Growing a business is hard. Advertising messages are everywhere, creating a cacophony of indistinguishable voices. How can we cut through the noise, demonstrate genuine concern, and solve pressing problems for each customer? How can we make them so happy they refer others to us? Most importantly, can we do this consistently—with every prospect?
Perfection is out of reach. Human beings are not machines; we have bad moods and off days. But machines always do what we say, and that makes them an ideal accountability partner.
When we encode our processes in automated systems, the work we value will always get done. Well-designed automation prevents our human weaknesses from letting work fall through the cracks. It takes us beyond our day-to-day crises and helps us create a customer experience that grows our business.
Marketing is essential to every enterprise. Businesses succeed when they reach their ideal customers, and they fail when customers are left unreached. Here is where automation makes a significant contribution.
Social media management: If you manage more than one social media profile by hand, stop it. You are wasting your time. You will be more effective when you schedule posts in advance and share the same messages across multiple platforms. Reading through hundreds of blog posts to find the most relevant content to share with your followers is impossible—unless you are a time machine inventor.
Your need for a time machine only increases as customers engage with your brand. Checking multiple social inboxes and responding on each platform is unworkable. Managing a broad social media footprint is too much without tools to automate the process.
Search marketing: The tools we use for paid search marketing and advertising on social media platforms are highly automated. Social and search platforms use sophisticated algorithms to deliver your ads to their users. But managing advertising campaigns across multiple platforms presents the same challenge as social media marketing. Here again, a suite of advertising management systems can automate much of the work.
Lead generation: How can someone interested in your business learn more about you without making a big commitment? Websites can offer downloadable resources in return for contact information.
Privacy-conscious people are reticent to share contact information online, so you must give away real value to get results. In return, those who need what you offer will start a conversation with you. And, since people guard their contact information, this transaction is almost a sale. The prospect has begun a trust relationship with your company.
Customer relationship management (CRM) software allows you to capture a prospect's information and send them your give-away. It can also enroll them in a sales pipeline and prompt your team to follow up. No more valuable sales leads need to fall through the cracks.
After the initial lead generation event, CRM tools can monitor your website, email campaigns, and social media interactions to let you know when someone is ready for more outreach. For best results, enroll prospects in a pre-written series of emails to nurture the relationship, ask for an appointment, and assign the lead to a salesperson.
When your marketing automation qualifies a lead, it can assign that lead to a salesperson. The business-to-business sales process is typically high-touch. It is about human relationships, trust, and consulting. Here we come to the end of machines. A highly skilled sales rep must take action to make things happen.
Follow-up: Automation helps with follow-up as well. After a sales call, your system can kick off a pre-written series of sales emails to strengthen the relationship. It can also create and track deals from the initial sales call and track your win/loss ratio.
Quotes and estimates: Rather than mailing paper documents, send an email with a quote. Let the customer give the go-ahead to start the process online. Your system can watch for a response and prompt you to follow up when needed.
Billing: We are all familiar with electronic invoices and credit card payments. But automation lets us integrate our customer's purchase data with our CRM. Based on their purchase history, we can segment customers and provide them the information they need at the right time. Sales departments can use order data to identify customers who are ready for another product or service offering.
Note: Your customer billing data is private. Automation systems must respect that fact and guard financial information against abuse by employees and third parties.
E-Commerce: Customers routinely add items to their shopping cart and then go on to other things. That leaves the merchant wondering if they missed out on a sale or if the customer was just window-shopping. Sending an email whenever someone abandons a shopping cart can re-activate customers and increase sales.
Customer experience automation allows you to track a project or purchase as a deal that moves through a pipeline. These pipelines are unique to your business and flexible enough to express almost any workflow. They can be simple, or they can include many steps.
Automated deals pipelines can model the fulfillment process and ensure that it moves through the necessary steps to deliver a high-quality experience for the customer. Automation can also model the phases of a consulting project or any service a business provides.
Customer Retention Automation
Keeping customers engaged makes the difference between a healthy business and a dying one. It is harder to sell to a stranger than to someone who knows, likes, and trusts you. But many business owners neglect marketing to their existing customers. Automation helps to solve this problem.
Referrals: When you finish a deal, you have a golden opportunity to ask your customer for referrals. Ask them if they know anyone who also needs your help. Referrals are a powerful form of marketing, and yet we often forget to ask for them.
When a customer pays their final bill or has received their product, your system should reach out to them with a message requesting referrals and offering a benefit in return. That benefit could be a thank you, a discount, or a gift certificate. Use your creativity.
If you own a high-end business, your follow-up will likely be more personal. Rather than sending an email, your system could remind a sales rep to contact the customer. They could find out if issues need to be resolved and then ask for referrals.
Events: Every human being has a birthday, so why not send your customers a thoughtful gift to celebrate their special day? They will value the personal attention and often will reciprocate by making a purchase. Birthday reminders are a simple automation recipe available in most CRM systems.
Go beyond automation to get the attention of your customers. When your business is in the news, launches a product, or offers a discount, talk about it. Connecting a relevant offer to an event increases engagement.
Automating your customer experience improves all of your business processes. It makes your online prospecting more effective and lets you be consistent in your social media outreach. Automation can also link prospects into your sales pipeline and fulfillment processes. Connecting analytics and customer interactions with CRM records lets you reply to a conversation a new contact has initiated. After the purchase, use automation to deliver a successful customer experience. Intelligent automation can turn customers into healthy long-term fans who refer others to your business.