How to get started with marketing automation and the reasons why it matters to your customers. Interview with Patrick Zangardi.
By Chris Karel
Chris: So if someone is new to Marketing Automation, where do you think they should start?
Patrick: What I think it comes down to with Marketing Automation is that it’s not something to just dive right into without first thinking it through. And really, most things in marketing and sales are that way. You don’t just dive in and run. It’s important to know what you are trying to do and then set up a plan to execute.
So, when you’re starting, the first thing you need is an idea of what it is that you want to achieve. Second, you need to have a good understanding of who your ideal customer is and what their buying process looks like. By knowing those two things, you can create content and establish the triggers that will push that content out to your ideal customer and help guide them through the buying process.
Once you have a plan, establish your content, and the triggers associated with the content, it’s really important to get your team and all of the decision makers on the same page. Include the account services team to help make sure that everything you are doing results in a well-rounded and well-informed approach.
Chris: Sounds like a good approach that includes breaking down the silos in a business, which seems to more and more relevant today. .
Patrick: I am a really big proponent of sales and marketing alignment. We should try to make sure that marketing automation is beneficial to every department so that our efforts meet the needs of the overall organization.
Chris: Do you think every company should be using Marketing Automation?
Patrick: Could every company use Marketing Automation? Absolutely. Should every company use it? The answer is always: “It depends.” Marketing Automation really does improve the customer journey from not aware, to aware, to potential customer, to customer. And it helps to improve that communication platform between you as the marketer and them as the prospect or customer. That being said, it’s a commitment, both in time and money, and ongoing maintenance. If you can commit the time, money, and ongoing support to create content to feed the funnel, then you will be successful.
Chris: Any suggestions on where to start?
Patrick: Sure. Start with companies like MailChimp and Constant Contact because the offer basic marketing automation for almost free, and in MailChimp’s case, it is free. Everyone should seriously consider getting started right away. Even if it’s just an automated email that happens based on a user’s activity on your site, automation will vastly improve the way that you communicate with your audience.
Chris: So let’s say somebody wants to get started and they don’t have automation of any kind in place. What are two or three things that a company or an individual can do that will lead them to success?
Patrick: If you’re just getting started with automation, the first thing you should really do is to create a goal-based plan. Ask yourself, “Why do I need marketing automation? What is it that I want to do?”
Next, identify who your customer is and what their ideal buying process looks like. Once you have those two things, it comes down to getting your data straight. What does that look like? So that means your customer list is really nice and organized, and your database is clean, and you are thinking about how you need to communicate over a longer period of time.
Then, it is time to create content and decide when that content gets triggered out. Decide if the triggers are based on an activity that your customer takes, or if it’s based on when you want to drip content out over a period of time. To get started, that’s all you really need to do: create a plan, identify your customer, organize your customer lists, and create content.
Chris: My next question, which leads out of your response, relates to tools. Which marketing automation tools should someone start using?
Patrick: There are a lot of software options. The previously mentioned Constant Contact and MailChimp are on the more simple or basic side of marketing automation. Whereas, Salesforce, HubSpot, and Pardot are more full-featured software platforms. For businesses just getting started in automation, I suggest MailChimp, HubSpot, and Active Campaign.
Chris: Do you have a favorite automation campaign that all companies should be using?
Patrick: There is no easy answer to that question. Every company and every campaign will have to be unique for their specific goals and their audience. With that being said, I think that there is a general approach that tends to work really well for lead generation and lead nurturing.
Marketing Automation 101
Valuable content > Premium content > Audience list > Nurture the lead > Convert
In general, you begin by creating valuable content, such as a blog post, or a podcast, or even a social media post. The content should drive people to a landing page or an area on your site where they are then offered the ability to download a more unique or higher-valued piece of content. I sometimes call that premium content or a lead magnet or a content offer. They all basically mean the same thing: “You give me your email address and I’m going to give you great content in return.” As a marketer, now you know more about this prospective customer or lead. By downloading the premium content, they are telling us that they are interested in the specific content.
