As artificial intelligence (AI) becomes more accessible for small businesses,…
The State of Marketing Automation 2017
Improve your results with actionable tips from agencies using marketing automation
94% of surveyed agencies indicated that marketing automation is successful at achieving goals for themselves and for their clients. – Ascend2
Marketing automation is the name of the game these days, especially for marketing agencies. So how are agencies using this technology to achieve success for their clients?
To find out, SharpSpring and Ascend2 teamed up to create the State of Marketing Automation Survey. In this webinar, Todd Lebo of Ascend2 will expand on this research. He covers:
- Top marketing automation objectives
- Critical challenges to anticipate and overcome
- Must-have marketing automation features
- Crucial metrics for measuring marketing automation performance
Partner/CMO – Ascend2
Todd is passionate with discovering what really works in marketing and helping marketers apply those findings to their marketing programs. At Ascend2, Todd helped develop a research-based marketing methodology that is used by marketing technology firms and agencies to generate demand and supplement content. Prior to joining Ascend2, Todd led the MarketingSherpa marketing, content, research and business development teams.
Training and Usability Manager - SharpSpring
As Usability Manager, Bryan is responsible for creating content to help users get the most out of SharpSpring. This includes maintaining the support forum and creating instructional “how to” videos. Working in collaboration with Marketing, Support, and Development, Bryan helps create an exemplary experience for every user.
No time to watch? Read the full transcript here.
Bryan: All right. Let’s go ahead and get started. Again, thanks everyone for joining today. My name is Bryan Tobin. I’m one of the product managers here at SharpSpring. We’re joined with Todd Lebo who is the partner and CMO over at Ascend2. And today we are talking about the state of marketing automation in 2017.
So first things first, for everyone who is here, we do these presentations weekly or bi-weekly whenever we can get them set up, really is more of a thought leadership on marketing technology in the marketing automation space and making sure that our partners as well as folks that are considering SharpSpring have a little bit of insight, not so much into what we do as a company, but more so what’s going on in the ecosystem of marketing technology at large.
The audience is comprised of a variety of folks. We have existing SharpSpring agency partners here who join us strictly to learn a little bit about what’s going on in the space. If we’ve talked before, welcome back. We have some folks that are looking at SharpSpring, to partner with us. If you are one of those folks, again, super excited to have you here. And then we have some in-house marketing professionals, so some folks who are looking to deploy the concepts of marketing technology, marketing strategy, marketing automation for your own company.
Really, the big takeaway for this session is we wanna talk about what’s happening with marketing automation, where it’s going, where folks are focusing their efforts on, what does it mean to be successful with marketing automation implementation. And we’re gonna do that with some research that Ascend2 has conducted and some really cool findings that they’ve produced from that research. We’re gonna talk about then some best practices that we’ve seen based on those research results. And we’re gonna talk about some stories of things that we’ve seen that have went well, not done well.
I really do wanna emphasize that this is not intended to be like a sales call at all. If you buy SharpSpring from this, fantastic, that’s awesome. Hopefully they’ll give me a bonus. But that is not at all what we’re looking to do here today. We wanna promote thought leadership and get you thinking about marketing technology at large and really get you excited about what it can do for your company and then backed it up in regards to today session with some cool research and findings that talk about everything that’s going on in the space.
From an administrative perspective, all of the phone lines are muted. So if you have questions, put them in the chat window. Submit them in our chat box. Go on Twitter and sharp tweet at us or you can tweet @sharpspring. We have someone monitoring that Twitter channel so we can get back to you. If you have to leave the call today, that’s completely fine. We do you record the webinar, and we’ll distribute the slides after the fact.
At the end of the presentation today, we do have a poll that we’re going to launch that we would appreciate your feedback on. It’s just a quick follow-up on. If you want some more information about SparpSpring, more information from Todd and Ascend2, we can get you set up.
For the partners on the call, we do have a SpringBoard Live coming on this Friday. It’s gonna be about using your workflows and organize them in a way that makes it actionable. One of the things we’ve seen folks kind of struggle with when they come on board is really organizing those workflows to make them easily accessible and refer to them at a later point in time or when they see them, notifications to understand what they’re doing. A lot of this comes to naming conventions. Some of it comes to folder usage. The cool part is we’re getting ready to release our visual workflow builder in the next coming weeks. So we’re gonna plug a little bit of that during that call too and kind of talk about how that’s gonna help better organize your workflow life in the next coming on weeks.
The next webinar like this is gonna about using Zapier to help increase really the power that you’re getting from marketing technology by integrating solutions together. One of the slides we talk about in today’s call is about references integration is one of the kind of core competencies of a marketing automation tool. And if you’re not a developer, don’t worry. I’m not either and you don’t have to be to make your tool work with others. There’s lots of great integration platforms out there today that you can leverage. And we’re gonna talk about one of the most popular, which is Zapier, and how you can leverage that with your marketing automation tool to get the most value from it.
If you are a partner and you do something really cool, and I feel like I’ve been saying the same plug for 12 to 24 months now, you can email Courtney and Courtney will be happy to connect you and see if we can do a partner-led presentation with you and the cool use case that you’ve done with your company and marketing automation.
So with that, we’ll do a quick round of introductions. Bryan Tobin, I’ve been here for about two and a half, almost three years working on our product team. My job is to make sure that all of our customers are getting value from the tool. So I have a lot of conversations with people who are using marketing technology, who are using SharpSpring as a marketing technology fighter, and making sure that we’re building our application to do things that we’re supposed to be doing and moving that in the direction that the industry is going. And then, Todd, if you wouldn’t mind saying a few things about yourself before we go ahead and get started, we can kick off the presentation from there.
