You may have heard of sales and marketing automation, but what exactly is it?
Sales and marketing automation is the set of processes and tactics that nurture prospects with personalised, useful content and helps convert those prospects into customers – with the aid of automation software.
But it is also about nurturing your prospects most efficiently. Watch this short video from our chosen software provider, Infusionsoft. Very American and not specific to the racing industry, but it will give you an idea of what we are talking about. Then scroll down further to read some highlights of a good process.
Sales and marketing automation is more than just software
One key learning we gained from several years of management consulting is “strategy and process before technology”.
Sales and marketing automation starts with defining your marketing strategy. In turn, that requires you to define what you are selling and who you are selling to.
As a racehorse trainer, you are not just selling shares in horses. You are selling a dream, a value-adding service, and a variety of horses each with different characteristics and at different price points. You are also selling to multiple types of clients and prospects, each with their own budget and lists of “must haves” and “preferences”.
It is therefore vital to understand how each of those client & prospect “segments” research and decide on whether to buy your horses. Clients and prospects differ in the way they progress through the “lifecycle” of your sales process. Some require a personal touch (face-to-face, on the phone) and some prefer email. Some like documentation and some don’t (the latter worries us!). Some progress quickly through to a purchase decision, whereas others need a lot of supporting information and comfort.
It is critical to align your sales & marketing process to how your prospects buy, and vary your tactics. The right process and technology solution can then be configured accordingly.
Start with a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution
A CRM solution such as the one we use ourselves and implement for clients, Infusionsoft, is a must.
It should be a central hub that connects all contact information, marketing communications and sales activity together. This combination will enable you to do so much more than just keep a record of your contacts and their contact details.
The best CRM solutions include the ability to implement marketing tactics and process sales orders, in an all-inclusive system.
Use various various sales and marketing tactics
As mentioned earlier, clients and prospects differ in the way they progress through the “lifecycle” of your sales process. So some sales and marketing tactics will be good for some prospects, but poor for others.
Lead generation, segmentation, lead nurturing, lead scoring, email automation, personal follow ups and sales pipeline management are all tactics under the banner of Customer Lifecycle Marketing. Choosing the right tactics and the right balance between “inform” and “sell” messages, is critical.
Automating many of those tactics with a good CRM, Sales & Marketing Automation solution will not only save you time, it will help tailor each tactic to the individual making the purchase decision.
It is more than just email marketing
Email Marketing is clearly a key component of any sales and marketing process. Yes, other channels have grown rapidly in recent years (such as social media), but those channels simply funnel more contacts into your business. You then engage with those contacts in a variety of ways, most importantly, via email.
Email marketing can be grouped into three subsets:
- Email broadcasts, or “blasts” out to your entire database. OK for newsletters, but not for selling.
- Auto-Email Responders to email information to a new contact. Read our article about automating inbound marketing.
- Dynamic, behavioural-based email marketing, driven by live profile and behaviour data. This allows your audience to chose effectively their own journey.
Each of these three email marketing tactics has a role to play. But if you are not yet adopting auto-email responders and dynamic email marketing in your sales process, with the aid of a Sales & Marketing Automation solution, there is great risk that your marketing is both less effective and less efficient.
Integrate sales and onboard new clients for a more seamless process
In our five years working with thoroughbred racehorse trainers, we notice that the process to invoice a new owner, collect their payment and personal information and onboard them is largely manual and via clunky solutions – usually core finance/accounting solutions.
A good sales and marketing automation solution based upon a clear, consistent process, can automate the entire Customer Marketing Lifecycle from Enquiry right through to Purchase. It can automate the collection of relevant personal data, share terms and conditions of ownership, invoice, follow up payments outstanding, provide receipts and other documentation as proof of ownership, and continue to nurture the new owner as they “onboard” into your stable.
Recoding these sales activities is critical to stay organised and professional. It is also critical to build a historical picture of not only what your clients are buying and when, but how they buy and what their interests are. Very powerful when tailoring your marketing.
What is the best marketing automation system?
In short, it depends on the scale and characteristics of your business. There are several platform options out there that serve small, medium and enterprise customers.
Most of the leading platforms have the ability to support Email Marketing, Landing Pages, Lead Scoring, Lead Management, CRM Integration, Social Marketing and Analytics.
They are all priced differently, but our recommendation is never to compare base pricing without looking at features and the fine print. The price differential may be minimal when you consider the value you are trying to add to your business and your customers.
One area where some solutions really standout, is in Campaign Management and Dynamic Email Marketing. If your sales process is more transactional and email-oriented, some solutions provide more automation and functional features. If your sales process is almost entirely manual to suit your customer buying processes, then other solutions are easier to manually interact with.
The solution we implement for clients is Infusionsoft
In fact, there are two solutions designed to meet competing objectives above. Infusionsoft (Pro) for large scale automation and pro features, and Keap for “lighter”, smaller scale operations which are more manual.
Often, choosing the right platform is about choosing the right implementation partner, and one who has spent years configuring solutions and related processes that suit the thoroughbred racehorse industry.
We hope you consider that partner to be us, and that technology solution to be Infusionsoft (or Keap!).