What is Marketing Automation?
Marketing automation refers to technologies and processes that help businesses identify and engage with customers in a more sophisticated way. Using pre-defined characteristics or triggers, marketers can set parameters that automate repetitive tasks. Marketing automation allows brands to easily scale and optimize their marketing and sales efforts across channels, improving ROI without creating more work for employees. Automation depends upon reliable data collection and analytics integrations in order to make the right move at the right time.
How B2B Marketing Automation Works
B2B marketing automation solutions can help with lead prospecting, lead nurturing, and campaign management. It can also help to optimize resources and negate wasting time and budget. Rather than manually pulling lists or examining your database, there are a plethora of marketing automation tools available to help you make the most of your time, spend, and overall performance. There’s no single type of marketing automation software that can solve for everything. Different tools serve different purposes. However, many people interact with these processes within customer relationship management (CRM) platforms.
It all starts with the collection of customer data. Even marketers are sometimes surprised at the breadth of information available to them, including data gathered via:
Website Analytics Programs: This includes detailed insights on visitors to your website, including the pages they visit and which URLs generate the most sales. Tracking cookies allow brands to see when someone returns to your site and these bits of code can be linked to supplemental third-party data about off-site behavior. There are also solutions like D&B Visitor Intelligence that help B2B marketers unmask anonymous web traffic in real-time to understand the companies and buyer personas visiting their website.
Ad Networks: Google, Facebook, and other advertising networks can track online behavior, classify customers by demographic characteristics, or allow businesses to retarget qualified leads with relevant ads.
Third-Party Providers: External data providers, including Dun & Bradstreet, gather additional information from online and offline sources that can be linked to customer profiles. When your customer is another company, you may be able to review business credit files, public financial documents, and more.
How B2B Companies Use Marketing Automation
Marketing automation can bring improvements in a variety of areas, including:
- Lead Generation: Access to detailed insights about a business allow marketers to devote their time to qualified leads in relevant industries.
- Customer Engagement: Email platforms can be configured to send messages when someone performs a specific action, such as clicking on the “Contact Us” page. Tracking cookies allows for website personalization — the practice of serving up a unique page based upon someone’s past behavior.
- Outreach: The more you know about a prospect, the easier it is to tailor a pitch to them. Businesses no longer have to rely upon gut instinct when real data is available to guide the initial conversation.
- Customer Retention: Automation makes it easier to re-engage stale accounts. Emails can be triggered after a certain period of time has passed since the client’s last order.
Now we’re ready to explore some specific ways you can work to improve your marketing automation and garner the best possible results.
Maintain an Intense Focus on Data Accuracy
Data allows B2B marketers to paint a rich picture of their target customer with the goal of increasing sales. Today’s marketing automation solutions track and engage real prospects all along the buyer's journey. Crucial decisions about strategy and outreach can be informed by granular insights on how businesses purchase your goods or services. These tools provide a competitive advantage against less sophisticated sellers.
As a modern marketer, you’ve likely heard about the importance of quality data, but are you taking steps to clean up your own database? Dumping bad records into your MarTech platform not only hurts your campaign performance, but it also weakens your ROI and breeds frustration.
To prepare your database for marketing automation, you need to establish your baseline numbers by performing an audit of your records. Determine the health of your data and decide what to do with the bad records you’ve found (either archive or delete them). Finally, enrich your database with additional information so you can identify lookalike companies and contacts that match your ideal buyer.
Remember, you are only as strong as your data. Knowing who you are marketing to, and being able to actually reach them with effective messaging, will impact the rest of your content planning, campaign development, and lead routing.
Build a Marketing Database that Provides Insights About Target Audience Segments
Your prospects are busy. Like you, they have aggressive goals and a limited amount of time each day. At the end of the day, you’re competing with other brands for their attention. To rise above the noise, you’ll need to fuel your automation system with targeted campaigns and relevant content that provides the answers your prospects are searching for.
Use the information you have within your database, and the data you track through your automation system, to understand your prospects and craft messaging that applies directly to their needs. Once prospects understand how you can help them do their jobs better, you can have a real conversation. It will also help you begin to see success from the programs you are investing in and will feel confident that your automation system has a strong strategy behind it.
Integrate Analytics, Reporting, and Marketing Teams and Technologies
If you aren’t tracking your prospects’ activity on the web, particularly their engagement (or boredom) with your content, you’re going to lose a great deal of visibility into their world, including targeting intelligence. You can write all the witty emails you want and build out beautiful infographics, but if you’re not targeting the right audience, or don’t know how your campaigns and content are performing, your efforts really don’t count for much. Post-campaign reporting and making adjustments based on your findings is a critical part of the marketing automation planning process.
In today’s modern world of marketing, you must be able to attribute traffic, engagement, leads and – most importantly – revenue to everything you do. Building registration forms using progressive profiling, pulling segmented email lists, and embedding tracking codes into your content URLs will equip you to follow your prospects’ activities and report on your efforts. In addition to market research, deeper insight into an actual prospect’s activity on your site also allows your sales team to understand how the prospect came to be interested in your solution. It will enable them to build a relationship based on facts.
Take Advantage of Automated Lead Routing
The last thing you want is for a sales prospect to be overlooked or neglected and turn to your competition for solace. You also don’t want your sales team thinking you’re asleep at the wheel.
Using automated routing rules based on specific parameters you’ve determined with your team will ensure that marketing leads are sent to the right sales rep at the right time. Lead scoring can help determine the level of priority a lead should be given and whether or not it is ready to be passed along to sales. For example, if a prospect fills out a content download form or requests a demo on your site, you need to be able to track that action and determine whether they should be put into an email nurture stream or are ready to talk to sales. Once you’ve mastered that process, it should help you to pass along leads more easily. You will hopefully start to see conversion rates improve and be able to attribute these marketing efforts to your bottom line.
These are just a handful of the ways B2B marketing automation can help companies solve common marketing challenges.