B2B Marketing Automation: Crawl, Walk, Run, Win
B2B marketing automation, if done right, is an efficient and cost-effective tactic for engaging your prospects and helping them move forward in their buying process; ultimately generating more of the qualified, sales-ready leads that your salespeople and channel partners need to meet your companyâ€™s sales, revenue and growth goals.
The bad news is that when it comes it comes to implementing marketing automation for generating, nurturing and qualifying leads, many B2B marketers are daunted by the perceived complexity.
The good news? Putting marketing automation to work doesnâ€™t have to be an overwhelming effort. You can start simply, building the sophistication of your marketing automation campaigns as you go.
I call it the Crawl, Walk, Run, Win Approach to Putting Marketing Automation to Work.
Crawl: Focus first on building a strong foundation for your marketing automation campaigns.
Step 1: Develop Personas and Related Content
Think about your customersâ€™ motivations, expectations and goals. Develop a core definition of who youâ€™re targeting. Use these definitions as models for adding companies and contacts to your marketing automation database. Repurpose, refresh or create content for offers that are relevant and useful to them. Test your offers to see which work best.
Step 2: Improve Targeting and Deliverability
Take the time to clean up your prospect database. An old and/or dirty list will have many obsolete addresses. Integrate data from various sources. Eliminate duplicates. As email will be one of your marketing automation tactics, confirm your list addressees have given permission. Then be sure to test your emails to assure that they will display well in various email readers and on hand-held devices and to minimize the chance they will get caught up in spam filters.
Step 3: Capture Data More Efficiently
Learn more about your prospects. Donâ€™t turn them off with opt-in forms containing a long list of questions. Determine the minimum amount of relevant information you need to get up front, planning to get the rest later as you build a sales-winning relationship with prospects.
WALK: Integrate Campaigning
Now, with a firm foundation, you can start your marketing automation.
Step 1: Build Multi-Touch Campaigns
Prospects require anywhere from three to 15 touches over an extended time period to nurture them from initial interest to conversion. Build a multi-touch campaign with one or more touches per buying-cycle step.
Step 2: Send at the Right Time
Space the touches out over time, so youâ€™re neither annoying them with too much too soon, nor losing momentum by allowing too much time to pass between touches.
RUN: Automate the Dialogue and Process
Once your marketing automation is up-and-running, it is time to improve your lead-management processes to increase efficiency and tighten up any leaks in the sales funnel.
Step 1: Score Leads Using Implicit and Explicit Information
Gain agreement with Sales as to the definition of sales-ready, Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs). Working with your sales team, develop a lead scoring system to rank prospects according to the level of their buying interest or readiness to buy. Use both explicit data (e.g. company size, industry segment, job title, geographic location) and implicit data (e.g. website visits, email opens, click thrus) to determine which score as MQLs, ready to be passed along to sales.
Step 2: Develop Lead-Stage Campaigns
Not all leads are at the same stage of their buying process, so develop different campaigns for long-term prospects and short-term opportunities. Match the content and cadence to each. For example â€“ More frequent communications containing information about demos, competitive positioning and pricing might be appropriate for short-term opportunities, but longer-term leads might require less frequent communications which offer information that is more educational in nature.
Step 3: Align with Sales
If possible, integrate your marketing automation platform with your CRM system to give Sales full visibility into Marketingâ€™s activities, and vice versa.
WIN: Analyze and Improve
Fine-tune your marketing automation-driven lead generation and lead management processes to reach even higher ROI. A wonderful by-product of marketing automation is data about activity and results that you can use as market intelligence. Feed this â€œclosed-loopâ€ results information back into the system, using it to make better decisions, eliminating or fixing the things that are not working and doing more of what is working best.
The bottom line?
By following the â€œCrawl, walk, run, winâ€ approach outlined above, it will be easier to get started and before you know it, youâ€™ll be running sophisticated, efficient, and automated email marketing / lead generation / lead nurturing campaigns.
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