Marketing automation is the automation of the process a buyer takes to buy your services or goods. It is both relevant and indispensable in today’s economy where buyers have very little attention and too many choices. Furthermore, the attention economy has been further exacerbated by the enormous amount of advertising and mediums for marketing. To connect with the buyer in a personal, relevant and timely way each step she takes requires automation. Automation which is predictable, consistent and outperforms sales people that struggle to keep up with the sophisticated buying process.
The Sales Funnel
The best way to envision the impact of marketing automation is to think through how prospects move through the buying process. In the old economy, the methods for capturing a lead and closing a lead were much more tactical. A salesperson could cold call or immediately follow up with a response to an ad.
In today’s economy, buyers resent being sold and have multiple methods for blocking the sales engagement. The buyer walks through a completely different process.
Meanwhile, marketers and salespeople are myopic in their thirst for closing a sale that they miss the opportunities to connect and close buyers on a large scale.
Top Of The Funnel: Clicks And Attention
The top of the funnel consists of all the ways which causes a prospect to take notice. This could include any and all of the following:
- Social Media
- Direct mail
- Cold Calls
- Yellow Pages
Because sellers are so thirsty to sell, they put a lot of energy into these mediums believing them an end in themselves. The illusion is that these create sales when in fact they only start the buying process. Think about it. When have you bought from any of these mediums last? Have you bought from a cold call? Have you clicked a link to a company website and fell in love with them to buy what they had to offer? We do not buy this way.
However, these are the starting points; they are the top of the funnel. Number of Twitter followers or Google Adwords clicks creates interest. They pool potential buyers. Their mindset is not such to become your customer necessarily. They are interested. They must be effectively nurtured.
Middle Of The Funnel: Nurturing
The middle of the funnel is the nurturing of prospective buyer. The first touch with your company will rarely, if ever, close a sale. The buyer’s readiness to buy emotionally must be nurtured by personal, relevant and timely communications and touchpoints. This occurs by follow up which continues to bring value over a period of time to create trust and awareness of your brand and value proposition. This is necessary today because of the inattention a buyer has from being inundated with too many choices and many demands.
Many companies lack an effective middle of the funnel. They focus on the top and the bottom and play a mere numbers game; it is a game of pure luck. They are hoping they can create the urgency via charisma or crisis to get a buyer to say, “Yes.”
The middle of the funnel must be pre-designed and thought through. It has to account for the hard work of connecting personally in an automated fashion. It takes thinking, which is a rare quality. As Henry Ford stated, “Thinking is one of the hardest things there is. That’s why so few people do it.”
The thinking of an effective marketing automation process has elements such as:
- Landing pages
- Autoresponse communications
- Task triggers
- CRM integration and workflow triggers
- Sales notifications
- Lead scoring
- Decision tree logic
- Custom designed email communications
- Newsletter communications
- Form capture
- Link click metrics
A marketing team which can implement the buying process has to have an array of talent. Typically, this is a retraining of current in-house marketing teams or hiring experts who can drive this critical part of the sales process.
Bottom Of The Funnel: Closing The Customer
When a buyer is ready, they will take a step towards engaging the sales process. For B2B businesses, this is typically about getting a meeting or consultation. For B2C businesses, this can include ordering a product.
The attention the buyer is willing to give in exchange for increased value in the form of information is the courtship which leads to a new customer. The buyer is evaluating your brand, your company and you for taking the next step in the sales process. Trust must be built.
The bottom of the funnel involves the experience and the steps for closing a customer. It includes the following activities:
– A world-class initial meeting
– A sales proposal
– Project management
– Increased nurturing
This process also involves marketing automation to execute an effective follow-up to continue building trust and keep attention via follow-up. The client’s behaviors need to continue to be measured during this period of time and their engagement may subside or accelerate depending on their timeline and pain.
Strategy Trumps Activity
Many organizations work at the top and bottom of the funnel. They throw people into the mix. A sales prospector or an off-the-shelf social media marketer can cost between $35K-$75K per year. These roles tend to generate more noise than results because of the problem of inattention. Most buyers are not ready to buy. They are in control. They use the web to gain information and make decisions on their timeframes. Your company is one click among many at their fingertips. It is easy to buy. The seller does not have the leverage they used to – information.
A more effective strategy is mapping the buying process and automating it altogether. Instead of hiring people, create a system which works 24/7 with any prospect that comes through the top of the funnel. The entire strategy should revolve around nurturing buyers and engaging a sales process with only qualified and ready buyers. Doing so saves headcount and ultimately cost as well as drives revenue. The strategy takes upfront setup, however, like all automation, it has lasting and predictable impact. Marketing automation becomes a staying asset to the business for driving revenue in much the same way as an always-on salesperson.