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When working with SaaS companies, we hear the same thing over and over:
“Our marketing is a mess! We jump from one deal to another but can’t seem to make any progress with sales!”
As the CEO or the head of marketing, your KPI should be measured by how much time you spend strategizing and scaling the business instead of coping with another problem. From my experience, the best way to excel at this KPI is to introduce marketing automation.
What do you get with Automation?
You have to do better than guessing what your future income will be. You need to know how many leads, opportunities and closed deals you will get. Marketing automation allows you to
- Track the number of leads in each stage of the sales funnel
- Control your conversion process
- Predict future sales in each step of the funnel
With an automated process in place, you know what results to expect in the next income report and have the tools to manage uncertainties.
Clarity And Structure
“Two people thought the other one would do it.” Does that happen in your company? Automation enables you to delegate responsibilities among the team and focus on getting the best results possible. The number of communication inefficiencies drops dramatically. The responsibilities are clear, and new tasks are uploaded automatically.
You can’t improve what you can’t measure. Once you have both data and the tools, you will be ready to start conversion improvement iterations. This works at every stage of the sales funnel.
Once your business works like a well-oiled machine, you can start scaling it.
At some point, it becomes as simple as upgrading your RAM or hard drive storage in a PC. If you know that you’re running short on resources – support team members, sales reps, customer service, you will employ more staff knowing that it’s the right investment.
What is under the hood?
If you’ve ever searched for a marketing automation system, you already know it’s a nightmare. Learning the intricacies of those systems is nearly impossible.
All you get is marketing jargon or endless tutorials and instructions. Most companies won’t even let you see the product without a demo with pushy salespeople. Every feature is given an absurd marketing name which makes it impossible to compare the services, and you are constantly asked to provide contact information which, let’s be honest, everyone hates.
So let’s make things clear. Here is a comprehensive list of key marketing automation functions. I will use UserEngage as an example.
Tracking and Data gathering
Installing marketing automation tracking codes gets you all the data including clicks, page views, browser data, device info, location, etc.
That’s what you start with. You analyze information from user logins, social media, FullContact, forms filled out on your website, emails sent, chat messages, pop-ups clicked, etc.
The goal here is to truly understand the prospect to deliver automated communications that are highly targeted and personalized.
Most marketing automation systems are based on a similar scheme. There is a drag & drop editor which helps you build customer journey diagrams.
Those paths connect all the elements of the system and are the “brains” of the application.
- Send behavior triggered, targeted and personalized messages via the system itself, or via your SMTP
- Send personalized email campaigns to cold leads
- Track open, click and unsubscribe rates
- A/B test messages.
You can display behavior triggered forms to your site visitors, i.e. exit intent forms, pricing quote questionnaire, discount pop-ups, hello bars, etc.
This one is more impactful than you may think. Once deployed, you will be shocked by how effective it can be in converting visitors to leads. It turns out people can’t understand half of your content. Without the chat, most of them would simply click away.
Dynamic website content
The idea is that you can change the content of your pages to incorporate dynamic attributes of your users. For example, Airbnb might want to display a custom message such as ”Start earning X /day by renting your apartment in City Y.” Where X and Y are variables that are automatically assigned to each user location.
CRM goes with marketing automation like peanut butter with jelly, but without the two systems integrated, your sales team will be left without key customer insights and a poor sales process.
Documentation generation tool
When you analyze your customers’ questions, it becomes clear that 90% of those queries have already been answered before. Instead of repeating yourself, you can create a database with each customer case with a step by step resolution process.
Once it’s done, the automation comes in. The system can analyze user questions and either automatically respond with a URL to the right article or send your support agent a suggestion on a possible resolution.
Some systems have Facebook Ads or AdWords integrations. This means you can target specific users with ads based on their behavior. Those ads are micro-targeted and can incorporate user attributes such as name, email, company or their subscription plan.
How to get started, step 1: Preparations
The first rule of marketing automation is…
Do not talk about marketing automation.
No, just kidding. The first rule is: Don’t get too confident.
Many of our clients jumped straight to implementing advanced automation mechanisms and skipping the preparation part. It never ends well. Why?
- They have automated a broken sales processes
- Their teams didn’t understand how automation works
- Their automatic communication was tacky, looked generic and did not address real customer problems
- They bought an expensive, complex system and realized they didn’t need half of its’ functions.
