Hand off your lead nurturing?
Ask marketers who’ve already invested in marketing automation, and they’ll tell you that it is neither easy to learn or nor inexpensive to implement. Learn exactly what you might be getting into with the do-it-yourself approach, and why it can pay to outsource your lead nurturing to an agency instead.
Hand Off Your Lead Nurturing?
Why it may pay to outsource your marketing automation.
The Issue: Reaching Prospects
As is pretty well known by now, prospects today don’t want to be sold to. In fact, until they’re close to actually being ready to buy, they don’t want to talk to marketers or salespeople at all. What they do want is information – genuinely useful, objective information that is truly helpful to them – available when and where they want it.
As prospects progress through their buyer’s journeys, they need different types of information, relevant to their needs at a particular moment in time. Our job is to
provide this relevant information on a moment’s notice – in the form of articles, white papers, ebooks, how-to videos, webinars and more. The problem for us is this: trying to provide the right information at the right time to the right prospects when they’re ready for it is extremely difficult; trying to do it for hundreds or thousands of prospects is exponentially harder.
Enter Marketing Automation.
Marketing automation platforms literally perform a miracle for us, able to interact with an essentially limitless number of prospects on their own terms and serve up content relevant to their interests, automatically triggered by their recent activity. Marketing automation offers this content using a combination of email, web pages, SMS, social media, direct mail and automated phone calls. Based on a prospect’s most recent actions, such as filling out an interest form, downloading a white paper or attending a webinar, a marketing automation platform can ascertain where the prospect likely is in the buyer’s journey and contact the prospect with an offer of content he or she is likely to want next. As prospects consume this content, their actions trigger the marketing automation platform to send follow-on communications offering more content, and, when the time is right, sales promotions. The software keeps track of every prospect interaction, scoring prospects based on their activity levels – and keeps your sales and marketing teams informed as prospects progress on their buyer’s journey. When prospects are truly ready to engage with a salesperson (or otherwise take the final steps to make a purchase), you’ll know about it, because this information will be readily available from the marketing automation platform. You’ll also know exactly how many prospects are interacting with your automated communications and how many are converting at all times, helping you easily gauge the ROIof your automated campaigns.
This is the process of lead nurturing, and marketing automation is the engine that makes it possible.
Lead nurturing, defined:
Lead nurturing, a.k.a. “drip marketing,” refers to using time-release sequences of promoted content and offers (“drip campaigns”) triggered by specific prospect actions.
This is analogous with drip irrigation, used for nurturing plants. Rather than just turning a hose on your plants full blast, which would likely kill them, you nurture
them with a time-release drip that gives the plants just what they need, as they need it. It’s a fitting metaphor.
To use another metaphor, marketing automation is like the world’s largest lever, enabling you to conduct drip campaigns to an infinite number of prospects with the same collection of content and offers, according to predefined rules for when and how to send them. Set it once and forget it; the marketing automation platform will take care of the rest.
If only it were so simple.
Marketing automation is very powerful.
But also very hard to implement.
With the promise of the power of marketing automation comes the reality: it’s hard to use. Very hard. In fact, it’s so hard to use that many companies that try either use only a fraction of its real power, such as simply sending blast emails; or end up just not using it at all.
1. The user interface is hard to learn.
It seems like none of the marketing automation vendors have figured out how to truly simplify the user interface. This is understandable, because:
- Marketing automation platforms have a dizzying array of features, requiring a densely packed user interface.
- There is no getting around the many laborious steps involved in setting up
even the simplest drip campaign, further complicating the user interface.
A user interface that isn’t intuitive will severely limit the effectiveness of a marketing automation tool, because if you can’t figure out how to use it, you just won’t use it. All of the powerful automation features promised by the platform will remain untapped. And if you’ve already committed big dollars to subscribing to the platform, well, that could be a lot of money down the drain.
