Monday, November 12, 2012

Marketing automation: the rocket science of B2B marketing

 

The five things to get a grip on

Like wise zen masters, those savvy to the intricacies of marketing automation systems chuckle wisely when one tries to identify rules of thumb for running a system. But you’ve got to start somewhere.
Here are five issues that marketing automation is immediately going to drop in your lap:

 1. What does your database look like?
Thanks to over a decade of outbound marketing, many marketing organizations have already got a database of prospects. Unfortunately, after years of willy-nilly email campaigns, that data’s pretty much scorched earth. Pumping tens of thousands of scruffy leads into a marketing automation that charges by the lead (as some do) feels like a rookie mistake.

Weed out that list by segmenting, cleaning and applying filters to the data (region, title, dead addresses, etc.). Then do as one client did: send an opt-out to your whole database. If they ask out, strike them.

 

2. Sales hand-off

So the whole purpose of this exercise is to groom undifferentiated prospects into great sales leads. Doyens of marketing automation have been saying this for years and it bears repeating: you need to work out with sales what a sales-ready lead looks like for your business. Your sales people will know
Once you’ve worked that out, you’ll have a much better idea of how to score your leads (see next point) and what to do with prospects that return to the leads pool.
On the technical side, marketing automation will need to be integrated with a CRM (at least if you want to be able to map eventual sales and revenue back to marketing activities – and who doesn't want that?).

3. Scoring

The whole nurturing aspect of marketing automation systems is facilitated by applying a scoring system to different actions that relate to prospect demographics and most importantly, behaviour – across your site, emails, content, social channels, events and beyond.
Obviously, you can’t manage scores of thousands of leads by hand; you’ll need good rules.
At first blush, you’ll want to start giving people points for everything. But it might not make sense – the guy who comes to your site daily may not be much of a sales prospect. Every point you score should ideally indicate significant progression to a buy. (And this may also differ by demographic – another scoring dimension).
In our own experience – for Velocity and for clients – a nurtured lead converts 5-10 times better than a cold one.

4. The flows

Every single campaign within a marketing automation system requires a flow, or multiple flows. There are two very time-consuming parts to this: 1) Understanding what logic you want to apply to your flows (what happens to who, when?) and 2) Building those flows.
For all their efforts to make their tools simple, complex actions are complex. I’ve built the kinds of simple flows that draw the veil to one side – this sucker gets very, very complex in a big hurry.
Our own experience states that you want only to automate and create a flow where automation is called for. Look at your existing marketing and sales processes. Try to simply speed up or improve what you’re already doing to begin with. Too many companies that start with marketing automation set up flows and processes for their own sake, because they can.

5. Mapped content

There’s content that draws in new leads (stuff that’s good enough to get an unknown to fill out a form), there’s content that gives a known lead greater understanding of your story or value proposition, there’s content that quashes those niggling doubts in the hearts of someone close to buying, and all kinds of content in between.
Marketing automation’s a hungry content beast, as an expert on the topic wrote recently. There’s a pretty linear relationship between the sophistication/complexity of your marketing automation system, the amount of content you need to incorporate in it and the beauty of what comes out.

Conclusion

Right now, getting marketing automation’s a bit like winning an Oscar or an Emmy. You’ve been hungering for it for a long time, and when you finally get it it sits there on the shelf looking nice and you wonder what you’re going to do with it.

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