My first experience with marketing automation was 15 years ago when our company purchased access to Vtrenz in 2004. With more businesses embracing marketing automation in order to save time and increase business for their company I began to wonder what the ideal use of marketing automation really is. Should you spend your marketing efforts on generating new leads, or nurturing existing ones? Which strategy is best for your company in order to build relationships and increase conversions?
Below we’ve discussed this question as well as some automation strategies business owners can use to reach their goals in terms of leads.
What is Lead Generation?
A lead is a person who has expressed interest in your company, and lead generation is the process of capturing this buyer's attention and ushering him into the sales funnel. There are 2 types of ways to generate leads; inbound and outbound. Inbound strategies center around things like your blog, website, SEO and social media, whereas outbound strategies are things like email marketing and advertising. All are good strategies to employ and should be used together in order to target leads.
Lead generation is important because it shows that the buyer is taking an interest in your company, as opposed to the marketer or business owner seeking out the buyer. This leads to more natural relationships where the consumer is more likely to make a purchase.
What is Lead Nurturing?
According to Marketo.com, “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.” After a business generates leads, it’s important to nurture those leads so that they turn into customers who make purchases. Good lead nurturing involves investigating what the consumer is looking for (aka what they need) and then addressing those needs through communication and marketing efforts. A recent Pardot.com article states that “nurturing can be used throughout the entire customer lifecycle. For example, engagement campaigns can be created to onboard new customers, revive dormant leads, and run renewal campaigns to current accounts.”
So What’s the Most Important Goal of Marketing Automation: Lead Generation or Lead Nurturing?
As you may have guessed, one is not more important than the other; they should work together. As I stated above, there’s no point in generating leads only to abandon them.All new leads need to be nurtured in order to grow into meaningful customer relationships that drive purchases. Lead nurturing is what makes lead generation worthwhile. In the end, both strategies have the same goal- to produce revenue for your company. The moral of the story: If you find yourself spending a lot of time and effort on one but not the other and you’re not happy with your results, it could be because you need more balance.
Employ strategies to target new leads but then make sure you’re spending adequate time nurturing the leads that result from those strategies. It’s important to use some kind of analytic software so that you can see the results of your efforts and be notified of your successes and failures so you know which areas need to be improved upon This article discusses some ways you can use Google Analytics to track your marketing efforts.
What Should You be Doing to Target Both Goals?
When people think of marketing automation, they usually think first of automated email marketing. This involves sending automatic emails to subscribers based on actions they’ve taken with your business. It’s one of the most common automation strategies and it is effective for both lead generation and lead nurturing (see the screenshot below from meal delivery service Plated). But there are plenty more things that marketers could be doing to engage customer and drive leads. Here are some additional strategies that would be successful for lead generation and lead nurturing:
Personalized and Recommended Content on Your Website, Blog, or Social Media
This is an extremely effective way to engage users when they visit your website, blog, or social media site(s). You can use it to both draw in new customers (lead generation) or build on your relationship with existing customers (lead nurturing). When a consumer visits your company’s site they could be greeted with personalized content based on their previous actions or preferences, or based on information they’ve provided in the initial lead generation stage (such as in a form you asked them to fill out).
Be creative with the type of content you offer—it doesn’t have to be written articles. Consider offering a video or infographic instead. And it also doesn’t have to be presented to them immediately upon arriving at your site. Some companies will wait until a user is getting ready to leave and then try to convince them to stay by offering interesting and personalized content.
Targeted ads are another way to get your user’s attention whether you’re trying to engage them for the first time or keep them engaged after repeated visits. Personalize the ads based on what the lead has looked at on your site in the past, or based on information they may have provided in an initial survey or email collection. Even if they don’t end up clicking on the ad, chances are they’ll see it and it could still serve its purpose. Target uses location- based ads to reach their customers, as you can see in the following screenshot from their website:
SMS (text message) Marketing
This strategy is a little more challenging because you have to get the lead to agree to sign up for the service before you can target them with text messages, but it’s certainly not impossible. Act-on.com suggests a variety of ways marketers can use SMS marketing to both generate and nurture leads, such as:
You’ll want to keep the messages short and to the point (when was the last time you read a lengthy text message from a business?) and you should also consider what time(s) to send them. Again, use analytic software to know when your users are active on your website and most likely to make a purchase, and then send the text messages during those peak times. A text sent close to bedtime most likely won’t result in a sale, and it certainly won’t do much to nurture your relationship with a prospective customer.
All in all, marketing automation has the potential to do great things for your business in terms of generating new leads and nurturing existing ones, but only if you make the leap to go beyond the typical email-marketing route. Equal amounts of time and effort should be spent on creative strategies to target new customers and then nurture those leads so that they turn into positive relationships that result in conversions and revenue for your business.
What are some automation strategies you use to either generate or nurture leads? Comment in the section below!
Image credit 1: agressivegrowthmarketing.com
Image credit 2: Screenshots taken by author May, 2017
Image credit 3: target.com