Image credit: Joe The Goat Farmer
The online world provides almost-unlimited opportunity to scale, but the larger your business gets, the more of a challenge it becomes to keep everything running. Operational efficiency is essential. For instance, if you’re spending all of your time trying to keep your SaaS (Software as a Service) platform maintained, you won’t have any left to put towards expansion or development.
This is why automation is such a vital part of achieving stability. The more work that can be handled without your direct intervention, the more free time you’ll have to focus on your core role, and the fewer administrative errors will be possible. Furthermore, since B2B clients require a lot of attentive support, you can’t afford to be manually hunting down leads all the time.
In this article, we’re going to look at 7 key concepts involving these topics that you need to understand and configure your approach to suit. We’ll also cover some suggestions of relevant tools and actions to consider. By the end, you should have some solid ideas of how you can improve your lead generation process and bolster your efficiency. Let’s begin.
You may already be familiar with the digital ecosystems established for online retailers and phone software providers — Amazon Prime has attachments to video, ebook and music systems, and of course Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android offer large ranges of software options in the hope of keeping users locked in.
Marketing ecosystems are somewhat different, though. Intended to drive leads, they consist of broad cross-platform and cross-device strategies for drawing traffic from all available points of origin and steadily moving it towards converting.
A good marketing ecosystem will plot the various possible paths from start to finish: for example, web search -> social visit -> another web search -> phone call -> website visit -> purchase. Taking a full view of the online landscape ensures that you don’t miss out on big opportunities.
Think past just one store, traffic source, or outreach tool. Instead of, say, putting a huge amount of effort into polishing your landing pages, aim for a strong level of quality across all of your copy — that way, visitors will be impressed no matter how they reach you. Look at it as keeping a variety of income streams: if one dries up, it won’t provide a killing blow to your overall revenue.
View your digital resources as a cohesive whole. If you have a store, a blog, a business website, an app, several social media pages, and some PPC landing pages, keep them all as connected as you can. Track them using the same analytics system. Try the following tools:
• IFTTT. Standing for “If This, Then That”, it’s a service that will integrate with almost any app or device and thus allow you to set up sophisticated cross-platform automation. (For instance, you can output any type of conversion to Slack, giving you an at-a-glance view of how things are going.)
• Data Studio. As a Google product, there’s a natural link to Google Analytics, and you can easily design a high-level overview of all of your traffic sources.
Any given purchase doesn’t exist in isolation, because people don’t appear out of nowhere to sign up to services and then disappear forever. They’re led to the point of purchase somehow, and they go somewhere afterwards. Lifecycle marketing moves past the old model of focussing on individual purchases and instead looks at long-term customer value.
Using old-fashioned methods, you might set up some paid ads for a service to get some traffic to the page… and stop there. If someone visits the page and decides to buy, your marketing work is done, right? Wrong. A lifecycle marketing strategy plans out the majority of its marketing work for existing customers, understanding that long-time customers are more valuable than new customers.
Why is this? Well, it’s significantly harder to sell to a new customer than it is to sell to someone who has already bought from you several times, and long-time customers also spend more money.
They’re invested in your business, and you need to take advantage of that.
Focus on retaining customers and keeping them happy. The happier you can make people, the longer they’ll stick around, the more they’ll spend, and the more valuable they’ll be as willing brand advocates. Take the following actions:
• Plan out follow-up steps for the post-purchase period. Thinking ahead is key. Once they’ve placed their first order, a new customer’s interest in you is likely to start ebbing away, and you need to act to turn that one-off buy into a long-term association.
• Reach out to your customers to thank them and ask for their feedback. This will show that you care about their experiences — use email templates for inspiration.
• Use feedback and preferences for personalization. You can do this using email marketing automation software (here’s a useful comparison) and auto-populated store panels (look for personalization plugins for your CMS, or take a look at these tools).
• Use social media to suggest user-generated content (UGC). It’s a great way to build investment and develop brand ambassadors. This can be done manually, or you can try using a tool such as Stackla.
