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Marketing automation

The Definitive Guide to Data Driven Marketing Automation for Start Ups

Marketing Automation first gained popularity amongst the enterprise B2B marketing crowd, primarily because it it was designed for complex sales cycles with multiple touch points and integration with CRM packages such as Salesforce. Plus, it’s traditionally been expensive and required alot of resourcing to deploy and use effectively.

But marketing automation is actually really useful for start ups too. After all, it’s a technology that promises to make marketing and sales more effective and who wants that more than a resource constrained start up?

I think a big trend over the next year will be the adoption of marketing automation by start ups and consumer facing business. This will be driven by a few factors:

  • It’s getting cheaper. There’s Australian start ups such as Autopilot that  are dramatically lowering costs. They offer packages starting from $4 per month and you can pay monthly. That’s huge. One of the biggest barriers to implementing one of the larger enterprise automation systems such as Hubspot or Marketo is that you need to sign up to yearly contracts, there’s a range of confusing bundles and it’s very expensive, especially for cash strapped start ups.
  • There’s a broader spectrum of options available. Traditional email providers such as Mailchimp are moving up the value chain and offering rudimental marketing automation features.
  • Marketing is getting more competitive. People understand that retaining existing customers is much easier than acquiring new ones, so being able to set up targeted email campaigns which automatically nurture customers is important.

We cannot do everything at once, but we can do something at once. Calvin Coolidge

So how should a start up actually get started?

There’s alot of material on setting up and planning marketing automation from the vendors, but far less from actual users. So for this guide, I’ll take you through how we use data analysis and marketing automation to serve our customers.

Note: At Expert360 we use Salesforce as our CRM, and Marketo as our Marketing Automation platform. This post is about the ideas, rather than the implementation so it should be useful regardless of your own marketing technology stack.

For most start ups, the business case for implementing a marketing automation system is built on:

  • Driving revenue by creating new leads.
  • Giving the sales team leverage – automatically nurturing clients through the buying cycle.
  • Giving the development team leverage – allowing marketing to build landing pages, emails and handle analytics.

For this article, I’ll focus on giving the sales team leverage. To do this, you’ll need to deeply understand the sales process, from high level customer personas to the intricate steps of the selling process and the specific objections or queries a customer may have.

As a marketer, we want to use technology to automate targeted emails (or personal communications) in response to triggered event. The end goal is to use marketing automation to listen and respond to customers on a scale that can’t be replicated personally.

A great way to start with this is to ask your sales team for input. Find quick wins by asking questions such as:

  • What emails, or customer interactions do you have to do repeatedly?
  • If you had unlimited time and energy, how would you treat your customers differently?
  • If you were to concentrate all your efforts on one particular customer, through out their whole relationship what would you do differently?

Here’s a few examples:

1. Onboarding

Customer onboarding is a classic use for Marketing Automation. All you need to do is craft a series of emails which get sent to new customers as they sign up or purchase from you. This might include slowly drip feeding more detailed information about how to use your product, or inspiring your customers with case studies and best practice content once they have become acclimatised to your product.

2. A second chance at lost sales

It takes a lot of effort to not only get someone’s attention, but to also convince them to hear your sales pitch and give you a shot. Unfortunately however, you’re not going to close all your sales. But rather than let them walk away, use marketing automation to try and re-engage them.

How you do it:

Your sales people are already using your CRM package to record when they lose an opportunity. Ideally, they are also recording the reason why that opportunity was lost. When setting this up, make the reason for losing the project is presented as a drop down list, with very specific options. Make the options general enough to account for a range of reasons. These might include “lost to competition”, “not within budget”, “not ready to buy” or whatever typical reasons a client might have to not purchase from you.

Now, for each of these reasons, come up with an rebuttal, or communications piece that addresses that concern. Then, set up your Marketing Automation system to trigger these follow up emails.

An example.

Your sales person notes that they lost a sale because the prospect found a cheaper / faster option. 4 weeks (or whatever timeframe is normally required for delivery) send an automated email saying “We wanted to check in and see how you were going with OTHER COMPANY. If there’s anything we can do, let us know”. Even if the conversion rate is low, and it probably will be, and you’d already “lost” that customer.

3. Rekindling old flames

Combining lead scoring and marketing automation with data from your CRM can be very powerful. A great example is using marketing automation to identify past customers that you may not have spoken to for a while, but who are engaging with you (ie, visiting your website, logging into their dashboard or opening your emails).

Think about this in four quadrants:


Your actions will be to either deploy your sales team if it’s a high value client who’s re-engaging and use marketing automation to nurture the rest.

Wrap up

How do you use Marketing Automation? Let me know in the comments, or enter your email to get the latest posts and updates.


The Definitive Guide to Content Marketing for B2B & SaaS start ups: Part 1

I remember a time before content marketing ruled online.

I’d come from a B2C background, promoting everything from ringtones to racehorses, and I was very comfortable driving quick sales via search, affiliates, landing pages and analytics plus optimisation. Sure, content was king, but a lot of discussion around content was related to SEO, rather than content as a marketing tool itself.