2. Setting up a drip campaign is a very
Designing and setting up all of the drip marketing workflows of a campaign can be very involved and complicated. It requires:
- Mapping out the buyer’s journey for each type of prospect
- Mapping good content that is relevant to each step of the buyer’s journey, for each type of prospect, including white papers, ebooks, articles, infographics, videos, webinars, and sales promotions
- Creating and producing all of that content – including writing, designing and publishing
- Mapping out the drip campaign with a flowchart diagram showing:
- Each communication and call to action in the campaign
- Triggered actions that are automated by the marketing automation platform, based on how each prospect interacts with your communications
Examples of prospect interactions, and the marketing automation actions they’ll trigger:
Interaction: prospect opens the email
Triggered action: record this behavior
Interaction: prospect reads the email
Triggered action: record this behavior
Interaction: prospect clicks on a link
to web page
Triggered action: add three points to the prospect’s “sales readiness” score
Interaction: prospect fulfills the call to action (submit a form, make a purchase, download something)
- add six points to the prospect’s “sales readiness” score;
- send a thank you email;
- move the prospect to the next communication in the drip campaign and/or add to another campaign based on the action taken
Interaction: prospect unsubscribes from
Triggered action: remove from the campaign
Interaction: prospect provides information
on a form that is not a good fit for your
product or service
Triggered action: remove from the campaign
- Configuring the marketing automation platform to automatically add points (scoring) and tags (labels and group assignments) to prospects based on their interactions with your communications, which you’ll use to determine the sales readiness of those prospects
- Creating all of the communications (offers) to promote this content, for multiple channels, including emails, web pages, SMS, social media, direct mail, and automated phone calls
- Also, creating multiple versions of each communication so you can test
which version drives a higher response rate, or “conversion” – this is called “A/B testing”
- Also, creating multiple versions of each communication so you can test
- Configuring the marketing automation platform to provide you with meaningful tracking and ROI reports based on relevant performance metrics, so you can see what’s working and what isn’t
- Configuring the marketing automation platform to notify sales and marketing
personnel when prospects have taken specific actions and/or reach the sales-ready stage in the buyer’s journey
- This may also involve connecting the marketing automation platformto a CRM platform, such as Salesforce, and making sure the platforms synchronize prospect data accurately
- Testing all of the above before sending prospects communications to ensure:
- A good prospect experience
- The logic of the workflows is
- All the triggers you set up are
These are the steps you must go through with every drip campaign, requiring tens
of hours, if not hundreds. Now multiplythis by the number drip campaigns you’d
like to run, and the level of effort can go up exponentially.
3. You have to understand the discipline of lead nurturing.
Before you can set up your marketing automation platform to perform wonders
for you, you have to know what to tell it to do. That means, you have to have at
least a working knowledge of how lead nurturing works, how to design and
manage a lead nurturing campaign, and how to interpret the data it produces to improve results. Lead nurturing is its own full-fledged discipline within the larger discipline of marketing. Just some of the key concepts you must learn are:
- Designing lead nurturing workflows
- Nurturing through multiple channels to engage prospects where they want
to be engaged (i.e. cross-channel marketing)
- Writing and designing emails that convert (and testing multiple variations to see which convert the most)
- Writing and designing landing pagesthat convert (with the same kind of
- How to apply lead scoring to qualify good prospects
- The concept of buyer personas (segmenting your market), the buyer’s journey (a.k.a. “sales funnel”)and mapping content that is relevantto unique personas at specific stages in their buyer’s journey
- Establishing appropriate metrics to measure the ROI of your campaigns,
including attributing success to the right communications and channels
- Designing processes and a team culture that facilitate qualifying and sharing
sales-ready prospects between marketing and sales
- The distinct roles of the marketing automation platform and the CRM and
synchronizing data exchange between them to best support the efforts of the
sales and marketing teams
4. You need staff to actually do this work.
If your organization is like many, your marketing department probably already has more work than it can handle. If that’s the case, you’ll likely need to hire additional resources – ideally, people who already have a background in lead nurturing and marketing automation. Finding the right people takes time.
5. Setting up a drip campaign is a very involved process.
There are scores of competing marketing automation platforms to evaluate. Pricing is all over the map. Platforms start from next to nothing per month (for a very limited number of contacts and features) to thousands of dollars per month.
