Marketing automation may seem like just another buzzword. But when used to its fullest extent, it can be an extremely powerful tool for B2B and B2C merchants alike.
With so much untapped potential, it’s worthwhile to clarify what, exactly, marketing automation is. At its core, marketing automation refers to the system that helps streamline, automate, and measure marketing tasks that typically require a lot of human effort – this includes sending emails and segmenting your send lists, posting on social media, scoring leads, and more marketing and sales-related tasks.
As the lines between marketing automation, marketing communication software, and traditional email service providers (ESPs) continue to blur, we will explain how to utilize marketing automation for your digital business through a few use cases.
Use Case #1: Attracting Leads through Scoring
Marketing automation software can help you attract a high volume of valuable leads. This is where lead scoring comes into play. With lead scoring, you can attach values to each of your leads based on predetermined criteria, such as behaviors displayed on your website and professional information attached to the person (i.e. their job title, workplace, etc.). This helps separate the good, quality leads from the people who are at the top of the sales funnel.
For example, you develop a lead scoring model for your business, taking into consideration the interest the prospect has shown, how far they are into the sales cycle, and the overall fit within your business. Using historical data collected by your marketing automation system, you identify key pre-purchasing behaviors, including number of emails opened, links clicked, pages visited, time spent on pages, etc.
The more often leads exhibit this type of behavior, the more likely they are to engage directly. So, once the lead reaches a predetermined score, your marketing automation system will notify your sales team to follow up with that lead.
Lead scoring has been a common practice in B2B sales cycles, especially for organizations that sell services. Lead scoring could be used by the internal sales force to identify cross sells and new product line promotions directly to their clients and prospects. While lead scoring takes knowledge of your business operations and a marketing automation system with lead management software to set up, once it’s in place, it shouldn’t take much day-to-day management.
Use Case #2: Nurturing Inbound Leads to Expand Your Wholesale Channel
Another way B2B merchants can leverage marketing automation is to nurture hot leads in an effort to expand their wholesale channel. How? By creating highly personalized content across the customer journey using top, middle, and bottom of the sales funnel messaging.
Picture this: Your marketing automation system sends an email to potential prospects who are at the top of your sales funnel (ToFu), inviting them to download your latest white paper, eBook, or research report on industry trends. Immediately after, your marketing automation system triggers an email thanking prospects for downloading that content. The goal at this stage is to address your audience’s needs or pain points, without necessarily turning it into a sales pitch.
Now that this audience has actively engaged with your brand, they can now be considered middle of the funnel (MoFu). In this stage, your content should not only continue to provide added value, but it also should begin positioning your company as the solution to their needs. As such, your marketing automation system will send another email (about 3 – 5 days later) to those prospects containing additional, related thought leadership content with calls to action to learn more. This follow-up email not only contains a brief “thank you” message, but also displays links to related product or service pages on your site. When someone clicks, downloads, or visits your related offerings, the marketing automation system notifies your marketing team to begin fine-tuning your message even further.
Now that you’ve attracted prospects who have willingly decided to engage with you, you have more of an opportunity to start a dialogue with your most interested leads. This is where the bottom of the sales funnel (BoFu) messaging comes into play. For merchants running an ecommerce site, such messaging can contain discount codes or general promotional content to create a sense of want and urgency. When they take an action (such as using the promo code), the system will notify your sales team through the CRM to follow up with the leads who have shown the most interest in you.
Using lead-nurturing content to expand your wholesale channel is especially applicable for prospects that may be high-volume purchasers like wholesale distributors, brands that sell to a large retail footprint, or other customers that require a dedicated sales representative. In fact, B2B companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales ready leads at 33% lower cost. (Source: Forrester Research). The lesson here is that you need to segment your send lists appropriately in order to send people the right messages at the right time. Only then can you open up a dialogue to leads who have actively shown an interest.