Marketing Automation is a serious force. Harness it and discover new horsepower in your marketing efforts and your next product launch. According to Act-On, automation helps companies fill their pipelines with 31% more leads than those who don’t use it. Automation makes marketers 20% more productive. If those two statistics don’t thrill you, think about this one: a report showed that for every dollar companies currently spend on automation, they are receiving a return of more than six dollars.
There is a lot of confusion over what marketing automation is is. At its core, automation means marketing tasks are scheduled and happen automatically instead of manually. If you’re not currently using marketing automation, find the fundamentals here.
As you prepare to launch your next product, put the power of marketing automation to work for you.
Two Cautions about Product Launches and Automation
First, both product launches and marketing automation are considered difficult to master. Companies reported to Marketo that top challenges that affect automation are:
- lack of quality content (40%)
- budget constraints (38%)
- lack of an effective marketing automation strategy (38%)
Likewise, there are a number of inherent risks in launching a product, including this list from Harvard Business Review.
- The marketing campaign is developed in-house by the manufacturer and lacks objectivity.
- Marketers can’t or don’t easily articulate the product’s key differentiators and advantages.
- If the product defines a new category, customers will need considerable education before purchase.
- Marketers are unclear about the target audience and so the campaign they execute is unfocused.
- Management has promised the board and stockholders an instant hit without considering how much time is needed to educate consumers about the product.
- The company spends the entire marketing/advertising budget at launch, so no funds are left to sustain the campaign.
Add to that, every year, many companies rush a product to market before it’s ready or delay a launch repeatedly. Both problems lead to distrust by customers and disrupt cash flow (or worse). Automation can exacerbate either challenge. Imagine a campaign scheduled to run and not canceled in time due to a production delay. Or a campaign touting features and solutions that aren’t working as expected in the launch version. Use extreme caution.
Product launches and marketing automation require sober mindedness and effective planning. Take the time and energy to write and execute your strategy well. Download our complete product launch guide to put your entire plan together.
Give Your Marketing Vehicle a Tune Up
Before vacation, it’s wise to change your oil, check your tires and alignment, and make sure the AC will keep blowing cold. Before a product launch, make sure you’ve optimized your Customer Relationship Management system (CRM), created a targeted content strategy, and aligned your team.
A product launch will drive traffic to your website from multiple sources. Your CRM is designed to keep track of everyone who interacts with you. The major CRMs all have marketing automation tools to guide your targets through the process and keep track of them along the way—landing pages, thank you pages, and forms. No matter how fast you drive your CRM now, there is more horsepower under its hood. Add several options before this launch to make your communication more effective.
The words you publish, the videos you produce, the audio you upload, and the graphics you display need to focus on how your product solves your buyers’ problems, not the product itself. The product is the answer. Your content pieces are the road signs along the way and help your targets know they are making progress. Content leads your targets to find what they’re looking for—your product. Below, we will go into all of the types of content you’ll need for the launch. Launches are so critical; don’t let any of the content be created as an afterthought. Allow your content to fuel response.
Like the wheels of your car, make sure your team is aligned. Does everyone know what success looks like? Does everyone know the timetable for release? Lack of cross-functional communication is a top reason product launches fail. The more you communicate and get buy-in before launch, the fewer vibrations you’ll feel. You’ll also be more prepared to handle the problems that will occur. Early alignment of marketing, sales, customer service, product development, and senior leadership leads to deeper joint ownership. You’ll work better when trouble comes and celebrate with more gusto after each success.
Pack What You Need
Thirty years ago, planning the family vacation involved spreading out a table-sized map in the dining room and using highlighters to determine the route. You would need guidebooks to discover restaurants at certain exits. Today, you can run a 20-second Google Maps search and use other apps along the route.
The preparation required to use marketing automation for your launch feels more like old-school trip planning but with high tech tools. Check out these seven categories of tools you will need to pack and take with you.
