Marketing Automation

25th of August, 2020

Author: Vincent Onderdelinden

Buyer's Guide:

How to Make Marketing Automation Work For You

If you're not using marketing automation yet, you're not doing your sales team any favours.

Companies that aren't using marketing automation, probably see their leads leaking away - in spite of their lead generation efforts. You're also much more likely to experience a lack of Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs). In other words, you're not getting enough new sales appointments, demo requests or requested quotes to fuel your revenue growth ambitions. And that's a shame.

One of the main reasons for going with marketing automation, is reducing manual labour. Hopefully this goes without saying, but more manual work is practically never better than more automated work. In general, automation exists to increase efficiency, reduce human errors, capture more data and decrease costs-per-unit. There's a whole range of additional business benefits.

So if you're not investing in a good marketing automation platform yet, you're missing out. I can guarantee that your more forward thinking competitors are creating better engagements with your buyers than you are. Want more good leads? Marketing automation! Want to close more deals? Marketing automation! Want better data to improve marketing and sales performance? Marketing automation!

What is marketing automation?

Marketing automation refers to the software that exists with the goal of automating marketing actions. Many marketing departments have to automate repetitive tasks such as emails, social media, and other website actions. The technology of marketing automation makes these tasks easier.’ - HubSpot

Pardot says: "Marketing automation is a software platform that helps you automate your marketing and sales engagement to generate more leads, close more deals, and accurately measure marketing success.’

Let's keep it simple. Here's what you do with marketing automation:

  • Your marketing automation ideally integrates seamlessly with other business systems like your CRM, ERP, website and online store. You want to ensure maximum data capture to improve the customer experience and enable data-driven decision-making.
  • Marketing automation helps organizations transition from traditional and labour intensive marketing, into automated and predictable lead generation machines. 
  • Marketing automation helps the marketing and sales teams work together more efficiently. Better marketing and sales alignment results in higher productivity. And more output equals more sales. 
  • Marketing automation is a double-edged sword. You speed up revenue growth on the one hand, while reducing inefficiencies on the other hand. That means your customer acquisition costs go down, and profitable growth goes up. 

What problems does marketing automation solve?

Most of the CXOs we work with today, originally came to us looking to solve the same revenue growth problems:

"Our marketing engine doesn’t generate enough high quality leads for our sales team."

"Our marketing department is too busy due to an overload of manual labour."

"We need to get better at improving the customer experience through data-driven personalization."

"We don't have the data to measure and improve our marketing team's performance."

In short, marketing automation mainly serves four purposes:

  1. Provide more personalized buying experiences for your customers.
  2. Generate more and better leads for your sales team.
  3. Reduce manual labour for your marketing team.
  4. Show and improve the ROI on marketing for your leadership team.

When is marketing automation worth the investment?

Marketing automation isn't for everyone. You need certain prerequisites to get business value out of this type of technology. The single biggest mistake you can make, is not producing enough marketing content. Marketing automation is like a machine. Content goes in on one side, good leads and data come out on the other side. And if you don't have the content, there's nothing to automate in the first place. If you're considering an investment in marketing automation, I'd suggest you check yourself against the following questions:

  • Do we have the skills and resources to implement marketing automation?
  • Do we have a decent amount of monthly website traffic?
  • Do we have a marketing database of decent size and quality?
  • Are we ready to get started with data-driven marketing?
  • Are we ready to commit to a serious content strategy?

Marketing automation is more about managing your existing marketing database, rather than generating new leads. For example, you need someone's email address first, before you can send them an automated email campaign. That's why it's important to understand where you stand today, before you invest in marketing automation. Again, marketing automation is no magic cure-all. You need three things to make it work for you:

  1. Leads with contact details
  2. Good marketing content
  3. Marketers to do the work

How to use marketing automation?

A lead isn't necessarily a good lead. Matter of fact, most of your leads probably aren't good leads; something far too many marketing managers and CCOs alike seem to forget. Just because someone downloaded a white paper three years ago, doesn't mean they're going to consider your solution. And that's where marketing automation comes in. 

