Even though we’re a marketing and sales automation company, we’ve never encouraged people to “automate everything!” That’s because the goal of automation isn’t eliminating human contact. That’s usually not what’s best for customers and, by extension, companies.
Human touch is important. It will always be important. And, it actually becomes more and more impactful as companies pursue automation to cut costs. The more rare human interaction with a company becomes, the more your company stands out for its one-to-one communication.
Human contact at important moments can motivate a purchase decision, but that’s just the beginning. It can also create fiercely loyal, repeat customer who evangelize your company and product. Phone time and hand-typed emails can be a strong differentiating factor and the key to your company’s viral growth.
But human time and attention is expensive. Most companies — whether they’re one-man operations or enterprises — can’t afford to invest it in every relationship and that’s why automation is needed, if not critical. The trick, then, is strategically balancing automation and human touch to best serve the needs of the customer and company simultaneously.
To find this perfect balance, to know when to use what, you’ll need to understand what automation is really, really good at…
Humans versus machines
Automation’s biggest strength is that it can do something humans can’t — it can sift through nearly unlimited amounts of real-time data and then instantly react to key events. It can respond to your contact’s behavior and trigger processes… messages can be sent, deal records can be created, tasks can be assigned, people can be alerted, webhooks can be sent, and more. This ability to “listen” and quickly “react” makes automation uniquely well-suited for notifying someone in your company that human touch is needed. It can connect two people at the perfect moment.
Another of automation’s strengths is efficiently handling the tedious and time-consuming task of managing and organizing the important data associated with an opportunity. It can aggregate massive amounts of data, pull the needed information, and then organize it into a contact or deal record a human can review prior to contacting someone so that they can have a productive and helpful interaction.
It can also help with managing the massive amount of tasks associated with a sales team’s outreach. Sales involves keeping an enormous amount of balls in the air and sales automation allows you to keep any of those balls from dropping. Done well, sales automation is about creating automated processes that humans can rely on to bring them into the loop when they’re needed so they can stay focused on helpful conversations with prospective customers. A human can be notified they need to complete a task and when the task is complete automation can take back over. It can then bring them back to the opportunity when they’re needed.
The benefit of having an automated CRM tied to your marketing automation and email marketing solution is that a wide variety of data from the marketing process can be leveraged to inform and organize the sales process. Automation gives you the tools to spot buying signals, react quickly, and get up to speed prior to connecting so you can have the most positive interaction possible.
Automation’s weakness is that it doesn’t “think” (not yet, anyway), but it is great at “listening” and “reacting.” Leveraging automation then is about configuring your automation to “listen” to what’s important.
Reacting to the right signals
Most companies will want to invest their human touch deeper in the funnel after uninterested prospects have dropped off. The remaining leads have been educated by your marketing messages. They understand your solution, the value you provide, and what makes your solution different and better than alternatives. At that point, you’ll want to start looking for indications someone is interested and, better yet, considering a purchase.
Your contacts indicate this with:
Engagement – In general, we tend to ignore marketing unless the message is relevant to us at that moment. As a contact opens your emails, clicks links, visits your site, and visits specific pages, they are telling you their level of interest. Engagement then, is pretty easy to assess and a high-level of engagement deep in your funnel is a clear signal it’s time to get in touch with that contact and discuss your solution.
Product usage – This applies mostly to SaaS products, but really any business that offers a free trial. If a free trial customer is engaging with your solution — testing out a variety of features and functionality, they are probably giving your product serious consideration and a bit of human touch during that process might tip the scales toward a purchase. Look for multiple log-ins and engagement with key features. Our Event Tracking feature is the perfect way to record this in app engagement.
Content consumption – Consuming content from a company requires a certain amount of trust— usually an important factor in making a purchase. We’re all pretty starved for free time and attention so choosing to watch a video or read a white paper is a significant investment. As the consumed this content they’ were probably exposed to marketing messages explaining your solution, its value, and positioning it relative to competitors. Knowing what content they are consuming gives you a convenient way to start a conversation and the topics indicate what they are interested in.
Contacting support – While contacting support sometimes indicates a problem or issue, it also indicates a certain level of interest in your product that they just didn’t walk away at the first sign of trouble. Even if there was a negative experience, inserting human outreach into the equation indicates a commitment to service, proactivity, and customer care that might erase the negativity caused by the support concern. A product consultant could help them address their problem and steer the conversation toward a commitment to purchase.
All of this behavioral data can be used to create triggers that begin automated processes that bring humans into the loop and get your sales process rolling. But, you don’t want that to happen for everyone who’s entered your funnel.
Pursue only the best…
Some leads are more likely to convert and some are worth more than others. You probably don’t have the resources to pursue every lead so you need to invest your human touch in only your best opportunities. During your marketing process you gathered a lot of information about your contacts that can be used to assess their quality.
