by Daniel Fell
One of the hottest marketing trends – and trust me, there are a lot of them out there – is called marketing automation. It goes by some others names as well, including inbound marketing and nurture marketing. The gist of the approach is the use of technology to actively manage lead generation and the nurturing of prospects from the time you first have some contact with a potential customer to whenever that prospect becomes an actual customer.
The premise is simple: There are lots of touch points and opportunities to engage a prospective buyer, but the sales cycle –especially in healthcare – can take months or even years. How do you stay in front of those prospects, remain relevant to them, and even help them progress along some predetermined customer decision path to choose your services?
Enter technology, or at least new software tools, aimed at tracking those prospects, recording engagements, automating responses, and even scoring their interest levels in ways you have never been able to achieve in a cost-effective manner. Short of engaging sales professionals in the process, which isn’t very cost-effective, it’s difficult to maintain meaningful relationships with thousands of consumers.
Marketing automation is really about maximizing the investment you’ve already made to get the consumer’s attention in the first place and then maintaining some level of contact higher up in the marketing funnel. Prospects who you might have overlooked or neglected in the past because it was cost-prohibitive to stay in touch with them now become part of your ongoing marketing strategy.
And now that lead generation activities have gotten so much easier (think Google searches, content marketing, customized DIY marketing information), you have hundreds or thousands of potential customers who have started the journey toward your brand. Not only can you continue that conversation with them digitally, you must. It’s what marketers do. It’s your job.
So if there were some tools – if you like, let’s call them marketing automation tools or platforms – that could help you engage these prospects a little more and do it without a big investment of time and resources, it would be cool. In fact, it would be better than cool. It would be awesome. Those tools would make your advertising dollars work harder. They would help you deliver more and better prospects to your sales team. The approach would drive more calls to your contact centers and online appointment scheduling. It would lower your cost of customer acquisitions. It might help you get promoted, or at least keep your job.
So, back to the question: Do we really want to automate marketing? My answer is an emphatic – maybe.
If you understand how powerful these tools can be and you take the time to understand and implement them in a way that leverages that power, I believe they can be a game changer in marketing. Game changers don’t come along that often. Maybe this is one of those times, and marketing automation is one of those opportunities.
Daniel Fell is president and CEO of Neathawk Dubuque & Packett, a marketing communications firm with offices in Virginia and Tennessee. A frequent speaker and writer on e-health, Fell was the 2012 recipient of the John A. Eudes Vision & Excellence Award, presented in Las Vegas at the 16th Annual Healthcare Internet Conference.