The Nature of Nurturing: Why Marketing Automation Works
Marketing automation. In today's marketing environment, the phrase means different things to different people. To some, it may mean anything from simple spreadsheet analyses, to software suites with a full array of tools that measure leads and content management. To others, it may play a key role in helping to create harmony in that never-ending battle between sales and marketing (enter your story here).
But perhaps more than anything else, marketing automation technology means that you may need to change from a right-brain way of thinking to a left-brain one to comprehend its measurement capabilities. Read: Marketers embarking on the journey of marketing automation will generate leads in a more scientific and analytical way. That's what Liz McClellan, a 20-year veteran of the marketing game found when Sage, whose brands include Sage Peachtree, Sage ACT!, Sage Abra, Sage SalesLogix, Sage MAS 90 and Sage X3, undertook the endeavor.
"I think marketing automation is a smart tool to invest in, but you need to set the right expectations," says McClellan, Sage's VP of primary marketing and retail sales. "As we began our own journey to review marketing automation platforms, I wish I'd had someone take me aside and tell me the brutal truth. I could have handled it. But nobody wanted to bring me down from my optimism. I thought for sure we had cracked the code on how to boost our new customer-acquisition efforts. We were going to have fewer, but more meaningful touch points with prospects, and send only highly qualified leads to sales. It sounded great. I was ready."
McClellan compares the journey to becoming a parent, where everybody talks about the good stuff, congratulates you, and wishes you the best. "But there's more," she says. "Way more. What someone should have told me is that the first year of implementing a new platform is rough, and that the first year is just a sampling of the hard work involved for years to come. There will be many rewards and insights along the way, but it takes a lot of work."
The art of marketing automation
New channels. New apps. Social media. The world of marketing continues to evolve. And with these changes comes a new responsibility for today's marketer — revenue growth. That means accountability becomes one the new buzzwords for a marketing team. Today, the big office in the corner is not interested in click-through and open rates; it wants to know how marketing is contributing to the bottom line.
Marketing automation helps bring marketing more in line with the sales teams, a relationship that has had its share of competition over the years. Running a successful marketing campaign means delivering more qualified leads to the sales team, improving conversion rates to sale, increasing revenue per lead, providing automated lead scoring for prospects, increasing prospect engagement through lead nurturing emails, maximizing sales productivity, and delivering visibility to prospect activity on the website and engagement with email communications.
"Marketing automation helps to open doors that have never been opened before," says Brian Kardon, CMO of Eloqua. "It helps a company read the digital body language of a customer. It's pretty amazing that you can follow a customer's click-stream and interest based on what he does. If a prospect comes to your website, you will know what he has clicked and what he is interested in. Did he watch a video? Did he click on a white paper? Once you know all this, you can target him with very precise content."
For example, marketing will provide the sales team with information such as the duration of a prospect's visit, pages viewed (with the URL) and time spent viewing that page, the first and last page viewed, the originating lead source, a rating and/or score of each prospect and the types of a drill down on actual email content and click through activity.
Think of it like this — imagine going on a blind date and knowing everything you need to know about the person you're meeting. "The navigating attention of a prospect defines the customer," says Bryan Brown, director of product strategy for Silverpop. "You know what he is interested in, what he needs, and what he might buy. [In essence] the salesperson is building a relationship with this person without knowing it. Marketing automation helps build that bridge between marketing and sales. It really makes the sales job easier; they just don't know it."
5 things marketing automation can help you do now
If you're a marketer well versed in the Tao of sales and marketing, you know that aligning yourself with your sales team is key. Getting that buy-in on marketing processes and initiatives helps move prospects through the pipeline more efficiently, delivers more qualified leads and, ultimately, drives more revenue.
But what happens when your sales team is uninterested in the marketing automation platform? Can you still reap the benefits without their cooperation?
Bryan Brown, says "yes." While sales' participation in marketing processes is important for maximizing marketing automation's potential, there's still a lot you can do even if sales is indifferent. Following are five ways marketing automation can help without sales.
1. Know where your leads come from — There's a lot of pressure on today's marketers to demonstrate their value and impact on the bottom line by offering a clear view into the results of their efforts — from lead acquisition, to account close, and beyond. With marketing automation, you can set up a system that captures both lead source and offer, giving you more insight into how the prospect came to know about your brand (source) and the reason they decided to fill out your form and give you their information (offer). Equally as important, you can capture "influence" — what you did during the nurture process that actually convinced someone to buy.
2. Automate content delivery — Sending triggered messages based on prospect actions is a surefire way to increase message relevance and boost engagement. Marketing automation makes it easy. For example, a prospect signing up for a Webinar automatically might trigger a message sent to that individual with an offer to download a white paper on a similar topic. Or, a certain number of visits to a page on your site might trigger a message offering a free service trial.
3. Nurture leads — With marketing automation technology, you can set up programs that gradually help you collect data, build relationships and be responsive to prospect interests and behaviours. Using a visual campaign builder, it's easy to establish nurture campaigns that gather prospect information gradually through progressive and route prospects down numerous different paths based on whether they opened your email, downloaded your content and/or shared it with their social networks.
4. Score leads — Ideally, you'd develop a lead-scoring system in concert with sales with definitions for "contacts," "leads," "qualified opportunities," etc., that both sides had agreed upon. But even without this participation, you can establish a ranking system to identify hotter prospects based on a wide range of behaviours, which you can use to more effectively nurture your prospects through the pipeline.
5. Increase visibility into leads — Regardless of whether your salespeople are hip to marketing automation, they'll appreciate being able to approach a prospect call equipped with information about that person's interactions with your company. Marketing automation technology helps provide information on each lead.