What Is Marketing Automation and How Does It Help Salespeople?

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.

Table of Contents

  1. What is marketing automation, really?
  2. How marketing automation benefits salespeople
  3. Supercharge marketing automation with company information
  4. 5 ways of using company information in marketing automation
  5. How marketing automation workflows work
  6. Choosing a marketing automation tool

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 following 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.

A Guide to Data-Driven Marketing

Getting to know your prospects

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 on one of your ads, they're providing you with valuable data.

Such a wealth of behavioral data is incredibly valuable. Marketers use it to create workflows—a series of pre-defined actions that automate sales and marketing efforts based on certain triggers. In other words, a workflow is an answer to this question: if this happens, what’s next? For example, if a prospect downloads an eBook, what would you want to happen next?

Marketing automation workflows are the answer to this question: if this happens, what’s next?

That sounds like a sweet setup for targeted marketing campaigns, doesn’t it? The more you know your contacts, the more complex workflows you can set up. And since you’re collecting data every time your users interact with your website, the limits of marketing automation are just your imagination and the scenarios you can create.

Hold on. There’s one caveat.

Supercharge marketing automation with company information

Yes, the limits of marketing automation could be your imagination… if you have proper contact data with multiple data points that construct a rich profile of each of your contacts beyond behavioral data.

Marketing automation excels at collecting behavioral data, but this data alone can't tell if a particular lead is a good fit for your business. Any visitor to your website that shows some level of interest in your products and services is a potential lead, but not all leads are created the same. Consider Julia. Her lead score is high. She's downloaded all your ebooks and even attended one of your webinars. She finds your content very valuable for the school paper she must write. But, no, she has no intention of becoming your customer.

Passing this lead to sales would be a waste of time. Blog content, ebooks, and free trial are excellent ways to attract people who might be interested in your offering, and get their contact information—that is, generate leads. But you also need to find out if those leads are a good match for your business.

Build a data foundation first

There's no easy way around it. You need to build and maintain a contact database and feed high-quality data into your marketing automation platform. No matter how smart or sophisticated the software is, without a neat and tidy database, you won't be able to segment your audience to a very high degree so you can deliver tailor-made messages to very specific types of people—remember, that's the key tactic that drives marketing automation.

To overcome this obstacle, marketers have usually added several questions to the forms that unlock the most valuable content. For example, asking the industry a person works in, the company name, or the number of employees. However, you can only request a limited amount of information before turning away potential leads with long, cumbersome forms. Before, marketers needed to strike a balance. How much information they can ask before turning a lead away.

Forms, therefore, will only get you so far. What if you could create drip campaigns based on other company characteristics like growth stage or expansion? Enter sales intelligence.

Tap into sales intelligence

Company information from a sales intelligence tool provides an alternative, enriching your contact database with additional data from multiple sources. Once this information is integrated correctly, you can construct more accurate lead scoring and account scoring mechanisms that reveal best-fit prospects. You not only will know if a lead is highly engaged with your contact but also if such a lead is a fitting prospect, for instance, if it falls within your ideal customer profile. The process that enhances marketing is data enrichment.

This way, data supports different parts of marketing automation:

  • Enriching incoming inbound leads
  • Improving lead scoring by using company information
  • Distributing leads to the right people
  • Setting up ABM campaigns based on signals within your target companies.

5 ways of using company information in marketing automation

Marketing automation is often associated with email marketing, but in reality, it is much more than sending out pre-defined messages automatically. One of the most exciting parts of marketing automation is that there are almost as many uses as a smart marketer can imagine. The power of workflows and automations reaches anything from lead scoring to internal notifications.

Given that marketing automation is a significant investment for any business make sure you're really taking advantage of what the technology has to offer. Let's dive right into the essential uses of marketing automation.

Lead capture

Capturing a lead is the first step of marketing to someone online. This often means collecting an email address from a variety of sources. A marketing automation tool is the hub where all the avenues to generate leads come together. With company information feeding into your own tool, you can reduce lead capture forms to the bare minimum.

Lead nurturing via email marketing

With a pool of leads ready to move down the funnel, you can create and distribute it across channels more efficiently. The data that populates your CRM and your marketing automation will allow you to move your leads from one sales stage to another based upon their activity and interactions. The more data points you have, the more tailor-made and timely your campaigns will be.

List management/Segmentation

Marketing automation gives you the opportunity to do extremely powerful customer segmentation. When you gather enough contact data, you can group your leads based on a myriad of properties and behaviors. This allows you to target your messaging and nurturing process to groups with very specific interests and needs. As a result, you can, for example, send a series of emails to leads from companies with more than X employees and that have downloaded a certain ebook from your website.

Account-based marketing

Account-based marketing relies on data to allow marketers to focus on acquiring specific high-value customers with highly targeted, personalized campaigns. Data-driven insights from company data directly influence which accounts receive what content and when, so the sales efforts are transformed into a time-based and need-based process.

Lead enrichment and account scoring

Building a robust lead scoring (or account scoring) model is a critical component of an effective marketing automation system. You want to qualify, or score, your leads by analyzing the information you collect on them, so you can determine which leads you should spend your time nurturing. A marketing automation solution lets you define lead scoring rules (e.g. number of clicked emails, visits to a specific page). This way, you can monitor the level of engagement of each lead and yield those more likely to become a customer. By adding a lead enrichment process to the mix, you’ll improve your lead scoring models through more data points.

How marketing automation workflows work

Automation tools collect and process valuable information for your business. But once you've all this valuable information 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:

  1. You send an email invitation to download your latest eBook to the attendees of your latest webinar.
  2. As a follow-up, you send a thank you note to all the people that downloaded the eBook.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

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.

Don’t let your marketing automation be alone

In today’s data-driven world, it is difficult to think a company that would not benefit from marketing automation. Suddenly, managing large contact databases becomes feasible, and even smaller teams can scale their activities much more effectively. When you’re able to automate much of the grunt work, you can focus on other activities that robots are not as good at. For example, you’ll be able to spend more time writing epic content and awesome copy that converts.

However, as powerful as marketing automation technology is these day, it’s only one part of the big sales and marketing tech stack puzzle. To get the most out of your marketing automation platform, you need to ensure a tightly integration with other tools in your stack, and more important, build a a strong data foundation.

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How Marketing Automation Helps Sales | Vainu Eduardo Alonso

Taco enthusiast and obsessive record collector. Straight outta Madrid.