David Greenberg, the senior vice president of marketing at Act-On Software, joined up with the SaaS Mag team for our 4th edition to explain why it’s important to focus your marketing around authenticity and customer experience. To order your free copy of SaaS Mag issue 4, click here.
It’s fascinating to think about the ways digital marketing has evolved over the past decade, especially during the last several years. The basics are no longer basic. They’re becoming increasingly complex as technology takes a leading role, blending strategy with software (and behavioral data) to ensure that brands are able to stay ahead of consumer expectations and tower above the competition.
At Act-On, we’ve been on the front lines of this monumental shift — moving away from the stifling top-of-funnel focus toward a more expansive approach dedicated to a holistic customer experience. Modern marketers are concentrated on every phase of the customer lifecycle, and they understand how emerging technologies can help them execute strategies and tactics effectively and efficiently.
As the digital era continues to reinvent how we understand and interpret new and nuanced definitions of marketing, we need to consider how we measure and understand success.
Does marketing success entail:
- More leads?
- Better brand narratives?
- Compelling content marketing?
- Growing your business?
- Creating a wider footprint?
- Generating more excitement around your offerings?
- Improving product retention and customer loyalty?
- Automating processes, programs, and campaigns?
Every element above plays an important part. Each impacts the other and serves as a building block in a holistic strategy that will strengthen marketing’s impact on your business. The essential underlying importance of every success pillar relates directly to the customer lifecycle experience. To optimize results from each pillar, marketers should realize that there is a human being on the other side of every email. It’s easy to get trapped in a quantity-over-quality mindset when attempting to target the right audience. But in this age, misdirected emails are not going to cut it, and you will quickly get labeled a spammer if you are the source of misdirected communications. At Act-On, our marketing automation platform transcends automated email drips and basic lead capture. Instead, we’re focused on helping our customers optimize their customers’ journey—from initial brand awareness to lead-nurturing and trust-building, all the way through to customer acquisition, onboarding, and advocacy.
Consistently exceptional experiences are based on targeted relevancy, value, and personalization. Delivering at every turn of the customer lifecycle separates good marketers from great ones. More importantly, it helps companies move from a lukewarm brand perception and stagnant growth to iconic brand status with incendiary growth.
At Act-On, we recognize that great marketing is about happy, engaged prospects and customers—building real relationships and exceeding expectations so that you can grow your customer base organically and transform consumers into evangelists. Bringing this core marketing concept to life in today’s digital environment requires sophisticated and powerful technology. But as we place more emphasis on optimizing behavioral data, automating processes, and other digital advantages, it’s easy to get distracted by what works for the company instead of what creates great customer experiences.
Consumers want—and expect to—research products, services, and brands before they engage with a business. So informative and engaging content has never been more important. And in order to cut through the excessive digital noise, communications must be highly targeted and deeply personalized. Further, since successful marketing is about so much more than generating traffic to your website, smart marketers are dedicated to nurturing customer relationships from their first interaction through every subsequent touchpoint. There are too many competitive options for someone to stick with a brand that fails to meet and exceed their expectations.
Suffice it to say, modern marketers are under a great deal of pressure to establish and maintain customer engagement, trust, and loyalty, all while building and nurturing new business opportunities. In a turbulent sea of technology-stack options, data insights, reporting metrics, and maturing best practices, marketers want to make sure they share the fundamental inner workings of each phase of the customer lifecycle. Marketers must nail every element of the customer experience because even a single misstep can derail an entire marketing engine.
Phase One: Driving Awareness and Attracting Interest
Successful marketing is moving away from lead generation and top-of-funnel optimization and toward the holistic brand experience, but driving awareness and attracting interested buyers will always be the essential first step. The bottom line: First impressions matter. Are you confident of how your brand greets the world, regardless of channel? Are you generating interest and demanding attention?
If you can’t confidently answer these questions with a resounding “yes,” it’s time to amplify the initial experience so that prospective customers are more inclined to really dig into what you’re saying and what you have to offer.
Ultimately, it comes down to understanding your target audiences’ problems and how to solve them. Clearly addressing your personas’ problems is a fundamental marketing strategy that presents itself along the entirety of the customer’s journey—and on every channel. Providing solutions is the backbone supporting every aspect of the customer experience. It ensures that your prospective clients and existing customers continue engaging with your brand across a multichannel experience. But it all starts with your ideal consumer finding your products and services and then moving on to converting that consumer from an unknown to known visitor.
An important focus is how the digital marketing engine (aka marketing automation) works hand-in-hand with strategy to help identify prospects via a company website and through gated content.
