Marketing automation is gaining popularity rapidly, especially amongst companies that want to optimize their email lead generation and prospect nurturing process. In fact, there are nearly 11 times more B2B organizations using marketing automation today, than in 2011.
What’s driving adoption? It works. Check out 12 benefits of marketing automation here.
The marketing automation strategies presented below will be fairly easy to implement on almost any automation software, and are relevant for businesses at varying stages and with various levels of content development. Choose a strategy appropriate to your stage that might help you to increase your email lead generation and to develop better relationships with the right customers.
79% of top-performing companies have been using marketing automation for more than 2 years. – Gleanster “Q3 2013 Marketing Automation Benchmark” (2013)
Marketing Automation Strategies: Overview & Fundamentals
To fully grasp any marketing automation strategy, we first need to understand the three parts of the marketing funnel. Because we’re marketing wonks, the top, middle, and bottom of the funnel will be referred to as TOFU, MOFU, and BOFU, respectively. If you are familiar with those terms, feel free to skip this section and go right into the strategies.
Breaking down the funnel in these three stages helps you acquire leads and customers at scale, with marketing automation doing all the hard work of educating those customers and moving them down the funnel. You just need to architect it right.
Top Of The Funnel (TOFU): these visitors are generally people who have never heard of you before, but somehow landed on your website or landing page. This probably happened through search, social, or perhaps through advertising.
Here’s your chance to use a combination of content and calls to action (CTAs) to get someone to stay on your page longer, visit other pages on your site, subscribe to your newsletter, or download a lead magnet. Once a reader gives you her email, you’ve got permission to continue the conversation and appear in her inbox. You’ve generated a potential lead!
At that point, TOFU visitors become MOFU subscribers and you prepare to nurture them through email campaigns.
Middle Of The Funnel (MOFU): Because these folks have shown some vague interest in what you sell, you want to
- Nurture and educate them regarding topics they care about
- Segment and qualify those customers who might be good potential customers for your product or service.
Subscribers who either interacted with the content of your nurture campaign or took a decisive action that qualified them (like filling out a long form to receive a content piece highly relevant to your product/service) should be marked and moved to the next stage.
The next stage is BOFU and there you continue to nurture users through emails or you pass them on to your sales team. Or both.
Bottom Of The Funnel (BOFU): Some customers can spend weeks or months in the middle of the funnel. That’s okay! They’re gradually educating themselves about the market, the field, and the tools available.
Once they get to the bottom, these subscribers are educated, relevant, and ready to do a product demo, download a case study or something highly relevant, and are close to a purchase decision or ready to buy.
You can use emails to guide them through the final pre-purchase stages, have sales reach out to them based on their lead score, or do a combination of both. (i.e. have them opt in for a case study and then have sales follow up with them).
Now, that we have a shared understanding of the funnel we can move on to the marketing automation strategies that apply to various types of subscribers.
On average 49% of companies are currently using marketing automation. With more than half of B2B companies (55%) adopting the technology. – Emailmonday “The Ultimate Marketing Automation stats.” (2016)
Marketing Automation Strategy #1:
Use your Welcome Email to Distinguish Customer Types
This is a simple, yet clever and important strategy. First, you need to have identified your core customer personas. For the sake of this example, let’s say you have three core customer personas and these are CEOs of marketing agencies, CMOs at big brands, and Directors of Content.
The basis of marketing automation is nurturing your prospects by sending timely and relevant emails. The thing is, some lead magnets might appeal to two or more of your customer personas.
When this happens, you need to distinguish customer types and target them with different emails promoting the same or slightly different material. A technical or tactical email headline might not compel a C-level executive to click, the way it would a freelancer.
Set up a P.S. at the bottom of your welcome email, asking readers to identify themselves. Something simple will do; for example:
“In order to send you better emails, please click on what describes you best:
CEO of marketing agency
CMO at a company
Director of Content
These should be clickable links that point to a simple confirmation page, but the strategy can also work if you send them to your homepage, blog, or another high-conversion page.
Because welcome emails typically generate about four times the total open rates and five times the click rates of other bulk promotions, according to Experian, you have a good chance to let your opt-ins segment themselves.
Once you’ve tagged users with the role they self-identified with you can send them content that’s highly relevant to their specific position or interests.
Of course, all of these will be automated and architected. This also helps in the BOFU stage; if your best customers are C-level executives and your sales team’s time is pressed, you can have them only focus on C-level executive leads with a high lead score for minimum effort, maximum impact.
You can also use your opener email for other actions like getting a reply (thus increasing future deliverability and open rates), etc.
Ideal for: companies that already have solid customer personas and a blog.
Marketing Automation Strategy #2:
Reuse Existing Content to Compel Conversions
This is an all-time classic email lead generation tailored to marketing automation. It’s a good strategy to get your feet wet, easy to implement, and a great tactic if your company has lots of content and a substantial number of blog subscribers. Here is how to do it:
First, create a list with your top 20 posts. These can be found through various tools, like Google Analytics, Buzzsumo, etc.
