I've evaluated marketing automation platforms for a number of different companies.
While the right marketing automation platform depends on a company's vision, mission, values and go-to-market plan, there are a few steps every company can take to ensure they get the most out of their marketing automation investment.
- Map lead flow so you can create a process map/workflow for each product/service you are selling. Identify what’s the most effective way to promote/nurture/sell/follow-up a download, a webinar or a sale.
- Deliver targeted, relevant information of value in a timely manner. Don’t sell, inform, help, solve problems, simplify your prospects' and customers’ lives – you’ll add value to their puchase and the time they spent with you.
- Know your prospects’ buying process/cycles so you can deliver information of value when they need it. How does the buying process/cycle vary for a product you are selling versus a service you are providing?
- Create buyer personas (two or three for each product). Think of your target audience as real people.
- Tell stories. They’re more memorable that features, benefits, facts and figures. Even better, get your members to tell stories about how a particular product or event helped them accomplish a goal.
- Understand your email’s reputation and deliverability. Provide subscription management options. Invite customers and prospects to tell you what information they value most, how and when they want to receive it. Be open to engaging in the customer’s channel of choice (i.e., social media, telephone, snail mail, SMS).
- Keep your database clean. Use only opt-in, de-duped, non-spam-trap emails. Encourage customers to update their profiles annually or every time they engage with you by prepopulating forms.
- Develop naming conventions for all of the digital marketing assets in your marketing automation platform (i.e., email templates, invitations, thank you’s, confirmations, calls-to-action, landing pages, forms) to make them easy to find and to reduce the need to recreate something that already exists.
- Make your forms short. Don’t ask for more information than you need. Prepopulate fields based on the knowledge you have of the member and give them the opportunity to self-correct. This lets your customer know you care about them and you’re trying to simplify things for them.
- Identify the difference between marketing qualified leads (MQL’s) and sales qualified leads (SQL’s) with lead scoring. Use the knowledge of your customers and prospects, and their searching and buying trends, to make the sales process more efficient. Nurture MQL’s with information of value until they become SQL’s.
- Talk with your customers to understand what’s working and what’s not. Data is valuable, but it doesn’t tell you everything – like why a customer ultimately made the decision they did.
- Think holistically about the information you are providing a customer/prospect and use the opportunity to make them aware of other products that may be relevant to their needs and areas of interest.
Marketing automation is a powerful tool; however, you must plan how you are going to use it to enhance the customer experience and make your marketing more efficient and effective.