Introduction – finding, attracting and keeping your customers
Occasional visitors they may be, but just imagine if there was an invisible tool that could find out what your customers were looking for before they even knew themselves. Well, such tools really do exist – in the form of web-based software called marketing automation.
In the simplest terms, marketing automation can be defined as a system for collecting digital information – for example, how many times a particular customer has visited your website. The system can then send out automatic emails to customers and visitors who, in some way, register their email address when they visit your website. But the technology offers more possibilities than just this. Marketing automation can also be used to find out how the customers find their way to a website, what products or services they are looking for, and how you can then create and maintain a relationship with the customer through targeted advertising messages.
Below you will find definitions of the terms and concepts that occur in the text.
Various types of programs (software) that support the marketing process by collecting data/information.
A single email, or multiple emails, sent after a specific event has occurred. For example, an email may be sent automatically after a customer has signed up to a company’s newsletter.
A term for customer contact; a potential buyer. These may be either old customers or new ones. An example of a new lead would be a potential customer who has found your website after searching on Google.
A process that investigates the requirements of a potential customer, collects information, builds up relationships, strengthens the brand name and turns the lead into a concrete business opportunity.
Automated processes that collect information about visitors to your website before then identifying them and later converting them into conceivable leads.
A process that helps you to identify when your potential customers (leads) are ready to buy.
Exactly as the name implies, this is a nurturing process that builds the relationship itself into a conceivable lead (potential customer), one that is not yet ready to buy. It is about guiding your leads forward in a productive way, in order to get them into a position where they are ready to buy, while ensuring that it is your company’s brand that they think of first.
ROI (Return on Investment):
A form of calculation that can be used to indicate the yield from an investment (the amount by which an asset has changed in value compared with a previous point in time).
Marketing automation in practice
The term ‘marketing automation’ perhaps sounds more complicated than it really is. To say that the software collects information about what customers click on, and perhaps buy, on a website, does not tell the entire story.
Let us say, for example, that a customer begins by visiting a website or online shop. The customer is welcomed by a pop-up window, where they are encouraged to take part in a survey, questionnaire or some form of prize draw. Once the customer registers their email address, all of a sudden the company is given access to an expanded range of possibilities for interacting with the customer. Marketing automation can be used in many different ways. The vital thing here is to find precisely the right method for your company, and to decide the ways in which contact with the customer will take place. Sending fifty emails a day to the same customer is an example of a less successful strategy.
By sending out automatic emails to customers who, in various ways, have registered with them, companies can entice customers with offers, competitions and campaigns tailored to their specific area of interest. If a customer has previously purchased a vacuum cleaner online, then perhaps a month later an email may land in their inbox with an advantageous offer on vacuum cleaner bags at a discount price.
How do we search for things on the Internet?
In many cases, as customers we already know what we are searching for and where we can find it. In this sense, online shops are nothing new. Customers surf their way onto the shop’s website, look for the product they wish to buy and then place an order. Yet, just as there are customers who know in advance exactly what they will be buying, there are also customers who simply ‘window shop’ online. In the end, however, every customer and visitor to a website is unique, and in most cases they are looking for completely different things.
What all customers and visitors to a website have in common is that they leave behind so-called digital footprints. As previously explained, marketing automation collects these footprints and stores them on the system. Put simply, the tool picks up on what visitors and customers click on or download. The software is also able to detect how the customer came to find your website in particular. Perhaps this may have been through an online advertisement, an occasional search on Google or via a link in a blog or online newspaper. No matter how customers find their way to a website, it is always useful to have an understanding of it, as it makes it easier to draw up a marketing strategy and perhaps even broaden and develop it thanks to the new insights gained.
The more often the same visitor or customer goes to a specific website, the more footprints and impressions are stored in the software. The tool gets to ‘know’ the visitor and how they behave. However, the aim is always for the visitor or customer to register their email address on the website. It is not until the email address has been registered that the actual process can begin.
The automatic emails are called trigger emails. Once the visitor’s or customer’s email address has been registered on a company’s website, the company can start sending out trigger emails. The types of email sent can vary greatly.
