Turn Strangers Into Customers
With This 7-Step Marketing Automation Guide
By Guy Marion
Although, the marketing automation space is still relatively new, the category is growing quickly as more businesses discover its benefits. According to VentureBeat, companies using marketing automation are reporting an 80 percent increase in leads and a 77 percent increase in conversions. Others are just plain tired of manually sending the same emails over and over again. They are adopting more robust customer nurturing than tired, one-off batch and blast emails.
While the benefits are many, marketing automation can prove difficult in the beginning. Luckily, the process can be broken down into seven essential steps which, when applied, can begin turning strangers into customers, automatically.
(Photo courtesy of Guy Marion)
Step 1: Ditch the Rolodex
Your first order of business is to centralize all of your contacts in one place. This may take some digging, but you’ve spent serious time and money acquiring those contacts. Names and email addresses of contacts can be scattered and siloed throughout your company.
First, take stock of all the places contact information might be lying around (business cards, old email lists, countless spreadsheets saved on various hard drives, even an occasional Rolodex, and the list goes on.) Once you’ve gathered all of your contacts, import everyone into your marketing automation software and segment each group with criteria that’s important for your business.
Step 2: Website Visitors are Customers too
In this step, your goal is to gain a deeper understanding of your audience and how you can most effectively reach them. Sites like Quantcast and Google Analytics provide a wealth of information about the visitors to your website.
As you’re diving in to the analytics, pay special attention to specific characteristics of your customers. These include: demographics, interests, location and technology used. This information will help inform the selection of promising leads from all those who visited the website.
Step 3: It’s All in the Form-ula
This step is about making it easy to enter the centralized contact database you’ve just built by setting up your forms to capture new leads. Forms live in a variety of places: email newsletter opt-in boxes, landing pages offering a free whitepaper, contact us pages, and more. The common thread is forms capture people’s information to build your email list.
However, be mindful. Many marketing automation platforms require you to use their own landing page builders or form handlers in order to route contact information into their systems. This makes it difficult to capture new leads if you already have content built out on a WordPress or HTML website.
Step 4: Sending the First Email
There are all types of emails you could send: welcome emails, qualification emails, reactivation emails, trial emails, onboarding emails, newsletter emails, the list goes on and on. What’s important right now is starting simple and figuring out what really drives results.
To begin, try repurposing your highest traffic blog post into an email: Use a simple template with an eye-catching image, a few compelling sentences and a clear call-to-action to read the full blog post. That’s it. At Autopilot, we have used this technique to drive tons of traffic to our blog and site.
Step 5: Create “Gated Content” That Works
Gated content is any content readers receive in exchange for giving you their email address. They are usually ebooks, whitepapers, and reports that are enticing and valuable enough for readers to give you access to their inbox so you can nurture the relationship over time.
Gated content is an opportunity for you to share your hard-earned insights over the years and simultaneously draw in new leads to grow your business.
Step 6: Defining the Conversion Journey
A conversion journey is when a customer enters into a buying sequence such as a purchase online from a shopping cart or signing up for a free 30-day software trial.
The key to creating an effective conversion journey is to define what success looks like in your company’s journey. Is it when your leads sign ups for a demo with a salesperson? Once you’ve nailed down the key success milestone that leads your customers to a purchase, work your way backwards to figure out the steps in the conversion journey it takes to get there.
Step 7: Use Data to Super-Charge
Making decisions without data is like shooting a target in the dark – you don’t know where you’re hitting. The right data can give insight into what’s working and what’s not as well as show you where to invest resources and make changes. Consider these metrics as you continually tweak your marketing automation strategy:
- Total number of contacts: Make sure you set quarterly/annual goals to grow these!
- Number of people in each database segment: Think back to step 1, what is the numerical breakdown of those segments?
- Email open & clickthrough rates: Pay attention to what types of communication and content your contacts are responding to.
- Blog & website engagement: Use Google analytics to determine which web pages or blog posts are most popular (or not so popular) by looking at pageviews, time on site and bounce rates.
- Social media metrics: A tool like Buffer can show your most popular and least popular posts by comments, likes, clicks, and shares.
- Unsubscribe rate: If you’re seeing unsubscribe rates more than 0.3 percent, you need to re-evaluate your send frequency and content.
- Conversion rate: What strategy tweaks can you make to move you closer to your target?
Paying attention to these metrics will show you how people are interacting with your business as well as where you need to make improvements.
These seven steps provide the foundation for developing your first marketing automation strategy. Together, they outline a proven success path dozens of companies have utilized to produce results. With a successful marketing automation strategy in place, you too can move beyond blast emails and start turning strangers into customers, automatically.
This article is written and provided by Guy Marion. Guy is chief marketing officer at Autopilot, where he spearheads Autopilot’s go-to-market strategy and operations. He has spent the past decade at the forefront of the shift toward all things Cloud & SaaS, having helped grow several enterprise companies into successful businesses. Prior to joining Autopilot, Guy served as head of online sales at Zendesk where he helped rapidly grow Zendesk’s core SaaS business.
The views, opinions and positions expressed within this guest post are those of the author alone and do not represent those of CBS Small Business Pulse or the CBS Corporation. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are verified solely by the author.