Archive for marketing automation

Two Ways to Get More Marketing Done

one and one equals three

One of the challenges that small business marketers face is balancing new projects (install a new CRM system) with the ongoing, day-to-day marketing activities (following up with the people you met at a networking event).

To balance these activities, along with all of the other hats that small business owners wear, we often talk about the idea of “living by a marketing calendar” – or creating the habit of scheduling appointments with yourself to work on your marketing system.

One way to make good use of your scheduled marketing time is to identify and create systems that will free yourself from the redundant, repeatable, daily tasks that every business must perform. By creating systems to handle these type of tasks you can free yourself to focus on the high value activities that will grow your business while maintaining your piece of mind that the “grunt work” is still getting done.

My two favorite weapons for getting more marketing done are marketing automation software and my virtual assistant. What works for me may not work for you when it comes to specific tools and solutions, but one thing I do believe is key this – you have to have a system before you can automate or delegate it.

Therefore, the first step is to map out your process(es). You can then use your map to determine what tools and resources you need to automate and/or delegate the different steps in that process.

Using the networking example from above, your process may look something like:

  • Decide whether to follow up with each contact
  • Enter information into your contact database
  • Classify them as a potential customer, a potential referral partner, or both
  • Contact them for a 1 on 1 meeting
  • Connect with them on LinkedIn
  • Add them to your “Gain Top of Mind” sequence or process
  • Add them to your “Maintain Top of Mind” sequence or process
  • etc

You process map can help you determine what needs to be done, when, and by whom. Some tasks, like sending and email reminder, can be fully automated. Other tasks may only be partially automated but require a personal interaction to complete – automating the scheduling of a follow up phone call on your calendar.

When working through a process map, I find it helpful to ask the following questions:

  • What action will I perform?
  • What do I want them to do in response?
  • What if they don’t?
  • If they do, what’s next?

One hint, if you try to do this for your entire marketing system in one sitting, you will become frustrated and overwhelmed. Start with one set of processes, turn it into a system, automate and/or delegate as many of the steps as possible and repeat.

Live by your marketing calendar and use that time to build systems in your business and soon you will find that 1+1 can be >=3.

photo credit – Hubspot

Two Types of Marketing Automation

lucy-automation

Marketing automation tools can be a great way for small business owners to get more done in less time. These tools are not a silver bullet. If you are considering implementing a marketing automation solution, one of the first questions to ask yourself is what will you be automating?

For many small businesses, marketing automation isn’t just about a new set of tools; it often requires a new approach to marketing and sales. Automating an ineffective process won’t lead to success.

In my experience, those businesses that use automation to bombard people with information are typically frustrated with their automation efforts while those who use automation tools to improve their ability to send the right message, to the right person, at the right time enjoy much greater success.

Automating the Process of Bombarding Prospects

This is the easier (but less effective) way of implementing a marketing automation system. This method is the modern day equivalent of dropping by to deliver brochures and other materials without ever asking for feedback or engaging in a meaningful conversation about their business.

Systems set up this way pretend to have a conversation, but it’s the type of conversation where the seller does all the talking. Too be fair, many consultants and vendors exacerbate this problem by describing scenarios where a visitor fills out a form on your website and they are automatically sent 7 messages over the next 12 days culminating with an invitation to have a sales conversation.

Automation of this type makes you feel like you are being more efficient, but is often not very effective.

Automating the Delivery of Personal Attention

A different approach is to use marketing automation tools to help you emulate an in person conversation by discovering what the other person is interested in then delivering information that is relevant to their situation.

In order to do that, you must not only think about automating what you say, you need to think about how to use the tools to listen.

This type of personalization is very different from just inserting the person’s name somewhere in the message.

One way to start this type of conversation is to ask questions. I’m guessing you already do this when you meet a prospect in person. You may ask about:

  • the size of their business
  • their industry
  • how they help their customers
  • how they make their money (business model)
  • goals they want to accomplish
  • challenges they need to address

You can ask these same questions in a number of different ways online and vial email by:

  • Presenting surveys or questions
  • Presenting information related to different business problems and noting which ones they select
  • Observing topics they interact with on your website or newsletter
  • Using techniques like progressive profiling (asking for additional pieces of information as you deliver more materials)

Those are only a few examples. The important point is to use the information shared with you to provide relevant information back to your prospects and customers. We’ve all been in conversations where the other person asks for information about us and then continues to deliver a canned presentation. It’s frustrating and there is no need to automate that experience (unless you goal is to aggravate more people faster <g>).

