Marketing Automation Strategy Is The Linchpin

Trying to make marketing automation work in  your sales process starts with the IT work. However, it is only the start of what really matters. Configuring a system and ensuring data flows in and out out of your CRM is a basic element of starting the work to help you see what is happening with your leads.

If this is where your interest lies, then you can simply connect a real-time analytics program. Marketing automation may be overkill.

The real work starts with strategy. The strategy for connecting with a buyer and wooing them gently through a sequence of

steps that provide high value and build trust is what makes marketing automation valuable. The strategy is the linchpin for success. Here are some of the strategic parts of a successful marketing automation system to perfect:

  • Landing page content. Your content has to serve people with inattention. They land on a specific page seeking information. They are not going to buy now. They are browsing. Ensure your content provokes thought and educates them. Invite them to go deeper. Your tone has to connect with your audience.
  • Call to action content. Again, there needs to be a compelling call to action that invites a next step. At the core, your strategy should be to provide a high level of value for helping your buyer understand how your market works, the questions to be asking and stories of past problems and successes. Package this in white papers, ebooks, webinars and multimedia.
  • Lead nurturing. The sequencing and timing of email communications, direct mail and sales calls needs to be coordinatedand triggered in a logical and personal sequence. Your touch points should seek to build a relationship and provide a high level of value and stay away from selling.
  • Sales engagement. The timing and the conversation your sales team will be in needs to be coordinated with your content. Avoid awkward connections and ensure your personal sales engagements continue to bring value. There should be a direct call to action such as a sales meeting. Sales should be a continuum to the marketing automation process.

The strategy is critical for success. How you set up various campaigns based on buyer profiles needs to be thoroughly designed and implemented.

Your metrics will provide the feedback for continually iterating on the content and programming of your system to deliver relevant leads.

Where are you finding challenges in marketing automation?

Validation In The Buying Process

validatedThe internet changes the game between the buyer and the seller. Second opinions are easy to access for a buyer. Assuming your lead generation systems and marketing automation are set up well, a new lead will be nurtured, scored and engaged when they are ready. There are analytics and systems which work effectively. However, trust is not built solely on marketing automation.

When a buyer is wanting something, they search and look specifically for their desired product or service. The choices may be numerous. Your competitors are just a click away. If they click off of your website, then you can easily be forgotten in their continual navigation.

Imagine what you do when you do start to hone in on some choices after searching. You gravitate to places of value. You are seeking validation. Here is how validation works within an inbound marketing process:

  • Content Which Educates. Sellers think about what they sell all the time. They forget that buyers think about many diverse things and have limited attention. They are new to a domain you are fluent and obsessive about. They don’t even know the right questions to ask. If you have content which educates then their searching and navigation continually draws them into your rich resources to help them understand value and orient themselves to your industry.
  • What Others Say. When the buyer decides that you are worth engaging because of what they see and feel from your inbound marketing systems, then they find validation in what others say. Testimonials, social media and other forums and sites which lend opinion about you are important. They build a picture of your credibility. It’s all out there. Be sure your goodwill and success stories are captured and searchable.
  • Congruence. We have all experienced businesses which have remarkable marketing but they disappoint when the first touch point with the customer happens. Unresponsiveness, uncaring, rudeness or complexity create incongruence with the message. Validation requires that what the buyer experiences aligns with what they expect from what they read and research.

There are anonymous visitors that are checking you out right now and trying to decide if you provide value and are a good choice. If you can think through each step of your process with these points in mind, then trust grows and you win new business. Fix the broken links and work it continually. The battle for our customers’ minds and business is relentless.

How can your own process work better?

Lead Scoring For Sales Prioritization

When the Major Home Oil Dealer Ran Out of Fuel a Special Board Was Activated for Emergency Deliveries. More Than 250 Homes Were without Oil. Cards on the Wall List Priorities 10/1973

In our marketing consulting, we are typically faced with one of two problems:

  1. There are not enough inbound leads
  2. There are too many inbound leads

Each of these requires a different marketing system.  For organizations which are inundated with many leads, there is a problem focused around the sales process.  Salespeople are not like marketing automation systems.  They have these constraints:

  • They can only work sequentially one call/email at a time.
  • They can only connect with a finite amount of people a day.
  • They are limited in how they can organize their call lists.
  • Their talent is finely tuned for closing the sale.

