5 Ways Your Business Should Be Using Marketing Automation

Recently, I wrote a blog post, “5 Things You Should Consider Before Purchasing Marketing Automation”. Since then, I’ve had numerous follow-up conversations from customers, colleagues, and friends that were considering marketing automation but wanted to know why they should use it within their organization.

Reports of automation adoption is projected to hit 50% by the year 2015, which means that over the coming years many of you will begin using marketing automation.

In the past eight years, I’ve evaluated, purchased, implemented, and used over ten different email marketing and marketing automation platforms. Here are a few suggestions how your organization should be using marketing automation.

1. Predicting long-term value and identifying prime cross-sell and up-sell opportunities.

A prerequisite to effective targeting is a more complete understanding of your customers, which can be obtained through techniques such as defining your buyer personas, customer profitability analysis, churn/retention analysis and behavior analysis.

With marketing automation you don’t have to limit yourself to simple demographics like age or job title. You can target leads according to how they responded to previous campaigns, or how they interacted with your web site.

Targeting helps answer questions like:

  1. Which customers are good candidates for cross-selling or up-selling?
  2. Are you recruiting high-value customers or low-value customers?
  3. How can I quantify shifts in behavior, predict long-term value and identify prime cross-sell and up-sell opportunities?

2. Sending specific messages to a mass database

No matter how large your target market, it is composed of individuals, with individual characteristics and preferences. Therefore, the key to effective mass marketing is not to treat your market like a mass. The more in-depth your intelligence about individual customers, the greater the effectiveness you will have with your marketing campaigns. You should be programmingspecific messages to be sent in response to visitor actions, such as purchase confirmation, key pages on your website, or shopping cart abandonment.

3. Nurture your leads until they are ready to buy.

Research says that 84% of qualified leads are not ready to buy. I’m sure from seeing your conversation rates, you know that most people who visit your web site are just browsing – they’re not ready to buy. But down the line, many will be.

Capturing their information, with a piece of gated content for example, you can set up a series of communications designed to take them through the buying process. Based on their behavior, you can score prospects from “cold” to “warm” so that your sales team can allocate their time to the leads ready to purchase.

4. Tracking the ROI of your social media reach.

In 2012, a Satmetrix study reported that 67% of companies do not measure or quantify social media engagement. For B2B companies, this figure rises to 75%.

Many of the marketing automation software providers solve this problem by providing integrateddashboards, which deliver analytics across all platforms including social media campaigns. I like to cross reference Google analytics with the marketing automation reports to see consistency and accuracy.

5. Deepen relationships with your current customers

Obtaining detailed customer knowledge is one thing; effectively integrating it into future marketing campaigns is another. With marketing automation you can measure the effectiveness of a campaign against the goals you established and then use that information to improve future campaigns.

Did the customers respond, and if so, how did they respond? Did you achieve your objectives? This information is critical to capture, monitor and incorporate back into future planning phases.

Through this ongoing process, you will gain an ever more accurate picture of your customers’ wants and needs, leading to more effective campaigns over time.

5 Things to Consider before Purchasing Marketing Automation

Marketing Automation is one of the most talked about technology in the B2B market. Estimates of automation adoption is projected to hit 50% by the year 2015, meaning that over the coming years, plenty of companies will be sifting through the various vendors to determine what solution fits best.

As more and more companies are looking to adopt automation to manage their leads and prospects, they are quickly realizing there is more to making the move to automation than just a technology purchase.

For many marketers, purchasing this type of technology is unchartered territory. So, it’s vital that they understand what they’ll need in order to make their technology investment successful.
Here are five things every organization should consider before investing in a marketing automation service.

1. Consider: Your Lead Management Process (is there one?)

Lead ManagementEven with staggering statistics of the adoption and benefits of marketing automation, other research shows that many organizations have not achieved a level of process maturity and therefore are not getting the full value from their automation investments.

I’ve personally talked with numerous marketers that are currently paying for automation services, yet using the technology at a low capacity. It’s like having a smartphone yet only using it to make calls.

Organizations need to consider analyzing and developing a Lead Management Process. This alone will help you to get the maximum return from your investment. I encourage you to whiteboard your process out and then formally document it for all involved departments to review.

