Marketing automation is revolutionizing the way we communicate with prospective residents, providing insight that seemed impossible not long ago.
Yet, when it comes to implementing marketing automation, many feel intimidated or overwhelmed by the process, preventing them from using it to its full potential.
The reality of the situation is that with a good game plan and a little guidance, marketing automation can become a reality at every community.
We posed some frequently asked questions about marketing automation to Sarah Dodge, director of marketing automation strategy, to pick her brain about the importance of integrating automation into your marketing strategy.
Everybody is talking about marketing automation, but what role does it play in senior living? Why does it matter?
Marketing automation and its technology provide us, as senior living sales and marketing professionals, with the fuel we need to understand who our marketing- and sales-qualified leads are, what they’re interested in, what concerns them, and how and when to engage with them. It’s all about making life easier for the sales team — and that definitely matters!
What makes it especially relevant in the field of senior living?
In an industry that must be customer-centric, where we really need to take the time to get to know our audience on a one-to-one level, we can’t rely solely on sales or manual processes to evaluate and nurture leads. Marketing automation helps us become more targeted and efficient; most importantly, it helps bridge the gap between sales and marketing (especially when integrated with CRM).
How does our sales team benefit from marketing automation?
Marketing automation provides visibility into the digital activity of your sales-qualified leads. This added insight – web pages visited, resources downloaded, landing pages submitted, emails opened, etc. – helps sales get to know the person, which helps generate relevant conversation.
Furthermore, all digital activity tracked within the marketing automation system can be scored, so the sales team can prioritize their activities and focus on the highest-scoring leads.
The insights and scores are extremely useful, but only if they’re embraced and incorporated into the sales process.
I’ve found the best way to accomplish this is to get the sales team involved from the beginning. Educate them on the benefits of marketing automation and the tools that will be available to them.
Ongoing check-ins or training sessions are a must (especially up front), providing an opportunity to share experiences, address questions and stimulate a sense of process.
How can a sales team make the best use of marketing automation?
Because marketing automation software tracks engagement with content, it’s critical that sales teams understand the importance of content.
For example, if a senior living community has a robust News or Blog page that attracts qualified leads, sales counselors have the opportunity to share that content, say in an individual email, to a specific person who has expressed interest in a similar topic.
The context for the outreach could be as simple as, “I thought you’d be interested in X,” with a link to the specific news article on the site.
How does marketing automation increase efficiency in the occupancy pipeline?
Marketing automation enables lead nurturing at every stage of the customer journey.
From initial interest to life at the community, sending the right message to the right person at the right time is a relationship-building strategy that can shorten inquiry to initial appointment, initial appointment to second appointment, etc. time frames or the sales cycle in general.
With marketing automation in place, you can build drip campaigns and use the power of automation so that leads get inserted into the proper programs based on their interactions with marketing and sales.
What is an example of a very effective marketing automation program?
At its most basic state, marketing automation software replaces a traditional Email Service Provider (such as Constant Contact) because it can execute on all the functionality, plus so much more (as outlined above).
When integrated with CRM, the segmentation possibilities seem to be endless, which is a marketer’s dream.
We’ve tested and continue to execute on many segmentation strategies, but here’s just one for you to consider.
Financial qualification + browsing activity.
- Your community may have a surplus of one-bedroom apartments, but blasting out an email to your entire database to promote these specific residences is called “interruption marketing.”
- You’re communicating with people who may have never expressed interest in your inventory, much less one-bedroom apartments. (maybe they just started their search, and need more senior living educational content at this point).
- The opportunity is to create a segment of people who are financially qualified for a one-bedroom apartment (perhaps based on income and net worth). Also, pull in the digital behavior data to make it even more meaningful. For example, some may have viewed the Floor Plans page of your site, but didn’t convert, which means they didn’t download the 1-bedroom Floor Plan.
- Although your list will be much smaller, the leads to whom you send the targeted email will be more engaged, and you’ll build your relationship with them by continuing to send relevant information.
How do I get started with marketing automation?
Starting with education is key. Inform key players on both the sales and marketing side on the benefits of marketing automation, clearly showcasing the benefits for each team, but most importantly defining how it bridges the gap between them.
Up front, also define areas where changes in sales process will come into effect. Examples include working through the definition of a qualified lead, stating the expectation for outreach/follow-up as leads are passed to sales, etc.
Find ways to drive sales with marketing automation here.