The Complete Guide to Marketing Automation for B2B Tech
Companies are always seeking new ways to drive brand awareness and revenue, and in many cases, doing so with limited resources — especially in the B2B technology sector where lean start-ups are competing with multi-billion dollar corporations offering similar products. That’s why it’s so critical to have an efficient and effective marketing strategy in place.
Marketing automation has been, and continues to be, a cornerstone of this strategy, fueling sales and marketing campaigns with unparalleled effectiveness across all industries. It has grown from a $225 million industry to a $1.65 billion industry in just five years.
While marketing automation has been around since 1992, there are still many questions around it, as B2B tech companies look to craft powerful campaigns that get results.
In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about marketing automation, including its main components, strategies for selecting software, and ultimately, how to make automation work for your campaigns, no matter how big or small.
Marketing Automation 101
Marketing automation is intended to simplify your marketing efforts. The automation itself, however, is both complex as a topic and as a strategy for many B2B technology companies.
So, let’s start with the basics.
What Is Marketing Automation?
Marketing automation is a combination of software and processes designed to increase efficiency, while decreasing marketing overhead by automating once manual tasks, such as email marketing, social media postings, and lead qualification.
What Are the Benefits of Marketing Automation?
Once you get one or two successful marketing automation campaigns up and running, you’ll be amazed at the results. Some of the biggest benefits of marketing automation include:
- Decreased Costs: Marketing automation helps reduce costs by decreasing the number of staff required and streamlining systems. For example, a small team of 2-3 people can do the same amount of work as a team of 50 when automated campaigns are set up in advance and run on autopilot in the background of other day-to-day efforts. One report shared that marketing automation drives a 12.2% reduction in marketing overhead.
- Elimination of Busy Work: Every marketer wants to save time — and marketing automation allows you to do so. By leveraging software that frees up staff from “busy work” — like manually reaching out to someone who downloads a piece of content — your marketing team can get back to the creative tasks that inspire and engage them.
- Stronger Sales-Marketing Relationships: Every company dreams of aligning two of its most important teams: marketing and sales. Sales and marketing alignment is a sought-after synergy that marketing automation aids and facilitates. Simply put, automation provides marketing with the tools to hand more qualified leads over to the sales team, resulting in more opportunities to close.
- Fewer Cold Calls: While it may be hard to ever eliminate cold calls and cold emails from your sales and marketing efforts, marketing automation provides an opportunity to reach out to leads who have previously engaged with your brand and have provided some type of interest via their journey through your marketing automation workflows.
- Improved Reporting: Any time you can harness hard data, instead of anecdotal data, your ability to refine, scale, and predict greatly improves. With marketing automation, your marketing team will be able to easily report on the impact of particular emails, landing pages, social posts, paid ads, etc.
- Increased Revenue: While marketing automation can decrease costs, which can help with overall revenue, it is also proven to have a direct impact on sales goals. On average, B2B marketers with successful marketing automation programs report a 20% increase in sales opportunities — and another 78% of marketers identify automation as a key contributor to improved revenue.
How Is Marketing Automation Tied to Inbound Marketing?
Marketing automation is directly tied to inbound marketing, as it’s the primary aid for moving buyers from awareness to consideration to decision within the “Buyer’s Journey.”
Before marketing automation, marketing and sales teams alike took educated guesses as to where a prospect was in the buyer’s journey, using manual processes to nudge someone along from one stage to the next. (And sometimes, getting the bad reputation of being sneaky!) The conversion process was longer and less effective. With marketing automation, prospects move through the buyer’s journey more quickly while providing the marketing and sales teams with data about the success of their campaigns.
In short, you should use marketing automation to fuel your inbound marketing efforts.
What exactly does that look like? We’ll get deeper and deeper into the details in each section of this guide.
Marketing automation is a process that increases efficiency and revenue, while decreasing spend and overall effort. And whether you work at a lean start-up or at a well-staffed large company, marketing automation gives you more horsepower — it allows you to accomplish more tasks, interact with potential customers more quickly, serve up content, and identify the best candidates for further exploration.
Components of Marketing Automation
Building a Strong Foundation
Many B2B technology companies hear the benefits of marketing automation and want to jump right in. However, there are quite a few foundational steps you need to take first before investing in a marketing automation platform or strategy makes sense.
1. Measurable Goals
No marketing plan is complete without some measurable goals and key performance indicators (KPIs). Set a few measurable goals for your marketing automation plan so you have an idea of what success looks like.
Goals can be related to:
- Total number of leads, marketing qualified leads (MQLs), or sales qualified leads (SQLs)
- Email open rates and click-through rates
- Lifecycle changes (e.g. moving from an SQL to an opportunity)
- Number of contacts enrolled in workflows
- Demo requests
- General conversion rate
That last goal is likely the easiest to measure and a great place to start using marketing automation software. For example, in HubSpot, each marketing automation workflow comes with the ability to “set a goal.” This goal can be anything from a lifecycle stage change to a form submission.
The workflow tool automatically calculates the conversion rate based on the number of total contacts enrolled, and the number of those who met the select goal. For example, this workflow above for a B2B SaaS company is geared toward MQLs. A prospect is automatically enrolled when they are marked as an MQL. If the MQL fills out a demo form or becomes an opportunity based on lead-scoring, they “meet the goal” and the conversion rate is automatically calculated.
