How’s your sales pipeline? Fantastic? Or a source of constant frustration? Although most executives would agree that the sales pipeline directly impacts their company’s profitability, many report that they aren’t effectively managing them. According to research in the Harvard Business Review, 44% of executives said their teams were underperforming when it comes to managing their sales pipelines, even though ineffective pipeline management had direct ties to a company’s ability to grow. Companies with ineffective pipeline management practices reported an average growth rate of 4.6, compared to a growth rate of 5.3 (15% higher) among companies with effective pipeline management. Signs of an ineffective sales pipeline include the following:
- Excessive time spent trying to manage the process
- Prospects moving through the pipeline at a sluggish pace
- A lack of understanding about which prospects are ready to purchase
- A nurturing campaign that fails to connect with prospects
- A limited number of prospects making it to the bottom of the funnel
- Working with too many unqualified sales leads
How to segment email marketing campaigns based on lead score These challenges can be overcome with a finely tuned marketing automation process that cuts through the clutter to provide insights about where your prospects are in the sales journey and which factors will encourage them to convert. Even better? A streamlined marketing automation process frees up your team to focus on other important aspects of their jobs, including engaging in one-on-one conversations with qualified sales leads. To make sure you’re using marketing automation to maximize the potential of your sales funnel, follow these tips on how to use lead scoring to segment your list:
Develop a strong foundation
Creating an effective segmentation campaign requires the right strategy from the start. After all, your email segmentation is an extension of your team’s efforts to connect with your prospects. Structure your marketing automation to identify customer behaviors that indicate their level of interest in order to effectively deliver the right messages to your prospects at the right phase of the sales process. It’s important for your team to customize segmentation by determining how your specific product/service can address customer’s pains and meet their needs and desires. Make sure to continue to fine-tune your segmentation campaign as you continue to gain more data insights from your automation. As you tweak your messages to reflect the type of responses you’re getting from your campaign, you can increase your effectiveness in moving your prospects to conversions at the five stages in your customer’s lifecycle:
Create messaging to increase awareness
At the very beginning of the sales process, you assume your prospects have no knowledge of your brand or of your product/service. The content you produce at this stage should make a connection between your prospects and a problem or question they’re experiencing. This content should answer a question or solve a problem. Just about every company, for example, is seeking ways to increase efficiency in the office. In an effort to gain new customers, a project management software provider could produce content related to time management solutions. That way, the prospects see that the software provider understands their daily struggles. The content you produce can then be promoted through a search engine optimization campaign and social media. Your awareness campaign can also be supported by paid advertising, including native advertising and banner ads.
Develop rich content that invites research
At this point in the process, you want an avenue to engage in a one-on-one conversation with each of your prospects. To do that, you need an email address, a mobile number, or possibly both. And, as you already know, your prospects won’t willingly hand that personal information over to you without getting something in return. Your prospects need to perceive the value that comes from engaging with your brand. In addition to an array of blog posts to engage your audience, a great opportunity to provide high-value content is to offer ebooks and white papers that provide in-depth information about relevant subject matter. This rich content can be gated to ensure you get the personal information you need from prospects. Using a form, you can request pertinent information such as company size, industry, job title, or annual revenue. Many people in the B2B industry are accustomed to these types of questions, so they won’t balk at the requests. And gathering this information allows you to start a lead scoring system that ensures you deliver a customized experience for your subscribers while also providing the insights you need to determine if a prospect is sales ready, or even a good prospect for your product/service at all. As part of the research phase, make sure you develop various types of content to support your lead scoring campaign. These can include a mix of the following:
- Blog posts
- Informational videos
- White papers
- Podcasts with industry experts
In order to develop your lead scoring campaign, start by assigning a score to each type of content based on numerous factors: the topic of the content, the prospect’s behavior, time spent on your site, the level of commitment in engaging with your brand, etc. Each prospect should receive a series of scores based on their behaviors or, in some cases, non-behaviors. For example, a prospect that downloads a white paper, reads two blogs, and watches an informational video will be assigned an accumulating number of scores. This prospect is naturally progressing further into the funnel than a prospect who only opens one or two emails. As part of your automation campaign, these prospects would receive entirely different messages and content that’s highly relevant to where they are and their knowledge of your company. It’s important to recognize that some prospects may be sales ready within one to two weeks, while others may remain in the research phase for months before moving forward with a decision. Be prepared to accommodate each individual prospect with a marketing automation campaign triggered by certain behaviors. For example, if a prospect signs up for a webinar, that action can trigger the delivery of a campaign designed around their interests as well as send reminders about the event. Likewise, the download of an ebook can trigger a series of recommendations about similar content, such as a video or white paper. The messaging and content that follows certain behaviors should be designed to move your engaged prospects to the next stage of the customer lifecycle.
Eliminate objections during the comparison phase
It’s up to your team to determine when a prospect needs to be passed on to your sales team as a qualified lead—perhaps when they reach a threshold score—in order to be proactive when contacting prospects and increasing conversions. Your email automation can provide the clues you need to determine the optimal time to contact a prospect. Review the data related to previous conversions to identify the behaviors that led to a conversion. You should be able to find common threads in the type of content, messaging, and promotions that encouraged your prospect’s moving through the sales funnel. You can even drill down into the details, like which tone and CTAs worked. At this stage of the life cycle, include the following types of content in order to anticipate the objections of your prospects and entice them into taking the next step:
- 15% limited discount
- Free 30-day trial
- Video customer testimonials
- In-depth case studies
- ROI calculator
Further engage your new customers after the purchase
Although lead scoring may end after your prospect has become a customer, you need to continue to monitor how well you’re engaging with them. Content during the purchase phase should answer all of your customer’s questions and show how your products deliver solutions to their problems. In addition to a one-on-one experience, you can also ensure your new customers get the maximum benefit from their partnership with you through additional rich content, such as:
- Customer training videos
- Frequently asked questions
- Product guides
- Live training
A form of scoring can still be informative at this stage. Customers who are not engaging with your staff or with your content may be at risk of having a less-than-great experience with your brand. After identifying new customers who may not be maximizing your content, you can schedule follow-up meetings to support their transition.
Continue to engage to encourage retention
While most companies have a healthy appreciation for the importance of retaining current customers, many still fall short. Several years ago, Gartner noted that 89% of companies expected to compete primarily on the basis of customer experience by 2016. Although that milestone has come and gone, a significant number of B2B companies said they’re falling short. According to Accenture, only 25% of B2B companies said that they delivered on a great customer experience. Through an automated campaign that continues to nurture your audience even after they’ve purchased, you can create a positive customer experience that pays off in numerous ways. Not only will you encourage retention, you can also pave the way to naturally developing brand advocates. Customers who are pleased with your customer service and your products are more likely to respond positively for requests to be featured in your customer testimonials, case studies, newsletters, blogs, and social media campaigns. Support and nurture your customers through:
- Advanced white papers
- Support videos
- Social media
An informal system of scoring after the purchase can help you identify potential brand advocates as well as help you identify opportunities for upsells or new offerings as an extension of your product. An effective lead scoring strategy delivered through marketing automation gives you the ability to seamlessly nurture prospects at the various stages of the customer lifecycle.
Using automation marketing to score your leads can lead to more conversions up front and greater retention over time, driving up your company’s revenue in both the long- and short-term. It also streamlines the process which means less work for you.