If your inbound marketing programs generate lots of high-quality leads, you don’t need to read this blog post. If they could use a boost, read on.
Using a decent marketing automation platform is intoxicating. It makes life much easier, so it’s simple to jump into writing blog posts and white papers with no strategy, no clear prospect personas, no buyer’s journey in mind. Most marketers create, publish and promote content for buyer personas that may or may not exist.
It’s easy to get blinded by the cool things marketing automation can do and how much easier it makes your work. It’s so simple. Rather than using separate tools for blogging, emailing, promoting and monitoring, one integrated environment and one contact database is all you need.
The most important functionality of a marketing automation system is the ability to automatically trigger a large number of personalised messages. And still the most common use case seems to be annual or bi-annual campaign-based email delivery. Something that MailChimp could do for free. According to many studies, most companies use only a small part of their marketing automation platform’s capabilities.
This seems to be a challenge especially for subsidiaries of large global companies. They often get little advice or help from the head office on how to plan and design inbound marketing programs and how to run their marketing automation platforms. The global inbound marketing team is busy and does not understand the local language, cultural and business differences. Local inbound marketing professionals are left to find their own way forward.
If your marketing automation program is not returning the results it should, here are eight things you should do to remedy the situation.
1. Create a comprehensive inbound marketing scoreboard
Companies often focus on lead statistics. That’s not enough. The inbound marketing scoreboard needs to reflect how each email, landing page, and piece of content is performing. Make sure that your marketing targets are aligned with overall business goals, especially sales targets. At the end of every week you need to know what is working and what is not. You know exactly what to focus on the following week.
2. Conduct a contacts data audit
It is impossible to run an efficient and effective content marketing program without rich, clean data. Do everything you can to make sure that the data you are working with is as clean as possible. Some marketing automation platforms like Hubspot have the contacts inside the system. Others, like Eloqua, are usually also integrated with a CRM platform. You need the authority to cross organisational boundaries, to establish a solid real-time integration and create the necessary additional fields that marketing automation requires in the CRM platform. Rich data is paramount!
3. Create an inbound marketing learning and development program
You need to educate your own team by creating a holistic L&D program to ensure that your team (or your integrated marketing agency partner) has the required skills. You also need to spread the inbound marketing gospel. Keep the CFO in the loop. This will come handy when you need more resources.
4. Close the marketing and sales process gap
Sales professionals are used to generating leads: by word of mouth, trade shows and other traditional means. When new leads pop up in their CRM platform (hopefully automatically), salespeople get suspicious. I have heard many stories about salespeople ignoring leads generated by their marketing automation platforms. Most, if not all CRM platforms, have a data field for indicating lead status. Ensure that the salespeople use this field also for leads generated in the marketing automation platform. Educate salespeople about the importance of letting you know which leads are valuable. Sell them on the idea that in the long term you will make their work easier because they do not have to generate their own leads and they can spend most of their time pushing prospects forward through the sales funnel.
5. Create buyer personas
This is something you have probably done, but if not, please do it now. Without accurate buyer personals, it is impossible to create high quality leads and push prospects forward along their buyer’s journey. B2B purchase decisions often require buy-in from not only business owners, but also technical experts, procurement managers etc. You need to create a unique persona for each person in the purchase decision process. Because their information requirements are different.
6. Map each piece of content to one or more buyer personas
It doesn’t make sense to develop content (the most time-consuming part of inbound marketing) without an accurate buyer persona in mind. Without personas, your content might not be relevant.
7. Map each piece of content to one stage of the buyer’s journey
At a minimum, this means that you have content for the four main stages of the buyer journey:
- Top-of-funnel: to increase awareness
- Middle-of-funnel: increase understanding of your product/service
- Bottom-of-funnel: assess which vendor and product best fits the buyer persona’s requirements
- Customers: increase satisfaction and loyalty so customers become your evangelists
8. Start by developing a few short automation loops and testing them.
It is difficult or even impossible to map a single buyer-persona-specific buyer’s journey. Personas often take their own paths to the purchase decision. It is easier to start with short automated loops.
For example, Email -> landing page with a call-to-action to download a white paper -> thank you email -> end. Develop a couple of loops like this and test them with different messages (but same premium content or event). Once you have learned what loops work, start stringing them together (thank you email with recommendation for next action).
There are no quick wins with an inbound marketing program. It often takes two years or more before seeing the first concrete results. Create a system and monitor it. Keep improving and optimising. High quality leads will start emerging and being pushed forward along the buyer journey. And don’t forget customers. Loyal customers are the biggest contributors to your bottom line and your best brand ambassadors!
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