It wasn’t until I started working in B2B that I realised how important content was. I saw that key differences in the way B2B and B2C buyers purchase made content marketing particularly powerful.

For example:

  • It’s not just one person buying in a business. Most significant purchases require a group of stakeholders’ approval before it can be finalised. And content is great for educating customers.
  • B2B buyers tend to be less cost focused. Instead, what their peers and competitors are doing can be a strong motivator, and content such as case studies and testimonials is a great way to establish social proof.
  • The B2B or SaaS buying cycle can take a (very) long time, with multiple touch points through the journey. Content and marketing automation can magically nurture prospects through their journey
  • Many SaaS start ups have high CPAs that need to be amortalised over the customer’s life time. Once content is produced, you can keep using it for both nurture and acquisition.

There’s tonnes of content about content marketing (surprise eh) available, so I’ll focus on why it matters for B2B SaaS start ups.

But firstly, here’s how we use content marketing at Expert360.

  • Lead generation. We produce high value content that we know clients want to read. We promote it in channels where prospects like to hang out, and ask them for their email address before we share it with them.
  • Build the brand and establish credibility. Investing in forward thinking content has helped get us press coverage, build our brand and drive sales. Pretty awesome stuff for a start up.
  • Close sales. People don’t really think of sales collateral as content marketing, but it is. We produce content specifically designed to help close sales.

And this is the framework we use. It starts with a thorough understanding of our target audience and iteratively develops content based on data and feedback.


2. When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen. Ernest Hemingway

Start by understanding your customers. All of them.

If B2C marketing is like asking someone out for a drink, B2B marketing is like asking someone to marry you. It’s high stakes. You need to pass the friends test. You need to ask the father for their approval. You’re formalising a relationship.

In B2B marketing, it’s often a group of people (eg procurement, management and finance) within your target client company who are responsible for deciding to work with you. They’ll each have their own motivations and not only that, their objectives might be diametrically opposed (eg, IT values proven tech, marketing wants the latest tools).

For example, a typical B2B sales process is that you find someone who believes in what you do and wants to buy. But to close the sale, you need to convince their peers, get buy in from senior management, budget sign off from finance and navigate their internal processes.

A great way to solve this is to imagine that your marketing to each of these segments individually. You need to understand what Accounting Alan wants vs Marketing Mary and how you tailor your message to both.

Start by making a list of all the people (or roles) involved in a typical transaction. Then, sketch out a persona for each of those relevant parties.

Here’s what you want to get to:


That gives you a basis for planning your content. You’ll internalise these personas and they’ll be your first filter when considering content ideas.

3. Don’t sell life insurance. Sell what life insurance can do. Ben Feldman

Model the buying cycle and map customer insights.

Now that you’ve a static persona for each of your stakeholders, you need to start modelling the buying cycle. Each of your buyer persona’s requirements, motivations and concerns will shift as they learn more about your product or service and move through the buying process.

Map out the buyer journey for each of your key stakeholders and model their motivations and objections at each step. The idea is that if you understand their deepest concerns, you can create content that will preemptively address those concerns and unclog the sales funnel.

Start by sketching your each of the relevant customers’ buying process in low fidelity.

  1. Use big boxes, like Awareness, Engagement, Activation (or purchase) and Repeat / Referral. You can add in detail later.
  2. Make a note of the status of stakeholder is at each step.
  3. Write down what your goal is at each step, or what needs to happen before they move through.

For each buyer, you’ll end up with:


Now start to add more detail. You want to get verbatim quotes and questions from your personas at each of those steps that you’ve identified. Over time,  you’ll able to fill in detail and build a more robust model. Here’s a few great ways to get started:

Talk to sales

Sit down with your sales team (or think about this yourself) and identify what typical questions, concerns or even thoughts your customers would have at each stage. Speaking to the sales team can very really valuable because they have a lot of experience with many customers and can aggregate themes.

Listen to live sales calls with customers

If you can, listen to live sales call. Listen to a variety of calls, with multiple stakeholders at a variety of companies and at different stages of the buying cycle. The more variety, the better. Carefully record all the questions they ask.

Speak to customers

Simply talk to your customers! Ask open ended questions and listen.

Once that’s done, it’s time to review your notes and tease out the themes, or key insights for each stage. Listen to the questions or comments your client makes and try to aggregate themes or insights.

For example, if your clients are consistently asking

  • “How do my competitors use you?”
  • “What guarantees do you offer?”
  • “What’s your cancelation policy?”

The insight might be that they are worried about their job. They might be interested in your product, but the risk to their career is what’s blocking them from progressing with you. What they really want to hear is reassurance that they aren’t making a mistake.

I find it useful to put it into a table.


Keep doing this until you have mapped the major objections each of the stakeholders have at every stage of their buying process.

Continue to Part 2

Wrap up

Where does content marketing fit in your B2B or SaaS marketing strategy? Let me know in the comments, or enter your email to get the latest posts and updates.