Marketing Automation

Small-Budget Marketing Ideas for the Holiday Season



Thanksgiving and Christmas will be upon us in no time and every self-respecting business will be sending out letters, greeting cards, emails or logo-stamped gifts. Direct marketing is one of the most fascinating branches of marketing. From the days of yore, it has made people talk, share and take action. With so many messages thrown at people throughout the day, direct marketing provides one of the least risky – and anticipated and accepted, if a bit interruptive – ways to connect with customers. I love creative mailers that come through my door. Some are thoughtful, some are clever, and some are downright cheeky. However, one common point amongst all these mailers is they are all prohibitively expensive for small businesses.

This is where small budget ideas come in. These ideas make it possible for small businesses to connect with their customers in surprisingly affordable and effective ways.

Holiday Vines

Vine set the precedent in making hastily-shot amateur videos all the rage. With Instagram and Periscope only confirming that video-clip marketing is here to stay, small businesses have an amazing opportunity to post a series of Vines leading up to Christmas and New Year. All you have to do is grab your smartphone and look around for cute and quirky opportunities to make a video.

Check out this cute and funny Vine made with zero dollars’ investment:

1 holiday vines

Embed Vine:

Take a look at the other videos on Christmas Channel – the channel that hosts the above video for more amazing ideas.

Top Tips

  • Share your Vines on other social platforms, especially Twitter and Facebook.
  • Embed links to your Vines on product pages on your website, blog posts, and email.
  • Make a series of Vines on a particular theme. For instance, think Harvey Nichols’ famous “I Spent it On Myself” commercial, break the idea into smaller videos – and you have a series!
  • Scour the app store for video editing apps that come with tons of effects to make your videos funny, creative and cool. Use these liberally.

Holiday Emails

2 holiday card

Inboxes are invariably flooded with the same old “formulaically creative” emails during holiday times. So the chances of your email being read are infinitely small.

But with a little proactive and out-of-the-box (we desperately need a more out-of-the-box word for out-of-the-box) thinking, you can ensure your holiday emails are read.

Top Tips

  • First things first – stop being stingy when it comes to photos. Say goodbye to the ubiquitous boring vector backgrounds and illustrations, and invest in high quality pictures; or better yet, hire a good photographer. Yes, this still counts as “small-budget.” You can borrow creative “ideas” instead of “images” – Pinterest is an excellent source of inspiration.
  • If you are short on time, try online email creators. They are intuitive and easy to use, and you are done in minutes. Plus they come with a lot of beautiful, seasonal templates and forms, so you can create highly engaging emails with designer-like finesse. Most likely, your email marketing suite has such features too.
  • Don’t leave it for too late – start emailing at least weeks in advance.
  • Include creatively modified photos of your staff for more personalized email greetings. Other than being great for employees’ morale, it also lends a face and identity to your company.

3 merry christmas

Web Banners

Turn the banners on your homepage and category pages into online billboards. The banner or slider on your homepage is the first thing your visitors notice, so it makes sense to create one specifically for holiday season. Personalized card and gift item retailer is known for putting out banners with timely messages relevant to upcoming events, days or seasons.

4 web banner

More effective than just banners are entire landing pages with customized elements, each of which appeals to customers’ holiday moods. You can do this (without much coding) using DIY ecommerce platforms such as Spaces, which allows you to create product pages or even single-page websites with mobile-optimized, easy-to-A/B-test banners that give you more room for creativity while showcasing your merchandise.

If all your DIY or in-house efforts fail, you can always fall back on community-powered design marketplaces like 99Designs to not only get yourself a customized banner but pick and choose from dozens of entries submitted by the community.


In perfecting your means, don’t forget your message. Content marketing still remains the #1 small-budget marketing medium. Done right on your email and social media, and especially on your blog, content allows you to drive traffic to your business.

However, you need to start early. Create indirect branded content (including infographics) on holiday themes, such as:

  • X Things You Can Fill in That Dog Christmas Stocking (for a pet food company)
  • X Original Setups to Capture Awesome Christmas Selfies (for a camera or smartphone company)
  • Why Santa Is Going To Pay Us an Extended Visit This Year (for anyone to share their annual success stories)

Send teasers through emails and share them on social networks from at least a month before, while there is still ample chance for them to be read.

Smart Gifts

5 success kid meme

Though content and email marketing have proven to be highly effective ways of marketing, it is always a good idea to send out physical gifts during holidays.

But you need to think beyond personalized pens to logo-engraved mugs – there never seems to be a shortfall of such boring “corporate” gifts.

And what’s more, these gifts are just that – gifts. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could take on the festivities with more smart (read eco-friendly) and creative ideas for direct marketing (without the overwhelming expenses, of course)?

So here’s a thoughtful gift idea for which clients and customers will remember you for a long time:

Costing just around $2, plantable paper can make awesome gifts to help your customers stay focused on their goals. Simply send a letter with the plantable or seed paper (with your own custom messages such as “Hope our association grows stronger by the day!”) that explains the concept of your gift and how to use it, and you are done!

Plantable papers are available in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Australia and many other countries, so it shouldn’t be difficult to get hold of it.

6 plantable paper

The best part about such gifts is you can follow up with timely cross-sells or reports and cement your relationship in the process.

Over to You

The new truth of marketing is that no single channel is enough these days. You cannot say with conviction that you’ll be successful just by milking a channel you’re good at, whether it’s email, social or television ads. You need to create a multi-channel marketing mix with all the ingredients perfectly mixed together to create awesome holiday season campaigns.

