Automating your marketing funnel can have ongoing benefits for your business.
Wouldn’t it be nice to gather leads, nurture prospects and lead people to buy from you, all with automated processes?
It might sound a bit robotic for dealing with humans, but the truth is, if it’s done well, marketing automation can be a very effective way of ensuring you keep up engagement with leads and see more sales as a result.
Let’s talk about your marketing funnel and what you can do to simplify it with automation:
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Let’s start with the basics of a marketing funnel. You may also hear it called a conversion funnel or sales funnel. It’s core purpose is to nurture potential customers, from lead generation through to making a purchase.
The marketing funnel is depicted with different stages, with marketing activities strategically selected to be the most appropriate for each particular stage. This is an important concept to grasp – you need to ensure that you have each stage of the funnel covered when it comes to marketing strategy. Someone who is very familiar with your product needs something more than basic, “here is what we do” content, for example.
Below is a diagram of the marketing funnel, taken from ActiveTrail. It depicts the basic stages of a marketing funnel. You’ll see slightly modified takes out there, but essentially all of them are outlining how a new customer takes a journey from learning about your business, to making a purchase from it:
A marketing funnel that has been well-planned can work like a machine for lead generation and sales, which is where automation is a big help. Your marketing funnel may be very basic to begin with, but as businesses learn more about what works for them, they often want to add more complexity and function to their funnel.
The marketing funnel has some clearly defined stages, with different activities suitable for each:
We will readily admit that building and fine-tuning an effective sales funnel can take some work, but the core point is that it will save you more work in the long-run.
An automated marketing funnel will:
Automation really is a key secret to successful marketing strategy. An important part of this process is that you should be so tuned into who your customers are and what interests them, that your automated processes seem natural to them.
Here are some automations for your marketing funnel, broken down by stages:
Did you know that 1.47 billion people log into Facebook daily? Social media has a big role to play in building awareness, and while you can’t (and shouldn’t) automate it completely, you can help ensure consistency with automation.
In fact, consistency is one of the keys to getting results with social media. But maintaining a consistent schedule takes time and effort that business owners often don’t have to spare. A solution is to schedule social media posts using a tool such as Buffer, Hootsuite or Sprout Social. There are free versions available for businesses that don’t have a high volume requirement for posting.
The idea is that you can devote a chunk of time to curating and scheduling social media posts, rather than trying to post in-the-moment daily. It’s important to remember that while you can automate posts, you should still stay in touch and be ready to respond to any comments.
Of course, another big part of social media is the ability to use paid advertising. This is another aspect with great automation tools built in, like allowing you to schedule ads and to automatically adjust aspects such as pricing. You should also take the time to carefully target your ads, so that they’re automatically shown to people who are a good fit for your business.
Whether it’s via social media, your website or paid advertising, you should always have an efficient method of lead generation. The idea is that you should be able to build an email list of potential customers so that you can engage them through email marketing later.
There are actually multiple ways you might automate lead generation into your marketing funnel. For example you might:
As we mentioned earlier, segmenting your leads into appropriate groups is a critical task. Segmentation allows you to nurture leads in a way that is most relevant to them, rather than simply blasting the same email out to everyone.
Let’s take our One Week Website web packages as an example. The One Week Website package is targeted toward new business owners who need a simple starter website, however the One Month Website package targets small business owners who want a new website built from scratch. Typically, the second group will be more established than the first and may want to go beyond basics on a website.
These are two distinct groups, so it makes sense to identify which group a lead belongs to then send content that will be the most relevant. There are some things that will interest one group, but not the other.
Segmentation can be automated using your email management tool (such as Drip, Mailchimp or AWeber). Most of the simpler email management tools only offer a basic level of segmentation (such as assigning a tag to the lead to designate where they came from). Some of the bigger CRM tools (Ontraport, Zoho etc.) will offer more complex segmentation, allowing you to slice up your list in many different ways.
Here are some basic ways you might segment your list:
The “how to” for setting up segmentation will vary depending on the email provider you use. At a basic level, you set up rules that either add a tag to the person for easy segmentation, or put them on a certain list.
Content marketing usually forms the backbone of the consideration segment of the marketing funnel. Your aim is to be seen as an expert in your particular area by putting out valuable content on a regular schedule.
Artificial Intelligence and other technologies are getting more and more sophisticated, but we’re not suggesting that you can automate the entire content creation process. While there are some tools out there that will write, in their current incarnation, they can only handle rudimentary pieces like sports recaps.
There are some things you can set up automations for to help with your content curation and creation though, including:
One of your most effective nurturing strategies throughout the marketing funnel will be use of email marketing (that is, if you write good emails!). Like other marketing strategies, consistency is important because it helps to keep you recognized by potential customers.
Email campaign automations are one of the best ways to maintain your consistency while keeping up engagement. Here are some things to automate, using your email service provider (or CRM):
Note: You might also send these emails for other stages of the funnel too.
We’re giving this its own section, separate to the last one on emails because here we’re talking about emails that are particular to the decision stage. The prospective customer is now at the bottom of the funnel and they’re either going to decide to buy now, to wait until later, or not to buy at all.
Here are some typical emails that you can automate for this stage:
Promoting upsells is a smart way to increase revenue without having to find new customers. In fact, you’re more likely to sell to someone who already bought than one who hasn’t purchased yet.
If you’ve been on ecommerce sites such as Amazon where you see recommendations like “people who bought this also bought …”, then you’ve seen automated upselling in action. There are a few ways to automate the upsell:
Retargeting is the step where you aim to bring back people who have visited your website or viewed your ad. It basically means that you “follow” them around the internet (in a non-stalker way, of course!).
You have probably seen retargeting in action before. Maybe you liked one post for a brand on Facebook then noticed their ads popping up later, or perhaps you visited a website then saw PPC ads for that same website appear elsewhere. Retargeting is about being visible to prospective customers in the hopes that they’ll come back.
Here are some ways to automate your retargeting:
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An effective marketing funnel is an automation machine, yet maintains a balance as a “human” voice to engage with prospective customers. Before getting started on automating a sales funnel, it’s important to set goals for each stage and to have a good understanding of what will appeal to your target audience.
A great place to start is simply by mapping out your funnel on paper. Start with how you will generate leads and what you’ll use to entice them, then look at addressing content interests and needs. Always aim to be able to keep up communication with leads and nurture their trust.
Finally, remember to consider what happens once a customer has been through your marketing funnel and made a purchase. There’s often a good opportunity to continue to nurture them and foster loyalty. This is another great area to use those email automations. The bottom line is that it’s much easier to keep the customers you already have than to gain a new one!