Increase your chances of success with marketing automation by focusing on delivering the right information, to the right person, at the right time.

7 Marketing Campaigns for Your Small Businesses

automation

One way to improve our small business marketing systems is to create standardized procedures and communications for activities we are already doing. Creating procedures can help improve consistency, speeds up processing time, and makes it easier to delegate.

The campaigns below focus on common small business marketing activities that you may be doing to one extent or another. Thinking of each activity in context of a campaign helps identify the processes that we can standardize (and possibly automate) along with templates we may be able to create for our routine messages.

While these campaigns can be automated, I didn’t want you to think you have to run out and buy expensive software before you can start your marketing campaigns. Automated or not, you still need to map out the process, decision points, and content that you will need – so focus on doing that first. You can decide later whether you can use the tools you have or if you need to purchase new ones.

1. Free Report / Free Download / Free Newsletter Campaigns – Most business offer some sort of free download or newsletter subscription on their website. However, most “campaigns” consist only of an email confirmation and then delivery of the free item. By adding more messages to your free download campaign you can learn more about your prospects and how you may be able to help them.

Consider:

    • including offers to other resources you have available
    • asking a few survey questions to determine interests and needs
    • creating follow up campaigns for each question in your survey

2. Free Consultation / Free Quote Campaigns – it is also common for business to offer a free consultation or quote to prospective customers. If you have such an offering, take a look at your processes and identify steps and communications you can standardize.

Consider:

    • Using appointment reminders or phone calls to reduce no shows
    • Providing “tips for getting the most from our meeting”, or a list of things you want them to bring/provide for you
    • What communications and tasks need to take place if the customer buys
    • What communications and tasks need to take place if the customer “wants to think about it”.
    • Having a process in place for dealing with no shows.

3. New Customer Campaign – Do you have a standard, systematic approach for onboarding new customers? Standardizing your new customer welcoming process can help get the relationship started on the right foot, reducing problems down the road by properly setting expectations, and increasing your chances for receiving referrals.

Consider:

    • Creating a document outlining “what to expect” or “what to bring to your first meeting”
    • Providing a list of names and ways to contact your employees along with a description of how they can help
    • Outlining your billing procedures and expectations along with the customer’s payment options
    • Sending an unexpected gift early in the relationship
    • Including a customer happiness survey after the first 30, 60, or 90 days

4. Customer Happiness Feedback – Having a system in place for regularly soliciting feedback from your customers not only improves customer retention but can also help you get more business from referrals. One strategy you can employ is to determine what is a “passing score” on your survey and then when surveys are received all failing scores receive an immediate phone call follow up while passing scores may be asked to provide a testimonial or referral.

Consider:

    • Sending a testimonial template and/or examples of other testimonials to help them get started
    • Providing an online referral form to happy customers, asking if they know anyone else who would benefit from your product or service
    • Let them know you want to refer them as well and ask them how you can help

5. Re-engagement Campaigns – if you have a list, you undoubtedly have cold contacts on that list. Re-engagement campaigns can help you determine if you should continue to contact them (and if so, about what topics), replace them with a new contact at the same company, or remove them from your list. The goal is to get the conversation started again.

Consider:

    • Asking if they are still the appropriate person to contact about X
    • Sending a survey with questions related to the pains you address, so you can follow up with a relevant campaign
    • Asking previous prospects if they were able to find a solution and if so, ask how it is working for them

6. Webinar, Seminar, or Event Campaigns – If you use webinars, seminars, or other events in your marketing mix then you have plenty of opportunity to create standardized processes and communications. Event registration and reminders are obvious candidates, but you don’t forget the follow up.

Consider:

    • Including instructions for attending the event such as directions, accommodations, information about the speaker(s), etc.
    • Creating a “how to get the most from this event” document
    • Following up with a special offer for attendees
    • Creating a communication series for people who registered but did not attend
    • Using your event feedback form to gather information to help you determine which of your other campaigns your attendees would be interested in receiving

7. Referral Partner Campaigns – We all like business from referrals and for many businesses, having a robust referral partner network may be all the marketing they need. Creating such a network takes time and effort which means we have a lot to gain by standardizing procedures and communications in this area.

Consider:

    • Creating a standard process, as well as a set of messages, for identifying and approaching potential referral partners
    • Standardizing your process for following up with your referral partners. Make sure to have a process for first gaining Top of Mind status as well as a second process for maintaining Top of Mind status.
    • Creating a series of snack sized messages that give examples of customers you serve and the problems you have helped them solve
    • Documenting your process for making and following up on introductions to your referral partners

I hope this post has given you some ideas about how you may be able to move from performing marketing activities to creating systems that allow you to grow your business.