Automation tools like lead scoring can analyze that data, determine the quality of your leads, and prioritize them so that your sales team knows where to focus their efforts and what to ignore.
Once you’ve found identified the leads worth pursuing, it’s all about…
Getting in touch… fast
After a prospective customer signals they are serious about your solution, and you’ve determined they’re worth investing in, you want to reach out quickly. This gives you the best opportunity to influence their decision and the best chance of reaching them before a competitor.
When an opportunity is identified or a lead is qualified you can automatically create a deal record to consolidate information and stay organized. You can also automate managing the opportunity by creating tasks, adding notes, updating fields, notifying people, and more. This kind of sales automation eliminates a lot of the time-consuming record keeping involved with keeping standalone CRMs up-to-date and helps your employees stay on top of their workload as they move opportunities through various stages.
In this example workflow, a deal record is created, a task is created to reach out to the prospect, and a salesperson is notified they have a new opportunity:
If you have a high volume of opportunities, you may want to consider automating the first outreach. You could create a sequence that sends out a friendly email message inviting them to schedule a time for a demo or consultation so you don’t waste your time calling leads that aren’t expecting to hear from you:
After the appointment is scheduled, you can automatically move them to the next stage of the pipeline using a Goal action with a “Update stage” action immediately below it.
Getting started with sales automation….
The specific sequence of events you’ll want to go through when a new lead is generated depends on your business, of course, but here are a few pre-built automation workflow examples you can import into your ActiveCampaign account and modify for the needs of your business. If nothing else, these examples should spur your creativity and get you thinking about what is possible…
Multiple sessions where important marketing pages are viewed:
Multiple visits to marketing content on your website means someone read through those pages, left, and then returned to view those pages again. That’s a pretty strong indicator they are interested.
For this automation, and some of those that follow, to work, you’ll need to have Site Tracking set up and installed.
This automation begins when a contact visits any marketing page of your site. If they have 3 distinct browsing sessions, they’ll receive an email inviting them to schedule a time to talk. I suggest using a solution like Calendly and integrating it via Zapier. Zapier can pass an “Appointment scheduled” tag to ActiveCampaign when the book the appointment so you can automate more of your sales pipeline.
Repeat views of pricing information:
Someone might view your pricing once and then never return but when someone views it repeatedly, it’s safe to assume that they are deeply considering making a purchase. Perhaps they’re evaluating whether the cost is worth the value or comparing your pricing to competing solutions.
Why not reach out right while they are having that conversation? Let them know you can answer questions and hear their concerns.
This automation is very similar to the previous one. The only change is that the starting trigger is looking for repeat views of a specific page rather than repeat visits to your site in general.
Consuming key content:
Requesting and consuming content from your company indicates that they see you as a trusted source of information and they like what they are seeing. Assuming that content is moving them progressively deeper into a targeted funnel, you may want to initiate contact after they’ve consumed key content you know generally creates very warm leads.
To do this, this automation will only run if a contact has submitted forms requesting multiple content assets. If they request all three, a deal record is created. These conditions are created by segmenting contacts that meet the triggering conditions so that a contact only enters the automation if they’ve also requested the other content:
You would create a similar trigger for each piece of content so that the automation performs a check each time key content is requested. It’s a bit difficult to explain, but your automation might end up looking like this:
You can increase or decrease the flow of leads by lowering or raising the number of assets a contact needs to request before they meet your triggering conditions. You don’t have to use form submits — you can combine any number of conditions to create a lead generation automation that only runs when a specific combination of events occurs.
Score reaches threshold:
Scoring is a powerful tool because it allows you to factor a wide range of conditions into a single number. You can give points for their geographic location, custom field values, their page visits, link clicks in emails, form submits, and more.
Scoring is the ideal way to assess when a lead is ready for human touch. The expiring points allow you to measure the frequency and recency of engagement. You can weight specific web page visits, link clicks, and email opens based on how important they are to your conversion process so that contacts earn more or less points depending on how they’re interacting with your funnel.
The automation below begins when a contacts score reaches a score you define. If you haven’t set up a score yet, we’ve got another blog post you might find helpful as you go about designing and implementing your scoring program.
Hopefully you’ve got some ideas for how you can use automation to spot signs of engagement and reach out to your contacts right when they need to hear from you.
The latest update to our contact and deal management feature set makes it the ideal tool for identifying your best leads and organizing your opportunities as they pass through the stages of your pipeline. You’ll be able to automatically pull in back-and-forth communication related to a deal, delegate to your team and discuss deals, and automate a lot of the time-consuming record keeping that’s involved with an organized, optimized sales process.
If you haven’t already, upgrade your ActiveCampaign account to the newest version here (scroll to the bottom of the page).