Since the dawn of time people have been trying to answer the big questions: “Who am I and why am I here?” “What does it mean for me to exist?” “How can I prove the value of marketing by showing that a captured lead led to a sale?”

Okay, so that last one may not have been on the minds of Plato or Camus, but in marketing, it’s one of the most important questions we can ask. We have been asking that question since the dawn of marketing.

They don’t know how much work you do

Did you know that according to the Fournaise Group, 80% of CEOs don’t trust their marketing teams? I had to go back over that to make sure I didn’t type that wrong, but it’s actually that high. For every five CEOs you meet, four of them are convinced their marketing teams are spending their time in between frequent vacations playing ping pong and posting cat pictures on Facebook.

That’s staggering – and untrue! You know that and so do we. The reason for it, however, is a lack of transparency between marketing and sales. You can ask a customer how they heard about you when they purchase, but for every one who remembers and can go into detail, there are going to be four or five who don’t have a solid answer.

So even though your team spent $36,412.00 to create a multi-channel campaign that included an endorsement from a local celebrity and took over the front page of the city newspaper, there’s no tried and true way to track it beside asking a customer where they found you.

How to connect sales and marketing

The answer to this ancient and yet still timely question is marketing automation. But what is marketing automation? Simply put, marketing automation is artificial intelligence for your website!

Marketing automation is technology that allows you to track every single lead as they move through the buyer journey (which you can read more about here). It provides user data about your visitors, works to convert them to leads by moving them through the marketing funnel, and finally serves up custom content so that they associate your brand with the things that matter the most to them.

On a technical level, it uses cookies, custom URLs and campaign tagging, analytics, email marketing, and CRM tools to actively engage and corral site visitors, determining which of your leads are the most warm and shifting resources to prioritize those leads.

What does marketing automation look like?

The second a lead is recognized on your site, every action of his or hers is tracked and can be responded to with automated tools.

Here’s an image of what a single user’s Lead Events profile may look like.

Marketing automation connects sales and marketing

This is a real image with personal information redacted from our website. It might have even been you. And, best of all, every single one of those events can be used to trigger a specific action like:

  • Sending an email cadence (a series of emails that educate your lead about an area of your expertise and include promotional material with calls-to-action)
  • Notifying your sales manager
  • Changing the lead’s status as open/qualified/unqualified/etc
  • Moving that lead into a special list
  • Increasing or decreasing the lead’s engagement score
  • Changing the way the lead sees your home page or a landing page

That last one sounds interesting; let’s talk more about that…

“No Airports” – A short story about marketing automation

Pitcairn Island where internet marketing matters

Pitcairn Island is a remote settlement in the Pacific Ocean and the least populated nation on the planet. The 56 estimated residents speak English, enjoy postal service, an island doctor, church, school and general store. Food and supplies are shipped in on longboats every 3 months from New Zealand.

Every one of the island’s 56 residents has access to the internet.

Every one of the island’s 56 practically-unreachable residents can visit your site.

Being the clever and enthusiastic donut delivery professional you are, you proudly feature a “Free delivery” button in the header of your website. Everybody who comes to your website sees this button, which has never been a problem for you before. The only people ever landing on your website have been within your 40-mile service area.

However, after reading our eBook “How to Create Content Your Market Will Love” last week you published an amazing blog titled, “I Too am a Jelly Donut: And Other Famous Donut-Related Myths.” Since then, you’ve seen visitors coming in from everywhere! One of those visitors was Karl*, whose church-group on Pitcairn was meeting at the end of the week and needed donuts.

With the only baker on Pitcairn vacationing in Duluth, Minnesota (when you live on a tropical island, your concept of vacation gets a bit skewed), Karl decides to Google “donut delivery” and your page comes up. He’s in such a frenzy that he fills out the form and thinks nothing else of it.

