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Is Your Website Ready for Marketing Automation?

Posted: September 26th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Automation, Getting Started, Web Design | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

When was the last time you took a hard look at your website and asked yourself, “does this site close business?” If you’re ramping up a marketing automation or lead nurturing campaign, perhaps now is the time to ask yourself “does my website drive traffic, educate visitors and move prospects into our sales funnel?”

Function:

Comparable to a brick and mortar store, your website should be user-friendly and visually appealing, but also adjusted periodically to test new strategies. In addition, you need to make a great impression, quickly. A quick look at your web analytics, your bounce rate specifically, shows just how long visitors stay on a given page. In fact, this is one of the stats that Google uses to determine how a site should be ranked. “Sticky” sites perform better because the bounce rates indicate the visitor found what they were looking for.

Search Marketing Best Practices:

This is a good time to bring up overall search marketing best-practices. In addition to the bounce rate, Google pays attention to things like site architecture, traditional meta elements, credible inbound links and even how your content is shared through social channels. There are a litany of tweaks you can make to conform with best-practices, the scope of which is too broad for this article. But search marketing is essential for reaching new prospects. Ideally, search engines should be a primary source of inbound traffic to your site.

Home Page Layout:

Your next consideration is the layout of your home page, where most visitors land initially. First, understand that you can’t be all things to all people. Each visitor may have a unique need. So your home page needs to speak broadly but concisely, using every bit of real estate wisely. Web visitors are fickle, so you need to grab their attention quick, wet their appetite and draw them deeper into the site for more detailed information.

Navigating the site should be an intuitive process. If your navigation is out of the ordinary, changes from page to page, and gets in the way of finding what they need, visitors are likely to move on.

Some prospects are price shopping, others want to know you have industry-specific experience. Make conscious decisions about what your audience may be looking for and create the content and navigational structure to ensure they find what they need. That leads me to my next question. How well do you know your audience?

Audience Insights:

Names, titles and demographic details are good to know. But if you want to deliver content that influences buying behavior, you need to understand their role and responsibilities, their pain points, and telegraph the solutions that match their needs.  I’ve recently posted a webinar that goes into more detail about writing great content. Defining your audience is the first step to understanding their needs. The more you can telegraph and address their needs with insightful content, the better chance you have of converting them to a pre-qualified prospect.

Landing Pages:

If you’re producing great content and serving it up through email, search and social media, the traffic will come. But once they arrive, what should they do next? Don’t make readers guess. You want to provide supporting content and a clear call to action that convinces a visitor to complete the form on your landing page. Once you have captured their data, an automated campaign can be triggered, delivering a stream of additional content to support the sales process.

We know little about a new visitor to your website until they provide more information. That’s why landing pages and input forms are critically important for feeding your email campaigns. All pages on your site can be considered a landing page with focused content and a call to action. A landing page can also stand on its’ own as specialized content promoting an ebook, whitepaper or online course available for download when the visitor provides their email address.

It’s important the visitor has a clear idea of how they will benefit from giving you their personal details. Equally important is providing reassurance you won’t abuse the privilege of their contact data. Including an anti-spam disclaimer is a first step to building a trusting relationship.

Landing Page Content:

Offering premium content is a great way to gauge their level of interest. If your landing page is concise and personalized with a clear call to action, and the premium content has a high perceived value, they will take that next step into your sales funnel. Most automation platforms have a wizard for creating forms, adding fields and formatting to match the look of your site. Once you integrate these forms into your site and a visitor completes the form, that action can trigger an automated campaign to deliver more high-value content and pull them through the funnel. Here are several examples of well-designed landing pages:

Testing to Improve Conversions:

With all pages of your site, especially your home and landing pages, it’s important to test variations to increase conversion rates. There is a technical aspect to testing that allows a web developer to create multiple versions of a single landing page, and change variables like the layout, calls to action and virtually any other element on the page that can influence conversions. The test versions can be served up to a portion of visitors and the results compared side-by-side.

Summary:

As you begin to drive more traffic through marketing automation and lead nurturing, be sure your site engages visitors, and pulls them into your sales funnel.

