Automate Your Lead Generation Without Investing in Marketing Automation…yet

cupcakes desserts“Which marketing automation solution should I use for lead generation?”

I get this question regularly.  Trying to evaluate all the solutions available today is nearly impossible when you have no idea how you will use this information later.

There are outstanding solutions available today, all having excellent tools to make your marketing campaigns convert, nurture and report data.  But sometimes baby steps are the best method to saving money, time and giving your company the opportunity to learn it’s ability to manage the many facets of a successful marketing campaign with the available resources. These are recommendations that are in use today at some very large firms. Don’t snub your nose at the simple solutions yet.

Below are recommendations that are in use today at some very large firms. Don’t snub your nose at the simple solutions yet.

Build Your Foundation
The first element of any digital marketing campaign is the website. The size of your business doesn’t matter and you don’t need a big fancy site either. As long as you have a decent place for prospects to learn about your business and the solutions you offer online that is on a responsive (mobile-friendly) template, you should fare just fine.

As long as you have a decent place for prospects to learn about your business and the solutions you offer online that is on a responsive (mobile-friendly) template, you should fare just fine.

Conversion Bait
Next, you need to consider your offer. What is it your prospects want that you can provide in exchange for their email address?

conversion baitIt may be information in the form of a report or guide, it might be weekly information that comes to their inbox, a webinar teaching something important or a consultation – though, these are are better received  later in the buying cycle.

Capturing Their Information
This used to require a landing page or a boring Contact Us page with a form. Instead, I recommend starting with one (or more) of the simple free solutions available.

There are many available: HelloBar, LeadIn, QuickTapSurvey and more. These are free information capture apps.

You can build a pop-up in minutes with the information you want from your prospect and load it onto most sites.

Storing Your Data
You do not need a massive database, yet. You only need a place to maintain and manage your lists.

MailChimp does this well for email intensive campaigns and APIs easily with other software. It is one of the best, free email delivery systems around and has numerous upgrades as the complexity of your campaigns and data needs grow.

Create a list based on your offer. E.g. “Video Marketing Report Conversions”  Start with a good naming convention from the beginning as these can get messy fast. You can also jump into CRM with

You can also jump into CRM with Zurmo or Zoho before you go nuts with Salesforce. If you have no choice, plan all your use cases before paying for Salesforce. Their 90-day free support will zip by fast!

automate your marketingAutomate Everything Possible
Once a prospect converts, you want to automatically send them their prize. Set this up in most automation sections of your email delivery system.

But don’t stop there! Add more emails to this series to continue the conversation.

Let’s say you offer them a report on the benefits of using video in their marketing. There are probably elements you didn’t have enough time to go into deeply.

These emails are the extra value. You can use them to convey more of your company’s knowledge and authority in the field and help the prospect as well.

Keep sending more information regularly along with low barrier to entry offers for other free stuff – reports, webinars, consultations.

When to Migrate
If you are working campaigns well, you may find yourself needing more features to automate, measure and push your campaigns further.

when to upgrade marketing automationTHIS is when you start reviewing the features of the marketing automation players. Now you have some concept of how you are using marketing automation, what you have time and interest in doing in-house, what you don’t have time or interest in doing, and how you are willing to pay for this.

This is why I recommend going into inbound and lead generation marketing slowly.

I’m sure the Hubspots and Marketos of the world don’t want me telling you this, but many large companies and start-ups are seeing through their sales pitches.

Like marriage in most states, changing your marketing automation and CRM is like a messy divorce. You’ll need to invest lots of additional time and money to make a move. You want to choose wisely when you do.

In the interim, you can work well with free products and small upgrades from free services.

Inbound marketing and lead generation takes more man hours than you are probably allocating. Just regular weekly content updates kill most businesses as they aren’t used to being creative on demand. It’s harder than it looks.

The Impact of the Digital Marketing Manager – Part Two SMBs

digital marketer swiss army knifeIn Part One, I discussed the areas within Enterprise marketing, public relations, and sales departments that digital marketers now effect. Digital Marketing Managers have even more challenges in SMBs – small and medium-sized businesses. It’s not uncommon for these companies to combine or outsource some of the tasks of multiple departments. Lean resources rule the daily world of the Digital Marketing Manager. Pressure to produce results with teams that are often overworked and minimally supported is common. They are expected to be Swiss-army knives that can do many things well.

