23 Jul

5 Ways Real Estate Agencies Can Use Marketing Automation

If you’re a real estate business that’s looking to build its presence on the web — but you don’t exactly know how to do so — then look no further than marketing automation.

Marketing automation tools will add a whole host of features to your marketing arsenal that no real estate business should have to do without. In this post, we’ll take a look at five of the top ways automation will benefit your real estate brand.

1. Elevate Local SEO Rankings

Are you tired of repeatedly Googling your target keywords, without ever seeing your website appear in the top 10 results? Have no fear: marketing automation is here to help.

Local SEO is a very difficult strategy to nail; several of the optimization techniques that take play big roles in global SEO aren’t nearly so relevant in local SEO, and vice versa. Here’s a look at the results of an analysis of local SEO ranking factors that Moz did.

Local-SEO-Ranking-Factors

Automation software will help you to better manage your local SEO campaign by doing things like:

  • Increasing social signals using techniques like content segmentation and automated social media profiles
  • Utilizing rich snippets to boost the relevancy of your content (like user-submitted property reviews)
  • Alerting you of ways to target local keywords in your published content (e.g. interlinking using specific keywords as anchor text or mixing in semantic terms &  phrases)
  • Monitoring ranking fluctuations as you implement new SEO strategies

Pardot, for instance, will list the keywords you’re targeting according to competition, average AdWords cost per click, etc., while providing you with comprehensive overviews of your historical ranking data. Most automation software come with similar tools.

2. Send Automated Texts to Leads

Once you’ve acquired phone number details from leads, you can create personalized automation workflows that will send tailored text messages to your leads, hands-free.

Here’s an example of a simple messaging automation. A lead is sent a personalized text message that notifies them of your latest real estate listings in their specific area.

Real-Estate-Automation

Let’s explain this automation in a little more detail. Say that you’re a London-based real estate agency.

A visitor has just signed up at your website, providing you with their contact information. The new lead is then committed to the automation system, where the lead’s activity on your site (the pages they visit, the listings they browse, the locations they view) is tracked and measured.

You discover that for the first few days since the initial interaction the lead browses properties around the Brentford area, a west London town. After 2-3 days, though, the lead’s activity dies down and he/she doesn’t visit your website again.

One way automation can help you revive this failed engagement is by sending the lead an SMS containing information about your newest listings. Moreover, because the system has been tracking the lead’s activity from day one, the text can be personalized to show listings specific to the Brentford area, which makes it much more likely that the lead will interact the message.

3. Create Sales Materials

Marketing automation software will make it easy for you to create and organized sales materials. You can create content like:

  • Lead magnets (e.g. property brochures, neighborhood reports, etc.)
  • Blogs to help you stay relevant in the industry and on top of search engines
  • State-of-the-industry white papaers
  • Social media posts
  • E-brochures and virtual tours for your newest properties

Furthermore, you’ll also be able to track the performance analytics of these various types of sales materials in detail. This allows you to see exactly what sort of content resonates best with your audience and what format converts the best.

4. Connect ROI with Digital Marketing Strategy

Often times in small businesses (this isn’t a problem that hits real estate agencies alone), there’s a big disconnect between marketing strategy and ROI. With most basic analytics platforms, the most you’re able to do is track page visits, form fills, conversions, etc. — you’re not able to actually see how each of these metrics translate into revenue.

In other words, you only see the big picture, and you miss out on most of the little details that show you where your agency has room for improvement.

For instance: 1000 visitors come to your site via a Google Adwords ad. The total spend was $500. Here are the details:

  1. The overall conversion rate was 5% = 50 conversions.
  2. Historically, the average value of a new lead to your business is $5.
  3. The campaign made 50 leads x $5 = $250 in revenue by your calculations.
  4. The campaign is therefore a -$250 loss ($250 revenue – $500 spend) by your calculations.

But there’s a problem here; you’ve assumed that the value of these extra 50 leads is consistent with the values of leads that have come from other far less targeted marketing strategy.