Todd: Oh, yes. Sure. Well, thank you, Bryan, for the introduction. And my name is Todd Lebo. I’m partner and CMO of Ascend2. We are a research based marketing company. And so we go out and we survey marketers each and every month. We have some research to share today on marketing automation. But we’re doing this on a continual basis. And we work with partners like SharpSpring to get out this very specific marketing research. My background has been in 20 plus years in both marketing, education, research, case studies, and things of that nature. I’m very excited to be with you today.
Bryan: Okay. Then, Todd, I just handed over the keyboard mouse. You should be able to click through and start progressing the slides.
Todd: Fantastic. Whoops.
Bryan: Yeah. The back button on the keyboard should help as well.
Todd: Sorry about that folks.
Bryan: We’re building anticipation.
Todd: That’s right. That’s right. So first, this is our second annual research study on marketing automation from the agency’s perspective that we’ve done with SharpSpring. We surveyed over 60,000 marketing professionals. And the results you’ll be seeing today are specifically the agencies’. So we’re really hoping to give you a perspective that is real world application for you.
I said to you we survey thousands of people each month on a variety of marketing, tactics, and operation components, you know, from not only marketing automation to email, lead generation, content marketing, all these topics we cover. And one of the obstacles that we see that is hindering success for marketers is regarding lack of an effective strategy. So many times marketers know what to do. They’re going after it, giving it everything they have but sitting down and kind of having that strategy and using that strategy to kind of be benchmarking what they’re doing tends to be one of the greatest struggles that they have.
So, part of what we wanna do today is to look at what your strategy is and help you in that development. And also we’ll look specifically at goals, challenges, metrics, and evaluation criteria with the perspective of marketing automation and having an effective strategy. So today’s discussion will have that current research but will also have some real-life examples and some practical how-to’s.
Bryan: And what kind of I took away from where we were talking about getting this presentation together is a lot of what Todd is gonna talk about, I think a lot of our partners can empathize with as far as what they went through when they finally started using marketing automation initially was that, you know, where do you start, how do you get started. And the big concept here is make sure that there’s a strategy that we’re gonna deploy that is supported by marketing technology because if we spread ourselves too thin or start using this tool without any guidance, we end up doing nothing. Or if we focus on in one area of the application and don’t end up broadening our ability to use that outside of it, we get really siloed. So I think for me, the takeaway was really cool and very parallel with what we’ve seen as our growth as a company and the challenges that our partners have overcome with our support and with the learning experience that we’ve gone to together to make sure they’re getting the most out of a marketing technology tool.
Todd: Yeah. You know, we see that all the time, Bryan. There’s a saying I always like which is, you know, measure twice and cut once. So that aspect is sometimes taking a little bit of that time upfront can really help and actually save time in the back end. And strategy is always evolving, so once you have that strategy, you’re gonna be looking at your metrics, analyzing, and making changes but it’s always with that strategy in mind.
So here’s our first chart that I want to look at. This chart here looks at both the objectives and the challenges that marketers face when implementing marketing automation, so what do they wanna achieve and what are some of the challenges that they have. And a couple things to consider when you’re looking at a chart like this. I always like to look at the gap between important objectives and critical challenges. Okay? You know, if there’s something you can find that is an important objective but the challenge is less and there’s a large gap between the two, that kind of leads to…and to me that equates to opportunity.
So, we try to look at that and here’s a couple examples that I saw in this chart. One was the number two, acquiring more customers. You know, we all wanna acquire more customers and marketing automation has made this a little bit less of a challenge for marketers. You probably wanna know, well, how is that? You know, one example I would give, and there’s a lot of examples here, but one example I would give would be the ability to identify, for example, anonymous website visitors.
Through marketing automation, you can start finding these visitors that are coming to your site. You have know, you know, exactly who they are. But you can match up through marketing automation, know who that company is, find ideal customers that fit your profile, companies that would be high profile companies for your product, and then start finding contacts within that company. So you know that company’s at your site, you know somebody’s looking, and that kind of gives you a clue into how to start engaging possibly with that company.
So, you know, with marketing automation, you can definitely do things like this. And you can use this to start acquiring more customers. And, Bryan, I think you might have a little bit of insight on that as well.
Bryan: Yeah, absolutely. So especially from…two things that I wanted to take away from this slide, the first thing would be identifying the customers. That’s what we’re trying to do here. We’re trying to fill our funnel from the top to the bottom and make sure that we have more leads at every part of it and that they’re also recycling back to the top once they fall out.
The visitor ID component of marketing technology, marketing automation is pretty cool. It’s one of those ones that gets companies to open their eyes once they see the traffic on their sites. They’ll start seeing both these anonymous users that Todd referenced who, you know, they had no clue that were even on their site before that are visiting and viewing certain page and spending a good duration of time checking out their web presence, as well as known visitors that are coming back.
For me, that kind of is what sells marketing automation is knowing based on the leads that you have been having an ongoing dialogue with or that you’re trying to have a dialogue with, what they’re looking at, when they’re looking at it, how active they are, so you can take action on top of it. And then, you know, we talk about these different deltas where we have this opportunity. A bigger one that I’m seeing at the bottom is improving database quality.
