Generating leads is essential. But there’s more.
You also need a strategic plan that will help you to nurture the leads for improved conversionrates and customer retention.
There are several tactics that you can employ if you want to generate all the leads that you’ll ever require.
A few brands still resort to buying their contact lists, but if you put in the hard work, create a strong marketing strategy, and acquire leads from the ground up, your success is sure.
Some other brands use some form of automation to increase lead generation. According to Gleanster, 76% of CMOs reported that they increased higher quality leads when they implemented marketing automation.
More so, if you stick to the four processes (i.e., attract, convert, close, report) you’ll not only boost your revenue but nurture a loyal customer base.
Through marketing automation, you’re able to achieve more, without spending a lot of time. Because as a marketer, you barely have enough time in the day to attend to every task -- especially those that are closely tied to customer retention.
However, when you employ marketing automation best practices, you’ll be able to reduce repetitive task load, use automated marketing software to publish your posts, emails, social media posts, and attend to other actions simultaneously. In turn, you’ll make your work easier and increase engagement at every level.
A lot goes into marketing automation system. With the online marketing space evolving, you need to keep abreast of the latest tools and tactics for growing your business.
Yes, you’ll need to create a strategy; a proven plan of action which requires input from both sales, marketing, and customer service departments.
The good news is that with a proven marketing automation strategy in place, you’ll gain more insights into what your customers want and become determined to help them.
What is Marketing Automation?
Did you know that you can automate up to 94% of the tasks on your to-do list? Of course, you can. See: analytics, lead generation, webinars, copywriting, and so on, can be automated.
Your understanding of this marketing automation life cycle will position you in the marketplace.
But let’s go beyond the typical definition. To help you understand it personally, here’s a case scenario:
I built a contact list of 3,253 subscribers in 2016. Every other week, I send a quick email to all of them, and it lands on their inbox within 5 seconds.
If I had sent an email with a link to my latest blog post or YouTube video, more than 100 subscribers will read/watch it and leave a valuable comment.
How cool is that?
As you can see, brands can use tools to increase their bottom line. No wonder 53% of businesses integrate marketing technologies marginally -- to help them scale and thrive in the face of adverse competition.
Remember that I’m able to reach these 3k potential customers within 5 seconds, just at the click of a button. Now imagine how much time and cumbersome it would be every week if I had to send this email to each recipient one by one?
This is marketing automation.
In reality, “marketing automation is the use of software and a well-defined strategy to communicate with your target audience, without sounding like a robot.”
In other words, though I use email autoresponder service (i.e., GetResponse) to send these weekly broadcast emails, but in the recipient’s mind, I’m speaking to them as individuals.
Why? Because, through automation, you’re able to send emails to thousands of persons individually, while addressing them by their first name (e.g., Joel, Connell).
Can you get more done with less stress
Sure, you can save time when you automate your business, but can you improve your health as well?
According to theHarvard Business Review“you need to avoid stress if you want to live a happy and productive life.”
Truth is, marketing automation functions in the same way as a nerve center, “combining the management of marketing endeavors, including sales and customer service across all customer acquisition channels from lead to close.”
In the past, a customer agent’s responsibilities included following up with all leads that entered the marketing funnel, communicating with them, and answering their questions.
But today a lot of these core activities are being automated in several organizations. In fact, marketing automation software such as Marketo or HubSpot can identify potential leads, analyze them, and prepare them for the sales team. This is cool if you ask me.
The truth of the matter is that marketing automation technology saves time, and guides marketers to steer clear of unqualified leads, or provide guidelines on how to build trust with them. It all begins with a dialogue.
You gain valuable insight that will your team members pinpoint your customer’s pain points.
You also get to follow their path, and learn how they learn about your services? The circumstances that brought them to your website, and which email lists/newsletters they’re subscribed to.
How much marketing automation tool cost
When you’re looking to boost your customer engagement and revenue, you need to put everything in the right perspective. And this includes understanding the objective or goal that you want to achieve.
