When it comes to marketing automation software, people fall into two camps. One side believes that since the Internet is already fairly automatic that it makes sense to engage with their public in this way. The other camp prefers the older sales methods of one-to-one contact in order to establish a trusted initial introduction. Both camps are correct, and therefore both camps can benefit from automation and using email marketing to improve their business relationships.
50 years ago, when you had a database of only 1,000 clients it was much easier for sales people to contact each client individually. When it came to the other 50,000 potential but lower quality leads, they simply didn’t have the time to follow up with the same care as they had for higher quality leads. Instead, other methods were used to make sales: hard selling tactics, cold calling, direct mail, and wide-reaching media advertising. Customers needed to be moved through the buying cycle as quickly as possible. Because of this, many possible future customers may have been ignored.
50 years later, everything has grown exponentially. You may be looking at close to 5 million possible clients, as opposed to 50,000 so traditional methods of attracting leads and sales has changed in order to accommodate the volume. What hasn’t changed, however, is the need for a personal approach to each individual.
And this is what marketing automation software is all about. It can aid in your customer relations and is incredibly easy to gauge certain areas of success. The problem is, however, not everyone is using it correctly, and worse still they believe that it can entirely “replace” the trusted method of establishing contact (i.e.: handshakes and customer service.) In this way, direct marketing (junk mail) is still very much alive, but it has become streamlined by the automation process.
Automation doesn’t replace your brand message
Auto-generated emails and marketing material don’t sell your products or service, you do. You are still the only leader in determining the direction of your campaign. You can buy as much TV airtime as you want, but you still need to have a relevant message that describes your business. Automation doesn’t necessarily make sales, but it enables sales to occur. It’s not unlike using the cruise control on a car. You are still in the driver’s seat, even though you trust the gas to keep flowing. Your destination is still entirely in your control.
You cannot expect automation to “automatically” do your marketing for you. You cannot expect it to replace the human relationship. But it is an incredibly powerful marketing tool that enables your sales team to take a customer-centered approach to put their marketing plan into action.
Remember that direct mail and advertising was never the same as actual selling, simply a means to that end. Details and personal attention are always left to the sales team in order to provide customers with the appropriate amount of info at the right time. These are still organic sales techniques at work. Automation merely helps to deal with the sheer volume of possible leads in order to scale your already successful efforts.
Marketing automation software is all around us
When you get an alert on your phone that your battery is at 10%, this is form of automated marketing. It is a service that allows you to benefit from the information in real time in order to make key decisions about your purchasing (or in this case talk time) behaviour. When you join or subscribe to a newsletter, you can receive weekly alerts about limited time offers that are only relevant to you. For example, when you’ve been waiting for a sale on a particular item that suddenly appears. This is far from a hard-selling tactic, but it generates the same level of urgency and interest, as would a determined sales person.
Amazon and eBay have paved the way for automation. When you visit their site, looking for a particular book or CD, you are revealing your interests. You are revealing what your habits are (at this moment in time.) If you are searching for a birthday present for a nine-year-old boy, Amazon can tell this. It will “help” you out by suggesting similar products, in the same way an excellent in-store sales person, a personal shopper, or a trusted friend would do. These are benefits for both the company and the consumer and this goes far beyond the hard-sell techniques of 50 years ago.
Other key benefits to automation
Your message is sent only to those who “need to know” about your service or product. Your message or offer can reach your clients at the exact time of day you specify: when it is statistically the most likely to get read. Your messages can be “liked” or forwarded to your potential buyer’s friends, family and colleagues making a trusted sales person out of your first point of contact, which improves and validates word of mouth advertising. Your database will grow with high quality leads because of this, with little to no amount of work on your end. Your brand is solidified in the minds of buyers as a trusted, full service operation.
Simply sending out emails is one thing, but it only shows a part of the picture. If you knew more about the buying habits, location, age, sex, type of computer, what their interests are, what information they are seeking, etc. of the email recipient, don’t you think that you could send them better information? Many marketers use email like it was a junk mail system. And guess what? That’s what junk mail filters are for.
It won’t be considered junk mail when you are answering a key question that your prospect is searching for online. As the buyer’s needs change and they prepare for purchase, their behaviour changes. They will begin to look at specific product descriptions, start reading online reviews, start looking for locations and methods of buying. Your automation data will show where they are and when they need to receive the info they require to make the decision to buy.
This is where the success of big brands is fully realized. As buyers scan for products, they leave a trail of information behind them: how much they spend, what their interests are, how long it took them to decide, how many products they looked at before deciding, whether they were buying for themselves or as gifts for others, etc.
So how do you get your foot in the door? In order to effectively use marketing automation software, you need a large enough database from which to start. This is where the trouble begins.
What is top of the funnel all about?