Start with a clear understanding of your buyer personas. When was the last time you updated them? Think through the problems and questions your personas are asking that can be directly addressed by your new product.
Continue by putting together a content map for the launch. Don’t just focus on the major pieces—blog posts, press releases, videos, infographics, podcast episodes, and imagery. Treat every conversion tool as a piece of content, too. Create a tiger team or integrated project team, including members from other departments to map out every piece you’ll need. Ensure your content builds through the stages of the buyers’ journey—Awareness, Consideration, and Decision. Connect the big pieces to:
- Calls to Action
- Landing Pages
- Thank You Pages and/or Emails
- General Emails
- Nurturing Emails
- Social Posts
More than likely, your product development team is beta testing the product while you’re developing the marketing plan and content for the launch. Don’t neglect this stage. Work with the product team to gather quotes, video, photos, and more from the beta testers that you can use to deepen and broaden your content.
Identify core pieces of content you can get ready early and launch ahead of your marketing automation efforts. First, news media, influential bloggers, and others targeted by your PR department will need a place to investigate the product on their own. Secondly, anticipation is often the best part of a trip. Allow your raving fans a place to whet their appetites and get excited about what’s to come.
Blog posts are a great vehicle to deliver Awareness material for your buyers. Create a list of questions they’re asking at this stage and then formulate your blog headlines to answer them.
Consider creating a pillar page as a complete guide to understanding and using your new product. Starting with your buyers’ needs, create an outline where the solution for each need is a feature or benefit of your product.
Pillar pages are 12,000-15,000 word pages of primarily text, but they also employ video, audio, infographics, photography, and other visuals as you see fit. Craft your product pillar page not as a users’ manual or a technical guidebook, but as a foundation for the tactical, everyday use of your product. The headline shouldn’t be “Introducing Product X,” but rather something like “Seven Ways to Solve Your Problem with Product X.” To research and write the content, pretend you are your main buyer persona and pepper your product developers with questions about how to use and deploy the product. Capture their answers and begin to organize the thoughts into a document that builds the overwhelming need for your product.
If you employ a knowledge base or Q&A database for customer service or support, the pillar page can be a great first source. You can continue to build on the pillar page as questions and challenges come in.
Audio and Video
Whether you currently use the tools or you want to dive in for the first time, a product launch is a great opportunity to maximize audio and video resources. Factor them in as a part of the overall content strategy, and then use the resources throughout every application of content.
Video: Think through how you want to show your company and the product on the screen. Words in the bottom third or a watermark in the bottom right corner throughout the video are standard and won’t distract the viewer.
Audio: Think through the “audio logo” you want to use. We recommend using the same music bed or stinger for every product-related piece. Also, speak your product’s name, your company name, and a short description of the product together as one verbal package in each recording.
Lead scoring is the process of automatically vetting targets as they travel through your automated purchase process. For a detailed analysis, check out this guide. What weigh stations along the journey are most important? When targets click links or fill out forms, program your automation tool to create the biggest leaps in their scores.
You can also change scoring based on the number of interactions. If targets are opening a certain number of emails or spending a certain amount of time on your site, they are most likely prime candidates.
Do your best to base your lead scoring off of data and don’t be afraid to cautiously adjust as the launch continues.
Once a target visits your site and fills out a form, use email to bring them back, pique their interest, and move them toward decision. Marketing automation emails are triggered by the workflows (see below) and should drive your target to click through to your site.
For a product launch, don’t be afraid to concentrate on different product features, but be sure to always approach this from your target’s needs, not the “wow" factors of the technology.
Because there is so much riding on the launch, be sure to spend extra time on subject lines and personalization. It’s important to use personalization but maintain a conversational tone. Employ A/B testing tools and keep refining subject lines to push your open rate higher and higher.
In your workflow, don’t let those who don’t open the emails get away. If this is the case, set up your tool to send the same email with a different subject line at a different time of day. Give your targets two chances to open each email.