Features also vary significantly. Here is a fairly comprehensive list of marketing automation platform features:
- Lead nurturing – not just sending a sequence of emails, but adjusting what content is dripped based on prospect behavior
- Build and host landing pages
- Build and host forms for collecting prospect-supplied information
- Email blasts
- A/B version testing of emails and landing pages
- Lead scoring – for activity, and also for demographics
- Decay scoring – if a prospect hasn’t engaged with your content in a while,
his/her total score decreases
- Salesforce integration with bi-directional data sync (Salesforce is by far the most popular CRM platform in use today)
- Automated sales alerts in your CRM platform
- Automated lead assignment
- Progressive profiling (the ability to adapt form fields to a prospect’s phase
in the buyer’s journey)
- Dynamic content – emails and landing pages that are automatically customized to match specific prospects
- Drag-and-drop lead nurturing workflow building
- Simple WYSIWYG design tools for building emails, landing pages and forms
- Online behavior tracking – reporting what your prospects are doing on your website – including which content they are downloading
- IP address lookup for prospects who aren’t cookied
- Full analytics – web, SEO/keyword, cross-channel revenue attribution, ROI
- Closed-loop reporting – using data integration between your marketing automation tool and CRM to properly attribute closed deals to campaigns
- Integration with third party databases to get a larger view of each prospect
(such as social media profiles and activity)
- Support for event marketing, like webinars
- Social marketing – social listening and tracking, social sharing, social analytics
- Multi-user/multi-role – the administrator can assign different roles and levels of access appropriately to different staff
- A user interface that is well thought out for the shortest possible learning curve
Depending on your business model, you may need few, some, most or all of these features. But unless you’re already experienced in using marketing automation, it will be difficult to know which are must-have features and which you can do without. This makes choosing the right platform difficult. Compounding this is that all platforms have at least some of these features – but which combination? Odds are, any given platform will have most of what you need, but not all. Another platform may have the one key feature you need, but be lacking another key feature. Or, the one that gets it just right is just too expensive for your budget.
To try to make your choice easier, many platforms offer a limited-time “free test drive” so you can see if their tool is right for you (typically a 15- or 30-day trial period). However, in the real world, if you’re not already an experienced marketing automation user, this isn’t nearly enough time for you to assess if the platform really delivers the features you need, gauge how hard or easy the platform is to use, and properly test it with actual campaigns. And as busy as you are, do you really have the time to invest in trying to learn a new platform which is just one of several in your evaluation?
6. Then there’s the cost.
Marketing automation platforms usually charge you twice: first to “onboard” their service (including a limited amount of training), and second with a monthly subscription – often with a minimum 12-month commitment. The costs are significant: onboarding can cost from hundreds to thousands of dollars. Subscription fees can range up to thousands of dollars per month.
It will be very difficult or impossible to recoup your investment if you’ve chosen the wrong marketing automation platform – one that either doesn’t have the features you need, is too hard to use, or both.
And unfortunately, you won’t know if you’ve chosen the right platform until you’ve worked with it for several months – potentially wasting significant training fees, subscription fees and months of paid staff time. Many companies have made this kind of investment in a marketing automation platform, only to abandon it and incur a substantial loss.
The case for handing off your lead nurturing campaigns.
Think of lead nurturing and marketing automation as like creative services.
You could hire an in-house team of creative experts, or you can outsource the work to a creative agency, instantly gaining a seasoned team of writing and design professionals.
Similarly, you can incur the significant expense of staffing your marketing department for lead nurturing, evaluating and onboarding a marketing automation platform, learning how to use it and doing it all in-house; or, you can outsource to a lead nurturing agency and instantly get up and running with robust lead nurturing campaigns built and run by experts. Such firms have already invested heavily in getting and learning a full-featured marketing automation platform, and building a staff of marketing automation and lead nurturing experts (ZUZA is one of this growing breed of service agency).
The advantages of outsourcing your lead nurturing:
- No need to hire additional staff
- No time spent evaluating marketing automation platforms
- No time spent learning how to design campaigns or use a marketing automation platform
- No money wasted on subscribing to a marketing automation platform that
- Have your first campaigns up and running in days
- Easily run A/B version testing of communications
- Get the benefits of a full-featured marketing automation platform (agencies like ZUZA invest in the best) without the elevated subscription cost
- Get robust tracking, scoring, analytics and reporting
- Free your team to focus on the creative aspects of campaigns
The promise of marketing automation, fulfilled by your lead nurturing agency.
Marketing automation platforms hold spectacular promise for generating leads and revenue with lead nurturing campaigns. With an experienced agency doing all the heavy lifting for you, you can get right to creating campaigns with the staff you already have, with no learning curve and no wasted expense. When you compare the costs of hiring an agency versus the cost of staff time and subscription fees that marketing automation requires, and then factor in the shorter time to revenue enabled by outsourcing, it quickly becomes clear that handing it off to an agency is a tremendously cost effective way to lead nurture.