Funnel Automation: Customer Conversion at Warp Speed

  |  April 9, 2012   |  Comments

Funnel automation tools offer a practical, programmatic approach that can make the customer's trip from front door to cash register quicker and more frequent.

By now the digital marketing community has widely accepted the paradigm of online conversion consistently referred to as "the funnel."

  1. Reach. Via campaigns and (these days) rich content, bring prospects into contact with your digital properties.
  2. Engage. Get them to move beyond the landing page and into your offerings.
  3. Convert. They buy, call, download, or spend time liking your brand.
  4. Retain. Keep them involved after the initial sale and sell more good stuff, advertising, or services.

For the purposes of this column, let's assume the entire global reach of that engagement engine called "social media" is not more than a constituent of part one: reach. Social media is a campaign.

Not everyone uses the same nomenclature, but largely the above sequence seems well-known and accepted. So well-accepted that today, there are several offerings in the marketplace that go some distance toward automating the process. Companies like HubSpot, Marketo, and Eloqua, while differing in nuance and target customer, all embrace and service the funnel optimization segment.

Many readers may be thinking: "I thought my website was already automating that!" And to a large extent it's true. But consider how much we're already taking for granted: the constant "on" of the site - and global availability. Plus all the functionality that is, by itself, responsible for almost all of our GDP's productivity gains over the past decade! The ubiquity of web achievement tends to level the terrain - making it harder to stand out simply by relying on the astonishing basics of the web itself.

Now consider digital analytics as the next level of automation: measuring and managing. What better way to know who's standing in front of what shelf of goods than to have that process automated? While architecting actionable analytics correctly requires notable effort, the bevy of benefits it can provide for marketing decision-makers is practically unprecedented. The keyword here is "actionable." And that's where funnel automation comes in.

Funnel automation takes advantage of tools like HubSpot, Marketo, or Eloqua and gives the marketer more pinpoint control over each part of the digital conversion funnel. The focused technology and trained effort can result in superior, not to say exponential increases in conversion rates.

Here are some of the key features of funnel conversion tools:

  • Focused analytics. Acknowledging that page view counts are of some use, especially in scaling your expectations, funnel conversion tools assume you need to go well beyond that. They focus on helping you understand much more closely who is going through your key conversion stages and how they are doing it. Sometimes it's referred to as "lead nurturing."
  • Content automation. Funnel conversion tools allow the marketer to create landing pages that look like the target website (fully "indexable" by Google and other search engines); emphasizing the placement of calls-to-action.
  • Lead-based dashboards. They tend to group prospect interaction into groups based on what level of engagement that lead is. This gives you the ability to understand the potential of each prospect or group of prospects, and how to nurture them through the conversion process.
  • Campaign measurement. Especially with email, these tools offer analytics focused on the behavior of individual visitors to the website, especially to its conversion pages. The marketer can gain an understanding that goes well beyond typical analytics trending data. For instance, these tools can tell the marketer whether a visitor that came via a prior campaign has revisited - and exactly what they have looked at on their subsequent visit. This becomes truly valuable to companies that rely in some fashion on one-to-one marketing.

There's also coaching available for the marketer who wants to deploy these tools. Rather than training you in how to use the tool, the focus tends to be on results: coaching through the process of lead conversion that traditional analytics tools talk about. Funnel automation tools, focused on specific success benchmarks, help their customers through the process of conversion rather than just the data itself. The helpful advice and assistance can get as granular as "now do this." In a world where "what to do next" becomes a roadblock for so many marketers, this straightforward, result-oriented approach stands out as a next-generation approach to analytics.

The three companies I've mentioned do have some differences. HubSpot, for instance, tends to have the lowest basic price-point and targets small to mid-market companies (but certainly can work with larger efforts). Marketo and Eloqua tend more toward enterprise deployments and may require more technology expertise to make them functional.

We're not here to suggest ditching your SiteCatalyst dashboard. Funnel automation may work less impressively where the goal is to sell advertising or encourage brand awareness. But it more than makes up for that when the goal is either click-to-buy, or a sale with some lead-time attached to it.

The winning formula of funnel automation is based on pattern recognition. Where traditional analytics tools display data and allow for substantial insight into many levels of site interaction (with substantial customization), they don't specifically call out key sales funnel patterns. Seen in this light, the no-nonsense focus of funnel automation companies is invigorating.

If you're interested in finding out who checked out the new rack of shirts - and specifically how to work with them toward the card-swiper - then funnel automation tools offer a practical, programmatic approach that can make the customer's trip from front door to cash register quicker and more frequent.


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Andrew Edwards

Andrew is a digital marketing executive with 20 years' experience servicing the enterprise customer. Currently he is managing director New York at Society Consulting. a digital marketing consulting company based in Seattle, Washington. Formerly he was managing partner at Technology Leaders, a Web analytics consulting firm he founded in 2002. He combines extensive technical knowledge with a broad strategic understanding of digital marketing and especially digital measurement, plus hands-on creative in the form of the written word, user experience, and traditional design.

He writes a regular column about analytics for ClickZ, the 2013 Online Publisher of the Year. He wrote the groundbreaking "Dawn of Convergence Analytics" report which was featured at the SES show in New York (2013).

In 2004 Edwards co-founded the Digital Analytics Association and is currently a director emeritus. He has designed analytics training curricula for business teams and has led seminars on digital marketing subjects.

He was also an adjunct professor at The Pratt Institute where he taught advanced computer graphics for three years. Edwards is also an award-winning, nationally exhibited painter. In 2015, his book Digital Is Destroying Everything will be published by Rowman & Littlefield.

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