Elizabeth Harr

10 strategies before you automate your marketing

Marketing automation is a buzzword one hears about a lot these days. It describes the use of advanced software platforms to automate marketing processes from the routine to the complex, and to also reduce costs and improve effectiveness.

Firms are using this approach to both personalize and scale their marketing programs. But before you try to embrace it, it’s wise to choose supporting strategies that work for your firm.

10 Marketing Automation Strategies

Because marketing automation (MA) can be used to accomplish many marketing strategy goals, the key is to determine which strategies make the most sense for your firm. Here are the ten strategies that are most closely aligned with the needs and capabilities of professional services firms.

1. Getting more new leads. Many firms share this need, and it’s one that most market automation systems are highly capable of addressing. This use of the technology often involves some combination of search engine optimization and social media and guest posting to drive visibility. You can measure success and optimize your program using the technology’s ability to automate implementation and track sourcing across platforms. Even in a contract and RRP-driven business development environment, you’ll still want to generate visibility with referral sources, teaming partners, and yes, even leads – and your marketing automation system helps you do just that.

2. Qualifying new leads more efficiently. As you gain more prospects, some of them will be qualified — and others, far from it. To tell the two categories apart, start by looking at the content you are sharing. If you have targeted it well, your better prospects will be attracted to it naturally, because it better meets their needs. Most systems with customer relationship management (CRM) capabilities will also allow you to automatically score your leads, based on predetermined criteria.

3. Segmenting your prospect database. Each prospect has different needs. However, if you simply have one gigantic prospect list, it can be hard to target and personalize your message to address those varying needs. MA systems provide tools that help you automatically segment your list by demographic or behavioral criteria, and personalize your marketing strategy.

4. Nurturing leads to find opportunities. Professional services are not impulse purchases, which means a potential client could easily take years before deciding to buy your services. Fortunately, marketing automation solutions are good at managing nurture or “drip” campaigns — essentially automating much of your middle-funnel prospect nurturing. You can also program the timing and content of these “touches” in advance, so that your day-to-day involvement is minimized.

5. Spotting sales-ready opportunities. Many of the leads you nurture will at some point need your services. If these prospects have been nurtured properly to understand how you can help them, your firm will naturally be top of mind when it comes to distributing the RFP. You can configure your MA system to periodically probe for interest, such as by sending out a free consultation offers.

6. Giving your expertise more visibility. Succeeding in professional services means selling expertise, something that is both valuable and invisible. The best way to help prospects learn about your expertise is to demonstrate it and make it visible. Marketing automation is an ideal tool for doing so — by educating your audience with blog posts, webinars, videos, public speaking and social media, all delivered to the right prospects at the right time.

7. Enhancing client retention. Most clients only need your services from time to time, not continuously. However, maintaining on-and-off client relationships can be difficult — especially when you’re busy. Also, many past clients may not know your full range of expertise, and therefore give work you could easily handle to another firm. Fortunately, MA can automate many of these ongoing interactions.

8. Marketing investment tracking and optimizing. Today’s modern MA platforms help answer the eternal question of which marketing efforts are working best. The platforms’ cross-channel integration tools allow you to track and optimize your strategies, and also improve your ROI.

9. Increasing your marketing team’s productivity. MA systems almost always have a dramatic impact on the productivity of professional services marketing teams, while eliminating a lot of the repetitive drudgery. They require an initial (sometimes laborious) set-up — but after that, the productivity gains accrue every day.

10. Savings in billable hours. Potential clients want to get to know the professionals at your firm they’ll be working with. By screening, qualifying and nurturing prospects before they start interacting with the billable professionals, you’ll save a lot of non-billable business development hours.

The Bigger Picture

Before long, marketing automation will be a standard part of professional services marketing. Implemented properly, it can both personalize and scale your marketing strategy.

Naturally, there are challenges and pitfalls as well. For the best results, you must build your strategy on a solid understanding of your target audiences and the strengths and weaknesses of your firm. But once you have your system up and running, a well-planned and executed strategy will deliver the kind of measurable results that may have always seemed elusive.

About the Author

Elizabeth Harr is a partner with Hinge Marketing and leads the firm’s technology and consulting practice. She is the co-author of two books, the Visible Expert and the Buyer’s Brain.

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