Marketing Automation Sales Stages And Lead Qualification

If you believe marketing automation is the silver bullet that will suddenly close all those anonymous leads faster on your site, then you miss the mark and the concept.  Unfortunately, sales organizations tend to seek closing the lead rather than nurturing prospects and building trust through education, positioning and delivering value first.

Marketing Automation Software Guide sent an article on the topic inviting dialogue.  Their comments on the ineffectiveness of marketing automation from the gaps observed in marketing automation execution is consistent with our own experiences which we have written extensively on in our AscendWorks blog.

Marketing Automation Strategy

Marketing automation software is far less important than the marketing automation strategy.  How lead flows, lead scoring, list segmentation, triggers, copy, call to action pieces, and sales process integration work together is what makes marketing automation effective or not.  It’s the art and science of engaging a buyer where they are at.

The strategy needs to work much like a well-designed sales process.  There needs to be stages and qualification criteria.  Having a one-dimensional approach where you are seeking merely to close any lead that clicks on an email is both premature and detrimental to building trust.

Not all leads are qualified.  Your marketing automation campaign should drive various decision trees to segment leads according to their qualification.

In the sales process, there may be various stages:

  • Interest
  • Consulting Meeting
  • Value Proposition
  • Proposal
  • Negotiation
  • Closed/Won

These will vary according to how your company does business.  Likewise, various stages in the buying process need to be carefully thought through.  Buyers are in completely different mindsets at different points in time.  Their readiness is influenced by factors which you are trying to unearth as you build trust.

Consider structuring your marketing automation strategy and campaigns with segmentations such as:

  • Awareness
  • Education
  • Highly Engaged
  • Ready Buyer

There may be more depending on your sales cycles, change management impacts and sophistication of your offerings.  Once these segmentations have been identified, reflect these in your Lead Scoring and lead attributes to identify the different Leads.  The last stage should trigger a sales engagement.  The mistake of contacting buyers too early can lower trust, thus setting up qualifications that serve up ready buyers in the last stage of buying will create optimal timing.

Assume the majority of your buyers will be in the unready parts of your pipeline.  This allows you to create content assets inside of your marketing automation system that will persist for a continuous pipeline of incoming buyers as you learn and refine how each buying stage is serviced with content and connection.

Buying stages reflect psychological shifts.  Reflecting these requires astuteness in your marketing automation strategy and approach.  The rewards are that you will have a system that produces predictability and increased probability for sales.

What are the buying stages you see in your process?

Published by Don Dalrymple

I partner with founders and entrepreneurs in startup businesses. I write and consult on strategy, systems, team building and growing revenue.

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