Marketing automation is the most significant development in marketing over the last decade. It has had an incredible impact on creating positive and constructive relations between sales and marketing teams. It has accelerated pipeline creation while helping organizations engage into personal relationships with their prospects.
Never until the marketing automation era had it been possible to track so efficiently the impact of every Euro of marketing investments on the sales pipeline.
Four years ago I had a wow moment: I deployed a marketing automation solution at KDS. KDS is a Travel & Expense cloud-based software company headquartered in Paris, France. The solution I selected was Marketo.
To ensure the success of the Marketo project I decided to work with a Marketo integrator: Inficiences Partners. Gregoire Michel, Inficiences’ founder guided us in the deployment of Marketo, trained us and helped us to integrate Marketo with our CRM, Salesforce.com. Inficiences wrote a case study (in French) about their implementation of Marketo at KDS, you will find it here.
What is Marketing Automation?
Simply put, marketing automation is a software that automates the various communication programs you have to fill your leads funnel. This platform aggregates all the necessary assets into a single place: Database management, form and landing page builder, website analytics, lead scoring mechanism, rules and triggers management, analysis and reporting, third-party integration (CRM, Webinars, Social media, events…).
The philosophy of marketing automation is that by providing prospects with the right information at the right time during their buying cycle, marketing automation brings them to maturity. Marketing automation delivers contents in a timely manner to your prospects, influencing them and educating them for their first meeting with your sales representatives.
At the center of the digital lead generation revolution, marketing automation platforms such as Marketo, Oracle Eloqua, Pardot or HubSpot are crunching data to track and monitor prospect behaviors. Keyword searches, page visits, downloads, webinar attendances or visit to your stand on a trade show, every action your prospects take is analyzed and converted into a score. That’s that score which will trigger a call from your inside sales team. Lead scoring and its associated lead status will also be converted into KPIs. I will come back to that.
Sales & Marketing Alignment
A successful marketing automation implementation can help align marketing and sales through increased communication and transparency.
In my experience, sales are always eager to study opportunity analyzer graph, which I produce from Marketo.
These reports show every single touch points that every member of an opportunity had with our marketing activities. Sales find them very useful when mapping account and they often lead them to important influencers in an organization.
Because marketing automation tracks and monitors every marketing activities, be they online or offline, it makes it possible to accurately measure the performances of marketing programs and their contributions to the pipeline and to won deals.
Marketing automation is data-driven marketing at its best. Closely integrated with your CRM solution your marketing automation solution will use batch programs to clean and enrich your data. It will feed dashboards to monitor your performances and will provide you with the data executives want to see when reviewing budget investments.
When putting in place marketing automation in your company, don’t overlook the administration part of the equation. Managing such solution calls for an equal blend of marketing, advanced rules management, and technology skills. The administrator you will name should be just as comfortable with database administration as he or she is with persona-building exercises and SEO.
Now with marketing automation, the long-awaited dream of one to one marketing is at reach. No more cold calling, no more mass emailing, no more shots in the dark. Because of the data your platform has gathered on every leads in your database you can now engage in real, personal, conversations. You can display dynamically personalized web pages to your prospects, based on who they are and you never ask them the same questions again thanks to progressive profiling.
This new approach to targeted marketing naturally leads to account-based marketing (ABM) a strategy that focuses marketing and sales resources on a defined set of targeted accounts and employs personalized campaigns designed to resonate with each individual account. With ABM, your marketing message is based on the attributes and needs of the account you’re targeting, hence the name account-based marketing.
Despite its fantastic computing power and the very smart program you’ve developed, your marketing automation solution is as good as the contents it distributes. Putting in place a content strategy is at the heart of your marketing automation practice and shouldn’t be overlooked. Generating content is strategic to the success of your marketing automation project bur creating content costs money. This is why monitoring content performance with the right KPI is key.
Content marketing is a marketing program that centers on creating, publishing, and distributing content for your target audience — usually online — the goal of which is to attract new customers.
The most common components of a content marketing program are social media networks, blogs, visual content, and premium content assets — like tools, ebooks, or webinars.
To start creating your content plan, the first thing you’ll need to do is assign ownership. You need to ensure that you have an assigned staff member who can uphold quality standards and consistency. You also need to assign someone to manage the responsibility of strategy, project management, writing or outsourcing, copyediting, and cross-functional coordination.
I learned that this managing content can be a daunting task, especially with a small team on a limited budget. At KDS, we target three personas with ten categories and we make everything available in two languages: English and French. We write some of the content ourselves and outsource others to topic-expert freelance journalists.