When you take a closer look, you find that the ultra-targeted nature of the Adwords campaign actually resulted in a tripling of lead value. So each of those 50 leads was actually worth $15 vs. your historic average of $5.

The revenue gained from the campaign, then, is 50 leads x $15 = $750: a $250 profit, not a -$250 loss.

It will be extremely difficult for you to see data like this if you don’t have an automation system to track each lead in your system.

5. Competitor Monitoring

Another highly useful automation feature is competitor monitoring. Some automation tool vendors allow you to monitor your competitors closely, so you’re able to see both how they are implementing their marketing strategy and how you can potentially use that knowledge to your advantage.

I discussed previously about how Pardot’s automation tool allows you to monitor how well your content is performing in the SERPs. The same product also allows you to keep track of your competitors’ search engine rankings. Here’s a screenshot of the Pardot interface below:

Competitor-Monitoring

So when a competitor’s rankings increase relative to yours, you’ll know exactly who is doing what. You can monitor the number of each competitor’s inbound links, and even view these links to see how they’re implementing a backlinking strategy.

Competitor-Drilldown

6. Test Listing Styles for Higher Conversions

Another popular feature of marketing automation tools is their ability to integrate with A/B and multivariate testing software.

Say for instance that you want to test the effect of increasing the size and noticeability of property images on your listing pages.

In a tool like Visual Website Optimizer or Unbounce, you’ll be able to setup a new version of your listing pages with larger images. The software will then automatically split incoming traffic of that page equally to each version and will compare the resultant analytics. The winner of the test will tell you whether enlarging the images does in fact increase conversions.

Most automation tools will readily integrate with VWO, Unbounce, and almost any another major conversion testing tool. A few select ones even have split testing built-in.

How Do You See Marketing Automation Improving Your Real Estate Business?

Marketing automation holds a very important place in the real estate world.

Automation has you covered, whether you’re looking to give your search engine rankings a boost, kickstart a mobile marketing campaign, or A/B test your way to higher conversion rates.

Which of these marketing automation features do you think will have the most impact on your real estate business? Let us know in the comments below.

If you’re ready to start growing your real estate agency with marketing automation, then start by choosing the tool that fits your business here.

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04 Jun

These 7 Marketing Automation Strategies Will Help You Supercharge Your Business Efficiency

If there’s one area in a business that always has room for growth, it’s efficiency. Making the absolute most of your resources – your time, your leads, your employees’ work, your content, etc. – is a constant struggle that will never truly be totally conquered.

What you can do, however, is come ever closer to that 100% resource maximization mark.

Here are 7 practical strategies, made possible by automation, that you can start using today to supercharge your business into becoming a well-oiled, efficient machine. We’ll go over things that can help you save time, get more work done, and make the most of your website traffic and leads.

Let’s get started with strategy #1.

1. Plan & Write Your Content in Advance

Scheduling-Content-Marketing

Image credit: photosteve101 via Flickr

When you’re in the middle of a stressful time in your business — say, for instance, when you’re releasing a major product update or when you’re just putting the finishing touches on your biggest ever client project — creating content for your marketing is probably the last thing on your mind.

Before, you were simply plodding along with your content campaign without a strict schedule in mind. All of a sudden, you have no content being published because you have no time to produce it. This will end up negatively affecting the flow of your content marketing and will cause you to lose traction with readers.

The solution?

Plan ahead.

Write your content in advance, then set it for publication at a specific date and time. That way, you’re well-prepared in the event of emergency and the flow is never disrupted.

You can even use automation to set certain parts of your promotional strategy to happen in advance. For instance, you can pre-publish social shares for the post (more on that below) or even write emails promoting your posts (this should be a part of your outreach strategy) in advance, scheduling them to be sent at a specific time after your content gets published.

2. Automate Social Media

Social media is definitely one of the biggest time sucks in modern-day marketing. One minute, you’re tweeting an update, and then an hour later you’re still on Twitter checking out the latest trends.

