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At What Stage in the Customer Journey Should You Use Marketing Automation?

Marketing automation can help you at each stage of your customer journey – from the first moment they’ve taken interest in you, to long after they became your customer. Here’s a wee breakdown of how this might work for your business

  • Lead

A lead is basically an unqualified marketing lead or option for you. For us at Identify, it is anyone that has signed up to a free webinar, a free event, have downloaded a checklist or have interacted with us in some way that has meant they have come into our funnel by giving us their email address and permission to email them.  

The cost of most marketing automations – in terms of a transactional cost – is normally an email address. Because with an email address we can communicate with that person. What’s important though, is that any emails to them aren’t salesy – which may sound odd – but we aren’t trying to sell to them at this early stage. We just want them to understand who we are and work out whether our values align, so they can decide if we may be someone they want to work with. It’s about creating trust and enabling them to learn more about our process. For us, this is the most important interaction to have with a lead.  

  • Prospect

A prospect is a qualified lead. It is someone who has shown interest in working with us and also meets the criteria to use our services. 

We also use our Marketing Toolbox to help identify prospects. We don’t actively market to these people, but we know that by giving this gift of a free marketing strategy online, means these people may end up contacting us. And once somebody has got in touch and walked through that process, a majority of them are a qualified lead, or what we would call a prospect. 

And by this stage they already know how we work and how we think, and I think that is one of the benefits of marketing automation. Because once you have got it working really well, the need to ‘go out and find clients’ starts to disappear – they just start coming in on their own! 

And the cost of that cannot be downplayed. People often say ‘build a funnel and they will come’, but it is about so much more than that. You have to really think about adding an entire journey, that helps to map out each part, to bring them in closer. 

In fact, we talk a lot about ‘building a web’ which involves a range of different points of contact in order to do that. It is not as simple as building a sales funnel – and please don’t listen to anyone that says ‘build a sales funnel and they will come’. It works a bit in ecommerce, but in service-based businesses, it certainly really has minimal chance of success. 

A qualified lead will end up being guided through by having all the right supporting materials. So if someone makes contact with us, we then have automated marketing which helps them get more information, find out more about what we do, how to book a meeting and then what happens after a meeting. So this illustrates how prospects can be nurtured or looked after with marketing automation, eventually turning them into clients.  

A prospect also goes into the CRM and you can have automations around their behaviour. This is along the lines of giving them extra ‘points’ if they are going to your website all the time, whether they are opening emails etc. You can see if they are moving forward, or if you need to put them on pause if they have disappeared or are ‘ghosting’ you. All of this can be automated through the CRM funnel. It’s fantastic and makes it so much easier to track – especially when it comes to forecasting. 

  • New Clients

So what is the benefit of marketing automation for new clients? Plenty! Make new clients feel all the love when you put them into a nurture sequence that tells them all about you and how you will be working with them. But – full disclosure – this is something we tell our clients to do, however we haven’t done it yet ourselves. And, I know I need to do it! Please understand this is a work in progress. 

Marketing automation has tremendous scope and we are covering a lot of different areas of automation, but I’ll be the first to admit we don’t get all of this right all of the time. So any client who is reading this and goes ‘I don’t think I got that from Identify’ – you’re quite right. Hopefully though, at some point when you read this, you do go ‘oh, I did get that from Identify’!

For new clients, we also have a whole lot of backend automation that tells all the right people in our team who is going to work with them. These are along the lines of letting the person who is doing the invoicing around what needs to be done to invoice, an automation that goes out to confirm the client has signed a contract, and one that goes out to people who are going to be the strategists with information about that client. 

We actually have so many automations behind the scenes that make that onboarding simpler, and it has certainly saved so much time in our business.

  • Existing Clients

Don’t forget that your existing clients need the love just as much as everybody else. And I think this is one of the areas of marketing automation that we often forget to look after and cherish. 

