For me, marketing automation is one of the most exciting recent MarTech developments, since it gives so many opportunities to help businesses to deliver more relevant communications to their site visitors and subscribers; which help engage and nurture both prospects and customers. I’m not alone. In a poll of our readers on Smart Insights we’re asking ’What is the most important trend in digital marketing for 2017?
Marketing automation is in the top 3 techniques for growing business revenue next year alongside making better use of customer data and content marketing, three techniques which work well together.
To help understand the opportunities of marketing automation, it’s useful to think about the whole customer lifecycle and then work out which techniques you can deploy at different points. This visual shows the many different options from prospect to customer.
The visual is structured around the Smart Insights RACE planning system which we designed for creating actionable digital marketing strategies. In this article, I’m going to take you through 10 techniques that you can use to use marketing automation starting - you can use it as a simple checklist of which you already use.
Reach your audience – increase site visits, build awareness
1) Lookalike targeting for prospecting
Marketing automation works best when you already have site visitors and email subscribers to communicate with, but recently, Google and Facebook have introduced great new techniques to help you automatically find similar audiences to grow your awareness and drive visits. Here’s how:
- Facebook Lookalike audiences and Custom audiences from your customer lists
- Google Similar audiences - This feature is available for the Display Network and for Customer Match audiences on YouTube and Gmail.
- Twitter Tailored audiences - mainly targeting existing customers
Act – encourage interaction, generate leads
2) Automated prompts with content to encourage
When you attract new audience to your site through inbound marketing techniques like blogging, AdWords or social media, encouraging your audience to interact and stay on the site is a challenge. Many blogs have bounce rates of more than 70%, so through adding relevant content and signposts we can reduce this and encourage more interaction.
Here we can use automation to recommend further interaction based on content they may be reading – like on a blog, for example:
- Next or related articles to feature based from plugins in CMS
- Prompts to sign-up for email and to list – e.g. calls-to-action in stripes at top or bottom of screen, or in panels in sidebars
- Pop-up services that automatically appear after a set time to encourage email capture.
3) Landing pages to profile your audience
Once you have attracted site visitors with your content or other offers, you need a landing page builder to profile your audience and then add them to your list.
Of course, how you craft the headline, copy, images and individual fields forming page will make a huge difference to the conversion to sign-up. This where another form of automation, AB testing of different versions, will come in handy.
Progressive profiling is another form of marketing automation that can help learn more about your audience with further interactions after the initial signup. If you’re a B2B provider and have a content asset like a whitepaper that you send to an existing subscriber you’ll also send them to a landing page, but if you know who they are you can capture just one or two more pieces of information via the landing page.
4) Welcome sequence
The next step in the lifecycle is often a huge missed opportunity! When someone is added to your list as a new subscriber, your first email to them can be seen as the most important email you send to a prospect or customer. Here you’ll have the highest levels of attention and, if you get it right, you should be getting open rates of more than 50% or click-through rates of more than 10% – see this report by Kath Pay for GetResponse giving email benchmarks by industry.
But don’t stop with a single email! By crafting multiple, well-branded emails in a welcome sequence rather than the simple autoresponse you can tell the story of what your brand can offer subscribers and give different options to engage the audience.
For example, retail brand Zulily created this 5 email welcome sequence blending engagement with different shopping tools and promotions, and encouraging social engagement – you can see the creative on this Pinterest board.
- 1st welcome: Get shopping credit! Invite your pals to join zulily too
- 2nd welcome: Go ahead … play favorites
- 3rd welcome: Anytime. Anywhere. Take Zulily with you
- 4th welcome: Calling all social butterflies
- 5th welcome: Smart shopping is your superpower
Most businesses won’t want to use 5 emails in their welcome sequence, but hopefully this example shows why more than one may be a good idea!
5) Dynamic content for personalization
When you’re working on your welcome sequence, dynamic content, another marketing automation technique, can come to your aid. We all know that if you mention someone by name or other personal attribute it will engage them more. For example, here Wedding Wire make use of a witty form of personalization in a subject line:
This example is in the subject line, but the technique can be used in the body of an email, too. For example, in the Smart Insights Welcome sequence, we call out to different roles like ‘marketing managers’ or ‘digital marketing managers’ with relevant planning advice for them.
Convert - achieve sale online or offline
6) Form or basket abandon
Do you know what ASCE stands for? I guess not, but ‘Abandon Shopping Cart Email’ has stuck with me as a reminder of one of the most effective forms of email marketing. If you can send reminders further down the funnel, they can have a high impact since you are most likely to boost sales. An ASCE is self-explanatory, but the same principle also applies for non-retailers. If you’re profiling someone on a form landing page, you can also send a reminder to complete sign-up if they don’t give their full details.
7) Lead-scoring – pass onto sales
Lead scoring is an essential feature of marketing for B2B companies or consumer businesses selling high value products and services. It’s important where there’s a long consideration process before buying as different suppliers are compared. Often it can be useful to talk to prospects direct through an outbound phone call. Naturally, you ideally want to talk to people who have genuine interest and automation can help here too to show people who have made multiple interactions through clicking on emails or viewing particular types of content.
The art of lead scoring involves setting up the rules for which types of interaction are worth a set number of points and when a threshold is reached. Once a threshold is reached, sales people can be notified to get in touch with a prospect.
Lead grading is a related technique which also looks the fit of the prospect for follow-up based on their demographics.
8) Nurturing with personalization
Once someone has visited your site for the first time or they’re a subscriber to your email, marketing automation can be used to serve relevant messages to them on site, either directly to buy or to nurture them by engaging with more content.
Re-marketing or re-targeting uses a similar approach, but off-site. Here you use Ad networks or the large platforms to deliver relevant messages based on cookies showing that show someone has visited your site. Here are the tools you can use:
- Facebook custom audiences
- Google Remarketing
- Linkedin Programmatic Buying
- Twitter Tailored audiences
Engage - build loyalty and sales from customers
10) Re-activation of existing techniques
Our tenth and final opportunity relates specifically to existing customers, but is relevant for all subscribers. That’s using automation for re-engagement and re-activation.
We said when discussing welcome emails that it’s common that the first email you send to a prospect has the highest open and click-through rate. Well, it’s also common that through time the engagement levels will fall on average. So the frequency of opens or clicks will decrease as the audience becomes less engaged.
Marketing automation gives us a tool to detect when individuals or groups of subscribers or customers are becoming less active and encourage them to interact again through offering a great piece of content or discount offer. If they’re not interested, you can potentially treat them differently by reducing the frequency of email, that can again help make a bigger impact.
Back to you
So, these are our 10 opportunities for making more use of marketing automation across the customer lifecycle. Although we have looked at just one technique in the “engage” section for customers, many of the previous techniques can be used here too.
Please share your thoughts and views in the comment section below. I’d love to know what you think.