According to the Lead Generation Marketing Effectiveness Study by Lenskold and Pedowitz Group, 36% of companies that use marketing automation are 3x more likely to track and attribute their content-marketing efforts to multiple touch points than companies that do not.”
Before investing in any form of marketing automation, you need to know how much it would cost you. For this reason, we’ll look at it from two aspects:
- The cost of marketing automation tool
- The cost of implementing the tool
i). The cost of marketing automation tool:
A quick search in Google for the keyword “marketing automation tool” resulted in well over 3 million search results.
This shows that if you’re not careful, you might end up choosing the right tool for the wrong business model, or woefully choosing the wrong tool. Take a look at the organic results:
To help you navigate the right path when choosing the right marketing automation tool, especially when you’re concerned about cost, you need to put your objective in focus.
Remember, there are tools for specific industries. For example, there are marketing automation tools for Dentists, which may not serve a SaaS entrepreneur well. The cost of the software is only a tiny component of what you should be looking at.
Let’s look at a few important things:i). Developing a marketing automation strategy requires an upfront investment.
ii). Many of these vendors that you’re familiar or not familiar with usually have an additional mandatory fee, which is used for onboarding, Kickstart or implementation.
iii). Executing your strategy has its own cost as well (we’ll look at this later).
To help you understand the how much marketing automation will cost you, at least to get started, I’ll briefly share the top 8 reliable vendors.
Whether you refer to your records as leads, subscribers, contacts, opt-ins, or prospects, we’re on the same page. For this excerpts below, we’ll use the word “leads” for better clarity.
Additionally, we’ll assume that you’re aiming for 10,000 leads. Therefore, this pricing comparison is based on that. Let’s dive in...
- Wishpond: If you’re looking for a marketing automation platform that’s designed to help you scale your business, Wishpond might just be your last shot. The Growth plan costs $1,548 per year. You can check out Wishpond’s full pricing.
- ActiveCampaign: If you don’t want to spread your wings too wide, and just stick to an all-in-one marketing platform, consisting of email marketing, marketing automation, sales & CRM, you could try ActiveCampaign. For 10,000 leads, the Small Business version starts at $2,100 per year when paid monthly. You get a 15% discount when you choose the annual prepayment.
- iContact: Email marketing is an integral aspect of your business. iContact can help you drive it. Depending on the size your business, you may want to try the midrange Pro Automation version, which costs $2,268/year if paid monthly. The pricing is a bit down for annual subscriptions.
- Act-On: If delivering a great customer experience is your priority, Act-On could support you all the way. It’s built primarily for that. You can rethink marketing automation with the Professional plan which costs $13,800 per year for 10,000 “active leads.”
- HubSpot: If you haven’t heard about HubSpot, then you may have been living under the rock. The software is primarily built for inbound marketing purposes.So if you’re not looking to acquire new leads through inbound marketing methods, you may have to look elsewhere. The Pro packages are not cheap, it costs $15,000 per year for 10,000 leads.
- Salesforce Pardot: Salesforce has also been in the trenches even before some of the marketing automation tools on this list. As long as you can afford the Pro edition which costs $24,000 per year, then you’re in for a seamless automation. You can find the complete Salesforce Pardot pricing.
- Oracle Eloqua: Yes, this is a marketing automation software from Oracle. They’re reliable and have happy customers in the thousands. The midrange Standard package costs $48,000 per year.
- Marketo: At times, creating suspense is great. Why? Because I left one of the best software for marketing automation here - Marketo. Learn more about the platform, and why smart marketers opt for it. Sadly, Marketo, for reasons best known to them, doesn’t publish pricing on its pricing page. But all hope isn’t lost. You can speak to Marketo’s sales representatives -- and who knows, you might be given a custom pricing, which is ideal for your business.
ii). The cost of implementing the tool
Marketing automation has truly taken a deep dive into the digital marketing space. The question is, do you really marketing automation to move ahead, considering the cost of implementation?