Here is an example: Jenny works as a marketing manager for a private company, and several times a month she visits a particular company’s website to look at its promotional merchandise, posters and banners, as well as to find out how much the company charges for its services. Jenny registers her email address so that she can receive the website’s newsletter.
Now, a lead has been created; this is simply Jenny’s role as a potential customer. Using leads (customer contacts), profiles are created of recurring visitors to a website, which are then stored on the system. If a lead is good and clear enough – as it is in Jenny’s case, where it can be seen that she is looking for marketing products – trigger emails can start to be sent out. Jenny may, for example, receive an email from the company entitled ‘Thank you for signing up to our newsletter’, with a link in the email itself to an offer on the website, ‘Half price offer when ordering posters’. Jenny clicks on the link and chooses either to take up the offer or not. Whatever she chooses to do, a few weeks later an email will arrive in her inbox containing a link to ‘10 good tips for effective marketing’, which takes you straight to the company’s website. Jenny is reminded of the company’s services and this, it is hoped, entices Jenny to visit the website again. With automatic emailing, the chances of the customer making a purchase are therefore increased.
Other examples of trigger emails are booking confirmations for events. The actual confirmation that is sent a few days before the event may perhaps include directions to the event and a suitable meal offer. Then, once the event is over, a further email is sent that allows people to write a review of their experience at the event and leave comments to say what they thought of it. A trigger email can also be something as simple as a ‘Happy Birthday’, with an advantageous offer in the email. As the company’s name and logo will always be included in the email – sometimes the name of one of the employees, too, is given – the content is perceived as more sincere and personal, which is also part of the strategy of marketing automation.
The fact is that all visitors to your website are conceivable future customers, so-called leads. Lead management helps by collating all the necessary information, thus increasing the opportunities to proceed to the next stage of the buying process. The idea is to nurture the relationship with the customer and cultivate a future business opportunity. This work involves not only working towards a specific target but also mapping the location of potential leads in the buying process. Having this information to hand makes it easier to deduce which leads can be contacted by the salespeople.
Those salespeople who choose to work in marketing automation must learn not to be too pushy, as there is a risk of frightening off a potential customer instead of capturing them. Suppose that a visitor is looking on a website for information. At this stage, the potential customer needs to be worked on by providing educational information, and we need to ensure that we know what type of information the customer is looking for. Using lead scoring, a points system, the visitor’s activities on a website are given a score. The software detects how often the potential customer visits the website, what the customer searches for, which specific pages the customer has visited, and how many brochures or documents the customer has downloaded. Each activity is worth a specific number of points, and once a lead has accumulated a sufficient number the sales department will consider the customer as being ready to buy and will contact the customer with a sales offer. The more points, the safer it is to contact the customer.
There is often a great difference between ready to buy leads and curious leads. Just because a customer clicks around a website now and then, it does not necessarily mean they are ready to buy right now. For this reason, it is important not to pass curious leads too quickly down the line towards a sales department. Doing so risks losing these leads – leads who, at a later stage, perhaps would have been a safer bet to make a purchase. Working on lead nurturing is all about having a set target in advance, about seeing the customer’s needs and finding the right solution for the customer from the company. It is about being prepared for any questions the customer may ask, while at the same time being fully aware of the customer’s previous activities and information searches on the website. Working to build up a variety of customer profiles makes it easier to draw up targets and then to locate ideal customers.
The right strategy for your company
Marketing automation can be used in many different ways. It lends itself best to companies that have many returning customers who have not yet made a purchase. The key is to be careful to maintain a clear purpose behind marketing and to have a clear idea of the ways in which marketing automation will make a difference to your company. For example, marketing automation and trigger emails may be good for companies in need of
increased sales, companies that collect statistics or companies that are seeking to evaluate their services.
Whatever a company’s marketing situation and strategy may look like, it is enormously important for the emails that are sent to be polite, fresh, well-worded and relevant. There is a need to work out what type of information the customers are looking for, how many emails can be sent to the same customer, and roughly what time of the day is suitable for sending out emails. Remember that emails must be in line with your company’s graphical guidelines and colours so that the customer understands who they are from. This is equally important if marketing automation is also integrated into the company’s social media.
