Marketing automation has been the buzzword for marketing and sales personnel in the last few years. The rise of marketing automation is attributed to the advent of new technologies and sophisticated tools along with an increased need for personalization in marketing. The sheer size of this market is predicted to reach $32.6 Billion by 2024 with a compound annual growth rate of 13.6%.
Marketing automation is nothing but automating repetitive marketing tasks such as emails, social media, website messaging, and text messages et cetera. Nowadays, every other team is leveraging some or other form of marketing automation to grow their business. So, how do you stand out?
At times, we tend to overlook marketing automation at various stages of the customer’s lifecycle. Most of the businesses use marketing automation for nurturing the leads, some use it post-sale and others at different stages of customer’s lifecycle. The full extent of marketing automation can be realized if you widen the horizon and include automation at most of the customer touchpoints.
Let’s discuss this in detail.
Customer lifecycle and its importance
The customer lifecycle refers to a set of stages a prospective lead goes through in their journey with the product. Essentially, the lifecycle is the progress made by a customer during their experience with the product. The stages largely depend on the nature of the product or business. Holistically, the lifecycle comprises of these stages:
Each of these stages is governed by different triggers and motives. They have different goals and expectations. Hence, marketing activities and customer conversations vary significantly from stage to stage and so marketing automation.
For example, while delivering ads at lead stage might be a good strategy, but it might not work for retention. This is the primary reason why understanding customer lifecycle becomes immensely important for marketers. Understanding lifecycle and using the right strategies will help you increase overall efficiency and ROI on marketing efforts. At the end, when everyone in the market has got similar tools and budgets, it boils down to strategy and implementation.
Leveraging marketing automation in different stages of the customer lifecycle
Reach stage or awareness stage is where you target prospective leads to get their attention. It could be through targeted ads, cold emailing, distributing content at the right places, social media or any other marketing channel which works for you.
While you are trying to woo an audience for your product, you need lots of experimentation, iterations, and tests. You can not expect to sit on a strategy and stick with it all the way long. For example, distributing content is a manual and tedious task. With any targeted content distribution tool such as Taboola and Outbrain, you can automate these tasks. You just need to define your targeted audience and these tools will take care of the rest.
The major role of marketing automation at reach stage is realized with cold email drip campaigns. You may have heard that cold emailing is dead. Well sure they are, but only mass-targeted, badly written and no background research emails get flushed in the inbox. Contextual, personalized, account-based cold emails remain the top acquisition channel for a lot of marketers.
With modern automation tools, you can find and validate leads, create drip marketing campaigns and convert these prospects into leads. With times a-changing, you need to tweak your cold marketing strategies as well.
The real power of marketing automation is often realized in the nurturing stage. According to Strategic IC, companies that automate lead management see a 10% or more bump in revenue in 6-9 months time. Given the nurturing stage is where most of your leads leak from the funnel, it becomes really important to showcase your product’s value to them.
More often than not, leads in nurturing stages are aware of the problems they are facing. Your job is to make them solution aware and ultimately product aware by educating them. It could be done through emails, in-app messaging or demo calls. Marketing automation makes your life easier by delivering information and content to the leads at the right time and with a touch of personalization.
Marketing automation at the lead stage differs on a case to case basis. There are certain factors to consider such as how a lead has entered your marketing automation workflow (downloaded a whitepaper OR signed for a product demo). Or what is your target audience? Or how complicates or easy it is to use your product?
A lot of businesses start with date-based marketing automation workflow for lead nurturing. Suppose a lead sign up to try your product which has a thirty days trial period. A date-based automation workflow could look like this:
Day 0 – Send a welcome email
Day 3 – Send getting started guide
Day 8 – Send an email for scheduling a demo call
Day 14 – Send the benefits of your USP
Day 21 – Send customer case studies
Day 30 – Send a reminder to upgrade the subscription
While it has shown results in the past, the problem with such workflows is that they lack context and personalization. Hence, these date-based workflows have become outdated in recent times.
Most of the modern workflows are activity/event-driven. The benefit of such workflows is that they keep they are highly contextual, personalized and easy to club with the lead scoring framework.
Lead scoring is a methodology to determine to rank your users, leads or potential leads based on their activity on your website, product or emails and determine how engaged they or how likely they are to convert. It is a very powerful weapon in B2B marketers arsenal. Lead scoring clears the clutter from potential customers, sets a priority order and reduces manual prospecting significantly.