I think you do.
According to a study by Email Monday, on average, 45% of companies are currently using marketing automation, with more than 55% of B2B companies adopting the technology. In fact, the majority of marketers don’t have a problem with the cost of marketing automation.
The beauty of marketing automation is that it gets you results. Your systems work and -- while you’re expected to work hard (and you should) -- you have a replicable track record in developing a new campaign, launching and promoting great products, getting significant ROIs, and enhancing the customer’s life over their entire life-cycle.
I started using automation in 2014, and from my personal experience, the cost of implementation lies in the area of content creation. Some of the content you need to create manually are:
- Social media posts:
- Blog posts
- Email copy
- Sales copy
Of course, there are brands who still use spun content. But don’t do that, because you’re building your business on a sandy soil. Marketing automation tools are designed to help you keep in close content with your leads/contacts.
After creating your content, that’s when you can use an automation tool to schedule it or post directly to your social media channels. Buffer, Hootsuite, SproutSocial, and the like, can help you with social scheduling and posting.
If you’re conversant with Buffer, you know that it can take you up to 30 minutes to 1 hour per week to schedule your posts. Yes, this is the post that should go out to your social fans every single day or several times in a day.
Other implementation costs:
i). Email Templates: In this age and time, people are moved by what they see and feel. A professional email template can increase your click-through rate and open rates.
If you’re going to invest in email templates, you should be ready to spend additional $500-1500 per year.
If you’re the busy type, you can hire Marketo’s agents to help you load your templates for $500/hr. Other freelance designers could charge between $100 - $145/hr.
ii). Landing Page Templates: You can go all in and get well-designed landing page templates. It would cost an average of $500 - $2,000 per year.
If you’re going to use Marketo, you might need to consult a professional that will help you here because there is critical HTML code you need to work on.
It requires some skills. However, you can just a third-party landing page template and integrate it into your marketing automation tool.
Generally, the cost of implementing marketing automation can never outweigh the returns. According to Wow Consulting, there is a 27.8% average return on investment from implementing marketing automation.
However, since only 15% of companies think they use automation software for what they’re meant for, you can imagine how high your ROI can be -- it’ll definitely be far higher when your strategy is intact. After all, marketing automation plays a key role in both customer acquisition and customer retention.
Knowing the cost of marketing automation tool and its implementation is important, but it doesn’t get the job done. For this reason, let’s quickly look at another essential aspect.
How to choose marketing automation software
Having considered the cost, the next question is: What should you be looking for when choosing a software/platform that will aid you in marketing?
No matter the size of your business, I know that you’re being inundated by data from multiple digital marketing channels, or so it seems.
When you’re faced with this challenge, what’s the way out? How do you navigate this data overload -- and still achieve results? We’ll address these questions in this section.
It’s always recommended that you understand why you need an automation platform or software in the first place. Don’t choose one based on what you heard, or the benefits you assume that you’ll get.
You really need to list down the criteria. That way, you can tell whether or not they match with your objectives.
Trust me, choosing a software that’s an exact match isn’t a straightforward process. In fact, it’s easier said than done.
Often times, the criteria and specifics you pointed out initially will continually build up, as your company grows. In all, it’s a good step to start small and simple -- and familiar yourself with the pros and cons of each software.
As I write this article, there are over 50 established marketing automation platforms (MAPs), with prices ranging from $50 - $15,000/year. These providers are different from others because of the unique benefits they offer.
Unexpectedly, this makes it a lot more difficult to choose the right tool that will meet your business’ marketing needs.
Without much ado, here’s a rundown of the criteria that you should put in focus when evaluating options.
i). Personalization: Personalization is the lifeblood of your email marketing campaigns. It works. Several studies have estimated that personalization boosts email open rates by 26%, and click-through rates by 97%.
Since marketing automation solutions are driven by emails and communication, you need to select one that encourages personalization. It’s no longer about creating content, but capitalizing on a unique context.