The marketing automation process does not end once a company establishes a relationship with a customer. The idea is to nurture the relationship by continuing to send out regular emails based on the customer’s interests and purchases. It is therefore a good idea to have a follow-up strategy so as not to risk losing customers who perhaps have not made a purchase for a while.
Moreover, thanks to marketing automation and the information stored on the system, companies can easily investigate which were the most successful campaigns and which were the offers that no-one took up. It is also possible to show the ROI (Return on Investment) of your marketing efforts, which provides a clear indication of which were the successful and which were the less successful campaigns. In other words, the tool provides a whole range of different benefits. Yet however a company uses the software, the idea is always to broaden the circle of customers – though without losing old customers. A well-planned marketing effort, using marketing automation, will have given you and your company a solid foundation on which to finally contact the customer directly with an offer.
Questionnaires and seminars
For companies seeking to find out the wishes and views of old and new customers alike, a survey tool is probably the simplest method. By getting visitors to respond to a survey when they visit a website, the website gains access to information such as the visitor’s name, email address and – perhaps – their telephone number. Just as with the visitor’s customer information, marketing automation can be used to collate these views, and – depending on the visitor’s area of interest, the software can begin to send out automatic trigger emails linked to the views or questions contained in the survey. In the same way, the customer or visitor can receive an email thanking them for giving their views. In conjunction with the email, the customer may be offered the chance to take part in another survey and, by way of thanks, may receive a discount voucher for use when purchasing items from the company’s online shop.
Another example is where a visitor or customer signs up for a company’s seminars using a digital registration tool. As soon as the visitor’s email address has been recorded, the website can use marketing automation to send information before the seminar has even been held. So, when John registers for a customer evening staged by a leading grocery chain and featuring a guest appearance by a specialist in raw food, he receives a trigger email containing an advantageous offer on coconuts, a recipe for raw coconut cake and a welcome to the customer evening on 9 June. Once the customer evening is over, John then receives another trigger email, thanking him for coming and hoping that he found the talk rewarding. At the same time, he is given the opportunity to buy the grocery chain’s raw food cookery book at half price.
Marketing automation: the benefits
By encouraging the visitors to a website to register their email addresses, a company can expand its marketing activities substantially. Advertising, newsletters and the emailing out of offers are all tools used to increase the number of visitors to the website. You could say that the website is ‘monitored’ to examine how visitors to the website behave. For example, do they click their way to a specific page, do they look for contact details, do they read the newsfeed? By being one step ahead and finding out what customers are searching for, it is possible, for example, to use automatic emailing to offer customers discounts on a specific product or service that they had previously clicked on but not bought. The idea here is to capture those visitors who otherwise may not have returned to the website.
It is also a good way for business owners to take a more active role in marketing. Even though there is no direct physical contact with consumers on the Internet, marketing automation can still be used to increase the chances of a sale. Climbing into the digital world and looking at how customers click their way around the site and what they finally buy makes it all the easier to put together a marketing effort. The more knowledge that can be retrieved about customers, the easier it is for the salesperson to take that step and contact the customer directly.
Before you start
There are a number of basic principles that you need to think about before starting with marketing automation in your business. As a company, you should have a well-established marketing strategy and a certain idea of what your circle of customers is. Draw up a plan for your circle of customers and the type of information you wish to market. You also need to ask the question as to whether marketing automation can make any actual difference to your company. A smaller company may perhaps benefit from other types of marketing, while a larger company – one that offers many different products – can gain a good overview of its customers through marketing automation. It is also important not to bombard customers with masses of emails about campaigns, offers and discounts, as the effect may be the opposite of the one intended and the customers may tire of it.
The content of the emailing is at least as important. As a company, you will want to appear serious – a leader, always there with the latest services or products. The layout and associated text therefore need to be thought out carefully and given just the right prominence. Last but not least – a catchy headline is sometimes all that you need