You think we all would know what marketing automation meant, the way we throw the phrase around in the corporate hallways and home offices of America.
“Reginald, what you need is a marketing automation solution — then your sales team would be balling!”
That’s the idea. Software that captures, nurtures, and delivers leads to a sales team. But not everyone needs this style of marketing automation.
Case in point: Copyblogger Media.
A little more than a year ago, we hired a well-known marketing automation provider to help us convert more of our traffic into sales. We spent several weeks with them adding code and tweaking analytics.
It was some scary good stuff. Then they asked about our sales team.
“Eh, the sales team?”
“Yeah. The sales team.”
Shortly after that, the relationship ended (amicably, I must add).
See, we don’t have a sales team. Because we don’t need one. We have our content.
The no-drama sales team
From the blog, to the podcasts, to the emails, to the webinars, to the sales letters — all of this content is our sales team.
Our sales team is how we write. We are all life-long students of copywriting. And copywriting is nothing more than salesmanship in print.
Let’s take this even further. What separates the brand of copywriting we practice (direct-response) from general publicity copywriting is that we test.
And we test hard. If it doesn’t convert, we cut it. Just like you would do with a salesperson.
Just without the drama.
Combine that with our approach to business building, and it’s no surprise that we went from nothing to $10 million a year in less than a decade on our own. And we’re still growing.
Keep in mind: this is an approach you can duplicate.
Deliver the right content to the right person at the right time
Now, you can still use marketing automation even if you don’t have a sales team.
Marketing automation will give you the tools to deliver adaptive content. In other words, marketing automation allows you to deliver the right content to the right person at the right time.
Do that and you will convert more visitors to customers. But how do you deliver the right content to the right person?
The first question is: How do you even know who’s on your site?
You can’t deliver the right content to the right person at the right time if you don’t know who she is.
If you’re scratching your head like me, then you’re in luck. I’m not a programmer. I’m just your garden-variety web writer.
I have a hunch. But we need more than a hunch. That’s where our resident code genius, Chris Garrett, comes in.
He agreed to hop on the phone with me to figure this out.
After we exchanged pleasantries (fortunately, with the English this is ridiculously short), I jumped right into the thick of things.
“Chris, I understand with adaptive content we are supposed to deliver the right content to the right person at the right time. But how do you even know who is on your site?” I asked.
In his exquisite English accent he said, “You could start with cookies.” Great. I’m hungry.
Here are four ways to identify site visitors.
1. Conventional cookies
Chris explained that this is the standard procedure. And it’s pretty simple to understand. See, once someone visits your site, you place a cookie on him — a tag that identifies that user. Think of it like the burs that you pick up when hiking in the woods.
This bur is a tiny text file that stores information on your machine. Most websites store just one piece of information: a user-identification number.
According to How Stuff Works, Amazon stores a little more: a main user ID, a session ID, and the session time.
Cookies are also used in remarketing programs.
Remember that time when you were thumbing through OnePiece at midnight, thinking it might be kind of cool to wear a onesie around the house (but never in public!), and then for weeks every site you visited after that — Dictionary.com, Spark Notes, the Mother Nature Network — all featured ads for onesies?
Thank the cookie.
But people can clear cookies from their browsers.
And from a marketer’s viewpoint, as Chris explained, you can’t be very specific with cookies.
“What you might be able to tell,” Chris said, “was that since they raided the content on the category for copywriting, they are interested in copywriting. So you tweak the experience by delivering an option to download an ebook on copywriting on that page.”
But there is a larger problem with cookies. I’ll explain in the next section.
2. Routine referrers
Another way to identify what type of person is on your site is to use referrers. For instance, Chris said you could deliver different content based upon the keywords people typed to find your site.
Of course, Chris was quick to add that this becomes difficult because Google hides the majority of these keywords.
But there are other types of referrers you could use to help identify visitors:
- Social media platforms
- Search engines
- Specific websites
While these metrics can help shape your overall picture of each visitor, they are limited. Which brings me to the weakness of cookies and referrers: you are forced to guess intent rather than know directly.
And when it’s important to deliver the right kind of content to the right person at the right time, wouldn’t you rather know the facts than guess the facts?
That’s where self-identify procedures come in. There are two we’ll talk about today.
3. Self-select channel choices
This one looks like this: people choose how they want to receive information. So you might set this up by asking people to select from a choice of problems you can help them solve.
Imagine you offer four different email newsletters based upon these questions:
- Would you like to learn about landing pages?
- Would you like to learn about SEO copywriting??
- Would you like to learn about keyword research?
- Would you like to learn about responsive design??
These questions address the users’ needs — not based upon who they are, but on what problems they need solved. Once they choose a path, you know something about them.
Imagine the visitor chose SEO copywriting. You could refine that decision with another question that evaluates comfort level with the subject:
- No experience.
- Some, but not much.
- Advanced: I have very specific problems I need addressed.
And based upon that information, you can deliver the right content at the right time (say an email autoresponder — the lazy marketer’s best friend) without having to guess.
But there is one more method we need to investigate. What Chris called the “superior approach.”
4. Mighty membership sites
“Sign-ins,” Chris said, “are superior to cookies. Sign-ins are superior to referrers. Sign-ins are superior to self-select channel choices, too.”
Chris says when visitors join your membership site or training course — and they are signed in — wherever they are on your site, you know who they are because of the data stored in their account. Thus, you can truly deliver precise content to them.
Think of it as internal remarketing.
For example, when a member of Authority is signed in and he is an alumnus of last year’s live event, we could deliver a completely different experience on the blog by:
- Removing the option to join the Authority membership site
- Replacing it with a banner for the next live event
- Adding information about the live event to the sidebar: early bird special, hotel deals, last minute details
- Having the “Popular” sidebar deliver content based upon the event and other information you know about the member — information he filled out when signing up for the membership site
Can you see how that specificity would increase conversions?
That’s personalized content powered by marketing automation.
Why personalized content is essential
And let me close by sharing a few stats on why personalized content is essential:
- Forty-five percent of people are more likely to shop on websites that offer personalized recommendations.
- Personalized emails boast 25 percent higher open rates and 51 percent higher click-through rates.
- Companies that personalize will see a 19 percent higher conversion rate.
But you can’t have that personalization without knowing who is on your site. As Christine Warner said, “Personalized content eliminates ambiguity about the target audience and builds trust through relevance.”
Now, because I know you are all thinking, “Man, this sounds like a lot more work to create all this specific content,” in the next article of this series we’ll talk about how you can deliver that precise content without overextending yourself.
We’ve got you covered. Until then, take care.
And let’s continue this current discussion about personalized content over on LinkedIn …
Image source: David Marcu via Unsplash.