5 Ways Marketing Automation Helps Close More Sales

marketing automation robotMarketing automation isn’t just for large corporations anymore. Many small businesses and professional service firms are adopting automation tools to help systematize their marketing efforts. In addition to helping marketers do more with less, these tools can also be a boon to the sales department (or the sales role for those of us who wear many hats). Here are 5 ways that small business owners and salespeople can use marketing automation to close more sales.

Lead Capture – Marketing automation tools can help you identify who is visiting your website in a couple of different ways. Most marketing automation tools will help you identify the company that is visiting your web site based upon the IP address of the visitor’s computer. This technique requires that the company has registered their IP address (vs. the IP address being registered to their internet service provider, i.e. AT&T).  Some marketing automation tools integrate with other databases like Data.com or LinkedIn to provide additional demographic information about the business – number of employees, industry, revenue size, etc.

Company information is interesting, but many small business owners and salespeople become frustrated because they don’t know who from that company visited their site, so they don’t know who they should be following up with. This is where lead capture forms come into play. Once a visitor fills in a form, the marketing automation tools can match up the visitor data it previously collected as anonymous visitor tracking data and match it up to the name provided from the lead capture form.

Lead Qualification – Another key feature of marketing automation tools is the ability to track the behavior of visitors on your site. Pages visited, visit duration, number of visits, registration form submission, file downloads are some of the behaviors marketing automation software can track.

Lead scoring allows you to assign a point value to each type of behavior so you can assign a higher score to someone who attended your webinar and a lower score to someone who only looked at your careers page. This helps small business salespeople identify which prospects are ready for a sales call and which ones still need to be nurtured.

Personalized Email Automation – many marketing automation tools also provide the ability to track individual sales rep emails. Sales driven nurturing programs are also a great feature of marketing automation tools. These programs allow you to continue nurturing leads but the email messages come from the sales rep. More importantly, the replies and notifications go directly to sales.

Lead Intelligence – in addition to the ability to look up company demographic information and the tracking and scoring features listed above, many marketing automation tools will integrate with CRM systems. Having this information centrally located in the CRM allows salespeople to frame their conversation based on the leads past behavior and experience with your company.

Automated Lead Alerts – Last, but not least, marketing automation systems will alert you items that need attention from sales. Rather than depending upon running and reviewing reports, many tools allow you to define your criteria and then will alert you by email, text message, etc. whenever those rules are triggered, giving you a better chance of connecting with a prospect when they are ready to buy.

Are you using marketing automation in your small business? Tell me what you like or don’t like about them in the comments below.

Using a Marketing Message Snippet File

In my last newsletter I talked about creating a marketing follow up plan and I made a brief mention of using “starter snippets” to help quickly create follow up messages. I’ve had a couple of people ask me about how I use these snippets, so I thought I would share some ideas here.

Snippet files are something that I started using when I was a software developer. Basically, they are just pieces of text that you find yourself typing repeatedly. The idea is to have these readily accessible so you can grab them (i.e. cut & paste) quickly and not have to constantly re-invent the wheel.

One of the challenges with using marketing automation to scale your personalized messages is making sure the “personalized” message fits within the context of the relationship. For example, have you ever received a message from a company asking you to become a customer when you have already been a customer for years? These type of personalized marketing messages can actually work against you.

I view snippets as being different from automated or canned messages in that they serve as starting point, rather than a complete message. I can edit a message more quickly than I can create one from scratch. With the majority of the message already complete, it takes very little time to add a personal touch.

Here are some examples of the types of messages in my snippet file:

  • Email introductions
  • Reply to a request to connect on LinkedIn
  • Cold call scripts
  • Requesting an introduction
  • Networking follow up message
  • Birthday, anniversary, etc.

Since they are just blurbs of text, you can store snippets anywhere. Some of my customers keep them in a text file on their computer desktop. Google Docs can be a good place to keep them if you want to keep a master set of snippets and share them with your co-workers. If you are a Microsoft Outlook user, you will find the Quick Parts feature handy for managing snippets. GMail user will want to check out the canned responses feature in the Labs.

I’m a big fan of marketing automation tools, but sometimes the best tools for building relationships via marketing are a calendar reminder and a good snippet file.

