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10 Marketing Automation Must-Haves That Could Transform Your Business

A while back I began tweeting my top 10 list of features that I would look for in any marketing automation solution. This was based on my experiences accumulated over the last eight years of self teaching and studying, being responsible for demand generation at various technology companies. During that time I’ve used a mix of tools from simple web content management and email marketing solutions, to full-blown marketing automation suites from various vendors.

Spreading the ten tweets out over my timeline wasn’t very helpful, and the 140 character limits made things a bit cryptic, so I’m writing this article about them providing a little explanation and rationale this time.

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Marketing automation drives a 14.5% increase in sales productivity and a 12.2% reduction in marketing overhead.

#1. Fast Landing Page Creation You Can Measure And A/B Split Test

Whether your landing pages are for calls-to-action on your website or part of your pay-per-click campaign, they represent a massive opportunity for optimization. A small improvement in conversion rate can yield staggering increases in lead capture. Any marketing automation solution must make it quick and straightforward for marketers (not web developers) to create landing pages because you’re going need a bunch of them and they will change frequently.

Obviously, you need to measure both clicks onto the landing pages as well as actual conversions. As you get more advanced, you’ll need to experiment with different designs, copy, images and form fields. Now you need the ability to run A/B split tests and multivariate experiments. This can either be part of the marketing automation solution or provided as part of a tight integration with a third-party (free) solution like Google Website Optimizer.

#2: Simple Form Creation That Integrates With Your Website Call-To-Actions. All Leads Into One Funnel

You don’t just need forms on landing pages. Your website calls-to-action often require in-line forms that flow as an integral part of the webpage design. Jarring redirects to landing pages hosted on sub-domains are likely to distract your visitors at the critical moment as they take the step from interest to engagement.

All inbound leads need to get routed into a single marketing database, so you have visibility of all inbound lead channels.

#3: Bi-Directional Integration With Your Chosen CRM System With Communication History For Sales Context

Marketing Automation systems don’t operate in isolation. For marketing and sales to work as parts of an integrated demand generation process, you need two-way communication between the people and the technologies.

Leads need to flow into your CRM system with as much context as possible to enable sales to have a productive initial conversation. As leads or prospects continue to interact with your business online, additional information must enrich the lead data in your CRM, without the dreaded creation of duplicate leads (see number 6).

Inevitably not every lead passed to sales will engage with the allocated rep, let alone become an opportunity. Your chosen marketing automation platform must be able to accept leads “returned to marketing” for further nurturing. This is a huge black hole for many organizations with leads burned and lost forever.

Finally, for closed-loop marketing to work, your CRM system must be able to return pipeline/opportunity revenue and converted sales revenue for each campaign (see number 9). Only then can you invest in demand generation programs which create sales and not just clicks and conversions.

#4: Separate Marketing Database With Dynamic Segmentation Based On Explicit Data And Behaviors

The days of email blasts to unsuspecting victims hoping that something sticks are coming to an end. Email campaigns are successful when the message is anticipated, personal and relevant (to quote Seth Godin). That means segmentation – identifying groups of customers with similar needs.

First of all, you’ll need to be able to segment based on explicit data such as title, company size, state, etc. Next, you’ll want to segment on behaviors such as the lead did X, then did Y, but hasn’t done Z within the next two weeks. This is an excellent example of a dynamic group that changes continuously as people continue to interact with your business online.

With these capabilities, you can start building campaigns which comprise multiple communication touches which reflect a persons interest, level of engagement and even stage in the buying process.

#5: Lead Scoring Duh! But It Needs To Be Simple To Use And Flexible Enough To Fit Your Business Model

This is really the feature which defined the category. It’s really not marketing automation without some sort of lead scoring–but a word of caution: don’t be tempted to over-engineer your approach right out of the gate. Plan to learn. You won’t get it right the first time, so allowing for incremental evolution of your scoring methodology will save you grief while trying to launch your marketing automation solution.

Better to tighten your criteria for passing sales-ready leads only once you have too many leads for sales to productively engage. This is especially true in the current economy. The goal here is more sales not less leads. Consider calculating a lead score and asking sales to validate the model when they start engaging the lead and verbally qualifying. You can get plenty of value from marketing automation without doing any form of lead scoring.

#6: De-Dup Of Leads. Salesforce.com Web-To-Lead Forms Create Chaos. Don’t Ask Reps To Check Duplicates

There are a couple of problems with web-to-lead forms as they come out of the box from Salesforce.com. First of all, the forms don’t offer any data validation unless you have a web developer to write some javascript for you.

Secondly, Salesforce.com will happily create duplicate leads all day long.

This creates chaos for sales reps who end up working the same lead. Even if they remember to manually search for duplicates, figuring out which way to merge leads isn’t simple.

Although there are simple point solutions which solve these issues, consider it a must-have for any marketing automation solution.

#7: Ability To Execute Integrated Marketing Campaigns Across Channels, Not Just Email

Creating killer topics for marketing campaigns is tough and requires imagination and empathy for your target customers. Developing compelling content based on your winning concept is far from trivial. Marketing campaigns get more powerful and efficient when you integrate several tactics across multiple channels.

Email campaigns are extremely effective but don’t forget direct mail, pay-per-click, banner ads, traditional media/trade publications. Each of these requires landing pages with friendly URLs and tracking.

As marketers look to integrate social media tools like LinkedIn, Instagram, SnapChat, Facebook and Twitter into integrated marketing campaigns, look for marketing automation vendors that recognize that this is another channel that needs to demonstrate ROI.

#8: Flexibility To Match Your Customer Buying Process. Some Folks Need Nurturing, And Some Want All The Information Now

A large part of the value of marketing automation comes from the fact that many potential customers are not yet ready to enter the sales process. They are looking to understand a problem or get educated about a topic and being engaged by a sales rep too early isn’t productive for either party.

That doesn’t mean everybody wants to be drip-fed information one whitepaper or email campaign at a time. Some people want to consume as much information as you have on a subject at one time, but asking them to complete the same form twenty times doesn’t build enthusiasm. I’ve noticed that technical buyers, in particular, like to load up on information before they engage in a real conversation.

Look for a marketing automation solution that can support gated resource sections that still track individual activity, so you don’t lose vital sales intelligence.

#9: Dashboard View Of Closed-Loop Campaign Performance From Lead Source To Opportunity And Closed Revenue

Marketing Automation also promises to deliver big-picture clarity into what demand generation strategies are really working. That doesn’t mean counting how many leads come from what lead-sources, but rather identifying what sales revenue can be attributed to specific programs.

Doing this manually gets unmanageable very quickly, so look for a marketing automation solution that can give you visibility right through the customer funnel – from first click (from pay-per-click, for example) right through to closed deals.

#10: Make Running Web Seminars That Feel Like Part Of An Integrated Nurturing Program Simple

One of the most popular demand generation and nurturing tactics employed today are web seminars, aka webinars. Popular tools like GoToMeeting, LiveMeeting, and Webex make it simple and cost-effective to run online meetings, presentations, and product demonstrations.

Whether somebody registered, attended or asked questions for a particular web seminar is important lead intelligence to use for segmentation and ultimately for sales context. Make sure your marketing automation solution integrates with your preferred web seminar platform or at least offers a simple and quick approach for importing the data into your central marketing database.

I hope you found this helpful. I’d love to hear your comments on what I included and what you feel should have made the cut.

D'Vaughn Bell
D'Vaughn Marqui Bell is a millennial entrepreneur, author and businessman. As CEO of Marqui Management he is responsible for day to day operations, management and insight. He continues his leadership development and training for the millennial generation at his website: D'Vaughn Bell

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