iStk mktgauto largeIn today's highly competitive market, any business must continually generate new leads as well as retain existing clients to succeed. It’s even more important for small business owners, agents, brokers, and consultants. It's not enough to rely on word-of-mouth referrals and automatic renewals. Successful companies use a comprehensive marketing strategy to attract and nurture potential buyers and cultivate long-term relationships after the sale.

[quotesright]Marketing activities, however, are labor intensive and time-consuming.[/quotesright] Most smaller firms employ a lean workforce, making it difficult to carve out enough hours for marketing and lead generation while still serving the essentials of managing customers and closing deals.

[quotes]For many harried sales people and business owners, marketing automation makes good financial sense.[/quotes] Automated marketing strategies give you the tools needed to grow without significant outlays of cash and already scarce resources. Here's how it can work for you.

Lead Generation with Inbound Marketing

The average person is bombarded with interruption-based marketing throughout the day. And they've become very creative in blocking it out with tools such as spam folders and caller ID. Today's customers are savvy; 78 percent of respondents in a recent HubSpot survey stated that they research a product on two or more channels before making a buying decision.

[quotesright]Inbound marketing turns lead generation on its head[/quotesright] by publishing relevant and optimized content that makes it easy for interested buyers to find you. The first stop for most potential buyers is often the search box. Automated marketing gives you the tools to create SEO-friendly content that can be shared across multiple channels and social media and run sophisticated marketing lead nurturing programs.

Pro Tip: The most popular automated marketing systems such as HubSpot pack a lot of useful features, but their steep monthly fees can be a barrier to use for many small companies. Fortunately, [quotesright]there are free and low-cost applications that provide the fundamentals[/quotesright] of automated marketing for smaller firms and those just experimenting with automation.

Customer Life Cycle Management

[quotes]A customer relationship is a complex thing; it progresses through many tiny steps.[/quotes] Automated marketing lets you guide interested leads through the initial research, product inquiry, and purchase phases of the sales funnel in a way that customers don't find pushy or overbearing. It also helps you grow an email list you can use to build relationships with clients and potential clients and mine for future business.

The big benefit of marketing automation is that it helps you [quotesright]turn website visitors along with ad responders and inquirers into first-time buyers, [/quotesright] repeat purchasers, and ultimately, passionate customers by simplifying the contact and follow-up touches throughout the customer's lifecycle.

Automated Marketing Accelerate The Sale

Here's what automating your marketing process looks like throughout the customer life cycle:

  1. Lead Acquisition
  • Use SEO tools to make your blog and website more effective
  • Automate posting content marketing articles on social networks
  • Manage social profiles; promote content, monitor social activity easily and effectively
  • Email campaign management that automates regular marketing for lead generation
  1. Prospect Evaluation and Consideration of Options
  • Capture prospect information via opt-in for emails or newsletters
  • Automatically trigger customized emails based on behavior, such as when a customer has visited a product page on your website several times but hasn't made an inquiry or purchase
  1. Decision-Making, Cultivation, and Profiling
  • Automate emails through the welcome and onboarding phase
  • Send reminders and engagement prior to renewals or upgrades
  • Promote specials, coupons, and new product announcements
  • Collect user information to improve your offers and targeting
  • Manage customer loyalty programs
  • Publish newsletters and blog posts
  1. Termination and Win-Back
  • Conduct data collection and exit surveys
  • Send automated win-back emails at six and 12-month intervals

Encourage Ongoing Business

Sales people often focus on the initial sale and neglect to nurture the client over time. Every business is a highly competitive industry where alternatives are many and clients can be fickle. [quotes]Your customers want to know that you are their partner for the long term,[/quotes] and they don't like to be taken for granted. Landmark emails recognizing milestone events, such as birthdays and work anniversaries and “customer since” dates encourage "sticky" customers.

Rewarding loyalty is another technique that enhances long-term relationships. Rewards don't need to be costly or even involve cash outlays; in many cases, a simple thank-you email or, when appropriate, a shout-out on social media is more than enough.

Automated marketing can be configured to trigger milestone emails as part of your ongoing relationship-building with customers and your loyalty program.

Team Task Management

Most marketing automation systems provide high-quality tools to coordinate the activities and measure the results of your sales team. Tasks are assigned through the system, which can be configured to send texts or email reminders so each sales person knows what is happening with each prospect or customer as they progress through the sales cycle. Managers can access reports and real-time data to measure each sales person’s activity, for example, or to determine how each marketing campaign is performing.

[quotes]Well timed marketing automation messages can smooth and speed the decision to buy…from you.[/quotes] If you have sales letters and a customer acquisition roadmap, creating a marketing automation program is reasonably easy to implement. If you don’t have a roadmap yet, now’s the time to do that.

Putting together the strategies and creating the content and strategies for moving prospects and clients through your sales funnel starts with creating what is often referred to as the “The buyer’s journey.”

[quotesright]Starting with an acquisition strategy, it looks at the buying process from the prospect’s eyes. [/quotesright] It educates and informs, anticipates and answers questions, and reminds. Your automation should proactively help buyers by asking the questions that they don’t even know and haven’t asked but need to ask so you are clearly differentiated from the competition. This removes any obstacles holding your prospects back from taking the next step toward buying.

One final advantage to marketing automation systems is that most integrate with mobile technology, allowing the sales and marketing team to be more flexible and manage their time more efficiently.

Four Platforms to Consider

  1. Marketing Essentials. This platform has three tiers depending on your needs with features including SEO, email marketing automation, social media marketing, and contact management. Unfortunately, the company doesn't publish prices, so contact them for a quote.
  2. Leadsius. This is an ideal choice for the insurance business, because it combines a fairly robust CRM that focuses on lead generation and nurturing, email marketing, and landing page and web form creation and management. It's free for up to 250 contacts, a real bonus.
  3. InTouch. The most popular UK CRM starts at about $70 a month and includes all the essentials: email and marketing automation, lead generation and customer pipeline management, social media, and task management.
  4. ActiveCampaign. Primarily used as an email marketing and triggered campaign platform, ActiveCampaign also includes lead nurturing and sales automation. Plans start at $9 per month for 500 contacts.

[quotes]Attracting and keeping customers is challenging, and today's marketing and sales teams need tools to help them compete.[/quotes] Automated marketing systems use the power of technology to replace time-consuming and often unprofitable mostly mechanical activities so you and your team can focus on the tasks that grow your bottom line.