Your ability to personalize the user’s experience will determine how far you go in building engagement and generating consistent sales.
ii). Capabilities: Choose an automation software that allows you to do what you want to do. That’s a mouthful, but it’s important. There should be a broad set of tools: tools that can support one task vs. multiple tasks at the same time. When looking at capabilities, look beyond the basics like email and landing pages.
Consider a provider that will enable you to integrate sales, multi-channel campaign execution, ROI reporting and analytics, and much more.
iii). Effective customization: From the get go, determine how much control you have on the software. Can you customize it to do what you want? A great MAP should give marketers and companies the ability to customize, change and develop templates whenever they need to.
iv). Easy to use: If you know an intuitive automation software, grab it with both arms. When I started to automate my marketing processes in 2014, the first two software that I initially purchased were difficult to use.
Inevitably I couldn’t achieve my objective. Sure, the provider had all the great features and benefits, but because it was difficult to use I failed.
v). Integration: The choice of provider that you make should easily integrate with non-marketing technology you use, such as your customer relationship management tool. More importantly, this integration must be user-friendly, such that you’re able to use maximize their potentials within the platform.
vi). Reporting & Analytics: Effective marketing is the one that you can track, measure and access results in real-time.
When deciding on a MAP, go for one that provides rich insights into what’s working and what you must ditch. It should be able to close the loop and give you the flexibility to optimize for performance.
vii). Total Cost: Don’t just look at the initial cost, but rather add up all the costs that you have to make on a particular software. Factor the indirect and opportunity costs, as well as the projected cost of leads, assuming you add thousands of new leads to your database.
viii). Intelligence: The truth of the matter is, marketing automation is born with a primary focus on email and its campaigns. And as such, you need to consider the Intelligence aspect as well, when making a choice. Here’s a good example:
You want to make smarter decisions and increase your bottom line -- make sure that you start off with a software that encourages community interaction.
You need to communicate with your audience more, by extracting data from previous and latest conversations. Use this insight to adjust your content marketing strategy as a whole.
What team is required to implement MAM?
It’s no longer about your team, but the structure you adopt. Here’s Marketo’s suggested MA team structure, to guide you on every stage -- when hiring.
With over 55% of B2B brands now using marketing automation, it’s become almost impossible for marketing teams to approach it with a half-baked approach. If getting started feels intimidating, I want to make the journey smoother.
How skilled are you with data? Did you know that the best opportunities you’ll ever enjoy when automating marketing process come from data?
Yes, it’s true. The earlier you plunge in and begin to learn all you can about machine learning technology, the better your results will be. You don’t want to involve a team, and using guesswork to instruct them. That will be suicidal.
The concept of implementing Marketing Automation Machine (MAM) is simple: You want to use data to understand your contacts/leads/visitors more, especially those people who have entered your sales funnel.
In the real world, machine learning isn’t another fancy word that will soon fizzle out.
Instead, it’s being applied to finding proven solutions for solving real-world problems -- from speech recognition to crime scene investigation, consumer behavior, human-learning synchronization, and so much more.
And talking about the specific teams that you need to implement your marketing automation machine/system, you may be concerned about the kind of manpower it’ll take to keep the programs running smoothly and generating the most revenue.
Do you need a few team members from in-house, or do you need to hire skilled hands from outside? Have you factored the added expense of hiring a full-time staff?
If you’re the CMO, Marketing Director, or whatever leadership position you hold in your organization, understanding your goals (there you go again) and objectives, how big your company is, and how flexible your system is, is critical.
With that being said, here’s a breakdown of the various roles that you need team members to attend to, as your organization embraces and implements MAM:
Program manager: defines specific parameters for programs across email, web, and social
i). Lead nurturing expert: You need a capable hand when it comes to automating lead generation and nurturing.
