Updated: Jan 25
Getting the most out of your email and marketing automation software isn’t always easy—you need to identify how all of the features and tools can help best meet your
I hope this strategy can help you build a plan for how you’ll actually use marketing automation to nurture your leads with relevant, targeted messages that get results.
Lead segmentation: The key to your automation success
As marketing professionals, one of the biggest challenges we face is understanding who is in our database, how our contacts are different, and then deciding how we can
best market to them.
Thankfully, most enterprise automation solutions let you group your contacts by similar characteristics, and then building a relevant strategy for each group.
Defining these different groups is the art of segmentation, and getting it just right can
be quite difficult.
Your segments should be used to:
Define the theme and tone of the emails you send. If you segment your database based on industry, the way you communicate with leads in different industries should be significantly different.
Plan your content strategy. If one valuable segment is under-represented in your existing database, you might want to create more content that appeals to that audience in order to further nurture those leads. This is easier said than done, BTW 😉
Sharpen the message on your website. Are you showing the most appealing CTA to each particular segment, dynamically?
Buyer personas and lifecycle stages: Dimensions of segmentation
The first dimension of lead segmentation is your buyer persona. These are the groups that you define to represent the different buyers you commonly come across in your marketing and sales process. It's important to note that buyer personas are different from your ideal customer profiles, since buyer personas provide structure and context for your organization. You should use buyer personas to help your marketing team map out and curate content, and other teams with time and resource allocation.
Your buyer persona might be defined by things like industry, company size, location, and other details. It's really up to you to set the parameters and figure out what is most important for your organization.
The second dimension of lead segmentation is your lifecycle stages/customer journeys. Customer journeys refer to where in the buying process a lead or prospect currently is. This is an excellent starting point for segmenting your leads, since it how you communicate with different contacts should dependent on this.
The conversation you should be having with a new lead who just signed up for your free trial should be vastly different from the conversation you might have with an established sales opportunity who is considering making a purchase. For more resources, check out my 10 Do's and Dont's of Email Marketing.
Making a plan and executing: What's yours?
Once you’ve set up your buyer personas and segmented your leads, you can put your new segmentation plan to use. There's so much you can do with your segments—here are my favourite examples:
Creating targeted and relevant workflows to nurture leads of a certain persona
Creating dynamic content based on intent and engagement of individual leads (at scale)
Curating targeted blog content that caters to different personas and lifecycle stages
Monitoring lists of contacts with certain personas and buyer’s journey’s on social media
If you have a large number of marketing ready leads, you may want to focus on creating workflows that nurture them to becoming a marketing qualified lead with helpful and authentic content to stay top-of-mind. And if you have a lot of MQLs and very few earlier stage leads, you could create some valuable offers that push them further down the funnel.
After trying many different approaches on my own and with customers, I’ve found that the most effective way to segment is by looking at these two dimensions together. That is, to define segments based on the customer journey and persona.
This approach looks at who an individual lead or contact is (their goals, interests,
demographics, etc.) and how you expect them to interact and engage with your organization (through the customer journey).
If you properly track when a lead or prospect is engaging with your content (in their inbox, or on your website), you’ll be much better informed of their intent and engagement so you can properly strategize your next move—and close that sale.
With most enterprise marketing automation systems, you can automatically score your leads based on the content and pages they interact with online. This helps you to see who your hottest leads are and decide where you should be spending your time and energy.
My 4-step approach to automation: What you came here for
Step 1: Segment your leads
Marketing automation should start with segmentation. The most effective way to segment your database is often based on where your leads fall within your sales funnel. It’s entirely
up to you to determine how many different stages you’ll define; you can always start with
just a couple of stages and create more as you scale. Here's a standard example of a SaaS sales funnel:
Step 2: Target your email content
For each segment, you’ll want to build a workflow that contains relevant emails. In my experience, the most effective workflows include a mix of useful, interesting
content like relevant blog posts and targeted offers. The emails in each segment should act to gently nudge your leads to the next stage of your funnel.
Step 3: Target your website content
Targeting your website content might seem like a daunting task, but with a good lead scoring model, it is possible to create dynamic CTAs on your website that will help your leads move to that next stage in your funnel.
This is a golden opportunity to reinforce your message on every page of your website, rather than showing leads the same old generic, uninspiring message they have already seen.
Step 4: Monitor your social channel and your website (automatically)
Most marketing automation systems support sharing on social media platforms. Your recipients can share your emails with their network on their own socials. From here, you can monitor who liked and shared your posts.
It’s also easy to monitor the actions your leads take on your website. If a hot lead
suddenly visits your pricing page, you can automatically notify the lead owner with details on the lead so they can follow up quickly—or better yet, notify them directly in Slack.
Scaling and improving over time
Marketing automation at scale does not happen overnight. When you first get up and running, you might choose to start with just a few different nurturing programs – one for each of the different buyer journey’s you use. Over time, you can start dividing your database into more targeted segments to deliver more relevant content and offers to your leads.
Of course, a lot more goes into a solid marketing automation strategy than what's explained here, but it has nonetheless helped me immensely in building programs to scale. I believe email marketing and automation is far from dead, and we're only seeing the beginning of it.
Christian Baun is an email marketing specialist with a background in demand generation, content marketing and marketing automation.