Marketing automation or content automation?
In the professional services world true marketing automation is hard to implement due to it's transactional perception, reluctance for relationship owners to engage in "sales", and data management. A more simplified approach that allows firms to deliver timely, relevant content to subscribed contacts is content automation.
Whilst there are also challenges in trying to implement content automation there are easy to use, simple solutions out there that enable you to overcome these challenges whilst enabling lead scoring and supporting your firm in driving revenue. However, before implementing such solutions the key is to ensure you are clear about your goals for doing so.
In my last article I discussed the benefits of relationship marketing in contrast to transactional marketing in the professional services space. This is when firms focus on client centricity and retention in order to generate business through referrals, rather than marketing to the masses. This makes sense as it is well documented that it costs significantly more to acquire a new client than it is to retain a current client. "Precision marketing" as I mentioned in my previous post, emphasises the value of sending the right message, to the right person, at the right time, through the right channel - this is often the aim of marketing automation.
What is marketing automation?
Gartner defines marketing automation as:
A marketing automation system is a system that helps marketers execute multichannel marketing campaigns by providing a scripting environment for authoring business rules and interfaces to a variety of third-party applications.
The key to successful lead nurturing is delivering content that adds value and keeps your audience engaged. This can foster a strong brand preference in your prospects minds long before they’re actively engaged in a "buying process".
Challenges in implementing marketing automation in professional services
When it comes to true marketing automation and lead nurturing, the professional services world (especially the legal industry) has different requirements to that of Ecommerce and Technology. This is partly down to the fact that the word "sales" is highly frowned upon but also because there is no clearly defined and consistent "buyer journey". Rarely will a prospective client visit a law firm's website, sign up to receive their content and have the same requirement for follow up content as every other prospective client. Send email X after Z days if lead clicks on email X and visits our website, is not something that drives sales in legal services because it's not a transactional industry.
When signing up to a law firm's content, what contacts want is to be continually updated on the latest developments in their world. Automatically receiving an email created two months prior because they viewed your website will not add value to them, similarly what "pipeline phase" they are in does not impact their requirement for timely content.
What is content automation?
When signing up to legal content, what contacts want to know is "What new legislation has come into play and how does that impact my business?". Automating the delivery of such content ensures that it is both timely and relevant. Receiving updates on my industry as and when they happen and how they impact me will add value and help identify you as experts. This is content automation.
Challenges in implementing content automation
Duplication of efforts
A challenge many firms face in achieving content automation is the duplication of efforts. Adding a new thought leadership piece to your blog is one step but then having to manually copy and paste that into an email, format it and send it out to a segmented lists based on preference for frequency and channel adds additional complications. For this reason many firms resort to sending firmwide newsletters to clients and prospects that have signed up to receive content, neglecting the contacts preference for content, frequency and channel. This can often lead to unsubscribes. Another frequent outcome is firms having highly segmented lists that are never contacted.
Firms that are emailing contacts with timely, relevant alerts based on contact preferences can also face a challenge in email fatigue. For example, if I have signed up to receive content from your firm on 8 different subjects and as a result frequently receive 8 different emails I may begin to get frustrated and opt-out from your communications.
Contact data quality
In order to send content to contacts based on their areas of interest, preference for channel and frequency firms need to know this. This is a challenge in implementing any form of marketing automation programme. In order to do this it is important to have a preference management solution in place. Ideally this will be integrated to your CRM and follow the relevant data protection legislation and best practices such as double-opt in, be password protected, mobile responsive etc. I outlined what a good preference management solution looks like in a previous article which you can find here.
What about lead scoring?
Lead scoring and understanding the "digital body language" of your prospective clients is powerful regardless of what industry you are in or the type of marketing automation you are implementing. For a business development team to see that client X is highly engaged with content around topic Y is extremely relevant when it comes to facilitating cross-selling of services. Tracking opened emails, visited pages and submitted forms allows firms to build up this profile over time, but rarely are firms able to visualise this in terms of overall engagement with a practice area - this is where digital marketing tech can help, but you need to understand what defines a good lead for you first.
In the professional services world true marketing automation is hard to implement due to it's transactional perception, reluctance for relationship owners to engage in "sales" and data management. A more simplified approach that allows firms to deliver timely, relevant content to subscribed contacts is content automation. Whilst there are also challenges in trying to implement content automation there are easy to use, simple solutions out there that enable you to overcome these challenges whilst enabling lead scoring and supporting your firm in driving revenue. However, before implementing such solutions the key is to ensure you are clear about your goals for doing so.