The end goal for marketing automation is - or should be - to generate more high quality leads for your sales team. But what does "more high quality leads" actually mean?

First of all, the terms "more leads" and "better leads" are not the same. More leads simply means more people convert on your website. For that, you need more website traffic and higher visitor-to-lead conversion ratios. If a person has filled in a form once, they're a lead. Doesn't say anything about being a good fit or readiness to buy. Those parts of the marketing process are called lead generation and lead conversion. See the image below for more details.

Then there's better leads. Typically that means buyers are already in your CRM, they're more educated and more ready to actually consider your solution. Usually, they've been warmed up with relevant email campaigns and marketing content. They know and trust your brand. They understand the benefits you have to offer. Perhaps they've already requested a demo of your product. Or they may have visited your store a couple of times. In any case, they're (almost) ready to start a conversation with your company. These are the high quality leads your sales reps actually want and need. This part of the process is called lead nurturing. And it's where marketing automation makes the biggest difference.How marketing works - marketing automation

If you look at the image above, you'll see that marketing automation sits right between lead conversion and handoff to sales. Remember how we talked about your leads leaking away at the beginning of this guide? That's the problem you solve with marketing automation. 

In a nutshell, here's how you actually use marketing automation:

  1. Segment your CRM database.
  2. Identify your good leads and filter out the bad ones.
  3. Nurture those good leads until they're ready to engage with sales.

Marketing automation help your marketing team turn new leads into good leads. You could even take it a step further and say that marketing automation helps put A-leads in front of your sales team, where possible turns B-leads into A-leads, and makes sure you don't waste too many resources on C-leads. But don't forget that marketing automation by itself is just a tool. The technology only helps you get the job done faster and smarter. In the end it's your marketing team who's doing a good job or a bad job. 

Example use case:

Marketing automation can be applied to most - if not all - types of businesses. Factors like company size and industry rarely matter. If you're in a situation where a significant amount of potential buyers doesn't make a purchase at first sight, you can probably use marketing automation.

Let's take a look at a not-super-obvious example. Say I'm looking to buy a new car. If the car dealership is using a marketing automation platform, they would be able to:

Segment their entire database to invest time and money in the warmest leads only. For example, the car dealer may want to differentiate between high school students who can't even drive a car, versus middle-aged men who want a sports car.

Profile me as a potential lead by capturing my behavioural data and implicit or explicit engagements. They could analyze email clicks, social posts, website visits, test drive request, brochure downloads, showroom visits, etc.

Differentiate between me merely being interested versus me having actual buying intent. Although I'm very interested in owning a Porsche, due to budgetary constraints I'd have about zero buying intent. For many years to come, I'll be a total C-lead - if even that.

Influence my research and decision making process by sending me relevant content at the right time. For example, car dealers could send me trusted car reviews, end of year promotions, “best tested” short lists, etc. If done well, they could probably steer my opinion to a certain extent.

Combine all of my online (e.g. completing a car configurator) and offline (e.g. showroom visits) engagements under one single, centralized record for a complete picture of me as a potential buyer. The better they know me as potential buyer, the more relevant their marketing campaigns could be. If I've attended 5 physical showroom events for one particular car brand, then that's probably their best bet.

Nurture me until the moment I am ready to buy a car, by sending me the right content at the right time with the right calls to action. Like I said, I'm interested in owning in Porsche. And although I cannot afford one today, hopefully I will be able to buy one at some point in the future. Car dealerships should bide their time and keep the Porsche brand top of my mind, until I am ready to actually consider buying one. 

Measure the actual effectiveness of their marketing campaigns, hence moving away from thinking an email campaigns works well and instead knowing it actually converted terribly. That way, the car dealership could make the decision of investing more in marketing campaigns that generate sales, and stop investing in campaigns that don't result in enough sales.

