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What is Marketing Automation?

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You've heard a lot about it, but it just seems like a bunch of hype The Lowdown on Marketing Automation

Marketing automation streamlines the creation, management and analysis of marketing campaigns and leads in one place. It automates processes for emails, website interactions, events and other activities as well as prioritizes the management of leads as they move over to sales. It makes a marketer’s job easier by taking previously manual and tedious tasks and automating them.

By freeing up time it used to take to execute email campaigns, nurture prospects until warm enough for sales, follow up to inquiries and tracking leads passed to sales, marketers can focus on other more strategic initiatives–is my message right, are there other markets we should target, are there tools that would make sales more successful?

But if you haven’t used marketing automation before, it can seem like this big, overwhelming thing.  Maybe that’s why according to The Raab Report only 10% of companies with less than 500 million in revenue are using it even though all the data shows it can deliver big returns.

As marketers, we juggle lots of different tasks–planning, messaging, events, website, social, lead gen, reporting– the list could go on and on. That’s a lot of balls in the air and without tools and processes to support your efforts, you are bound to drop one.  

Marketing automation is designed to help marketers do more, in less time, with better results. It manages all leads and campaigns in one place with automated processes.

It will even prioritize leads and create tasks in the CRM for sales follow up.  The best part is, it measures everything so you can easily see what is working and how marketing is contributing to the bottom line.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the benefits of Marketing Automation

Marketing automation helps you generate more qualified leads, engage with prospects and customers, track campaign performance and analyze your results all in one place.

How do you know if Marketing Automation is right for your business?

If you can’t keep up with all that is being asked of marketing, marketing automation might just be what you’re looking for.

You may have sales asking for more leads or complaining the leads you send aren’t any good. And you might even be frustrated that the leads you worked so hard to generate fall into a black hole once you pass them over to sales. Or is your sales cycle so long that it’s hard to stay top of mind with prospects and customers? What about follow up with people who request information from your website or attend an event?

Then there are spreadsheets. If you find that you are spending more time in these than your finance team, you’ve definitely got a problem. Campaigns, leads and reporting by spreadsheets just doesn’t scale and leaves too much room for error.

Marketing automation will help you keep track of everything in one place and allow you to do more in less time. Check out this webinar from SiriusDecisions for tips on how to select a marketing automation provider.

How do you make sure you are successful with Marketing Automation?

Marketing automation has transformed the world of marketing but requires a disciplined approach to assure success.

1. Include the right people in the decision. Marketing automation is meant to help your business grow revenue by helping you capture, track communicate with and prioritize prospects. With that in mind, a successful marketing automation implementation includes the sales team in the process. Not only should sales be part of the decision to implement, they should have input on deciding which platform is right as it will be essential to success to integrate with CRM. Additionally, IT should be part of the conversation to help navigate the technical side of implementation.

2. Choose the right vendor. To properly evaluate vendors, be sure to create a complete list of requirements, define your goals, take a look at peer and analyst reviews and understand the services and capabilities of each provider.

3. Get the right support. Service and support from your vendor are just as important as the product. If you are new to marketing automation, you should be looking for a vendor that isn't just going to teach you where to click but how to most effectively use the platform to achieve your goals. Being able to call, chat or email your vendor's support line is important but you should also be appointed a single point of contact to help you along the journey.

4. Get educated. Because every solution is different and continues to make advances, make sure you and your team get properly trained to make the most of the system. Make sure you understand the process for onboarding and continual support.

5. Pick a solution that can grow with you. Be sure to clearly outline the future state of your business and ask the vendor how they will help you get there. If you are new to marketing automation, you should consider approaching it with a crawl, walk, run strategy. Work with the vendor to take incremental steps to take advantage of marketing automation benefits at a pace that is appropriate for your business.

Does marketing automation really help sales and marketing align?

Finger pointing between sales and marketing is nothing new. But companies that excel have found a way for these two departments to collaborate. While it takes defined processes, communication and a willingness to partner, having technology to support these efforts is essential for success.

The CRM in most companies is the system of record for all customer data. It’s where sales spends their time updating contacts, activities and reporting. The marketing team spends their time working in a separate system to send emails, track prospect interactions and manage events.

Without integrating marketing automation with the CRM, a great disconnect is created. Sales and marketing lose visibility into each other’s efforts. Leads that are deemed ready for sales are submitted through the passing of spreadsheets or emails. Basically marketing throws leads over the fence and loses the ability to follow the outcome and efficiently track ROI of campaigns.

By not having a solid process for the handoff of leads, they can quickly leak out of the funnel and get lost.

That’s where integrating CRM and marketing automation can save the day. By automatically syncing data between the two solutions and creating a bi-directional workflow, you can ensure you have a unified funnel. You’ll be able to push leads to the CRM and route them to the right salesperson. Sales can send them back to the marketing team for further nurturing if the lead isn’t ready to buy--all from inside the CRM.

Not only does this approach to lead management keep sales and marketing on the same page, prospects will have a seamless and consistent buyer experience.

How can marketing data help drive better decisions?

