Marketing is the main driver of sales, everything you do is marketing. From the blog posts you write to the branded bags you hand out at your cash register or the business card you send.
However, some things we do as marketers can seem like magic. Especially if everything you’re doing creates value for the user along the way.
People like to get plenty of information before making a purchase, and they do not want to be called until they are ready to buy.
In fact, if you call them too early in the buying process, they may never want to hear from you again.
A dirty secret is that nobody wants to feel like they’re being marketed to, but everyone needs marketing to inform them enough to make a decision.
This is where lead nurturing and marketing automation come in.
The amazing thing about a well-built lead nurturing program like this is you can build it once and it functions without a lot of additional investment. A lead nurturing program can continuously generate leads, send emails, and route leads to sales.
Making this actually work requires a program manager who can understand conceptually how the system needs to function. Build automation that takes every factor into account.
You need to think of everything to make this work successfully including:
- What a user wants in return for the information that makes them a lead?
- The factors or behaviours of a lead that would make sales want to pursue it?
- What is the content we can deliver that will ensure we understand and gather data on those factors and behaviours?
- How does the sales organization function and how can we “plug” our program in with little to no disruption to their workflow?
- How do we know we are being successful? What are the key metrics to measure and are we capturing them?
- How do we ensure that no lead is lost and we have no “leaky buckets” through any part of our lead flow?
- What do we do with leads that fall into tertiary buckets like closed lost leads or leads that have not been properly pursued?
- In what ways could marketing automation improve the process rather than just automating it?
- Most importantly: How do we create value for our leads at every step of the process?
What does our marketing automation program look like?
We will use Lead Scoring to capture engagement behavior and demographics. We’ll use this functionality to ensure only leads with a high score (i.e. leads with desirable demographics or behaviors) will make it to sales.
In other words, marketing only sends leads that have the traits of a buyer, or are highly engaged.
We also establish a persona that best describes the lead so we know what type of content to engage that lead with. And we will communicate and engage each persona differently.
For the sales team to be the most effective we need to ensure that all leads are routed to sales quickly and accurately. It also makes sense to ensure that we don’t have routing errors. Especially if there are significant assignment rules (such as with complicated territories).
We will also use reports and dashboards to provide clarity into what’s working and what’s not.
This allows us to systematically improve our programs and ensure we are investing intelligently. It provides internal stakeholders with a view on what our team is doing and it provides a valuable ROI for our efforts.
How do we make all this happen? It sounds ridiculously complex.
All the major marketing automation platforms work roughly the same way. They each have different terminology, different interfaces and slightly different functionality but they each work basically the same way.
The devil is in the details, and a poorly executed automation system can have a disastrous impact on marketing results, sales results and the company’s bottom line.
I have produced the following based on a fictitious marketing nurturing campaign created in Hubspot.
It will give you an idea of how NorthIQ builds these programs for organizations.
Conceptualize Your Lead flow
First we need to consider, strategically, how leads and contacts “flow” through your organization.
That is to say, what are the major states of a contact in the internal workings of the business regardless of its impact on the automation we plan to build.
It’s vital that we understand how the marketing and sales “system” functions so we can plug our program into it.
Some organizations (in fact, strangely, most) don’t have a formal version of this. It might be necessary to ask many questions to gather this information.
To produce a concept I build a model like the example below.
In this example, our two main marketing programs are the nurturing program and the newsletter program.
- Leads are generated through forms on the web and nurtured through email communications.
- When a lead hits a score threshold of 100 they are assigned to the sales team.
- The sales team either wins the deal, loses the deal, or flags the lead as not viable.
Conceptualize your lead nurturing system
The next component we need to build is a conceptual workflow of how your nurturing program will function from a marketing and sales perspective.
In this example we use a Level 1 and Level 2 form. They gather vital demographic information that is used to determine how likely the lead is to buy.
The Level 1 form has fewer required fields and is used as a low-friction entry point into our database.
The calls to action in the email are to a Level 2 form. This has a more complex series of fields and might even be a Contact form.
In the above example our preferred flow of a lead is an initial small lead form that captures a lead. You can use a lead magnet like a white paper.
We then send an email or series of emails with the goal of getting the lead to complete a level two form which has more advanced data capture requirements.
At any point in this flow when a lead hits 100 lead score we will route to sales for outreach.
Overlay what needs to occur
The next step we will take is to overlay the functions, data changes or automation we will need to ensure the program will function.
For the time being we don’t necessarily care how his will be translated in the marketing automation platform. We just want to ensure we’ve recorded and catalog what needs to occur and when.
In the following example I have overlaid the automation that needs to occur in red.
These are points in which some kind of automation needs to “touch” the lead to ensure proper movement through the lead flow.
Once I have this completed I am able to develop a picture of what I need to build in Hubspot. The above example is a simplified view of the automation steps that you may actually need to take to make your flows run, but it should give you an idea of how this is done.
Workflows high level overview
To build the automation to power the system detailed above we will create Workflows that I’d categorize as my email workflow, and my operational or support workflows.
These flows are always running in the background and are the magic behind a successful marketing automation system
The email workflow function is to power the email portion of the program.
It also has some operational components that have timing requirements based on the sending of emails – such as adding to our Newsletter program at the end.
The operational workflows are used to ensure the system works smoothly but may not be tied to the timing of emails.
An example of this might be setting the Persona value, or assigning a lead to sales.
Based on this categorization I build the following Workflows in Hubspot. These Workflows, built correctly, can be turned on and left alone to run.
A deep technical understanding is vital
It’s important to understand how a business functions from a technical standpoint to “plug” this automation campaign in.
If we can’t determine, very specifically, how leads need to route through the system it will be very difficult to build something that is effective.
I usually ask sales and management what feels like 300 questions. I want to understand from top to bottom, no stone left unturned how this all works.
It’s also vital to know how the database is structured and which fields are necessary.
It will also be difficult or impossible to build a successful program without this knowledge.
I’ve found over the course of many years and having launched many automation programs that a failure to plug in, and a failure to understand the database structure are the majority of why automation programs aren’t functioning correctly.
Monitor and Maintain
One of the things NorthIQ does once the program is turned on is to monitor it very closely.
It may be necessary to build list of leads that have gone through every step and view individual records to ensure everything happens smoothly.
It’s also just as important to know things like how many records exist at each point in the lead flow.
- Is this right?
- Are we missing records somewhere?
- Did they get assigned to the right sales person?
- Did they receive the right email at the right time?
Diagnosing this type of thing and repairing quickly will ensure you have no holes in your program.
This is Science, not Magic
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. – Arthur C. Clarke
This isn’t an easy process, it takes time, it takes understanding, and like anything, it requires an initial period of revision even after launch. We can help you achieve incredible results through Marketing Automation.
Get in touch with us and we’ll make some science together.
Craig Oliphant is a marketing expert with over a decade of experience in digital marketing. He has built online campaigns for multi-million dollar companies, and seen massive returns from very small investments. He has figured out ways to achieve repeatable results.