Here is my shortlist of website elements needed to facilitate your email campaign:

  • Look at all competitors in the field with a focus on the best-in-class
  • Define all segments of your audience including demographic data, roles & responsibilities, and pain points
  • Create content that fulfills the needs of your audience for each stage of the sales funnel
  • Create premium, or high-value content to solicit an email address that triggers an automated email campaign
  • Create forms with your automation platform and integrate them into your website to gather data
  • Integrate web tracking (unmentioned above) to better understand browsing habits and trigger other actions in your automation platform
  • Test critical pages of your site to improve conversion rates

Visualizing Your Marketing Automation Campaign

Posted: September 17th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Automation, Getting Started, Lead Nurturing | No Comments »

This is a quick-reference illustration I have used in the past to explain the scope of a marketing automation campaign. In particular, I use this document when discussing the resources needed to setup and manage a campaign. Before launching any marketing campaign, a critical step is allocating the resources needed to ensure it produces results. Underestimating the timelines and budgets will be problematic. In any other part of your business, resource constraints can cause delays and affect the quality of the final product. With Marketing Automation, your mistakes and omissions are amplified by the fact that your work is visible to the public, your prospects and customers.

To fully leverage the power of marketing automation, consider the following campaign features and visualize the resource you’ll need. Starting with the right mindset and dedicating the right resources will increase your chances of producing more sales-ready leads.

LN-Campaign-Features

  • Building your strategy starts by defining your audience, understanding their pain points, and conceptualizing a series of communications that will pull them through the sales funnel. More about writing content to influence buying behavior.
  • Email Automation involves setting up a series of emails that are delivered in sequence over a period of time. Events that trigger these campaigns can range from manual entry, or automatically entered when the visitor completes a form. With automated segmenting, virtually any activity can trigger a different series of emails.
  • Lead Scoring is a feature of marketing that allows us to assign a point system based on the prospects interaction with emails, websites, social media. The cumulative score can indicate a level of sales-readiness and trigger additional actions, including alerting a salesperson.
  • Segmenting your audience allows marketers to create precise messaging that is personalized for that individual’s needs. This process involves learning what makes your clients tick, and more importantly what information they require at a given point in their buying process.
  • Sales Process Management involves aligning sales and marketing initiatives and activities. Information gathered about a prospect can be synchronized with a CRM system, allowing your sales team valuable insight about a prospect’s place in the sales funnel.
  • Supplemental activities include creating one-off emails, creating a new automated email series to a new segment, and A/B testing your existing emails.
  • Web Assets include embedding tracking code on your website and other landing pages. Landing pages are a great tool for delivering targeted information with a clear call to action for pulling prospects to the next step of the process.
  • Reporting should be ongoing, utilizing benchmarks to track success and influence the evolution of the campaign.
  • Ongoing Management is essential to any email campaign. Content development, testing, and improvements are indefinite activities.

This is a very brief overview, but a useful exercise to get your head around the demands of a marketing automation campaign. I hope it was helpful.


Illustration: The Lead Nurturing Process

Posted: August 27th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Getting Started, Lead Nurturing | Tags: , | No Comments »

Since I’m not the most talented of visual artists, I like to keep things simple when diagramming a process. The illustration below is an attempt to show how leads & prospects move through an automated campaign. This is a simplified look at how a series of emails is delivered with the intention of educating a prospect and pulling them through the sales funnel. I should add that interaction with many different marketing channels can be tracked as well, including articles, landing pages and website activity. These interactions are given a weighted score for the purpose of gauging level-of-interest and progress through the sales funnel. As a prospect nears the end of a particular campaign, the lead can be recycled and entered into supplemental campaigns to achieve one of the most important features of automation and lead nurturing…being in the right place at the right time.

Lead Nurturing Process_Page_1

 


Lead Nurturing Campaign Timeline

Posted: August 27th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Automation, Getting Started, Lead Nurturing | Tags: , , | No Comments »

This is a cheat-sheet, more or less, that I use to communicate the steps and basic timeline for implementation of a lead nurturing campaign, which is to say delivering a series of emails that educates and “nurtures” your audience to a point of sales-readiness. This is the 50,000 ft. view. Just looking at the first bullet “Content Mapping,” this process starts in weeks 1-4, but go on indefinitely as you refine your campaign and develop new ways of engaging your audience. This is a basic guideline for visualizing the process, though each one of these bullets requires careful planning and execution. If there is something you would add, please feel free to comment below.

