Challenge: So you have implemented a basic email program and lead scoring — what’s next?
Almost all marketing automation systems will have you start by building an initial email series for new prospects, a lead scoring system and other programs to optimize your organization’s sales processes. You’ve built the systems and spent time troubleshooting and optimizing these programs. Next, it’s time to take these programs to the next level.
Step One: Data Analysis
You are likely capturing and tracking very valuable information: Data on initial lead source, key campaigns, important offers, customer segmentation, lead scoring, lifetime customer value and more. Take sufficient time to extract and analyze the data to show which campaigns, offers and other programs are associated with the acquisition of new customers (the logic being that if you continue to acquire new customers, you can also later optimize lifetime customer value). Investigate the various flows prospects take as they enter your systems through to a sold deal. Which campaigns or offers are associated with capturing new leads? Which campaigns or offers are associated with moving these leads through to initial sale? What common threads drive leads that do not progress at all or move to a ‘closed-lost’ opportunity? In just a few hours, you are likely to find key trends in your sales process – some trends you want to replicate and others you want to avoid.
Step Two: Collaborate with Sales
Armed with this information, collaborate with the sales team to validate the data your system uncovers with their real world experience. Very often, they are driving many of these ongoing touch points and can provide key insights behind these reports. As a result, you may also develop additional questions that will drive further data analysis to discover true causal relationships. The goal is to reach consensus on how to best support sales efforts with your marketing automation systems. Ideally, you will be able to identify areas where the sales team spends significant time/effort and explore opportunities to accelerate deal flow or reduce overall friction in the sales cycle. From these meetings, you should have a set of tactics where marketing can assist in the sales process. These tactics may be to focus efforts on certain industry verticals (greater segmentation in marketing automation), improved sales process (better offers at various stages of marketing automation) or optimized profiling of target prospects (better data collection or enhancement to make better decisions) – to name a few.
Step Three: Match Prospect’s Online Posture
Armed with your new-found insights into levers that drive sales, you can evaluate how your marketing automation systems can best support the sales team. You should now have insights into optimal lead sources, leading indicators when a prospect is ready to move to the next stage and good predictors of imminent purchase decisions. Your marketing automation system should be capturing these details and triggering the next phone call, email or offer.
Now you can optimize your initial marketing automation programs – and specifically the flow of your programs that will more reliably deliver relevant content for your prospects to take them to the next sales stage. If you see that a prospect takes one action or visits certain content on your web site, you can alter your programs to deliver better offers at the right time. Read your prospect’s ‘online posture’ by evaluating the offers they have consumed and the actions they have taken – and then offer them up the next likely step in the sales process.
Most marketing automation programs in their first or second generation are really just a series of emails that don’t respond dynamically to the actions of the prospect. To be fair, these programs take significant time and effort to set up – even at this basic level. However, once in place and optimized, now is the time to re-engineer the program, adding more options based on your prospects’ actions. This will probably entail more complex programming that creates different paths for your prospects – ones that more closely match their needs and interests.
Your goal is to get the right offer in front of the right prospect at the right time. If this were a face-to-face interaction, a sales rep would be reading and interpreting body language, tone, word choice, etc., to make the most appropriate, and therefore optimal, recommendations. You will have to make these recommendations based on how the prospect interacts with your website and your content. Your goal is to read the prospect’s online activities and then to adapt your response.
Step Four: Optimization
Once implemented you will again need another round of optimization – likely your initial design can be improved by watching open rate, click-through rate (CTR) and the actual completion of the offers delivered. You may find that you thought an offer was great but the CTR is very low. This may require changes to the messaging, a different offer, or changed timing. In fact, you may find that your initial results were lower than your previous simpler program! Don’t worry. If your analysis of sales process was accurate and your new automation design solid, you will be able to change timing, offer, copy and other variables to dramatically improve your results. These tests will take time and patience – but the results will be well worth the effort.
Lesson: Developing sophisticated lead development programs that respond to your prospects’ online postures takes effort but will most certainly take your marketing automation programs to the next level.