This column is the fourth in an 11-part series on the Top Ten 2016 Marketing Trends. Check back for the remainder of the series and a deep dive into each of these trends.
There is perhaps no shorter path to increased sales than shortening the sales cycle or improving your close ratio with prospects already interested in your brand. Recent tech advancements offer marketers a host of marketing automation tools that can do this heavy lifting for you.
Think of marketing automation as a way to expand your sales team without the overhead. That is no doubt why 42 percent of business-to-business companies used marketing automation in 2015.
Marketing automation is simply software for more effectively and efficiently marketing via multiple online channels -- such as email, social media and web -- by automating repetitive tasks. It also allows you to track a prospect's interactions with your brand across all of those channels, so you can gauge which may be ready for contact by your sales team.
At its best, marketing automation allows companies to sell in a fashion similar to Amazon -- nurturing prospects with highly personalized, relevant content that converts prospects to customers. It is designed predominantly for communicating effectively with inbound leads and can produce a strong, measurable return on investment, if well executed.
These types of marketing automation tools are not intended to support lead generation; so they do not fill the top of your sales funnel. Instead, they are designed to support the middle of the funnel -- advancing inbound leads more rapidly and efficiently.
If you find yourself investing time and money marketing to a rather disengaged group of prospects -- say through a single mass email newsletter distributed to every email address in your database each month -- then marketing automation may be for you. Here's just one example of how marketing automation can overcome this common challenge.
Let's say you send an email invite to download your latest ebook to a targeted list and you use the marketing automation tool to track that distribution. Next, you use your platform to automatically send a thank-you email to those downloading the offer within 24 hours of that download.
You also set the system up to send follow-up emails for you automatically, a few days later, to those downloading the offer -- this time offering a complimentary case study on a similar topic.
You then leverage your marketing automation platform to automatically notify the sales team of those downloading the case study, as these are now fairly qualified prospects that are certainly further along in the buying process than if you had called on them cold.
With this type of automation, imagine what a robust pipeline you can manage without the overhead of incremental staff.
Lori Turner-Wilson can be reached at www.redrovercompany.com.