How to Be a Winner at Marketing Automation.
Companies with a low ranking and few stars aren’t doomed to being shut out of the Winners corner. They need to dissect each phase of their four-part online marketing process and assess what’s below average and start fixing it. Once that’s done, optimization follows. Again and again. The key word here, no pun intended, is process. It’s a marketing process that must be continually reviewed and refined.
Our research revealed a pattern of neglect and poor execution, across all four phases. Disciplined marketing operations, however, can break the cycle. Here’s how to get started fixing some of the major deficits we observed:
1. Paid Search: You Don’t Have to Write a Big Check, but You Do Need to Write Well.
Search advertising jumpstarts the process by getting the attention of valuable prospects that self-qualify by providing their contact information. However, we found that marketing-automation companies generally aren’t the best marketers. Those that are:
Strike a balance between ad spending and marketing process. Gamblers and Investors are wasting money or opportunity, and Losers are wasting both, because their spending and modus operandi are out of whack. (See below.) Companies must constantly measure their ROI and adjust their bids accordingly.
If a company’s ranking in the first column drops in the second, its process quality exceeds the size of its budget. If the ranking in the right-hand column goes up, budget exceeds quality. Companies with balanced programs would have the same ranking in both columns.
Demonstrating that money isn’t everything, Marketo, the top-ranked company in The Angles Report only spends 13 percent as much as Zoho, the fourth-place company, but Marketo has a great landing page and follow-up with leads. StreamSend, meanwhile, came in last overall among the 21 companies researched but is in seventh place when it comes to spending. There was nothing at all good about its online marketing.
Before spending more than $700,000 a month on search ads like Zoho, though, make sure your landing page measures up and your team follows up on leads. Similarly, once your downstream marketing components (i.e., landing and confirmation pages, follow-up) are as good as Emma’s, don’t let a small budget lower your expectations.
Write good copy. A successful paid-search ad convinces people to click through while setting up a more expansive message on the landing page that follows. (See below.) Yet we found many bad ones.
Try Email Marketing Free
|Vertical Response received four points for 1) use of keyword with a benefit/offer, 2) a call to action, 3) a free sample, and 4) an endorsement/ranking.|
|Pardot received zero points. It features no benefit, no offer, no free sample, no ratings, and it has a weak call to action.|
The headline should contain the keyword or a close variation along with a benefit or offer. “Free Automation Guide” is better than “Best Marketing Automation,” because it offers something of value rather than empty chest beating.
The first and second description lines should contain at least one, preferably more, of the following: benefit, offer, sample or endorsement. “#1 ranked by Yelp” or “$500 free consulting” is far more compelling than “Watch our video” or “Learn what’s new.” VerticalResponse uses a Google AdWords extension that automatically includes independent reviews, but almost none of the other companies did.
Lastly, the display URL should repeat the offer or benefit: XYZ.com/free-offer, which neither company highlighted above does.
2. Landing Page: Make It Easy for Prospects to Want to Do Business with You.
The best-performing companies had landing pages that educate prospects, tying product features to customer benefits and making it easy for unknown prospects to share their contact data and become known leads. While it’s not possible to fully explain a complex product in one landing page, there should be, at the very least, a simple list of features and benefits as well as some third-party validation (e.g., customer testimonials, reviews or endorsements. (See the Marketo, Infusionsoft and VerticalResponse scorecards and analysis for good examples.)
Embed a form, and limit exit paths. Every additional click lowers response rates, so it’s important to put the form right on the landing page and restrict ways to leave the page without submitting any data. Sixty-one percent of the companies researched have an easily accessible one-page form. (See below.)
The form should include as few fields as possible to conduct effective follow-up without scaring off a prospect with too daunting an initial request. The average number of fields required by our survey set was six. This seems right given the minimal information an inside sales rep would need for initial follow-up, but a smart marketer would use A/B testing to confirm that.
