Marketing Automation Strategy 101
Written by: Ryan Flannagan

Chapter 23: Marketing Automation 101


Remember in the last chapter when we mentioned how an automated lead qualification system can be the best member of your sales force? Remember how we promised to tell you more about that in another chapter?

This is that chapter. Let’s start by defining Marketing Automation: what it is, what it can be, and the sad state of what it usually looks like.

  • At its core, marketing automation is any set of software systems that qualify and nurture leads without human interference.
  • At its best, marketing automation lets you provide prospects with highly personalized content of direct interest that converts prospects into customers and customers into excited brand advocates
  • At the present, “marketing automation” is a buzzword people chase looking for a hands-free, effortless engine to make them money. Used that way, even the best marketing automation system falls short.

Done right, marketing automation turns your website into the most valuable member of your sales team. It works 24/7, never asks for holidays or weekends off, doesn’t charge overtime, and never puts you in an HR pickle.

Beyond that, strong marketing automation provides bankable benefits for your company by both reducing the cost per sale and increasing the income from each of those cheaper sales. That’s a high-octane, double-whammy, perfect storm of profit.

But Don’t Get Cocky

Those benefits come to companies that do it right, and there are a lot of ways to do it wrong. Research shows that people who buy marketing automation suites rarely use it fully. They become overwhelmed with the system’s complexity and only scratch the surface of what a robust, properly leveraged, marketing automation system can do. That means the investment of capital and time pays off slowly, if at all.

To get the most out of your marketing automation system, avoid these rookie mistakes:

  • Fire and Forget — Although it will complete tasks automatically, you will still need to test, monitor, assess and update your system. The perfect lead nurturing formula is a moving target, so you must adjust your aim from time to time.
  • Narrow Scope — A surprising number of businesses adopting marketing automation use it only for email. The best systems also incorporate social media, landing pages, time tracking and program management.
  • Getting Spammy With It — This is the most common problem in marketing automation, and why almost 80% people ignore marketing emails they’ve subscribed to. High value is key, even if it means sending emails with lower frequency.  
  • Skimping on Setup — major studies in the academic and market research sectors show that most businesses that buy marketing automation never set up its most powerful resources. Learn how to use everything you need, even if that means bringing in a consultant.
  • Overreliance — Far too many companies lean too heavily on automated marketing and take resources away from lead generation and face-to-face sales. Marketing automation is a force multiplier, but 1,000,000 times 0 is still zero.

The Right Tool for the Right Job

With marketing automation setup and working well, you can trust it to do two specific jobs better than anything else in your company: qualifying leads and nurturing leads.

Qualifying Leads

If you’re using inbound digital marketing the way we’ve been telling you, your sales team should be extremely busy. They need to focus on the most qualified and ready-to-buy prospects. A few of the specific functions to look for when choosing marketing automation for this job include:

  • Lead Score development so your sales team knows when best to reach out
  • Automated Cues that ping you when a lead looks at content indicating they’re ready to buy
  • Lead profile development via Smart Forms
  • Funnel leads toward already created high-value content
  • Identify the client’s persona and mapping content to that
  • Complete analytics of what is working and what isn’t

The total of these functions creates a set of email alerts sent to your sales team to let them know which leads are ready to contact.

Nurturing Leads

What happens with the leads who don’t yet qualify for your sales team’s attention? If you ignore them, some other sales team will be happy to give them a call. Instead, your marketing automation system will use the same metrics it uses to ping your sales team. It will set up a series of communication alerts pegged to metrics and behaviors, sending content to the lead to keep you at front-of-mind as a knowledgeable advisor.

Other Jobs

Getting back to the “over reliance” mistake we mentioned, too many businesses buy marketing automation solutions and expect it to work on parts of the sales process where it’s not the most effective tool.  Marketing automation:

  • Does not replace making that initial phone call
  • Does not replace the human touch
  • Does not challenge specific objections and preconceptions voiced by the lead
  • Does not take the key, personal actions necessary to make a good close

Marketing automation fails to provide a personal touch or to build the relationship between you and your client. It helps your sales team make their contributions with the right timing and with the right person, but it can’t make those contributions for them. In other words, it does a lot to make the pitch as slow and easy as possible…but somebody still has to take the swing if you want to knock it out of the park.

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