Marketing Automation: Not only Marketing, not only Automation

I reluctantly refer to the suite of lead-to-revenue tools currently offered by various vendors as Marketing Automation.

Such tools today have expanded to cover most aspects of the lead-to-revenue process and so referring to them collectively as a Marketing tool would only be telling part of the story. It also seems to assign responsibility for the whole process to the Marketing team, while alienating everyone else who should be involved.

Also, today, these tools have moved beyond Automation. Here I am referring to the process which automatically triggers a response (such as sending a specific email) after one of your prospects has carried out a defined task (such as downloading content from your website, or not opening a previous email.) Though Marketing Automation tools evolved from email marketing, today they cover many other inbound and outbound marketing activities as well as sales.

Lead-to-Revenue solutions help companies bring together all the processes in the lead to revenue funnel – from generating leads to closing deals and beyond, and everything in between. It is one of the most important decisions that a Marketing team makes, comparable to recruiting a key team member. So I compiled a checklist of functionality to look out for when shopping around for a solution and grouped them under relevant headings.

 

Optimising Lead Generation

  • The design interface should be easy to use to allow you to create and design the emails, optimised landing pages and forms you would need on your website and campaigns in line with your branding. Having a variety of templates helps too.
  • repository for content which can be gated to be made accessible to a visitor only upon filling a form so that downloads can be tracked and scored.
  • Tools to facilitate the sharing of content on social channels.
  • A/B Testing to help you determine which version of an email, landing page, or campaign is more effective.
  • TCP/IP Fingerprinting allows you to identify anonymous visits to your website and then you can decide if and how you want to reach out, using LinkedIn for example. Various sources calculate that prospects only reach out when they are around two thirds of the way in the buyer journey. Think about the advantage you gain by being able to reach out to a prospect who is still anonymous. Or think of the advantage a competitor may have if you don’t do this.
  • Event Management, which invites, keeps track and follows up event attendees for conferences, trade shows and webinars.
  • A feature which ensures that all activities online are tracked is the ability to process UTM Tracking. Tagging the URLs of paid campaigns and other lead generation sources allows you to get a complete picture of the buyer’s journey.

 

Lead Nurturing and Scoring

Not all leads should be passed on to Sales immediately, as this would involve a waste of time for a resource who should be spending time selling to the right prospects.

  • Leads which are not ready for sales can be placed in one of the “nurture streams” to receive automated emails and other messaging pointing them to resources they may be interested in. Has the lead opened the email? If yes, send a follow-up a week later. If not, wait for a few days and send the same email with a more compelling subject.
  • Email list management and deliverability involve tools which help you manage the lists of prospects and ensure higher rates of deliverability of your emails.
  • Scoring, which is based on the importance a company gives to a prospect’s characteristics and behaviour. Scoring allows you to understand if a prospect is warm enough and interesting enough for the company to take the matter further. By allocating points based on a prospect’s industry, job title, and actions such as opening emails, content downloads, and website visits, prospects reaching an established score are handled accordingly.

Bringing it all together

  • The most powerful feature of Lead-to-Revenue software is to bring all activities related to a prospect together. This is most evident in a prospect’s Engagement History which shows you the journey from an anonymous visitor up to a closed deal and beyond.
  • Since it is unlikely that only one solution, rather than a stack, is used for all sales and marketing activities, a basic requirement for Lead-to-Revenue software is the ability to connect to other software including the company’s Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. Integration to the CRM allows for the export of leads generated from campaigns and their scores into the CRM. Other integration could be to the webinar platform and the Content Management System.
  • Marketing Calendar should show all the activities, content, campaigns happening and is especially important when more than one person is involved in the company’s sales and marketing (which is always the case).
  • Lead-to-Revenue platforms could also offer the tools necessary for Account Based Marketing (ABM) to allow you to target the more important prospects with a customised marketing programme.

Relevant and Powerful Insights

  • By tracking the customer journey and focusing on each stage, you will have visibility not only on what goes in and out of the funnel, but also on the effectiveness of your marketing efforts to move leads from one stage to another, and identify problem areas.
  • Through Attribution you will be able to track the effectiveness of channels and campaigns by attributing a closed sale to the first point of contact or multiple touch points.
  • Social Listening allows you to track activity on social media for conversations of interest and helps you follow what your competitors are doing, and benchmark your activities against them.
  • Customisable dashboards are great to give a personalised snapshot of the most important KPIs to different stakeholders.

A final note

There are other consideration, besides features, to look out for.

  • Set-up costs and monthly fees are the most obvious, especially costs related to training and integrating the solution to your CRM and other tools in the stack. Check out on which basis recurring fees are calculated.
  • Consider what amount of resources is necessary to manage the solution, a very important factor for a small to medium-sized team.
  • Some solutions are targeted more to B2B users while others are stronger for B2C.
  • Finally a provider’s ability to include new features, especially those originating from its customer base, is a factor to consider. Try and reach out to some users of the different solutions being considered to understand the day to day practicalities and long term implications.