In part 7 of our Masterclass Series on "Building a Strategic Marketing Plan for Your Business," The Five Echelon Group's Founder/CMO Eric Dickmann talks with HubSpot's Customer Success Manager- Alex Desnoyers, about using marketing automation to increase campaign effectiveness.
Alex Desnoyers is a Customer Success Manager at HubSpot. He graduated from The University of Wisconsin in 2014 with a degree in Communication Arts and a certificate in Digital Studies. He was recruited by HubSpot, where he helps organizations grow better. As a Customer Success Manager, Desnoyers works with HubSpot's partners and helps them derive value from the HubSpot platform. He focuses on helping partners and their clients get the most value from marketing automation technologies through integration and implementation of core technologies.
HubSpot, Inc. provides a cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) platform for businesses in the Americas, Europe, and the Asia Pacific. The company's CRM platform includes marketing, sales, service, and content management systems, as well as integrated applications, such as search engine optimization, blogging, website content management, messaging, chatbots, social media, marketing automation, email, predictive lead scoring, sales productivity, ticketing and helpdesk tools, customer NPS surveys, analytics, and reporting. It also offers professional, as well as phone and/or email and chat based support services. It serves mid-market business-to-business companies. HubSpot, Inc. was incorporated in 2005 and is headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
How can I find new leads and increase sales? It's the age old marketing question. And in this fast-paced, technology-focused world, your sales skills alone may not be enough to attract potential new customers. That's where marketing automation software comes in to play. When combined with engaging content and a robust digital presence, marketing automation can help drive awareness and lead generation for the products or services you are selling to the market. Your website is the hub for introducing your business to your target market and providing them value by offering up relevant content through articles, blog posts, newsletters, video or other forms of digital content.
This is where marketing automation comes in. Software such as HubSpot, Marketo, Pardot, and others help you effectively manage your marketing campaigns, understand buyer intent, analyze the effectiveness of various marketing tactics, and provide a central repository for marketing data. Buying a marketing automation platform does not guarantee success over more manual processes but does give you a strong foundation in which to increase the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns.
Inbound Marketing vs. Outbound Marketing
HubSpot is still a teenager but has been in the forefront of providing marketing automation tools focused primarily on the SMB (small and medium sized business) market. Founded by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah in June 2006, HubSpot gained notoriety not only for its software platform, but for its strong advocacy of its cultural code that openly and transparently valued employee's participation within its organization. In addition, HubSpot pioneered the concept of inbound marketing and how that related to the buyer's journey in this digital age.
In contrast with more traditional outbound marketing that focuses on more static tactics like advertising in print, on television or on radio broadcasts, inbound marketing is designed to find the right people, at the right time, and on their terms. Alex Desnoyers adds that inbound marketing focuses on building a targeted approach designed to appeal more to the target audience or prospective customers. A benefit of inbound marketing is that it tends to be much less expensive than outbound marketing because it concentrates its attention on creating customer-centric messages aimed at a more narrowly focused audience rather than blanketing the marketplace with much more broadly targeted messaging. Weidert Blog differentiates inbound marketing from outbound marketing:
Crafting Your Message to Communicate with Your Customers
When you are talking to your customers or target market, it's important to understand how to craft messages that meet these people where they are and reflect an understanding of their specific needs. The goal is to create marketing messages and personalized content to bring value to your desired audience. Whether you are in B2B or B2C, it is crucial to recognize that each of your customers have a different buyer's journey, and it is your responsibility to design content that relates to their needs at specific stages of their journey. Design campaigns and content to solve whatever issues they are facing at the moment.
HubSpot Blog shares with us some tips on how to craft compelling messages for your target audience:
- Figure out who you are and what your business is all about
- Know your audience and what stage they are at
- Create a document that explains your brand message
- Brainstorm messaging opportunities- It doesn't have to be perfect; it just has to be easily understood by your readers
Alex reminds us that differentiation is not only evident in how you sell your products or services, it's also in the value you provide along the way. If you do a Google search on anything about buyer's journey, marketing automation, or inbound marketing, you'll definitely see HubSpot in the top search results. This is because HubSpot creates helpful content and free resources for people to access. Keep in mind that it is not enough to be a great company with excellent products or services; it's also crucial to find ways to continually build trust and confidence with your target market.
Gated vs. Ungated Content
Alex shares that HubSpot invested much thought into their content strategy and making sure that their content is genuinely helpful to blog visitors. Their consistent blog strategy of educating readers also provides a way to show how HubSpot can help them get to where they want to be. Over time, the company's content creators have fine-tuned their best practices based on how search engines are changing. Having good content is important but it's not much good unless it's found online. Building valuable content while also making sure you're following SEO best practices gives your content the best shot at being found by your target audience.