Our existing clients benefit from marketing automation when it comes to getting different information from different areas of the business. And again this is an area of development for us, but if we find something that we have to repeat more than once, we will typically create an automation. It also helps us to provide consistency of care with clients across the board. Yes, you still need a bit of human time in there as well, but it helps build deeper relationships, consistently across the board, no matter what size business you have. And it also assists greatly with admin.  

  • Past Clients

Once a client has finished with us, of course we want to stay in touch with them! And we can do that in lots of different ways. 

Some people will just send a monthly email that they are manually doing, but you can create marketing automation to help support this, and make past clients feel cherished and nourished. It might be about setting up an old school RSS feed for your blogs for those people, or it could be that you have a series of emails to check in with them – whether that is after two weeks, a month, a quarter or six months. 

Yes, it is possible to continue nurturing that relationship so they don’t forget you and they come back again. 

And yes, for us at Identify, this is an area we are still developing and working through. Often that is the reality of a small business! I need to have a block of time set aside to be able to create those things and set them up – because I am the one that is in charge of content (me, Rachel! Hello!). 

Remove objections

One of the key areas we want to focus on when we are doing marketing automation is removing objections. There are four different places in which we want to have those objections removed. 

  • Pre sale

The first is pre sale. Here you will get to know some of the things people tend to have as objections to your business  – so it might be pricing, timing, or the way you work. For example, we work mainly via zoom and we openly talk about that, which means we have to remove people who do not want to do that. That’s fine, but it’s how we work. Yes, that does mean we miss out on people. But that is the model we have. 

So pre sale is about, where possible, removing those objections by sharing the right information. 

  • During the onboarding

You can also have objections during the onboarding – so with marketing automation you can talk about some of the problems people may have here and the steps to overcome them. The thing to remember is marketing automation is not a static thing. We tend to add automations, sequences or information to our emails when more than one client comes up with an objection. Or sometimes we get feedback so we then tweak that experience to improve it.

  • As you work

You can also have options/objections around what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. So we have created emails and marketing automation to help people in certain areas of the business know when they are likely to get information. We also have emails set up so if something happens to one of our strategists or team members and they can’t deliver what they need to in time, the clients are still getting some of the information to help them feel informed and helped. 

  • After you’ve finished

And after you’ve finished, you need to have ways to remove the objections of why they would not work with you again. One of the key reasons people don’t work with businesses again is because they have no follow up and they don’t feel cared for. 

And I know it is so easy to miss this step when we are so busy, it’s hard! But marketing automation can help ensure communications contine long after the initial project is complete. 

Do you need a CRM?

I mentioned at the beginning that we recommend businesses have a CRM. But not every business needs one. If you have got a very small number of clients, it may not be necessary. I recently worked with someone who only has 26 clients a year, only taking on one a fortnight. Does she need a CRM? Probably not. She can manage it with a whiteboard or a notebook. 

  • When you know

My rule of thumb is if you have one or two whiteboards and you don’t have enough space to manage all your leads, prospects and clients, then you probably need to use a CRM. If you are forgetting or missing people, then you need to have a CRM. 

I live and breathe our CRM. However I am a typical salesperson in that I don’t tend to be very good at using it. So thankfully using marketing automation within the CRM helps me to use it better. 

Using a CRM will help you improve your conversion rates because if you are using it well, it helps you to stay in touch with people. Also make use of it to measure your effectiveness. One of the benefits we discovered from ours is that it tracks where people originally come in, so has helped us to direct our marketing budget to focus on the areas we get the best results out of. How powerful is that? 

  • What we use and recommend

We personally use Zoho CRM. We are Zoho partners so obviously that is a bias for us, but I absolutely love Zoho CRM. I actually didn’t want us to use it as I had quite a negative experience with it about five or six years before we brought it into our business – but now I would highly highly rate it as an excellent CRM for small business owners. The pricing is really achievable and the key is in the implementation and using it right. 

We also recommend when it comes to using a CRM that if you are really wanting to imbed it into your business, it is likely you will need to hire someone to do that for you, unless you’re highly technical and you are quite good at processes. So make sure you factor that in. 