You should consider:

  • Identifying your leads. Develop your personas and what their buying questions are.
  • Creating a scoring/grading structure for your leads. What would make a prospect an “A” lead?
  • Mapping out a nurture campaign for your different personas. (start small then grow it.)
  • Identifying when marketing will pass leads to sales. A good place to start is if a prospect hits a certain score/grade.

Once these process areas are developed, automation will be easier to set up (and less overwhelming once you go live) Conversely, not having these processes in place before purchase leaves you to automate very little.

2. Consider: Your Team’s Skills

Team SkillsI’ve used numerous marketing automation platforms and let me be the first to tell you that many vendors will market their “ease of use.” While you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to learn them, it cannot be assumed that applying automation to the new way of B2B marketing is easy.

A study conducted in 2010 by Frost & Sullivan and Bulldog Solutions showed that of 250 respondents, 109 (44%) said that not having the right people was a roadblock to their automation success. Before you purchase automation, look to ensure your people have a strong understanding of your buyers, a willingness to collaborate with sales, a focus on revenue as an outcome, and that they know the place technology will play in reaching the buyer. In order to get the most from the technology, it takes people with the right skills.

3. Consider: Your Content Strategy

Content StrategyYou can’t automate marketing if you don’t have anything to send to your leads, so it is imperative that you have relevant content that will foster dialogue along each stage of the buying cycle.

In a recent conversation with a fellow marketer I asked what type of content he was sending to his leads. His reply was “a quarterly newsletter is our biggest send.” The other extreme are companies are sending lots of emails but have no content strategy or framework. Consequently, their results are falling quite flat.

Developing your buyer personas (or ideal customer profiles), and documenting the typical buyer’s journey will help you develop a content map that corresponds to the journey and the personas.

4. Consider: Your Overall Goals & Objectives

GoalsOne change that has occurred in this new era of B2B Marketing, that I love, has been a shift from art to science. Marketers are no longer looked to as the team that only provides fancy brochures, trade show swag, and powerpoint presentations, but organizations are looking to their marketing teams to help drive revenue. Yet, many marketing departments have not yet adopted this frame of mind when looking into marketing automation.

Before you purchase automation, be sure to determine the goals and objectives of marketing from a revenue perspective. Once the implementation occurs, use the solution along with your CRM reporting to track, benchmark and report on these metrics.

5. Consider: All of the Above

All The AboveThere are 100’s marketing automation solutions available on the market today. There’s an automation platform for every size organization.

As you consider an automation platform, take a look at the maturity of your marketing efforts. Buying an automation platform is only as good as the people, content, and processes you’ve put in place. Otherwise you’ll be paying for a service that you’re not using—but you should be! “Bells and whistles” do not mean much if they are not being used.

There are a lot of considerations when it comes to selecting the right marketing automation solution. However if you know your target leads, are collaborating with sales, producing content to educate your audience, and have a team that sees revenue generation as a key aspect of their job, you’re on the right track for successfully automating your marketing efforts.

What is CRM integration?

Whether you’re a CEO, marketing director, manager or anywhere in between, I’m sure Imageyou’ve had countless meetings on how to best manage your customers, contacts, leads and opportunities.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, tied into a Marketing Automation platform, is key.

What exactly is a CRM? What types of CRMs are there? How can you integrate your CRM with your Drupal website?

What is CRM?

Every day, your team is interacting with customers and prospects. A CRM’s primary purpose is to organize, track, and manage all of your customer information, activities, and conversations. This helps your sales, marketing, and customer service teams better understand your customers. It also ensures you are delivering the right message at the right time.

In short, CRM is an application that is designed to help you and your business to organize all the data that you have on your customers.

What Types of CRMs are there?

CRM applications come in two basic varieties: software and service. Decision makers have a wide range to choose from, depending on the needs of your organization. CRM software installs on your computer or server, and the data resides there as well. With CRM software, you usually only have to pay for it once and then you have control over both the program and the data inside it. CRM services are hosted online. You will typically pay an ongoing fee to access these services, but you can access them from any computer.

Some of the more well-known CRMs are SalesforceMicrosoft Dynamics, SugarCRM, and NetSuite, as well as custom-made CRMs.

What is CRM integration?

