Should Training Companies Invest in Marketing Automation?

by: Marguerite Inscoe
Inbound Marketing Ninja – ReLaunchU

A training company, like any growing business, eventually has the need to automate internet marketing activities. You can use automation to increase reach and get a higher return on time and effort. The most common questions I get around this topic are around what to invest in and when to make the upgrade.

Earlier this decade there weren’t a lot of options. The automation tools (or SaaS) were crude and did not integrate well with other systems. Now, we are in the opposite situation. Thousands of SaaS tools for marketing are available with a range of solutions that work with each other. To top it off, many of the available tools are very affordable.

In this post I explain three different stages of marketing automation for B2B companies, with special considerations for the training industry. The type of marketing I’ll cover is most commonly referred to as pipeline marketing, and the methodology I prefer is called inbound marketing. In short, it means that training companies who want to generate leads on a monthly basis, and influence their learner population online, will find that their website is the best channel.

Stage One – The internet newby

This is a start-up business or a training company that’s been around for awhile but has no significant presence on the internet. Perhaps just a static website. In either situation you have the same two marketing priorities:

  1. Increase organic website traffic
  2. Grow your social media following

Tool #1: Content Management System (CMS)

It has to be easy to regularly publish content to your website that will interest your buyers. Fresh content is central to generating organic website traffic. It is how you attract qualified leads and demonstrate your subject-matter-expertise.

A good CMS behind your website removes the need for a webmaster to publish blog posts. CMS like WordPress have functions like email-to-publish and scheduling which automates when content is released.

Tool #2 Social media publishing

You can’t leverage the value of social media until you have a fan base. Done well, it can be a top source for website traffic and leads. It also demonstrates the social proof of your training programmes.

Build a personal network on LinkedIn with potential buyers and publish your website’s content to the news feed. Point learners to your Twitter account and Facebook page so they can follow and enjoy all the content you curate for them on there.

The most important activity to automate at this stage is publishing. People are attracted to what you share. You can easily post your own and other people’s content to multiple social media profiles through SaaS like Buffer and Post Planner. They start at $10 a month and considerably reduce your workload for distributing content.

One small note, don’t forget to be ‘social’. After all, it is called ‘social media’. So besides publishing content, make sure you also interact with your followers, ask questions and comment on posts from others.

Tool #3 Analytics

You want to know what content is performing best and the impact your publishing activities are having. Automate the reporting of the analytics to your email inbox. You are more likely to review a weekly report that way than log into the system and look at the information there.

Set up Google Analytics tracking for your website and have them email you the desired custom reports weekly or monthly. Upgrades to most social media SaaS unlocks the same functionality. Choose the subscription that best fits your needs.

Stage Two – Taking action

Once stage one is running smoothly – which means website traffic and social media connections are growing due to your content production and distribution efforts – it’s time to engage business development activities as follows:

  1. Capture leads
  2. Nurture relationships
  3. Close sales

Tool #1 Forms

Forms on your website are the easiest way to capture information from online visitors; buyers or learners who desire to connect with you. It alerts on who needs help now and simultaneously builds a database of contacts for future marketing.

Place forms on your “contact us” page or in a sidebar. Use forms to “gate” premium content in exchange for contact details.

Forms are technically complicated to build, even for coders. But SaaS like WooFoo, Gravity Forms, and even Google Docs makes it easy for the non-coder. I recommend connecting the form to your preferred email marketing provider. Then there’s no need to move data from one system to another.

Tool #2 Email marketing service provider

Once you have a good list of contacts who want to hear from you, it’s time to transition to an email marketing provider. Top providers like MailChimp and Constant Contact have easy-to-use templates so you’ll be done sending a message in no time. Email providers have high delivery rates and can manage very large lists for segmented marketing.

Training companies should email to subscribers blog content, premium content offers, and special announcements such as courses and curriculum updates. Whatever their subscribers opted into to receive. Email is the most cost effective way to stay in personally connected with prospects and customers.

Tool #3 Landing pages

A landing page is designed to influence its visitor to take a specific action. Pages are typically incorporated throughout a website to encourage the download of gated content (e.g. reports, white papers, ebooks). Landing pages are essential to campaigns to deliver highly customised content.

You can turn traditional website pages into landing pages but this tends to be laborious for most marketers who need to quickly generate pages for campaigns without getting a webmaster involved. Landing page SaaS such as Unbounce and Leadpages are two popular solutions. They require no coding skills and easily are easily linked to your email marketing provider.

