Pretty much every software that allows you to send marketing emails to prospects and customers offers some form of automation option. Even the go-to de facto for every small business, Mailchimp, has started offering email automations (May 2017), including pre-built automations for follow-up, cart abandonment and retention.
With automation being the norm of every email software and commonly talked about dinner table conversation (or maybe it’s just my dinner table), marketers still lack some fundamental understanding of marketing automation. Marketing automation is not meant to take the place the dangerous email “blast”, setting it and forgetting it. It’s meant to not only automate repetitive tasks related to a campaign but to nurture prospects with highly personalized, useful content. The goal should be to educate your prospects on they should invest in your product or service, leading them to convert to a sale.
If you want to run a successful marketing automation campaign, there are three key areas to concentrate on:
1. UNDERSTAND WHO YOUR PROSPECTIVE BUYER IS BY DEVELOPING A BUYER PERSONA
A buyer persona is a representation of your ideal customer. This persona is based on market research and real data you already have learned from your existing customers. There are all sorts of guides and templates that will help you draft your buyer personas but how detailed you would like to get is up to you.
Regardless of whether you’re using a template, open a new Word document or relying on the good old pen and paper route, there are a few key areas you want to focus on when building your buyer personas.
The day-in-the-life of your buyer
In this area, you’ll want to focus on what’s the average day like of the person whose attention you are trying to capture. If the person is a professional, is their day filled with meetings? Are they shuttling to and from different airports? Are they always on a mobile device or a laptop? Who are the people they are mostly coming into contact with (employees, co-workers, or even their customers)? Are they sitting down for lunch or grabbing it on the go?
Goals of your buyer
In order to create useful content that is meant to educate your prospective buyer, you really have to understand what goals and/or responsibilities are driving them. If you’re in B2B and talking to a VP of Sales, maybe their goal is to “drive revenue beyond quota”.
Your buyer’s goals will be the underlying topics in which your copy and content will be created around. Your copy will address why your product or service will be able to help your target prospect achieve their goals.
See the obstacles in front of your buyer
In order to really address how your product will help your prospect achieve their goals, you must also understand the obstacles your potential buyers face day to day. Obstacles can be in the way of resources (money, staff), pressure from the market to decrease prices or provide greater value for the same price, lack of time, the list goes on and on.
Engagement with your buyer
As part of the persona development process, it’s critical to both draw a very detailed “face” of your prospect on the canvas but also how he or she will interact and engage with your content and your sales process.
Your marketing message is just one ingredient in the recipe. You need to place your message in the right form of content (audio, video, written) and then get that content in front of your prospect. Remember, you’ll learn in the day in the life step, if developed correctly, that there are many marketing messages that are competing for the attention of your prospective buyer.
Developing a buyer persona will help you determine the topics of your content, where and how your prospect consumes content, and the delivery strategies of the content as it relates to your marketing automation system.
2. VALUE BASED CONTENT EXPLAINS TO YOUR PROSPECTIVE BUYER THAT YOU UNDERSTAND THEIR GOALS AND OBSTACLES AS WELL AS WHY YOUR PRODUCT IS THE RIGHT PRODUCT TO HELP THEM
When marketing to your prospective buyer, you’re competing against at least two competitors. You’re competing against your direct competition, those that do what you do. Your second competitor is all the other marketers and brands that are vying for the attention of your buyer.
There are ways of dealing with the second which I’ll address in detail at some point in the future. As to your direct competition, it comes down to truly understanding your prospect. You should “know” this prospect so well that it may seem as if you’ve walked a day in their shoes, understanding the pain they are trying to relieve and engaging them with content that assists your prospect in solving their problems.
Today’s buyers are more educated than ever. They are constantly Googling for answers and solutions. They are entering the sales cycle more informed. They might be searching for another answer or vendor even as you’re pitching your services to them.
Content is not just about information. It’s about educating your prospect about the challenge they’re trying to solve. It’s about proving to them that you understand them and you understand their challenge. Your aim is to tell them what to look out for or the pitfalls that may await them. You can also educate your buyer on how your product has helped solve the challenges of people in the same situation.
Using marketing automation, you can deliver, at timed intervals, relevant and educational messages to your prospect.
3. GIVING YOUR PROSPECTS A SCORE BASED ON BEHAVIOR AND ENGAGEMENT
Ask any baseball player, they would most likely tell you that they would love to hit a home run every time at-bat. But that’s not how the game works. The batter just doesn’t swing for the fences, he plays the game based on the strategy of his coach and his coach sets the strategy based on where they are in their season.
It’s similar to marketing. It would be amazing if you could just send a single email and people would buy based on that one email. That’s simply not the case.
Marketing involves patience. It’s not only about understanding and educating, but also about engagement. The engagement with your marketing team and prospect and your prospect with your marketing team.
Marketing automation software allows us to see and track engagement with messages that are sent using the software. When an email is sent from this software, the tool knows things like; who opened the email and who clicked any links in the software. The marketing automation software can basically measure the engagement of your message by your prospect. With each measurement, you can give a prospect a score.
This engagement score is critical for many reasons. One, it tells us how appropriate your message is to your prospect. Two, it allows us, based on engagement with your emails, to guide the prospect down specific paths of the purchase process, or in marketers speak the buyer’s journey.
There’s much more to marketing automation than loading up your software with a bunch of emails that you write in the time between meetings. It’s about knowing who your prospect is and providing education to that prospect. The software provides you the means to measure and refine those two tasks.
Michael Alos is VP of Marketing & Sales Solutions at truDemand.
With over 18 years experience in sales enablement, CRM, Marketing Automation, and sales & marketing strategy, Michael works hard to ensure that when your sales & marketing teams interact with a prospect or customer, each and every one of them has the skills, knowledge, and tools required to be successful.