Whitepapers, blogs, infographics and other content are fantastic tools for warming leads and positioning your company as a leader in its field, but it’s your CRM and marketing automation software that do the real legwork when it comes to implementing an effective inbound marketing strategy says Mike Richardson, Managing Director EMEA, Maximizer Software
Even with the economic environment improving, many businesses are still struggling to match pre-global financial crisis performance. Generating leads likely to convert into sales is an ever-present challenge that can leave marketing and sales teams at loggerheads when the leads that do manage to reach sales fail to convert. But there is a way to alleviate this blame game, free up sales and marketing resources and ensure that leads are qualified long before the sales patter begins. All it takes is smart content, marketing automation software and some CRM knowhow.
Let’s face it – today’s consumers are more clued-up than ever, and are doing their own research, by tapping into the vast amounts of information available online. Therefore, attracting the attention of potential customers and engaging them is more difficult than ever. Yet, businesses tackling the issue head-on are getting smart with inbound marketing and reaching out to prospects by creating useful content that warms leads without the hard sell.
By using the CRM platform to record all lead activity, marketers have a wealth of intelligence at their disposal to show what content prospects are consuming and when – i.e. what is and isn’t working when it comes to pushing leads down the sales funnel. This insight enables marketing to create a content map for each individual, offering a different piece of content at the right time as the individual travels the lead-nurturing journey.
Now your marketing automation software comes into play: for example, if a lead reads a blog about a particular issue, this acts as a trigger for your marketing automation software to send them a whitepaper that further addresses the problem. The opening of this email then acts as a further trigger to send the next piece of content – a webinar for example. By delivering a unique stream of information that responds to your lead’s online activity, marketing can build up the contact’s profile and assess their level of interest.
Whilst requiring a big upfront effort from marketing to create the range of content, implementing this strategy is a breeze, as your marketing automation software can be programmed to send content without human instruction to prospects at the right trigger points. By utilising a content plan that automatically responds to every action a lead takes, your company shows potential customers that it is paying attention to them, with minimal ongoing effort.
At this stage, it’s crucial that your CRM software features an automated scoring system: this awards prospects points based on their consumption of your content, with each piece of content scored according to its influence on the conversion process. A blog visit, for example, could see a prospect given five points, a webinar watch ten or a whitepaper download 15, and so on… once a prospect accumulates a certain number of points, they are automatically sent to sales through the CRM. This gives a business tangible insight into a particular prospect’s level of engagement and a way of ensuring that only worthwhile leads, ready to convert into customers, progress to the sales department.
The unique aspect of a strategy like this is that marketing automation ensures that no leads are wasted – those that aren’t ready to qualify simply sit in the sales funnel and receive a further stream of tailored communications, triggered by their interactions.
What’s more, when it’s time to review your strategy and identify any areas for improvement, the intelligence collected by your marketing automation and CRM software, on how your prospects are behaving in response to content, is invaluable. This enables marketers to tweak content, thereby becoming more able to generate sales-ready leads as time goes on.
By the time the self-qualified leads find themselves winging their way to sales, marketing’s lead nurturing activity will have populated your CRM with intelligence that enables sales to establish exactly who the lead is, what they’re looking for, when they want it, how much they’re willing to spend on it and any concerns they may have, like budgetary constraints. By utilising the data gathered by marketing, sales can tailor their approach to every customer: by seeing that their lead has downloaded a whitepaper and viewed a webinar on boosting productivity, for example, sales can establish that this is an issue for the client and present your company’s product as a solution.
Once the deal is done, your CRM and marketing automation software still continue to work in tandem to provide new customers with aftercare and customer service, by sending out communications triggered by their activity.
By using marketing automation, companies can effectively make their leads self-qualify. This creates a closed loop of information between sales and marketing departments, that passes customer intelligence and feedback back and forth, ensuring that no sales opportunity is wasted and existing customers are happy and, more importantly, spending.
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