Today’s marketers need data to make the best decisions and prove their value. But, in some organizations data is either too difficult to get to, not tracked correctly or an after thought.

It may not be as exciting as campaigns or creating new content but buried deep within some marketing departments is a wealth of information just waiting to be unlocked. Others may not have the right processes or tools in place and are missing out on the chance to capture key insights.

But knowledge is power. And that’s why the concept of data-driven marketing is a hot topic. Marketers that want to earn a seat at the executive table have changed the conversation by analyzing and sharing actionable insights.

You’ve got to have visibility into what’s working, what’s not and how much it cost you for the results achieved. By tracking key metrics and understanding how each program drives leads and conversions, you can make smarter decisions and report Marketing’s contribution to revenue.

Sounds simple enough, right? Well, it’s not so straightforward if you are working in separate systems. The key is to have an integrated marketing automation platform and CRM to accurately track the ROI of your efforts and identify the opportunities sourced and influenced by marketing.

And it’s not just about taking a look back at campaign performance. Data-driven marketers are also able to predict the number of leads they need to generate to help sales meet their revenue targets. Aligning your goals is just another way to confirm marketing as a business partner.

What is Nurture Marketing?

Nurture marketing allows you to engage with leads by providing relevant content until each lead is ready for sales.

If you don’t have marketing automation, you’re probably doing this manually by sending a series of batch and blast emails on a regular basis. This is a great first step for building a relationship with prospects but it’s not very effective or scalable. Usually, it involves uploading a list to an email tool, creating emails, waiting for recipients to respond and then downloading the list of leads to a spreadsheet for sales.

But what if your prospect doesn’t even open your emails? What if they engage by visiting your website or attending a webinar? How do you even know when leads are ready for sales? It’s simply too hard to tell when your processes are fragmented and manual.

By using marketing automation for nurture marketing, you can monitor the progression of leads to keep the dialogue going. The path leads travel is customized by you and includes activities like emails, phone calls or events.

Building a nurture campaign with marketing automation is just like setting up a decision tree - Did the prospect open the first email of the nurture? If yes, wait two days and send the next email. If not, wait two days and send the same email again with a different subject line.

Nurture marketing isn’t just about email either. From the nurture you can do things like set a task in your CRM for sales to follow up or automatically change a lead status. Salespeople are even able to add or remove their prospects from a nurture should they become sales qualified.

What is Lead Management?

Lead Management provides the framework for tracking and managing prospective customers from when the lead is generated to the point it converts to a win.

Everyone needs leads, sales wants more of them and your CFO tells you to spend less getting them.

Years ago when marketing played a less strategic role, it was all about volume. We flooded the top of the funnel with names of people. It was then up to sales to close them and we got frustrated when they didn’t. At the same time, they complained that marketing never provided good leads.

Through an improved process and marketing tools, lead management was introduced to ensure leads didn’t leak out of the funnel.

What is Lead Scoring?

Lead scoring allows B2B marketers to measure a prospect’s level of interest by the actions taken. With scoring, marketers assign values based on behavior and demographics and set a threshold for the total points needed for a lead to pass over to sales.

It may sound complicated, but it’s actually pretty simple. Does the prospect have the right job title from a company within your target market? Did they attend a webinar, visit your pricing page or download key collateral? A lead can be scored on all of these items so you know who is the most likely to buy.

If you don’t have this information readily available, a meeting with sales may be all you need. Take a look at your current customers to define key characteristics, review recent wins and simply discuss what makes someone a good lead.

With a general understanding of key activities, you can get started on setting up a scoring model. You’ll focus sales’ attention on the most valuable leads and marketing will look like a superstar by prioritizing prospects that matter most and delivering more qualified leads.

For more information on lead scoring, check out DemandGen Report's Automation and Predictive Analytics Fuel B2B Lead Scoring Success.

How does marketing automation help attract new prospects?

People are quick to think of marketing automation as simply a way to nurture, score, and manage leads but it also helps attract new prospects.

With SEO audit and social capabilities, today’s marketing automation platforms have you covered. While the big guys can pay expensive consultants to help with SEO, what about starting with a simple audit that compares your web pages to a competitor’s for keywords that matter most? An audit will give you a checklist of items to address to improve rankings so your site is found.

Social media marketing has been a hot topic, but can you measure the value of your social campaigns? It’s not just about the number of followers, likes, and retweets. Which of your posts are actually driving conversions on your website? With social capabilities you can track all of this while facilitating employee advocacy to amplify the impact of your efforts.

By optimizing for search engines and socializing great content, you’ll begin to drive more visitors to your site. But what’s next? Do you know who is visiting? Do you know what they’re viewing? Website visitor tracking helps to identify the company of anonymous visitors to your site.

And what about returning visitors you know? Wouldn’t it be great to alert your sales team of their hot prospects currently on your site and let them know which pages they visited? A study from InsideSales.com says that if you follow up with web leads within 5 minutes, you’re 9 times more likely to convert them - so you definitely want to get these over to sales quickly.

Marketing automation can help you maximize your efforts and be even more successful with the activities you’re already doing.
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