Simply put, CRM integration is building your website and CRM to function together seamlessly. Instead of using your CRM to just be a system that retains customer information based on manual entries, integrating your website/marketing automation software brings in valuable customer information directly into your CRM.

For example, let’s say a prospect downloads your recent whitepaper from your website. This “prospect” is graded with a solid “B” (based on the grading structure you’ve put in place in your marketing automation software). If your marketing automation software is integrated with your CRM, a new record will be created and assigned to a sales person for follow-up.

In addition, your sales person will be able to pinpoint when that lead last visited your site, what they looked at, and what other information they requested.

Integrating A CRM into Your Drupal Website

Like any software you are integrating with your website, IT staffs should thoroughly think through coding issues before getting started. Participating in a live Demo and asking questions about other successful Drupal implementations is key. I would also suggest calling references provided by the CRM you’re choosing. It’s a great way find out what issues they had that you might not have thought through.

Many of the larger CRMs have modules already created to make installing a bit easier (.i.e SalesforceSugarCRM, and a suite of modules for the Drupal-based CRMs like RedHen and Civicrm).

If you are going with a less widely accepted CRM, a custom API might need to be written. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but can be time consuming.

Conclusion

Regardless of the CRM you use, the majority of CRMs hold the same types of information and have the same types of goals:

  • Improve customer communication and retention
  • Increase company profitability
  • Enhance customer/prospect tracking

Additional Resources

Additional Resources

Effective Content Marketing

Marketing Automation and Drupal

Elf on the Shelf Ideas (Part 2)

Last week I shared a few of the Elf on the Shelf ideas our family has done. Some were original ideas, and others I snagged from parents that are far more creative than I am.

Here are a few other Elf on the Shelf ideas that our crazy elf, Shiny, created.

Elf on the Shelf IdeaElf on the Shelf IdeaElf on the Shelf Idea

Elf on the Shelf Idea Elf on the Shelf IdeaElf on the Shelf Idea

Marketing Automation and Drupal

Marketing AutomationA strong lead management process requires B2B marketing professionals to respond to each prospect within the buying process. However, as your business grows, understanding and responding relevantly to a buyer’s interest is almost impossible to do manually. To ensure that your marketing efforts are targeting customers and prospects with the right messages at the right time, a marketing automation software is key.

What Is Marketing Automation?

Marketing automation software brings together content assets such as landing pages, emails, web events, etc. and delivers them to prospects at a time when it is most relevant to them in their buying cycle.

Knowing the “right time” is key to effectively engaging prospects with your brand. Conducting an analysis of your target audience and capturing demographic information, along with their interactions with your brand through your website and social platforms, allows you to qualify a lead and deliver to your sales team. Most marketing automation platforms integrate seamlessly with popular CRMs, so your sales staff can most likely continue to use their existing tools.

Marketing automation and Drupal?

I’m skipping ahead in the process and assuming you’ve already determined that you need a marketing automation software. The question now is “how effectively will this software integrate into a Drupal website?”

Drupal is definitely one of the better marketing platforms, and with a simple install of custom modules, the most popular marketing automation platforms can quickly be integrated with your Drupal Site.

Below are just a few examples of custom Drupal modules that have been created for marketing automation platforms:

  • Marketo Munchkin Module – (created by Mediacurrent‘s Damien McKenna) The Marketo Munchkin is a very simple module to output the Marketo Munchkin tracking code obtained from http://www.marketo.com/.
  • Eloqua Module – This module allows you to build webforms that directly parallel forms in eloqua, and can thereby be posted into eloqua.
  • Pardot Module – This module adds Pardot web analytics directly onto your Drupal site. It supports general visitor tracking, path-based individual campaign tracking, and path-based lead scoring.
  • Built In Module to Replace 3rd Parties – This module serves as a locally hosted replacement for 3rd party services like Pardot, Marketo or Eloqua, allowing you to track individual user paths through your site and assign rules for marketing automation in the form of drip campaigns triggered from user interaction.