Tying into the concepts we’ve already looked at, a sales pipeline is a detailed breakdown of the meaningful steps in the general sales journey, setting out distinct stages and making it possible to place an actual or hypothetical customer at a certain point in the process.
What those stages are depends on how you prefer to frame things. There’s some variety in how marketers define them, but here’s the gist: someone discovers your business (learning what it’s about), then investigates it (comparing it to competitors and finding out how it’s exceptional), then develops the intention to become a customer, then takes action to place an order.
This is why you must write and design your content to serve a particular contextual purpose. If the likely reader is going to be in the process of discovering your business, then you need to be highly promotional and informative to get them curious. If they’re going to have the intention to become a customer, then you need to focus on benefits and pushing them to the point of action. Great content in the wrong place can do more harm than good.
Your content will need to be handled manually, but there’s a lot throughout the sales pipeline that can be automated — features, layouts, page variants, etc. Through automation, you can set up parameters to cover numerous potential scenarios.
Plan a distinct UX for each part of your sales pipeline. Each one should fully reflect its context, being designed to provide the reader with exactly what they need at that time. Try the following tools:
• Lucidchart. There are many wireframing/prototyping tools available online, but Lucidchart is free for one user and up to 60 designs, so it should suffice. Use it to set out the design elements you’ll need for the different parts of your pipeline and make sure they’re ordered correctly.
• Unbounce. At a minimum, you’ll want to have a dedicated landing page for each kind of searcher in each part of your pipeline. Unbounce will equip you to quickly create variants and run A/B tests to see which ones perform the best.
Heavily fueled by the mobile ecosystems we briefly covered earlier, the world of UX personalization continues to grow at a rapid clip. It’s all about making sure that every person who enters your marketing funnel has a unique experience that draws from what you know about them to provide greater convenience and make them feel significant.
When you log into a top ecommerce store you’ve purchased from numerous times before, you’re likely to get a very different homepage than a new user would. You’ll see various recommended products based on your previous orders, suggested categories that might interest you, summaries of any current orders, and various other similar elements.
The same goes for email marketing in particular. Using automation tools, you can segment a retail audience and serve a catered email to each individual customer, increasing the likelihood that they’ll be interested in buying whatever you’re selling.
Be mindful, though: you can easily presume too much with personalization and end up making someone less likely to take the action you’re suggesting, so it’s all about finding a balance. Do provide suggested services, resources or tiers with plenty of social proof, but don’t feign familiarity by too readily using the first names of people you don’t know. The moment the personalization gets too noticeable, it starts seeming creepy.
Provide personalized UX, but do so carefully. Everything you add should make life easier for the customer in some way, focussing on their needs above those of the company — it should be a win-win situation. Try the following tools:
• Banana Splash. This tool is great for B2B copy because of its focus on responsive experiences and its minimal basics. You might not need to go any further.
• A suitable plugin, or any of these recommendation engines. Your CMS may have a simple plugin that can handle personalized recommendations — if not, try one of the recommendation services in the link.
Conversion rate optimization
Getting relevant traffic is challenging enough that failing to consistently turn it into buys is tremendously wasteful. Conversion rate optimization, or CRO, is all about critically examining the most important points in your sales process, identifying opportunities for improvement, and then implementing those improvements.
For instance, suppose that you get 1000 visits to a particular service page each month, and 10 of those visits convert. That’s a conversion rate of 1%. To get more buys, you could double your traffic-driving efforts and get 2000 visits, but that’s easier said than done. Alternatively, there are likely various things about the service page itself that you could easily improve.
How does the copy read? Are the visuals impressive? Do you use colors consistently? Does your site stand out in general? Whatever CMS you’re using, you have options.You might find that a simple change to the font size would lead to 20 conversions each month instead. With a higher conversion rate, you then have a greater incentive to drive traffic.
Ultimately, you must do more with the traffic you get. The quest for more traffic is often as ill-considered as the quest to be “top of Google”, because simply having a lot of traffic won’t get you anywhere. Through careful iteration, you can turn your site into a reliable conversion funnel, allowing you to get by (or even thrive) with relatively-little traffic.
