Thanks to my friends over at Ombud for making the MA decision so colorful :)
B2B marketing presents unique challenges from marketing to consumers because of the different way businesses research and purchase.
Business decisions are less emotional and more data-driven, requiring a labor-intensive research phase involving customer testimonials, ROI analysis, product demonstrations, web searches, and rounds of emails and phone calls.
Businesses are constantly jumping between offline and online resources to gather this information and the result is a longer, more complex sales cycle. B2B marketers struggle to accurately monitor this sales cycle, often losing track of who just started browsing, who is in serious research mode, and who has the green light to purchase.
In a perfect world, a business can monitor a prospect’s interaction across different marketing channels and knows exactly when to send in the sales team to provide closer attention. The real world is a bit murkier, unfortunately, causing many salespeople to jump in too early (wasting their time on a still-cool lead), or reach out too late (and losing a lead to a competitor).
Enter the concept of marketing automation (MA). A relatively recent trend in marketing, it’s an effective method of integrating multiple marketing efforts into a single software application. The software performs most of the common and repetitive marketing tasks, such as sending email, tracking website visitation, creating lead capture forms and landing pages, tracking downloads and scheduling communications.
The software places a strong focus on inbound marketing (versus outbound calls or email blasts) by helping users create and promote useful content such as white papers, blogs, case studies and webinars – exactly what information-hungry businesspeople crave. With MA, the quality of a lead is more prized than the quantity of leads captured.
The automation part of MA comes from the ability to create simple rules tied to your prospects’ online behavior and then have automatic marketing activities tied to that rule.
For example, a person clicking two email links and then downloading an online report 14 days later would be invited to a sales webinar, while the salesperson covering their state would be notified. All this would happen automatically. While it sounds complex, the new wave of MA software is built to be incredibly user-friendly.
In the example above, the person received a timely, relevant communication while the business also received greater visibility into where that lead is in the sales cycle.
Most MA companies integrate customer database information, such as revenue, past purchase history and location, with the marketing analytics. A business can combine these two data sources to create an incredibly detailed score for each lead based on their marketing engagement and business characteristics. Future marketing then can be automatically scheduled using these scores.
Which B2B businesses can benefit from MA? Good candidates operate in several different online marketing channels (and need better integration and visibility), have a sales team that often chases cold leads and are typically behind on their marketing campaigns due to lack of time and resources. In other words, most B2B businesses.
MA requires a lot of integration and standardization of your marketing activities, so make sure your different applications are ready to be brought under one roof. If you’re intimidated by the thought of integrating all of your marketing channels, you might not be ready for MA.
MA providers receiving attention recently are Eloqua, Marketo, Hubspot, Pardot and Nurture HQ. Like most web-based software, they range from very complex and powerful, providing things such as industry benchmarks for marketing campaigns, to just providing the basics for lead scoring, campaign execution and measurement.
Here are a few best practices for selecting and implementing your MA solution:
- Lots of features are nice, but make sure all members of your team find it easy to use. There are several powerful options on the market that end up gathering dust because they require a master’s degree to operate.
- Select a platform with A/B testing and marketing benchmarks. MA will gather and integrate lots of data for you, so it helps to constantly run tests and have benchmarks to know how well you’re performing.
- Focus on posting very useful, exclusive information on your site and requiring emails to download. You then can link this download activity with other information tied to that email address (such as enewsletter opens and click) to determine the interest level of your leads.
The basic elements of MA — email marketing, online measurement, lead capture and scoring — are nothing new. The genius is how MA brings it all together with an easy dashboard, integrates it with a sales database and automates the activities that should be automated.
It’s about being more effective with your marketing and more efficient with your time – two goals that every business should have.
This article originally appeared in my Digital Marketing Column in the Denver Business Journal on October 21, 2013. View my 25+ other Digital Marketing articles in the Denver Business Journal.
Filed under: Best Practice Tips, Educational Presentations | Tagged: analytics, B2B, email, Marketing Automation, measurement | Leave a Comment »