With mega-sale days just round the corner, don’t waste much time – start experimenting with as many guerilla-budget campaigns as you can. Like, now!


Final Warning: Big Data & Programmatic Are No Longer Optional


Marketers can no longer ignore the importance of programmatic advertising - it's time to incorporate this into your marketing strategies.

If you are spending more than $5,000 per month on advertising, then it’s time to wise up. And for anyagency, especially creative, this is even more critical. Plainly said, programmatic advertising is an absolute must in your portfolio of skills and marketing efforts.


Forget about pixels, cookies, real-time bidding (RTB), and all the tech talk behind programmatic and instead think "smart advertising." I think the easiest way to define programmatic is basically this: serving an ad that has the best chance of being relevant, timely, and click-worthy for your intended audience. Essentially it’s matching the user’s behavior with your spending and targeting plans.

Big Data's Day

For all of you questioning "big data," this is yet another example of how our world is irreversibly changed toward mainstream adoption of it – and big data’s clear success. Retargeting, predictive lead scoring, big data, and programmatic platforms are creating the winners in nearly all categories of online retail, B2B, and services verticals. Harness programmatic (and its data) and win, or ignore it and fail…possibly to the detriment of major market share.

Related Class: How To Create a Data-Driven Culture

Let’s take a simple example:

Dumb Marketing: We can decide to spend $50,000 around the concept of "Digital Marketing Training" as our focus root keyword, and see what our click-through rate (CTR) and conversion rates are. This is akin to the old billboard on the highway…hoping we can catch the right person to notice us.

Smart Marketing: OR find some really targeted sites that fit our user persona of "agency digital marketing leaders," with users that have shown interest in learning digital marketing – and get the best price possible for that user we’re targeting. Then we optimize on the fly based on our CTR and conversion rates. Now, we’re serving the ad based on intent, profile of driver, and ultimately the person behind that wheel.

As you can see, you are likely to spend a lot less, for much higher conversion rates, simply because you are using data on users to give them the right ad at the right time. Not only does it give you much higher return – it will actually save you money in the form of advertising dollars.

How to Get Over the Learning Curve

Really, it’s not actually that hard. And if taken as an incremental improvement to your existing ads, social, and content marketing efforts, you’ll find it much easier to bite off.

  1. First, think old-school direct marketing. Direct in the sense that you can simply pick your most profitable target audience, and segment campaigns and messaging for those folks.
  2. Second, map back to your content marketing plan, where you’re already thinking about how your blog posts, tweets, Facebook posts, and the variations of your big content efforts (e.g. a big e-book download) manifest. You just need to add the layer of ad creative and ad text for these audiences. Frequency of social media pushes should help here.
  3. Last, think hard about how you want to measure success. Consider a good attribution model and how this fits in. Is it awareness you’re looking for? Impressions to the right audience can, alone, be hugely valuable. Is it building your cookie pool and getting them to your site for an interesting page of content? Is it capturing a lead for good list-building, or are you really trying to go for the direct sale? If the last, keep in mind how many touches it will take to get there.

With some clear goals, simple iterations of existing content efforts, and a little forethought around direct marketing segmentation, programmatic big data nirvana will be well within reach, even if this is completely new territory for you.

programmatic ad

Start simple and then improve and adjust over time, as you track results. And yes, this can get very interesting, and very complex fast… so if you get excited about exploring those possibilities then dive right in – and if not, start by sourcing it to your agency, platform provider, or even a new hire. It will pay off.


How To Build a Solid Foundation for Marketing Automation


There is a growing buzz around marketing automation and the results it can deliver for businesses. But what few people realize is that effective implementation, and subsequent success, is determined by many more factors than the technology alone. There are a number of key foundations that need to be in place first, to support the roll-out of a marketing automation platform.

marketing automation

Marketing Transformation Before Marketing Automation

Don’t try to fix a broken process with marketing automation - it won't work. A complete overhaul of your marketing strategy is necessary to achieve the results you want.

Just to give an example, many marketing teams struggle to provide the sales team with good quality leads through their marketing efforts, and a lot of the time, the handing over of leads to sales is all manual (due to not having an integrated email and CRM system), which is obviously very time consuming and inefficient. Many of these marketing teams then look at automation as a solution to their lead problems. WRONG!

Process is Key to Success

In order to convert more leads, you first need a solid process in place to attract more leads, which doesn’t mean buying email lists. That doesn’t count as lead generation – it’s called spam!

Automation will certainly make things easier, and will improve efficiency regardless of your foundation. But this alone will not allow you to achieve your overall goals as a business.

Related Class: Demand Generation: Sales and Marketing Alignment

In order for your marketing automation to really flourish, your content must be valuable to your audience, highly personalized and targeted to an engaged database. Sending your database irrelevant or uninteresting content is just wasted time. Get your content right first by finding out what your customers want, and delivering just that.

Hunch Based Marketing

At most companies, the marketing department is working from an outdated playbook when it comes to their marketing efforts - back when sales was still in control of the buying process.

Batch and blast, hunch based marketing is a thing of the past. Highly targeted, persona based marketing is the future!

Related Class: Building a Digital Persona to Drive Strategy

If you want to utilize marketing automation effectively, you need to ensure that your content is aimed at the right people. The only way to do this is through clearly defining your ideal buyer persona(s).