The leads that opt into the premium content become your audience list. I suggest you nurture the lead with a series of emails, maybe four to six, over four to seven weeks. Once a week or maybe every four or five business days, automation will send out another piece of content via email to that person who downloaded your lead magnet. Each of these emails has a different purpose. One is to educate, one can be to convert them to an offer; a free demonstration or consult, something like that. At the end of the day, what you’re trying to do is stay consistent with your message to this prospect over time. The ultimate goal is to convert them to either an in-person meeting, the purchase of a product, or sign them up for something. Of course, the conversion depends upon whatever it is that your business is trying to do.
Chris: That was an awesome primer. Thanks for sharing that Patrick! I see the infographic in my mind.
Patrick: Thanks Chris.
Chris: Ok, next question: If there was one thing that you could tell all marketers right now, what would it be?
Patrick: The one thing I would tell all marketers that they should be doing in 2018, is to speak with your customer frequently. What I mean by that is, create content, engage with them on social, engage with them via email. If you’re a company that does in-person events, engage with them there. At the end of the day, automation is a business of people doing business with people. It’s so rudimentary, but we often forget this simple truth when we are using digital marketing.
We should avoid creating content and force-feeding it down people’s throats. Instead, we need to talk with our audience, our customers, and create something of value to them.
Chris: I like that last piece about the relationships in business. If we could, I’d like to move to video. What role do you think video will or should play in the future?
Patrick: I love video. I think video marketing is one of the best ways to communicate value to an audience. I think it’s a great way to create content in a more simple way. Since it’s a lot easier for some people to sit in front of a camera and talk and record, than it is to open up a blank Word document and start writing.
So, video content does three things that I really, really love. First of all, it puts a face to the words or to a brand, and it connects with somebody on a more personal level than the written word alone is able to do. Next, it creates a sense of rapport with the viewer. And finally, the video content that you create can be used in so many different ways.
Chris: Yes! Repurpose. I try to talk about planning to repurpose as much as possible. It’s a time and money saver.
Patrick: (nods) From one video interview, blog, or talking head-style video, you can create an audio clip that you can put on your website. If the audio clip is long enough, you can put it on SoundCloud or create a podcast. You can also turn the content into an actual written article or a testimonial. You can even turn the audio clips into short videos that feature a still photo with animated subtitles; perfect for social media.
Chris: No doubt! I see those on social all the time. I think it’s key for people to know that this is about planning.
Patrick: Yes, you can extend your miles per gallon from a marketing perspective by creating five to eight different pieces of content from one video recording session.
Chris: Do you think each company should have an internal structure to create video, use a vendor, or should there be a blend of the two?
Patrick: I think it is probably a blend of the two. Every company can find value in video. Marketing can be improved through the use of video. The approach that I really enjoy is creating a couple of those high value pieces of video content like a capabilities video, or maybe it’s a case study or something like that. Those videos require a lot of time, effort, and polish, and they are important. In addition, I think the same company can still make use of the more simple, kind of down-home style of video. This is great for use on social media or on a marketing automation campaign. Video, at its core, connects with somebody more personally than written content. Sometimes it can resonate even more than a phone call is able to do.
Chris: Good stuff Patrick. Any closing words?
Patrick: It’s about balance right? I think marketers often overthink what they’re trying to do. It just comes down to creating valuable content for the audience. As it relates to video, I think you can use vendors that are professionals AND create something in-house. You can use an iPhone and a selfie stick if that suits the company vibe. It’s all about mindset and creating valuable content. Marketing automation should be simply the way we get the valuable content to our audience.
Chris: Thanks Patrick. I think you laid it out perfectly. Automation is important and there is definitely a process we should try to follow. At the end of the day, we are still people making relationships with one another. By focusing on the value we deliver to our relationships, the automation should help us along the way.