Authenticity and automation – two words that by definition contradict one another. If authenticity is the quality of being real and genuine, and automation is a systematic process that reduces human intervention, is it really possible to create authentic marketing automation? The answer is yes. Authentic email marketing, authentic lead nurturing, authentic content marketing – there are authentic marketing solutions that MSP and Cloud service providers can use to create great marketing experiences.
Mathew Sweezey Defines The New Media Era
Before we dive in, props to Mathew Sweezey for his marketing automation best practices presentation, Authenticity in a World of Limitless Automation at this year’s Unbounce CTA Conference. His presentation really got us thinking about how the world we live (and market) in differs today from just 10 years ago.
Travel back in time to 2006. Twitter didn’t exist, YouTube had just become the fastest growing site on the web a year after its inception, and television companies reluctantly started to experiment with internet streaming. That year marks the inflection point of marketing as we knew it. Sweezey defines post 2006 as “the new media era” – prior to that year, we had limited marketing channels – limited by who could create advertisements, limited by who had access to distributing media and limited in ability to access information on demand.
Today’s new media environment is comprised of over 200 marketing channels, according to Sweezey. This new environment is characterized by unlimited media – unlimited creation, unlimited distribution, and unlimited consumption. The emergence of hundreds of new media channels means that you, as a Cloud service provider, have a whole new range of marketing muscles to flex. But, it is not about hopping on new channels with the same old approach – rather today’s environment requires you to understand what these new channels offer and to think about marketing in an entirely different way.
What is Authenticity?
With many, many new marketing channels at our disposal, it is easier than ever to fall into the trap of poor automation execution – marketing automation that lacks authenticity. As an MSP and Cloud marketer, you need to think about how you can offer authentic marketing solutions to your customers, and that starts with knowing what it really means to be ‘authentic’.
Sweezey derives a specific meaning from the word ‘authenticity’. He defines authenticity as heuristic, as learned doing and experimenting. To illustrate this point, Sweezey asks “how did you learn to skim your email inbox?” You learned from your own experience which emails were spam, and which were worth keeping. No one taught you. In fact, most of us now take less than half a second to recognize an inauthentic email and send it to trash.
When it comes to authentic marketing solutions, Sweezey says “authenticity goes beyond just being genuine; authenticity is about helping people have the experience they want.” Connection with your customers occurs when you are able to provide them with the right content at the right time. In the new media environment, this means you need to leverage a new approach that utilizes new technology, and new types of content to create authentic experiences tailored to what an individual expects and wants.
Best Practices for Authentic Marketing Solutions Using Automation
How can our Cloud and MSP customers benefit from understanding the complexities of ‘authenticy’? As a Cloud and MSP marketer, we think there are four key marketing automation best practices to keep in mind when developing authentic marketing solutions for today’s environment.
1. Discovery Is Authentic
Put yourself in your customer’s shoes – if you were a buyer in the market for a new managed service provider, which would you trust more: a salesperson touting his service, or searching Google and finding out for yourself? When you find something on your own, you tend to trust it more than when it’s pushed at you. For that reason, self-discovery is authentic.
When you are developing marketing automation content, think about creating content that caters to the self-discovery process. Write content that addresses a pain or need that your service solves, rather than content that talks only about your offering. Content generation isn’t automatic, but once it’s on your site and indexed by Google, it’s there for your prospects to actively find on their own, with no need for you to do more. This way, you will leverage the power of discovery and harness greater trust with your potential customers.
To do this, start by mapping your buyer journey and identifying symptoms (questions or problems that arise that are not directly associated with your service) for each stage. For instance, your buyer might search google for ways to improve their website performance. You’d want to identify the keywords they’d use to search google and create content that addresses those keywords and educates your buyers on solutions that involve your services. Be sure not to pitch your services directly, but focus on providing helpful content that will build trust with your potential buyer.
Want to see this in action? We found a high volume of search queries for “Cloud Vendor Benchmark 2016” and created a downloadable PDF report for Cloud Spectator. This content addresses Cloud Spectator’s buyer needs in the awareness stage. In fact, this was the second annual report we created for Cloud Spectator using those specific keywords because it had such high demand in 2015.
Tip: Invest in creating content that is educational and informative and allows your customers to discover it on their own.
2. Authentic Social Media
Social media is the modern day smoke break. People peruse social media channels as a departure from their day. In a study of mobile phone use by Pew Research, 42 percent of more than 2,000 American adults said that they used their phone to entertain themselves when bored. People turn to social media as an escape, and they expect to find something enjoyable on their social channels.