Your buyer persona, in layman's terms, is basically a stereotype (so to speak) of what your typical customer looks like. You can read more about buyer personas and how to create one in this blog.

marketing automation fundamentals

Persona based marketing allows you to accurately target your audience with the most relevant content, offers and services. This also gives you a clear insight into what they are interested in most, where they spend their time online and when they are there. This kind of information is the bread and butter of most modern day marketers and is vital for achieving success with your marketing automation platform.

To find out more about marketing automation, check out this class: Marketing Automation Strategy for Full Lifecycle Management. You'll find more tips and advice for starting out on the right foot when you implement a marketing automation strategy.



Mapping Out Your Marketing Automation Strategy


If you’re on a road trip, you started at point A with the goal of getting to Point B. If it’s a long road trip, you may make a few stops here and there, stay the night, and see some sights. Your stops break up the long drive and expose you to new (hopefully) educational experiences along the way. That is what makes a road trip fun, right?

marketing automation map

But, before you start out on your adventure, you should probably map out your journey and all the stops in between. Mapping out your journey before you leave keeps you on track to your destination. In this way, a road trip is a lot like marketing automation. Marketing automation gets a lead and/or customer from point A to point B, using specific content pieces that act as stops along the journey – the customer journey that is.

Rules of the Road

Just like you don’t want to stray (too far) from your route in a car, you also don’t want your leads and customer to stray to one of your competitors. You want to make sure that your leads and customers stay consistently engaged with your brand. Marketing automation helps you get the right content in front of the right person at the right time.

Thankfully, marketing automation software exists to help you map out and manage your lead’s journey from the moment they first come in contact with your brand to the moment they become a paying customer and beyond.

So, let’s explore the different ways that you can start implementing marketing automation today.

#1:  Visualize Your Customer

Not everyone wants to take the same road trip, or make the same stops. This is true, too, for your leads and customers. It is important to understand that your buyers want and need different things. This is where buyer personas come in handy.

By establishing buyer personas, you can get a better idea of the type of content they want and where they want it. Not every customer is going to want your newsletter; some may prefer to get their content via Twitter, Facebook, your blog, and so on. Leads are also at different stages of the buying cycle so the content they receive should reflect that as well.

Related Class: Demand Generation: Understanding Your Audience

Don’t just write out your buyer personas. Instead, illustrate who they are with images and descriptions. Having a visual representation of each persona also helps guide your content, so that you develop and publish content directed at each buyer. The more targeted content you create, the more likely the lead is to listen.

Check out my full blog post on creating buyer personas for more information.

marketing automation to funnel


  • Think about what types of questions each persona would ask. What issues are they trying to solve? If you already have content that speaks to your different personas at each level of the buying process, then repurpose that in your automation. If not, start to develop content surrounding each persona and their respective questions.
  • Develop an organizational chart that categorizes your content with your personas. This will make things a lot easier when mapping out your automation and the journey that each persona takes.

#2:  Visualize Their Road Trip

Now, it’s time to actually visualize the trip your personas are taking. An example:

It isn’t just enough to say that one person skis, and the rest snowboard. Some of your friends are coming from LA and San Diego, while other are coming from across the country. This not only plays into who they are, but also makes a huge difference in how they get to the end destination, Mammoth.

So, how does this translate to marketing automation? Easy. There are a number of ways that a person comes into contact with your brand, but also a difference in how they receive your messaging. Just as I mentioned earlier, some may prefer email newsletters, while others want to engage with you socially. The point of the matter is that you need to make it easy for each of your leads to take the path they want towards conversion.

Related Class: Introductory Overview of Digital Marketing Channels

It’s at this point where you’ll want to draw out your map or your funnel and marketing automation strategy.

Things to think about:

  • Signup forms and landing pages: The more landing pages the better. Each landing page should be relevant to what the lead clicked on to get there. If you promised a special promotion, do not send them to your homepage. Make each landing page contextual, so it gives them a reason to signup for more information. Landing pages can be used for PPC campaigns, specials, events, and pretty much any targeted message that triggers some sort of action.
  • Drip campaigns and auto-responders: Drip campaigns can be triggered by clicks, signups, SMS campaigns, inbound phone calls, and much more, while auto-responders are specific to particular signup forms. The two can work simultaneously, but you have to make sure that you understand the difference first.
  • Number of emails in your series: Think about what a new lead is going to want to read or view. Don’t make the series too long, nor too short. You want to keep them engaged, but not bore them to death. To optimize your drip campaigns, make sure each email has a focus, and answers a question or provides a solution to a problem.
  • Amount and types of content needed: Just as I expressed before, your leads come in all different shapes and sizes, and so should your content. Whether it’s emails, webinars, blog posts, or social media updates, you should be utilizing each medium to ensure that you are touching people at every stage, and effectively guiding them towards their end destination…the sale!

Once you have decided where your leads come from, you can start to map out how they move through their respective customer journeys. This is where you actually draw out, perhaps like a web, the map of where your leads come from, where they are going, and how they are getting there. It is important to keep in mind all their different starting points. Because they all start out in different places, they will take different paths.

Interested in learning more? Check out this class, Marketing Automation Strategy for Full Lifecycle Management, to explore strategies across many channels and platforms, so you can reach your leads where they want to engage.


The 4 P’s of a Successful Marketing Automation Program


I’m a big fan of marketing automation, don’t get me wrong. At Anvil, we champion the use of marketing automation, particularly to our B2B clients. Unfortunately, our own internal use of a marketing automation platform has shed light on major misconceptions regarding its potential power. At the heart of the myth, is that marketing automation technology will boost your sales and save your business. In fact, marketing automation platforms are only 25% of the equation, if that. I’ve outlined four “P”s of a successful marketing automation program to help set the record straight.


