It’s the end of 2014, and the world tells us that the Wishpond Blog needs a predictions article.
Now, I could write a post devoted to the top 40 marketing strategies and innovations which I predict will be the most influential in 2015. I’ve done it before and will probably do it again.
The thing is, this year 39 out of 40 of those predictions would be passé and useless to you as a marketer.
I’d spout tried and true assertions like “visual content will be big in 2015!”, “2015 is the year for content!” or ridiculous predictions like “This is the year that MySpace will return!”
Or I could focus on the one thing that I genuinely believe will be the biggest change in 2015 – the biggest influence on how we’ll market online.
The Advances of Marketing Automation
Since the beginning of online marketing we’ve been balancing personalized communication with efficiency and ROI.
It’s been an ongoing battle. Yes, you’ll convert leads if you talk to each of them for two hours a day. But you’d get through four. And Yes, you’ll hit a lot of leads if you send a thousand templated emails. But your open-rates would be 1 or 2% and your click-through nonexistent.
And so we implemented merge tags, and they allow us to write “Hi Jeff” in every subject line and salutation we mail out. We designed inflexible nurturing streams which gave prospects their allotted set of 6 nurturing emails before they were supposed to convert to a final sale.
In 2015, our consumers won’t enter our sales funnel when we tell them to. They won’t follow the path we’ve provided or convert when or how we’d like.
Believing they will is what’s going to hurt you next year.
Instead, our business prospects will hit us from all angles. They’ll be voracious for top-quality content, and will consume it on every platform imaginable.
2015 will be the year small and medium-sized businesses have to move from auto-responders and simplistic merge tags to answer for this randomness. It will be the year of unexpected twists and turns of a lead who refuses to sit, stand and roll over when you tell them to.
So what can we do?
Great question. Here’s my answer…
This past spring, the Harvard Business Review published an article which, among many other insights, noted that “The primary problem with the funnel is that the buying process is no longer linear. Prospects don’t just enter at the top of the funnel; instead, they come in at any stage. Furthermore, they often jump stages, stay in a stage indefinitely, or move back and forth between them.”
This is why advanced lead-scoring is so integral to the future of online marketing. How many leads has your business lost because you promoted too much content too quickly, the wrong kind of content at the wrong time, or threw a salesperson at them before they were ready?
Advanced lead scoring is a strategy in which you assign specific values to the specific actions of a specific buyer.
Let’s say someone visits your site and downloads an ebook…
- Your lead scoring system will accord that lead with an initial score of 5.
- A second action, (like opening and clicking-through on a follow-up email promoting a webinar) gives them an additional 5 points.
- Registering for that webinar would give them another 5, and attendance 10 points more.
- Their question in the webinar Q&A, about pricing, would cause your webinar host to manually move them into a “late-stage-lead” stream, which delivers product-related and how-to content, rather than solely strategy and educational content.
Another couple weeks and your lead is deemed sales-ready and receives a call from a sales associate – exactly at the time they’re most likely to convert.
This strategy allows anyone in your business to know the ins and outs of any of your business’ leads. You’ll know (with as much specificity as technology allows) exactly where they are in your sales funnel. Your salesperson will be able to see the the ebook that served as your first touchpoint as well as the question they asked in the webinar.
Bonus Awesome Thing: Advanced Lead Scoring allows you to prioritize communication with your most valuable prospects (and that’s not to say you don’t love all your leads equally). But let’s say a person has signed up for a free trial but has not yet converted to a subscription. They are a very active lead and are trialling your premium service. They email your support team because they’re experiencing a small bug in your service. With advanced lead scoring your customer service team can pull up their lead score and identify that, yes, this is a high priority lead and resources can and should be pulled away from elsewhere to take care of them ASAP.
I talked before about how your prospects won’t behave themselves in 2015. They’ll come in from all angles like Bruce Lee with nunchucks.
Implementing triggered communications within your email marketing tool blocks those nunchucks. Based on the actions of your leads, your business sets up a stockpile of content. When a lead engages with your business in a certain way, you answer that engagement with content optimized for that action.
Beyond a lead’s actions, your brand communications can be triggered based on what you know about them.
Let’s say you own a modern restaurant, outfitted with an unparalleled social media profile and an active email list who loves your witty, informative and timely content.
Let’s say at one time or another you decided to ask your clientele for the special dates in their lives (their birthdays, anniversaries, or the birthdays of their loved ones). You then set these dates as “triggers” within your email platform.