The “top of the funnel” refers to the potential clients who receive the first contact with your marketing strategy. “Middle of the funnel” refers to clients who are in the process of being vetted and qualified for impending purchase. Simply put, you either have people who have already opted in and are relating to you, or you have people who have never heard of you. Most of the work is in establishing first contact. How are you doing that presently? Most of the analysis behind the ROI of the method is done here. What is the ROI of your current tactics?
You will discover that in order to establish top of the funnel clients, you are going to have to spend most of your time and resources in establishing contact. Unlike 50 years ago, you no longer need to push people through the funnel with ferocity. You have the time to build your database with precision and care.
There is a reason that so many urban jokes revolve around door-to-door and ‘traveling’ sales people. This is because they were an absurd necessity of establishing initial relationships with future clients. No more. Similar jokes now exist surrounding spam, which should give you an indication where you should spend your resources and energy.
Marketing automation software needs a database
If you only have 10 clients, you don’t need marketing automation software. In order to play the percentage game, however, you’ll need to have a large email database list with which to play. In order to remain present in the minds of potential clients, you need to continually reach out to them in order to gain access to their interests and attention. Weekly or monthly updates can include special limited time offers, changes to your services or policy, responses to news items, news about your company’s growth, etc. Marketing automation software helps to isolate the segment that needs each set of specific bits of information. It sends the exact direct mail piece that readers have chosen to receive.
The trick to making this system work is by having an enormous database filled with interested people, each with a particular request and desire for your company’s information. When you were looking for your first job, you no doubt sent out resumes and possibly tried to follow them up with a phone call. When a potential employer responded asking for references or samples of your work, you had to dig into your files to produce the request. Then you had to follow up again, etc. If this whole process were to be automated, imagine how many more offers you could field. Imagine how much easier it would be to not have to follow up on the jobs that were not interested in you in the first place. Imagine that you could send out 10 times the amount of job applications.
Why should your database be huge?
With more people in the pool, the greater the odds of meeting your revenue goals. You need to enact a decent lead-generating program in order to grow your database.
You can pay for email lists, certainly. You can send unsolicited emails to the general public. These are the fastest ways to build an initial audience. However, you run the risk of offending and enraging your public by becoming known as a spammer, or worse, receive a cease and desist notification from the government as part of their anti-spam (CASL) legislation. Even if you insist on spamming people, the percentage of valued leads generated from these tactics is remarkably low. More money will most likely be spent in purchasing their interest than will be in returned business.
What you send out should depend on whether the lead is ready to start shopping, still looking around, or brand new to your product or service. Special offers or discounts, or privileged info are great ways to get potential customers to want to join your database. This takes time, though and some prefer to jump the gun. The problem is that the numbers game is less effective when the pool is filled with disinterested customers. You are spending time and resources in nurturing customers who will most likely never shop with you. And what is worse, they may take offense at your tactics and begin commenting about it on social forums and chat groups, effectively killing off other potential “quality” leads.
In the long run, forcing subscriptions by purchasing email lists and taking heavy-handed approach to creating your database will not pay off. Very often a marketing company will simply use these tactics as a means of proving that they doing their job and that everything is “going according to plan.” But if you don’t know what the future effects are going to be, then you are putting faith in a fantasy that will disappear along with that “proven” marketing company, off to sell their tactics to other unsuspecting clients.
Inbound marketing methods generate trusted leads
So what’s my point? Save your money by not buying email lists. Save your money by not employing an agency that tells you to buy email lists. Learn 5% more about how to use the Internet. Say yes to automation, but don’t do it blindly and without research. Ask your agency to explain the long-term effects of their plan. Look closely at your ROI over the first six months. If you are seeing low returns, change your tactics and go find new initial, top of the funnel leads.
It is for this reason that we recommend establishing initial contact through reliable and trusted methods such as blogs, eBooks, webinars and social media conversations. The inbound marketing methodology isn’t simply about SEO and raising your Google ranking. It is intended to produce the highest ROI in the shortest amount of time, using the least amount of resources to produce the highest quality leads. It works with automation in order to create a tailored approach to each and every unique segment of your buyers group.
If you have begun developing a significant database of qualified leads, then it’s time to invest in marketing automation software. With a steady flow of organic leads, you are in the perfect position to begin nurturing them with emails, tweets, special offers, secret rewards, inside information, etc.
Tell us about your experience using this type of software or methodology? Not every industry works the same. For example, in the large-sized business insurance sector, customers like Walmart and Nike don’t “shop” online for their insurance products, so they don’t need to receive “limited offers” in the same way. But they do watch what is happening in the industry as a whole in order to determine their future purchasing behaviour.
But this is a case of “knowing your potential client base.” What is yours and what have you done to establish a marketing relationship with them? We’d love to hear from you, so please tell us your approach and ask us about ours.