Training companies often highlight particular courseware in campaigns or offer classes through open enrollment. Landing pages are central to converting the qualified traffic driven to it. You can drive traffic through ads, offline activities such as speaking engagements and PR, and calls to actions on your website.

Tool #4 CRM

As leads and opportunities come in from your internet activities, volume can make it hard to track. Spreadsheets become unwieldy. Pipeline marketing by nature starts with a lot of inquires at the top, but only a few distill down to the bottom of the funnel into a sale. A CRM helps you prioritise and manage those leads from first contact to customer.

Most purchases from training companies are a considered buying process. “Considered” includes a high-dollar investment, approval from multiple people, and negotiation. A CRM helps sales people manage the touch points of relationships to increase the likelihood of closing the sale.

Most CRMs and email marketing systems are easily integrated to sync contact data. You can even use SaaS that perform both functions so you have only one database. This is good since multiple databases (email, CRM, accounting, etc) makes contact management more of a challenge.

Two of my favorite and popular free standing CRMs for small business are Pipedrive and Hubspot’s CRM (free to $15/mth). SaaS like Zoho, Hatchbuck and GetResponse cost up to $100/mth, but combine multiple marketing functions including email marketing and the CRM.

However, the tools tend to be rudimentary compared to standalone products performing the same functions. Lower-cost “combination SaaS” work well for a small business with one or two salespeople, but it can inhibit the company that needs to move to the next stage.

Stage Three – Growth and optimisation

Training companies that seek to develop business on a national level and grow in a sustainable manner must optimise the activities of the first two stages. Better tools deliver stronger analytics and ease of handling the volume of contacts. The goals are:

  • Automated email nurturing
  • Social media monitoring
  • Source to sale or revenue reporting
  • Higher percent of conversions on the website

Tool #1 All-in-One marketing automation

You can link together four or five SaaS to employ the same functions of an all-in-one system, but they can never give you complete oversight of your marketing campaigns. Systems like Hubspot, Pardot, and Eloqua are the most sophisticated SaaS an SMB can use to position themselves competitively with marketing. Subscriptions typically start at $10,000 a year.

These systems combine intelligence from public sources (reverse IP look-up) and the lead’s interactions with the website and email to help marketers run their campaigns. Lead scoring prioritises contacts for the sales team. Branch logic in workflows customise each email recipient’s experience. Reporting combines all the activities of a campaign in one place and ties it directly to sales.

Training companies typically work with numerous industries and have multiple products. All-in-one systems help you put the right information in front of appropriate audiences. This increases this quality of lead nurturing and better enables sales.

Tool #2 Social media monitoring and engagement

Social media should not be used exclusively for content distribution, your ultimate goal is engagement. It’s a stepping stone to convert a distant prospect on the internet into a lead produced by the website or salesperson.

Training companies, along with most B2B companies, benefit from listening to their prospects and customers. Attentiveness and responsiveness differentiates many companies from their competitors. Monitoring systems alert you on top engagement activities such as sharing, commenting, hashtags, and keywords.

Hootsuite has long been the most popular social media management tool, incorporating publishing, monitoring, and reporting. It works best for companies with multiple people supporting social media marketing. If you don’t need that much oversight, Buffer still works well or Social Sprout and Crowdbooster.

Tool #3 Conversion optimisation

There are lots of good practices marketers follow for the design of websites, email messages, and landing pages. Still, each page is unique and we can’t guess at how uses experience it without collecting data. With the data in hand, tweaks can be made to optimise their engagement. Improvements over time, have a compound effect on the results.

Criticue provides peer review of new websites to ensure qualified people other than yourself approve of it’s design. Hotjar and Crazyegg are heat maps so you can see what visitors are looking at and clicking on in webpages or landing pages. Shortened URLs through bit.ly provide click data for links embedded on email, social media, or even shared on print media.

Conclusion

Marketing automation is a vehicle to making your marketing content work, but it does not do your marketing for you. Select a system(s) based on the goals of your company within 1-2 years. Make sure you have the right talent in place along with a good plan for execution.

About the author of this post
Marguerite is the owner of ReLaunchU. ReLaunchU is a B2B Inbound marketing agency with experience with companies in the consulting and training industries. Marguerite had a 12 year career in workplace learning and performance before transitioning to inbound marketing 5 years ago.

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