Effective B2B Marketing Automation

Learning about Marketing AutomationDone correctly, Marketing Automation will increase your revenue and reduce your cost of sales. Done poorly, marketing automation can sap your financial reserves and create an even greater rift between marketing and sales.

What is Marketing Automation?

Marketing automation is a marketing AND sales tool. It effectively simulates a sales cycle and gives both marketing and sales a way to attract and target higher quality leads — all online and without human intervention until the time is right.

And, like any good tool, it requires careful planning and a knowledgeable team to make it work efficiently.

Success with Marketing Automation consists of the following pieces, only a portion of which includes the software that facilitates the system:

  • A firm commitment from management to invest in the system and everything that’s needed to make the system work…
  • Close ties between sales and marketing, ensuring the system does what it’s supposed to do…
  • A realistic plan for getting enough leads, driving enough traffic to the system to generate the desired results…
  • Content — the fuel that makes the marketing automation engine go. This includes reports, Webinars, Emails, tips, assessments, and more…
  • Well-designed conversion strategies that turn leads into qualified prospects and drives these qualified prospects toward a sale…
  • And, measurement systems and approaches that enable constant improvement of the system.

The Language of Marketing Automation

Marketing Automation, like any specific marketing or sales approach, has its own jargon. The ultimate goal of each component of a marketing system is to grow a business. If a system isn’t generating enough revenue, then it should be scrapped or revamped.

Marketing Automation’s language consists of these important elements:

Lead Generation

In marketing automation’s terms, lead generation includes different sub-components, all with the express purpose of driving “traffic” (leads) to the system. Your goal is to get these people to engage with the system by clicking on a link, downloading a report, or in some way acknowledging their interest in the topic at hand. You generate leads through what are called “Inbound” (SEO, Google Ads, etc.) and “Outbound” (Mailers, Email, post cards, etc.) approaches, with each lead generation approach having its positive and negative aspects.

Lead Management

Lead management is the process of maintaining the validity, integrity and accuracy of your lead database. Leads move, change their positions or Email addresses, and quite possibly their interests. Lead data must be constantly maintained and validated through a variety of methods to ensure that you’re always getting the best possible leads entering your system.

Lead Nurturing

Lead nurturing is a broad term that loosely defines what you do to move a lead from not knowing you to becoming a customer. The goal of a nurturing campaign is to move a prospect through their buying process until they are “sales ready.” That is, they are primed to either buy or talk to a sales person. This ensures that your sales department only speaks with highly qualified, ready-to-buy leads.

Lead nurturing contains a variety of tactics, strategies, and principles — all designed to gain a prospect’s trust, remove their obstacles or roadblocks to buying, and turn them into an enthusiastic customer.

Lead Segmentation

As a lead answers your questions, reads your Emails, visits your website, and participates in your Webinars, you will gain a better understanding of his or her specific needs, wants and desires. As you set these distinctions between prospects, you will “funnel” them through different lead nurturing campaigns. This way, they only get the information they want, when they want it.

Segmentation involves separating leads into multiple “segments” by demographic, interest, expressed need, and desired outcome. You’ll send highly targeted messages to each segment, moving them closer to a sale that’s specific to their needs.

Lead Scoring

As your leads read your Emails, click on the links in those Emails, visit designated web pages, download your reports, use your calculators, and otherwise ACTIVELY interact with the content you create, you will add to their “sales-readiness” score.

Lead scoring involves increasing a lead’s score when they take a positive action, and decreasing their score upon a negative action (not opening an email, for example).

The lead scoring portion of a marketing automation system typically interacts with a sales management (SalesForce.com) or CRM system. The sales person assigned to an account will receive automated alerts about the actual actions taken by a prospect, and about their “lead score.” They know that when a lead attains a specified score, then that lead is “ready” to buy.