Content marketing span every aspect of communication, from press relations; thought leadership, corporate and product communication. It is distributed out through all channels: blog, social media, press rel
lease, tutorials, talks…
Creating a Content Hub
Having great content is not enough you need to make it available. At KDS I quickly realized that we had to rethink the company’s online presence, reorganizing its website and creating a content hub (which we called resource center). An increasing number of companies decide to create a content hub. A content hub is a destination where website visitors can find branded or generic, curated, social media, user-generated, or any type of content related to a topic. A content hub is generally smaller than a website and bigger than a blog.
If done well a content hub will host opinion pieces and posts from industry influencers. We found that non-salesy content works best. I had a lot of success with short video interviews with clients and industry “experts” who spoke openly about their challenges and approach to solving them.
The perfect ungated-to-gated content ratio
Although you are building a lead generation strategy it is important to find the right ungated-to-gated content ratio. I believe you should have more ungated than gated content. Although the proportion will vary by industry, a good starting point is a 10-to-1 ratio. For every 10 pieces of free content, offer one gated piece geared toward prospects who are further along the sales funnel.
Remember that content marketing requires fresh, up-to-date content. Soon, like most marketers, you will feel the pressure to pump out more and more content to get noticed.
The answer to this challenge isn’t to write more frequent, lower quality blog posts. Quite the opposite. You need to dedicate more time to researching and write the best and most engaging content you can. More high-quality content spread across a diverse set of platforms will attract a bigger audience to your website, and increase your chance of converting them into customers. It is important that you squeeze every last drip out of the work you have done by repurposing your blog content in different forms.
Recycling your Best Content
Your blog post can easily be recycled into an email newsletter. I use MailChimp to create automated, RSS feed generated, newsletters.
Not everyone will have the time to visit your blog every time you post. But if you show up in their inbox with a short snippet from your most recent blog post and an easy-to-find link, it increases the traffic back to that post and to the rest of your content.
Share best quotes and finding from your post on the social media. Too often people share the same heading of their blog on every social network, over and over again. Use quotes from your story and use tools such as Buffer to quickly schedule post across your various profiles.
Don’t forget SlideShare. SlideShare is like the YouTube of presentations. It’s a channel that a lot of marketers are missing out on, and one with a lot of engaged viewers. By re-purposing a blog post into a SlideShare presentation you are tapping into a new audience.
Use your blog post as the ground for a Webinar or event a physical workshop. I use a native Marketo API to connect our Webex account into Marketo. This is very useful for fully automated webinar program integrated within our lead nurturing campaigns.
Depending on the topic of your post, think of repurposing it as a checklist or a template.
Marketing automation span all areas of marketing, both online and offline. As the technology matures it becomes more and more powerful… and more exciting for the marketers.
To Sum it Up
As a conclusion here are a few bullets to sum-up the value marketing automation.
Marketing automation solutions are scalable, at least I know Marketo is. Using Marketo, you can clone whole programs (email, landing pages, etc.) so your team is not setting up programs from scratch each time.
- Reporting — I have never worked for an organization that didn’t care about return on marketing investment, but now with marketing automation, real-time reporting is a reality. In my current role, I use Marketo daily to evaluate marketing programs and their performance. Don’t go for feel-good KPI (although marketing may want to analyze click and page view) the only KPI your CEO is interested about is marketing impact on the company’s bottom line.
The main KPIs I use at KDS are # of new leads, # of Inside Sales Ready Leads (those scoring over 50), # of marketing-generated opportunities (we track this in Salesforce) and the most important # of marketing-generated signed deals.
We are also closely monitoring the age of opportunities at a given stages, the size of the pipeline, the time it takes a lead to convert into an opportunity…
- Alignment with my sales team — My team run campaigns to help my sales team. With marketing automation, I greatly improve the likelihood of providing qualified leads at the right time to my sales organization. I have the ability to use lead scoring (put simply, lead scoring assigns points based on desired demographics and behaviors).
- Communicating in a personal way — I am often amazed to read a thank you note from a prospect after she received a piece of content. Marketo allows me to communicate in a personal way to engage in a one-to-one communication with our prospects (in an automated way…).
How was your Own Marketing Automation Implementation Experience?
How did you work with your sales team once your solution was in place? Which KPIs do you use? Do you still use a telesales agency and if yes what is their mission? How many people administer your marketing automation solution? How do you create and manage content?
I would love to read your own experience. Please use the comment button to share it.
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