It’s crucial for your productivity that you minimize both the amount of time you spend during each session of social media marketing, and the number of such sessions you have.

Strict schedules will accomplish the first goal, and automation can help with the second.

Write a couple weeks’ worth of social media updates all in one sitting, then use a tool like Buffer or Hootsuite to schedule each post accordingly (use this guide to determine the best days and times to post on social media for maximum engagement).

3. Segment Email Lists

Recent research from Mailchimp has shown that segmented email lists perform significantly better than non-segmented ones. Open rates were on average 14.22% higher, unsubscriptions 7.69% lower, and click-throughs were a staggering 55.38% more frequent!

Clearly, if you haven’t already started segmenting email, you’re missing out big-time (click to tweet).

There’s an endless number of tags you can use to classify your email list into sublists. A few obvious ones are interests, geographic location, purchase frequency, and how the lead prefers to consume content (content format).

Once you’ve setup a segmentation system with your marketing automation tool, you can start sending personalized emails to each group of leads using the information you got when categorizing them.

Although in the short run personalizing email campaigns is just a lot more work, the increased engagement is definitely worth it in the long run, especially after you’ve cultivated a sizeable list.

4. Gather Analytics to One Dashboard

When measuring your website performance, your analytics are no doubt strewn all over the place. Conversion rates on this page, traffic graphs on the next one, and email open rates on an entirely different platform altogether.

All things considered, flipping between analytics dashboards actually wastes a lot more time than you probably realize.

By gathering all of your most important analytics to one single place, you’ll be able to get an overview of how your business is performing just by logging on to one page.

One tool that helps you accomplish this is Cyfe (here’s a quick demo).

Cyfe-Business-Analytics

Everything you need to see is lumped into one dashboard. Not only will this save time when you’re assessing business performance, but it will also help you to keep track of important metrics you might have otherwise glossed over.

5. Streamline Customer Support

Another area where you’re probably spending a lot more time than necessary is customer support.

A big time drain here is simply in assessing tickets and finding out what problem each customer is experiencing. However, when you have an automated classification system built in, most tickets can be categorized by topic completely hands-off.

If a lot of customers are emailing about a very specific problem that has a very specific solution, you can set stock reply emails with the solution to be automatically triggered whenever a new ticket is made for that problem.

Another popular way to streamline customer support is by using tagging systems to send support tickets to the most appropriate agents.

Zendesk tells the story of how Adroll, a retargeting platform, halved their first reply times by using Zendesk’s tagging feature to connect tickets with the people who could solve them quickest.

6. Niche Down on Your Target Audience

Niche-Audience-Targeting

Image credit: Richard via Flickr

One common error that many online businesses make is targeting an audience that is too broad.

Although the benefits of targeting a large audience seem undeniable at first (more possible traffic = more possible sales), the reality is that a very broad audience is 99% of the time accompanied by a very low conversion rate, which sort of defeats the whole point.

The final result is a lot of work and a lot of time spent going after visitors and leads that simply won’t convert.

To solve this problem, you can use automation tools, like lead scoring, to determine which traffic channels your hottest leads and highest-value customers come from. You can also view the demographics of this group of visitors, assess how they interact with your site, etc.. This information can then be used to restrict your target audience to a much more focused and a more manageable level.

The trick, though, is to find the right trade-off between conversion rate and traffic. If your target audience is too niche, even a sky-high conversion rate won’t be able to overcome the low volume of traffic to produce a significant turnover. On the other hand, if your target audience is too broad, the high volume of traffic won’t be able to overcome the low conversion rate.

The best way to find the sweet spot that maximizes conversions and revenue is to test multiple balance points and see which one nets you the most profit.

7. Control Visitor Flow

The moment a visitor gets on your site, you should have a plan for it (click to tweet). The visitor should not meander through the site just as it so pleases – you should be the one controlling its flow.

Why?

