Most businesses have a difficult time effectively managing on-going communications with prospects and existing customers.
Converting Prospects into Customers
A company’s ultimate objective is to generate sales, and this is done by guiding and educating (i.e. nurturing) prospects through every phase of the decision making process. The goal in each phase is to convert. By getting prospects to agree to take an action, they are making some level of commitment to proceed.
By engaging prospects and delivering valuable information through the decision making process, an organization optimizes its probability of success – thus increasing its close rate.
However, following up with qualified leads is often done in a sporadic, ad-hoc way. Typically, someone will contact the prospect and attempt to set up an appointment. If the prospect is not ready to buy now, the opportunity often slips through the cracks.
Maximizing Relationships with Existing Customers
One of the most valuable assets any business possesses – and often the single most squandered asset – is its customer base. When a sale is made, the job is not done.
When a business does secure a new customer, it usually does not take long to lose visibility. To not keep in contact with customers is to alienate them. An organization should never presume its customers will always be there for them. This is a complacent approach that can lead to lost customers and a death spiral.
On-going, value based communication is essential to maintaining long-term relationships.
Marketing Automation to the Rescue
Lead nurturing, conversion, and post-sales activities can be overwhelming, especially when an organization attempts to perform these activities manually.
Enter marketing automation.
Marketing automation is designed to facilitate intelligent, on-going communication with prospects and customers for the purposes of:
- Nurturing leads so conversion rates are optimized with both “now buyers” and “future buyers”.
- Optimizing the post-sales process to maximize retention and drive incremental revenue through up-selling/cross-selling or referrals.
Marketing automation is a critical component within an online marketing infrastructure. Its core elements are:
- Marketing Database: A centralized repository of all prospect and customer data.
- Workflow Automation: Supports the ability to provide prospects and customers the right content at precisely the right time. Follow-up can be based on triggers (e.g. prospect responding to a call to action) or events (e.g. number of days after attending a seminar).
- Email Distribution: Marketing automation systems have integrated email distribution systems, so online marketing communication activities can be executed though one system.
- Gathering Insight/Preferences: Marketing automation systems incorporate methods to capture valuable insights about prospects and customers. This insight can then be used to “score” or “tag” them based on preferences or specific areas of interest. The ultimate goal is to engage in “one to one” marketing.
- Analytics: Marketing automation technologies include analytics that allow businesses to track and test things such as email open rates, click-throughs to landing pages, how many times people have clicked on a certain link, bounce rates on landing pages, and referral source activity (e.g. links from social media).
There are many marketing automation platforms available – the good news is that this technology is accessible to companies of all sizes. Examples that are well suited to small and mid-sized businesses are Hatchbuck and SharpSpring.
Online marketing activities must support lead nurturing, conversion, and post-sales efforts. While virtually impossible to execute manually, marketing automation technology makes continuous, customized communication with prospects and customers possible for businesses of any size.
If you are not taking advantage of marketing automation technology today, it is something you should closely look into. The potential improvement to your business development efforts, and the resulting increase in revenues, makes it a worthwhile investment of your time.