I recently bought a new car. I’ve purchased my last few cars from the same local dealership, but this time I was considering something different. I just wasn’t sure what. A sporty coupe? An SUV? A family sedan? Definitely not a minivan. This was not an impulse buy. Several evenings of Google searches helped me narrow my decision about make and model, what cool new vehicle tech I wanted, and finally decide on the car of my dreams before I called the dealership. Then all I needed to do was arrange a test drive and sign the papers. Easy.
My own recent car purchasing experience is not unlike that of many consumers that are making a major purchase. Today’s consumers do their own research online. 48% of consumers start their pre-purchase research with a search engine, according to Smart Insights. And according to research from Google, nearly two thirds of a customer’s purchase decision process is complete before ever contacting a supplier.
Sales has always been about relationships. After all, people buy from people they like and trust. What's different today is that, like my car shopping research, those buyer/seller relationships start online. The Internet makes pre-purchase research easy, and this shift in buyer behavior has changed the sales conversation as well as the technology required to identify qualified leads.
But simply getting more website visits isn’t enough. To improve their marketing and sales efforts, businesses need to capture data about the leads that are visiting their website and act on it. Marketing automation software integrated with a modern business website provides the insights that savvy companies need in order to connect with prospects earlier in their buying process and improve their inbound marketing and sales efforts by nurturing these prospects through their buying cycle.
A strong content marketing automation strategy consists of many moving parts:
Search-optimized and mobile-responsive website
Regular content creation, including blogs, eBooks, and video
Social media marketing and social monitoring
Lead-capture forms and landing pages
Marketing analytics and reporting
Here’s what a modern buyer journey looks like and how marketing automation plays an important role at each stage:
The buyer has a problem or question and is looking for answers. They do Google searches where they find links to content like articles, blogs, and videos that answer their questions – questions that, once upon a time, they would have needed to call a sales rep to answer.
At this stage, marketing automation built into the company’s website identifies the referral source of the visit and the keywords used. A tracking code stores information about the visitor’s activity and the data is used by the marketing automation platform to personalize future emails, target online advertising campaigns, and even update the website itself to display different information to each visitor based on their history.
The buyer has found a few answers to their question or several solutions to their problem and is now narrowing possible solutions. If it’s a simple fix, maybe they try a DIY solution. If the problem is more complex, perhaps a helpful planning guide or checklist can shorten their decision time.
A downloadable eBook may require a form submission where the user’s provided contact information is stored in a database and sales CRM. Then, a preset, automated workflow sends a series of scheduled emails that are personalized not only with the visitor’s name, but with specific content relevant to their interests.
The buyer has narrowed their selection to a few possible solutions that make the short list. They may be comparing specs, pricing, or even considering the pros and cons of a few potential vendors. Marketing automation can be set up to alert a sales rep that the visitor is a high-quality lead and worthy of a phone call.
While it is possible to cobble together a rudimentary marketing workflow using free website builders, blogging software, email marketing software, posting to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and free analytics software like Google Analytics, many industrial marketers struggle to efficiently integrate these disparate tools to carry out the process and report on results. An all-in-one marketing automation tool brings together all components necessary to easily conduct a fully functional online marketing campaign.