When people come and start using marketing technology, they start consolidating all of these different databases together because a lot of folks…you know, marketing is becoming more central in organization’s data structure because a lot of the leads that are coming in if they become customers, they become partners, become referral partners whatever they do, that they at some point found out about us. And identifying that channel that they identified us from is important. But for a quality perspective, some of those leads that we’re bringing in might not be good. So understanding that, all right, we’ve been marketing to these folks for 12 to 24 months, they haven’t interacted with at all, maybe we trim the fat and get rid of these, you know, these leads that aren’t really providing value to us or perhaps just put them in automated nurturing campaign. I think there’s a lot of value in that because it helps us optimize the time that we’re touching actual leads. And the ones who are maybe not real or maybe need a bit more nurturing, we can just automate those nurturing events to happen to them.
Todd: You know, I think you bring up a good point. And it’s interesting when you look at this chart because that last one, improving database quality, it’s kind of the inverse of what I said previously where it’s not as important of an objective but it’s a critical challenge. And, you know, knowing 20 plus years of marketing experience, you know, I know especially your marketing’s only as good as the quality of your data. Yet I think quality of data, it’s a little bit like, you know, going on a diet and you know your supposed eat all your vegetables. It’s not most exciting thing, but it’s also important.
And I think sometimes when we see research like this, we’ll see that things that are really important get pushed down because of the perception that it’s difficult. And while, you know, improving your database quality can be and used to be a challenge, it’s not as much of a challenge with the automation components and the technology that it used to be. So, I really encourage marketers to not be shy about addressing some of these things because, like Bryan said, there can be a huge payoff if you do address them.
The other thing I did wanna mention really quick too is we see the flow a bit further down optimizing productivity. And that’s really one of the key goals of your marketing automation. You know, you should be able to do more marketing efforts by using marketing automation and that’s going to make your department more productive. You’re able to set up things that are gonna run automatically, not that you put this on autopilot and never look at them again. But they can be running while you’re setting up and doing other things as well. So, just that ability to improve productivity is, you know, a great value, not only to individual campaigns, but I think just kind of the overall performance of your department.
Bryan: You know, we’re kind of a good use case for that. Internally, we have a sales team of eight folks now. That’s the largest it’s ever been. And we have a pretty big lead database, so we clearly can’t touch every single lead that comes into our system. So we’re talking about being productive. The leads who have had website interactions or downloaded white papers or done things that we care about, we know that is kind of indicative of being someone who’s ready to make a real transaction, already have a real conversation with us, we follow up.
But the ones who are doing more top of the funnel interactions, just clicking on some ads, viewing our site but then leaving very quickly, you know, we don’t want our salespeople calling every one of those folks. One, because it’s a little bit invasive and, two, because really there’s not a lot of reward to be reaped from those individual leads. What we can do is we can nurture them and then when they are ready, if they ever get to that point, we’ve had all of their interaction history organized in a very nice manner in the pop one and then we can reach out to them, continue that conversation and then start closing those deals once those folks are ready for that conversation.
Todd: Yeah. We see here at Ascend2 the same thing where people who are very passive about their engagement with you, you can tell that they’re not ready to buy. But as they ramp up, you see a change. And then that can alert you to, “Oh, that person, you know, maybe they have budget now, whatever the reason, now the timing right to connect with them.”
Let’s move on now and look at some must-have features. So this here was this question asking marketers what are the most useful features of their marketing automation system. And basically what we learned about our objectives and challenges previously, you know, when we asked this, it’s not surprising that the number one and number two are analytics and reporting. Analytics and reporting, you know, is the number one.
A couple reasons for that is…To think about there, I believe would be, can you get all the analytics you need from your marketing automation? And then also thinking, you know, is that reporting easy, is it useful, is it clear, and also is it clear not just for the marketer that lives in the numbers all the time but also for the non-marketer, whether it be your salesperson, an executive? You know, analytics and reporting, it’s great to have numbers but they have to be useful numbers that you can quickly make analysis off and make decisions on.
Number two was email marketing. And, you know, email marketing continues to be the workhorse of marketing. So make sure that you’re comfortable with how you build emails, prepare lists, and all those things that go into email marketing. You’re probably gonna initially spend a lot of your time in that area of your marketing automation. So make sure you’re comfortable with it.
And then the third one is lead nurturing. You know, we spend so much money and time getting new leads. But then what are you doing with them when you get them? And I think Bryan kind of talked a little bit about that aspect of, you know, kind of knowing based on activity when to touch those people with a sales call and when not to.
You know, if they’re not ready yet, you need to be nurturing those people. You need to be keeping an active participation by, you know, if they downloaded a report then that probably means they like research. And so when you have relevant research, continuing to give that to them, to give them information that’s useful, all this is gonna lead to that nurturing component. So when they are ready, you know they are. So I would suggest you use this list as a guide when you’re reviewing your marketing automation platforms and the features that are most important to you.
Bryan: It’s funny, Todd and I were talking before the call and this is kind of like, for anybody football fans here, it’s kind of like a scouting report for when people are going to get drafted. You don’t need every one of these components. Every one of these might not initially be the most important to you and they might be flexible. For me, I think the one that stands out, integration capabilities. In the next five years I think that’s gonna skyrocket to the top because of how often marketing data is gonna be referenced outside of that marketing solution across sales, across support, across the executive staff.
