ADOTAS – As the new year approaches, most marketers evaluate the previous year to determine changes and improvements to their company’s marketing efforts and ultimately improve ROI. Just in time for your New Year’s resolutions, my company, marketing automation platform provider Act-On Software, has compiled a list of eight tips to improve marketing’s ROI in 2012.
1. Define the “qualified” lead. Marketing and sales must discuss what constitutes a qualified lead and define its characteristics together. This becomes the foundation for a lead scoring system through which marketing can winnow more qualified, sales-ready leads from all those captured. Once lead characteristics are established, lead scoring also allows marketing to determine the key triggers that identify the ready buyer, so those prospects can be delivered to the right salespeople in real time, decreasing the time to conversion through rapid response.
2. Formulate an integrated marketing plan. It’s easier said than done. Keeping track of email campaigns, drip campaigns, traditional media outreach and coverage, content to bloggers, tradeshows, SEO marketing, social media campaigns and more calls for a lot of juggling – not to mention funneling, segmenting and filtering the leads you’ll generate through all these activities. A good automated marketing platform is the best way to manage and track an interrelated set of campaigns and programs and the resulting leads. The usual process is to begin with email and lead scoring, and then to scale to additional capabilities as your programs become more sophisticated. As you scale, make sure that the leads and data you get from each program are not silo’d. Ideally, every interaction with a prospect should be tracked in a single location, usually a profile in a sales or marketing database. On the content side, aim for consistency in messaging and offers. Create, manage and coordinate your messages across all channels for a consistent customer experience, and update all channels when messaging changes.
3. Segment your lists. By segmenting your lists, you can deliver more focused campaigns by targeting promotions to specific audiences, providing the right content and making the right offer at the right time. The concept of message matching is based on the idea that people pay attention only to what matches their own needs, which in turn helps build more targeted lists and boosts overall response rates. List segmentation comes in infinite forms – by demographic factors, title, industry, offer, behavior, interactivity, preferences, company size, to name just a few. Start simply, and let testing and sales results guide you to more sophisticated list parsing.
4. Create compelling landing pages. When your prospect clicks on a search result or an online ad, the resulting landing page should be exactly what the prospect was looking for and should provide a compelling offer (webinar, trial, whitepaper, demo, etc.). The value of the offer increases with an accurate, concise description of what the prospect will receive. A relevant landing page delivering content that addresses the visitor’s problem induces the reader to not only consider the offer, but often to pursue it. And a strong call to action that clearly shows how they can “act now” provides the incentive for lead capture, in turn allowing your company to continue the dialogue and nurture that new lead toward conversion.
5. Refine your surveys and registration forms. Develop and implement productive online surveys that capture relevant prospect data and furnish quality leads. Review each of your lead generation forms, and make sure they work together to gain more information as the prospect continues to engage. Keep the initial form short and sweet; aim for capturing simple, basic information. You can ask for more information as the dialogue progresses.
6. Measure, measure, measure. “Metrics” has to do with measurements, such as tracking numbers of web visitors. “Analytics” has to do with teasing those numbers apart so you can distinguish categories (e.g., how many visitors visited your pricing page). To gather precise information about campaign effectiveness, you need to tap into the full spectrum of metrics available from all your programs. Analysis will guide you in determining which leads are ready to go to sales, which leads need more nurturing, and which offers are or are not working. All such information helps you focus on where you are most likely going to generate qualified leads that are likely to convert.
7. Test, test, test. Testing tells you what works and what doesn’t, so you can focus your budget and efforts on what does. Remember, less is more. What you choose to test depends on your industry, your target audience and your campaigns. You can test lists, ads, landing pages, keywords, email campaign content, sending strategy and more. Commonly tested list elements include titles, actions and industries. Commonly tested content and campaign elements include headlines, body copy, calls to action, offers, contact forms, days of the week, time of the day, page design, graphics, and so on. Begin with a simple plan and let your results and changing conditions guide you to continuing, expanding or redirecting your testing efforts. Continued testing will allow you to understand how to optimize and improve your communication with your target audience, which leads to better leads, more conversions and closed sales.
8. Automate, automate, automate. Automate as much of the process as you can. You will save time and labor — you’ll also increase consistency, efficiency, awareness, actionable intelligence and measurability. A good marketing automation platform reduces complexity, makes workflow more efficient, and enables and enhances well-timed communications as contacts, leads, prospects and sales professionals interact. It also gives you real-time visibility into every aspect of the sales cycle, from lead generation to close, documenting the data and circumstances that make success repeatable. And finally, automation delivers the sales and marketing reports that provide data for analysis and planning, proves marketing’s contribution to sales, and illustrates return on investment.