If you're reading this blog, there is a good chance that you have a vested interest in generating more sales leads for your business. Perhaps you're tasked with it, or measured by the leads you create, or are being constantly pressured to fill the pipe to overcome the challenges of an ineffective sales team. There are many reasons why we need sales leads, beyond keeping the lights on, but typically we're challenged by resources and budgets in our execution. Therefore, the promise of automated lead generation facilitated by marketing automation is very attractive. Could it be as simple as "set it and forget it" as I watch the leads come in? Certainly that is what is promised by many vendors. I can assure you it's more involved than that. The reality is that many businesses not only lack resources, but they also lack budget. Without budget, marketing automation can never be implemented simply because you can't afford it. With budget, you may still not be able to implement it because you lack resources to maintain and develop it. It's a classic chicken-and-egg scenario. Give me more people and more money and I'll make you more leads. Unfortunatley, management often responds by saying you'll get more money and more resources when you bring in more leads to pay for them. What's a marketer to do?
The answer is simple - take it one step at a time. Then, repeat if necessary. Let me explain.
Auto Responders and Email Marketing
For many of our clients in this situation, we simply suggest you start with tools like Campaign Monitor or Constant Contact. These tools rock for their ability to create online forms which can be embedded in your web site. Once a form is completed (because you had a kick-butt Call To Action), a series of emails can be sent to the opt-in subscriber on a periodic basis. It's the simplest form of lead nurturing. There truly is minimal, to no, intelligence such as lead scoring, or complex branching logic, or persona segmentations to dynamically adjust and nurture the new prospect. That said, it does do a great job of engaging them softly over a period of days or weeks or months such that you can ultimately follow up with a phone call and anticipate a somewhat warm reception. As a Marketer, you can control the messaging and monitor the reports to see how they're engaging with you. It's a nice start, and it's very cheap to implement.
Once you've gotten some ROI from the auto-responders, you can move onto Inbound Marketing. Vendors like HubSpot have pioneered this space. It's definitely more expensive than the auto-responders, and it's essentially on-par, cost-wise, with some of the very low-end marketing automation providers, however it gives you so much. The essence of Inbound Marketing is that it does what the auto-responders do, plus gives you some basic lead scoring, plus gives you incredible insight into the leads that complete your forms. Beyond that, the secret sauce behind Inbound Marketing is that it will help you get found by your target audience using tools such as social media, search engine optimization, landing pages, etc. It's a great tool for non-technical marketers who need to quickly and efficiently drive traffic to their site without the expense of telemarketing, or direct marketing, and in a way that is credible and develops a firm's thought leadership. We have a quick little video you can watch at this page to learn more.
Finally you've had success with the above two tactics, and you now have the budget to really invest in a deluxe implementation of marketing automation. Congratulations. Of course, now your decision is whether to go low-end, middle of the road, or high-end with your vendor selection. Tools from Act-On, to LeadLife, to Pardot, to Genius, to Marketo, to Eloquawill span the spectrum of both budget and capabilties. The only immediate advice I'd offer here is to balance your wants with your needs with your budget. Always remember - it's not a linear equation. When you double your monthly spend on a marketing automation vendor, you're not doubling your feature list or your ROI. Also recall that the more complex a tool is, the more maintenance and oversight is required on your end. Accordingly, the costs are not contained just to the service subscription but also to the associated staffing to maintain and leverage your investment.
Aim for the moon, start with a single orbit
Okay, it may be a corny analogy but the space race was not won with the first project. They built on their successes and ultimately achieved their goal, using the lessons learned from each incremental step and effort. This is a great strategy and one you should seriously consider.