But when a lot of folks choose a solution, they might only be trying to solve three of these problems or three of these needs that we’re seeing on the screen. But for you when you’re choosing a platform or as you’re evaluating the platforms that you’re using, I think of this, again, like Todd said, like a great roadmap of where to start and what’s important based on your peers have used systems like this in the past. Again, not just SharpSpring, but Marketo, HubSpot, Infusionsoft, Google Analytics, anything that can call itself marketing technology tool. This is what it comes down to is what they found most important.
The analytics sticks out because, at the end of the day, what these tools are supposed to do is to let us know which marketing efforts are providing the most results so we can reinvest in them. But then again, for me, email marketing I think is, again, the end-all be-all for let’s get our brand out there and raise awareness in a quick and easy way. I still think lead scoring is underrated on this chart because it might be neglect, abuse or folks just don’t really understand the concept. But for me, when people start utilizing lead scoring, it just plays so well into these other features of it. They have a higher lead score, we can nurture them in a different way, we can send different email messaging, maybe add them to a different list. So, all the components do play on one another in a very nice way.
Todd: Yeah. You know, that’s a good point about lead scoring is that really also requires marketing sales alignment and so your marketing and sales getting together and really talking about, you know, what makes a sales-ready lead and then having your lead scoring set up to accomplish that. So I mean, a lot of the marketing automation too can be a great alignment with your sales department. And so use this opportunity as you’re doing your strategy to help build and foster that relationship.
Moving on, we’re going to look here at…Oops. There we go. I just kind of titled this “If you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist.” I guess the importance of just remembering that your measurement is critical to success. You know, we can no longer have, what I would call, fishing stories. We must have real data, right? So you can no longer have that fish story about, you know, how large your fish was and every time you tell that story it gets a little bit larger.
Well, now, you have to have a picture of that fish. You know, you have to be able to prove that you caught the fish, and there’s a requirement of real data needed. And that really plays true with marketing. You know, if you can measure it, you can prove it. If you can’t measure it, you can’t prove it.
Your marketing plan must be built on using a blueprint of metrics. If you’re projecting a 20% growth in revenue, how are you gonna get that growth? What specifically are you going to do to get that 20% increase? You know, where are the check points that you determine if you’re on track to meet those goals? And I like to kind of say this. You know, you always need, you know, “You are here” map. So if you’re going to an amusement park, a huge park, you always wanna go and look at the map and see where you’re at and where you wanna go.
As a marketer, your metrics really allow you to provide, you know, “You are here” perspective and where you wanna go. You can also use metrics so you can optimize your marketing effort. So you can see where performance, you know…if performance is increased maybe at this landing page or by segmenting out an audience, that will result in a higher conversion, more sales, etc. You know, whether it’s email marketing, optimizing your landing page, all the metrics go into this.
You just need to know the numbers, I think, as marketers. I mean, that’s one of the beauties of the marketing automation. It starts giving you that…allows you to quantify what you’re doing. And then when, you know that, then you have this chart here which is the metrics that matter. I’m just gonna go over these, couple of these real quick.
The top three here we have, you know, conversion rate. And I would always just encourage marketers to make sure you define your conversion rate, you know, whether it’s a landing page and the conversion is the download of a report or a sign up for a demo, whatever it is, make sure you define that conversion rate.
Also look at things like engagement rate. You know, define your engagement rate. If it’s a blog post, maybe it’s shares, comments, time on page, a lot of different things you can see that that content is engaging an individual. And that’s really why my partner and I started Ascend2 because we saw through metrics how successful research was to engaging individuals. So we wanted to have high quality research but also make it at a very affordable price for partners to participate in. But it was all based on what we saw in the engagement rate factors.
And then the last one I wanted to point out here was pipeline value. You know, this is really helping to connect the marketing and sales by looking at the value of a channel, maybe multiple channels, but looking at that value. If you look at the value of the campaign overall, you can kind of more clearly predict what your revenue is gonna be for a campaign. And so, I really like pipeline value because every marketing effort is a little bit different and the more you know about your metrics and the revenue that’s coming out of that with your pipeline, the more you can know where to put your emphasis, you know, where to, you know, tune up here, tune down here. That’s really gonna help you, I think, improve your overall ROI. And, Bryan, I think you had a couple insights on this as well.
Bryan: Yeah. When we talk about conversion rate a lot, it comes down to what is the conversion to your organization. And you can have different conversion types. On our side as a company, we do a lot of business off demos that we perform for customers. So one of the conversion metrics that we track is demo scheduling rate, demo completion rate, demo attendance rate, all of those. Those are different conversion metrics that are important to us that we track through a number of mechanisms that then are all incorporated into our marketing automation platform.
For some companies, it’s signing up for a trial, it’s getting a white paper, it’s filling out a research briefing, it’s filling out a survey. We’re talking about measuring performance and then kind of showing results based on measuring. Before we do any of that, we need to clearly identify what our goals are. If not, when we try to, you know, do our retros and go back and look at how well we performed, it’s much more difficult to do that without any kind of clear line in the sand of, okay, moving forward our goal is to accomplish X on a Y investment, whereas X is that conversion goal.
If we don’t clearly define that and clearly define different types, it’s gonna be a lot more difficult to quantify that when we do our reporting. Engagements, the same thing. So I think Todd had a great example about is it shares, is it impressions, is it views, is it total number of visitors to the site, is it total number of downloads? What does engagement mean to your organization or for the agencies who are looking to deploy this to your client? What does engagement mean? Is it getting people to walk in the doors, is it getting people on the website?