Content in Lead Generation and Lead Nurture is King

“Content” is the fuel that makes the marketing automation machine run. Content consists of a variety of pieces, including (but not limited to):

  • Direct mail sales letters
  • Post cards
  • Advertisements
  • Trade show promotions
  • Magazine articles
  • Blog articles
  • Special reports or white papers
  • Email sales letters
  • Google, LinkedIn or Facebook ads
  • Follow-up Emails
  • Webinars or seminars

Every Situation Unique

Every situation requires a somewhat unique blend of the marketing automation mix. A once size fits all approach is costly and won’t realize your full market opportunity. We primarily work with Technology, Engineering and Service companies.

The whole point is to produce sales-ready leads that sales willingly follows-up on and closes. In the B2B world this means communicating appropriately with each member of the buying committee and providing the content required to facilitate the buying process. Sales organizations do what works; they follow-up on leads they think are ready to turn into revenue.

Regarding the Terminology and Components of Marketing Automation

Every niche has its jargon, and marketing is no exception. At its core, marketing automation systems try to emulate an actual sales process without human intervention. For example, you see a sign in a store window that says, “50% off select merchandise.” That’s enough to get you in the store. You start at the sale rack, and then move on to see what else they have. You might pick up a couple of items and head to the dressing room to try them on.

At this point, a sales person might ask if you need help. A high-end store like Nordstroms will even help you find items that “look good on you.” The sales person jokes with you, asks you about your interests, and builds trust by telling you what doesn’t look good.

Marketing automation systems are similar in these ways:

  • Get you “into the store”: You create an enticing offer on a landing page and use an opt-in form to get them in the door.
  • Build trust and rapport: You create “automated email campaigns” that send a series of relevant messages to build trust and rapport with your prospect. This is what we call “Lead Nurturing.”
  • Observe and react: You watch their actions and react accordingly. Based on the emails they open, the links they click on in those emails, and the web pages they visit, you will “segment” them into finely-tuned lists that help you to send them even MORE relevant messages.
  • Come in for the close when ready: With each action they take or don’t take, you assign a “score” (Lead Scoring) to that action. When they take a certain action or reach a specific threshhold, you send a message to the sales person so that they can make personal contact.

Does Marketing Automation Replace the Sales Department?

Marketing automation works well whether or not you’ve got a sales staff. It needn’t replace your sales staff if you’re a B2B company selling high-ticket items.

With high-priced items, you’re not actually trying to replace the sales staff. You enhance the ability of your sales team to close more sales because they don’t get involved until the lead has the knowledge and trust required to make a purchase.

Your sales team doesn’t get unqualified leads who have no interest in or knowledge of your products. Instead, they get leads who are more “sales-ready.” They are happier because they make more sales with less effort. You’re happy because you’re the new hero of the company instead of the first department to hit the chopping block in hard times.

Companies with lower-priced items, which includes both B2B and B2C (business-to-business and business-to-consumer) companies, can use a marketing automation system to take a prospect from “Who are you?” to sale without human intervention.

This is the ultimate goal of a marketing automation system – to help your company make more sales with less effort and associated cost.

Understanding Marketing Automation Systems

Email platforms like MailChimp and AWeber are not marketing automation systems. They offer basic “lead nurturing” (what they call “Autoresponders”). These are a series of emails that are sent automatically at specified time intervals after someone “opts in” to the system via a web form.

These systems do not offer complex Boolean logic for true lead nurturing. This is where you can send a message based on any one of dozens of parameters, such as: job title; company size; opening an email; clicking a link in an email; downloading a PDF; watching a video; going to a web page.

Complex Lead Nurturing

Sample Marketing Automation Nurture FlowA key advantage of the more robust (and thus, more expensive) marketing automation platforms is their ability to include complex Boolean logic in a “Workflow.”

Once someone opts in to your list by downloading a report, you can vary the messages you send based on their actual activity. Do or don’t send messages based on their watching a video, downloading a PDF or viewing a particular web page.

You can place leads into finely-tuned segments based on what they do (click on a link in an email) or what they view (a web page or video). Then, you send ONLY the information that is relevant to their specific interests.

This allows you to keep people more engaged for a longer period of time.

Ideally, you want the ability to alter the messages you send based on the real actions of your prospects. This lets you send them ONLY relevant and timely information instead of sending one-size-fits-all messages.