I spend a lot of time talking about the importance of having a marketing system before you try to automate it. This means taking the time to learn how your customers make their buying decisions and aligning our marketing efforts with the stages of their buying process.
In Duct Tape Marketing, we use the concept of the Marketing Hourglass to evaluate a marketing system, make sure we are aligned with the customer’s buying process, and make sure we have processes and tools to help potential customers move from one stage to the next. If you are not familiar with the Marketing Hourglass, here is a quick summary of the stages:
Most buyers, particularly in the B2B world, go through these 7 stages – the part that varies is who is involved in each stage and the speed with which buyers move from one stage to another.
The Marketing Hourglass is a great tool to make sure we have marketing materials that address the needs of buyers at each stage of the hourglass. In addition to marketing materials, we also need some procedures in place to help guide buyers from one stage to the next. This is where marketing automation often comes into place – by helping to identify which stage a buyer is in and then deliver the appropriate information to them.
When mapping out the processes you want to automate, you may find it helpful to ask yourself (and you team) these questions:
- When I do X, what do I want the buyer to do?
- What happens next if they do (perform the action above)?
- What happens next if they don’t?
Now, I realize we would love for our buyers to jump directly from Know to Buy, and occasionally it happens, but most of us need to do a little bit more work to land new business.
Beginning with the end in mind, marketers and salespeople in the B2B world typically want to get people to the Try stage. The Try stage often consists of free consultations, audits, reviews, assessments – offers that facilitate face-to-face meetings and help start sales conversations.
Using this example, we would first decide how we can get folks who fit our ideal customer profile to Know about us. Lets pretend you decide to conduct a targeted post card campaign. You can begin to map out your process by asking the questions above:
- When I send the postcard, what to I want the prospect to do? If you follow our recommendations about direct response advertising, you will want them to call your office or visit your website in order to trade (additional) information about themselves for a special offer. You can then continue share information with them that will help move them to Like and subsequent stages.
- If they take that action, you will need to follow up – typically by sending them the information they requested.
- What happens if they don’t respond? Will you try again? How many times? Will you follow up the same way (postcard) or will you try something different (a phone call)?
Wash, rinse, and repeat until you have your process mapped out. Once you have your processes mapped out you will be in a better position to decide what collateral you need to develop, what tools you need to buy, what skills you need to learn or outsource, and which metrics to use to measure your success.
Bill Brelsford Small Business Marketing Consultant