  • CRM options

Other CRMs you can use include Pipedrive and Active Campaign. We use Active Campaign for our ecommerce and coaching clients and their CRM is simple, works really well and integrates with your email marketing. 

So those are the ones we work with and would be able to personally recommend. Yes, you can use a spreadsheet and I have worked with businesses who have done that. But in terms of sharing information and using automation, a spreadsheet will not do what a CRM can do.  

  • Our favourite CRM for eCommerce

This is easily Active Campaign, because it helps you manage the whole business – especially if you have a wholesale and a retail side. Or even just with retail, it will store all your clients contacts and your order contact information, which helps you create better emails automations as well. 


Do you need email marketing?

I think part of the issue with email marketing is that so many bad emails go out. I am the first to get frustrated with a bad email – but we must remember great emails exist too. 

There are brands who I love their emails so much that I nearly read all of them (and they send out daily ones). 

I also know that some of the emails I have sent out – that some people hate them. But on the flipside, some people save them all up, read them all at once and send me back beautiful emails with ideas and thoughts about what I have written. 

  • More than a monthly newsletter

So yes, you can have good emails and bad emails. For some, no matter how many emails you send it will be too many and for others no matter how many emails you send it won’t be enough. But this is about so much more than a monthly newsletter – it is about targeting the right people at the right time with the right information. 

For example, we have an email list that is just for people that we have worked with in the past – they have access to our portal and to the updates in there. For this the engagement rate is pretty high. We also have another for clients we have done Facebook ads for, and they get information that no one else gets. That group in particular is only small, around 100 people, and they are the only ones on our database who get that information. 

  • For each stage of the journey

We then have emails that go out to people who have been to an event, for those who attended webinars and for people who have signed up to our Marketing Toolbox, in order to help them go through it. We have so many different little components in our business that I don’t tend to send out the same email to all 5,000 people on our mailing list. In fact what I am doing is sending specific emails to small groups of people, in order to keep them engaged and always ensuring it is meaningful content for them. It’s for each stage of the journey, with some for people who are not quite ready to work with you, or for people who love you but aren’t able to work with you, those who are about to work with you, those who have started working with you and those clients who have finished working with you. 

At every stage of that journey you can use email marketing to continue drawing those people in and add value to their lives. 

What I think is also very special about email marketing is that it’s one of the things you own yourself. You own that list and it is better to build that list, create content for it and continue to develop that community, rather than completely rely on social media communities that you do not own. (But of course you do need to have both.) 

Creating a Customer Journey

So another one of the things that we recommend you do is that you think about how you can create a customer journey (add it to the list – it’s getting long right?). One of the things we have been doing is creating blogs, like this one with quite a lot of detail, and then we also run free webinars on the same topic. Alongside it, we have a lead generation that people can use – so in a webinar it will be a workbook and on a blog it will be a checklist (there is one in this blog here for you today). 

You create a landing page which has your downloadable asset and following it there will be a nurture sequence, which is not a sales pitch! It’s important to realise that a nurture sequence should never be ‘sales pitchy’, it should be about helping and supporting your lead, and then if they are ready for you, they can work with you. 

But there should never be that real pushy sales angle, because it is not what they are ready for. It’s not what they have asked for, they may have just gone to your website to read a blog. 

Creating a customer journey that takes people through a series or steps is really important – a blog, lead gen prompt, landing page and nurture sequence. 

Using marketing automation to help you and your team work better

You can also use marketing automation to help you and your team work better. Here at Identify, we use marketing automation to help people be informed at the different milestones of a customer’s journey with us. It is helpful to let people in our team know when new clients are going to start working with us, or once they are signed up – how they will be working with us. We also might have an automation set up to let us know that someone has completed a task, or a client has got something done so we are now ready to use it. 

Marketing automation helps teams, particularly teams who are in a diverse range of places, work together to work better together. (Say that quickly five times!) 

Want to know more? Check out some real life case studies below of some of the people we have worked with when it comes to marketing automation.

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