For me, all of this comes down to just clearly identifying like an if/then scenario. So if we do this, then we expect this to happen. And once you make that initial statement, that initial hypothesis, that’s when you look back and say, “Okay. Where were we, how far off were we, how far above were we?” And then you can iterate.
Where pipeline value comes in and where I wanna kind of distinguish pipeline value from like a SharpSpring term which means like the value of, an expected value of the sales pipeline, here I wanna make sure that’s more of a broader understanding the term, meaning what marketing channels have really filled the pipeline the most. So we talked about campaign reporting and saying if we’re running campaigns A through E, let’s look back and say which of those campaigns drove leads to our site. And then from there, okay, which of those leads, which of those groupings of leads, how many of them actually made an opportunity. And then from there, which of those opportunities, how many actually closed one as a deal.
So we keep progressing further and further down the funnel. And what we’re doing is we’re effectively building this nice chart to say, okay, Campaign A, well, it generated, you know, 2x times leads of Campaign B. We see that it had, you know, incrementally less leads actually closing as opportunities. So while we’re getting a bigger sample size filling our pipeline, then we start talking about quality. And from there you start looking at conversion, engagement and making sure that your conversion rates that you’re tracking are aligned with what you’re looking to have your leads do to get them over the finish line.
So if we’re saying a white paper downloads conversion but we see in the future that every person that downloaded that white paper never ended up closing a deal, is it the content, is it the conversion, is it the traffic, is it the channel that we’re getting those people from? That’s when you can start looking at it because I think one of the biggest things that people come to us with, and, Todd, you probably have seen this before, is people have this like fear of failing with marketing campaigns. It’s not necessarily a bad thing to fail because if we fail, we start iterating. And then we start saying, okay, this is what went slightly wrong in this one. Let’s pivot, let’s tweak, whatever word we wanna use, and make it slightly better and then measure the results of that improvement on the next round.
Todd: Yeah. I totally agree, Bryan. There’s a couple things, I think, that you really see. One is marketing is becoming much more scientific in nature. So, you know, with the numbers, with the tools, you can now start pinpointing where the positive and negatives are happening and start addressing those. It’s becoming very scientific. And then also the aspect of…and we’ve done this in the past, where, you know, when you test or you do a campaign, you’re absolutely right. I mean, failure…I don’t like to look at it that way. I always like to look at it as what is the learning that we received from that campaign or from that test.
So you’re always learning and you’re able to apply that learning to the next iteration. So, yeah, I mean, failure happens and I think it’s actually good for marketers to show that. I mean, it makes it very true whenever you show, not only the successes but also the failures. But with the failures, you’re showing kind of like the next step of, so, what are we going to do about that.
So next we look at…The next three slides look into…In our research we looked at evaluation criterias. And so this year, I like to just kind of say, checking the box and Brian had said, you know, previously for football fans, you know, like in the draft for new players, a lot of times they say they check the box and they look and see, does this player fill all the things that should be needed to make them successful. And so, we’re encouraging people to, you know, look at this and provide this as a roadmap as you are evaluating your marketing automation. So these are helpful hints, determine the most useful things for you.
A couple things I wanted to point out here was, number one was the ease of implementation. And to help out with that, consider a couple things. You know, who on your team will be responsible for the implementation? Are you prepared to dedicate resources needed to perform the implementation? It’s not just gonna magically happen. You’re gonna have to make sure that you dedicate some time on your staff.
Look at what experience you have on your staff and if you’ll need any IT support. The nice thing about marketing automation now is it’s really being designed for the marketer. So, now, a lot of this can be independent within the marketing department. But you still might need some IT support as well.
Also, number two was the cost of ownership and pricing. Of course, cost is always something to look at. But I would make sure that you look at the cost from the perspective of, you know, does the pricing media current needs and your future growth. So if it’s based on, for example, size of your list and you’re planning to have a two-fold growth, is it still gonna support that growth in a cost-effective way? And then consider the cost savings of marketing automation as well, because you will have some cost savings and it’s important to look at that as well.
And then the other thing too, if we go back here real quick, I just wanted to say that technical support, a lot of times technical support is one of those things that’s not appreciated until you need it. So I would make sure that you kind of talk through how a company handles technical support because when you need it, it’s very important.
And we’re almost wrapping up here. But here’s a couple strategies to, what I would say, make it simple when you look at the, you know…Here you can see with this research that a lot of marketers looked at, marketing automation implementation as extremely or somewhat complicated. But I think there’s some ways to make it a little simpler for you. So here’s a couple tips.
Determine what’s most important to you before you get started. Again, it goes back to that strategy perspective and focus on what you need with that strategy. So, going back, looking at your strategy as you’re doing your implementation will be helpful.
I would also say be open to opportunities. You may not have considered the fact that you need lead scoring or campaign management. But as you look in, you might realize, “Oh, that’s something I really do need.” And that’s great and I would encourage you to be open for other opportunities. But on the other hand, you know, you don’t have to do everything right away. So, it’s okay to say, “Hey, we wanna incorporate your lead scoring, but we also realized that we’re gonna do XYZ first before we implement it.” Don’t try to do it all at one time.
And then also, don’t be afraid to try. It really is not that bad to implement a marketing automation system. I’ve done it before. It’s just one of those things once you have your strategy and you’ve kind of determined your resources, it can be done very efficiently.