Week 1‐4:

  • Content Mapping: Prepare and organize content to be distributed to your prospects at the right time based on their needs and stages in the buying cycle
  • Content Inventory: What pre‐existing resources can be used / re-purposed for use in the campaign? (Whitepapers, video, audio, blog posts, articles, etc.)
  • Define Target Audience: Map your content to the various personas’ of your audience and their stage in the buying cycle
  • Content Writing: Define a series of emails (5 initially) that pushes prospects through the sales funnel by providing compelling, educational, insightful content
  • Setup Campaign Logic: Schedule emails at regular intervals to deliver your multi‐touch campaign. Define the characteristics of your prospect’s behavior that will determine which series of emails they receive next.
  • Define Lead Scoring: A point system used to determine the prospects level of interest and sales‐readiness
  • Web Analytics Integration: Add a script to the footer of your site for collecting visitor data
  • Web Forms: Setup web forms to collect user data
  • Landing Page Setup: Set up landing pages to house your web forms. Drive traffic to your landing pages through links on your website, ad campaigns, mass‐emails, etc.
  • Finalize and Initiate Drip Campaign: Once the details of your campaign we add prospects to the drip campaign and initiate the campaign

Week 5 and Beyond:

  • Prospects from Web Analytics: Identify specific companies visiting your website, research contacts within that organization who fit your prospect profile, add to appropriate drip campaign based on the visitor’s behavior
  • Lead Hand-off: When a prospect lead score reaches the pre‐determined threshold, they will be handed over to sales for direct engagement.
  • Lead Recycling: If sales determines the prospect is not sales‐ready, feed them back into the top of the funnel as a new lead for further nurturing
  • Additional Content Development: Continue to refine and add additional emails to the drip campaign to ensure a steady stream of messages to keep leads engaged

Great Content Influences Buying Behavior…Start Writing, Now!

Posted: August 27th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Automation, Content | Tags: , | No Comments »

I had a great conversation with Carol Springer from Gabriel Sales last week on the topic of Content Development.  As a person who is sales-process-oriented, I knew she would have some great suggestions on how to leverage content to pull prospects through the sales funnel.

At the top of the conversation, we discussed the implications of creating content and how much buyers rely on internet research to make purchasing decisions. Carol said that B2B buyers are reading up to 14 pieces of content on average before making a buying decision. I would add that each buyer is different, and will choose how they wish to become educated on a purchase. But I agree that buying behaviors have shifted dramatically in the last 5-10 years. Whereas a salesperson or customer support rep may have been a first point of contact in years past, now the responsibility for educating clients falls on the shoulders of marketing & sales to create and distribute content that is relevant to buyers needs.

It was at this point in the conversation we discussed creating an ideal profile of your prospects, which includes a description of their role, but more importantly outlines a buyers needs based on where they are in the sales funnel. If I sell IT services, I have to understand the mindset of my prospect, determine what reasons they are researching IT services, and write content to answer their questions and differentiate ourselves from the competitive field. You might start with writing/creating something like “What to Consider When Hiring an IT Provider,” or “How The Cloud Will Revolutionize Your Business.” Leverage customer testimonials, especially unsolicited peer reviews to demonstrate proof-of-concept. I’ve only begun to touch on subject matter that may be of interest to this prospect group. But your objective is to educate, build credibility, and deliver the right content at the right time.

For as vital to the sales process as content is, I find that businesses have a hard time getting started or staying consistent. All too often they say “we don’t have time/resources for writing content” or “we don’t have anything to write about.” In my opinion, those are only mental hurdles. If you operate a business and have happy clients, you most certainly have something to say. And keep in mind, creating content is all about passing along your wisdom, so if you’re simply commenting on a 3rd party article and relating to the consumers needs, you’ve accomplished something vital. Take a look at your previous marketing materials, presentations, videos, and even proposals. This information can be recycled into a top-10 list, a process illustration, a webinar, video, a series of blog posts…the possibilities are endless. Fast forward to the end of the video if you want to hear my recommendations for more ideas on getting started.

