Turning qualified leads into customers can be a pain point for marketing and sales teams in any industry. Manually reaching out to new contacts is incredibly time-consuming and can yield a low return on investment (ROI). Besides, some 60% of modern consumers prefer self-guided product and service research, and 96% of first-time visitors to your website aren't ready to buy.
Nurturing your leads until they're prepared to engage with sales is among the most effective ways to keep in touch and remain top-of-mind.
Nurtured leads make 47% larger purchases than non-nurtured leads. However, manually managing prospect education simply isn't a plausible for most organizations.
If you're struggling to convert your inbound leads into revenue, marketing automation may be a next logical step for your organization. In this blog, you'll learn how to nurture leads while you sleep, and create an inbound marketing machine with some serious momentum.
What is Marketing Automation?
Using technology to automate marketing tasks to "increase operational efficiency" is the technical definition of marketing automation, according to Marketo. Marketing automation tools are most often deployed for lead management purposes, including generation and nurturing.
Neil Patel takes a slightly narrower approach when it comes to defining common applications of lead nurturing. According to his blog Quicksprout, marketing automation typically focuses on the "definition, scheduling, segmentation and tracking of marketing campaigns." At many companies, implementing automation in inbound programs involves:
- Analytics Tools to Measure Behavior and Results
- Email Workflows for Lead Nurturing
- Automation of Other Contact-Related Tasks
Some of the most common tools for creating marketing automation include HubSpot, Marketo, Pardot, Eloqua, Salesforce, and InfusionSoft. Each of these tools carries its own set of pros and cons, but using an all-in-one solution for marketing automation can provide transparency across campaigns. It's theoretically possible to create automation exclusively using low-cost or free marketing tools, but it's a lot more effort.
Step #1: Pick the Right Tools
Ultimately, the "bare bones" inbound marketing tools kit for creating automation involves:
- Web analytics
- Email marketing
- A centralized lead database
- The ability to segment your contacts
Your organization will also need to come to an agreement on standard definitions. You'll need to agree upon your criteria for a marketing-qualified lead, and sales-ready leads. Before implementing marketing automation technologies, you should create at least one buyer persona profile or a profile of your ideal customers.
Finally, your marketing and sales teams will need to come to an agreement on lead scoring criteria, which will be heavily based on your buyer persona profiles. Traditional lead scoring criteria rely on BANT, defined as budget, authority, need, and time. With the advent of web analytics, many companies are adding lead behavior to their scoring criteria.
2. Map Your Buyer's Journey
Use data from your real customer's buyers journey to develop an understanding of how your customers navigate the following stages:
- Awareness of need
- Consideration of solutions
- Decision on one vendor
Each company's buyer's journey involves these three stages though the length of each stage can vary significantly depending on your products and customers. Develop an understanding of the timelines, pain points, and consideration factors that come into play when your prospects are performing research. This will give you an understanding of your prospect's content needs at each stage of the buyer's journey, which may resemble the following:
- Awareness stage prospects require additional insight into their pain points, in the form of blog posts, eBooks, and research-driven editorial content.
- Consideration prospects need illumination into the solutions available, which can include deep-dive whitepapers, educational webinars, and case studies.
- Decision prospects have narrowed their choices down to just a few vendors and need specific data like product comparison guides or tip sheets.
If your company has a diverse array of products and services, there's a good chance you have multiple buyer personas. Each of these personas may have a distinct buyer's journey with its own timeline and needs.
3. Set Up Conversion Pathways
Once your company's website has achieved some inbound marketing momentum, you'll need to convert your visitors into leads. Prospects who find your website through your blogging, social media, and SEO efforts are likely in the awareness stage of the buyer's journey. Creating optimized conversion pathways on your website can allow you to capture their contact information to fuel your marketing automation machine.
Lead conversion pathways are centered around high-value content offers, like eBooks, free trials, or whitepapers. With your new-found understanding of your buyer's journey, develop highly-targeted marketing campaigns that address your personas' real questions and concerns during the awareness stage. Using call-to-action buttons (CTAs), landing pages, and website forms, guide your prospects to trade their contact information for your content offers.
4. Create Email Workflows
Email lead nurturing workflows are a powerful means of keeping communication open with your prospects as they pass through the buyer's journey. Depending on your personas' needs, your lead nurturing may require twice-weekly messages for three weeks or bi-weekly communications for six months. HubSpot's Ginny Soskey admits there are few "cut and dry answers" when it comes to universal truths for workflow creation. Experimentation, measurement, and improvement are essential.
Educate your new leads by offering links to high-value articles, buyer's guides, on-demand webinars, and other tools to help them through consideration and decision. These content offers should build naturally on the lead that lead to conversion in the first place. By using your marketing automation tools, you can schedule these emails to send at designated intervals after leads convert.
Each time your engaged leads visit your website to convert on additional content offers, you can gather more information through landing page forms to better qualify them. Just nailing the basics of marketing automation with email marketing workflows may mean you're beating your competition. However, the use of sophisticated automation techniques like behavioral triggers can further improve your results.
5. Create Behavioral Triggers
Once you've gotten the basics of your marketing automation platform, buyer's journey, and email workflows down, you can add additional, advanced elements to your inbound marketing strategy. By allowing your prospect's behaviors to "trigger" automated marketing messages, you can ensure you're delivering the right communications at just the right time. Examples of behaviorally-triggered automation can include:
- Increasing a lead's score based on high engagement
- Moving highly engaged leads to "accelerated" workflows with more frequent communications
- Shifting disengaged leads to more occasional communications, such as "keep in touch" campaigns
- Personalized content offers on your website
6. Continually Improve
Ultimately, measurement is one of the most critical aspects of any successful marketing program. Whether you're exploring growth-driven web design or marketing automation, you'll achieve best results if you continually assess your results and implement improvements.
After initiating marketing automation, you'll gain insight into the success of your initial lead management efforts. This will provide you with the intelligence to better understand your buyer's journey and persona profiles. Researchers have found that highly-personalized marketing messages can yield 600% higher ROI. Applying the knowledge you gain to improve your segmentation and messaging can have a massive impact on your revenue.
Regardless of your industry or products, there's a very good chance that your inbound marketing team is short on time. Automating your lead management practices can allow you to nurture your leads into customers while eliminating much of the heavy-lifting associated with manual communications. By achieving efficiency in lead management, your organization can shift your efforts towards better understanding your ideal customers.