Today we are talking about B2B marketing, focusing on businesses that have an extended buying cycle, anything north of 2-3 months.
This article explores marketing automation and how any business can utilize it, regardless of budget.
There are some amazing tools available to help marketing teams, even those that work with small budgets and resources. In fact, what I’m going to be sharing with you today, can be managed by just one person.
It utilizes marketing automation tools to do one of 2 things (or both). We are going to use it to identify and warm up leads, or to nurture leads and make sales. It just depends on the type of product or service you offer.
I’m going to be talking about 2 tools mainly and about the features they share. They are HubSpot and Mautic. Both automated marketing systems/tools that can be used to deliver what I’m about to walk you through.
HubSpot is the granddaddy of marketing automation. I don’t know if they invented many of the tools and strategies we use today, but they were definitely one of the first of the tools to perfect them.
Hubspot does require investment but in many cases, it’s definitely worth it.
Their customer support is second to none. They’re almost worth signing up for the support alone.
Then there’s lowly Mautic, which is an open source solution. It’s not as pretty or refined, and doesn’t have all the bells and whistles, but it can automate your marketing and get results when properly implemented. And it’s free and customizable.
Truth be told, there is a horde of other capable platforms available of varying price points that would also be worthy of a mention. However, this is not a review of marketing automation platforms. I picked these two platforms because they represent different ends of the same spectrum. The point is, it doesn’t matter what your budget is, you can and should be doing this.
There is not a 1-size-fits-all solution to automated marketing. I doubt I know half of the strategies you could employ. However, I’ve worked with over 20 companies that I have helped set up, for which I implemented similar strategies to those I am about to walk you through. I’ve seen them be successful, so I think it’s a great jumping off point if you haven’t introduced any marketing automation into your strategy yet.
We’re not going to focus on lead generation in this article – we are going to assume you have developed a channel or two already.
For this article, we are going to assume you have leads. Whether that’s harnessing social media, leveraging your existing customer base, or acquiring data from companies like discover.org.
Leads are going into your funnel. Now let’s look at one option you have for getting the most sales possible from your list.
Creating The Strategy
This is our goal. We want to recognize which leads/prospects have shown the most interest in our products or services. We want to position ourselves as experts, educate the prospect wherever possible, and then have a mechanism to convert the warm lead into a hot prospect or sale.
Ideally, we would like to speed up our buying cycle to convert as quickly as possible or have our sales team work with prospects who have demonstrated a measurable interest in what we do. To get the most out of their time and expertise.
Leaning On Email & Social Media
For marketing automation we like email and social media channels because they are easy to track and measure.
“But no one ever buys from anyone selling anything via email.”
That’s true, most people don’t. But it doesn’t stop Apple or Virgin sending out weekly emails. Or anything brand worth it’s salt.
That’s because a small percentage do buy from email and cost-effectiveness makes it a great channel for businesses of all sizes. If only 1% of your list buy from you, then you are making a sale 1 in every 100 subscribers, and an email list has no limitations, it can grow exponentially.
Most importantly, we aren’t selling via email, we are identifying and warming up leads. And this is how.
We create automated email sequences, tens of them, possibly hundreds of them eventually. Then we track how prospects interact with them, measure and score those interactions.
Let me break it down for you.
The Process – A Real-life Case Study
I had a client that offers bespoke training software, for IT security. They were a smallish company, dealing with enterprises. As a 2nd year startup, they had limited resources to spend on marketing, and their typical sales cycle was well over 6 months.
Fun story. The first time they set up their automated email platform, they accidentally sent 20,000 companies an email about spam email… 10 times to each client.
The email was about GDPR training, whilst actually spamming people.
But besides that small and amusing glitch (it wasn’t so funny at the time), this is what they did.
Their training had different value propositions:
1 – Keep the business safe
2 – Keep workers’ private data safe
3 – Save resources in IT
4 – Make the company GDPR compliant
5 – Save money by decreasing the number of security breaches.
6 – And they also recognized that there was a lot of confusion about GDPR. Plenty of scary stories out there. Most false, some true.
But rather than looking at them as to how they can benefit the prospect, they reverse-engineered it and asked them, what kinds of problems are their clients facing if they’re going to need their training? Let’s call them pain points.
They recognized an opportunity to add value to the prospects by using their expertise to educate them. It would simultaneously be a great way of positioning the brand as experts in the field.
The objective was to create a range of content for each value proposition and a collection of content for educational purposes.
They made sure to include whitepapers, articles, and videos.
When they created each section, it followed a story within the confines of the section. So that all together the content made sense.
Using the pain point about businesses staying sage as an example:
They created a whitepaper concerning the most dangerous and utlized social phishing strategies used by hackers to get access to a company’s network infrastructure and either do damage or steal data.
They created a tonne of action information that was really valuable.
They then created some articles based on components of that subject.
In this case, one article was about how 4 football clubs were conned into paying money to other (fake) football clubs for player transfers.
Another article was explaining how hackers create fake web pages like Dropbox and steer people to them and grab their login information. Then they take that information, open their real Dropbox and steal any data inside.
Hopefully you get the point. They created different content based on how and why you should be keeping your business safe.
The First Sequence
The goal of automated marketing is to have as many of your prospects opening up the emails as regularly as possible.
To do that, you can’t sell. You can’t ask for an appointment. Because if you do, it stops getting opened. People don’t like to be openly sold to, unless they are actually interested. We don’t know they are yet, so prospects would just stop emailing.