A marketing automation system can do the opposite:

  • It can deliver custom communications simultaneously to thousands of people.
  • It is limitless in the number of people that can be contacted.
  • It can be programmed to filter lists.
  • Its talent is tuned for nurturing the lead to a sale.

The differences are much like a factory worker and a factory robot; speed and predictability are greatly increased with the latter. However, in sales, human touch is highly relevant and important. Thus, working with automation does not mean exclusiveness.  It is complementary. One of the areas that can greatly augment a salesperson’s tasks is lead scoring. Lead scoring is the underlying automation rules which applies quantitative scores for the behaviors of a buyer online.

If your salesperson is limited in their time and finite in their personal engagements, why not prioritize their list for them using lead scoring.  Here are some areas where marketing automation can surface the highest priority leads for your sales force:

  • Strategic Landing Pages.  A landing page which is visited and reviewed can appoint a high lead score to signify interest and targeted prospecting for who to talk with.
  • Decision Maker roles.  If a lead form with a role or title field is filled out for an executive position, you are likely dealing with a decision maker.  This should be a prioritized score to raise the priority of this lead.
  • Content Downloads.  If you have people that read your content and consume value offering pieces, they are engaged.  Create different layers of content and for those visitors that seek higher levels of content in your buying process, score them high.  They are sales ready.

There are several other ways to use lead scoring to help your sales team in addition to these ideas.  As they are working through their call lists, the lists can prioritize based on such key criteria that surface the hottest leads.

In your world, how could lead scoring help your sales process be more effective?

Inbound Marketing Consulting Project With Pets For Patriots

We finished off an inbound marketing system project with Pets For Patriots and they announced it on the wire today.

Their system has an array of automation tools that help to nurture and transact with site visitors.

They have a neat cause for our nation’s patriots and endangered pets.  Be sure to take a visit to their site when you get a chance.

New York, NY [11/14/2011] – Pets for Patriots, Inc., a not-for-profit dedicated to connecting last-chance shelter pets with service and veteran members of the United States military, is celebrating its two year anniversary with a major relaunch.

“Two years ago we received our not-for-profit status,” says Beth Zimmerman, founder and executive director of Pets for Patriots. “Since that time we transformed more than 100 lives, those of pet and person, through our honorable pet adoption program. We can’t wait to bring positive change to not just hundreds, but thousands more.”

Since its launch, Pets for Patriots has started its program in 30 states and aims to be in every state by 2013.

To help achieve this goal, Pets for Patriots is working with AscendWorks, which assisted the charity in Salesforce customization, marketing automation and website redesign. AscendWorks donated most of its time to Pets for Patriots and continues to work with the charity to create the infrastructure, processes and tools to support its continued growth.

“AscendWorks automates business processes and implements marketing systems for many different types of organizations,” says Don Dalrymple, AscendWorks President. “Pets for Patriots serves our country’s heroes and helps them with their emotional and practical needs. They save pets and soldiers. We are glad to help make a difference and help facilitate a beautiful process of helping our nation’s heroes. It is inspiring and we are glad to be a part of helping the cause.”

Zimmerman notes that AscendWorks has helped the charity in countless ways. “The passion and dedication they bring to our cause is without peer,” she says. “We’re incredibly grateful for all they’re doing to ensure our charity’s success. They have become our ‘go-to’ partner when we need to figure out how to get something done, and we’re touched that they’ve taken our mission to heart in such a big way.”

The Pets for Patriots website offers many new features, including:
Step-by-step learning and qualifying tours for patriots, shelters and veterinarians
Google map locator to easily find Pets for Patriots adoption and veterinary partners across the country
One-time, recurring, honorary and memorial giving options for donors
New canteen where supporters can purchase limited-edition branded wearables

Pets for Patriots is open to individuals from all United States armed forces at any stage of their careers, including retirees and veterans. To inspire them to bring an adult or other at-risk pet into their lives, the charity provides access to ongoing, discounted veterinary care and financial contributions towards the cost of pet food and other essentials.

“Surrender prevention is an important part of our mission,” says Zimmerman. “Short-term financial hardship leads many people to relinquish their pets. Our goal is to keep the families we help create together.”