Your website is prime business real estate. Optimizing the digital experience naturally attracts visitors and keeps them browsing your site, learning more with every click. Many components must coalesce to create a website experience that enhances brand reputation and drives conversions—including great content, fast loading times, unique and engaging design, and intuitive structure.
Chances are that prospective customers didn’t randomly stumble on your website. They arrived with a deliberate purpose—to discover a solution to their problem. They know what they’re looking for, but they need you to provide the fastest, simplest path to their destination. Put the answers front and center on your navigation menu. Consider the actions that your website visitors will take and arrange your pages accordingly, making sure that the vital information they need is always only a click away. Aligning with customer preferences not only lowers your bounce rate, it also impacts order size, customer satisfaction, SEO rankings, and your ability to capture conversions. Remember: If your visitors can’t effortlessly find what they’re looking for, they’re going to go elsewhere for solutions.
Your marketing automation platform should provide detailed insights into user behavior through a website visitor tracking tool. This technology empowers marketers to better understand how prospects interact with your website based on their industry, organization role, and product interest. Visibility into these real-time customer engagements and preferences is instrumental in curating a great experience.
Gating your valuable content is a key ingredient in every successful marketing workflow, and how visitors access your content directly impacts your pipeline. Furthermore, your content serves as an inflection point for consumers who are new to your brand, so you want to be mindful that it’s easy to read, memorable, and educational.
So, what does gated content look like? We’ve found that our most successful gated content is long-form content such as e-books, webinars, and e-courses that are accessible behind simple, adaptive forms on dedicated landing pages. These forms encourage visitors to submit their name, email, and other useful information in exchange for receiving value-packed content, and you can then use the information to nurture the leads. Progressive profiling is the practice of asking your website visitors for information whenever they complete a dynamic form. In this way, you can collect data that helps inform their experience gradually over time—increasing conversions while reducing friction. Your job is to meet your prospects where they are in their journey, make it easy for them to find what they need, and decrease and accurately respond to their needs.
Progressive profiling makes it simple and easy to do just that. Put yourself in your prospects’ shoes. When they’re first introduced to your brand and begin exploring your site, they’re probably not inclined to immediately give out all their contact and company information. So, drop a cookie and ask for their business email to enroll them in a nurture program. The next time they visit your site, you can ask for further information, such as their company, job title, and industry, using an adaptive form. You can assume a higher level of intent with each subsequent visit, meaning you can get more detailed with your form fields. For example, you can ask about their company revenue, primary pain points, or timeline for purchase in order to properly score them and provide more relevant content and messaging.
Phase Two: Personalize the Customer Journey
The biggest shift in modern marketing is how technology is constantly transforming how we view and apply personalization in our marketing efforts. The right solution will allow you to leverage prospect data gathered from adaptive forms and behavioral data from their cookied sessions and omnichannel brand engagements. Marketing is scaling to new heights as we lean into smarter automation and behavioral data, and how businesses personalize their efforts (or don’t) will make or break the customer experience. It’s no surprise that the companies that ensure their messages are targeted end up seeing 18% more revenue than those who don’t.
Segmentation is essential in creating effective personalized customer experiences. Segments are list groups made up of specific personas that identify with specific pain points, core demographics, product purchases, industry interests, eligibility for discounts, content downloads, website behaviors, or pretty much anything that can distinguish their experience and distinguish them as a certain buyer type.
Effective, relevant communications with your prospects and customers come to life through segmentation. These grouped lists prompt automated campaigns that are highly targeted, empowering you to engage with relevant information meant specifically for different lead types.
Once you’ve captured someone’s attention and converted that person from an unknown to a known visitor, it’s important to make the most of the opportunity by continuing to illustrate your brand’s value as it applies to the prospect’s unique needs. At this point segmentation and lead nurturing with personalized content and communications comes to the forefront, allowing you to guide the prospect through a compelling (and comfortable!) customer journey.
Still, designing the blueprint is often easier than building the structure. After all, 50% of marketers report that increasing lead-to-customer conversions is their biggest challenge and top priority. It’s critical, but it’s also difficult, especially when done manually.
Let’s see how marketing automation can help improve your lead nurturing initiatives while conserving resources and creating a more frictionless experience for prospects and customers.
A Six-Step Guide to a Successful Lead Nurture Campaign
1) Define a goal for your lead nurture campaign. Because without one, how will you and your team know in what specific direction to take your audiences? Before you jump in, define what you want to gain from this lead nurture effort.
2) Create buyer personas. Establish credibility and value by understanding your customers and their key pain points. This helps you deliver the right message and keep your leads engaged through every step of the nurture campaign.