Say that you’ve done a lot of research and built an incredible, incredible landing page that converts organic visitors (from search engines) at a very high rate. It’s everything a landing page should be: it really shows visitors how your business will help them solve their problems, it’s personalized for this specific type of traffic (organic), and as a result it regularly churns out super-hot leads.

Now imagine a new visitor has come to your site via Google. Prior to this browsing session, the visitor had no idea that your business existed, no idea what you do, and no idea how you can help him/her.

You can’t just hope that the visitor will stumble across your website and eventually land on your high-conversion page by accident. The chance that the visitor will stray elsewhere or even worse, leave, is just way too high.

Instead, you should be guiding the visitor through your website right from the start.

Here’s an example of what you could do.

This particular visitor started its browsing session on one of your blog posts. Throughout the post, you’ve linked internally to other posts multiple times, so it’s very likely that the visitor will end up reading 2+ posts if it actually likes the writing style and presentation of the information.

Now that the visitor has browsed multiple posts, showing an active interest in your content, you can use a call-to-action button placed strategically in the sidebar – or better yet, at the end of a blog post the visitor is reading – that will send the visitor to your special landing page where a conversion is much more likely.

Although it’s only wishful thinking to hope that 100% your visitors follow the predetermined paths you’ve set for them, if you do it right (read: if you test a lot) there’s a good chance that a healthy percentage of them will actually go through your channel, resulting in a much more attractive conversion rate.

Efficiency: The True Goal of Marketing Automation?

Efficiency is easily one of the chief goals of marketing automation.

Think about it: a lot of the features marketing automation tools have to offer are actually targeted specifically towards making the most of your time and your resources.

Higher efficiency will help you to come closer to unlocking your business’s full potential, and that’s exactly what automation is all about.

Whether it’s giving customer support a productivity boost, segmenting your email list for maximum impact, or guiding visitors through your website; using these strategies will help you to seriously boost efficiency.

What methods have you been using to increase work output and supercharge your business? Share your ideas in the comments below!

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29 May

Content Marketing & Automation – 5 Reasons Why It’s A Match Made in Heaven

It was a long time ago that content acquired its place as a pillar of every online marketing campaign. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, and it doesn’t even matter what audience you’re targeting: in this day and age, if you want your marketing to succeed, you need content.

Something that’s become far more recent, however, is the integration of content with marketing automation. Marketing automation really only took off in the late 2000’s, and for the most part the whole idea was reserved mainly to upgrade customer management, sales cycles, and email.

Your everyday marketing content — blogs, white papers, infographics, etc. — was never really a very important part of the plan.

The past few years, however, have proved that everything is changing.

You see, in the years before, content was less evergreen. It was viewed as more of a one-and-done type of thing. You put out some content, allow it to have its day in the limelight, then watch it slowly plummet into the abyss of the oversupply of information that is the Internet, just as soon as you publish your next piece.

Today, the process is completely different.

Each piece of content you publish has so much more potential. Social media, syndication, search engines, and an explosion in the number and types of distribution channels have unlocked a whole new set of possibilities.

So now, your competitors are realizing that their content can get them a lot more bang per buck than ever before. If you want to outdo them, you need to use every available tool to maximize your content’s potential.

And what’s the best way to do that?

Marketing automation.

The two are a match made in heaven. Behind every successful marketing campaign is content, and marketing automation will help you leverage the potential of each piece of content to the utmost.

Whether it’s a blog post, a how-to guide, or a research report, marketing automation will help your content to attract more visitors and convert more of your leads.

Not yet convinced?

To prove my point, I’ll give you 5 ultra-specific ways that you can combine content and unique marketing automation tools to get more leads, more sales, and ultimately more revenue.

1. Incentivize User Information Submission

User information is the lifeblood of any marketing campaign. It’s currency. It’s the gold standard. Gaining customer information is pretty much THE goal of any piece of content you’ll ever publish.

The only thing you want visitors to do really after going through your content (besides directly becoming a customer) is to hop on to a landing page, give you their info and join your email list.