Calls to Action
Your targets will receive two calls to action at every step in their journey: content and email. CTA should be prominent in at least two paragraphs of every blog post and the last item in every email. CTA language and color are just two of the keys we discuss in this article.
Take a two-step approach to forms. First, determine the bare minimum you need to ask from your target. Make the hurdle to download a resource as low as possible. A business email address is your most valuable basic element because it will contain the domain for the target company. This allows your CRM to insert many pieces of automated data on the back-end, giving you much more information to evaluate your targets. You should also shoot for an accurate first name so you can personalize landing pages and emails. Then, ask a question that answers the most important qualifying factor for your product.
The second step is progressive profiling. Your highest potential targets will fill out multiple forms in their trip through the buyers’ journey. Progressive forms allow you to ask more questions and get deeper information, which qualifies your targets even more. Use this tool carefully. Determine the questions you most need to ask, place them in priority order, and then add only one or two for each progressive form completed. Again, you want to keep each additional hurdle as low as possible.
You’ve moved your targets. They are curious and hungry for more. They’ve clicked. If they fill out the form on your landing page, they will be in your nurturing marketing automation campaign, and you’ll have an opportunity to covert them to a sales lead and, hopefully, turn them into a customer.
The copy on your landing page needs to build from the CTA on the previous page to the CTA on this page. Work to create copy that doesn’t talk them out of the conversion. Say enough to answer their question but not too much that they feel overwhelmed. It’s a delicate balance. A/B testing on your landing pages can inform your strategy.
Your three most important landing pages are your homepage, your demo access page, and your pricing page (if applicable).
Your PR campaigns and media placements will push folks to learn more about your company. As word-of-mouth spreads, targets will search for the name of your company and will be directed to your homepage. Existing customers will likely enter your domain to find information about the latest and greatest offering.
How can your homepage support the product launch without distracting from the rest of the work your company does? Think through it carefully. The first click from your homepage will usher a target into the marketing automation nurturing journey.
Demo Access Page
The same basic principles for creating a landing page apply to your demo access page. Just keep your attention on the priority here. Spend energy to get this one right and continue to evaluate and tweak throughout the launch.
Depending on your sales process, you may not post pricing online. If you do, consider these important factors when creating your pricing page.
Thank You Messages
In addition to it just being polite, saying thank you serves as another impression and another chance to say something about your company and product. Foster goodwill by crafting great thank you pages like we outlined here.
Social posts can be automated, too, using services like those built into your CRM or third party apps like Buffer. Use social media to drive interest to content on your site with the hope of converting them into your marketing automation stream.
For the two months leading up to your launch, get active on social. You want those who follow you to know that you are speaking and listening. Interact with them. Tease them a little about what is coming. If you wait to turn on your social media at the time of launch, you won’t get the type of interaction you need because of algorithms and human nature.
Maximize your social for the first three weeks of launch to get as many targets into the funnel as possible. Remember the questions you asked when building your content strategy? Make sure those are top of mind as you create social posts.
If you don’t have a team member assigned specifically to social, schedule at least 15 minutes every morning and afternoon to focus on engagement. Check your numbers, answer questions, and like and share posts from targets who are connecting with you.
PR & Media Support
Successful media coverage is possible when you’ve put all of the marketing automation pieces into place, meaning significant content and your demo are ready to go. Journalists and media influencers are more likely to cover your product launch when they get a sneak peak and can do their own research about the launch. You want what they write and produce to be published prior to launch to help drive traffic and build interest.
However, no matter how compelling your product is, media won’t cover a launch per se. They are looking for an angle that fits in with a larger trend and is interesting to their readers . Golden Spiral’s resident PR expert said, “Success requires finding the right angle for news stories and backing it up with the right assets.”
Broadcast coverage, print articles, blog posts, videos, and podcasts will not point to an interior page or landing page. Instead, targets who find you from media coverage will come to your homepage. Make sure your it is equipped with a gateway to find the new product and capture the target’s information.
