Tell me if this sounds familiar. You’ve recently discovered the wonderful technology of sales automation. No longer will leads go cold for lack of follow-up. No longer will sales staff be caught in the tedium of contacting prospects over and over, trying cleverly to make an email finally catch their attention. With just a little bit of upfront planning, the machine will begin to work for you. Your sales team will hoist you on their shoulders, singing in unison that you’re “a jolly good fellow” as they enjoy the benefits of inbound sales calls, derived from the brilliance of your automated inbound marketing.
There’s just one problem. You’ve never actually “nurtured” two different leads into a closed sale through the exact same process. No one customer path has ever looked like the one prior.
There is a famously quoted line from the 1993 blockbuster Jurassic Park, “your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.” In many respects, sales and marketing automation software – much like the Jurassic theme park – offers the promise of fun for all but ends up as a chaotic nightmare that you are desperate to escape.
What could possibly go wrong, you ask? What if a salesperson makes a warm-call (a follow-up, perhaps) not knowing that he or she has already sent an email that day? It was, after all, automatic. What if your best customer takes an action on your website that appears similar to what a cold lead might have done? Suddenly, they’re getting messages with promotional pricing intended to attract new customers and asking for it to be honored. What if a prospect tells sales staff that they’re uninterested, but continue to get emails daily because their previous actions emulated a hot prospect?
If you think you’re ready to automate because the software seems promising, then you are probably not ready to automate your marketing. When you’ve devised a successful and effective follow-up strategy, but you’re overwhelmed with the tedious process of executing it, then (and only then) are you ready to automate the process.
Here are some things to consider when deciding if it’s time to nurture leads automatically:
1. Have you nurtured your leads manually yet?
Got a great idea for a lead nurturing campaign? Run it in an old-fashioned copy and paste mode first. Get a group of cold leads, and each morning, go through the tedious process of sending the would-be automated message manually.
If you’re honest with yourself, you will hit points where you will hesitate to hit the “send” button. Why? Because you know what no computer could: that the message is inappropriate for that particular lead at that moment. Note the reason why, and then get busy trying to find out if your software can be trained to know that exception and exclude for it.
The only thing worse than lack of communication with leads is the rapid and unchecked communication that harms the relationship.
2. What is the cost of inaccurate profiling?
It sounds wonderful to say that abandoned carts will be pursued more aggressively. But consumers are more wily than you might realize.
We implemented abandoned cart remarketing for an online farmers market and discovered a surprising uptick in customer accounts. Upon further inspection, customers were beginning to create multiple accounts with different email addresses. They had discovered the pattern: fill a cart, fail to order, get a discount code. The next week, they would do it all over again with a new email.
And, what could you possibly have to lose if proposals that went stale start receiving promotional prices and incentive offers to warm them back up? The answer, unfortunately, is that you could lose already earned revenue. Over 20% of quoted business will close the sale with different contact information than was quoted.
What happens when the signee of the proposal doesn’t match to the original recipient? Purchasing departments differ from decision-makers. Executives often place orders for proposals that their assistants had gathered. But if your automated processes fail to identify the match, then incentives and discounts could be offered to customers that have already purchased. Will you honor the discount after the deal, or try to explain (with a beet-red face) that they could have gotten a better deal if they just would have stalled a bit longer?
3. Is lead nurturing truly your problem?
This sounds very elementary, but the allure of new features often overrides simple analytics in our decision-making. Marketing automation is cool, sexy, and innovative—so we want it.
But unless your sales growth suffers primarily from the lack of manpower to follow up with a sheer volume of leads, then you may be barking up the wrong tree. And even if your follow-up strategy is ineffective at closing deals, automation may not be the solution. You could suffer from a poor follow-up strategy. Period.
It’s important to note that automation is not a strategy in and of itself. Automation is merely a method of executing a strategy. If your current methods of calls, emails, letters, texts, and retargeting aren’t doing the trick, then executing that same strategy in more rapid and automated fashion is not likely to improve your sales.
At AddressTwo, we treat automation as one sliver of the CRM solution (and a small one at that). More often than not, automation is the sizzle that sells the steak. But the real meat on the plate remains the age-old sales practices of follow-up and relationship building. If you’re not closing as many leads as you would like, look first to the unsexy, uncool, and unpopular culprits to name. You just might save yourself a lot of headaches.
Looking for Sales Force Automation software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Sales Force Automation software solutions.