You already know that marketing automation continues to grow in popularity as marketers spend more of their budget and allocate more of their staff to integrate it into everything they do. The reason is the impact it has on so many aspects of marketing from personalization to lead generation, customer journey to data analytics, and everything in between. Wait. Those are the same functions of ad agency business development, and many agencies realize the value, too. If you are wondering whether marketing automation is worth the investment for your agency, you should because many of the things you or your business development team is doing today can be replaced by automation so that you can spend your time on strategy, relationship building, and closing.
I’ve seen reports that show about 60% to 70% of agencies use some form of marketing automation for their agency. Other reports confuse the issue by including email platforms, content management systems, customer relationship systems, and other more specialized platforms. Regardless of what you call it, the underlying benefit of replacing manual tasks with automation and data can improve marketing processes and effectiveness. The degree improvements can be made depends on the strategy and implementation. Those that say they tried it and failed actually mean they didn’t know how to use it properly for their business, their users didn’t accept and adapt it for their processes, or they didn’t invest the time necessary to understand how and where it can fit in.
Make no mistake. It requires time to get through the learning curve like anything else new or different. Where so many systems fail, and this is well documented, is in training. The platform people know their system inside and out, but they don’t understand the business application. They train. They create how-to videos. They follow the script, imposing standard functions on unique processes. They force people into their box rather than figuring out how and where the platform integrates and doesn’t, into the business. The end result is a high-ticket subscription that is more trouble than benefit.
Despite the bad news, the answer is yes! You should have marketing automation in your business development toolbox. With a clear strategy for how to use it, the benefits are profound. When it comes to agency business development, the application isn’t the same as what most well-known platforms cater to. To achieve the right benefits for an agency, you have to understand the platform and have experience with agency practices and business development to develop an appropriate strategy. When you do, you can leverage all the right features to improve your prospecting efforts while freeing up time and resources to focus on the things that you do best to win more clients.
Real marketing automation platforms combine core functions in a seamless operation so that you can manage all of them together, see and understand the results of each of them, optimize the processes to enhance performance, and uncover more and better methods to improve lead flow, engagement, prospect journeys, and sales. The core functions that I value the most are:
- Contact management – people, their information, history, and actions
- Content creation and management – email, forms, landing pages, blogs, social, video, and other digital files
- Automation – what you want to be done when, where, and how
- Analytics – who and what happened
- Sales pipeline – who is in and isn’t, why, what stage, what revenue, and what to do next
There are hundreds of other things you can do and even more third-party apps that integrate, allowing you to grow your platform in only the right ways. For example, add an outbound calling function, add a handwritten stamped and mailed thank you card generator, connect to e-commerce to sell your agency t-shirts or research, connect with your billing, project management, or Slack channel. The possibilities are virtually endless. For now, let’s focus on the core benefits of agency business development.
You can keep all your prospects in one place with all their information readily available to anyone on the team at a click. You can group and segment them any way you want, and see their history of interactions; content shared, calls, meetings, proposals, social media profiles, so you can personalize, customize, and prioritize what you do next, all conveniently displayed on the screen before you. No more hunting through spreadsheets and tabs, notes, and status reports. No more post-it notes to remind you to follow up. You’ll know if they visited the website, read the proposal, viewed the case study, or are just kicking the tires. You can manage more prospects more effectively than any other method while saving significant time better spent on other things.
Within the platform, you can create content or import it, all linked to your analytics and automation, and personalized to each prospect. Content such as emails, internal notifications, forms, landing pages, blogs, and social media. You can import videos, capabilities decks, pdf, and any other digital files. There are simple templates to build your own, or import what you’ve already created, allowing a never-ending stream of content. You can preset how and when any of your content is used, viewed, and see who has opened it, clicked, when, and where else they went around your website, blog, or landing pages. You can create and manage more content more effectively with integrated tracking to know what is working and what isn’t.
The biggest time saver is smartly automated processes and events. When a prospect visits the website automatically share more of the content, they viewed and put them on your follow-up list. Start them on a personalized drip campaign that fires at the ideal time in their time zone to nudge them along their path of learning about the agency. Set up nurture campaigns that deliver regular emails to build awareness and understanding with triggers to pull them out and notify you when they engage. Create newsletter campaigns with dynamic content to match each prospect’s interest. Activate multitouch outreach that integrates emails, mailings, and calls. Sort prospects into lists for specific industries, priorities, or any other actions. Set lead score thresholds to send interest-specific content. It does all the manual sorting and deciphering work for you and delivers a to-do list so you can apply your skills and expertise where it matters most.
Data-driven prospecting is the key. Stop wondering who opened, clicked, visited the website, how many times, how many pages, and what are they interested in. Stop wondering if your email, or capabilities deck, or video is achieving what you need. Stop spending countless hours analyzing, tabulating, and compiling data for status reports and forecasting. Integrated analytics collects data across everything and every activity, so you know where your prospect stands in near real-time, what happened and didn’t what prospects are hot and who isn’t, and how well you are doing towards your goals and milestones. The analytics built into most systems is akin to turning on the lights in every corner, so there is no more guessing, much less more prospecting in the dark, no more I don’t know what to do next. The amount of time you save gathering data and the impact the data has on your decision-making is a game-changer compared to the old ways.
By now you’ve read about a lot of benefits marketing automation has for agency business development and the impact of data-driven prospecting. That data is also invaluable for sales management and forecasting the road ahead. The sales pipeline feature provides an easy-to-read and understand summary of where active prospects are in the pipeline. It sorts them by the stages you define; interest, conversation, meeting, proposal, pitch, etc., timing, and what the value of the services are to close the ROI loop on all your business development activity. Leadership has a clear view of a prospect or the entire pipeline at any time, and the business development team knows exactly where they are to make informed decisions about what to do next and whether they’ll hit bonus or commission and how much.
The beauty of a good system is the right building blocks like these configured to your specific needs, whatever those are. Some of the best platforms are far too complicated because they have to accommodate the broadest range of businesses and the most sophisticated applications. You know their names. Some of the worst systems are hard to configure, counter-intuitive, and a nightmare to use. You probably don’t know their names. I use SharpSpring and will gladly show you how I use it and the benefits I get. No matter which system you like, choose one because marketing automation is an essential tool for today’s business development pro.
There are so many more ways to apply a marketing automation platform to your business development practices. Much too many to list here yet these alone will make a significant impact on your business development – the number of prospects you can manage, the information you get about how they engage with you and your content, and the hours freed up for what your team does best. It doesn’t replace your business development program. It adds an automated admin, analyst, and project manager to the team so you can focus on the most important stuff – closing more business. Get more details here.
I’ve got a lot of advice on how to make your business development efforts more effective and would enjoy sharing what I know. If you like this post, click the thumbs up, so I’ll know, and then sign up for my new business newsletter. Find me on LinkedIn for daily tips, tricks, and insights. And, please share your new business advice, successes, and failures. #LetsGrow!