Setting up behavior-based automation with insights from lead scores can turn the table upside down for you. Here’s an example of behavioral marketing automation based on activities on website and emails. Every successful email step (read, replies or clicked a link) adds to the lead score and you can rank your leads based on engagement.
Behavioral automation workflows may be a little overwhelming to implement. You also need to run a lot of experiments and A/B test on nurturing emails in such workflows to get the maximum ROI on efforts. But, if implemented correctly, marketing automation can deliver unparalleled results for you.
Example of behavioral automation workflow. Credits: Aritic
Acquisition stage is where a qualified lead gets converted into a paying customer. You need to make your best impression, give the best onboarding and provide immediate customer service resources on a relatively shorted time immediately preceding and succeeding the sale.
You should be on your toes at the time just before the customer is likely to convert (lead score is a good tarot card reader). You can send out value-driven, urgency instigating and FOMO messages to the leads with high lead scores. You can also share successful customer case-studies about how your customers have benefited from your product. Better yet, you can also include in-app messages to get the maximum out of your marketing automation.
A recent email from one of the products I was trying (Seamless AI) out caught my attention.
This email had quite a few points to ponder and elements to drive me for a purchase, such as:
- Powerful subject line
- Conveying value for money
- Validation of ROI
- A customer case study
- Covering my pain points
- Strong CTA…
On the other hands, immediately succeeding the sale is a different ball game altogether. In contrast to the urgency instigating and FOMO messaging, you need the onboarding messaging to stir a sense of trust in your customer’s mind. You can also couple such messages with a link to your training videos or customer service channels.
Customer retention is often an overlooked aspect of a business. We tend to think that the hustle ends when we have secured a customer. This is the reason why we spend 11 times more on recruiting new customers than retaining existing ones, according to Brand Keys. On the contrary, according to a Bain and Company report, a mere 5% increase in customer retention correlates with at least a 25% increase in profit.
While customer support remains the top reason for a customer to stay with or leave your products/services, regular customer conversations are also necessary to make sure that you do not lose touch with your customers. Many businesses do not communicate enough with their customer post-sale. This is one of the top reason for churn and thus low growth of the company. Hence, the use of marketing automation at the retention stage is a rarity.
There is an abundance of marketing automation use-cases at retention stage such as:
- Delivering your educational content
- Updating about their progress with the product
- Drive more actions
- Data-driven reports of their performance for a period
- New feature launches and many more…
Look at the email from Animoto to reactivate a user gone cold.
Credits: Really Good Emails
The best form of retention emails I have seen is a mixture of data-driven gamified emails. Grammarly, an online writing performance analyzer nails their retention emails. Here’s an example of how Grammarly gamifies product usage and delivers a provoking and action-worthy email.
Communicating with your customers after sales ensure they keep using your product or keep buying from you, thus increasing their chances to stick with you. Also, marketing automation can be used to reactivate customers so that they do not delinquently churn out.
Referral marketing has changed the fortunes of many businesses. Think Dropbox, Uber, Amazon Prime, Airbnb and many others. Referral marketing hyped so much that SaaS products offering referral infrastructure have come up to help you accelerate that.
Now we are submerged in the sea of all sorts of referrals. In this case, smart placement and messaging take the cake. You are more likely to help (read: refer) someone if you have a healthy relationship (read: satisfied) with them. You can automate your ‘asking for referral’ messages to be sent at times when your customers are happy and satisfied such as when a customer has:
- left good reviews about you online
- rated your customer service 5 stars after you have solved their issue
- rated you high on an NPS survey
- loved your product and want to refer to others himself/herself…
One strategy I have seen working in referral is a survey followed by a referral mail for promotors who have rater you really high (let’s say 9/10 or 10/10). You can easily set up these messages using marketing automation software. An incentivized referral could be a cherry on the cake if you can afford to. Let’s be honest, who doesn’t like presents, discounts or free products.
Marketing automation has turned out to be a lifeguard for marketing and sales professionals across the globe. It can do wonders for you if implemented properly and throughout the customer lifecycle.
Before we end this, contrary to popular belief, marketing automation does not necessarily generate leads for you, make your ads better or does your marketing for you. It helps you in expediting and automating manual processes. This makes marketing automation one of the most promising fields.
With AI and predictive analytics on the rise, marketing automation will become smarter, sophisticated and more contextual. Good day ahead, my fellow marketers.