Two weeks before your client’s anniversary you send them an email, offering a candlelit dinner for two with a complimentary bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
You didn’t remember their anniversary, your marketing platform did.
Hopefully it won’t be hard for you to identify how awesome this will be for B2B as well. Consider triggering emails based not on where you hope your leads are in the sales process but by where their actions tell you they actually are.
Personalized Web Pages
What if I were to tell you that you could use small bits of code in your mass mail-out emails to personalize them? You could address people by name or, if you’re really advanced, thank them for downloading or trialling a specific piece of content or package.
You’d say, “Yes, James. That’s called a merge tag…”
But what if you could do more with those merge tags? What if you could use them (alongside UTM codes added to your site URLs) to change the content blocks of your webpages?
Well, that would mean you could not only send [marketing emails](https://www.wishpond.com/marketing-automation/0 to individuals with personalized content, but that your website’s content could actually change based on the segment or demographic of its visitor.
For instance, let’s say you run the marketing strategy for an ecommerce company which sells ski and snowboard gear. Someone arrives on your website and buys a pair of men’s gloves (they visit the URL “www.snowboardgear.com/mens/gloves/23849”).
Not only does this action trigger a relevant email targeting your male demographic but it also means that the next time they arrive on your site it will read “Hi Jim!” and feature men’s products. That, my friends, is catering to the individual.
That said, if you don’t want to do this, feel free. Some businesses may find more success with making personalization a tad more subtle.
What if they’ve told you they’re from Canada in a lead gen form field? Next time they visit your site it will be optimized for that demographic and feature Wayne Gretzky chugging a bottle of maple syrup atop a moose.
In 2015, as soon as your lead enters their email address into your landing page’s form, they’ll start down a nurturing stream optimized more than ever before. The stream won’t be a one-way, bumper-to-bumper traffic jam, but rather a series of flexible and triggered emails, constantly updated and allowing for vital and personalized content slipped in the side.
And your site will be just as flexible and just as ready to learn everything it can about its visitors, automatically.
The main way you’ll do this in 2015 is by utilizing cookie tracking (nothing new, but rarely utilized in the way we’ll see next year). Your website will “see” each individual that arrives on its pages and adjust them accordingly. A bit of this is what I mentioned above, where your content blocks will adjust based on what you know about your visitors.
But with progressive profiling, your website will also change based on what you don’t know.
The first landing page a prospect sees within your site will ask for a name and email address…
- The second time they’ll be prompted to fill out their business’ sector and size.
- The third time they’ll be asked for their biggest frustration with online marketing.
- The fourth time (now that you have all the information you need to convert them) the landing page they arrive on will simply welcome them (by name) and give them a CTA button to download the guide directly.
An example from Marketo’s existing progressive profiling landing page:
Before progressive profiling, the image on the right side of this landing page would have prompted visitors for lead information no matter if you had it or not.
In 2015, however, once your business has everything you need to convert a lead, your valued and likely sales-ready prospect will be given your downloadable content, nurturing your relationship and ensuring they’re not annoyed by having to provide information you already have.
Why It’ll Get More Complicated:
I think we have about a year until much of this starts tumbling down (watch out for my 2016 predictions article, coming out in only 378 days). The reason for this is that the great majority of the strategies I’ve mentioned in this article rely on cookie technology, which is all well and good for another few months.
But, increasingly, they’re becoming obsolete. As people log into the virtual world through desktop, mobile, tablet and TV, tracking a single individual with cookies becomes more and more difficult.
This spring, Brian Boland (VP of Facebook Ads marketing and Atlas) wrote an article entitled “Cookies Don’t Cut It Anymore for Online Ad Measurement”. In it he mentions a study done by Atlas at the tail-end of last year:
We looked at 500 million Atlas cookies during a six-week window in November and December. On a single day, the relationship between cookies and people was reasonably stable. Ninety-three percent of people were associated with only one Atlas cookie. But this relationship breaks down quickly as people use multiple devices at work and at home. Over a six-week period, half of the people reached by an Atlas campaign were reached on more than one device.
In short, as the traffic patterns and mobility of your site visitors develop, so too will the technology which allows us to design for it. There are strategies and capabilities in place, but (as yet) they’re in beta staging.
As I said, you’ll have to wait till next December for an update.
Full marketing automation is already on the horizon. It’s getting closer, and in the next couple months will be available to small and large businesses everywhere. How do I know this?
I know this because we have a very smart web developer named Bikram who is working on it right now. I can see the top of his head as I write this.
It’s coming, and it’s going to be awesome.