While this may seem obvious to some, people are at the heart of successful marketing automation programs. The best marketing automation platforms in the world are useless without someone competent to manage them. As such, it is essential to find a reliable internal hire with sufficient relevant experience and talent to build, manage and optimize campaigns. Unfortunately, experienced marketing automation professionals are in short supply. In lieu of relevant marketing automation platform experience, look for individuals with sales automation, email or database marketing experience. Even if you manage to find good talent, it can be beneficial to tap specialized agencies and vendors to guide platform selection, implementation and management.

More important than a solid marketing automation team, is the support of the executive management and sales team. Without buy-in from the top, sales team culture typically eschews technology and technically-oriented support teams. The VP or Director of Sales must be a champion of marketing automation and build an incentive system that encourages proactive response to marketing automation leads. One of my clients’ VP of Sales blamed marketing for soft sales numbers, despite their ability to prove his sales team was not following up on qualified leads. In that case, the CEO would need to get involved to ensure alignment between sales and marketing teams.

Related Class: Demand Generation: Sales and Marketing Alignment


Process is the second-most misunderstood and under-valued component of a successful marketing automation campaign. Without a well-defined process, even the best people will fall short of their goals. In the above example of a client with misaligned sales and marketing teams, we evaluated their marketing automation platform, process and content. We found their use of the platform was fairly solid, but they lacked process. This created inconsistency across campaigns which in turn, impacted results. Ensure your marketing automation team creates a set of processes around content creation, campaign management and lead flow to the sales team. This typically requires training, proactive management, measurement and refinement at regular intervals.

Related Class: The Framework: Demand Generation Analytics and Measurement


So you’ve hired a solid marketing automation team, developed a process for management and flow of leads. Don’t pat yourself on the back too soon. The third and most important component of a successful marketing automation campaign is promotional content. No marketing automation campaign can work without content. Your marketing automation team needs to collaborate with sales, marketing and customer support to develop compelling promotional materials that generate interest and action. Start with an overall promotional strategy that maps out content for every stage of the buying cycle, then develop and refine based on campaign performance.

Related Class: How to Build a Lead Nurture Campaign


Now that we’ve addressed the three most critical components of marketing automation, we can talk about the platform. The reason I believe the platform is least important is because there are a variety of solutions that can meet your needs and can be set up relatively quickly. On the lower-end of cost, platforms like HubSpot and Act-on are sufficiently powerful and intuitive. Mid-range providers like Pardot and Marketo require a bit more training and customization. On the upper-end, Eloqua and SAP require significant investment and commitment. While there is no such thing as a marketing automation program without a platform, the technology is only an enabler, not the solution itself.

Don’t let yourself get dazzled by the slick marketing from marketing automation platform providers. Focus on building a team of People, create a streamlined Process and develop compelling Content before worrying about the technology Platform and you’ll be more successful with your marketing automation program. For more information, request a copy of Anvil's Marketing Automation Cheat Sheet.

For more on how to create an effective marketing automation program, marketers need to learn how to reach customers across multiple channels. In this Online Marketing class, Marketing Automation for Full Lifecycle Managementyou will learn how to implement a strong marketing automation strategy to manage and plan effectively, while keeping prospects and customers engaged across a variety of platforms.


How A/B Testing Strategies Can Help You Make Better Decisions


A Q&A with Chris Goward, Author of "You Should Test That!"

This week, we are sitting down with Chris Goward, the author of "You Should Test That!", a book that teaches the processes, frameworks and techniques of scientific marketing to make better decisions and achieve industry-leading results. Featuring case studies of real tests plus many more examples of how companies are succeeding and failing in their websites and their marketing, we're eager to learn more.

What’s the premise behind your book, “You Should Test That!” ?

Too many businesses still use antiquated methods for decision-making with their marketing. They seek out so-called “best practices”, copy competitors tactics, and redesign their websites without A/B testing, to name just a few examples. I wanted to write a book that would provide a dose of inspiration in the new scientific marketing discipline as well as practical processes and frameworks marketers can apply directly to their marketing strategy. It really does contain detail on a lot of the methods WiderFunnel uses to consistently achieve winning results for our clients.

You’ve become a regular speaker at the top online marketing conferences. How did you get into conversion optimization?

I’ve always questioned current ways of doing things. In the early to mid 2000’s, I wondered why marketers accepted the status quo where ad agencies used their clients’ budgets to create self-serving campaigns aimed solely at winning awards for cleverness. I couldn’t understand why digital agencies were creating websites that ignored direct response principles and really couldn’t be more than poor copies of the old TV world.

I left the agency world in 2007 to create WiderFunnel based on the belief that agencies should prove their value. Since then, we’ve been running thousands of A/B tests on hundreds of websites across all industries to discover consistent persuasion and user experience principles that maximize companies’ online profits.

Related Class: Integrating SEM, Testing, and Analytics for Improved ROI

What are the biggest mistakes you see marketers making today?

There are so many!