Then, create an email to be sent every few days, or once a week, that promotes one of your highest converting and a short description of what it’s all about. Choose a longer lead time for very busy people like founders, C-suite executives and seniors, and a more frequent cadence for people in the trenches.
Determine your Email Frequency: This is an important topic because according to a 2015 survey done by TechnologyAdvice, 45.8% of people mark emails as spam because “they email too often.” But it’s also important because if you don’t email often enough, people can forget who you are. Check out this 5-step test to help determine email frequency.
Here is an overview of how this looks like in a tool like ActiveCampaign
Determine how and when to use CTAs:
We like to stick to single CTA emails, but this type of email will occasionally have two CTAs. Every few posts add in a PS with a CTA for something more commercial, like a case study or a demo. You should have an ultimate goal to your email cadence—is it to demo, to buy, to subscribe? Define what your goal is and craft a CTA strategy to reach it. Some teams will use the goal CTA in every email except the welcome email, (that one is to build trust), other people, like Pat Flynn, use a CTA every 3 or 4 emails, the idea being that some users will tune out a CTA that appears in every email. The key is to test what works for each persona type and refine your methodology accordingly.
Don’t overthink your CTAs, they should be simple, above the fold, and your ask should be exceedingly clear. It’s an art, I promise. You can start with a small task and scale as you move deeper into the automation or as subscribers engage with your emails.
The call to action before a BOFU conversion (demo/proposal/assessment request, or free trial signup) should be to download/read a case study of yours. Don’t gate the case study; send a private link if necessary.
If you have segmented customers as in Strategy #1, you can send them a specific case study by a persona similar to them (i.e. a case study from another marketing executive who uses your product/service).
Ideal for: companies that have been blogging for some time and have great content that can benefit from being resurfaced.
Marketing Automation Strategy #3:
Increase SaaS Usage & Upsells
Regardless of whether your SaaS company has only trial users or paying customers, you can track their activity and send them emails to entice them to use product features they are not currently using and they might find useful.
This will increase product usage and the value customers derive from it, thus reducing churn and naturally increasing upsells and customer lifetime value.
If a user hasn’t tested a specific product feature but she is active, simply tell her about that awesome feature and how it works.
You can also tell her about a feature that is part of a more expensive plan and invite her to use it for free for 15 days. This is a pretty good way to entice upsells.
Ideal for: companies that get over 100 new users per month and/or have 100 or more current users.
Marketing Automation Strategy #4:
Segment MOFU Readers with Topical Lead Magnets
If you are interested in narrowing down your MOFU subscribers, you can create and send them topical lead magnets (ebooks, cheat sheets, reports, etc.,) around specific themes like Twitter Advertising, Facebook Advertising, etc., and then tag those who opt in as “Social Advertising” or something similar.
From then on, you can send those users targeted emails and content based on what they opted in, in order to nurture them.
This approach helps you nail a very specific customer persona and target it from multiple angles. It also usually gets higher engagement and conversions because of “niching down” your audience.
Take it a step further and start creating lead magnets and narrowing down your best-performing customer personas for maximum gains.
Ideal for: Companies that have created content around a topic with both tactical and strategic blog posts that can be compressed in several short lead magnets.
Marketing Automation Strategy #5:
Get Reviews On Autopilot
Business reviews are hugely important whether you are a SaaS, a service, or any kind of business. In fact, as many as 88% of customers report that they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
Potential customers will Google “your brand name + reviews” to learn more about you before they buy. Thus, it’s very important to have great reviews around the web on big 3rd party sites and/or your Facebook page (if applicable).
However, getting these reviews, especially the good ones, can be hard and time-consuming. This marketing automation strategy can help you streamline the process.
To make it easier, simply set up a marketing automation for users that are happy with your company. To find them you can use NPS scores or a combination of metrics like “accounts that are over 1 year old and use the product/service regularly.”
When you decide how you want to identify them, you simply set an email to be sent to them whenever they give you a high NPS score or have been with your company for one year and buy regularly.
In the email, thank them for being loyal and ask them for a review on your top review sites in exchange for an Amazon gift card or a discount on your software. Incentivizing them is one of the ways to get more reviews.
Ideal for: companies with low churn, good NPS and/or happy users. Not good for early stage products.
These marketing automation strategies can help your company streamline its processes and automate tedious tasks while getting better results.
The strategies can be used in a combination or separately. Some of them might need some tweaking to perfectly fit your specific situation and business.
Marketing automation strategies are limitless, but the starter ideas above should help you get your feet wet. If you have specific questions, need some tool suggestions or anything, drop a comment below and I will get back to you!
Alex is a B2B marketer specialized in growing software companies. His specialties include Inbound Marketing, Paid Acquisition, and Content Distribution. He is currently working for an LMS company and shares his learnings on his personal blog WeeklyGrowth.