Scrappy Teams
The latest buzzword to come out of Silicon Valley is “scrappy”. It’s code for lean to zero resources. A digital marketing manager who is part of a “scrappy team” probably doesn’t have a team at all. They are individual contributors with manager titles. This is becoming more prevalent as funded start-ups further establish their products and move through to B rounds of funding and beyond. They use most of their seed and A round funding to build their product – hiring engineers and developers. Product managers and product marketing are next and often staffed without adequate resources in terms of budget for marketing campaigns and staff. Beyond that, bonuses are small or non-existent usually provided to sales. Equity is a different crap shoot entirely. It’s hard to believe anyone would want to work under these conditions which make it very challenging for companies to attract top talent.

marketing automation brandsAutomation Experts
With limited resources, automation becomes extremely important. Software producers all claim to have the best system for your business. There are copious choices and once made, companies don’t make a change easily. Digital marketers need to have skills working with many of the major names to be in demand today. Most systems work similarly and a sharp digital marketer with deep knowledge of one can quickly learn the others as needed.  Next, they need to understand the components of the campaigns they are developing and aggressively test and measure their performance. (This is the same whether you work for Enterprise or a Mom-and-Pop firm.) Understanding the key elements of your company’s system that will assist in achieving your marketing goals is where art and science blend in digital marketing.

Given small budgets and lean teams, the digital marketer needs to measure each campaign with ruthless indifference.  Building and updating dashboards that your executives can understand is key. (Notice I didn’t say, “that your executives need.” More on this below.) One of the issues the digital marketer will inevitably face is poor data hygiene that interferes with accurate reporting.  This problem was probably unknowingly created when the systems were set up initially.  In an SMB, it’s probably a little easier to correct this evolution as there are fewer layers of management.  In the meantime, digital marketers rely on crunching numbers in spreadsheets and manually populate their reports. This sounds archaic but it’s done all the time. 

APIs and Integration
Fixing data hygiene problems is never easy. The contributing fields need to be identified and either corrected or built. The worst offenses are when fields were initially set as text fields. If there is one thing I wish would be omitted from all database programs is a text field option! Going back to administrators can be very easy, but they need to understand who else in the organization needs that field before making changes. Often it’s sales and sales doesn’t like change. Additionally, the past entries may require edits which means many hours of manual corrections. It’s a long road to clean data.

Stakeholder Management
Rarely is there full buy-in from stakeholders at the SMB level for a well developed and tested marketing solution. Revenue is often the sole focus which puts sales in the driver’s seat. There is little room for failure, which makes for a difficult testing environment. With slim budgets, SMB executives often want digital marketing managers to have the right answer without testing. Anyone with any knowledge of marketing knows testing is imperative to optimal results. This high-wire walk is challenging as marketing is easy to blame and fire. When the digital marketing manager sets realistic expectations and timelines, they may encounter objections and requests to do what they can within the executive’s preferred timeline. If this is done, results can be compromised. The most successful marketers in this position are buddies with the stakeholders. If the CEO is pals with the VP of Sales, it’s only a matter of time before you get blamed for something. Thicken your skin or stay in touch with recruiters!

Training and Continuing Education
Sure, most SMBs embrace attending the big conferences that their software vendors produce. These provide some good learning sessions if you can get into them! It’s not unusual for the best sessions to fill before the first ticket price increase while management still hasn’t decided how many people will be allowed to attend. More important to the digital marketer’s ongoing education are blogs, webinars, and skill specific training. These go on year round and are offered by leaders in particular marketing channels. Quarterly budgets for training are rare and it’s something that should be part of the marketing department overall. Some component of digital marketing’s best-practices changes on average every 5 months.  There is no degree from an accredited university that can replace the ongoing learning that’s required of a good digital marketing manager.

In my personal experience working for both, they each have their pros and cons. However, one thing holds true in both environments the digital marketing manager is a key component in today’s revenue cycle. They matter and they are the cornerstone to how your brand is perceived, the leads you mine and the prospects you close.  How you structure your company to support or hinder their ability to perform is one of the key limitations of their success.

