In September, the Total Product Marketing team participated in the INBOUND 2015 conference hosted by HubSpot, where leading marketing professionals converged in Boston for a week of education and sharing, for inbound marketing, sales and services.
Our main focus is on marketing for our clients – it’s right there in our name – so marketing automation plays a major role in our strategy. But sometimes we need to take a step back and realize that not everyone lives and breathes marketing like we do. As with any product or service, education is critical in helping business owners get the most out of their investment. And that, of course, rings true for marketing automation.
By helping our clients better understand marketing automation best practices, we can put our clients in control of their content and message, and truly embrace inbound marketing as an organization. With that in mind, we’re taking a deep breath and going back to the beginning. Here’s the quick and dirty of what, exactly, marketing automation is and what it can do for your business.
How Marketing Automation Can Help Your Team
Marketing automation takes useful content that can highlight benefits of services or products and answer customer questions, and delivers it to potential clients using software platforms to automate distribution. Sounds simple, right? You may be wondering why you even need a plan for marketing automation at all. Oversimplification and a lack of understanding can lead many businesses to apply marketing automation incorrectly, but we’ll get to that later. Let’s start with what it is, rather than what it isn’t.
HubSpot compares using marketing automation to trying to grow a plant. Leads are seedlings and marketing automation can help nurture those seedlings into healthy, full-grown plants; or, paying customers. Correctly applied, marketing automation can assist you in providing your leads with helpful content and relevant information – the water and fertilizer in the garden analogy – that will help them develop from leads to customers. Understanding marketing automation best practices can assist you in creating an automated workflow that will nurture your leads with valuable content and cultivate them into actual paying customers.
The great value in marketing automation is its scalability – your workload remains constant whether you’re serving information to one potential customer or one hundred.
Important Steps in Setting Up Your Automated Marketing System
To begin, you must have a healthy supply of valuable content to offer your leads. Ebooks, white papers, blog posts and infographics can all supply potential clients with useful information and will position you as a trustworthy source. Marketing automation cannot replace quality content, it is simply a tool to more efficiently deliver your content to leads at the right time in their buyer journey.
Once you’ve established you have adequate marketing assets, audit your content and establish groupings:
Organize by Topic
Sort content into groupings based on subject matter, so you can automate distribution to potential clients who may have an interest in that topic.
Organize by Account Types or Buyer Persona
Identify the key buyer personas in your target audience or use specific account types like providers, enterprises or consultants, and gather content that is relevant to individuals in those groups.
Organize by Phases of Your Buyer’s Journey
Buyers in the awareness phase, for example, have recently identified their pain or problem and are searching for solutions. Buyers in the consideration or decision phases are gathering information about providers and choosing where they’ll purchase the solution they need. You can group content to address buyers in specific stages of their journey.
Organize by Behaviours
Sort content into categories based on how relevant it will be to potential clients who have all opened a specific email, viewed a certain blog post or taken some other action to express an interest in what you’re offering.
By establishing groupings of content that will suit each target market, you can ensure you provide the nurturing your seedlings need – you won’t pour water over a seedling in need of fertilizer, for example. Using marketing automation best practices, you can construct a pipeline of content that will be tailored to your leads and address their individual pains or problems.
Once you’ve prepared your content, you must establish what experiences to automate, or what events will trigger your content delivery. Consider what actions might qualify someone as a good lead. This stage is vital to ensure your marketing automation system only delivers relevant content to your potential customers. Workflows could be initiated when someone signs up for a free trial, or renews a service or subscription. You can customize marketing automation to provide valuable content to new customers, or former clients who need re-engagement.
Using marketing automation best practices, you can begin delivering content to potential clients and gathering data to gain a better understanding of what your leads require to become paying customers. Which leads us to the next section…
What Marketing Automation is NOT
Unfortunately, many marketers today labour under the false impression that marketing automation provides everything needed to grow their customer base. Businesses who ignore marketing automation best practices are, in effect, attempting to grow plants without considering what the seedlings need to grow and develop.
Understanding what marketing automation is not is vital to ensuring that your marketing strategy is an effective one. Below are some common examples of practices that are often believed to be marketing automation, despite the fact that they provide nothing of value to the buyer along in their journey.
Mass Mailing Generic Content
The effectiveness in marketing automation lies in the quality of the content and its relevance to potential customers. Carefully choosing content that will be useful to your audience will establish you as a trusted, helpful source; while mass mailing just any old content is a sure way to end up labeled as spam and moved to the junk folder.
An Easy Way to Get Leads Without Work
Marketing automation is not a magic button you can press to generate the leads your business requires. Leads that move into your content delivery pipeline should be parties that have, in some way, demonstrated an interest in your product or service; whether by visiting a specific page on your site, filling out a form or renewing a service.
A Trick to Avoid Junk Mail Filters
Good automated marketing content shouldn’t end up being caught by junk mail filters – because it shouldn’t be junk. Marketing automation best practices dictate that your content should always be high quality and of value to your potential client at their particular stage in the buyer journey.
Dumping an Email List Into Your Software
The software platforms used to automate distribution of your content are not a stand-alone solution into which you can just dump content and email addresses and hope for the best. To set up your automated pipeline, you must put just as much effort into identifying your buyers, and their needs, as if you were focused on one specific client. Only once you’ve done this can you begin to automate your marketing process.
An Excuse to Talk About Yourself
Many teams mistake marketing automation for email advertising campaigns. The key is not to directly promote yourself, your business, your product or your next big event, but to offer your buyers content that is valuable to them in their journey. This positions you as a reliable source of expertise or information, and makes potential clients more likely to turn to you when they reach the decision stage of their journey.
Follow These Marketing Automation Best Practices to Start Your Automated Marketing
Armed with these reminders and strategies, you’re ready to begin construction on your automated marketing pipeline. While it’s not a quick fix and there is some effort required on your part to organize your content and identify your target audiences, if you follow these marketing automation best practices, you’ll soon see your leads begin to grow and develop into loyal paying customers.
If you’d like more information about marketing automation, our team at Total Product Marketing is here to help.
To help you get started, download these free worksheets on Content Inventory and Marketing Automation Planning.