Carefully review your conversation rates and improve accordingly. Identify easy improvements and make those first, then commit time and resources to implementing harder improvements over time.
Try the following tools:
• Hotjar. Heatmaps are tremendously useful for seeing exactly how people move through your pages, particularly on mobile devices with trackable touchscreen inputs. By seeing where all the clicks (or taps) are on your site, you can see where your layouts and CTAs can be improved.
• Woopra. This software provides end-to-end analytics for identifying progress from step to step, and creates personal profiles for the customers along the way, helping you figure out why a given page isn’t being as successful as you’d like.
You want a customer to like your service, obviously, because they’ll then be more interested in buying other things from you — but customer success methodology doesn’t stop there. Instead, it makes the customer’s general success a top priority. Whatever their general goals are, you want to play a supporting role.
What’s the point of this? Well, it’s actually very simple: success makes us feel good and form positive associations. The more successful we are while using a product or service, the better we’ll perceive it to be, and the more readily we’ll return to it in the future. Automation plays a big role here, because making it possible for people users to automate basic tasks will free up time for them to focus on other things.
Customer success methodology is essentially about providing top-level UX, showing a comprehensive understanding of the general motivations that drive specific actions, and being very active in engaging with customers through support services and social media teams. The more helpful you are, the more goodwill you’ll generate, and the more loyalty you’ll win.
To many companies, this seems counterproductive and likely to result in lowered profits and demanding customers, but this isn’t a matter of indulging the customer. It’s simply about ensuring that the customer has such a good time buying from you that they associate you with that positive feeling. Casinos offer gamblers so many “free” things for this very reason.
Be as helpful as you possibly can. To do this, you need to understand your customers’ lives — what’s annoying them, what’s making them happy, and what you can do better — and there are ways to automate this. Try the following tools:
• Zendesk Chat. This live chat service is great for showing customers that you care about what they’re trying to accomplish and are willing to help them out by answering any questions they may have and pointing them in the right direction.
• Hootsuite. Using Hootsuite, you can track mentions of your brand across all social media platforms. You can then follow the context to see how people are reacting to you in general. Do they seem happier after buying from you? If not, reach out to them to ask why. What can you do to make their life a little easier?
If you’re still reading this, then your attention span is longer than that of most internet users. Yes, we’re all very pushed for time in today’s world, and having almost-unlimited options in the form of alternative apps, websites and games makes us exceptionally fickle about our electronic affections. The moment we sour on something, we can simply abandon it.
That makes it a real challenge to gain any traction with digital marketing if you’re producing anything less than exceptional work. Everything you do must be seamless and polished to minimize friction and retain that fragile focus. And the more competitive the environment gets, the more succinct you need to be.
Because this is a full-length non-promotional piece, I’ve had the luxury of hitting a few paragraphs for each point, but I couldn’t deviate significantly from the underlying purpose of the article — your eyes would have glazed over and you’d have wondered what else you could be reading instead. If you want to turn people into customers, get to the point!
Accordingly, you must review your branded content, then start stripping it back. Your content should be so good that a stranger should be able to understand it, and interesting enough to keep them around.
Cut back on the waffle in your content. Remove anything that doesn’t need to be there, shorten long-winded parts, and make everything punchier. Try the following tools:
• Hemingway App. This piece of software will review any text you put in it, grading it for readability, grammatical correctness, and various other factors. You don’t need to follow every suggestion, but it’s great if you’re unsure about how suitable your content is for beginners.
• UserTesting. You can try to get in the head of the average user and guess how people will view your content, but it’s far better to actually see what average users think. UserTesting allows you to get your content in front of unfamiliar people and ask specific questions to see what they think. Very handy.
These 7 key concepts are very important in the lead generation and automation worlds, and they’re not incredibly difficult to grasp — they’re just easy to miss if you’re picking up ecommerce as you go, which is very common.
Make sure you know the basics, try the various tools we’ve looked at, and keep improving. You’ll be much less likely to miss something major in the future.