The Impact of the Digital Marketing Manager – Part One

Digital marketing managers wear many hatsThe internet and digital marketing had a tremendous impact on Enterprise marketing, public relations, and sales departments. Traditional marketing was required to provide ROI. Public Relations became MarCom and had to quickly adapt to social media marketing. Sales fared the best as they turned over all lead generation to marketing and passed along lead quality accountability.  Being a digital marketing consultant for over ten years sure had been an exciting ride and it’s not nearly over yet. I have been brought on as a consultant, contractor and as an employee. I see it all from the inside and can confidently state the major impact that the digital marketing manager has had on all sizes of organization. In this  article, I’ll cover the large Enterprise organization and the many departments that digital marketing has and continues to affect.

Wearing Many Hats

With the immediacy of communications and information, digital marketing permeates across many channels and requires specialists to aid those department’s traditional tactics.

Sales – Digital marketers are now filling the role of Inside Sales. The titles are new: Demand Generation, Growth Hacker, Lead Strategist, but the job is the same: bring leads to the sales department. This requires knowledge of the target customers and their needs. Digital marketing needs to present their company as the solution to the customer’s problems without knowing when or how they will research solutions. That presents the we must be everywhere problem of budgeting and channel selection. Additionally, the digital professional in this role needs to navigate the often choppy waters of sales and their egos. Marketing has the data to prove what is working, but often key salespeople have the ear of executives and it’s challenging to meet your goals without proving them wrong. Finessing this divide is by far the most challenging part of the digital marketing role as it supports sales. 

Traditional Marketing – Teams of marketers have worked successfully for years writing content, designing collateral, producing presentations and positioning the brand. With the prominence and success of digital marketing these channels are now required to measure their impact and attribution to sales. This isn’t always easy. Digital marketing is agile in it’s ability to easily provide a bucket for leads generated from each of these channels. While they themselves are not digital, the content can send prospects to micro-sites within the main website, landing pages or special offer pages. Those captures can easily be attributed and measured. And when closed-loop analytics is included down to the closed revenue level, attribution and ROI is easily reported and channel spend can be better divided.

Public Relations – Words like messaging, branding, awareness play are now the new verbiage of the PR professional.  Diminished are the relationship management aspects that PR professionals were prized for and now social media agencies have taken their place. Without a solid handle on what each social media platform can provide and how it meets the brand awareness goals, PR is relinquished to internal MarCom tasks. I personally know many PR professionals who were forced into MarCom by their companies as social media stayed in the hands of digital marketing. But, messaging needs to be cohesive and MarCom and social media need to work together very closely. If the business has any regulatory element they will become paralegals by default in working with the compliance department. And you just thought you needed to Tweet!

Operations & Analytics – Depending on the size of the company, the marketing operations could roll up under IT or internal engineering and the analytics very often reports to finance. These are not marketings usual partners. Given the size and scope of marketing automation systems, CRM and analytic measurement methodology and modeling, digital marketing managers are usually a lesser concern for these other departments. Networking with these people is new, but important to getting all the fields and data flowing into a constructive dashboard. It’s rare that when the systems were being evaluated and implemented that someone from each of these organizations was involved. That leaves data integrity holes that the digital marketing manager needs to fill without disrupting current data flows. It’s tricky business. The complexities of digital marketing and all the departments digital marketing managers need to work with can be daunting. Hence why few marketers return for Masters degrees. Tactics change so fast and each engagement is so unique it’s wiser to learn the basic tactical skills and to keep reading and learning. Attend conferences and webinars where others share best practices and case studies. That’s where your ideas will reside.

The complexities of digital marketing and all the departments digital marketing managers need to work with can be daunting. Hence why few marketers return for Masters degrees. Tactics change so fast and each engagement is so unique it’s wiser to learn the basic tactical skills and to keep reading and learning. Attend conferences and webinars where others share best practices and case studies. That’s where your ideas will reside.

Next week, I’ll address the digital marketing manager’s challenge at the SMB level and where they can be effective.