Transform me from “just” a customer into a brand ambassador by continuously engaging with me, once I've bought a car. Put a smile on my face with relevant offers. Or make sure you answer any after-sale questions properly and promptly. This will not only help build a lasting relationship, but also make me more likely to generate free word-of-mouth exposure amongst my friends and family. And that means more leads and customers for you.

How to get started with marketing automation

Don't just buy a marketing automation platform and hope for the best. Instead, be sure to do your research and involve all stakeholders from the beginning. You have to understand your business goals, key user requirements and any constraints. And don't forget to think long term. What you need today, might not be what you need next year. As it usually takes at least 6 months to master any new technology,  you don't want to switch marketing automation platforms too often.

Step 1: Strategy and pre-work

Before you even start talking with marketing automation vendors, go through this checklist.

Goals and objectives: What is marketing automation supposed to help you achieve? Do you need more sales meetings? Do you want to reduce manual labour? Do you need more marketing data and analytics? Or perhaps a combination?

Success metrics: How will you measure success? Avoid vanity metrics like clicks, views and leads. You want to generate more revenue, so measure revenue-generating factors: number of SQLs, marketing-sourced revenue, return on marketing investments, etc.

Buyer personas: Who do you want as a customer? In the end, marketing exists to supply sales with the right buyers. That means marketing and sales have to agree as to who your buyer personas are. Your buyer personas determine the type of content you should be producing. Your content then drives your demand generation process. And your marketing automation only makes the wheels of your demand generation process turn faster. 

Long term: What will you needs look like in a few years time? Most companies commit to a marketing automation platform for at least 2-3 years. Make sure the choice you make today, is still the right choice several years from now. If you make the wrong choice, your marketing team isn't going to use your marketing automation platform - at least not to its fullest. That means they'll still be doing too much manual labour, they're not generating as many high quality leads as you want, and your sales team hasn't really been helped. In other words, you're not just paying too much for the technology, but you're also limited your sales team's opportunities. And that can be an expensive mistake.

Step 2: Implementation and analysis

Once you've signed the agreement and license has been provisioned, this is how you get started.

1. Segment your CRM database: At the very least, try to segment your database by lead quality.

  • A-leads: Hot, ready to speak with sales.
  • B-leads: Warm, need some more nurturing.
  • C-leads: Cold, not a good fit.

2. Determine campaign goal: What action do you want your targeted segment to complete? Do you want them to request a software demo or a trial? Do you want them to download an ebook? Do you want them to buy your product right away? Not to be underestimated; has this goal been discussed with sales - and do they agree it's the right objective?

3. Produce good content: The whole idea of marketing automation is that you send the right content, to the right leads, at the right time, in an automated way. That does mean you have to produce good content first. Content can be in the shape of a blog, review, calculator, events, checklists, guides, etc. Whatever is it, your content should be aligned with your buyer personas needs. 

4. Build marketing workflow: If you've purchased an easy-to-use marketing automation platform, building a workflow isn't rocket science. For that reason, we almost always recommend our partner HubSpot. We feel HubSpot's marketing automation software is just better than any other system. In any case, once you've built out the structure of your workflow, you add your emails and any other content. Then you test, activate and see what happens.

5. Analyze and learn: A major benefit of marketing automation is that you get to analyze your campaign's performance. How many people are enrolling in your marketing workflow? How many are opening their emails? How many click through to a landing page? How many form submissions are you getting? How many of those turn into qualified leads and ultimately SQLs? And most importantly, how much actual revenue has your marketing campaign sourced and influenced?

Marketing automation has the potential to transform the way you market and sell. You'll waste a lot less time on manual work. You'll get to use much more quality data. You'll get to see what works well for you customers, and what doesn't. You'll get to improve your performance campaign after campaign, based on real-time numbers. Your content will get better. Your customer experience will improve. Your salesteam will be happier. And your revenue growth will skyrocket. But only if you select the right marketing automation platform, and use it correctly. 

Want to learn more about building a modern and data-driven marketing organization?

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