  • Implementing the latest “tips & tricks” they see on blog posts. I’ve already said many times why tactical marketing tips and “best practices” don’t work. The problem is that they ignore your unique business context.
  • Consensus decision-making.
  • Getting stuck behind organizational barriers. I’ve seen turf battles, silos and competing priorities hamstring some very promising potential A/B tests.
  • Acting on usability testing or other qualitative methods to make website changes without testing those insights. I’ve covered before, the many reasons that usability testing alone is not reliable.
  • Testing too conservatively.
  • Not prioritizing effort correctly and wasting time optimizing inconsequential areas.
  • Using “before & after” testing rather than correct controlled test methods.
  • Drawing conclusions from inconclusive data. Often, it’s difficult for the conversion champion to hold off the pressure to make decisions without enough data.
  • Taking advice from “experts” who don’t do a ton of testing. If their primary business isn’t testing, testing and more testing, where is their advice coming from? You might be surprised at how little testing some of the industry’s pre-eminent figures actually do.
  • Over-emphasizing optimization tool selection before developing a strategy and process for optimization. Tools don’t solve marketing problems. Smart marketers with great strategy and ideas do.

What are the biggest challenges businesses face in adopting marketing optimization as a strategy?

I’ve been running an ongoing poll of marketers asking a similar question since 2012.

Interestingly, in 2012, most respondents said they faced resistance within their organization for conducting testing. This year, that’s the least likely challenge. Companies now know conversion optimization needs to be prioritized and there’s senior-level support for the strategy.

The biggest challenges marketers face in 2014 are in getting great results from their program. They either don’t have staff with deep testing experience, don’t have a reliable process, or face technical barriers. So, it’s good to see the market evolving to having support for the strategy. Now, the challenges are more about how to get consistent results.

eConsultancy did their own survey of companies doing conversion optimization and found that those who reported having a “structured approach” to their program were twice as likely to see large increases in sales. The disciplined, rigorous process alone determines a great deal of the success.

Related Class: eCommerce Testing to Dramatically Lift Sales 

What are your favorite website elements to test?

Really, I like any testing any area that gets results. And, that can be different for every website depending on where the conversion barriers are. Every website design, structure and target audience is slightly different. Some companies are adopting WiderFunnel’s PIE Framework for prioritizing tests to answer this question based on their unique context.

That being said, however, we’re having a lot of success this year adding the “Evolutionary Site Redesign” strategy to conversion optimization for our clients.

It’s a strategy any (and I believe every) company should use. Essentially, it means we’re testing the site-wide website templates in a methodical way. It results in a redesigned website without the risks of traditional “flip the switch” epic redesign. Using A/B testing of the overall design elements, companies are finding sometimes huge revenue improvements from improved navigation, information architecture, design credibility, merchandising, etc. and the resulting design changes can be just as dramatic.

In this class, 10 A/B Test Studies, you’ll encounter 10 such tests and can guess which page won. The answers will surprise you and the knowledge you’ll gain about how to conduct these tests and what makes some pages better than others will make you a more effective marketer.   


K.I.S.S. This Marketing Automation Strategy


Why is marketing automation a trend that businesses can’t afford to ignore? See the results for your own business. It starts with a marketing automation strategy that addresses the basics—audience, goals, and activities.

Marketing automation is “so hot right now.” According to VentureBeat, “the adoption of marketing automation tools has increased by 50% year over year since 2010, and is expected to keep rising at that same rate at least until 2015.”

For businesses, it has the potential to improve productivity, personalize communications, nurture contacts, close the conversion loop, and more. Take these industry stats as examples of its promise:

  • CMOs indicate increased revenue (79%) and higher quality leads (76%) as their most compelling reasons to implement marketing automation (Gleanster, 2013)
  • B2B marketers who implement marketing automation see a 10% increase in sales-pipeline contribution (Forrester Research, via Eloqua, 2014)
  • Organizations using marketing automation see 53% higher marketing qualified lead (MQL) conversion rates and 3.1% greater annualized revenue growth rate than non-users (Arberdeen Group, 2012)
  • Marketing automation high performers (those who rank marketing automation as an asset), have an average lead-to-sale conversion rate 1.6 times higher and a cost of customer acquisition (COCA) 1.4 times stronger than their counterparts (PR 20/20, 2013)
  • Organizations using marketing automation indicated better reporting, specifically insight into multi-channel attribution (36%), compared to companies with no automation (11%) (The Lenskold and Pedowitz Groups, 2013)
  • Marketing automation drives a 14.5% increase in sales productivity and a 12.2% reduction in marketing overhead (Nucleus Research, 2012)

Yet, to be successful (and to not make a mess of multiple personas receiving automatic workflows, social updates, and emails), marketers must work an airtight marketing automation strategy. Sound daunting? Take a breath. The key is to start simple. 

Marketing Automation: Keep It Simple and Strategic

By its nature, marketing automation involves many moving pieces—contact forms, downloadable content, lead scoring, CRM integration, and more. It’s easy to get caught up in the minutia, to say the least. Managing multiple campaigns demands a firm grasp on overarching goals, audiences, and activities.

Related Class: Marketing Automation Best Practices

Marketing Automation Goals

Keep end goals in mind when designing automated campaigns—what do you want to achieve and how will you measure success?

In doing so, tie automation strategy to key performance indicators (KPIs). Consider the following to get started:

  • Contact volume. Automation ideally helps marketers manage greater lead and customer volume. Therefore, keep a continual pulse on how many contacts, leads, prospects, and customers are at different points in the sales cycle.
  • Conversions. If your goal is to better move contacts through the customer journey, track progress to identify accelerators and bumps in the road. Consider how campaigns impact MQLs, sales qualified leads (SQLs), and VIPs. Are campaigns better qualifying leads, improving the marketing to sales handoff, or helping nurture top customers, leads, and partners?
  • Engagement. Track engagement (i.e., opens, clicks, shares) to identify the messages and content that resonate best with your audiences, and to identify active contacts with the potential to be brand advocates.

