Don't overwhelm customers. Make marketing pitches relevant and targeted.

November 12, 2020

8 Min Read
Digital Marketing

By Devin Rose

Rose-Devin_eBridge-Marketing-author-150x150.jpgBeing alive during the coronavirus pandemic has hammered home the degree to which we rely on software to communicate. Imagine enduring the 1918 Spanish flu without Zoom to see family? Or the Discord app to talk to friends, or Slack to conduct work? And even these modern solutions are starting to wear thin. Digital communication is appreciated, but there’s a real cost to losing out on the nuances of body language and tone that provide depth to human communication.

As a marketer, I know my cohort prefers to hide behind our keyboards and lean on our SaaS-based marketing tools. This “set it and forget it” approach uses automation to achieve far greater scale than we could have achieved in the past. This is especially true for the smaller marketing teams that most IT service providers have. But salespeople see it another way. They want interactions, preferably in person, and tailored to individuals. This allows them to provide a “human touch” to grow rapport with leads and customers, which is increasingly difficult during our pandemic.

To stay ahead of the pack in this competitive field, you need both the reach that digital marketing provides, and the human touch that closes sales. Otherwise, conversions from prospect to qualified lead to paying customer will get bottlenecked. Your leads will become your competitors’ monthly recurring revenue. Leaders of IT service providers must understand this distinction and help bridge this gap between their marketing and sales teams.

How to Market at Scale

IT service providers scale their marketing and sales efforts with SaaS platforms. Many MSPs use HubSpot for this purpose, and there are plenty of quality alternatives. These platforms make identifying, targeting, and nurturing leads achievable at scale with relatively little manpower. With automated lead nurturing, your team can template responses to common questions and engage with leads in a systematic and on-going manner. E-guides, case studies, and white papers can be templated, too, allowing marketers to operate more nimbly. Using lead scoring, you can send relevant marketing materials to the right contact at just the right time.

Your leads will conduct online research at their own pace, too, so you better have marketing materials readily available on your website. These materials should speak to different line-of-business decision makers and at different stage of the buyer’s journey. There are a lot of permutations, so you’ll need to have a lot of materials available. Any quality sales and marketing SaaS platform should offer a content library and versioning controls to help manage content so it doesn’t become unwieldy.

Balance Scale with Humanization

The successful union of automation and humanization means that you know when to automate and when not to automate. When it comes to marketing to your existing customers, humanization is appropriate because you already have a relationship with them. Then for acquiring new customers, the extent that automation is appropriate roughly follows the buyer’s journey down the sales funnel. At the top of the funnel, you’re casting a wide net to gain awareness, so automation and scale take precedent. Personalization at the top of the funnel even runs the risk of being perceived as creepy. But then at the bottom of the funnel, you’re trying to convert individuals who already know you, so treating them like an existing customer with humanization is more important. The approach at either end of the funnel is clear, it’s the middle of the funnel where the most discretion is required.

There are countless ways to apply humanization to your marketing and sales processes. Doing so often isn’t very costly, and doesn’t involve major changes. It’s really about …

… applying an understanding of your customers and where they are in their buyer’s journey.

  • Convert data into humanized insights. Data is just data until you transform it using your understanding of human behavior, needs, wants and goals. Your database may show that a customer in New York City has added new Los Angeles, Miami, and Chicago addresses to their business account. While this may be static information in a database, a savvy salesperson understands that this expansion means this customer may need additional IT services including remote access, virtual servers and desktops, and enhanced security measures.

  • Don’t spam. No one likes spam. And sending too much relevant content is just as bad as sending irrelevant content infrequently. If your marketing materials are generic with little relevance to your services, they’re not working in your favor. The counterexample is a marketing automation system that’s set to follow up with hot leads at an inhuman rate. Most people would stagger follow up emails by a few days, and that’s what your marketing automation system should do, too. The duration between emails should be longer the colder the leads are that are being nurtured. Emailing too frequently will lose you deals and also runs the risk of having your domain flagged for spam and blacklisted.

  • Write for humans, not bots. Writing website content for Google bots so your company will rank on the first page of their search results will turn off human readers. And, you’re not going to fool Google’s almighty algorithms, either. While keyword research is an essential component of successful website development, how keywords are incorporated into your site content must sound natural to your visitors and address their actual business needs. Writing for humans is what Google encourages you to do for SEO purposes anyway.

  • Segment your database. Don’t send the same message to everyone. What’s important to one industry isn’t important to another. Likewise, what’s important to one LOB decision maker isn’t important to another. Segment your database into groups and understand what’s important to each group.

  • Speak the language of your target customers. Know what’s important to your customers and speak their language. If health care IT security and compliance is important to your target customer, use marketing messages that contain terms of importance to these professionals. For example, like HIPAA or ransomware, and address the challenges they face every day. And try not to spell it HIPPA while you’re at it. Customers need to feel you understand their specific requirements. And those include industry-specific requirements and regulations, before they will trust you with their business processes.

  • Align sales, marketing and customer care. While marketing would normally distribute the bulk of messaging to prospects and customers using automated email campaigns, sales and customer care (success) teams also create individual communications. Maintain alignment between marketing, sales and customer care to ensure consistent messaging and distribution. Sending too many emails from different departments with overlapping or inconsistent messages is a turnoff. It will cause recipients to unsubscribe from all future communication. Humanizing individual communications by referencing past conversations that were had with them or their team, or referring to their unique circumstance and to them as a person (their family or hobbies, etc.), will go a long way to bridging the digital/human gap.

  • Show your face. Even in the best of times, it’s not possible to get face-to-face time with every lead you’d like your sales team to meet. Webinars are a great tactic to get your team’s faces in front of many prospects and acquire leads at the same time. In your marketing automation system, make sure to include a headshot of the presenter in the follow up email for humanization and continuity.

  • Provide digital self-service with a human off-ramp. Digital self-service tools such as online ordering, automated provisioning and a knowledge base let customers make their purchases, enable services and answer questions during the buying process. Although customers expect a seamless and straightforward experience, your digital experience may not always be able to deliver exactly what they need. Make sure each customer has an easy out — a human off-ramp, if you will. This is an electronic exit used to transition to a human quickly and easily for live, one-on-one interaction. Put your contact information prominently in all marketing materials. And, have strong call-to-actions on your website. Even add a Live Chat widget to connect to your sales team.

Strive for Balance

Consider how you’re utilizing digital marketing to grow awareness for your services and to increase sales. Have you discussed the importance of balancing the need for scale and humanization with your sales and marketing teams? Maybe you haven’t yet implemented a formal digital automation strategy. As a result, are unable to scale your sales and marketing efforts as quickly as you otherwise could.

It’s important for all MSPs to stay competitive by scaling using digital automation. But don’t lose sight of what being human means in an age where we are growing less privy to the nuances of each other’s communications. This is especially true during the pandemic. There are fewer opportunities for human interaction and we’re prone to lean on digital communications. Being mindful of the need for balance is the key. Why? Because being off the mark in either direction means you risk alienating prospects who would otherwise become good leads and, ultimately, paying customers.

Devin Rose is VP of digital marketing at eBridge Marketing Solutions. Prior to joining eBridge in 2014, he worked with The Oppenheimer Group and Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers. He has a bachelor’s degree from Royal Roads University in Victoria, British Columbia. He also has a marketing management diploma from the British Columbia Institute of Technology. Follow him on LinkedIn or @MrDevinRose or @eBridgeteam on Twitter.

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