When I was in college, I did some construction work in the summer to help pay for college and I kind of learned through that experience. I didn’t know anything about construction, but I learned enough to know that now when I’m in my house now that I can try to do some projects on my own. And one of the things I learned from that experience was, you know, don’t be afraid to try. And, you know, sit down, strategize. But, you know, pick up the hammer and start, you know, put that hole in the wall if you need to to fix that pipe. But most of time you can do it. Give yourself the opportunity to try.
The final thing here today was when we looked at the timeframe, you know, three months or less, four to six months was kind of the range a lot of people had for their implementation of their marketing automation. And a couple things, you know, one is doing nothing is not a strategy. A lot of times people look and say, “I don’t have three months to implement this.” But that’s really not a strategy because you look at the overall costs that it could be going to your company, lost opportunity, you remember missed opportunity is a slow and certain death. It’s kind of death by a thousand cuts. So if you kind kick the ball down the road, that’s really not a great strategy.
If you don’t move forward, you can almost be guaranteed your competition is doing that and eventually you’ll be left behind. So, I would just say, you know, go ahead and get started and don’t be in that scenario of where you’re looking and saying, “Gosh, if I’d only started these six months ago, where would I be now?” So just a word of encouragement. I know that as marketers we have a lot of things going on. But, you know, you can do it. The opportunity you have as far as more marketing you can do more efficiently, I would say, you know, go ahead and try to get started as soon as possible. And with that, Bryan, I wanted to see if we had any…open up the questions.
Bryan: Yeah. We’re gonna…so folks if who have questions, you can put them in the chat window right now. Some things I do wanna focus in on, it’s really this idea with marketing and kind of marketing technology, excuse me, and where to start and how long it’s gonna take and what are my expectations? For the folks who maybe they’re overwhelmed by it. I know I was having a conversation with someone about a week ago. Their feedback was, you know, “Bryan, this all sounds really cool. I love the idea of marking technology, but I don’t know where to start. I don’t know what to do.” My concept for them is start extremely small, and you’ll see the benefit really quick. Even if it’s something as simple as just track the website interactions of your visitors, see who’s coming to your site, what they’re doing, where they’re spending time on.
From a content marketing strategy, that’s helped because if you know where people are going to on your site, you know what parts of your site to optimize and you know where to put your high-value content so it’s accessible. From there, you can then start parlaying that into, “Okay. Now, let’s have an email strategy to reach out to folks who have looked at this page, filled out this form.” And then from there you start building dynamic content and dynamic landing pages.
If you have the resources to kind of go all-in 110% and build it all out, please do. I don’t think a lot of us honestly do that because I assume a lot of us have a very long to-do list like I know I do, I’m sure, Todd, you do as well. This concept like start small then think big is something that I think has been well taken to our customer base. And I think it’s something that would help a lot of people get the most out of marketing technology.
Todd: That’s a great point.
Bryan: With that, we have some questions that came in. All right. The first one we have is a SharpSpring question. So how do we identify the anonymous customers? Is it remarketing to them based on their behavior? So it’s not necessarily remarketing in this scenario. So, the anonymous visitor tracking is done based on a reverse IP lookup. So someone goes to your website, we do a reverse lookup to see who that IPS is registered to. We then pull that information into SharpSpring based on something called Whois, so it just tells us who the company is owned by or who the IP address is owned by. And then we show that company information in the system.
For known visitors, what we do is we track the visitors based on cookie. So visitors on your website, we cookie. Every device that’s been on your site, we track that cookie around to see what pages it goes to, duration is spending, how it found you, marketing channel, etc. And we show all of that in chart frames. So instead of you having to ask your customers, you know, “How did you find us, how did you come to our site?” we do all that on our side so that what you have to do is just say, “Okay. This is the best lead traffic source that we have or this is the best campaign that’s driving traffic to our site.”
The next one we have is actually for you, Todd. So it is, you’re saying so if it takes about six months on average to implement marketing automation, can you provide any kind of high level estimate for how long it takes to achieve ROI for an agency or a company that’s using marketing technology?
Todd: A good question. There’s no standard X amount of months to get your ROI. I would say a couple of things that I’ve seen with companies that we’ve worked with, you know, one is if you’re…kind of like based on your strategy. You know, typically companies that have a solid strategy going into the process and they’ve kind of identified some of the critical factors for driving return on investment and they implement those first, you know, they’re seeing the quickest return.
You know, so maybe it’s the fact that right now they’re not doing any lead nurturing. But the first thing they’re gonna do with their marketing automation is set up their lead nurturing and get that up and running. Then those companies, I think, tends to…You know, when they’re focused on one or two things, tend get the ROI the quickest.
Bryan: And I think from an ROI perspective too, that kind of “start small, think big” mentality helps out a lot because if you set your conversion goal to be, “Okay. We wanna see in one month’s time the top visited page of our website,” that’s extremely low hanging fruit for a marketing automation platform. And you can just do that by putting tracking code on there and tracking visitors, and then you’ll know.
Then your next month’s goal might be, “Okay. What wanna to do is we wanna increase traffic to our site to this page from this referral source or this campaign source.” And now because you already have that traffic data from the first month, that goal that we set for month one, we can use that as our line in the sand to say, “Okay. Here’s what we wanna improve on moving into month two.” So I think that’s a way to best get ROI in a more manageable fashion.
In my mind, again, it varies based on company. I think six months probably after that implementation of marketing technology is when you’re going to see the full ROI from every part of the platform. That doesn’t mean you’re not getting ROI in those six months while we’re waiting for that build that happen. It just means that we need to make sure that we’re having smaller digestible goals that we’re referencing as well during that time frame.