Baby Steps – that’s what you need.
Firstly, you have to assess your sales process and identify potential bottlenecks. List your key traffic generation channels and map out a typical user profile. Think about the types of customers signed up with your business and key stages of the sales process.
You need to make sure that your model is the right fit. Think about ways to make it more predictable. More structured. You won’t solve your problems by introducing automation to a broken system. Great book for inspiration.
How to get started step 2: Track and measure
There are three basic problems with most tracking and analytics systems.
- You get the data, but it’s not actionable. You are paralyzed with data overdose and lose track of what really matters.
- There is no direct connection between your actions and the data that comes in.
- Data you gather is not personal. Most systems are not connected with your forms, emails, chat messages, so instead of seeing people and their motives, you analyze a bunch of numbers.
Why marketing automation solves this?
- You strictly integrate tracking with your conversion funnel structure. Every recorded event pageview brings you closer to understanding why people do or do not convert.
- The data you get from user tracking goes straight to the automation system, so there is no interruption in-between. The system will work 24/7 and react based on user behavior.
- Marketing automation systems are user centric. Any information you collect via forms, login pages, Facebook logins is assigned to a user profile. There is a separate database for each visitor, and you simply enhance their profile with every bit of information available. This helps you and your sales reps clearly understand who are you dealing with.
How to get started step 3: The Pain Points
Focus on the pain points. Don’t think about what you can create, but rather which problems you can solve. Start with the ones that are simple but very painful.
Some of the most common problems that companies can easily resolve.
- Problem: People get lost when completing the desired action on your website, or the friction is too significant at a certain point on a page that is crucial for the sales process (for example the checkout).
- Solution: Deploy a chat widget on those key pages and automate sending a message with an offer to help or simply dispel their doubts.
- Problem: Sales reps get contacted by people who need support and vice versa. Both teams waste their time and money.
- Solution: Make a solid automated system for a user-employee attribution that considers user’s place in the funnel.
- Problem: Your emails are being read but customers who don’t take the desired actions.
- Solution: Categorize your customers into homogeneous groups and send targeted and personalized emails only using a simple algorithm of attribution.
I could go on and on, but you get the point. There will be more examples provided.
How to get started step 4: First Iterations
At this point, you should have your first results. Measure them carefully and start fine-tuning the automation. Start making your algorithms more precise.
For example, if you had a mailing path for 3 types of users, think of ways to make them more targeted. Divide them into 6 groups with slightly differing needs.
If you had your messages on 3 different pages, think of other places where they can work well.
Your leads aren’t pre-qualified when they get to sales? Work on better scoring. Find better determinants of lead’s qualification and so on.
How to get started step 5: Pursue Full Automation
By this stage, you’ll have a better understanding of the opportunities and threats behind marketing automation.
This is the right time to get everybody onboard.
List out all of the repetitive tasks that each sales rep, marketer, and customer success agent performs daily.
Believe me. Tasks that take 90% of your team’s time can be either automated, radically optimized or their impact can be multiplied with marketing automation.
How to get started Step 6: Scale the system
By now, your processes should be automated and convert visitors into closed deals. These processes are made of people, automation mechanisms, and procedures.
From that moment on, you will have two tasks. Optimizing your business and scaling it.
That’s the beauty of marketing automation. Once it’s implemented, you can scale it however you want. You can employ more sales reps when the current ones get more leads than they can work with, enlarge your support team when it’s getting too busy, buy more clicks or pursue more inbound traffic.
To get a sense of what you can implement, I have prepared a list of 60 automation examples.
How long does the implementation take?
Depending on your company size, automation mechanisms required and website structure, full implementation can take from 2 days up to several months.
The installation process is simple when considering an out-of-the-box system like UserEngage or Autopilot:
- Installing the software on the website takes minutes. It’s as simple as pasting a tracking code.
- A few hours to mark all the events
- Another hour to integrate with other systems such as Slack, SMTP, FullContact, Twilio, etc.
- If you want to connect via API, installation time will depend on what you want to achieve.
Once installation is complete, you can start automating the heck out of your website. Setting up automation mechanism takes less than a minute, but planning the strategy and preparing the content such as email templates, email messages, pop-up forms etc. is a big task to tackle.
The bottom line is… Implementing software is easy. Learning it is also simple. The real challenge is to shift towards optimization and automation in every aspect of your business.