We've been going over the Inbound Marketing methodology, discussing how B2B companies can gain clients and grow revenue. The first step, attracting visitors, focuses on turning strangers into visitors by offering them valuable content through a variety of channels such as social media, blogging and SEO to attract them to your site. The second step is converting visitors into leads via the use of landing pages, calls-to-action and personalized offers. The next step is closing sales, turning those leads into viable customers using inbound techniques to establish a relationship, build trust and eventually make a sale.
As leads are brought into the sales funnel, there are several techniques you can use to follow up with them and further qualify them in order to turn them into customers. Those techniques are lead scoring, email, marketing automation and closed loop reporting. Using these techniques in conjunction will net you the best results from your marketing activities.
While there are several marketing automation systems on the marketplace, they all have one thing in common: Each system is designed to help automate the time-consuming and tedious steps of the marketing and sales process to enable your people to do what they do best, interact with the prospect or customer. Marketing automation is an excellent tool to help nurture leads and return customers using lead scoring and email as well as other methods automatically.
B2B marketers who implement marketing automation increase their sales pipeline contribution by an average of 10%, according to a report by Forrester.
When set up correctly, marketing automation will send leads the content for each call-to-action, email customers information about new products and services and take much of the administration of your marketing system out of your people's hands. Marketing automation frees up time consumed by tedium, and instead allows your team to focus on the "hot" or sales-ready leads. You can get back to these leads faster which in turn results in a higher percentage of sales success.
Email is one of the most effective methods of nurturing leads. With the right email system, or "email workflow", you can work with a lead that has responded to a call-to-action by downloading your offer or making an initial appointment. In many cases, the lead needs more information before they are ready to make their buying decision. In fact, it typically takes a prospect 5 to 13 touch points to close a sale (the jury is out on this, which is why it's such a wide range. The point: It takes time!). This is especially true in larger B2C and the majority of B2B sales.
Before a lead can become a buying customer, they need to make sure you can meet all of their needs, meeting specifications, deadlines, delivery issues, etc. Each call-to-action response (submitting their information for a resource or offer) can provide you with more information about the lead while they learn what they need to know about your product or service from the content that you send them to make a decision.
Your emails can help drive your lead through the sales funnel while providing them with the content they need to answer their questions. For example, after someone subscribes to your email newsletter, they become a lead -- but you still have no idea who they are, what they are looking for or if they have a need for your services. Through email nurturing, you can set up your workflow so that subscribers enter into a drip:
- The first email is a welcome with links to your best blog posts.
- After that person engages with the content, you trigger another email that sends them an offer or resource, so you can get more information about who they are through progressive identification
- They download the resource, so another email is triggered. This time with links to a case study, which has a CTA at the end to request a free consultation
And it can go on from there. Your lead scoring system will keep track of each lead and propel them to the top of the stack when they reach the sales-readiness threshold.
Lead scoring places a numerical "weight" on the characteristics of each lead to allow you to prioritize them. Each lead is examined as to their sales-readiness or their readiness to buy right now. This method prioritizes leads by putting the ones that are most ready to buy at the top of the stack (your list in your automation software) so that you can get to them immediately and work on turning them into customers.
While other leads will buy from you later on, they may not yet have had all of their questions answered or their project is not to the point of readiness that you need. Lead scoring can help you identify those who are ready, and prospects who may need a little more information, automatically. Many sales automation systems will score your leads for you using the data that is inputted from their initial conversion and then later with each interaction the lead has with your brand: email, social, blog posts, page views, etc.
Closed Loop Reporting
Marketing is a field that can be described as a mix of an art and a science. However, there are many aspects that can be measured in a scientific manner. Closed loop reporting combines the marketing automation and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) data to determine whether your marketing efforts are producing good leads, and your sales team is focused on the most qualified leads. Using the data collected, your marketing team will learn what needs to be changed to produce better leads. Your sales team will focus on the most qualified leads at any given time in order to provide the best ROI.
Closing a Sale is Only the Start
Gaining a new customer or singing a new client is just the start of the relationship, and not the end of the Inbound Marketing journey. Once you have turned your qualified lead into a customer through the methods of lead scoring, email nurturing and marketing automation, you are ready to move on to the next step, Delight.