Todd: Right. And you bring a good point up, I think, from the standpoint of trying to…If you’re able to focus on some of the things you’re already doing and just do them better with the marketing automation, that’s a quick win.
Bryan: Exactly. The next question we had came in is kind of piggybacking on the anonymous visitor one that we had earlier. It says a lot of the traffic that’s coming in is anonymous visitors coming to the site and they’re unable to drill down and see who those visitors are. Is there any way to help dive deeper into those folks?
Absolutely. So, if you’re seeing anonymous traffic coming to your site, it means those are typically consumers because when a consumer comes to your site like myself or anyone here when they’re accessing a web site like on their home internet, when we do a reverse IP lookup, we’re finding the ISP providers, so not the person who that…That IP is not registered to me, Bryan Tobin, as an individual. It’s registered Cox Communications which is the big provider in Gainesville.
So what we need to do is we need to establish tracking to these folks. And that’s when we talk about content marketing and make sure that people are…We’re putting out content that people want. Now, the two big ways to make this work for you to make anonymous visitors known visitors, one, send out emails from your platform to your list that you have, your marketing list, with content that is easy to understand that drives clicks. Because when someone clicks that email and goes to your site, that will establish tracking for them as an individual. And then instead of being an anonymous visitor, we’re going to know who they are. We’re gonna pull in all their previous website activity. We’re gonna show you where they’re spending that time so then you can use that information to market better to them.
The other way is with forms on your site, with kind of a gated content strategy. So if you have white papers, if you have case studies, if you have anything, any kind of collateral that you know is high value that…You know, one of the great ways to know what content works, interview your customers. Ask them what they like or what they’ve been reading, what blogs they enjoy so that when you go to your site you don’t…And I don’t recommend limiting everything because I don’t think that’s a good strategy, but limit the high value content.
Provide a paragraph or two paragraphs or let them read three piece of high-value content. Then put a form in front of the fourth one. Once they fill that out, that established tracking. It also establishes commitment too because if people are just reading on our site and not willing to take that time to fill out the form or don’t wanna do anything to get over a barrier of getting our content, we have a question of are these the right leads for us, are these the right folks that we actually want to be marketing to? So kind of getting that small level of commitment by putting the carrot out there, where the carrot’s our content, then seeing if they fill out the form which is, I guess, biting the carrot in our terrible analogy, that will get them into our system and help us know who those anonymous visitors are.
I know Courtney reached out to the person that asked this question. If you want to have a dialog offline and how this will work for your company, I’m more than happy to do that. We can see what content you have and see what we can do to make that best work.
Todd: And, Bryan, I would just, as you were kind of mentioning there, some really good strategy of you don’t have to get all the information right away, you know. So that aspect of you don’t have to have the 15 filled form right away. You can get that over time and so getting that email initially, I think, is one of the more critical components because then you can start engaging with them. But, you know, it’s a process. People have to, you know, gain trust and, you know, see the value and then over time you can keep gathering more information about them.
Bryan: That’s exactly correct. If you go to a lot of websites for like blog signups, you’ll see, most of them now, they’re doing either kind of the floating bar at the bottom of the screen that just asks for an email to subscribe to their blog. I would start there because you wanna be as…ask for as little information as possible because we all had that kind of Big Brother experience. We’re filling out a form, we don’t want to fill out 15 fields, like Todd said. Keep it simple, follow that KISS methodology for your consumers and make it really easy to get their information from them so that you can give your information to them.
And then you start this kind of two-way conversation using the technology in your content, the platform, and their interest to deliver relevant content to them. I promise you with that strategy, it’s gonna help make those anonymous visitors, known visitors and the ones that remain anonymous, those might just be folks that are forever anonymous which is fine because if they’re forever anonymous, it means they’re never likely to become a customer.
Yes, sorry. The next question that came in was how do we compare what we do to CallRail tracking. Do we need both tools to track media within and phone numbers on radios and billboards? So in regards to SharpSpring, we don’t have a call tracking component. We’re actually working on a formal integration with CallRail. So I’m glad that you called them out. Explicitly, that should be done this year which we’re very excited about.
As far as what you’re talking about with the phone number tracking, that’s exactly correct. So you need both platforms to track. If you put a phone number on a billboard and you wanna see the performance of that for who’s calling that phone number and how that relates to your marketing activity, that is correct because what effectively happens there is they call that phone number, that phone number dials into the CallRail system. That tracks the call interaction. It records the call. It tells them the source. And then that data is then sent with the integration that will be set up will be sent to the SharpSpring platform.
Currently, the best way to make the most of those two platforms is organize that data in CallRail and then import that data into SharpSpring, whether it’s a daily, weekly, monthly, import and then we consolidate the data in the SharpSpring platform. You can easily make a campaign called CallRail in the system. And then what you’re doing is you’re actually in CallRail. You’re comparing your CallRail campaigns against one another. And then in SharpSpring what you’re doing is comparing CallRail at large as a campaign against your other marketing tactics.
You can drill down and be a lot more specific and also compare those individual CallRail campaigns and SharpSpring to one another. But what we’ve seen is it doesn’t really become necessary because you have all that data in CallRail as comparison. And then what you wanna see is what’s the comparison of that tool, so that CallRail platform, compared to your other marketing channels.