If your company is large and you want to meet up with prospects’ expectations, hire or train someone who will oversee the email marketing aspect, builds drip campaigns, schedules content for email programs, and tracks the company’s most-valuable metrics.
ii). Operations manager/administrator: When you give instructions on what must be done, the operations manager, who in most cases acts as the administrator is responsible for organizing process, establishing short-term goals, and coordinating operations between teams members, across the various departments.
As you can see, the role of an administrator in the team is huge. You can get all excited and enjoy the thought, but you should be prepared to pay $97,000 - 136,800 in annual salary.
iii). Content creators: There are two categories to consider: content writer and curators. You need these people to research valuable ideas/topics, and use them to produce compelling content for your audience.
Content is what drives marketing automation success. Because if all you do is send a link to your store at the backend, you’ll not build a thriving business.
This is one of the reasons why 25% of B2B Fortune 500 companies use marketing automation, as do 76% of the world’s largest SaaS companies -- all driven by answer-based content.
You need to put users first, by creating irresistible content that answers their questions. In reality, content is what automates every aspect of your machine.
You need content creators in your marketing automation team. In our team, we’ve in-house writers whom we trained. The benefits of having a team of content producers, especially those with marketing skills are enormous.
iv). Web designers: Depending on the size of your company, you may not do well with just one web developers. Starting with 2 - 3 is vital because each of them can handle specific aspects of your website design/redesign, like coding, ecover designs, layout, creation of landing pages, web forms, and other visual assets.
v). Analytics specialist: You must have heard of the term “big data,” right? Did you know that if your company isn’t taking advantage of it, you’re losing qualified leads, loyal customers, and revenue?
Maybe you didn’t realize it, but it’s true nonetheless.
An important team member that will take every insight from the automation administrator, content creators, lead nurturing experts, and process it to develop a meaningful information is the analytics specialist.
Unfortunately, many of the known brands don’t have this specialist in their team. With the level of success which they have recorded already, you can imagine the level they will get to if they embrace analytical processes.
The fact is, companies (whether online or offline) have had a hard time managing their data effectively. The reason isn’t farfetched: no staff had the responsibility.
Let an analytics expert manage your program data analysis, closed-loop reporting, interpret big data, and define metrics for tracking ROI. Trust me, your company will hug your analytics expert for this.
If you’re worried about the cost of having a marketing automation team, you can see a detailed breakdown from Marketo, or click here to view in full.
How to select team to Implement MAP
The team that will implement MAP is as important as the software itself. Remember that none of this software is cheap.
Consider this: A few years ago when automation became the order of the day, Infusionsoft had the lowest starting price at $199/month, while Eloqua and Marketo were the most expensive, starting at $2000/month.
Do you now see that having a unique approach for selecting a team that will implement MAP processes in your company is important?
So how do you go about it?
Let’s consider a few tips:
1) Create a friendly culture
Before you ever form a team, you need to create a culture that will suit members.
“Never underestimate the power of your company culture.
A Core Beliefs and Culture survey by Deloitte found that more than 80% of executives and employees believe that having an engaged, motivated workforce contributes to the success of their company.”
It’s the culture the enhances member’s disposition when they’re discharging their duties. But remember that culture to most brands is difficult to define.
Why? Because it’s abstract. You can’t measure its performance at face value, but through its manifestation, as team members embrace it. So, culture is often felt or experienced in the work environment. Culture unites people.
Culture is usually a personality. Don’t assume that a marketing automation platform is all you need to thrive. On the contrary, you could fail even faster choosing the best software out there. It’s your team that drives result, not the software.
Do you want your team to imbibe a new behavior and mindset (values, beliefs, habits), then you need to make good your company culture.
2) Define the key roles
Do you want an aligned team that can efficiently implement your marketing automation processes, then the second step to take after developing a culture is to define key roles.