Marketing automation will help you to achieve that goal more efficiently than ever.

There are several different ways it does so, but the dominant idea behind the majority of them is giving users an incentive to give you their contact information.

One company that truly rocks such a strategy is KISSmetrics. On their blog, KISSmetrics regularly releases comprehensive, super-detailed marketing guides. Their most recent one is on Facebook marketing. Before you can download the guide however, you’re required to fill in a short form (pictured below) that asks a few questions about your location.

Content Marketing Automation

Ordinarily, if you’re a new up-and-coming startup, this landing page isn’t likely to be very effective, because few people will be willing to take the time to fill out an entire form just to access one piece of content.

However, KISSmetrics has already built up a marketing blog with a legendary reputation. As a result, their visitors are often already familiar with the value of KISSmetrics’s content, so the have absolutely no problem with spending the few extra seconds necessary to gain access to more of it.

It’s a perfect example of content and automation working together to acquire more user information.

2. Segment Content Based on User Tastes

A second way marketing automation will improve your content’s effectiveness is through segmentation.

While it’s highly important that you try to focus your content as much as possible to your target audience (or better yet, your buyer persona), it’s unrealistic to assume that every piece of content you put out will be relevant to every visitor it attracts.

That’s why you need to try your best to ensure that your leads get redirected to the content that they are most likely to find useful.

The best way to do that?

Segmenting your content.

One company that does this extremely well is Wishpond (check out a full rundown on their dynamic content strategy here).

Wishpond blog flow

Wishpond’s blog traffic flow.

One way they segment their content for their users is by sector. After their leads submit info about what sector they are in, the leads are then plugged into a flow of content, case studies, and landing pages personalized to their industry until they convert.

All this happens completely automatically. The system brings Wishpond more conversions and brings them ever closer to maximizing the effectiveness of their content.

Another popular, completely hands-off segmentation strategy is self-select. Instead of putting your visitors through a pre-determined funnel, you allow your users to carve their own path through your content (with aids along the way that allow them to pinpoint exactly what they want to view). Over time, the content they’re shown becomes biased towards the browsing trends they’ve previously displayed.

3. Built-in SEO

When crafting your next piece of content, it’s pretty easy to forget the optimization stage in the process. Most marketing automation vendors, such as Hubspot and Marketo, offer features that basically build SEO right into the writing process.

Hubspot, for example, gently reminds you to mix in keywords and internal links as you type.

Hubspot-SEO-Tool

Hubspot’s as-you-type optimization.

Marketo takes it a step further and peruses your written content, compares it to that of your competitor’s, and lets you know about potential inbound link opportunities. That way, not only do you not forget the outreach stage of your promotion process, but you’ll also often be able to pick up a few extra links, adding substantial weight to your content’s rankings in the SERPs.

4. Lead Scoring

Lead scoring is an important indication of the quality of a lead. Every now and then, it can produce an unrepresentative/errant view of the virtue of a lead, but more often than not, it’s still an effective way of identifying the hottest prospects with the most potential.

When you combine content & marketing automation, you can really begin to take lead scoring to the next level.

You can go far beyond generic scoring criteria — like job title, budget, demographics — and begin to score leads based on the actions they take.

For instance, the amount of time they spend viewing your content, the variety and quantity of content viewed, the amount of engagement they’ve shown (social media plugs, comments), and other user activities can all be taken into account.

Incorporating these measures into your scoring system will help you to evaluate the value of your leads more accurately.

5. Measure Content Performance — then Capitalize on What Works

Tracking your content’s performance is a huge part of your marketing. It basically tells you whether or not what you’re doing is working.

If you don’t track your content, the most likely result will be an overexpenditure on creating content that simply doesn’t resonate with your audience. You also run the risk of building up your brand image to the wrong audience; an audience that simply won’t convert.

When results are a priority, tracking is a must.

However, the performance metrics I’m talking aren’t simply the number of visits your content generates, or even the number of conversions it does. Those metrics by themselves, while they have their value, are far too basic to get any comprehensive overview of the performance of a single content piece.

