Digital marketers know: there’s a crucial gap between web visitors and customers. While strategies like search engine optimization and social media marketing are designed to drive potential customers to the website, even your best efforts in those areas won’t lead to improved revenue if those visitors never go further than that.
Inbound marketing seeks to narrow that gap: thanks to calls to action and landing pages, your users willingly hand over their personal and contact information and enter your database as leads in exchange for valuable content. But of course, even these leads are not yet paying customers. To drive them toward conversion, you need an effective marketing automation strategy.
What is Marketing Automation?
HubSpot, a leading marketing automation software provider, defines the term as follows:
marketing automation is software and tactics that allow companies […] to nurture prospects with highly personalized, useful content that helps convert prospects to customers and turn customers into delighted customers.
Let’s break that definition down a bit further, beginning with that “nurture prospects” part. B2B marketers may have heard about or even use lead nurturing in their marketing efforts. Put simply, it’s the process of getting leads from the point where they initially enter your database to become sales-qualified and ready to be contacted by your sales team. HubSpot famously uses a plant analogy:
First you need fertile soil ripe for the growth of your plant. Next you need seeds themselves to care for, and last you need water and light in order to nurture those seeds into a lush, blooming plant
The seeds, of course, are your leads, and the water and light is what gradually turns seeds into a plant: the “highly personalized, useful content” described in the first definition above.
To recap, marketing automation is the process of taking your leads at the time when they first enter your database, and gradually leading them to become customers.
As HubSpot notes, that process remains useful after they become customers, as delighted customers are much more likely to come back for more – and we all know about the value of customer retention. But for the purposes of this blog post, we’ll stay with the initial goal of marketing automation, which is to convert your leads into customers.
What Marketing Automation Might Look Like For You
So far, we’ve hit you with a lot of definitions and theoretical processes. As a result, you may have difficulty imagining just what marketing automation might look like for your case. So allow us to demonstrate the process with a practical example.
Imagine you are a Wedding Photographer. Having picked up on the value of inbound marketing, your website is geared toward converting visitors into leads with compelling calls to action and convincing landing pages. Once these visitors fill out the forms on your website, your marketing automation kicks in.
First, of course, your leads will get an immediate automated email thanking them for signing up, and providing them with whatever content they signed up for. But the process doesn’t end there: another automated email follows a week later, during which they are invited to follow you on social media to check out photography your company took at a recent wedding.
And it doesn’t end there: yet another week later, you let them know (again via automated email) about a special bridal workshop where they can learn more about the best ways to plan and budget their special day. Signing up is free – all they need is to give you a bit more information about themselves on a separate landing page.
The next email (after the signup confirmation email, of course) draws on that additional information, such as the venue the couple is getting married, to provide them with more specific information about their needs. Yet another email refers them to a DJ and a videographer with whom you often partner, along with some discount rates if they book all three services together.
Through all of these emails, your lead has not received a single email pushing them to go with your services. Instead, you’ve provided helpful information throughout, and precisely because of that, the bride has developed an emotional relationship with your business and is much closer to choosing your services than she was before initially becoming a lead. She’s become sales-qualified, ready for a call to discuss pricing details. That’s the value of marketing automation.
Of course, this example may differ significantly based on your business. But the premise remains the same: marketing automation nurtures your leads from the moment they first enter your database, in many cases using automated emails that only require effort when they’re first set up. The result is a conversion rate that’s infinitely higher than it would be had you simply relied on the chance that your web visitors will eventually become customers. For more information about conversion-driven marketing and how it can help your business, contact us!