In the previous post we covered what marketing automation is, and some of the best tools to use. In this post we will cover lead generation and lead scoring which are some of the key elements of marketing automation.
Be sure to read the previous post "what is marketing automation" before diving into this read.
This is the primary goal of any business nowadays. Businesses and marketers go out of their way to find new lead acquisition channels, lower cost per lead acquisition, reduce the time needed to acquire a lead and improve lead quality.
Marketing automation software helps businesses automate a large number of marketing activities and improve all of the above mentioned metrics by a lot. Let’s take a few examples:
1. Emails and newsletters
Emails are one of the most popular and effective communication channels in the world. When a prospect signs up to your newsletter, that does not mean that they have become a lead. They have not expressed direct interest in your product or service. Marketing automation can help turn those prospects into leads.
If your marketing strategy involves email marketing (and it absolutely should), you probably know how much time it takes to manually send emails and newsletters to corresponding leads. On top of that, different leads might be in different stages of their buyer’s journey, which means that they need different content and level of personalization, in order to move further down the sales pipeline. Considering the fact that your company might have anywhere from 10 to 1000 leads, all of these activities will soak up too much time. MA can help reduce (and even eliminate) the time needed to organize and manage email marketing activities.
2. Social media messaging
Depending on your business and audience, you might need to send social media messages at a time that isn’t the most convenient for you, but is the best time for your customers since that’s when they are most active on their corresponding social media accounts. An easy example would be if your business is located in San-Francisco, but your audience is from Europe. The time differences make it increasingly difficult to send the right social media messages at the right time. MA can help you schedule your marketing messages at the time and date most convenient for your strategy and help get the most out of your efforts, without any manual work.
3. Reports and analytics
Understanding the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns is crucial to improving your marketing activities and strategy. Marketing Automation tools help businesses clearly see and understand marketing data and analytics, with in-depth reports on technically every important metric: visits, conversions, engagement, etc. When you know what works and what doesn’t, you can use that information to your advantage.
In order to increase the effectiveness of your business sales, you need to establish a mechanism which will help you understand how to approach each potential customer on an individual level. When this mechanism is absent, marketing teams, wrongly, refer every lead that has downloaded an eBook to sales and tell them to proceed with the process.
Unfortunately, not all leads are created equal. This kind of uncategorized activities will only ruin the customer experience, waste the time of sales team, and even create an impression of unprofessional approach to business for potential clients.
It’s important to keep in mind that only 25% leads are ready to buy and should be passed to sales. There may be a lot of reasons for this: the lead doesn’t have decision making authority, the lead requires more information and value from your company before making a decision, or even as simple as the lead wants to read your eBook first, then have a conversation with your sales team
Likewise, there might be cases when leads are “hot” and ready to buy, but due to disorganized processes, they don’t receive any touch points from sales and then it becomes a little too late: the person may reconsider, choose to use the services of a competitor, postpone his buying decision, etc.
This is why your business needs to have a number of criteria that a lead must satisfy, before you can consider him “sales ready” and actually have a decent chance at converting that lead into a paying customer.
This mechanism is called lead scoring. When lead scoring, a company establishes a scale and ranks prospects according to the value they represent to them. The higher the score, the higher priority the lead receives.
The key thing about lead scoring in marketing automation is that each company has to determine the above mentioned lead criteria for themselves, and figure out what kind of lead behavior is worth anything.
As a beginner, here is the scheme you want to create:
Visitor->Lead->Marketing Qualified Lead->Sales qualified lead
Later on, you can choose to add more scoring options in between those you have here (like subscriber, information qualified lead, opportunity, customer, etc.), but make sure you don’t over complicate everything. The more options you have, the more stuff you need to keep track off and therefore, you will have higher error margins.
Marketing Qualified leads (MQLs) and Sales qualified leads (SQLs) are also defined by the company. To paint a better picture, one company might consider the same lead (which has satisfied a number of criteria) an MQL, while another company may considered it an SQL.
All of this might seem fairly complex and difficult to organize and manage, but MA helps deal with this pretty easily.
Let’s start with defining the important criteria according to which a lead starts representing value for your company, or in other words, what happens after a visitor downloads your eBook, for instance. How do you know whether the lead becomes an MQL, or SQL, or doesn’t become any of those and isn’t worth spending time on?