Deploy technologies to gather data for a better user experience. Marketing-automation companies should practice what they preach: Use technology for better marketing that generates better results. But they don’t. By examining tags, website code that indicate third-party applications, we found that most use nothing more than Google Analytics to track unknown web traffic. (See below.) Six marketing-automation companies didn’t have any marketing-automation tags. Five companies in addition to Marketo, however, used Marketo. (While we’re not evaluating specific marketing-automation products, this seems to be a pretty good indication of what experts think.)
Another technology widely overlooked is customer interaction, applications that enable chat or user feedback. Only three sites cared enough about prospects to have someone available to talk to them without a phone call or a form submission. While we didn’t chat with any of the reps from Emma, Marketo or Sailthru, it was reassuring to know that we could have had we wanted to.
Build confidence about data security. Vendors that collect (and enable others to collect) personal data should demonstrate they value security. Only iContact, however, had a security tag; it was for Iovation.
3. Confirmation Page: Build Engagement, and Demonstrate Capabilities.
The confirmation page that displays after a prospect submits a form is an integral part of the online marketing process, but it is the most overlooked part. The average score of this third phase was 3.45, well behind search ads, the landing page and lead follow-up. It is, frankly, where companies do amazingly dumb things that jeopardize sales.
Here are some smart things to do:
Keep prospects engaged. Someone interested enough in a product to fill out a form should get more than, “Thanks, we’ll get back to you.” Companies have a prospect’s attention at this point; they should work to keep it. Otherwise, a lead that sought out a vendor slips away, leaving the page perhaps to seek out a competitor.
Astonishingly, two companies in our survey set failed to offer any confirmation-page engagement, while another six offered just one engagement activity. (See below.)
There’s a range of engagement activities for companies to include. (See below.) There should be clearly articulated next steps; a point of contact (with phone and email) for more information; and most important, more content that relates to what the prospect was searching for (e.g., how-to videos, customer case studies, reviews). Real-time apps for chatting or scheduling a call with a sales rep are additional, good ways to build a relationship with a lead.
Start demonstrating marketing-automation best practices. All 21 companies in this report sell software designed to make marketing more targeted, more personal. All required personal information on a sign-up form. Only Zoho bothered to personalize the page with the lead’s name. None, from what we could tell, bothered to personalize the page in any other way such as serving up a customer case study from the same industry as the lead. This is a missed opportunity to show off a software vendor’s capabilities.
4. Follow-Up: Don’t Neglect Leads.
When a prospect does leave a confirmation page, it’s up to the marketing-automation vendor, whose feature set includes email marketing, to follow up with leads. Remarkably, three companies didn’t launch any email campaign. Even more didn’t call. (See below.) Don’t make those mistakes.
Email. Immediately. Before a prospect engages with a competitor, start a sequence of email that builds from one to the next, featuring a different but relevant facet of the company. Personalize it, because you can’t build a relationship with someone you don’t acknowledge and who can’t acknowledge you if sent from a generic “team.” And, make sure it relates back to the initial search ad and landing page that first interested the prospect.
Get on the phone to dial for dollars. No sale of a complex product is going to close without a conversation. Perhaps afraid that they’ll lose some street cred by using 19th century technology, our survey set of inbound-marketing companies rarely picked up the phone.
Email and phone calls complement one another, however. The caller should always be personal, helpful, and polite; acknowledge not just the lead’s sign-up but also the most recent email he got; and, as with email, build on the company story with new pieces of product information, industry insights or company service.
There’s nothing that the Gamblers, Investors and even Losers in our research can’t fix if they follow The Angles Report® methodology. Winners must remain vigilant in continually testing and optimizing what they’re doing to stay ahead of competitors.
If anything, it should be easier for marketing-automation vendors than other companies to improve their online marketing process since they have access to at least one tool that can help them, their own.
What they must acknowledge, however, is that no one tool or one big budget is enough to create effective, integrated online marketing. It takes writers and designers, marketing operations staff and analysts carefully and continually calibrating, testing, monitoring and optimizing 200 or so separate, but related, activities. It takes a process.