The timing of the relaunch wasn’t lost on Pets for Patriots’ founder. “That our anniversary and site relaunch coincide with Veterans’ Day makes this all the more special,” says Zimmerman. “It doesn’t get better than that.”

# # #

About Pets for Patriots
Pets for Patriots, Inc., is a registered 501(c)(3) charity that helps military members honorably adopt adult and at-risk shelter pets. Its mission is to consistently give the gifts of fidelity, joy and companionship to both pet and person. Pets for Patriots is one of the only organizations in the country dedicated to both last-chance pets and military members. The charity is a proud member of the Army AW2 Wounded Warrior Program national community support network, a national partner of the Real Warriors Campaign and is listed by the National Resource Directory for ill and wounded veterans. Visit http://www.petsforpatriots.org for more information.

About AscendWorks
AscendWorks, LLC is a leading marketing automation strategy company located in Austin, Texas. The company creates and implements custom marketing automation systems and processes that generate and nurture leads for customers around the world. Visit www.ascendworks.com for more information.

4 Lead Assignment Tips

If you have an abundance of leads from your inbound marketing system, then qualification becomes a challenge.  Your Loopfuse system should be set up for positioning your sales team to qualify and convert leads based on various criteria which are part of your Lead records.

Part of the challenge is to ensure that the flow of your Leads drives responsiveness from your sales team.  Your Lead Flows and Lead Scoring will be working in tandem to prepare a prospect for the sales engagement.

Within Loopfuse, your data  is synced and exported on a schedule.  Setting your assignment rules up in Salesforce.com with queues, rules and filtering ensures the right assignment of sales prospects to the right people or team.  Here are some things to ensure your strategy for Lead Assignment from your marketing automation system provide a strong process for revenue generation:

  1. Multiple call to action items. Ensure these are layered with increasing value.  Your first piece should get an email.  Nurturing should entice a sign-up for further information.  In exchange, you can get more profile information in your sign-up forms.  A buyer profile based on the information you want will grow based on an exchange in value.  Get it over time a bit at a time.
  2. Buyer profile fields. Ensure your forms help get the information you want and sync this with your Salesforce.com Lead fields.  The Lead fields become segmentation criteria.  Identify 3-5 criteria which help to funnel your prospects based on the sales dialogue they should be in.  Enterprise customers will have a different conversation than small business.  Executives will be different than end users.  Use your form fields to assign prospects to the right person.
  3. Lead scoring for readiness. Based on buyer activities on your landing pages and with your content over time, create the right thresholds for assigning a prospect.  This is an indicator of your prospect’s readiness.  Certain people on your team may be apt for a ready buyer while others can be more informational and casual in their conversation for unready buyers.
  4. Monitor Distribution. Create reports to see how your automation is producing a distribution with your team and how the follow-up activities are working.  This will allow for load balancing and optimizing how your sales team is managing with their first contact activities.

Marketing automation is powerful for nurturing and readying Leads at the right time.  Use your Loopfuse system to bring in the personal touch with the right person by integrating the right strategies for how your sales team engages.

How are you setting up your sales team with Loopfuse?  Feel free to comment.

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Running An Inbound Marketing System

A recent article from Marketing Automation Software Guide hit on the main reason why many of our clients hire us for marketing:  running a complete system is difficult and requires perseverance.  Pieces have to be put together, tested, changed, refined and created again.  Getting into the mind of a specific buyer with their preferences and peculiarities needs to translate into a well-laid strategy.

Inbound marketing typically involves getting a visitor to find you and then helping that visitor convert into a lead by providing value.  Once they opt-in, then you can nurture them and ready them for the sales proces via marketing automation.

