Ready to take the plunge with B2B marketing automation?

An introduction to marketing automation, the business growth enabler.

As a senior marketing professional or key business influencer it’s your responsibility to identify new strategies, tactics and tools to grow your business. Traditional media doesn’t quite have the same impact as it once did due the many distractions that come with the multiscreen environment we now live in. Good old SEO has become incredibly competitive and should be seen as a long-term solution. Paid media, while it has its role to play in an integrated digital program, won’t provide the answer to all of your lead generation problems alone.

Oftentimes it might be difficult for one to raise their head above the parapet when introducing a new concept to a firm if the size of the opportunity is yet to be seen. We help to demystify the lure of marketing automation by providing practical advice on how the technology could and probably should become a priority.

By understanding exactly what marketing automation is and how it can nurture leads through to your sales floor, the platforms available and how ROI and CPA can be demonstrated should help build a solid business case for the marketing investment.  

One rule of thumb that should be noted is that a marketing automation alone will not solve all of your problems. The technology is only as good as the team behind it. In the right hands, automation has the power to transform your lead generation and engagement programs. The strategic execution must be well thought out from the start of your marketing automation journey to be successful. 

Furthermore, a robust content creation strategy is required to feed the nurturing engine. Compelling content should be created for each step of the prospect and customer journey to drive new and returning sales. This can’t be achieved by an automation tool. Consider how you’re resourced (internally or externally) before purchasing a marketing automation platform.

What is it?

Okay, lets start with a clear definition. Our friends at market leading CRM Salesforce who own Pardot define marketing automation as:

“Technology that allows marketing and sales departments to create, deploy, and automate online marketing campaigns and sales activities that increase revenue and maximize efficiency.”
Salesforce blog

Now the key takeaway from this Salesforce definition is their emphasis on the relationship between marketing and sales departments. To be successful with marketing automation, or business more broadly for that matter, mar-sales alignment is essential. We’ll cover this in more detail later.

What are the tools

There are three key players in B2B marketing automation that should be considered when exploring an investment in this area. Of course, there are many imitators which lack the robust feature set that the ‘big 3’ boast. If budgets permit you should look no further than Pardot, Marketo or Eloqua.

In summary…

Pardot

Salesforce acquired Pardot (Via Exact Target) in 2013 in a bid to create the market and technology leader in marketing. Naturally the San Francisco outfit comes with native integration with its CRM orientated owners. This continuous sync gives sales teams a 360 degree view of prospect engagement. This insight is incredibly valuable as sales can focus on the hottest leads based on pre-determined profiling while marketing continue to optimise campaign delivery. The Pardot Engagement Studio (ES) is revolutionary in marketing automation. ES provides a command centre for B2B marketing teams to manage every touch point with prospects and customers in a single intuitive and visual console.

Pardot is the front runner for us in B2B marketing automation due to its seamless integration with Salesforce and other CRMs. It’s simple to use user interface and concise reporting functionality.

Marketo

A suitable solution if you’re looking to get set up and running quick off the block, Marketo is widely acknowledged as one of the go-to players in marketing automation. It’s a great tool for the SMBs however at enterprise level you should look elsewhere. The Marketo interface is clean and easy to manoeuvre, making it simple to use for automation beginners.

While the feature set it broad the lack of drag and drop canvas style campaign builder means Marketo drops points in the race for marketing automation supremacy.  

Oracle Eloqua

Often referred to as the Cadillac of marketing automation, Oracle Eloqua is impressively robust in its functionality and process driven drag and drop canvas interface. This platform is big on app integration. If you have an extensive suite of third party application in your marketing arsenal, chances are that Oracle Eloqua has an integration for it.

While Eloqua offers a helpful dashboard and powerful analytics it struggles to stand up to Pardot with its user interface which it’s fair to say, could do with a refresh.

Tips to get start with marketing automation

Getting started with marketing automation can be daunting. Delving into the unknown often comes with its road bumps which can prove to be quite problematic. Often the technical aspects of implementation can cause some issues. Even more so if you have to overcome multiple layers of compliance, corporate politics and outsourced developers.

The following pointers should help make the transition into marketing automation a seamless one.

Define your project team
It’s important that your company view purchasing marketing automation as a comprehensive project at management level. While there’s a lot you can do out of the box post-purchase you still need your business functions to be pulling in the same direction to make it possible. A simple project plan with defined roles and responsibilities will save you a lot of heartache down the line. If representatives from various business functions sign up to their role from the offset there will be less friction as the project progresses.

Be as clear and concise as possible, divide the work into sprint cycles and schedule milestone meetings to ensure your marketing automation program maintains the care and love it needs to flourish.

Take aim
Don’t start building out your nurturing programs and adding content to the tool if you haven’t clearly defined your aims and objectives. What do you want to achieve from marketing automation? What ROI do marketing needs to achieve? How many marketing qualified leads should be passed onto sales per month?

Outline and sign off your business KPIs before you get started. Sure, these are likely to change over time but it’s crucial that you have targets in place so that your firm knows what it’s working towards.

Don’t go all in
Building out automation programs for prospects and customers can be highly sophisticated. The possibilities with automation are endless but be careful not to over complicate your programs from the start.

Sure, it’s important that you clearly map out your automation program flow but make sure you follow the laws of KISS (keep is simple stupid). Systems tend to work best, at least in the first instance, if they’re kept simple rather than complicated. Avoid unnecessary complexity like the plague, especially while you’re still getting to know the tools’ functionality.

Hopefully, you now have a better idea of what marketing automation is all about and the platforms that are available. The bullets below will help determine if you should indeed take the plunge with marketing automation.

You should invest in marketing automation if…

  • Your firm has aggressive growth targets. With marketing automation you’re able to ramp up your lead generation and prospect acquisition activity to deliver more leads through to sales
  • The company website doesn’t generate enough leads. With marketing automation the possibilities for generating leads through your website are endless. A cocktail of progressive forms, dynamic content and custom landing pages will give your site the shot in the arm it needs to start delivering piping hot leads for your business
  • You haven’t segmented your prospects and customers. Marketing automation allows you to segment prospects with rules. Move your prospect or customer data into different lists based on a specific criterion. From here you can serve up relevant content to each list based on information you’ve gathered.

You shouldn’t invest in marketing automation if…

  • You don’t have a clear grasp on who your customer is. We hear too many times that a every business is a prospect. That’s lazy and inefficient marketing practice. You really need to dig deeper with clearly defined buyer personas to begin to profile prospects with marketing automation
  • Marketing and sales aren’t aligned. Marketing automation is only one half of the solution. Marketing and its toolkit must be closely aligned with your sales function from the offset. If your business doesn’t have a defined sales resource you must agree who will be following up on the hot leads generated from your nurturing programs. The tool will only get you so far, you need skilful closers too
  • Budgets don’t permit. There’s no point beating around the bush. To be effective with marketing automation you need to have the budget allocation to make it work for you. Look beyond the initial outlay of a year’s subscription to a platform and assess the resources that will be required to drive the system, produce the content and drive traffic to your site.

Marketing automation technology isn’t for everyone but it’s worth exploring if you’re business is geared to handle a higher volume of hot leads and has the appetite to expedite greater insight into prospect behaviour. Pardot is leading the way in terms of usability and CRM integration and relatively affordable when the potential return is considered.

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