How to Use Marketing Automation to Build Buyer’s Journeys

Buyer Journey
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It’s been said so often it’s nearly a truism: customers don’t choose companies based on product or service benefits alone; they choose them based on experiences. Focusing on touchpoints — whether digital, in-person, on the telephone, etc. — may improve KPIs for those specific interactions, but unless the entire saga is consistent, the buyer won’t be engaged.

Make each interaction with your brand a logical, coherent experience

This process of creating a holistic journey for the customer remains a difficult process for marketers. Managing multiple channels through siloed data sources, negotiating standards in follow up and branding with sales, and putting the content in front of the right person at the right time are just a few of the obstacles that marketers face when building a journey for their buyers.

Luckily, the tools marketers rely on have become increasingly sophisticated. When calibrated correctly, marketing automation software can help you construct more effective, more useful buyer’s journeys that will make each interaction with your brand a logical, coherent experience, rather than another note in the cacophony of digital marketing.

Here’s how to set up your buyer’s journey with a marketing automation system. (Not sure you know which system to use? Check out our Buyer’s Guide or Product Selection Tool.)

Build a Complete Content Funnel

Every buyer’s journey begins with content, because consumers now value self-service research. On nearly any topic, consumers prefer to do their own research rather than call upon a salesperson to assist them.

This means you need to create content for every stage of research that your customers go through. If you don’t have educational resources for each area of the buyer’s consideration, your audience will find other sources and potentially drift away from your company.

If you’re still developing your content strategy, use keyword research to identify the questions your audience is asking and benchmark demand in each stage.

Use a keyword research tool like SEMRush or Google Keyword Planner and start analyzing search volume around topics that relate to your business. SEMRush is particularly good for this type of research because it recommends similar results. Study these to identify the different stages of research.

Results for the keyword “marketing automation” reveal interest as well as different stages of research

Note the difference in intent of someone searching for “what is marketing automation” versus someone searching for “marketing automation tools.” The former is likely trying to feel out the whole marketing automation industry, while the latter is seeking specific tools to automate marketing.

Naturally, you want to have content for both types of researchers, because you want to instill trust at each level of the buyer’s journey. This is only one method of identifying various buying stages, and it’s by no means the only one you should employ, but it is a good starting place.

Once you have your customer journeys mapped out — plural because it’s likely you’ll have a few different personas with different needs — it’s time to create campaigns in your automation system that deliver the content that matches the needs of your audience.

Use Lists to Represent Different Needs

Marketing automation software relies on email lists to determine which customers receive which emails. You need to create lists for each stage of the funnel and set up rules that move prospects in-between lists as they build momentum and make progress towards the latter stages of the buying process.

Prospects will be matched with the appropriate list based on the information they download. For example, a prospect who downloads a buyer’s guide is in a much more advanced stage of research than someone who simply signs up for your newsletter.

The key to keeping your lists relevant is to set up if-then rules within the automation platform that automatically update prospects lists based on their behavioral. If a prospect that initially signed up for your newsletter clicks on the blog post about marketing automation for small business, they should be moved a new list which delivers content that’s appropriate to that need stage.

Here’s an example of how to employ this type of behavioral segmentation in automation platform Act-On (the behavioral section starts around 1:30).

Avoid the Vacuum Fallacy

The previous tactics are critical to delivering relevant content to your audience at scale, and they can also account for the actions your prospects are taking outside of your email marketing campaigns. This is one of the main advantages behavior-based lists have over autoresponders: they don’t assume that every prospect is relying solely on your marketing content.

Prospects will add to their research in any number of ways, quickly making non-dynamic lists irrelevant. By using more behavior-based logic, you can set emails (or in some cases social media messages) to send once a certain criteria is met, even if a prospect doesn’t fill out a form.

Say a prospect reads three blog posts on A/B split testing on landing pages in one week. Instead of sending them that same blog content in an email, you can set automation rules to trigger a message that offers a comprehensive guide to A/B testing.

Now you’re delivering content based on the interests of your prospects and the questions they’re asking at each stage of the journey.

Reverse Engineer Your Conversions

Everything in marketing is a hypothesis. Marketers must test every solution they propose in order to truly validate its merit and business value. Customer journeys are no different.

Once you press go on your lead nurturing campaigns and get a couple of conversions, look at the website behavior of the prospects that converted into leads and customers. See which areas of their journey played the biggest partand search for gaps.

Here’s an example of Pardot’s attribution model. Dig deeper into each session and see which engagement was most meaningful.

Multi-touch attribution shows where prospects enter your site

Dig deeper to see on page behavior and identify which content was most useful

Along with A/B testing, this type of retrospective analysis will show you where you need to improve the experience for your customers and where you’re doing it right.

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