Automate for Audiences and Individuals

Next, using your goals as a guide, determine your most important audiences when it comes to marketing automation. Also, ask honestly, do you know enough about contacts to do a good job personalizing communications?

Automate for personas, and eventually individuals, using the following tips:

  • Define an ideal customer journey and end goal for each persona.
  • Think about the customer experience—per persona and individual. Determine whether contacts can be enrolled in multiple automated campaigns simultaneously, and if so, ensure it's a seamless experience. You don’t want them receiving duplicate content if participating in more than one campaign.

Buddy Up to Automated Activities

If asked to describe the standard workflow for a new contact, could you explain touch-points, timing, offers, and goals? You have to own this, and know what’s going on.

In tho Online Marketing Institute class, "Building a Digital Persona to Drive Strategy",  you will learn how to be the company that you yourself would buy from. It is essential to stay active in educating and empowering your target audience. Enroll today to learn the necessary tools for marketing automation success.



What You Never Knew About Repeat Customers (and What to Do Now)


A user who buys from your site once is a first-time customer. When this first-time customer comes to your site for a second time and makes a purchase, she becomes a returning customer. And if she comes back over and over again to buy from you, she is termed a repeat customer – the bee’s knees of all customers!

Many retailers, startups, and service providers still seem to need convincing on the value of a repeat customer and pour most of their resources into new client acquisition. If you’re one of them and “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” doesn’t seem to ring true to you, here’s a humble attempt (backed by data and research) to sell you on the idea.

Repeat Customers Spend More Than First-Time Customers

The fact that repeat customers have bought more than once from your store probably puts them at a higher lifetime sales and revenue number than a brand new customer who’s just bought once from you.

Bain & Co. studied the online shopping habits of 522 users and found that in the apparel category, a given shopper’s fifth purchase was 40 percent larger than his or her first purchase, and the 10th purchase was a whopping 80 percent larger in value than his or her first one.


Research by Adobe shows that average revenue per visit increases exponentially with each repeat visit, and repeat customers already account for significant chunks of revenue for online businesses worldwide.

·       41 percent of total online revenue in the U.S. (even though only 8 percent of U.S. customers are repeat customers)

·       26 percent of total online revenue in Europe

·       16 percent of total online revenue in the U.K.

Repeat Customers Are Less Price Sensitive

Most of us assume that all online shoppers are typically bargain hunters and will switch services for the teeny-tiniest drop in prices. While this does remain true in the case of first-time shoppers, once a customer has had a few good experiences shopping with you, price stops being such a big issue.

To test this statement, John Dawes from the University of South Australia conducted a study among long-tenured and short-tenured customers of an insurance company to see how they responded to pricing changes (in their premium amounts in this case). Dawes found that customers from the long-tenure group (i.e., customers who have been with the company for a long period of time) were half as sensitive to a change in price as compared to a newer customer.

This is a very important characteristic that allows you to make pricing decisions based on the length of your relationship with your customers.

Repeat Customers Are Your Most Staunch Brand Advocates

We all like to be regarded as “Walking Wikipedias” by our friends and family. It’s basic human psychology. Respect from peers makes us feel good. When we stumble upon something that we like, we tend to share it with our friends to gain their approval – a result of this behavior is the social media phenomenon that has engulfed the planet over the last decade.

Once customers have used your services a few times and had no problems with it, the likelihood of them spreading a good word about your business goes up exponentially. Without any effort from your end, a satisfied repeat customer will happily tell their social circle about how wonderful your product/service is and how they had a great experience with you. Certain industries like technology and restaurants enjoy higher levels of advocacy than others; but in general, having a customer “market” your brand for you free of cost is the most utopian scenario for any business owner.



Related Class: Inside the Mind of a Social Influencer

Repeat Customers Lead to Lower Marketing Spends

This might seem a little counterintuitive to you. Here I’m telling you why you need to focus your marketing efforts on existing customers, while in the same breath I’m telling you that repeat customers reduce your marketing spend.

Well, it’s simple. Once a customer has shopped with you a few times, that person requires a lot less convincing to come back to your store and shop again. The award-winning textbook Marketing Metrics says that the probability of making a repeat customer buy a product are between 60-70 percent, whereas the chances a new customer will buy your product range between 5-20 percent.

Boston Consulting Group carried out a study where it found that the cost of marketing to existing customers is about $7 whereas the marketing cost per new customer averages at around $34.

Less convincing required = less marketing expenditure.

Now That You Know...

So hopefully you’ve abandoned your bush-chase and are considering marinating the bird in hand. Here are a few tangible, sales-focused ideas on how to keep the joy of retention going and customers coming back.

1. Know your customers. Be obsessive about data. Collect every actionable data point with respect to the transactional and behavioral aspects of your customers, mine data submitted by customers on forms, and ask them to update their profiles to give you a better idea of who your customer is.

Use readily available CRM tools to analyze the data and identify patterns from it, and take relevant action to keep the customer sticky. There are advanced e-commerce tools (such as Shopify) available now that help integrate your CRM process with your point of sale software for synchronized online and offline operations.

2. Make someone accountable for retention. Most organizations have teams and clear responsibility flows for the key functions that keep the business going. Now that we recognize and acknowledge that retaining customers is important and a full-time job, get a team or at least a dedicated staff member to manage customer retention for your business, full-time. This will do three things:

·       It will create a sense of accountability in the team/person and they will take customer retention seriously.

·       It will force the organization to set aside a respectable budget for customer retention.