For just under 20 minutes, we covered a lot of ground. We touched on the impact content has on your visibility in search engines, lead recycling, and marketing automation. And if you’re new to both content marketing and automation, NOW is the time get your feet wet. What suggestions do you have for creating great content? Be sure to leave your comments.

 


Align Sales & Marketing to Close More Deals

Posted: August 16th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Sales & Marketing Alignment | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »

After wrestling with some post production issues, I’m finally posting the Sales & Marketing Alignment webinar from last week. I decided to try ClickMeeting.com as opposed to GoToMeeting. GoTo produces the best quality and I am most familiar with the program controls, but the software is so clunky it’s like using a Heidelberg to print 50 business cards. Pass along any other web meeting software recommendations. I’m open to suggestions!

Our conversation was great and we covered a lot of ground in just over 30 minutes. My objective with the call was to first explore the reasons why the division exists and to demonstrate how we can overcome these issues to close more business, among other goals. My colleagues Kathleen and Scott (their LinkedIn details below) provided two unique perspectives with some overlapping themes. Kathleen explored the difference between marketing & sales, citing the operational structure and how it can foster a divided mentality between the two teams. In her words:

A common scenario that impacts sales is that most, if not all leads are sent directly to sales, rather than when the prospects are deemed sales-ready. It’s not about the number of leads generated, but the quality and more importantly the position of the lead within the buying cycle that should determine when a lead is sent to the sales team.

Kathleen makes a great point. Marketers work hard to produce leads and when they don’t turn into business it’s disappointing. It’s easy to point the finger in the direction of your sales team, assuming they could have done more to close the business. That may or may not be true. But it is still the job of a marketer to analyze what works and what doesn’t. First steps are:

  1. Opening communication between the departments to define a prospects needs
  2. Creating content that “pulls” prospects through the sales funnel
  3. Timing the delivery of content to match the prospects stage in the cycle
  4. Leveraging metrics, and scoring to improve results

It’s important to mention that alignment of technology platforms is what makes all of this possible. When salespeople have deep insight into the prospect’s behaviors, they can more easily pick up where the marketing team left off.

Kathleen also touched on lead scoring, the process of recording a prospects interactions with your marketing material, applying a score to their activity and generating alerts when they reach sales-readiness. This is a central feature of marketing automation, and one that requires close scrutiny.

Scott helped provide more insight on how to dial-in your campaign using analytics and testing. It should be noted that Scott’s experience includes managing enterprise-level automation campaigns at Box, a file sharing juggernaut.

He recommends tracking all inbound and outbound marketing & business development activities. In his words:

What this allows you to do for each one of the activities that you track is report the full pipeline metrics for that activity. This helps answer questions like:

  • How many inquiries do we have coming in the door?
  • How many are converting to leads for sales to start working?
  • How many become opportunities?
  • What is the pipeline revenue?
  • How many close and become actual revenue for your company?

We are establishing a common reporting methodology that both marketing and sales can use to make informed decisions as a team.

Scott goes on to discuss specific scenarios and how to use the information to produce better results.

As marketing automation continues to grow in popularity, it will be essential to optimize the use of this technology. Simply using it out of the box won’t be enough to stay ahead of the curve. You will gain an essential competitive advantage when sales & marketing work together to refine the process and close the communication gap.

Topics from the presentation include:

  • Defining and addressing the disconnect between sales & marketing
  • Alignment of technology platforms
  • Combining efforts to pull prospects through the sales funnel
  • The process for automating lead scoring and real-time alerts
  • Enterprise-level data management techniques
  • Process refinements

Learn more about the speakers:

Ryan Goodin, Marketing Strategies and Consultant, Diligent Brands

Kathleen Boulden: Vice President, Digital Marketing, PrismWorks, Inc.

K. Scott Davis: Head of Business and Marketing Analytics, Deutsche Telekom HBS