Conclusion

Personally, I recommend every Marketing and Sales Director investigate marketing automation software. To truly grasp the value provided by marketing automation, a level of understanding is needed, which only develops from in-depth personal experience with the technology, or a thorough investigation of its core features and functions. In either case, plan to spend a significant amount of time learning the ins and outs of the solution features. However, I strongly believe that companies that implement a marketing automation system to support their marketing and sales efforts are better equipped to manage lead flow and process leads more efficiently.ketin

Elf on the Shelf Ideas (with photos)

Last year my mother-in-law gave us the Elf on the Shelf. It quickly became a holiday tradition and fun way for us to bring extra special “magic” to the holiday season. My son wakes up each morning wondering where “Shiny” is.

So, if your family has adopted the Elf on a Shelf tradition but find that you are running out ideas, here are a few that that we have done (and plan to do).

Elf on the Shelf Ideas

Elf on the Shelf Ideas

Elf on the Shelf Ideas

Elf on the Shelf Ideas

Elf on the Shelf - Playing Hide-N-Seek

Elf on the Shelf - Making Faces

Elf on the Shelf - Wrapping the toliet

Elf on the Shelf - Christmas Countdown

Elf on the Shelf - Germ Free

Elf on the Shelf - Ipad self portrait

Elf on the Shelf - teacher

Update: Elf on the Shelf Ideas (part 2) 

Here are a few other ideas that Blossom Bunkhouse suggests:

1. Marshmallow fight — marshmallows everywhere
2. Pillow fight — feathers everywhere
3. Nerf gun fight — darts everywhere
4. Laundry fight — clothes everywhere
5. Lipstick on mirror message
6. Crepe paper barricade on their bedroom door that they have to bust through
7. Rearrange story books in ABC order or in a pile of disarray
8. Clean closet or make mess of closet
9. Fill tub with bubbles till the point of explosion
10. Hang from shower nozzle with a towel on
11. Unroll toilet paper roll on the floor, around Christmas tree, etc.
12. Zip down a zip line through the house
13. Caught sneaking candy
14. Eat milk and cookies
15. Organize school clothes — mismatched haha
16. Write a message on the on the snow covered car window
17. Create a paper chain with a bit of a mess to show for it
18. Hang child’s unmentionables on the Christmas tree
19. Hang from chandelier or ceiling fan
20. Make faces on school pictures with a marker
21. Take a spin in toy car/remote control car
22. Play board game with stuffed animal friends or action figures
23. Tea party with stuffed animal friends
24. Read book, newspaper, e-reader, ipad, computer, etc
25. Listen to child’s ipod
26. Play child’s DS/itouch
27. Play video games
28. Draw picture
29. Color in coloring book
30. Dump toybox

No “More” Marketing

We (consumers) are in an era that Jay Baer calls an “invitation avalanche.”

Think about it. Every where you turn you’re being invited to follow, friend, find, like, or share not only company’s information, but friends and family too. Even when your mom puts a message on Facebook, it dilutes all the other messages that are being shared. Messages that marketers are trying desperately to get you to engage with.

Marketers today not only have to compete with other businesses, but with everyone else that is sharing information. Not just on Facebook, but all social and email platforms. At lets face it, consumers go to great lengths to not encounter “marketing.”

How Do You Get Marketing Messages Seen?

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Certainly not with “more.” Can’t we all agree that we don’t need to read more tweets, more Facebook updates, or more emails. What we (marketers) need is relevance. Or another way to say it is, helpfulness.

Case in point: Geek Squad. They have posted hundreds of “how to” videos on their Youtube Channel. These videos teach the exact things they charge customers for.

“Aren’t they giving away their business” you ask.

Robert Stephens, founder of Geek Squad, was speaking at a conference a while back when a   member of the audience asked “Robert, you guys are in the fixing business, yet you’ve got all these videos that show people how to fix stuff without you. How does that make business sense?”

Robert responded with humor but dead on. He said “our best customers are the people that think they can fix it themselves.”

I couldn’t agree more. I’ve certainly paid for services like Geek Squad because I thought I could handle the project myself, but then quickly realized I was out of my depth of knowlege.

“Friend of Mine” Marketing

Your content should be so compelling that your audience allows your brand in their inner circle. Jay calls this “Friend of Mine” marketing. Meaning the content you’re producing is so relevant, that once your  target audience needs help, they are not going to “Google a company”, they’re going to call you. After all, they’ve watched your instructional videos, read your blogs, and downloaded your whitepapers—all of which were helpful to them.

Remember though, it’s not a quick close. Being useful in social media and content marketing is all about the long game.