There are two tools I’m often recommending for blogs – WordPress and HubSpot. I recommend HubSpot in place of WordPress, or in addition to it, if you plan to automate sales by using a lead nurturing system.
Why would I want to create a system for nurturing prospects (aka leads), you ask? Let’s explore a few different angles in Q&A format.
Q: What do you mean by nurturing leads?
A: Most often, I am assisting companies with long sales cycles that typically close offline. Usually there is a lot of “spade work” involved in that type of sales process, and rarely are there enough people or time for the education and follow up desired – especially if the business is intending to scale. A lead nurturing system fills in the gaps, while adding automation and consistency to the sales process. As with all other aspects of online marketing, a system also allows for experimentation, measurement and improvement of the sales process.
Q: Our sales process is so personal / different every time — how could I possibly automate it?
A: Sales automation benefits from a deep understanding of who your customers are, and why they buy. Quite commonly, businesses are so busy growing and adapting that they don’t have the opportunity to to stop and reflect on exactly how their products and services fit in the marketplace. This is where the process of Customer Discovery comes in, ala Steve Blank. That’s the subject for a different blog post, though generally speaking you can think of Customer Discovery as a process designed to find the most easily replicable sales and understand what primary factors went into a prospects decision to buy. The automation process then capitalizes on these learnings.
Q: How do I automate the sales process?
A: Understanding who your prospects are allows you to create targeted “workflows” (i.e. a series of communications) for each type of prospect. Lets say you are recruiting students to a college. In that case, you have several different types of audiences: students, parents, and guidance counselors to name a few. And as you can imagine, the primary messages each of those audiences wants to hear are quite different. While that may seem obvious, few businesses in any industry are taking full advantage of tools like HubSpot to carefully craft online marketing campaigns deeply targeted to each audience – leaving room for companies who do to gain competitive advantage.
Q: What’s a workflow?
A: A workflow in HubSpot is a simply a series of emails that you schedule to be delivered over a period of time. The emails are designed to provide the information your prospects need as best as you can anticipate them, based on your Customer Discovery research. Prospects “enter” a workflow by “triggering” criteria you set, such as filling out a contact form. The trick is getting that contact form filled out in the first place. The good news is, many companies aren’t doing this yet, leaving plenty of opportunity for you.
Lets pretend I’m a student searching for the “best business degree in the midwest” on Google. (You can follow along by trying the same search and see what happens.) Personally, I’m besieged by ads to “speak to an enrollment coach now!” “request info!” “learn more!” and “enroll now!” However, the search I made was very early in the sales process (aka “Top of Funnel”), and I am not even close to being ready to be coached through enrollment, or to enroll now. (Seems kind of obvious when you look at it with a different lens, doesn’t it?) What I’m trying to do is compare different colleges, and not a single ad responded with “download a comparison of the best business degrees”. So I’ll wind up clicking on the US News Rankings link instead, and every one of those advertisers just lost the opportunity to start a conversation with me.
How could that example have ended differently?
1) Reflect the search query in your ad, such as “compare the best business degrees in the midwest”. 2) Create a custom page on your website (a landing page) that offers the comparison. 3) Offer something of value. Perhaps your custom page has an interactive tool. Perhaps you offer a downloadable guide (with your branding on it, of course.) By offering something of value, you create an opportunity to collect an email. 4) Once you have an email, you can “get to know each other” over time using a carefully crafted workflow. (HubSpot is smart enough to ask different profile questions every time a prospect returns to your site, building a profile over time – the subject for yet another future blog post!) 5) Answer the call when the prospect calls you, ready to take the next step.
In the end, the goal of sales automation with HubSpot is to make your phone ring. When your prospects already “know” you by the time they call, it will be different than the calls you’re receiving now. You’ll be answering late stage questions (at the “Bottom of the Funnel”) about how to engage your company, or how to buy Product X, because the prospect is already educated and ready to buy.
Here’s hoping this helps you get your phone ringing!