So, next question that we came in, our survey…Excuse me, Todd, this for you. The survey that we had listed analytics and reporting as the most important must-have feature. Can you elaborate on what metrics a marketer, an agency should be looking for when we talk about analytics or what should they be tracking with reporting with their marketing technology tool?
Todd: I mean, obviously conversion rate always. That always is a metric that I wanna look at, you know, because a lot times there may not be a whole lot of value in clicks and things like that. There’s a little bit of value. But a lot of times, I like to look at the ones where people are making an active decision about something and helping us to meet our goals. Those are the metrics that I tend to look at.
Typically, you know, you have to be very careful about just not collecting data to collect data. And what I would say is a lot of times when you’re looking, you know, you might have a whole list of your metrics you can collect and you think you wanna collect. And then over time, you’ll start saying, “Well, this really isn’t helping me make a decision.” And so, I always kind of go back to my metrics, are they helping me make a decision? And those are the ones I value most.
Bryan: And then I think conversion is the biggest one. And then when we talk about conversion, again, identifying what your conversion is. It is it phone calls, is it in-person meetings, is it demos? Whatever your conversion is, just track that because at the end of the day, you know, clicks and opens and visits and impressions and visitors are all things that every tool is gonna track for you. So it’s kind of ubiquitous information that is important to all of us.
But to make it personal or individualize it for our business, we need to know what’s unique about us, what gets us in the door, what makes us happy? Is it 20 orthopedic appointments for our client that wants more clients coming in? What is the measure of success likely? And asking that question upfront before any implementation is probably one of the most important things we can do because I guarantee everyone here has been in the scenario where we spent time building something for a client and then we come back and their expectation was not in line with what we thought our deliverable was intended to accomplish. So let’s ask that question and once we get that, find a way to measure it in your platform. And then, of course, the reporting analytics will take care of the other side for it.
We have time for one more question. And I think it’s actually a great one that, Todd, I think I’d like to kind of jointly attack with you. So the question is when we’re implementing a marketing automation strategy, should we start or could we start without a strong sales staff to follow up on leads? Or I guess what is the appropriate amount of sales interaction initially needed to support marketing automation? And, Todd, I’ll let you start with an answer.
Todd: Sure. Well, I mean, really the goal of your marketing automation is to make those leads sales ready, right? So there’s gonna be a lot of work that you’re doing upfront to, you know, to get that person to a sales where they lead. So, a lot of times when you’re looking at, you know, are we gonna overwhelm our sales person, are we staffed up, you know, I would probably initially say, well, you might wanna cross that bridge when you get to it, you know, because you have to set up and find out what that flow is gonna be to your sales people.
You know, the goal of marketing automation should also be putting less burden on your sales staff. You’re not gonna be sending them every single lead now. You’re going to be qualifying those leads. They’re gonna be more sales ready because now you’re tracking to see how much they’ve read, how engaged they’ve been with you. And you’re able to…hopefully, the marketing automation allows you to save time on the sales side. You’re gonna hopefully, eventually get more leads but the leads you’re giving them should be of higher quality. So that’s what I would say is just, you know, think of it from that perspective of you’re hopefully gonna take some work off of the sales department.
Bryan: Yeah. I 100% agree with that. You don’t need an an overly large sales staff. If you have one that’s already in place, that’s fantastic. If you ever talk to a sales person that hasn’t had good quality leads coming to them or has had bad sales meetings, you know a very upset and angry person, which is valid on their part because that is their livelihood is to make transactions and build relationships. So in marketing technology, we’re trying to make sure that the folks that are ready for that sales conversation are more clear to our marketing team so that we can take those marketing qualified leads and make them sales qualified leads.
You know, when we implement a marketing automation platform, even if you have just different content that you’ve crafted that has more of that sales tone like asking for more of a commitment compelling call-to-action, whereas your marketing copy and content is more informational and getting people interested, that’s great. And then when people actually respond to that sales copy and sales content, you might have one sales…You know, we started with one sales person. And not that our sales team is growing incrementally, but our company has because what we’ve done is we’ve allowed our sales team to capitalize on the leads that are coming in by connecting them with the ones that are the most sales ready.
So if they’re not a sales ready lead, they’re being nurtured automatically which is fine, getting an email or getting content, you know, once a month or whatever your cadence is. But the folks that are all over the site looking at content, downloading white papers, those are the people that are getting the sales conversations at the appropriate time.
For any follow-up questions that come in after this, we will follow up with those after the call. I wanna provide contact information for some follow-ups. If you have any other questions, any one, you can reach out to myself, firstname.lastname@example.org, for SharpSpring oriented. You can reach out to Todd @toddascend2.com. There’s both the website on the screen right there. I know this one went a little bit longer, but I think it was a really good Q&A session. Todd, any closing remarks before we go ahead and shut down the webinar?
Todd: Yeah. It was a pleasure to be with you today, Bryan. And please, feel free to send questions to me from the audience because I’d be more than happy to discuss it with you.
Bryan: We absolutely will. And, Todd, a sincere thanks for you again. Again, this was kind of a different webinar. I really loved all the research-based findings that we could support every single thing that we talked about with marketing technology every time we do one of these webinars. So it was cool on our side to have that perspective. So again, sincere thanks to you.
Todd: Yeah. You’re welcome.
Bryan: All right. Audience, thank you for attending, we will talk on the next session. For all the partners, I hope to see you on the SpringBoard Live this Friday and everyone have a great remainder of your Wednesday.