Do You Really Need Marketing Automation?

Is This Technology Right For your Service Firm?

Marketing automation seems to be very popular with marketing people these days.  But like so many other fads I’ve seen come and go, it might be everything it’s cracked up to be or it might just be a time waster.  How can you know if marketing automation is right for your firm? 

In this post I want to give you some insights and things to think about so that you can decipher the best path forward.  The decision to use, or not use, marketing automation can be a make or break moment for service firms. 

The real question I believe service firm leaders need to be asking themselves these days is this.  Will marketing automation add real value to my business and if so, how?  Let’s explore this question.

Who doesn’t need marketing automation?

Let me state for the record that I am not convinced that every service firm needs marketing automation.  Yes.  I know what you are about to say.  “Randy you put a post on LinkedIn that says every service firm needs marketing automation.”  Guilty as charged. 

Please allow me room to grow and change my mind.  I need that.  Thank you.  And now on with my post. 

After a few years of being a power user and integrator of marketing automation, I’ve come to a realization.  Only certain types of service firms need this technology.  Here is my reasoning.

Most professional service firms, even in the age of digital, still acquire their clients through referrals.  Other firms develop partnerships or use conferences and public speaking to acquire clients.  Still other firms use associations and networks to grow awareness and cultivate business relationships.

Will marketing automation benefit companies who go to market primarily in these ways?  I’m not convinced of that.  This is that “change my mind” moment I referred to a bit ago.  After speaking with a few firms who fit this profile, I’ve come to realize that they probably don’t need marketing automation. 

Who needs marketing automation?

The marketing tactics I’ve described above (referrals, speaking, networking and partnerships) are all part of what I would call a traditional analog marketing program.  These are effective tactics that have worked for many years.  And they still work.

But many service firms have realized that they are not enough to achieve their goals.  Either that, or they’ve realized that there are so many opportunities that they miss out on if they only use analog marketing tactics.

This is why digital marketing has become very popular.  I recently published two posts on digital marketing (Do You “Get” Digital Marketing and Do You “Get” Digital Marketing – Part 2).  Digital is a lot like analog, but with some key differences.

  • Digital is an ecosystem where a service provider’s brand, content and stories can touch people they’ve never met. This is word of mouse, not word of mouth. 
  • Digital marketing uses content to stimulate traffic to blog-sites and to the service provider’s website.
  • Digital marketing generates leads who register for content on a service provider’s website.
  • Digital marketing respects the service buyer’s journey. In today’s digital world, service buyers don’t want to be sold to, they want to buy.  This means they are deciding what pages to view, what content to consume and when they will talk to a service provider. 
  • Digital relies heavily on email marketing to stay in front of prospects who are not ready to buy right now. This means newsletters and blog-posts are critical to realizing the full range of business relationships that will mature some day, in the future. 
  • Digital marketing can feel really ethereal compared to analog marketing. If a speaker at a live event has 100 people in the room, the speaker can see those people, read their body language and even talk to them one-on-one after the speech.  A blog-post might get 100 views, but is it the same impact?  How does the blogger know who is interested?  There is no body language to read.  This is why so many digital marketers are seeking to define metrics that indicate the readiness of prospects to engage in dialogue.

Service firms who are using digital marketing will probably find marketing automation to be a solid, event a critical, investment.  Why do I say this?

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Key Take-Away

Service firms who are not heavily invested in digital marketing may not need marketing automation. 

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How marketing automation supports digital marketing

I’ve come to see digital marketing as an ecosystem with four critical goals:

  • Entice the right prospects to your website by provisioning content into the digital ecosystem, such as through blog-sites.
  • Once they arrive, give prospects great content on your website that they cannot resist and that requires registration.
  • Deliver insights in your content that demonstrate your thought leadership and that pull prospects into meaningful conversations.
  • Stay in front of prospects over time because sooner or later they will need what you offer.

How does marketing automation support these goals and do so more effectively than not using marketing automation?  I see these benefits. 

First, marketing automation is the single best way we’ve ever seen to capture the contact information of leads and to see their entire digital footprint.  This means you are seeing every email they are sent, open and click.  You are seeing every webpage they visit.  You are seeing every content asset they register for (and even those they skip).  You are seeing every asset they download, every webinar they attend and every video they watch.  Visibility into an individual’s digital footprint is a huge benefit. 

Second, marketing automation is a powerful and efficient way to provision content into your digital ecosystem.  It saves time and money compared to the old ways of doing this where you had to use several tools to accomplish the job.  A streamlined production process allows smaller teams (and who isn’t a small marketing team today?) to accomplish big goals. 

Third, marketing automation allows you to see who the hot leads are and what matters to them.  This gives you tremendous insights when the time comes for a discovery meeting.  See more about this in my discussion below. 

Fourth, marketing automation allows you to stay in front of prospects over time through email marketing and electronic newsletters.  When someone has a need, their lead score and digital footprint will indicate that something in their environment has changed.  Trust me, you want that information.

An example

If you don’t have marketing automation, you can still use digital marketing.  But you’ll be missing out on productivity enhancements.  You’ll also be missing out on the ability to help your consultants expedite their time to a statement of work,  scope of services or some other type of engagement.  Here’s why. 

Let’s assume for a moment that a prospect reaches out to your company for a consultation after they have consumed the following content:

  • Some key blog-posts you’ve developed that speak to a specific type of goal.
  • A webinar that also speaks to that goal.
  • An E-Book that helps them think about their approach to achieving that goal.
  • A couple of videos that also offer insights into that goal.
  • A case study that shows how one of your clients achieved the goal.

Let’s also assume that you don’t have marketing automation but instead just an email tool.  The email tool will allow your consultant to see the emails the prospect clicked on.  But all of the other digital footprint information I’ve listed above is invisible to your consultant.   

If this is where you are today, here are some questions to ask yourself: 

  • How much more successful would their consultation be if they had this data?
  • How much faster would discovery go if the consultant could see everything the prospect clicked on?
  • How much more efficiently could the consultant guide the prospect toward the right solution?
  • How much more would the prospect feel like they were really being taken care of, that they really matter to your company?

Next steps

I believe it’s true that marketing automation is not right for every service firm.  If you are relying primarily on analog strategies, then marketing automation may be a waste of time and money.  But if you are using digital marketing, I would think very carefully about how marketing automation could take your game to the next level. 

If you’re not sure about what to do next, I have a recommendation for you.  I’ve developed an E-Book called Ten Reasons Service Firms Need Marketing Automation Now.  This free resource gives you a lot of insights about why service organizations are deploying marketing automation.

This E-Book will help you think through how marketing automation might benefit your organization.  Marketing automation isn’t right for every service firm.  But it could just be the ticket to raise your career and business to the next level

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