Ditch the Carpool Lane! Why Marketing Automation is the Self-Driving Car



As a marketer, your job is to guide your leads through the sales funnel, from anonymous prospects to happy customers. But as your organization scales, it becomes increasingly difficult to drive each lead through the funnel in a personalized, customized way – in a way that feels human.

Today, up to 95% of the qualified prospects visiting your website aren’t ready to talk to a sales rep, but up to 70% of them will eventually buy. As a marketer, one of the best ways to nurture those leads is through relevant and engaging email marketing, delivered in a way that is both personal and powerful.

In the early stages of a business, when you have fewer leads in your database and less content, driving leads through the sales funnel is much simpler. But as your business grows, old methods of lead nurturing – the way that we drive our leads through the funnel – no longer work. Download our new ebook, The Customer Engagement Engine: Powering Your Self-Driving Car,  to learn all about a smart new way of nurturing leads – even at scale.

Here’s how lead nurturing has evolved, from the “personal chauffeur” method, to a vehicle that lets your leads drive themselves:

Phase 1: The Personal Chauffer

If you only have a handful of leads, you can engage them individually, crafting each email to suit them specifically, sending them materials you remember they’d asked for. This is like walking each lead through the funnel individually. The advantage is that you can adjust your pace to match theirs, present information in sync with their unique questions, and take breaks when they need more time. The disadvantage? It’s impossible to scale.

Phase 2: The Carpool Lane

As more leads start offering up their names, you might start a small database of potential customers. You can still keep track of who needs what  information, but you might send the same email to a handful of customers, or create a piece of content you know several of your prospects would like. This is like using a carpool to drive them through the funnel – faster than walking, but a little less personal, and a little more complicated.

Phase 3: A Fleet of Buses

This is the phase that most of our serious prospects are in. When your database becomes unmanageably big, you might decide it’s time for a more advanced solution, like an Email Service Provider (ESP), to help you organize your emails and lead nurturing. This is like hiring a fleet of buses to drive your leads. ESPs can handle large numbers of leads, but they can’t replicate the personal, two-way nature of a real conversation. ESPs rely on “batch and blast” emails – huge numbers of emails that are sent to every single one of a marketer’s leads, regardless of who those leads are.

The problem is that not everyone is ready to be driven at the same time – in the same way that your leads aren’t all ready to buy at the same time. But if you’re driving everybody on the same big bus, you’ll either be too pushy or too slow for each one.  Some prospects will think your buses go too slowly, others will think they go too fast. Some kinds of leads like comfortable, elaborately furnished buses; other leads value simplicity and speed. Some leads think you should take the superhighway; others prefer the scenic route.

So what happens? The drivers can’t please everyone, so many of your prospects will just get off the bus. Some will accept rides from other companies without telling you, while others will just get lost. Some leads don’t like to be picked up at the bus stop – they want to be picked up at home, or at work, or at their aunt’s house after dinner – but you don’t have that kind of flexibility. In short, the more prospects you try to drive, the smaller percentage of them ever reaches the bottom of the funnel.

Phase 4: The Self-Driving Car

So what do you need? You need a car that drives at the right speed and arrives at the right places. It takes direction without veering off track, it’s easy to refuel, and it lasts a lifetime. But how do you build a car like that? Marketers don’t want to spend their time wrangling buses, but they aren’t auto mechanics (or programmers) either.

If you’re ready to drive your customers, but you have too many to drive each one yourself, it’s probably time for marketing automation. Even better, you want marketing automation that uses sophisticated lead nurturing.

If an ESP is a mega-bus, marketing automation is like a fleet of self-driving, customizable, fully responsive cars. Relevant, individualized lead nurturing empowers marketers to escort each lead through the funnel, mindful of that lead’s preferred pace, route, and timeline. Here’s why:

1. It eliminates time-consuming, ineffective nurture flows.

We’ve talked about the inconvenience (and ineffectiveness) of flowchart-based nurturing programs before. Headache inducing flowcharts are a waste of your team’s time and talents, which is why advanced lead nurturing solutions use transition rules based on demographic, firmographic, and behavioral data. This allows you to execute sophisticated programs without technical expertise.

2. You can show your prospects something new.

If a prospect goes to your website today and downloads your latest and greatest content, you’d hope that your marketing automation solution wouldn’t send that same piece in a nurture email two days later. Unfortunately, most systems on the market aren’t that smart, and will send that content. You want a platform built to track and manage exactly that – no additional programming necessary.

3. You’ll never run out of gas.

Content is the fuel of any successful dialogue, and as all marketers know, creating engaging content can be very time-consuming. In Marketo, an “exhaustion” graph tells you how many conversations need to be refueled, and how much mileage is left on the others. This means you’ll know (way ahead of time) when it’s time to start creating something new.

4. The “Check Engine” light.

Marketers rarely get every message right, which is why the ability to score and revise is so important.  You want your marketing automation to supply you with plenty of data, but you also want an engine that boils down engagement to one intelligent score. This way, if a tactic isn’t reaching your audience, you can quickly adjust your tone. 

All of this is possible with Marketo’s Customer Engagement engine, a solution that allows marketers to deliver engaging, relevant dialogues with prospects and customers. By tracking demographics, firmographics, and individual behaviors, the Customer Engagement engine automatically serves up highly relevant conversations, establishing and nurturing long-term customer relationships.

Want to learn more about creating engaging, relevant dialogues with your customers, even at scale? Download our ebook, The Customer Engagement Engine: Powering Your Self-Driving Car.