Note: This guest post is by Zach Watson, TechnologyAdvice
For much of its nascent life, marketing software has flourished in best of breed form. Software for search engine optimization, social media management, landing page construction, and A/B testing are all solutions that excel in one key area.
Marketing automation is a bit different. Though automation platforms do thrive in particular use cases, such as lead nurturing and lead generation, they can also improve operations across entire departments.
Because this holistic approach to marketing software is a (mostly) new paradigm, it can make even the best marketing automation software look like an intimidating tool. This is unfortunate, because beginning on the wrong foot can lead to bad habits, like the underutilization of basic automation functionality.
Laying the foundation for successful automation is within reach; it just requires detailed planning and collaboration with the appropriate stakeholders.
Step 1: Find Common Ground with Sales
Unless you’re a software as a service company that only relies on marketing to find customers, you’ll need to set up a workflow process with your sales department for nurturing leads.
These are important negotiations, because unless you establish an agreement, there will be a lot of bickering over lead quality. Often, it’s not the quality of the leads though, but rather the context in which sales communicates with them.
Collaborate to find out what information is most likely to induce buying behavior and build the right context. Separate it from content that simply builds a general understanding of your product or service. If a prospect consumes enough of the right content to indicate buying intent, then marketing can ping sales and let them know it’s time to make a call or send an email.
This workflow can be quantified in the form by lead scoring, which communicates the nature of a lead’s behavior by keeping a total of the points they accrue from taking certain actions.
Step 2: Give Your Buyer’s Journey Some Bones
Once you’ve completed the technical setup and set your parameters, it’s time to start placing content into your new system. It’s tempting to construct emails for every blog post you’ve ever written in a feverish race to completion, but this approach will only lead to despair.
To work your way through the content creation and strategy portion of your automation launch, it’s best to stick closely with the buyer’s journey you’ve created for your audience and create only the content you need to get these prospects into the lower reaches of the buying funnel.
Do this by considering the most important touch points in their journey: what are the best assets you have to offer these curious prospects? Your most informative pieces of content should be marketed on landing pages, because these assets will be the most enticing item you have to trade for more of your prospects information via landing page forms.
If you can correlate different landing pages to different stages in the sales funnel, then you can create the spine of your buyer’s journey. This will give you a solid framework to which you can add behavioral emails that create momentum toward landing page conversions.
Step 3: Personalize and Refine
If you’ve built your automation house on the rock of your landing pages, it’s time to add some personalization to your campaign in order to make sure your marketing doesn’t seem so, well, automated. The most sophisticated platforms allow you to set up if-then rules that change a prospect’s sending list and consequently change the type of content they receive.
Setting up these automation rules is a formidable undertaking, and like any digital marketing tactic, it requires testing. Set up trigger emails that correspond to a prospect’s lead score, recent browsing history, or recent download history and see how they perform. Then deliver content that correlates as closely as possible with the actions that activate each trigger, and you should see some significant results.
In terms of testing, you’ll have a nearly unlimited number of options from which to choose. It doesn’t matter if it’s landing page copy, subject lines, or email design that you test first; the best practice is to always be testing. It’s how you’ll continue to improve in multiple areas of your campaign and adjust to the preferences of your prospects.
If you work through these three steps, you’ll arrive at a fairly advanced marketing automation campaign. Of course, these steps don’t cover the infamous lead scoring negotiations with sales or how to track attribution across multiple touches, but they do put you in a solid position to succeed with marketing automation.