Measuring-Content-Performance

Image credit: Blue Fountain Media via Flickr

Instead, get into more of the nitty-gritty stuff: visitor geography, heat/click maps, visitor flow, conversions, social media shares, comments (including the positivity/negativity of the comments), keyword rankings vs. competitor content, etc..

After publishing and comparing enough content, you’ll begin to notice visitor patterns and trends that will inform you about your audience’s tastes and preferences.

For instance, you might find that white papers are more appropriate for your industry than eBooks. Or, you might discover that leads acquired from case studies are generally closer to the ultimate sales conversion that leads obtained from blog posts.

Whatever your analysis reveals, use the results to guide your content strategy.

Achieving Content Marketing Nirvana with Automation

Automation is truly the future of content marketing. Not only will it bring you closer to 100% maximization of content ROI; but automation will also do the following:

  • help you to obtain information about your hottest, most sales-ready leads that you can then apply in other areas of your marketing/sales strategy
  • help you to identify what content works for your brand and your industry
  • make a significant portion content promotion process hands-off, saving you huge amounts of time in the long run

So basically: more ROI, more time to work on other areas of your business, and more marketing potential. Win-win-win.

With automation, content marketing nirvana is a lot closer than you thought.

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24 Apr

12 Ways to Grow Your Agency or Consulting Service Using Marketing Automation

Through running Venture Harbour, I’ve experienced many of the challenges that come with running a consulting agency.

Whether your biggest challenge is generating new leads, converting them, managing clients, or retaining them, there are plenty of ways that marketing automation software can take some of the weight off of your shoulders.

agency

In this post I want to share twelve specific ways that you can use marketing automation to streamline your consulting service. First of all, though, you need to have the right tools for the job.

Which tool is best for agencies & consultants?

While most marketing automation tool vendors claim to serve all types of businesses, the reality is that some tools are better suited to certain types of businesses than others.

As an agency or consultant, you’ll want to be particularly mindful of:

  • How much will the software cost for your current number of contacts, and the number of contacts you expect to have in one, two, and three years time.
  • Will the software integrate with your existing CRM, accounting, and project management software?
  • Will you have the ability to create sub-accounts for clients?

 
While our free tool finder can help you narrow down the right tool for your business, there are likely to be three options worth considering:

  • Ontraport – By far the most affordable and scalable marketing automation tool. With no setup fees, and the ability to have 100,000’s of contacts for a fraction of what other tools would charge, Ontraport’s one of the most popular choices for consultants.
  • Infusionsoft – With over 15,000 clients and 50,000 users, Infusionsoft are the most popular marketing automation provider for small businesses. Their platform is beautifully designed and has better integration with third-party tools than Ontraport. With similar pricing to Ontraport, they’re also a very affordable option for agencies and consultants.
  • Hubspot – Hubspot are perhaps the best-known vendor in the small business automation space. While their product is very well-designed, I find it rather expensive compared to the two options above. While their entry package costs $200/month, this is only for a maximum of 100 contacts. To put it into comparison, Hubspot charge $2,400/month for 10,000 contacts, while Ontraport charge $297/month for 25,000 contacts.

 
With an idea of which software might be best for your agency, let’s move on to how automation can help you scale and grow your consulting services.

I’ve divided the following twelve tips into four sections: attracting clients, converting clients, managing clients, and retaining clients.

Attracting Clients

Marketing automation software is no silver bullet for opening the floodgates on client leads, but it can free up a lot of time by automating parts of your lead generation strategy.

1. Automate your content marketing strategy

Most agencies and consultants plug away by sporadically posting blog posts and the occasional white paper, in the hope that potential clients will stumble across them and get in contact.

