Stay a step ahead of the game with Marketing Automation
Max Edwards, Marketing Manager, Concep
There has never been a better day than today to bring marketing automation into the mix of your marketing strategy. The global Marketing automation market was valued at USD 4.06 billion in 2019, with an expected compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.8% between 2020 & 2027 (Grand View Research). But in a vast market of tools, capabilities & vendors, it can be challenging to know how to apply this efficiently to professional services.
In this blog, you will gain an understanding of what marketing automation is, why it’s an essential tool for professional services marketers, and what to look for when developing your firm’s automation strategy. If you’re currently apprehensive about losing the human touch or how marketing automation will help your firm specifically, this blog will lead you down the right path in your automation journey.
What is Marketing Automation?
Simply put, marketing automation is the process of utilising technology to streamline marketing efforts and make them more effective. When implemented correctly, automation tools enable professional services marketers, to save time through avoiding counteractive tasks, streamline the events management process and nurture key client relationships efficiently. All whilst reducing the threat of human error!
On average, over 55% of B2B companies are currently using marketing automation. (EmailMonday)
Yet, in the professional services marketing world, we continue to hear that “automation is overly complicated for our small teams” and “only for the big firms.” Bad experiences with limited e-marketing tools scare off some people while the fear of losing a personal human touch in communications wards off others. In actual fact, sector-specific automation can help you create 1-2-1 engagement experiences on a 1-2-many scale!
Your marketing automation strategy doesn’t have to be scary or complex, nor do you have to adopt a one size fits all model. It’s essential to start with the basics and understand the different automation types to ascertain what combination will benefit your firm most. Remember the value of automation is to help marketers be more efficient in the way that they work, not to create headaches. Leveraging automation is easy with the right tools at hand and should take care of a portion of your communications (typically 30% for our clients) and administrative activities.
Marketing Automation for Professional Services firms
One of the biggest challenges in the professional services world is finding an automation partner or vendor that understands the very specific way in which our marketing teams operate. There are hundreds of tools in the B2B market alone, but many of them boast bells and whistles that are counterintuitive to the way that we manage our key business relationships. This is where the hesitance kicks in. A mid-sized law firm, for example, is likely to find minimal benefit from working with an inbound mass automation platform that is powered by content-heavy drip campaigns & high website lead engagement. The first challenge is that they often lack the volume of website activity at the top of the funnel to justify their software investment and the resource required to maintain the intricate drip campaigns places a considerable burden on their teams.
Alternatively, the secret to successful automation is to keep it simple. Experience has taught us that there are generally 4 key ways in which savvy professional services marketers are keeping things straightforward:
Reactive automation: this form of automation reacts to contact’s engagement activity and registered preferences to distribute the content that data shows they will like. Unlike predictive automation that triggers content it thinks a contact will like based on where they are in a sales journey, reactive automation can consolidate content from across the website & blogs into a preference-based content alert. Contacts even have the choice to control the frequency of communication, leaving them with a highly personalised update on your valuable content.
Sequence automation: as it says on the tin, this automation type allows marketers to build out sequences of communications that provide a seamless engagement experience for all recipients. On the flip side, it will enable marketers to set up communications and events workflows all at one time with the power to create intelligent logic with ease. We’ve seen our clients build out key client management, events management, compliance and web nurturing workflows. Remember that once you’ve created your workflows, you should be able to template and copy them, so you’re seldom starting from scratch!
Action triggers: this type of automation is all about taking the manual administration out of your hands, making sure that contacts are sitting in the right marketing lists and receiving the right content in a timely fashion. For the most part, these triggers are associated with surveys and forms where they are activated through data capture or specific answers. An example of this is a web download form – when an engaged contact downloads an online report, action triggers can send them a confirmation email with the asset linked. While also adding them into a ‘More Content Like This’ automation sequence, sending an internal notification to inform the digital team of the new download.
Data synchronisation: if you are using CRM effectively, it’s critical to view this database as your single source of truth. There’s a whole load of automation tools out there that you could be using but if they don’t integrate analytics seamlessly and synchronise your marketing lists from CRM automatically, then they’re working against you. Keeping your data in siloes & adding manual work to list management. Best practice is to leverage data synchronisation as the type of automation that helps you keep your CRM up to date. You could set up a consent compliance workflow that triggers a welcome email to any new contacts added to the database to collect consent to hold their data and market to them. No manual sending required.
incorporating automation into your marketing strategy
The first step in your marketing automation journey will be to investigate which strategies you could adopt. You’ll know which one is right for you based on your key inefficiency challenges and what you are hoping to achieve for your clients. Likely, you’ll want to use a combination of automation types to deliver winning digital experiences for your key clients and partners.
These are some common starting points you may want to try with your team:
Seamless Events: it’s no secret that events can be incredibly resource-heavy for lesser ROI if the process isn’t streamlined. You’ll be glad to know that the average time saved by businesses using event technology is 223 hours a year (Bizzabo), a lot of which is attributed to automation. Leverage sequence automation to use a templated workflow every time, so all you have to do is change the content. Gone are the days of manually segmenting your lists for reminders to register! Using action triggers on RSVP and feedback forms ensures attendees receive their personalised confirmations straightaway and data synchronisation will write back all your key data to CRM.
Nurturing Clients: Maintaining relationships with clients and contacts can be difficult, particularly when they don’t require any immediate services from your firm. There are ways to stay in the loop consistently to keep in touch. Sequence automation is your friend and can combine a series of branded and Outlook-style emails coming from relationship holders to check-in or even book in coffee catch-ups. We recommend promoting preference management too so that you can use reactive automation to keep them up to date with content alerts. Remember that this won’t be the only string to your relationship management bow but a powerful tool in building brand loyalty through insightful content.
Targeted Communication: Marketing automation intends to be efficient yet impactful, meaning that you don’t want it to turn into a mass mailing function. All prospects and clients have different needs, which should be considered regardless of whether there’s a human hitting the send button. Make sure you are tailoring and personalising communications – putting dynamic content tags into the email templates to pull through key contact details. It would help if you also considered automatically segmenting dynamic marketing lists based on key variables such as region, topic preferences, client type, language and more. Successfully targeted automation will produce higher engagement and strengthen your relationship with your audience.
Website Integration: Automation works best when integrated across e-marketing, CRM and web all at once. Connecting your website maximises your chance to build out targeted automation workflows based on the engagement activity of your contacts. You’ll want a combination of three automation types here! Reactive automation will distribute your valuable online content in a timely fashion. Sequence automation can be leveraged in conjunction with actions to trigger new subscribers and leads into nurture workflows. A robust integration means that all of your web activity will track back to CRM for relationship holders and fee earners to see.