Marketing Automation is Hot, Hot, HOT!

April 30, 2015

Remember when your marketing campaign consisted of mailing three postcards followed by a call from your salesperson?

By Laurie Hileman

Yeah, me neither.

With the average American consumer available on seven—yes, seven!—different media channels (for example, landline and mobile devices, social media, email, direct mail, etc.), today’s marketers need to know how to cut through the proliferation of digital and print communications to ensure their brand is reaching the right people at the right time with the right message.

Easier said than done. A recent study by Harris Interactive indicates consumers are bombarded with messages. It shows 82 percent ignore online ads altogether. They’re simply tuning out, overwhelmed by the sheer proliferation of digital communications.

“All marketers have to recognize and realize that marketing as we know it has changed,” says Joe Manos, executive vice president at MindFireInc, a worldwide leader of marketing intelligence software and services with headquarters in Irvine, California.

“Based on this change in consumer behavior, marketing automation becomes more important as a nurturing strategy to build the trust and awareness to engage the consumer in a more effective manner and on their terms,” Manos says.

The task of marketing in today’s digital age is a bit like eating an elephant. Where do you begin?
That’s where marketing automation comes in. The combination of technology and tactics helps marketers integrate and automate marketing across print, online, mobile, and social media channels. While the toolsets have been around in various forms for several years, the need is greater than ever before.

Here’s a closer look at how organizations use marketing automation to fuel customer acquisition, retention, and growth—and how you can, too.

DIGGING IN

Before making the investment, understand that marketing automation is not a silver bullet that will “automatically” make your job easier as a marketer. You don’t get to buy a few mailing lists, plug in your email database, press enter, and—voila!— new customers come popping out the other end. Like any new tool or tactic, the results you get out are directly correlated to the effort you put in.

Start first with a clear, manageable plan. Manos offers the following considerations when formulating a marketing automation program:

  • What’s the No. 1 objective for your initial program?
  • What’s the size of the team that will be working with the program?
  • How much of their day will be spent working with your program?
  • Does your sales and marketing process quantify lead quality?
  • How do you pass leads to the sales team?
  • Have you mapped the process for the different types of inquiries and responses?

Once you have identified some of the key objectives, Manos recommends finding a partner, such as a print or marketing services provider with proven experience in marketing automation, to help guide and coach you on the important launch activities necessary to achieve your initial objective.

In addition to the expertise that partners can bring to the table, they often bring another valuable resource: the technology. Unless your organization has the expertise and resources available to devote to successful, ongoing marketing automation initiatives, it may not be to your benefit to invest in the cloud-based software yourself.

Regardless of whether you elect to work with a partner or go it alone, investing the time and energy upfront to develop the right strategy with the right support is the cornerstone to success.

ENGAGE ON YOUR PROSPECTS’ TERMS

With your overall objective clearly defined, it’s time to start zeroing in on the individual components of the campaign. Successful marketing automation programs engage targeted audiences on their own terms. Therefore, you need to understand the right program design and the right processes for when you reach out to prospects and how you reach out to them.

“Today, the consumer is in control,” says Manos. “They can do much of their research before contacting a potential business [to inquire about purchasing their product or service]. As such, marketers have to become pro-active and start a dialogue with each customer or prospect, and build the trust, confidence, and awareness of how the company is a good fit for their needs.”

In the past, leads generated from direct mail campaigns and other marketing efforts were given directly over to the sales team when the prospects were, in many cases, just in the very early stages of researching what products or services might mesh with their objectives. “It’s a waste of time,” warns Manos. “Ninety-five percent of the leads that you create, those responses, they’re not sales-ready. If you’re giving non-sales-ready leads to your sales team, you’re wasting your marketing dollars.”

Companies are much farther ahead by aligning all individual marketing efforts in one coordinated effort that uses the marketing intelligence data gathered on prospects to the best advantage. Typical B2B marketing automation capabilities encompass email, web behavior tracking, landing pages, nurture campaigns, lead scoring, analytics, and social media marketing.

Prospects in the initial research phase may get a coordinated set of messages based on their immediate needs and the particular industry to which they belong, while other prospects farther along in the sales pipeline are getting more in-depth content and offers. “Keep in mind that today’s leading marketers are using four to five [communication] channels per program because the average prospect in North America is available on 7.2 [communication] channels,” says Manos.

“What you try to do is automate those repetitive tasks that marketers and sales organizations have, automate the marketing functions, and have a much more strategic and personalized, very targeted ongoing marketing engagement with your prospects and customers,” says Manos. “This increases the efficiency of the marketing organizations, reduces human error, and aligns marketing and sales processes for more effective program results.”

TEST, MEASURE, TWEAK, REPEAT

Overwhelmed by the possibilities? Don’t be.

“You don’t want to eat the elephant in one bite, right? You do want to start small,” says Manos, of an organization’s initial marketing automation program. Fortunately, a key strength of marketing automation lies in tracking and measuring results, allowing you to easily make course corrections to get even better results.

“The built-in tracking tools measuring response rates, click-throughs, and other actionable items make tweaking the process, content creation, and program design simple and effective,” says Manos.

Which email headline garnered the best response rate? What prompts the most click-throughs? By leveraging only the parts of each campaign that work the best, you can tweak the ones that offer modest gains, and dump the ones that aren’t working. You’ll want to take action and test. Again and again.

“This is the failing point of most marketers. They buy the technology, they don’t get their data out of silos, they don’t stop the silo marketing, one person’s sending emails, one person’s doing direct mail, [and] another person is doing social media,” Manos says. “They don’t align those functions into an integrated approach, and so that, coupled with [not having] aligned their sales and marketing processes, creates a real bottleneck from achieving the results they seek.”

So…grab a fork and knife and prepare to dig in. Once you’ve identified your ideal customer profile, know the attributes those ideal customers possess, understand how you can leverage those attributes, and engage with them on their terms. You’ll soon be well on your way to generating more qualified leads.

At the end of the day, the strength in marketing automation is in the nurturing and scoring of the leads part of the process. “That’s what the technology does,” says Manos. “You’re able to pass off to your sales team sales-ready leads, so they’re more productive. It reduces the days-to-sale for the sales team, which means the results are better and the return on investment for your marketing investment is higher.”