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As we wrote previously, marketing automation refers to a combination of strategy, software and tactics to attract, engage and nurture leads through the purchase process and into customers. This post will look at the various tactics involved in creating marketing automation strategies for business and an integrated marketing approach.

While many marketing automation software solutions are centered on a CRM or around email marketing, with email being a key channel in automation, marketing automation relies on a number of tactics to create a successful program or campaign.

Creating Buyer Personas

Buyer personas are fictitious representations of your ideal customer created using market research and anecdotal information about your existing customers. Personas allow you to better understand your prospects in order tailor content and messaging to suit his or her needs and address his or her concerns. You will very likely have more than one persona as you likely have more than one “type” of person who either buys from you or is involved in the purchase decision. Your website and content should take the different personas – and their different requirements – into account. This allows you to personalize offers and information for specific segments of your audience when sending emails to contacts in your database. Combined with lead scoring and lifecycle stages, personas let you map content and offers that are relevant and timely.

Lead Scoring

Lead scoring assigns point values to actions leads take or to their professional information (such as position in a company, company size or industry), which can then be used to rank individual leads. This allows businesses to separate good, quality leads from people who are just kicking the tires. By utilizing lead scoring, you can separate leads to whom your sales team should be talking from those who need more nurturing via other content offers and automated emails – or those who are merely doing research. Once you begin to score leads you can define scores which trigger a lead to become “sales ready” versus a “marketing qualified” or “prospect.”

Content

Once you have defined personas, you can begin to define and map content to each persona at various buying stages (top of the funnel, middle of the funnel and bottom of the funnel). Content should address the needs of potential customers at each buying stage. Hubspot, an inbound marketing software platform, outlines types of content appropriate for different buying stages, with low-commitment offers at the top of the funnel and high-commitment offers at the bottom of the funnel.

Content allows you to attract visitors,drawing them to the content you publish. It becomes a sustained effort to continually create or recreate content to attract visitors, convert leads and improve search rank. MOZ refers to this continuous effort as the content machine.

CTAs/Landing Pages/Thank-You Pages

Calls-to-Action, (CTAs), landing pages and thank-you pages are necessary to make your content available to users. CTAs are usually buttons or links which instruct a visitor to take a particular action (such as “learn more,” “download now,” “access the webinar”). They can be placed in blog posts or on website pages to help direct visitors to landing pages containing your content offer. Landing pages present the benefits of the offer and allow you to capture lead information using a form. When a user submits the form, he/she is then directed to a thank-you page where you can make good on the promise (the promise being the delivery of a valuable piece of content in exchange for some information).

These elements are written with specific messaging directed at the particular persona and buying stage of the visitor.

Social Media

Great content that can’t be found and shared is useless. Within a marketing automation program, it is important to integrate social media channels to maximize exposure and create a user feedback loop. Social media allows you to share blog posts and landing pages and attract targeted audience members to your website. Using social media to engage these people allows you to be helpful rather than pushy, and to gather feedback to improve content, marketing and, ultimately products or services.

Segmentation

Marketing automation allows you to segment your database of leads based on a variety of factors either individually or in combination in order to deliver targeted, personalized messages to groups of leads sharing certain characteristics, needs or behaviors. For example, using segmentation, you could send an email to “Vice Presidents of small businesses who have downloaded two or more content assets in the last year.” Segmenting contacts makes emails and campaigns more targeted and  effective and improves conversion rates.

According to Hubspot, “39% of marketers who segmented their email lists experienced higher open rates, 28% experienced lower unsubscribe rates, and 24% experienced better deliverability and greater revenue.”

Lead Nurturing and Workflows

Lead nurturing is a critical part of managing your marketing automation strategy. According to Marketo, lead nurturing is “the process of developing relationships with buyers at every stage of the sales funnel, and through every step of the buyer’s journey. It focuses marketing and communication efforts on listening to the needs of prospects, and providing the information and answers they need.” Utilizing list segmentation and marketing automation, businesses can draw a lead through the buying process by delivering highly targeted messages and content to the right audience at the right time in order to inspire action.

Workflows take lead nurturing to an entirely new level by automating functions like sending an email or assigning a contact to a salesperson when they are  triggered by actions or information. Workflows are set up to follow a set of rules or specified flow to deliver highly personalized messages specific to the needs and interests of a contact at a given point in time. Workflows allow you to set up a series of emails with intervals relevant to action or even a lack of action. Workflow rules can also move contacts from one workflow to another based on specific conversions, resulting in greater segmentation and personalization.

Conclusion

There is some complexity involved in a fully-integrated marketing automation program for businesses and getting started can be overwhelming. Our advice: Start small. Crawl before you walk. Walk before you run. You will realize benefits with each step you take. Utilize tactics like landing pages with lead nurturing. Focus on a single persona initially and build out a few pieces of content. Then, grow your strategy and content library as you become more comfortable with creating content and campaigns. As your contact database grows, you can begin to add segmentation to make your nurturing more personalized and effective. Plus, the data you collect along the way will make each step you take smarter and more effective.

Look at marketing automation solutions closely. Email marketing solutions such as Mailchimp offer some marketing automation and workflow solutions as well as list segmentation tools. Other software providers such as Hatchbuck take a CRM-focused approach to marketing automation strategies for business. Hubspot and other robust solutions combine an email focus and a CRM focus with workflow tools that allow exact control over segmentation, triggered emails and reporting tools to measure campaign success. In the hands of an agency with Hubspot marketing expertise, these tools can come together to create an efficient lead gathering, lead nurturing and lead converting machine.