Have you heard of marketing automation? If you’ve been running a business any time during the past five years, I bet you have. Do a quick Google search for it and you’ll find all kinds of vendors, blog posts, tips and tricks. Essentially, what you want to do with marketing automation is use triggered responses, intake forms, metrics and analyses to identify, educate and nurture your leads over a period of time with the end goal of turning them into customers.
All too often, the first questions I get about marketing automation from most of my clients and internal departments involve the tool kits - “Joel, have you heard about this or that marketing automation tool? It sounds amazing and we should look into it.” My response is always the same: The results of implementing a marketing automation tool are only going to be as good as your marketing automation plan and content. The tools are great, but you need a plan, and a plan requires doing real work up front.
Let’s take a look at the plan and content aspects of marketing automation. Here are points you need to be thinking about for each:
- Identify the end goal or “conversion” for your marketing automation. This goal is typically the sale of a product or series of products directly tied to the marketing.
- Create a path or “funnel” that will route your customers from casually poking around the Internet for information about your product and similar products to actually buying it. For example, your funnel may go from information gathering to education to short list creation to purchase decision.
- Take a look at your content and match it to the steps of your funnel.
- Create a timeline for the campaign. Anywhere from one to six months is not out of the question.
- Tie your content and funnel steps to your timeline.
- Pick a marketing automation platform and execute the plan by tying your content, timeline and actions into the platform.
- Take a look at all of your internal content (white papers, blog posts, webinars, instructional videos, etc.), deeply audit it and match it to your funnel steps.
- Consider partnering with a content or media provider to fill in content gaps.
- Remember that content does not have to be the written word. It could be videos, webinars or in-person events.
Once you get your plan together and match it up to content, you will be nurturing your leads along and making your content work for you. There are plenty of examples and case studies on the Web regarding marketing automation, so do your research and dig in! Most importantly, don’t forget about your traditional “outbound” advertising and marketing efforts. Integrating them with a marketing automation plan can be a force multiplier.