Good marketing requires a solid relationship between you and your prospects. Good sales, too. Hardly breaking news, I know. But with B2B sales moving into digital commerce, scaling interactions with your customers and prospects can sometimes prove challenging.
Enter marketing automation.
Thanks to this technology, managing large contact databases becomes feasible. Even smaller teams can scale their activities much more effectively without enormous resources.
To say that marketing automation is a complex subject is putting it mildly. As platforms and tools have gained features, the technology has grown to be a marketer’s Swiss Army knife. But in a world where marketing and sales teams are working closer than ever, salespeople can also benefit from applying marketing automation tactics into their day-to-day.
In this post, we’re going to try to get a better understanding of what marketing automation is, how it works, and how salespeople can benefit by automating much of the grunt work.
Ready? Let’s go.
What is marketing automation, really?
Marketing automation refers to the tools, processes, and technologies that help execute marketing tasks in a more streamlined and scalable way, enhancing your team's productivity. Marketing automation helps with lead generation, nurturing, and scoring, as well as with measuring overall ROI on campaigns.
In simpler terms, marketing automation tactics revolve around the sending, monitoring, tracking, and notifying aspects of your inbound marketing efforts.
How marketing automation benefits salespeople
Marketing automation unites content creation, contact management, email marketing, social sharing, and analytics to market effectively on different digital channels and automates repetitive tasks. All those activities should harmoniously work towards one single goal: nurturing prospects with highly personalized and useful content that helps convert from prospects to delighted customers.
Yes, that sounds like marketing. But because the ultimate goal of marketing automation is making nurturing relationships a little bit less painful, salespeople can also benefit from those activities.
Marketing automation helps salespeople:
- Scale communication and processes. Instead of sending one-to-one emails, you can send personalized messages to a large number of people more easily. This will free up your time to focus on higher-level tasks and implement sophisticated strategies. Because automation shifts much of the menial, day-to-day tasks from human to machine, you'll be able to focus on higher-level tasks and more important aspects of the sales job.
- Automate repetitive tasks. Marketing automation works for you 24/7 and can take care of day-to-day chores like sending emails at a particular time as a response to a user's action. With the power of marketing automation in your hands, you can reduce response times by setting up your own email campaigns and follow up with more customers through automated but personalized replies.
- Monitor customer behavior in real-time. Marketing automation compiles incredible amounts of behavioral data. This way, it provides a detailed picture of how people are (or aren't) interacting with your website and content, tracking clicks, links, visits, and the content they consume. In real-time, you'll have a 360-degree view of where in the funnel your leads are.
- Segment and nurture leads. Using such data, you'll be able to separate contacts into various lists, so you can send those lists content and messages that are more specific to their needs.
- Build more accurate lead scoring mechanisms. As you have a deeper understanding of your prospects, you'll qualify leads more accurately and pass to sales the most relevant ones.
Constructing and properly implementing marketing automation for your business takes some time. Once every piece of the jigsaw puzzle is in place, you'll prevent communications from falling through the cracks and be able to nurture your leads and prospects. Conversion rates will increase, and you'll have better data on how people interact with your business.
How does marketing automation work?
Marketing automation largely depends on contact information. What you know about your prospects and customers, the actions they take on your website, or how they interact with your marketing emails and social posts. Each time someone visits your website, subscribes to your newsletter, downloads one of your ebooks, sign-ups for a free trial, or clicks in one of your ads, they're providing you with valuable behavioral data.
Automation tools collect and process such information. But once it's in your database, how do you nurture your hard-earned leads using such information?
Workflows, of course!
Let's take a look.
A marketing automation workflow is an answer to this question: if this happens, what's next? For example, if one of your prospects downloads an eBook, what would you want to happen next?
Marketing automation workflows
A workflow is a series of pre-defined actions that automate your sales and marketing efforts based on specific triggers. In other words, a workflow is an answer to this question: if this happens, what's next? For example, if one of your prospects downloads an eBook, what would you want to happen next?
Setting up workflows enables you to organize your audience into numerous segments and automate communication streams to deliver tailored messages.
Part of automating your marketing tactics relies on thinking ahead and creating situations based on the criteria you set for what happens when something else does. Some workflows will be internal actions (notifying a salesperson of a new hot lead), and some other external (emailing a prospect your latest content).
As an example, here is what a basic automated email workflow could look like:
- You send an email invitation to download your latest eBook to the attendees of your latest webinar.
- As a follow-up, you send a thank you note to all the people that downloaded the eBook.
- A few days later, you send a follow-up email to the list of people who opened the thank you email, offering them a case study relating to that topic.
- Finally, when someone reads that case study, your sales teams will get a notification, so they can contact the prospect immediately.
After executing this workflow, a lead is now much more qualified and is likely farther down the buying process. As a potential buyer, this person gets more relevant information, personalized, and tailored to their needs. Ultimately, this person is more likely to trust your company, and eventually, more likely to buy.
When these workflows are up and running, you can tick many tasks off your day-to-day to-do list. Don't book your next holiday just yet, though. Marketing automation is not "sit-back-and-forget-about-it" as you want to optimize and tweak key steps or even essential details like a subject line to achieve better results at scale.
Beyond behavioral data
Typically, user interactions with your content will trigger a workflow (e.g., a new webinar registration). But triggers go beyond behavioral data. Enriching your contact database with company information will enable you to build limitless workflows. The more you know your contacts, the more complex workflows you can set up. The limits of marketing automation are just your imagination and the scenarios you can create.
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Finally… choosing a marketing automation tool
While a CRM platform is often the first sales technology investment, marketing automation is a close second. It's a significant investment, too. Once you commit to a specific tool or platform, you're likely to stick to it for years.
When shopping for a marketing automation tool, you want to at least two essential factors. One is the provision of analytics features to measure the impact of an entire campaign across segments and channels. These features measure the impact of campaigns on marketing team KPIs and company revenue. Secondly, you want to make sure your marketing automation platform seamlessly integrates with other pieces of your sales and marketing stack.
A word of warning, marketing automation is not a solution you can "set and forget." As exciting as the technology is, remember the real humans behind each of the workflows and automation you build. Create an experience for people—not robots. The technology is about scaling communication and processes to build relationships and enhance your personal productivity or the productivity of your team. But it's also about building a reliable customer experience that increases their confidence in your products and services. Consistently monitoring workflow automation is imperative to keep your messaging up to date. Don't fall into the common pitfalls of "over- automating."
To spend more time focusing on creative solutions while increasing your close rate and improving your leads' quality, we've listed ten powerful tools you should know about.
You can read more about these tools and dozens of sales tools in our eBook The 100 Best Sales Tools.