There’s nothing wrong with this approach, but imagine the following scenario:

  • A potential lead reads a blog post on your site on how to generate press coverage.
  • They leave a comment, providing you with their name & email address.
  • An automated (personalized) email is sent to them about your PR services.
  • They explain that they’re not ready to become a client for another 3-4 months.
  • The automation software puts them into a ‘nurturing sequence’ that sends bi-weekly emails educating them on the benefits of an external PR service, what to consider, and other tips on generating PR coverage.
  • After 3 months, an automated follow-up email is sent asking if they’d be ready to arrange a call to discuss your PR services.

 
If you also offered social media marketing, content marketing, and SEO services you could create custom nurturing sequences for each service. Whether you had 5, 50, or 500 leads in the pipeline, they would all be dealt with in this way.

This laser-targeted approach means that content is re-purposed in an intelligent way to increase the likelihood of leads converting with you.

2. Automate social media posting

One of the easiest and most obviously automatable aspect of your online marketing strategy is your social media posting strategy.

I won’t go into whether social media should or shouldn’t be automated here, as that’s an article for another day. Assuming that you are open to the idea of at least automating certain aspects of your social strategy, how can it be done?

Social automation tools

One option is to use a combination of tools like IFTTT, Buffer, and Feedly to automatically gather potential blog posts to share and schedule them. You could even throw Snip.ly into the mix to add a call-to-action from any articles you share, driving traffic back to your site.

Certain marketing automation tools offer a more elegant approach, whereby you can set up automatic alerts for things you might want to share, and then automatically share / schedule them through your various accounts.

3. Make your blog content dynamic

Last week, James Scherer from Wishpond.com wrote a great post about how Wishpond.com use marketing automation software to display dynamic blog content to their visitors based on each user’s previous history on the site.

For example, when a visitor downloads a whitepaper on the Wishpond website they have to fill out which sector they’re in. If someone mentions that they’re in the real estate sector, a cookie will be dropped onto their computer, which ensures that when they revisit the Wishpond site they will see content related to real estate marketing.

Wishpond blog flow

Needless to say, this increase in relevancy results in an increase in leads.

For an agency with several different services, you could replicate this strategy by only showing content relevant to what a visitor is interested in, or for where they are in the buying cycle.

Converting Clients

Having a constant stream of leads is not always as good as it seems. If your leads are low quality, you can end up wasting valuable time trying to qualify them.

One of them most valuable aspects of automation software for agencies, in my opinion, is in automating your lead qualification process, as it enables you to remove human error and time wasted on low-qualify leads.

4. Automate drip campaigns for lead nurturing

What do you do when you receive a lead that isn’t sales-ready, but could be in several months? You put them into a drip campaign.

Drip campaign

As the name suggests, drip campaigns work by sending your leads a pre-built sequence of emails over a certain time, with the aim of nurturing them to become sales-ready.

5. Reduce your response times

A study from Harvard found that companies are seven times more likely to qualify a lead when they respond to enquiries within an hour, compared to those that responded even an hour later — and more than 60 times as likely as companies that waited 24 hours or longer.

Response times

Despite this, most companies are unintentionally slow to respond. This is another instance where automation can make human error obsolete, by creating sequences that respond to all leads that match certain criteria within an hour of receiving an enquiry.

6. Don’t waste time qualifying leads

Most leads are, sadly, a waste of time. The difficulty is in knowing which ones are wasteful and which ones aren’t.

Using lead scoring, you can pre-qualify all of your leads to ensure that your team only spend time on the leads with the highest value or likelihood to convert.

Lead scoring

Managing Clients

In this section, we’ll walk through some of the ways that marketing automation can help with the day-to-day operations of running an agency and managing clients.

7. Automate client payments & late paying follow-ups

Where possible, you should aim for prevention over cure with late payments.

One of the best preventative measures for this is to simply use a recurring billing service that sets up an automated direct debit agreement with your client’s bank or credit card.

Recurly

Recurly is a great service, and integrates with most marketing automation providers.

If, on the other hand, you’re invoicing your clients manually using a service like Freshbooks or Xero, you can create automated email sequences that automatically follows up with clients if invoices are still unpaid after certain time intervals.