Marketing Automation – 10 Questions To Ask Before Buying

automationMarketing automation is a hot topic right now. Automation can deliver tremendous benefits to your bottom line, but if we have learned anything over the years from CRM projects, we know it’s not just about the software.

Here are 10 questions that you should consider before you start your search for a marketing automation solution:

  1. What are you hoping Marketing Automation will help you achieve?
  2. Do you know what success will look like?
  3. Do you have people in your organization with the capabilities and time to implement marketing automation? If not, are you willing to pay a consultant?
  4. Will you be automating current campaigns(email, mobile, direct mail, etc.), or will you be trying to design campaigns and implement technology at the same time?
  5. What level of tracking do you need or expect to have?
  6. Do you need to integrate with a CRM system or other software tools?
  7. Do you need lead scoring? Not everyone does.
  8. Have you established a criteria for determining sales ready leads?
  9. How much automation do you need?
  10. Do you have buy-in from the sales department or role? Even though it’s called “marketing automation”, buy in from sales is critical to success.

Those of you with experience with marketing automation – what tips would you add to this list?

When Is A Lead Sales-Ready?

cooking_timerNot every lead you generate comes to you “ready to buy”.  Some leads will never buy your products or services. According to some studies, only 25% of new leads could be considered sales-ready (I think that may be high), and upwards of 25% are probably never going to buy from your business.

That leaves approximately 50% of your leads who may buy from you at some point but are not ready to buy right now. Our challenge in dealing with these 50% is this two fold – 1) how to we stay “top of mind” so they will remember us when they are ready to buy and 2) how do we know when it is appropriate to move from a marketing conversation to a sales conversation?

For professional service providers, achieving and maintaining top of mind status is typically achieved by sharing relevant and timely information on a consistent basis with your prospective customers. Electronic newsletters are a common way to “stay in touch” these days, but phone calls, handwritten notes, whitepapers, and recorded webinars are all great ways to deliver relevant information while establishing yourself as an expert and building Know, Like, and Trust.

Detecting when to shift from a marketing conversation to a sales conversation can be a little trickier. With today’s emphasis on marketing with digital media, marketing conversations typically do not take place face-to-face, so it can be difficult to detect a prospects level of interest. Therefore, many professional service firms just wait for the prospect to initiate a sales conversation.

As I mentioned in my earlier post, What Type of Salesperson Is Your Website?, some marketing automation tools give us the ability to detect our prospects’ “digital body language”, providing us clues about the sales readiness of a particular prospect.

Before spending money on a marketing automation software solution, it is important to think about the criteria that you will use to define when a prospect is ready to have a sales conversation. Software vendors usually refer to this as “lead scoring”. The basic idea behind lead scoring is you assign values to your prospects attributes and behaviors. You then adjust your end of the conversation to match the prospects level of interest and where they are in their particular buying process.

If you have different people fulfilling the sales and marketing roles in your business, one of the best things you can do to insure they are aligned with the same goals is to have them work together to develop the criteria of what constitutes a sales ready lead.

When working on your lead scoring scheme, you should take the following three broad categories of criteria into account:

1. Demographic Data: Geographic location, company size, industry, position in organization, etc.

2. Lead Source Data: Where did the lead came from – web search, tradeshow, referral, advertisement, etc.? What questions or search terms led them to you? What business problem are they trying to solve?

3. Behavioral Data: Knowledge of whether they visited your website or read your content marketing materials. Different actions should carry different scores – visiting your pricing page should receive a higher score than a visit to the careers page.

Once you collect this sort of intelligence, you can use it to determine a prospects area of interest (which pages did they visit) as well as their level of interest (did they visit an area multiple times, download related resources, or return to the site more than once?).

Use what you learn to adjust your communications to the appropriate level. If someone’s behavior indicates they are in research mode you may want to send them a whitepaper or case study. A repeat visitor who has consumed most of your marketing content may appreciate a phone call to help answer any questions they still have that are preventing them from moving forward.

Like all marketing tactics, success with lead scoring and marketing automation is dependent on having a sound marketing strategy in place. If you are not sure if you are ready for marketing automation, may I suggest taking advantage of our free Signature Brand Marketing Audit.

What Type of Salesperson Is Your Website?

You may have heard people refer to a website as being a “virtual salesperson” or a “24 hour salesperson”. As you know, salespeople come in all shapes and sizes – what type of salesperson is your website?

The Brochure Distributor – Most websites start as the equivalent of an online brochure. They may provide valuable information, but are hard to find via the search engines, so people have to know about them before they visit. If this type of website were a salesperson, they would be order takers – only making sales when someone asks to buy.