·       It will ensure your repeat customers get the pampering they deserve with someone working ‘round the clock on keeping these valuable folks coming back to you.

3. Set up a loyalty program that rewards repeat purchases. Having a dedicated loyalty program is like having a readymade market for your future sales. It could be in the form of reward points that can be exchanged for future purchases, it could be discounts on future purchases based on past purchase activity, or it could be tangible things like free products bundled with a paid purchase.

Loyal customers do not just buy more from you; they buy less from your competitors. In a study by Zendesk, 54 percent of customers said they would increase the amount of business they do with a company in return for loyalty rewards. Forty-six percent claimed to have already done that.

The airline and credit card industries have purified the concept of building successful loyalty programs into a fine art.

4. Let repeat customers be the first to know. Whenever you come up with a new product, event, or distribution channel, make sure you inform your repeat customers before the launch. Prep them to spend on the upcoming event and you have a ready sales funnel waiting for you. Offline retailers do a great job of this with exclusive preview sales for customers who are members of their loyalty programs.

5. Create referral schemes. We spoke earlier about how people enjoy being perceived as disseminators of valuable information among their peers. A referral program feeds into this need for people to be seen as offering value. The Zendesk study mentioned above also substantiates this fact – 78 percent of loyal customers spread the word about their favorite brand and influence others into trying it, too.

When a repeat customer refers a friend to buy from you, reward both parties – the customer who did the referring as well as his or her friends who bought from you via the referral, a la Dropbox.

6. Explore subscription programs if it suits your line of business. The benefit of subscription commerce is that you only have to spend once to lock in the customer for a set of repeat purchases. The amount spent on customer acquisition is well covered in the price, and the model ensures that the customer does not lapse before a pre-defined period of time.

JustFab and Dollar Shave Club are great examples of successful subscription e-commerce models.

Over to You

With so much data available in support of customer retention, you would think companies would be falling all over each other to pamper existing customers. But in reality, this is how global marketing spends are currently skewed:

Source: McKinsey

Just about 12 percent of marketing budgets are dedicated to customer retention. If repeat customers are such an important part of your business, shouldn’t you focus a lot more on how to keep them happy and shopping with you for as long as possible?

The numbers are right here in front of you!

For more on how to implement customer-centric marketing, watch the Online Marketing Institute class, Four Ways Marketers Can Be Customer Centric


Marketing Automation’s Digital Body Language Optimizes Lead Engagement


Modern marketing is all about using technology to more efficiently and effectively produce revenue.  Tapping into the “digital body language” of a lead interacting with a company’s content (websites, outbound emails, forms, etc.) provides a reservoir of opportunity for optimizing many marketing efforts.

Digital body language is the compilation of the digital activity produced by an individual as he or she interacts with your content. At a fundamental level, it is transactional data that is captured by marketing automation software. The data – which many times is referred to as an implicit profile – is captured by tracking scripts that are placed on a company’s owned websites and transmitted emails. Email opens, clicks, or forwards, website and blog visits, and Google searches are examples of activity that produce quantifiable digital body language.

Analyzing the digital body language data within the marketing automation tool accelerates leads through the buying cycle by giving you the opportunities to engage the leads. When leads see value in the information they are interacting with, their needs are being met and their questions are being addressed. Marketing automation software facilitates the alignment of leads’ needs by automatically routing leads to receive optimal messages – content – based on digital body language.

As leads interact with categorized content, their activity is analyzed and their digital body language is observed. Content (including whitepapers, web pages, and blog posts) can be categorized on factors like need, persona, and buying cycle and then tagged within the marketing automation software. As leads engage with the tagged content, the marketing automation software watches the interaction, “showing” various implicit perspectives of the leads (e.g., needs, persona, and buying cycle).

Related Class: Marketing Automation Fundamentals for Customer Engagement

Once interest is “shown,” leads can be segmented. Segmenting on this implicit profile, as well as explicit data points like company size and job role, significantly optimizes lead flow and conversion. Segmented leads can be engaged through a variety of marketing programs that have been set up previously. Examples of programs could include nurture campaigns, webinars, email updates, and website ads powered by tools like AdFocus and Bizo.

The more finite the segmenting, the better the lead engagement. Conversely: the more finite the segmentation, the more effort involved in the setup. Starting at a macro level and moving to a more granular level produces immediate results that can be improved on over time.

As leads engage with content, their digital body language provides insights into how they are moving along the buying cycle, when they are ready to be turned over to the sales organization, and even where they are “stuck” in the buying cycle. Through the marketing automation software’s logic and monitoring capabilities, modern marketers can systemically watch what leads are interested in and can continue the conversation based on those specific interests.

Looking to implementing an effective lead scoring program can help you see which leads are most active and, more importantly, which of them are ready for a sale? Tune in to Mary Wallace's Online Marketing Institute's class, Lead Scoring Program Fundamentals. Enroll today to learn how to adopting a lead scoring program results in a faster and more effective sales process and ultimately, open up more revenue opportunities for your business.



How to Stop Leads from Leaking Out of Your Sales Funnel


leaky sales funnel

In our final installment on how to develop and nurture sales-ready qualified leads (here is the last post on multi-touch email & teleprospecting), we will look at a second case study where a firm successfully incorporated a multi-touch, multi-channel marketing approach to boost sales. However, this case study is quite different than the previous B2B case study featured the glove manufacturer.

B2B Case Study: How a Software Optimization Company Stopped Warm Leads from Dropping Out of the Funnel

The product is a complex technology sale and required more fine-tuning of the strategy and tactics as the campaign progressed, as you’ll see in this case study.