8. Automating the client on-boarding process

When a new client comes on board, you’ll likely need a number of things from them to get up and running.

Whether it’s Google Analytics access, brand guidelines, or details of your point of contact, these things can eat into time that you could be using to get some early momentum. So, how can we automate the on-boarding process?

After speaking with a friend who runs a large digital agency in London, I discovered the client on-boarding survey.

Using SurveyMonkey, this agency would send every new client a survey that asked for all of the important information the agency needed, along with a checklist containing points such as ‘Have you granted Google Analytics access to the following email addresses’.

Client survey

By asking each client to complete the survey as soon as they signed the contract, they were able to reduce client onboarding time significantly, while also eliminating the need to send tens of project kick-off emails back and forth in the early stages of the project.

Thanks to SurveyMonkey’s API integration, they were also able to automatically store all of the survey data for each client into their CRM. It would be very easy to then use this data to set up automation sequences designed to educate and nurture clients.

9. Automate regular contact

It’s important to check-in with clients once in a while to ask if there are any events coming up that would be useful knowing about, or even just to see how happy they are with your services.

Sending these ‘check-in emails’ is easy with three or four clients, but what about when you get to 10, 20, or 50 clients? Once again, automation is the answer.

Retaining Clients

If you ask any agency or consultant what the number one reason for losing clients is, they tend to say the same thing: poor communication. Below are some of the ways that you can use marketing automation to reduce losing clients due to communication issues.

10. Automate NPS / Survey Data Collection

Several weeks ago I came across an interesting case study by Mention.com, explaining how they reduced user churn by 50% using an automated sequence that gathered Net Promoter Score (NPS) feedback after a free trial ended:

NPS email

Then, based on the user’s feedback, they triggered another set of automated emails depending on the user’s answer.

NPS automation

What I like about this case study is how it makes NPS feedback actionable. Many companies send NPS surveys to find out how satisfied their customers are, but too often this survey data is not acted upon.

For agencies and consultants, you could easily recreate a similar process to identify which clients are happier than others, and what actions need to be taken to nurture unhappy / neutral clients.

11. Automate contract renewal

When it comes to improving client retention, the best long-term strategy is to deliver more value and ROI to clients. That said, it helps to have contracts in place that are built with retention in mind.

Contract clause

While auto-renewing contracts aren’t particularly revolutionary, they are important. Where you can get a little bit creative is in using automation to set up internal reminders about upcoming contract renewals.

When a client is reaching a contract renewal point, you’ll want to make sure you have project plans and results to hand to convince clients to stick around.

12. Automate the personal touches

I want to wrap this post up with something quite controversial and counter-intuitive; automating the personal touches. Let me explain with an example.

Isn’t it nice when you receive a handwritten letter or note with something you ordered online?

What if you could automate handwritten notes?

A company called MailLift, who integrate with all major marketing automation tools, offer this exact service – with every letter being handwritten by a real person on beautiful cotton paper.

MailLift

What about automatically sending client’s a gift on their birthday? At Venture Harbour, we experimented with this by adding a ‘birth date’ field in our client on-boarding survey, which automatically updated our CRM and sent alerts two weeks prior a client’s birthday.

While it may seem contradictory to automate these things, the reality is that if we don’t create nudges to ensure that they happen consistently, human error gets in the way. As your schedule gets busier, where do you think sending your clients birthday gifts will fall on your to-do list?

Eliminating human error in consulting

In Peter Drucker’s famous book ‘The Effective Executive’, he says that companies should embrace technology that makes existing processes more efficient.

Marketing automation has the potential to distract you with fancy features, or help you grow your business by eliminating human error, improving consistency, and increasing the amount of communication with leads and clients – without the need for extra staff.

I hope this post has helped you identify how marketing automation might be able to help you grow your agency or consulting service. As always, if you have any questions feel free to get in touch or leave a comment below.

Image Credit: Philippe Lewicki

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