In other words, define the role that each team member will handle. What’s the role of the marketing automation administrator? Don’t just assume they will be in charge of every process - highlight the specific roles with bullet points. Intelligent Office goes as far as listing the traits they want in a customer service agent:
It’s easier for people to reach a shared vision if they can visualize the clear paths to achieving the set goals. You don’t want people lazing about -- instead, you want them to have a high level of accountability.
Make your team members accountable. Because, at times, you’ll need them to answer questions pertaining to their role. You see, you can’t expect team members to be accountability when they have no clear responsibility on what they’ll be doing.
Yes, you may have a lot of money to drive your business, especially at the teething phase but don’t do that. Take extra care in pointing out who is accountable for certain outcomes.
For example, a content creator’s role in a general sense is content creation (e.g., blog posts, email letters, sales copy, video scripts). You can’t expect your content creator to analyze data or track your campaigns. That’s the responsibility of the analytics specialist.
3) If nothing else, focus on experience
The most important thing to consider when forming a team to implement your marketing automation system is to make sure everyone gets along.
If you’re damn busy with other work (I wonder what they are), then you can bring in a co-founder. This is a person you wish you’d see whenever you look in the mirror.
More than likely, you should focus on hiring or outsourcing to experts who can perform functional roles. They’re usually in the DEV TEAM of most companies.
Marketing automation may sound all “robotic” but it requires some element of human touch. Else, it would seem as though a robot actually sends the emails and replies customer’s questions. You don’t want that to happen.
From my personal experience, being a CEO for the first time in your company provides you the opportunity to learn about the market and most importantly your customers.
Start with people who have a level of experience in marketing automation, or some other aspects that complement what you’re looking for. Experience matters.
When can you see results?
This is a tough question. Results are relative. Depending on your company objectives and projections, you can see results within the first month of implementing marketing automation.
On the flip side, there’s shortcut. You may have to have for 3 - 12 months before you can see significant improvement in the areas of lead generation, customer retention, sales, growth, and revenue. From the time of implementation to xxx, on average, it takes 4 - 6 months.
Marketing automation success takes some time,”Jordie Van Rijn
But rest assured, the results will far outweigh what you imagine. According to Position2, 78% of high-performing marketers say that marketing automation software is responsible for improving revenue contribution.
More importantly, marketing automation can maximize your content’s ROI. You just need to be consistent and have a well-designed strategy in place.
How to measure marketing automation ROI
There are several proven ways to measure ROI, but let’s quickly discuss two of them that you implement right away:
1) Lead Scoring
Yes, it’s really hard to accurately measure the results of marketing automation. You need to analyze lots of data -- hence, you need an analytics expert to guide you.
However, automation minimizes a lot of redundancy when it comes to converting qualified leads to sales. This is where lead scoring comes into play.
Here’s a case scenario: A study by Mac McIntosh of AcquireB2B, sales teams now accept and processes well over 58% of qualified leads. Since these leads are qualified, they can lead to an increased close rate of 23% and more.
McIntosh highlights that an “organization can expect to close roughly five deals per program based on a 50,000-name database. That’s an increase in revenue by a huge margin - about $400,000.”
According to MarketingSherpa, companies using lead scoring grow ROI by up to 138%, while companies that don’t use it get around 78% return.
Smart marketers use lead scoring best practices to measure the potentials of a lead and devise means to improve on it.
This way, they’ll see better results. No matter the size of your business, lead scoring can help you measure ROI of MAP.
When you understand your customers and prospects better, then you can capitalize on their behaviors to answer their questions, communicate in a language they understand, improve the accuracy of your tracking system, resulting in a higher quality of leads going to sales.
2) Nurture Programs
Another powerful way to measure ROI is through nurturing programs.
This provides an avenue whereby as a marketer you’re able to educate prospects who are still contemplating about doing business with you. In a nutshell, they’re not ready to engage in a sales cycle yet.
Marketing automation is the modern way to acquire new leads, improven retention, and actually automate the important aspects of your business.
If you’re struggling to achieve your business goals, or feel it’s time to move to another level, use these marketing automation guide to get started.