3) Develop a lead scoring program and segment your leads. Lead nurturing isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, so don’t treat your leads as though they were all the same. They’re not. Mindfully score your leads (based on the type of criteria) and segment them accordingly to help you tailor relevant messages for maximum engagement.
4) Identify and develop content. Quality matters. This is your best opportunity to address your personas’ pain points and educate them about solutions provided by your offerings. Engaging content that informs and delights your readers is absolutely essential in attracting interest and converting leads into sales opportunities.
5) Set up your program. Utilize your marketing automation platform to set up an efficient and effective lead nurturing program.
6) Track, measure, and optimize for consistent improvement. Get started and then measure your results: Launch your efforts and begin engaging your leads. Identify critical KPIs like open rates, click-through rates, and conversions, to track and measure early and often. If you notice areas that need improvement, update your efforts. Conversely, if you’re seeing a lot of success with a specific tactic, see if you can spread the wealth at other touchpoints. No lead nurture campaign is meant to stay stagnant, so continue reviewing your analytics, evaluating what resonates with your audience, and optimize your efforts to always make adjustable improvements.
Modern marketers have everything they need—from data to technology tools—to implement successful marketing personalization strategies. But that’s not to say you’re going to nail it on your first attempt. Marketing is fluid, and your success lies in your ability to refine the personalization to continually improve the customer experience. It typically takes four to five attempts to refine a personalized trigger campaign to capture 80% of its potential value, but once you find that winning formula, the impact and results speak for themselves.
Phase Three: Great Customer Marketing as the Ultimate Key to Success
It’s one thing to know that acquiring a new customer is five times as expensive as retaining an existing customer; it’s another to deliver an experience that not only keeps customers’ business, but also inspires them to share that experience with the world.
Your company’s success depends on your ability to demonstrate a customer-first approach. Are you prioritizing customers’ needs and satisfaction? It’s a fundamental question that carries a lot of weight. And your customers’ perception of how well you execute campaigns designed to delight them will have a direct impact on your bottom line.
In this age of digital disruption, marketing plays a significantly larger role in early customer engagement, specifically by homing in on the customer onboarding experience. Impress your new customers with a customer-centric, value-packed, supportive, and personalized experience as they begin using your products and services for the first time. It’ll help them get excited about their purchase, feel validated in their decision, and inspire more usage and future business.
It starts simply. Send an email immediately after their purchase thanking them for their business and clearly outlining next steps to set defined expectations. Next, launch an automated drip campaign that provides directions for implementation, resources for best practices, and support and community access. As the campaign progresses, you can add detail and conditional logic to ensure your customers are getting the most from your offerings. Include recommended content, promotions, or products in all your communications to take advantage of cross-sell opportunities and further galvanize the relationship.
Nurture Your Customers to Improve Retention
Continue to build credibility and nurture your customer relationships by offering opportunities to keep growing— whether it be through educational advice or scaling your partnership with additional products and services specific to customers’ needs. This can be achieved effectively and efficiently by entering your customers into automated nurture programs that share best practices about your product and help them learn about additional products and/or services. This prompts you to track engagement and gather behavioral data to further segment customers automatically, further personalizing the experience while delivering relevant and valuable communications.
Time-based triggers are a great feature that allows you to proactively communicate with your customers and enhance their experience. For example, if they haven’t logged into your app within the last 30 days, you can prompt them with an email, and then, based on their engagement (or lack thereof), you can segment them into a nurture campaign designed to improve product adoption or guide them through strategy recommendations. Or if a customer happens to visit your online support forum, you can follow up to make sure the customer received answers, and you can make yourself available as a resource.
The customer feedback loop is your proverbial ear to the ground—take advantage of it to identify your biggest fans, determine who’s frustrated, and solve problems quickly. Acknowledging your customers’ concerns and taking action to solve their issues shows that you care about them and their experiences.
How do you achieve this with efficiency? Utilize surveys, social media listening, net promoter scores (NPS), and third-party review sites like Yelp and G2 Crowd to gather customer opinions. Analyze these insights by identifying patterns in their feedback and mapping solutions for their recurring issues.
In the modern age, your customers have distinct expectations. They want to be heard and taken care of, and their perception of your brand largely depends on how you achieve this through your marketing efforts.
While capturing qualified leads and guiding prospects through a compelling and immersive brand experience is certainly part of a successful marketing program, the primary focus should be on the bigger picture: the holistic omnichannel customer journey and the lifetime value of every single customer. They’re your most dependable source of revenue, but loyalty can be a fickle thing.
Provide a great customer experience, and you’ll experience great customers.