The client, XYZ Software (not the real name), is a large wide-area network (WAN) software optimization company. The sales process for this category of product is complex—and not made any easier by the fact that XYZ sells to IT professionals at medium to large firms, who are extremely busy and difficult to reach. The pain point for these professionals is slow-running networks, but isolating the network speed issue is often difficult and easily trumped by daily fire-fighting situations that demand immediate attention. As a result, IT professionals may be so busy that they do not realize how poorly their network is performing until it goes down.

RELATED CLASS: How to Setup a Lead Management Process

XYZ Software had been focused on top-of-funnel marketing with email campaigns, webinars, pay-per-click (PPC), lunch-and-learn events and trade shows. As is often the case, there was no mid-funnel process in place for tele-qualifying inbound leads or generating pre-qualified sales opportunities. This resulted in a large number of unqualified “warm” suspect leads in the top of the sales funnel that either dropped out of the funnel or remained in the funnel without further attempts to qualify them. Consequently, sales was not following up on the majority of leads because they were not pre-qualified to meet the sales-ready criteria. (Figure 1 illustrates XYZ’s situation perfectly.)

Figure 1: Low-Quality Leads from Marketing Tend To Drop Out of the Lead-to-Sales Funnel

Low-Quality Leads from Marketing Tend To Drop Out of the Lead-to-Sales Funnel

Source: Forrester Research

Step 1: Identify the Problem

XYZ called us in to diagnose and figure out how to turn more “warm” leads into sales-ready qualified prospects and turn more of those prospects into customers. As we did with ABC Glove Corporation, we first identified the problem. Then, in this case, we recommended a multi-touch, multi-channel lead nurturing program that integrated a tele-qualifying process owned by marketing.

a/b testsStep 2: A/B Test Two Offers

We tested two offers: a Gartner Magic Quadrant versus an on-demand webinar/seminar featuring a Gartner analyst. We also tested three lists: the house lead file, a rental list of the primary competitor’s customers, and a webinar/seminar attendee list. Later, as the program rolled out, we also included webinar attendees and inbound responders in the lead nurturing program.

As it turned out, both offers performed equally well, splitting nearly 50/50. All of the lists were productive, but because we tracked the metrics, we were able to determine that the webinar list outperformed the others.

Step 3: Track Attempts & Touches

We tracked the number of attempts to reach IT titles for each list. The number of touches required to convert a prospect into a sales-ready lead ranged from two to nine touches, with an average of 7.51. Please note this is significantly fewer touches than the 7-13+ touch range we have been saying are required. This is directly due to the recommended messaging and creative in a combination of multi-channel outbound marketing emails integrated with tele-qualification and tele-nurturing, which raises awareness and establishes a 1:1 personal relationship with the prospect. Webinar attendance outperformed the other outbound marketing techniques with an average of 2.5 touches from us, moving prospects through the buying process more quickly than other sources.

Step 4: Leverage Data to Improve Messaging

Because we were tracking all metrics, we were able to determine that the initial messaging wasn’t resonating with prospects the way XYZ thought it would. When conversion rates don’t manifest at a satisfactory rate fairly early, it’s time to make a refinement. We addressed this quickly, listening to prospects and revising the messaging to suit. We also provided more training to the tele-qualifiers, improving their product knowledge and teaching them different ways to overcome objections.

RELATED CLASS: Enterprise Sales Predictions: How to Use Big Data to Predict Sales & Increase Revenue

We also changed the messaging about XYZ’s prime competitor. Instead of talking about the competitor as such, we repositioned XYZ’s technology as a solution to problems encountered by users of the competition’s product—a subtle yet effective way to handle the objection and move the dialog forward in the qualification process.

Step 5: Conduct Live Follow Up With Relevant Content

As part of the lead nurturing program, the calling team followed up with prospects by sending relevant informational material such as white papers and case studies as well as invitations to on-demand webinars designed to refine the sequential touch points, improving the quantity and quality of dialogues with prospects. This peer-to-peer approach helped to establish a sequence of nurturing by educating prospects on the viability of XYZ’s offerings. Prospects then began to open up about their network problems, which made them more inclined to set up a consultation meeting with the field representative.

We cannot share the actual numbers that resulted from this lead development program, but we can say that the program is still in place at XYZ Software, and the competing company has experienced a loss of market share to XYZ as a result.

Key Finding: Marketing Must Tele-Qualify Warm Leads into Qualified Leads Before Passing to Sales

In summary, traditional outbound marketing programs are insufficient to develop and deliver sales-ready qualified leads to the sales funnel. Marketing must step up to the plate and take on the responsibility of tele-qualifying warm leads into qualified leads before passing these on tosales. This is a paradigm shift for marketing and will require marketing to justify the resources required to add multi-touch nurturing and tele-qualifying to its functions. It also means that marketing must become rigorous about tracking the metrics, because in these leaner times, nobody gets more budget until a strong case has been made for the ROI of such a step. The reward is a boost in qualified leads delivered to sales (making marketing of greater value to sales), and increased sales conversion rates (of value to everyone). Multi-touch, multi-channel programs represent a way for marketing to graduate from the position of being a necessary evil to become an essential and valued player on the corporate team.

Learn how to nurture more leads to qualified with an effective marketing automation program.

Watch Marketing Automation Best Practices for Success, and get expert advice to build your case for marketing automation, select the right solution, develop the right people with the right skills, and define your implementation strategy. Get instant access to this class now.