At the end of your marketing funnel, the demo—free trial, sand box, video walkthrough, guided tour—is your ultimate destination, your Grand Canyon. This is where the marketing journey ends and you hand off a lead to sales for closure. While getting a lead to this point is the marketing team’s responsibility, don’t create the demo in a marketing vacuum. Work with product development, sales, and customer support to get a full understanding of the demo. Before you turn on your automation, make sure that the demo works bug free. As stated above, when someone requests a demo, your lead scoring protocol should peg the needle to alert both you and sales.
Workflows are the most important part of marketing automation. Without them, nothing works. However, if you don’t develop all of the content and puzzle pieces, you can’t program your workflow. If you’ve been using automation for a while, go back to school and learn some new tricks to put into practice during launch. If you just want some new ideas, look here.
Workflows can be used for building awareness of your brand, educating your targets with your perspective, and moving targets to buy. Your launch workflow needs to do all three, but the most important task is sales. Don’t rush your targets to a decision, but also don’t let them grow comfortable in the education phase.
T Minus One Week
In the same way that the product has been beta tested within an inch of its life, your marketing tools need to be tested as well. Create a few sample users in your CRM and then take them through the process. Try to break the automation. Click on every link. Fill out every form. Make sure that the contact’s lead score actually goes in the right direction and triggers the right steps and notifications. You’ll be amazed at the microscopic errors you’ll catch and correct during this time.
We recommend assigning a point person to monitor the results and form and workflow functionality. No matter how much testing you conduct prior to launch, there will be hiccups. You've just put a fully loaded car top carrier on your car. You want to make sure there are no shimmies or problems with overall alignment. Your point person can also help alleviate stress and prevent others from jumping to conclusion throughout the process. Your team has been deeply involved in setting up the automation and has proper expectations.
Stay the course you’ve set for the first two weeks. Fix broken links or typos (there are always typos), but don’t be quick to make big changes to text, subject lines, or graphics. You need more data than you think you do to make the best decisions about conversion. When you believe a change is called for due to the data from A/B testing or other sources, discuss it with a few members of your team. Often, involving other departments in an integrated decision is best. Move forward together and communicate the changes to those who need to know.
Analyzing and Reporting the Results
You’ve waited for launch day. You’ve spent countless hours to get here. Now, you need to know if it worked. As kids we asked, “Are we there yet?” As adults, we’ve just changed the question.
There are many opinions online about conversion rates (like here and here). General consensus holds two opinions:
- Your past performance is the best indicator for what benchmark you should expect for your results.
- If you are converting roughly 1.5% of your website visitors to contacts via forms or another method, you are in the right ballpark.
If you have previous product launches, look back to determine traffic, conversion rates, and eventual sales. Be sure to report these historical figures alongside current data. Also, benchmark the comparison with a control number such as overall organic traffic or the overall number of contacts acquired during that time. A simple chart might look something like this:
If this is your first product launch, determine three or four metrics you want to track and do so. Don’t get mired in the details. You could find yourself over-analyzing and second guessing yourself. By limiting yourself to three or four criteria, you’ll be able to see change and growth as the launch continues.
Senior management, your board, and/or your investors are all seeking clarity. Set the expectation that you will be reporting on a periodic basis (weekly? daily? twice daily?). While the total number of sales is the most important figure, these benchmark numbers will help bring context and perspective.
The magic of marketing automation is your ability to sustain a launch. Continue to refine your tools based on the data collected in your CRM, the results of your A/B testing, and feedback from buyers, but don’t close the automation campaigns you’ve started. They can live for years and continue to convert.
Product launches and marketing automation both present great risks and great rewards. Marketing automation forces you to plan and to strategize; you can’t do business as usual and succeed at marketing automation. Take the time to do it well and you will reap the benefits. Tell us your success stories or ask questions here. We’d love to discuss them with you.