For this purpose, you will need to use past and existing customer and lead data. Since assigning the criteria is every company’s job while having no specific formula to look up to, there is no better way than to implement your own business data and analytics. You will need to use both behavioral (what the person does on your website) and demographic data (age, sex, etc.) and also utilize your ideal buyer’s representation.
Let’s use an example to make things easier to understand:
Suppose you are a software company that offers a tool to make high quality images/infographics to enhance marketing activities (think Canva for businesses). Your business data and analytics tell you that the most successful sales processes, as a result of which you closed most customers, happened like this:
A person visited your website four times (originally, he visited from social media)
- After visiting the website four times, he downloaded an eBook (awareness stage)
- After the lead filled out the form, you noticed that the lead matches with the description of your ideal buyer (he is the design department manager, 25-35 years old, works for a small/medium business with an annual salary of $150.000, etc.)
- 2-3 days after the first eBook he downloaded a second eBook (consideration stage)
- Your company sent three emails to the lead and he opened all three of them and clicked the CTAs inside your emails
- Your Sales team contacted the person and closed every eight out of 10 of those leads.
Based upon this data, here is how you can create your scheme:
A visitor that arrived through social media marketing channels automatically becomes a lead when he downloads his first eBook (or any other content on a landing page)
The lead becomes a marketing qualified lead if:
- His demographic information matches your ideal buyer’s information
- He visited your website at least three times before and after downloading the book (awareness or consideration stage)
- He also downloaded a second eBook (consideration or decision stage)
This will be the minimal criteria that every lead will have to satisfy, in order to be considered of any value to your company and earn the rank of an MQL. In other words, when a lead becomes an MQL, your marketing team should focus their attention on that person and spend time to craft personalized marketing messages, offer personalized content via emails, engage with the lead, etc.
The MQL becomes an SQL if:
- The lead opens at least two out of three marketing emails sent to him
- The lead clicks on at least two out of three CTAs inside those emails
After this happens, you can confidently assume that the corresponding prospect is “hot” and can be approached by your sales team to close the deal.
This example may or may not suit your company. Consider the most important things we looked at in this example, when drilling through your business data and create a corresponding match:
- First time visitor vs a returning visitor
- Lead source (social media, organic search, etc.)
- The number of times the lead downloaded content behind a form on a landing page
- The lead’s stage in the buying cycle (what kind of offers is the lead interested in? Awareness, consideration, decision)
- Does the lead’s demographic data match with your ideal buyer’s data?
- Email open rates
- Email click rates
Determining this information correctly is critical. The more precisely you can match this information to the leads you have, the more qualified leads you will receive and accordingly, the more accounts you will close.
Remember that your scheme is always subject to change and improvements. When you gather enough data using your initial scheme, take some time to analyze and understand whether everything is going according to plan, or you need to make changes for scoring a specific lead.
When you think about doing this for a single person, it doesn’t sound too harsh. If you have 100 leads to take care of however, this task suddenly looks to eat up weeks of working time. This is where MA tools come in handy. MA tools allow you to create certain workflows that will automatically move a lead further down the sales pipeline as soon as he or she satisfies all the criteria you set for each specific lead lifecycle stage.
A workflow is a series of automated tasks and events that trigger when a lead performs certain actions according to the criteria you set prior. The convenient thing about workflows is that you can basically plan the whole lifecycle stage of the lead within the workflow, including sending emails, adding/removing contacts, updating contact information, etc.
Using the previous example, when your lead becomes an MQL in your workflow, your emails will be sent automatically to that person, without any manual efforts from the marketing team. Also, you can choose to remove that lead from the workflow (or even move him to another workflow with other criteria) if, for instance, he doesn’t open any of the three emails you sent him.
All of this might take some time to organize and set up, but once you nail it down, you will save hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars in the future, as well as shorten your sales cycles, which will improve the effectiveness of your business and improve your bottom line by a lot.
Workflows can also be used in lead nurturing strategies.
Lead scoring is a key element of marketing automation. It is a mechanism that is used to help you approach potential customers on an individual level. It's all about personalization and not approaching prospects with sales when they are not ready to hear from your sales team. Be sure to take the time to implement a lead scory mechanism in your company.
If you'd like to learn more about how to grow your business using marketing automation, I invite you to download our free "Key beneficial aspects of marketing automation and how to use them" eBook.