But what happens once they find your content? Isn't the goal to collect their information and turn them into a lead for Sales follow-up? Alex Desnoyers explains that you don't always have to demand something in return from web visitors for every piece of information they acquire from your site. Businesses need to find the proper timing when asking for the customer's personal information and contact details. Often times, early in the buyer's journey it makes sense to have ungated content or content that you offer without requiring any information in return. According to Alex, the advantage of having ungated content is that you are able to build authority on a particular subject matter and improve your search engine ranking. On the downside, you will miss out on the chance to collect information on your prospect.
You don't have to necessarily choose between gating and ungating every piece of information you have; it's best to have a mixture of both gated and ungated content. It's a matter of where does it make sense to ask for proportionate information. It's a question of whether the content is commensurately helpful for the information you're requesting or is the content something that your audience should just know about and therefore you're going to make it publicly available to help educate the audience.
How Do You Define A Pillar Page?
Pillar pages help your website build additional search credibility within Google. Desnoyers explains that the idea of a pillar page is to create a hub and spoke strategy that creates both a literal and metaphorical connection between different main topics and subtopics. Basically, the idea is to show the search engines that your website has a large chunk of relevant and ungated content that is cleanly organized and relevant to potential visitors. Having a well-formatted web page will help search engines understand that your page is authoritative and can easily connect to other pieces of the puzzle. For instance, if you are discussing social media marketing, you don't have to only talk about that specific topic; you can branch out and discuss related topics, such as marketing automation, SEO strategies, or even web design. Covering a wide range of topics and building semantic connections within your page sends a loud signal to the search engines that you know what you are talking about and deserve to be the top resource for a specific search result.
In the most basic sense, a pillar page is a one-stop shop for everything that you want to know about a particular subject area. This obviously builds a tremendous amount of authority within Google and for your company as well. Creating a pillar page may not be for the faint-hearted because it takes some time to produce, but once you are able to pull it off, it can be an excellent addition to your website. FulcrumForge lists the six benefits of a pillar page to your website:
- Improved SEO scores
- Better content quality
- Provides a content roadmap for your team
- More efficient content creation
- Allows "content binging"
- Easier communication and reporting
Marketing Automation- Part Art, Part Science
We are a big believer in having a hub for your marketing strategy. As your company grows, you acquire additional tools and technology in your stack but need a place to store your data. Having a central repository where all of that data is going to reside is one of the most important things in marketing because measuring and monitoring your results are fundamental to understanding what works and what doesn't. As most marketers know, marketing is part art, part science. It requires some experimentation to determine what works. Even then, what worked yesterday might not be as effective today ,and so having the foundational tools in place to measure and monitor campaign effectiveness is critical to maximizing your marketing spend.
There are many marketing automation hubs and CRM's (customer relationship management) platforms you can use to build your marketing strategy around but it is critical to have that single source of truth that you can rely upon. Alex says that it is shocking that despite the numerous CRMs and marketing automation platforms that are available, there are still many companies that still use Excel Spreadsheets to compile their data and make marketing decisions. Having marketing automation software allows you to monitor and follow up with your customers and prospects more efficiently.
For small businesses, you may start with a couple dozen to a couple hundred customers, but having an automation engine in place early provides a foundation to scale your business effectively. According to Alex, even though there are aspects to marketing automation, getting the data right is always the most important part. And building that centralized repository of data early makes life much easier down the road. Struto UK shares to us some of the benefits of using a marketing automation platform:
- It helps you keep up with your content creation
- It is analytical
- Its an all-in-one tool
- It takes social to a new level
- It boosts lead tracking and conversions
- It makes SEO creation and maintenance easier
- It allows you to edit your website freely
- Its got an integrated CRM
Marketing Hub Integration
While HubSpot is the platform we use at The Five Echelon Group and often recommend to our clients, there are many tools that can help you achieve your business objectives. We have clients who use Microsoft Dynamics or Salesforce/Pardot for their sales needs, MailChimp or Constant Contact for emailing, and Buffer or Hootsuite for social media posting. All of these are good tools. Sometimes there are features of a specific tool that makes it a better choice than one that comes with a more comprehensive marketing automation platform. What we advise is investing in a platform that provides strong integration capabilities so that even if you use a different tool for one aspect of your marketing program, the core customer data is still maintained in that CRM repository.
Alex points out that HubSpot's continuous API (application programming interfaces) updates allow them to be connected and interoperate with many other tools and applications available in the market. Some genuinely offer unique functionality that might be a helpful for your particular marketing strategy. But look for tools that have open integration so that they can integrate to your main marketing hub. You do not want to end up with a siloed piece of technology that doesn't fit in with the rest of your marketing automation stack which makes it very difficult to pull analytics and insights.