Receiving the form near the end of your day, you’re left with two options:

  1. Send Karl a polite email back telling him he is outside of the service area and you cannot help him. While this is true, your passion for your unique and phenomenal-tasting donuts prohibits you from turning down any person in need. Plus, what if he leaves you a bad review? That can affect you all the way from the Southern Pacific Ocean!
  2. Board a plane to New Zealand and take the next boat to Pitcairn which, conveniently leaves the day after your plane drops down, unpack your supply of donuts and head home.

Dynamic content means reading your audience

Although this story sounds completely implausible, visitors from around the web seeing the same content on your page regardless of their locations can lead to some difficult conversations and business decisions.

While an impulsive and expensive trip to a remote tropical island may not be on the table, other problems may be. For instance:

  • Your lead is renting her home and requests a free roofing estimate.
  • Your lead is 19 and he submits a form to get a free pub crawl pass.
  • Your lead lives in Alaska and requests a free water testing kit, which you’re obligated to spend extra money to ship outside of the contiguous United States.

All of these conflicts require you to spend time and a little bit of your credibility to say “no” to somebody who was interested in your products or services.

But what if you didn’t have to say no?

What if a lead who lived in Alaska didn’t see “Free Shipping” on your “Free water test” page, but instead saw “Shipping fees may apply.”

What if your 19-year old lead didn’t see “Get your pub crawl pass today,” but instead saw “Sign up to be notified of our pub crawl promotions on your 21st birthday?”

What if your renting lead saw “Refer your landlord by entering her/his email address?”

Negative Content vs Positive Content

The examples above are negative content (i.e. hiding offers from disqualified leads), but marketing automation also empowers us to provide positive content (offers or information made available only to qualified leads). Some of these could include:

  • Free delivery coupon automatically sent out to a lead who has visited your product page 3 times in the last week.
  • Plain-text personal email, featuring the lead’s first name and information, thanking him/her for submitting his/her name and email address to your blog subscription.
  • Customized landing page that changes images, offers, and contact information about your  fitness club chain based on where the lead is from.

The power of Marketing Automation

All of this is possible and best of all, once implemented, is something you don’t have to worry about updating regularly. For instance, a marketing automation workflow can put your lead into a tree that looks like this:

Marketing automation workflow with email marketing and webinars

This whole tree incorporates a decent amount of work, but once set up, it will take care of any qualified lead who downloads Donny’s Donut Delivery’s ebook. All Donny and his team or agency have to do is create the following pieces of content:

  • Donny’s Donut Delivery presents: All About Donuts – EBOOK
  • 7 Emails – CONTENT
  • Donuts in the Workplace – WEBINAR
  • How Donuts Increase Office Party Satisfaction – CASE STUDY
  • Donut Inspiration – PODCAST
  • Free Delivery Coupon – IMAGE

These content pieces take time to create, but the time saved once implemented makes them an effective use of a marketing team or agency’s resources.

Offer the best deals to only qualified leads

Instead of having to track leads the old fashioned way, and risk making high-value offers available to unqualified leads, the automation tool figures out who is likely to purchase in the future. Then it uses its intelligence to wage a silent war of attrition – both providing value to the lead and keeping Donny’s name as fresh as their ingredients weeks after their leads download the ebook.

It’s a win-win for both Donny’s and the CEO who will end up signing a year-long contract for 350 donuts delivered every morning.

Marketing Automation is new, but proven

This marketing automation technology is relatively new to marketers. Yet the immediate ROI makes it an incredibly smart decision to put your business ahead of your competition. Learning about marketing automation early puts you in a sweeter spot than Donny’s legion of bakers.

While your competitors are trying to find a nice way to say, “I’m sorry, but we don’t service Pacific micro-nations,” or booking longboats, you are able to stay focused on the customer base that you can help and is out there looking for you.

Additionally, you’re able to see who is actually making the decision to buy from you and what they did, saw or read that helped make that important decision for them. When you know what works, it’s easy to make it work better and harder.

Best of all, your marketing automation software is doing most of the work for you, leaving you as much time as you need to take that long vacation in a remote corner of the world.

Interested in finding out more about what marketing automation can do for you and your business? Contact us today

*Karl is a name invented for this blog post. Any resemblance to a real person on Pitcairn Island named Karl is unintended.