We need prospects to open our emails so we can start to measure how interested they might be in our service and to nurture the relationship we have with them, to build trust.
A good place to start is to educate your audience. We give them value, email after email.
We make our content informal and conversational. Nothing too overly designed, it needs to be personal.
Finding A Hook
Once we’ve gone through our initial sequence of 4-6 emails, we continue to add value but we start to focus our emails on each of our prospect’s main pain points – which we’ve already connected to one of our key benefits.
Using my client as an example:
Social Phishing. Hackers using social media to target employees, sending them emails as friends and family, asking them to download a photo (which actually contains a virus).
We send an email talking about the potential risk. In the email it explains the danger and has a link to an article that explains how they might be targeted and how companies have been caught out.
In the article, it tries to persuade people that the whitepaper has the solution to their problem.
- Email – The problem
- Content – what the problem is, why it’s a problem and a generalization of the answer
- Whitepaper – step by step guide to the solution.
The theory is this:
If someone clicks that specific email to find out more information about social phishing (for example) then they have shown some interest in this specific area of conversation.
Maybe it’s because they are concerned, maybe they’ve had one or two instances where they caught someone trying to hack them using these strategies, or maybe they had an attack that was successful. It could be any of these, it could be that the prospect was bored, but we have one small signal that there is interest definitely worth following up on.
So they’ve opened an email. Great. That’s better than not opening it. Possibly they were attracted by the well-written subject line. We can score them 10 points.
Hardly anything to get excited about, but it’s better than nothing.
Then they clicked through to the article. And we tracked it. Boom, now they’re getting more interested. We’ve piqued enough interest that they have interrupted their day to read more about this subject.
We are going to score this even more. Let’s call it 100 points.
We know that they could actually be interested in this, for any of the reasons we mentioned above.
And finally, they download the whitepaper.
Ding ding. Winner winner chicken dinner.
We put the whitepaper behind an email gateway. That means they have to add their email to get the answer.
Now, we already have their email so nothing special gained there, but it’s a micro commitment. People are careful about giving out their emails, especially larger businesses. They care enough about this subject to give it away to us.
That has to be worth 1000 points and very possibly, worth the lead automatically being passed over to the sales team to follow up on.
Not just for them to reach out and make a sales call. We can actually focus our conversation around that one component (social phishing).
Rinse & Repeat
But most people won’t download the whitepaper. I didn’t mean to get your hopes up, but even with marketing automation, it’s not that simple.
But their decision to click that email and read that article has made our platform segment move them into another email list.
In other words, they are now going to receive a sequence of emails, about that same subject, but from different angles.
Again all the emails are designed to add value. But also, again we are tracking their interaction.
If we send 5-6 emails and the prospect opens and clicks through to read the article 3-4 times (Scoring 100 points every time he does so) perhaps we decide to set our system to pass any lead that accumulates 400 points to the sales team as a warm lead.
They have consistently shown interest in this specific pain point, at least 4 times on the same subject. Let’s give them a call and try and explore why that is and how we might be able to help them.
Keys To Marketing & Sales
The key to any sales and marketing strategy is to make each individual sales prospect feel like you are speaking directly to them.
By identifying content they seem interested in, and sharing with them more valuable content on that subject, they are getting tailored content from your business. That’s making them feel that you are talking to them directly.
It feels personal.
And when you pass that over to the sales team to follow up, they are also going to tailor their conversation to be based around the same subject.
The 3 Pillars Of Marketing Automation
With our marketing automation strategy in place we are doing 3 things.
1 – we are managing to identify anyone who has shown solid interest and has passed that automatically onto the right person to follow it up. So we are identifying and actioning our hottest leads.
2 – We are building a relationship with our audience, positioning ourselves as experts so when they do become interested they think of us, and we’ve already built some trust because we have been giving them value for months.
Remember, they might well be interested but this quarter’s budget has been assigned. They might have to wait until it’s time to address GDPR training in the next budget period.
3 – We personalize our interactions with our prospects. We don’t throw everything at them to see what fits. We make the process feel more personalized by providing them with the information they’ve shown interest in before.
We identify our client’s pain points, our benefits and we segment them all, and build a whole sequence of content on each. We map it all out having different types of content, including a lead generation whitepaper, webinar or course, then we place it behind a gateway where the clients needs to make a micro commitment to get the information.
We then set up a scoring system so email opens are scored, so are click-throughs to articles, and finally large commitments are all weighted and scored.
We take the time to decide at what point we consider the lead to be warm enough to be passed to sales. We give it a score and set up the platform to manage the migration automatically.
We’ve also created some fantastic content that educates our clients and positions our business as experts in our field.
We start to run the first sequence that has feeder content into our segmented pain points. When a prospect interacts with one of those pain points, they get put into the email segment based around that pain point and start to receive content based on their previous interactions with content.
We track, measure, and score.
We ensure we don’t miss any opportunities in our pipeline, we warm up leads in terms of general branding and trust and we also identify specific pains and deliver more personalized content to each prospect which makes the prospect feel we are speaking directly to them.
And finally, what’s great about this is that it’s a funnel. So once you have it set up, you can have a prospect today get the same experience as a new prospect next year, but it will be feel personalized. All automated. You just measure and make tweaks to fine-tune it and it’ll be busy generating warm leads for your business.