The Networker – At this level, your website it becoming more visible. Like the salesperson who consistently shows up at local networking events, your website appears in relevant search results. It also starts to get referrals; links from other sites and social media discussions.

The Nurturer – Successful salespeople work to stay “top of mind”. Some sales people stay in touch by sending the same information to everyone (i.e. a newsletter). The more successful ones stay in contact by providing information that is relevant to the prospects’ needs and/or preference – the equivalent of segmenting your list and tailoring your message to each segment.

The Sales Pro – a professional salesperson takes things to the next level by using their observational skills to adjust the conversation based on a prospect’s responses, as well as their body language and other clues. When combined with marketing automation software, your website can detect your visitors’ digital body language and help you respond accordingly. This type of intelligence helps you determine which prospects are “sales ready” and which still need nurturing.

Which type of salesperson is your website? If your website were a salesperson, would you give it a raise or fire it?

Strategic Marketing Plans – More important than ever

In Duct Tape Marketing, we are always stressing the core principle of “Strategy Before Tactics”. I believe this is important now as it has ever been. I say that because I also believe it is easier than ever to get caught up in the “marketing idea of the week” syndrome.

Everyday we hear about a new tool that will make it easier to get our message out, easier to connect with customers, and easier to sell more stuff. The problem is, without a strategy, every idea sounds like it “could work” and if we are not careful, we can spend all of our time chasing shiny objects without actually being effective in marketing our business.

Your marketing strategy lays the foundation for everything else you will be doing in your marketing (and your business). It defines who you serve, what problems you solve, and how you solve them differently from everyone else.

Then comes the tricky part – putting your strategy into action. In order to get from strategy to implementation, I believe every professional service firm needs the following components in their marketing system:

  1. Marketing Content – that is educational, builds trust, and a system for publishing it consistently.
  2. Lead Generation Tactics
    1. Inbound tactics – these are all of the tactics (SEO, local search, social media, etc.) that help you “get found” by people who are looking for the products and services you offer.
    2. Outbound tactics- while inbound marketing gets the lion’s share of the press these days, there is still a place for outbound marketing – as long as it follows the 2-step or direct response approach.
  3. Follow Up System – more complex and\or expensive your products and services tend to have longer buying cycles. It’s important to make sure that once someone finds you, you maintain your “top of mind” status so that when they are ready to buy, they remember you.
  4. Technology tools – can help us be more efficient with our time and resources. Technology can help us be more effective, but it won’t do the job by itself. Technology touches overlaps with all of the other items on this list so perhaps it shouldn’t be a separate item. I do believe that the fewer of these tools you have and the more the work together, the better off you will be.
  5. Analytics & Reporting – In order to be effective, your marketing system needs to have feedback loops built in so you know what’s working, what isn’t, and what to do about it.
  6. Review Process – Marketing systems, like businesses, are not built overnight. The only way (IMO) to implement a long term marketing plan while being flexible enough to handle the day to day challenges that arise in business, is to have a well defined planning and review process that you follow on a consistent basis. If you want accountability in marketing, you need a standardized review process.

The other big piece to getting all of this implemented is having an integrated web presence that acts as your marketing hub and ties these components together.

I also believe you need a sales system, but that’s a little outside of the scope of this post.

Did I miss anything? I’ll be expanding on each of these items in upcoming posts, so let me know what you think.

How Is Drip Marketing Different From An Autoresponder?

I have been talking about this question quite a bit recently with small business owners. While they may seem very similar, the biggest difference (at least in my mind) is that drip marketing allows you to send information to customers and prospects based on actions they have taken. For instance, if you send out e-zine and someone clicks on a link for a particular offer, you can launch a drip marketing campaign to provide follow up information. You can also customize your responses based on the actions they take on your follow up messages.

Swiftpage is a great tool for implementing a drip marketing campaign. Swiftpage allows you to create multistep marketing plans, giving you tools to intelligently and automatically reach out to your leads, prospects and customers.

The other thing I really like about a tool like Swiftpage is it integrates with data you already have. For example, if you already use ACT!, Swiftpage will work with your existing ACT! data. Without this integration, you end up with several sets of data, each in a different location, and you end up spending inordinate amounts of time coordinating and reconciling data. I don't know about you, but the small business owners I meet don't a data management hat to wear along with everything else they have on their plate.

We have lots of great technology tools these days. The key is to make sure the ones we select actually help us be more effective and efficient, and don't just give us another job to do.