Here are the activities typically involved with running an inbound marketing system:

  • Strategy.  There has to be a vision for how the logic will work for visitor behaviors on the site.  This results in a decision tree that needs to be architected with the right content at the right time.
  • Scoring.  This is part of the strategy.  How leads are scored will arise from a definition of what a ready lead is to a sales person.  Their readiness should be quantified and the lead scoring should follow suit for the desirable behaviors to warrant sales interaction or more targeted marketing engagement.
  • SEO.  Tuning your content to get found online via search or social media is a relentless activity.  Your systems should have feedback to help refine your content so that it all matters and counts for driving traffic.  Both authority and relevance from a search engine standpoint are key metrics to monitor.
  • Analysis.  Watching visitor and lead behaviors needs to be continually monitored for trends.  As the data comes in such as what content is valuable and where people are clicking to on your landing sites, your analysis should provide action on refining the links, logic and layout of your inbound marketing system.
  • Segmentation.  New offers, richer content and specific events need to be developed based on timing, seasonality and the critical mass of your inbound leads.  Develop specific segmentations with personalized offers and lead processes.
  • Sales engagement.  Working with your sales team to understand if the lead scoring and nurturing is calibrated needs to be a continuous process.  Furthermore, gathering information from your CRM system to drive content and lead flow logic back into your marketing system needs to be part of the ongoing strategy.

Traditional marketing where there is an event and a response is a different mindset altogether.  Today’s marketing game for inbound leads and marketing automation is ongoing and changing.  Attention to the details and how the system supports the buyer experience rewards organizations with easier customer acquisitions and lower internal costs.

How are you doing marketing today to continually make it better?

Salesforce Mass Email Leads Strategy

Mass email of Salesforce.com Leads can be effective for a salesperson or marketing team to connect with Leads in your pipeline.  Depending on how your marketing funnel works and lead generation, there are strategic opportunities to take advantage of the Salesforce.com mass email leads function.

More details of how to use the mass email leads function can be found here.  Assuming you know the mechanics, here is how to drive productivity in your sales process:

  • Create a value content offering.  Your email template should be personalized with the proper merge fields.  Segment your leads based on their Lead Status and for those that are not converted and are seeking more information, send a special pdf document attached to your email template.  This will stir the pot in your lead funnel.
  • Monitor a report of mass email opens.  From your segmented mass email effort, look for those leads that are opening the email multiple times.  Prioritize the list.  These are people telling you they are interested and are engaging the content.
  • Mass email a higher value offering.  Within a day or two, identify the list of interested leads and follow up with another segmented mass email.  Invite them to something that is a natural next step such as a special webinar, download or consultation.  Ensure the value is high and worthwhile for them to raise their hand.  Ensure the email feels personal, not mass.
  • Use digital body language as call lists.  With your mass email lists, you can extend on your process.  Those leads that are interacting with your value may warrant a phone call.  Use your list as a call list for an added touchpoint in the sales cycle.

The key is to personalize your message just as you would send a personal email to someone and ensure that the value you are offering is helping, not selling.  Helping means that you are in tune with where the lead is at in the sales process and engaging accordingly.

Setting up this process using Salesforce.com Mass Email Leads function can act as a repeatable process that can be fine tuned as your salespeople gather more information from the front lines.  Save time and engage the highest priority leads. Find out how to implement this also with Salesforce consulting for your business.

How can this help your sales process?

Marketing Automation Is Not For The Faint Of Heart

Marketing has many new rules, and marketing automation is one of several major movements which has gained fanfare mixed with frustration.  The popularity has come from the possibilities of capitalizing on leads generated from inbound marketing efforts.  The frustration is from a lack of implementation and execution.

At the end of the day, marketing automation is a system.  The system is, in turn, a project with specific requirements for a specific buyer.  Thus, there is a lot of work, thinking and strategy behind a marketing automation initiative.  A badly managed process can result in the frustration side of the equation.  A sound strategy and execution can provide systematic management of inbound leads.

Everyone Has A Lead Generation Problem

Businesses want more leads.  These come from how compelling your interaction and substance of your offering is.  A lead is someone that raises their hand.  We all want more.  It’s difficult to get attention when everyone is clicking around on Google and thumbing through their mobile devices.

Content which makes a true meaningful connection and is targeted for a person trying to solve a problem not only gets attention, but engages your buyer.  After this, it is about building trust and fanning the flame of their interest.  It is not for the faint of heart.  It is about commitment and continual refinement in the following ways:

  • Analysis of buyer behaviors.  You have a lot of data which tracks every movement of a website visitor.  The data needs to make sense and be analyzed for where the opportunities and drop-off points are.  It is an ongoing process.
  • Building content assets.  Your content lives.  It needs to continue to grow and build an online asset for getting found and nurturing the next wave of leads.  Past content needs to be integrated together to drive further exploration by leads.
  • Integrating Sales Feedback.  Lead scoring serves your sales process and sales people.  Their feedback on how the algorithms are working needs to drive further refinement of your scoring schema.

