation to stay in touch with members of that program, offer meaningful rewards, and target new leads coming to you via referral with specialized messaging.
In addition to the benefits that marketing automation provide you throughout the customer journey, the tools offer bigger-picture benefits as well. You should be using the data you collect on the effectiveness of your marketing efforts throughout the customer journey to refine each of the steps you take along the way.
Marketing automation tools compile a lot of information on the effectiveness of your marketing approach across channels, which allows you to identify holes, find logjams, and then invest the time in fixing those issues. When you have a better understanding of your complete marketing approach along the entire customer journey, you’re empowered to create one that is even more optimized for future customers.