Marketing Automation’s Next Gig

If you aren’t sold on marketing automation yet, there’s another reason to consider it before you end up down two touchdowns with three minutes to play.

We usually think of marketing in its traditional role of new customer outreach, which is good but no longer enough. Depending on the business, as much as 80 percent of revenue might come from the existing customer base; however, the marketing budget usually goes in the opposite direction. It’s good to keep in mind that in today’s zero-sum markets, your competition has not stopped marketing to your customers, so why should you?

Send a Compelling Message

It is certainly true that the outreach you should make to customers is different from what you do for prospects. Customers already have bought your basic value proposition, but the mission with them is to ensure they maximize their return, which will conveniently set up a cross-sell, upsell, or renewal, and who doesn’t want that?

So, a marketing program aimed at customers might just as easily focus on delivering a piece of useful information, such as a best practice, as it focuses on setting up the next sale. In fact, it should.

This is cool, because at base level it’s all about using marketing automation technology to deliver a message — and that’s standard marketing. But you also know a lot more about customers than you know about prospects, so you ought to be able to leverage that knowledge in your outreach.

The same marketing automation technologies and analytics you use to promote products and services can be used to support customer nurturing. Before these technologies existed, it was hard to capture enough information to make these programs effective, and some vendors discovered that their attempts through generic email or direct mail only aggravated customers.

Also, businesses relied more on customer service to provide some nurturing, but waiting until there is a reason to call for service limits your ability to offer other products and services. Finally, in a self-service world, the opportunities for contact are diminishing. So in a sense, marketing automation has given us a new avenue to the existing customer.

Targeted Nurturing

You should start by collecting financial and use data about customers from other departments, and if you have a good idea of your customer lifecycle, then you have the elements you need to discover which customers might be happy and which might need some form of assistance — or which could benefit from new information. With that, you can tailor nurturing programs to different populations.

So, for example, you should be able to pull up a list of customers who are nearing the end of a lifecycle or who need to renew, or who could benefit from some new information about best practices. Also, you might ideally start a nurturing campaign well in advance of asking for the renewal, so that the customer has time to have several positive experiences. That will make the renewal process an assumed close rather than a long negotiation.

If you already have marketing automation and analytics, it’s really just a matter of developing some meaningful campaigns and content. If you don’t yet have marketing automation, it’s another reason to look into it. Customer nurturing can help turn more marketing programs into revenue generators — and with analytics, it’s easy to track the results and prove the value.

Subscription companies are pros at this because their survival is tied to it. Subscribers have the ability to go to another vendor any time and for any reason. So they invest heavily in capturing customer feedback — even if it’s indirect — and developing responses. They’re naturally attuned to listening to customers and to generating programs that help customers improve ROI and ultimately buy more or renew. It’s a good lesson for any business.

Denis Pombriant

Denis Pombriant is the managing principal of the Beagle Research Group, a CRM market research firm and consultancy. Pombriant's research concentrates on evolving product ideas and emerging companies in the sales, marketing and call center disciplines. His research is freely distributed through a blog and website. He is the author of Hello, Ladies! Dispatches from the Social CRM Frontier and can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on Google+.

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