Marketing automation, as the name suggests, is a software (usually SaaS) tool that allows the automation of a large number of b2b marketing and sales related activities. However, most of its value lies in the ability to understand the behaviour of your prospects better and guiding them through the buyer’s journey. To a large extent, it is marketing automation that brings inbound marketing to life and enables qualified marketing lead (MQL) generation.
There are several compelling reasons. Let’s look at each of these.
Buying decisions in B2B do not happen at the first contact. The number of customers that makes a purchase can easily be as little as 0,1% of the website visitors.
As a result, for marketing to generate even a few deals, it is necessary to communicate with, educate and nurture relationships with thousands of prospects or in other words – invest humanly impossible effort. Morover sales cycles take months even years.
Marketing automation can take care of the registration of your prospects, personalized marketing content delivery and scheduling activities, such as online product demonstration with your sales team. As companies grow, automating these activities can quickly become critical for continued growth.
About the buyer’s journey, I wrote on an earlier blog post.
Planning buyer’s journeys help organizations to market and sell their products the way their customers buy. For example – before a prospect would be interested in a solution, we need to find a way to make sure prospect understands the problem she has. This means that the marketing content we need to prepare to make sure contact understand the problem is different from the material used when prospect is already interested.
Marketing automation allows us to understand customer behaviour and automatically trigger the delivery of additional marketing content or messages in line with the buyer’s journey and principled of inbound marketing.
Once the marketing lead is qualified, it can be passed over to the sales team.
Email based automation is an excellent way to onboard your SaaS customers and help them learn and use the product. Onboarding sequence of e-mails can really make a difference in customer success rates. Moreover – automation can be integrated with your SaaS aplication and proactively help customers if they have difficulties with certain aspects of your product.
After you have spent significant amount of money to get potential customer for a trial, marketing automation is a necessary compontent to convert them to paying customers and drive renewal when the time comes.
Automation allows planning and gathering of prospect profile information and behaviour analytics. This allows an in-depth understanding of customer activities and motivations even before your sales team has had a chance to talk.
As a result, it allows better optimisation of the marketing journey and increases lead generation.
The starting point of knowing your prospects is exchanging a valuable marketing content for their contact and profile information with the use of an online form on a landing page.
While website analytics only tracks events on the website without regard of specific prospects, marketing automation allows understanding individual prospect behaviours on the site, interaction with e-mail and marketing content, such as live or on-demand webinars.
Available behaviour analytics allows engaging prospects in a highly personalised way.
As an example, you would probably want to send a different message depending on the fact if the lead attended the webinar, registered, but didn’t show up or participated and then dropped out. Additionally, you probably would want to handle differently a junior manager who signed-up for your whitepaper and CEO of the well-known corporation.
As digital advertising markets mature and costs increases, companies need to look to maximise the value of every prospect they have. Marketing automation enables us to have direct and free communication with customers who have agreed to be contacted, using their most widely used communication channel for business – their e-mail.
From time to time, you would want to use paid marketing activities, such a remarketing targeted at known customers. However, for the most part of communications over the buyer’s journey, you wouldn’t need to pay anyone as you are using the channel and contacts you own.
Marketing departments in many B2B companies are understaffed and underfinanced. Why is it so?
It is because traditionally, marketing was not able to justify extra investments and show a definite impact on revenue. Marketing automation enables to measure and analyse marketing pipeline, optimise campaigns and buyers journeys and track prospects from the first registration to become a qualified lead. Click To Tweet
Adoption of inbound marketing principles and use of marketing automation can allow marketing to become a revenue-generating business unit.
Perhaps the best way to think about marketing automation is to see it as an endless combination of If This, Then That algorithm.
|Opens e-mail||Send e-mail notification to sales|
|Clicks a link||Send specific marketing content|
|Visits specific URL||Invite to trial your other product|
|Doesn’t visit specific URL||Invite for a free support session with your support team|
|Is from geography||Send special deal code|
|Has position||Add to Facebook Customer audience to start remarketing|
|Forwards the e-mail||Erase customer record|
|Certain time has passed since the previous action||Add to the newsletter recipients list|
|Doesn’t complete check-out||Mark as a warm sales lead|
|Purchased a product||Qualify contact as marketing qualified lead|
|Visits website from specific Social network||Send on-boarding e-mails|
|Unsubscribes from e-mail||Send a reminder of the event|
|Repeatedly visits the product page||Invite to talk with the sales team|
To make most of the marketing automation, it is often worth considering integration with CRM to ensure seamless information flow with a sales department. Companies that are providing SaaS services may want to have integrations that enable to run various automation depending on customers use of the service.
As an example, companies frequently use marketing automation to help on-boarding their users or providing support options, if the use of service indicates that the user is having difficulties.
An increasing number of marketing technology providers include various Machine Learning and AI-based elements in their solutions.
Machine learning allows to improve personalisation and deliverability of messages based on previous records, as well as perform such advanced tasks as predicting the likelihood of a deal based on the prospect’s profile and behaviour information.
With or without Machine Learning, marketing automation solutions usually include rich possibilities to perform A/B testing and consequently significantly improve the efficiency of your pipeline over time.
The market of marketing technology is rapidly expanding with thousands of various solutions available.
If your team are mature marketers with a clear strategy, buyers journeys and clear KPIs you want to achieve, probably some of the most appropriate would be notable vendors in this space such as Hubspot, Salesforce’s Pardot, Magento (all US companies). These are solutions with broad functionality and a premium price tag.
If you are new to the market, I would recommend starting with less expensive solutions, such as Drip or Active Campaign. Keep your automations well documented, and when the time comes you need more functionality, you will be able to move to more advanced platform without too much pain.
After some product research and number of tests, we have settled for Active Campaign here at IBD Consulting and recommending this platform to our customers.
As with other sophisticated technologies that impact the daily work of many other people, it is best to start small and automate activities that otherwise take a lot of efforts.
A good starting point would be to start using marketing automation to deliver your newsletters and see what you can learn about your recipient’s behaviour.
Did they visit your website?
Were they interested in pages related to offering in the newsletter?
Should you perhaps set-up notifications to your sales team when such customer behaviour is recorded?
Similarly, you can automate the delivery of marketing content. Try implementing a simple form asking customers for their e-mail before they can access a brochure.
See what happens.
Chances are you will increase your customer contact list. Also you may be able to pinpoint for your sales team those prospects, who clicked on a brochure, visited the website several times and demonstrated another behaviour that indicates serious buying intent.
Another simple step would be to implement a call scheduling tool for your sales team. Just being able to provide customers with a link to schedule calls can dramatically save sales team efforts, especially if they deal with customers in other time-zones. This ability is particularly important if it is a high stake online meeting involving multiple people, such as online product demonstration that also required engineers to participate.
If you are in B2B business and are serious about growth, marketing automation is a necessary enabler.
Can’t do without it!
As the market for online advertising matures and prices go up, it becomes increasingly important to use the communications channel that you own – e-mail.
Another aspect of why it is worth looking into marketing automation right now is competition. While marketing automation is routinely used in the US, Europe is badly lagging with some reports stating only 4% of EU websites use some sort of automation. Perhaps it is the right time to invest in marketing automation to surpass the competition or at least catch up with the US.
Would you like to know how your company can benefit from automation? Go ahead and schedule a call with me (a neat little automation)!