Thanks to today’s fragmented digital landscape, it’s harder than ever for businesses to connect with potential clients and customers. Nearly half of all marketing leads are qualified, but not yet ready to buy. A lack of lead nurturing means that 79% of marketing leads never convert into sales. And nearly half of all marketers confess to not measuring ROI or not having the tools or understanding to do so effectively. Today’s consumers – and businesses – demand more for less. Whether your company is a small business or a major corporation, agility, speed and adaptability are key to marketing success.
Today’s B2B and B2C companies face four key challenges:
- How to execute marketing campaigns with speed and precision
- How to nurture relationships with prospects and existing customers
- How to measure and optimize current marketing efforts
- How to convert more prospects faster
Marketing automation software solves these four problems.
Why Does My Business Need Marketing Automation?
Is your business considering adoption marketing automation software? If not, it should. More businesses than ever before are jumping on the marketing automation software bandwagon. Consider the following:
- Sixty-eight percent of B2B respondents are either already using a marketing automation tool or considering the purchase of one. (1)
- B2B marketers will spend $325m on marketing automation solutions this year, a 50% increase in marketing automation spending over last year. (2)
- Among B2B companies who already use a marketing automation tool, almost a quarter of them report that their tool has made fairly significant contributions to their demand creation and lead nurturing success and almost half are enjoying moderate successes. (3)
Why are businesses adopting marketing automation software at such a rapid pace? The answer is simple: marketing automation is key to nurturing prospects, converting these prospects into customers and clients, and then supporting long-term customer and client loyalty. Marketing automation software will also help your business prioritize and execute tasks in a more streamlined manner. By automating repetitive marketing tasks, businesses streamline their workflow, improve conversion rates and prevent sales leads from slipping through the cracks.
Most critically, automation improves efficiency, minimizes data entry, and provides full-integrated analysis of lead generation data. With marketing automation software, your company benefits from real-time feedback on marketing campaigns; you can instantly see what is (and is not) working, which allows your business to quickly pivot and adjust the most effective sales tactics.
Two key trends are driving companies to adopt marketing automation:
- Changing buyer behaviors: Shorter attention spans, higher demands, and smaller wallet size is forcing companies to rethink how they market and sell products.
- Lengthening sales cycle: During the last five years, the average sales cycle has become 22 percent longer, typically with three or more decision makers participating in the buying process. And more than a quarter of all B2B sales cycles take seven months or more to close. (4)
Marketing automation will position your business to not only ride-out the changing marketplace, but also to make these changes work for you.
Understanding Marketing Automation: Key Features and Benefits
Marketing automation software requires three key features:
- Central marketing database: centralized storage of marketing data, including detailed information on prospect customer interactions and behaviors, for improved list segmentation and targeting
- Relationship marketing engine: a unified system for tracking contact with customers, including the creation, management and automation of email marketing, social media marketing and direct mail drip campaigns.
- Analytics marketing engine: a way to test, measure and optimize marketing ROI and impact on revenue; know what works, what doesn’t work and instantly pivot your marketing to account for these changes.
Marketing automation delivers three core benefits:
- More pipeline: With marketing automation, there is always a consistent stream of steady leads in the sales pipeline. Marketing automation users report 45% better leads, according to research from Marketo. (5)
- More productive sales reps: Companies with marketing automation software have 22% more productive sales staff than companies without this software; 62% of the sales staff spends time selling versus 51% without the software. (6)
- Higher revenue: A steady stream of leads and increased productivity translates to higher revenue for sales reps. Companies with marketing automation have 25% higher revenue attainment than companies without marketing automation (7)
Marketing Automation is Not the Same as Email Marketing or CRM Systems
In order to understand what is marketing automation, it is beneficial to understand what it is not. Marketing automation is not a fancy name for your company’s email marketing program – not even close! Marketing automation encompasses content distribution across multiple channels, including direct mail and phone campaigns, as well as social media marketing and email marketing. Marketing automation is robust and insight-focused; it’s not a platform for endlessly spamming customers with “buy one get one” email offers that go straight to the junk bin.
