Marketing automation - how to prepare?
Marketing automation tools make it possible to analyze the characteristics and behavior of current and potential customers and tailor communication activities to them individually. This way, for example, a customer who comes to your site for the first time will see different content than one who is here for the next time.
The ultimate goal of using marketing automation methods and tools is to increase the number and quality of leads, i.e. potential customers ready to start the buying process.
From this article you will learn, among other things:
- what you need to know before implementing a B2B marketing automation strategy,
- what opportunity a marketing automation system gives you,
- when it's worth implementing MA and how to do it,
Based on customer information, marketing automation tools create a so-called "digital body language" – a customer profile, so that you can, for example, figure out what information might be valuable to them at different stages of the buying process and at what point to engage the sales department.
To do this, you need to take care of certain elements that ensure that marketing automation strategies and tools work.
- Knowledge of the customer's decision-making process and the characteristics of the people who are involved in it.
- Appropriate content/messages, differentiated based on customer characteristics and needs. Develop a content strategy and familiarize yourself with the concept of content marketing before you start implementing marketing automation. Otherwise, you are in for a costly failure,
- Collaborate with salespeople who make proper use of the information provided to them about potential customers.
Why do you need marketing automation?
To show you where the need for a marketing automation system comes from, I'll tell you about a situation I've faced many times as a marketer.
I'm presenting the premise of a campaign - beautiful slides with sophisticated creatives, taglines, advanced retargeting techniques and "lookalikes" are impressive... unfortunately, not on the board of directors, who collectively fall asleep. The awakening comes at the end - I show the campaign budget requirement and at that moment I hear a loud - HOW MUCH?!
I have a feeling, bordering on certainty, that such nightmares torment not only me. It's easy to blame it on management's lack of knowledge and interest in the meanderings of marketing, but it seems that we marketers also have some serious homework to do.
So how do we position the value of the marketing department in an environment that responds to only one stimulus - the sound of rustling banknotes? Marketing is about costs - this everyone knows. And costs should be as low as possible - that's easy too. The only way out of this situation is to prove that well-planned marketing activities in B2B translate quantifiably into sales. And that's where a marketing automation system will help you.
What will you gain by using marketing automation?
Just preparing for the implementation of a marketing automation system works very well for marketers , because they have to do a lot of things they have been guarding against. For example, defining a content strategy, or agreeing with the sales department on the precise deifnication of a lead and how to deal with leads generated by marketing are activities that have value in themselves. Of course, the list of benefits of implementing marketing automation is much longer and not only the marketing department benefits.
First - you get to the revenue side of the business
How do you prove that marketing is not just a source of costs, but creates demand? You need tools and processes that make the work of the marketing department visible to sales departments. In B2B, you talk about generating leads. A lead is not yet a sale - it's an initial sales opportunity. It is marketing that generates leads. They have to be many and they have to be of good quality -that is, they have to turn into sales quickly.
That's what you need marketing automation tools for. Your role is to communicate with potential customers, i.e. people who often don't even know about the existence of the company or product you are promoting. To do this effectively, you need to communicate using multiple channels. Marketing automation tools will allow you to see which one is most effective.
The days when a business customer waited to meet with a salesperson to learn about an offer are over. Nowadays - as I've mentioned many times - 60-80% of product knowledge is acquired even before they meet the salesman. This means that digital marketing is absolutely essential in B2B. B2C colleagues are probably surprised that I'm writing this at all, but it's true - the B2B sector in Poland is just discovering digital marketing.
So marketing automation gives you the opportunity to combine multiple types of activities - digital, offline, media, events, and determine their effectiveness. So instead of talking about reach, likes, and creatives, you have information at your disposal that is highly likely to interest management - you're talking about money. You can justify a larger investment in marketing, because you know what its impact on sales will be.
Second - embrace the chaos
I'm just drawing myself a diagram of a simple B2B campaign. I want to reach customers in three industry groups, considering five types of marketing persona at four stages of the decision-making process. Oh, and one more thing - my product has five variants - each relevant to a different segment. Simple math indicates that I should build dozens of different messages to make this multi-dimensional campaign hit the needs of the target groups precisely.