With marketing automation now revolutionizing the way we can interact, engage, and leverage social media to reach business goals, make sure you don’t lose sight of your main focus – creating great experiences for your prospects and customers. Use your social accounts to engage and entertain your audience – make it fun. Even if you’re marketing Cloud services, which might not seem overtly exciting, find a way to share something that will delight and use available tools to keep your social media scheduled but still fresh.
Here is an example of how we spiced up a Twitter campaign for Web2Market – rolling out 70 tips and tricks to speed up Magento and sharing one a day on Twitter.
Tip: Create authentic social content by giving people something to enjoy, and help them escape from their day.
3. Authentic Content Marketing
People will only interact with content that is relevant to them – content that fits their stage in the customer’s journey and addresses their needs and wants. The more you target your content to buyers at varying stages, the greater the engagement and the better your conversion results. To create context-relevant marketing content, you need to use dynamic content (or adaptive content) that appeals to the individual.
Here are a few dynamic content triggers:
- Behavioral data (such as a customer’s industry or job title)
- Lead stage (by using lead scoring to rank prospect activities)
- Purchase history (provide recommendations based on previous purchases)
- Search terms (catering content to a prospect’s exact search query)
- Cookies (such as a prospect’s time on site or number of visits to a page)
Collecting this information and using insights about your individual customers can improve their experience because you’ve tailored the content to their wants and needs. By tracking customer data, you can automatically set content to fulfill those needs, for example, adapting content to your visitors’ locations based on their IP address, changing an eBook download call-to-action based on their stage in the buyer’s journey, or allowing returning visitors to skip filling out a form to access your gated content.
What does this look like? If you’re an MSP targeting web development agencies, you would want to track your visitor behavior, such as their previous content downloads and make sure the CTA banners on your site are dynamically tailored to the next stage in their buyer journey. For instance, say you have a visitor that came to your website and downloaded a piece of content titled The Evolution of Small Agencies into Mid-Size Agencies. That content piece fits the first stage in the buyer’s journey – the awareness stage. You’d want to have your next content download CTA display that particular visitor a piece of content for the next stage of their buyer journey, such as an eBook titled What ‘Support’ Truly Means & Why it’s Critical for Agencies to Work with a Hosting Partner that Truly Cares. This second piece of content is a fit for the consideration stage and provides a natural flow for your visitor to move themselves through the funnel.
Tip: Promote authentic content marketing by offering one piece of content for the next stage in the buyer journey.
4. Authentic Email Nurturing
The main goal of your email nurturing campaign should be to move your prospect to the next stage of the buying process. However, a mistake we often make is believing we can force people through the sales funnel. As Sweezey made clear in his CTA Conference presentation, people will move when they’re ready – you can’t shove them through. However, you can give them options to take that next step. Offer a primary call-to-action relevant to your prospect’s stage in your email, and include an optional secondary call-to-action relevant to the next stage in the buyer’s journey. This gives them the choice to move slowly or quickly through the funnel.
When automating your email nurture workflows, remember to be human. Write like a human being talking to another human. Even though the email will be sent from one to many, focus on creating a simple, personal message that replicates a one-to-one email.
- Don’t use code – nobody writes an email to another person in HTML. Write your emails like you would in an actual one-to-one email.
- Keep it brief. Very few people will read more than the first few sentences of your email, so don’t bother writing more than that. Instead, keep your email short and sweet with a focus on your primary goal – a call to action to the next stage.
- Don’t have enough content of your own to share in a nurturing campaign? Don’t be afraid to share relevant and interesting content that’s not yours. Connecting people with informative content, whether you authored it or not, is helpful and therefore authentic.
We used two text links, ensuring there were no leaks (all CTAs went to the same destination), the email is brief, easy to skim and appropriate for the recipient’s stage in the buyer’s journey.
Tip: When creating authentic emails, be human! Do not use HTML – humans don’t code emails. Keep it short and specific to your prospect’s stage in the buyer journey.
Let’s Get Real
Marketing automation and the new era of media have opened up a world of marketing potential – but only if you understand how to remain authentic in your automation efforts. Keep it real! Remember that authentic marketing solutions require you to keep what your audience expects and wants in the forefront of your efforts.
Want help with authentic marketing solutions for your business? At Total Product Marketing, we specialize in creating and delivering meaningful inbound marketing strategies for Cloud, Hosting, and Technology Companies. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help your marketing efforts.