Whether your organization has already implemented or is on the verge of implementing Marketing Automation (MA) you have high hopes that your MA will be successful. According to HubSpot, many Marketing Automation investments fail primarily because there is no inbound lead strategy at the top of the funnel. Your definition of success likely centres around the ability of your Marketing Automation tool to help nurture and generate more leads and increase sales. So, how can you set your Marketing Automation up for success?

What is the purpose of Marketing Automation?

Marketing Automation (MA) software is designed to add a layer of automation to your lead generation, lead nurturing and site behaviour analysis activities. It is designed to save your marketing and sales team time, minimize the chances of leads falling through the cracks, automate lead nurturing processes and increase your lead conversion rate. Instead of having to 1) manually sort through reams of data and/or monitor emails, 2) analyze and qualify leads, and 3) notify the appropriate sales and/or marketing people to perform lead nurturing or conversion tasks, MA software can automate all of these steps. So for example, if you set up a workflow such that when a lead fills out form A and downloads guide B, an automated email containing document C will be sent to the visitor 2 business days later and an automated email notification/prompt will be sent to the sales team to call the lead 1 business day after that.

Marketing Automation cannot stand alone

In terms of the sales funnel, Marketing Automation sits in the middle. Your inbound lead strategy sits at the top and feeds into the MA piece. Without the right inbound lead strategy i.e. if you aren’t driving enough leads into the funnel, no matter how well you’ve set up your MA workflows your results will be far from satisfactory. Inbound lead strategies are comprised of both online and offline tactics. It’s essential that all leads, including offline leads are fed into your CRM and Marketing Automation tools, so they can be tracked, nurtured and converted into sales.

Online Tactics/Channels

  • Website
  • Social media
  • Email marketing
  • Digital advertising
  • Review sites
  • Business directories

Offline Tactics/Channels

  • Trade shows
  • Direct mail
  • Print ads
  • Billboards
  • Radio

Content strategy is key

Whether your inbound lead strategy involves a few or a multitude of sales and marketing tactics/channels, your content marketing strategy (value proposition, buyer personas, buyer map, keyword strategy) should determine which channels your leads are on and the content they are looking for within each of these channels. Do you know where your leads are sourcing information and what kind of information they are looking for at each stage of the buying process? If for example your sales and marketing teams have determined that your best leads use Linked In to source company background information and then go to a review site like G2 Crowd to learn about product functionality, usability and benefits the content strategy should identify Linked In and G2 Crowd as key channels, and specify the key information and content format that your leads are looking for within each channel.

Test your inbound lead strategy

One of the great things Marketing Automation can do for your sales organization is enable you to test and perfect your inbound lead strategy. You’ll be able to pinpoint where your qualified leads are coming from, how well your content is performing within each channel, how leads behave when they are on your website – the pages they viewed before they performed a call-to-action – and help you determine the ROI for each tactic. This in turn will enable you to fine-tune your content and focus your efforts on the channels that are driving the best leads.

You can’t just set it and forget it

Just like all of your sales and marketing assets, you have to analyze how well your Marketing Automation is performing on a regular basis and continue to evolve the workflows and content being utilized. Make A/B testing a part of your MA performance analysis regimen, in order to determine which content resonates most with your leads and results in higher conversion rates. Then determine why certain pieces of content are performing significantly better than others. Is it the subject matter, tone, layout, text formatting (long paragraphs vs. bullet points), format (blog post vs case study or whitepaper) type of image, use of video or a combination of two or more of these variations?

In most cases, it’s the subject matter of the content that needs to be modified. It isn’t resonating with leads because the content does not match up with the phase they’re at in the buying process. It’s causing friction or confusion for the lead. For instance, if you drive leads who are at the beginning of the buying process – and are still trying to figure out whether you have a solution that can solve their problems – to a landing page that provides the detailed specs for each of your products, most leads will likely 1) scan the information very quickly, 2) say to themselves, “What? I don’t understand what this means. Can any of your products solve my problem or not?” and 3) abandon your site. This amount and type of information is too much, too soon.

Just like one of our favourite analogies about first dates. If you went on a first date, you wouldn’t start the conversation with, “So, I have five venues and four dates in mind for our wedding. The first venue is located in Santa Barbara, California. It’s a beautiful five-start beach-side resort that can accommodate 250 guests for a sit-down dinner. They have six chefs on staff. One chef specializes in Moroccan cuisine. Another specializes in French pastries. Oh and what do you think of eggplant purple for the wedding party’s outfits?” so why start off your first conversation with your leads this way?

Have patience. If you ensure that your sales and marketing teams test, analyze and refine your content, inbound lead strategy and Marketing Automation workflows on a regular basis, your Marketing Automation will be a great success, and it will improve lead conversion rates and help your organization meet its sales objectives.