Power of Workflow In a Marketing Automation Platform
Once you build out a tech stack and have data from the proper sources sewn together, you need to define your buyer's journey. It is not enough to have the proper marketing automation tools; you want to clearly understand those life cycle stages as well. Alex tells us that once you understand what those different stages are and how varies customer touchpoints can give us insight into where buyers are in their journey, we can make better decisions about what makes a qualified lead which then becomes a valuable trigger for automating different types of outreach.
Workflow is a powerful automation tool but creating workflows is complex; that's why it's important to start simple . Once you get some of these automated processes set up and get the rules figured out as to how you want people to enter a workflow process, it can magically work behind the scenes to help scale your marketing outreach. Triggers can be used to gauge buying intent signals and offer up additional content or information appropriate to the current stage of the buyer's journey.
This can be extremely powerful because it's nearly impossible for humans to monitor everything a prospective customer might be doing but by using powerful tools within a workflow engine, various events and activities can trigger automations and actions that might be missed without them. Desnoyers tells us that you really don't have to do anything once that automation has been set up because your system already knows what to do. This gives your team more time to focus on other aspects of your business.
Another benefit of having a marketing automation platform is the increased visibility it gives you into customer interactions. For example, if you're a salesperson and you are working on an integrated platform like this, you can see exactly the visited pages and downloaded resources by prospective customers. If your website is integrated with other tools, you can see those integration points as well. This interaction history gives you powerful insights into your customer's buyer's journey. Alex adds that beauty of having these insights is even before your prospect speaks, you already know certain information they want, or what "ammunition" might be needed to convert a lead.
Despite all the information you have at your disposal, you also have to watch out for the nonverbal cues and buying intent signals from your customers. With the noise and pace of everything happening around us, people are often reluctant to raise their hands or reach out. In HubSpot, you have a lead revisit notification where you can check out what your customers had been constantly visiting or checking out for the past days. Once they revisit your site, you want to get that notification so you can prioritize that outreach and directly communicate with them regarding their specific need.
HubSpot Blog shares with us the nine significant benefits of having a marketing automation platform in your reach:
- Marketing automation rewards you with efficiency
- Marketing and sales alignment
- Increased conversion rates
- Accurate reporting
- Personalized marketing strategy
- Lead scoring
- Data management
- Scalable processes
- Lead nurturing
Funnels and Flywheels
When you think about all the hard work that goes into planning a cohesive campaign, automation can be touching every part of that, from the scheduling of the social media posts in advance to queuing up of those nurture emails in advance. There are many different places where you can start to apply that force multiplier to speed up the process and help you do it at scale. HubSpot has developed something that they call, a Flywheel.
For years, the discussion about the whole idea of sales and marketing funnels was to get a broad group of leads down to a very small group of buyer ready leads. But today, businesses need to think more broadly about how customers interact with their organizations throughout their lifespan and HubSpot has been pushing this new idea called- Flywheel. Alex Desnoyers tells us that a Flywheel is like a hub and spoke model brought back to life, where CRM is at the center. He tells us that the goal of the Flywheel is to ensure that the customers still remain as customers because retaining them is a lot cheaper than getting new ones. With the Flywheel model, businesses think about how the three major pieces of your organization- marketing, sales, and service will help your whole organization spin faster and generate more revenue. It's about a cohesive strategy and inter-departmental cooperation that helps reduce the friction for those leads, prospects, and customers. Basically, your goal here is to keep your current customers and make those major pieces of your organization work together.
We're all fallible and the systems do solve a lot of problems. But you still need a carpenter to use those tools."
Some businesses believe that having a marketing automation platform in their arsenal will guarantee high lead conversation rates and a significant increase in sales. Buying tools such as HubSpot or Salesforce/Pardot won't magically solve your problems because these tools only serve as tools to help implement your business objectives. Desnoyers tells us that humans still have to be involved in the automated processes. Marketers cannot just complain about the quality of the leads they are getting without attempting to integrate a human connection in their business strategy with partners, stakeholders, and prospects. Your marketing automation software and other integrated tools may be an enabler, but they're never going to work on their own. They need to be supported by good processes and a firm understanding of your buyer's journey so that everyone is working together with the same set of goals and objectives.
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Alex Desnoyers is a Customer Success Manager at HubSpot. He graduated from The University of Wisconsin in 2014 with a degree in Communication Arts and a certificate in Digital Studies. As a Customer Success Manager, Desnoyers works with HubSpot's partners to help customer grow better.