There is not a magic ball to peer into and figure out the perfect marketing automation mix.  You arrive at perfection by continually working hard at the system and processing  new lead experiences.  It is a game of improvement made possible by transparency into what buyers are doing.

Are there areas of lead generation and lead nurturing you find hard to upkeep?  What are they?

4 Sales Process Enhancements

Today’s sales process is different.  Buyers are not relying on salespeople to become educated and move through a traditional pipeline process.  The self-service nature of buying based on the internet affords buyers information to help them understand what they want and how to conveniently get it.  They search, click, read, share and download.  These are all digital behaviors.  They happen independently of a salesperson, yet they are vital indicators of buying readiness.

If your sales team was equipped with real-time information of the movements of your leads, then your sales process could transition from reaction to relevant engagement.  Here are some areas to consider for driving a modern day sales process:

  1. Lead scoring.  You can assign numerical values to desirable behaviors such as site visits, white paper downloads and online video watching.  As certain scoring thresholds are met, you can nurture leads with special offers or trigger a sales call from an account manager.  This kind of offense can be engineered with continual feedback as your sales team identifies ready leads from unready ones.
  2. Social media contests.  Using social media around periodic or regular contests can drive lead engagement.  Your sales team can be engaged for driving online dialogue with fans of your brand or product.  Driving the conversation is an important continuous activity.  Creating next steps such as a webinar for educating your most interested customers on a social media site should be clearly set up and tested.
  3. Call to action follow-up.  Use a call to action like trial offers or content in the form of an ebook or white paper to engage new leads.  The content needs to be valuable for helping your prospects with their business problems.  Use surveys and lead nurturing to follow up.  Watch the level of engagement and allow your sales people to access a call list based on your lead behaviors.
  4. Complete CRM activity.  Your sales people need to see every digital movement of your leads recorded in their respective lead records.  This helps orient the conversation as well as give perspective on whether a lead is ready.  Ensure your online systems feed your CRM system and that the information builds a complete picture of a lead’s interest.

Relying on information from phone calls or customer visits is only a small portion of what selling is about today.  Sales teams need the complete picture which helps them prioritize and engage their leads.

Which enhancements have you applied in your sales process or would like to implement?

Marketing Automation Cold Callers

Marketing automation is focused on a premise of nurturing leads to build trust for a ready sales engagement.  That’s the idea at least.  It’s the doctrine, but like many good doctrines, there are pundits and posers.  There are those that love to rally around the marketing of an idea more than practice it.

Beware Of Marketing Automation Talking Heads

Our team has had some interesting interactions lately with companies and people who are seeking to make a dollar from software and advice in the marketing automation space.  We were approached by Marketo for example who continually called our 800 number because they are tracking some errant site clicks which their system purports is one of us.  It’s an inside sales job and the persistence is typical of a sales-minded person.  The dialogue is not around value.  It is around selling us software, though we are not candidates.  If their marketing automation software works, then shouldn’t I feel ready to buy rather than annoyed that they are calling?

Now, we are not knocking Marketo, specifically.  We see the behavior across the board with vendors, other consultants and marketing opportunists.  The competition is fierce for software providers.  There has been a lot of venture money invested.  Despite their gospel of what their software can do, they approach sales similarly to many other cold calling organizations.  It’s aggressive and about them.

We pose these questions:

  • What does an aggressive selling engagement say about the effectiveness of your marketing automation process?
  • Just because I click, does it mean you can call me?  Why would that be more welcome?
  • Why can’t you wait for me to call in when I’m ready?
  • What does your cold calling do to your brand and value perception?

I think the questions are valid.  If the software is so great, then why act contrary to its design and promises?

If you buy marketing automation software, note how you are handled and approached in sales.  Did the automation truly nurture you and build trust?  That’s talking strategy.  Maybe that’s the key.  It’s a different focus than just software.  You may have to call us for that.

What would it look like if your products or services were bought rather than sold?  Feel free to comment.