Marketing automation software is also very different from CRM (customer relationship management) systems. CRM systems store customer and prospect account information. Typically, this information is stored in the cloud so it can be accessed in real time on any device. While CRM is beneficial for managing client and customer contact info, it is not designed for marketing automation or lead generation. CRM systems rely on ad hoc data analysis; in contrast, CRM systems provide full, integrated analysis of lead generation data. Fundamentally, CRM systems are solely a customer service tool; they are not built to be a marketing platform.
Marketing Automation & Inbound Marketing: How They Work Together
Are you worried about your business’s lead generation? 74% of marketers say obtaining quality leads is their top challenge. (8) Improving inbound lead generation is an ongoing process; with the needs of your customer or client base constantly evolving, your business’s inbound marketing strategy must be prepared to respond to these needs. Unfortunately, even the best inbound marketing strategy can only take a business so far. Since the majority of leads do not immediately convert, all too often businesses invest substantial effort into generating leads but fail to “finalize the sale” with an effective lead nurturing program. That’s where marketing automation comes into play. By automating lead nurturing efforts through a structured, systematic approach, businesses maximize inbound lead generation ROI.
How often do you hear, “We will be proactive – as the need arises?” Uh oh! This type of statement is the reason why old school marketing tactics are failing and businesses need marketing automation software. In order to actually be proactive, a business must anticipate a customer’s needs and problems, and then proactive take steps to address these concerns. The same goes for lead nurturing. In order to proactively and effectively nurture leads, your business must be able to integrate live-intelligence, make decisions on the fly, and quickly pivot as new opportunities present themselves. Marketing automation software makes this possible by combining analytics with automated response that can quickly be adjusted to meet your customer’s developing needs.
For example, what if you knew that the call-to-action in your latest email was not working based on real-time click thru rate analysis? This information would empower your business to pivot in a new direction mid-campaign. Or what if you could anticipate Customer X would respond best to Message A based on his past interactions with your company, while Message B would be a much better fit for Customer Y? And when it comes to social media, what if you could anticipate the right time to post on Twitter or Facebook, and then visually analyze how that post is re-shared through your social media followers? Real-time analytics from marketing automation software, combined with customer preferences and automated content marketing, can significantly improve the effectiveness of your lead nurturing program.
Fundamentally, marketing automation software helps stop lead leakage from your company’s inbound marketing funnel. Depending on your business, your funnel may look like this: a first exposure (social media, blogs, paid search, display ads, etc.) leads to a first visit to your website, which leads to return visits in which you capture information (e.g., email and business data). This is followed by the creation of a free account, a trial subscription to your service or a visit to your sales page. Finally, you convert the lead into a paid subscriber, client or customer. Marketing automation software streamlines and accelerates each step in the process for a smoother, more efficient customer-oriented experience.
Marketing Automation: Next Steps
Traditional marketing strategies require substantial effort but often yield limited results and have limited scalability. An integrated pipeline, coupled with demand-based lead generation and marketing automation, will streamline effort while improving ROI. Most critically, marketing automation software helps companies think big, start small and move quickly. Consequently, the value and ROI of marketing automation software is high; the right strategy, content and lead flow will further maximize this ROI.
When selecting a marketing automation platform, look for a software service that combines robust lead nurturing with full content marketing and social media management, along with data analysis and visualization. Keep in mind that some marketing automation software packages may be better tailored for B2B companies rather than B2C companies, and vice versa. Most follow the “software as a service” (SaaS) model, which utilizes cloud-based software for maximum accessibility.
While it is important to select the right marketing automation software, it is equally important to fully integrate this software into your company’s marketing and sales departments. By embracing the potential of marketing automation software through strategic integration, your business can increase revenue while reducing marketing costs through better ROI in 2014.
Sources: (1) Televerde; (2) Televerde; LeadDNA; (3) BtoB Magazine; (4) Marketing Sherpa; (5) Marketo; (6) Marketo; (7) Marketo; (8) Revi Media