This is not an academic exercise - in B2B marketing, that's exactly how it works. A five-dimensional content matrix, if you still include communication through the channel of partners, agents or intermediaries. If you manage to implement such a campaign without a marketing automation tool - let me know - you are probably a genius. I am not, so I use such a tool, and although it has not solved all my problems, it allows you not to get lost in the maze of messages and media.
Here it's worth clarifying the word "automation" - it's not about some robot that writes emails for marketers. Automation is about the fact that an entire such campaign can be planned well in advance, and successive types of content can be served on the basis of preceding customer behavior. In a nutshell, the idea is to adequately communicate with both those who eagerly open e-mails and instantly move on to a landing page, and those who occasionally click on a banner unwillingly, but are clearly not ready for intensive communication.
You can thus guide the customer from the awareness-building stage to considering a purchase at his pace, sometimes this process takes several weeks, sometimes several years. During this time, you give him a chance to deepen his knowledge, so that when he meets a salesman, those minimum 60% of knowledge about the product comes from you, not from your competitors.
Third - you get to know the customer
Another benefit of good marketing automation systems is the ability to gain valuable knowledge about customer needs without having to commission additional research.
This is done through progressive profiling, which is building a customer profile based on short, surveys posted on sites. Encouraged by valuable content, customers agree to provide additional information such as how many people their company employs. This is where the second tricky word comes in: gated content - content available only after providing additional information or after logging in.
This tactic allows you to gather very interesting information without forcing the customer to fill out long surveys - but it's worth it to have something you give in return, most often valuable content - an ebook, a tutorial, a guide, access to a webinar video, etc.
You can already see clearly that marketing automation without knowledge sharing won't work. By serving quality content, you encourage your customer to provide information about themselves, which allows you to complete their profile. Why complete it? Because the first part you already have - it's behavioral data: whether he clicked on an email, how long he stayed on the site, whether he attended a webinar, etc. The second part is profile data collected through surveys - position, interests, challenges, social media activity. This way you know not only whether someone is responding to your campaigns, but also who that person is. So you can differentiate your message according to, for example, age or position.
The icing on the cake is so-called lead scoring, as used, for example, by Oracle's Eloqua, which is determining the value of a given lead based on behavioral and profile data, and triggering sales actions when you identify a sales director who has visited your site for the third time in the last week.
Fourth - you will reduce cold calling
The sales department, by calling such a customer, has a lot of information and the conviction that this is not a completely random caller. Salespeople will love you for this, because there is nothing more hated by them than cold calling - unpleasant and ineffective. Thanks to the customer profile built with marketing automation, before they even pick up the phone or write an email, they can see if the customer has visited the company's websites, if they have received newsletters and what, if anything, in the company's offer interested them. This, of course, is just a simple example of the use of lead scoring. Depending on the tool and the level of integration with the CRM, much more advanced personalized communication tactics can be used.
The capabilities of marketing automation systems:
• Analyze all interactions of potential customers with company content (emails, pages, social media, webinars, conferences, publications).
• Tailoring the messages presented to potential customers to their preferences and the information you have about them.
• Creating campaigns that include a variety of activities (e.g., emailing, premium content, webinars, conferences), triggered depending on the customer's engagement and decision-making role.
• Creation of dedicated websites and emails targeted to customers who meet specific criteria.
• Evaluating the effectiveness of all communication activities based on the ultimate criterion of lead generation - i.e. identifying a customer with a high chance of making a sale.
• Effective, legally compliant management of customers' personal data and automatic response to their requests and discontinuation of communications.
• The best marketing automation systems allow integration with CRM systems, social networks, video conferencing platforms, editorial calendars and collaborative platforms.
Marketing automation is a brilliant tool. If the Nobel committee were awarding prizes in the marketing category, their creators would certainly be nominated. Keep in mind, however, that they won't solve all problems. If you don't have a consistent communications strategy, specific personas, or create valuable content - automation will only exacerbate these problems.
However, if you want to be seen as a provider of value rather than a cost to the company, you want to be a discussion partner with management, and you need tangible proof of marketing's contribution to company performance - don't delay implementation.
Marketing automation raises the importance of the marketing department in the organization, because it allows you to communicate with the board of directors in the only language they understand - the poetry of rustling bills.
You are preparing to introduce a marketing automation tool and are looking for support in selecting a system, oproacing an implementation plan and preparing the necessary resources and processes. We will be happy to help.