Goals are important because they provide marketing and sales teams with a destination or an end point. Before you get started, identify why you’re investing in marketing automation and what you want the results to be.
Personas are at the center of inbound marketing — as getting the right piece of content in front of the right person at the right time (via marketing automation) is essential. However, the big problem with personas is that marketing teams get too hung up on the specifics about the “ideal client” based on a few small sample sets, rather than considering important questions like: What types of problems do they encounter? Where do they search for answers? What are their skillsets? What motivates them to make a decision? What are their obstacles?
If your company already has personas, now is a good time to evaluate them for their effectiveness. Do you really understand your prospective buyers, their problems, needs, and wants? Do you understand the difference between buyer personas and user personas? If not, modify them so that you can make smarter choices when it comes to automating your processes.
If you don’t currently have any personas, you will definitely want to create at least 2-3 before getting started with your inbound strategy. However, if you’re pressed for time, don’t get hung up on the nitty gritty details and specifics.
To get started with crafting your personas, start by asking “who is our target audience?” From there, you can likely come up with a variety of segments within that target audience. For example, consider healthcare technology automation. A medical device company might say its target audience is hospital leadership. Within that audience, there are segments in clinical, finance, technology, operations, and executive leadership. From here, it’s important to dive into each segment’s problems and how your product offers solutions to those problems. List the questions they ask, and be ready to answer those questions in emails and other content.
Further Reading on Personas:
3. Content Offers
No marketing automation (or inbound) strategy is complete without content offers. Content offers can aid in kicking off a marketing automation campaign (say for example, when someone attends a webinar), and also fuel your automation campaigns by acting as the trigger points that increase lead score, send emails, and notify sales reps.
This Content Marketing Matrix developed by Smart Insights helps you visualize and map the most effective types of content based on the stage of the funnel/buyer’s journey. Mapping your content makes it easy to set up automation campaigns because you’ll know when to introduce different types of content to nudge individuals down the funnel.
4. Marketing Automation Software
The marketing automation software you select will be the ties that bind all of your marketing automation components together. In order to automate processes, you’ll need a strong platform that makes it easy to implement the components of marketing automation effectively. In the next section of this guide, we’ll discuss selecting marketing automation software more thoroughly.
Software Components and Implementation
Once you’ve selected your inbound marketing software, you’ll need to continue to build upon your strong foundation with key marketing automation components within your software.
1. Landing Pages
Landing pages need to be set up to house your content offers and lead qualifying forms, and are an essential component of any inbound/automation strategy. In fact, research from HubSpot shows that companies see a 55% increase in leads when they up their number of landing pages from 10 to 15. Landing pages are the lynchpin of your lead generation efforts, so make the most of your B2B landing page with these best practices. We’ve outlined instructions in these articles.
Further Reading on Landing Pages:
2. Lead Scoring
Lead scoring is the process of automatically vetting targets as they travel through your automated purchase process. Lead scoring is arguably the most important component of your marketing automation strategy, as it is one of the major utilities that will keep the automated program moving forward. For example, when a lead score hits 50, you can set it so that the lifecycle stage changes to MQL, the sales rep is notified, and your emails change sequence and tone.
What makes a lead score change? There’s quite a long list that includes:
- A link being clicked
- A form being completed
- A web page being visited
- A webinar registration or attendance
- A certain number of emails being opened
- A particular amount of time being spent on your site
And the list goes on! Do your best to base your lead scoring off of data and don’t be afraid to cautiously adjust as the launch continues.
3. An Accurate Database
An accurate database holds the same level of importance as lead scoring. Ensuring the contacts in your database that you’ll be enrolling have up-to-date data is essential, as getting the right piece of content in front of the right person at the right time relies on this.
As you review your database, you’ll want to first ask these questions:
- What information is essential for us to know about our products and services?
- What information would we want to segment by?
- What information would we want to personalize by?
In most cases, you won’t need every field in your CRM filled out, but it is important to focus on getting the data you need to communicate and segment appropriately.
For most B2B tech companies, this means having the following fields accurate at a minimum:
- First and Last Name
- Company Name
- Lifecycle Stage
However, we also recommend having accurate data for the following fields:
- Account Owner (sales rep who owns the account)
- Industry (If your B2B tech company spans multiple industries, as this is different from persona.)
There may also be additional data you want to track that is specific to your company, such as the package level a client has, a prospect’s budget, or their biggest obstacle. These will help you segment even further, which ultimately results in more successful campaigns.
4. Automated Email Workflows
Without automated email workflows, you’d be lacking a primary component of marketing automation. Workflows can be used for building awareness of your brand, educating your targets with your perspective, and moving targets to buy.
In short, workflows are the conveyer belt moving contacts through the buyer’s journey.
We’ll dive deeper into automated email workflows later in this guide.
5. Personalization and Dynamic Content
Based on the accuracy of your data, you’ll want to use personalization and dynamic content throughout your marketing automation campaigns so they don’t appear automated. For example, this means including a contact’s first name and/or company name in an email.
A successful marketing automation plan requires numerous different pieces that all depend on one another and work together. As you get started with marketing automation, you’ll want to “check” all these boxes to set the foundation for success.
Selecting Your Marketing Automation Software
Selecting your marketing automation software is a big commitment. With so many essential components, you definitely don’t want to get everything set up in one platform, only to be unhappy and then switch. The most popular marketing automation software options are HubSpot, Marketo, and Pardot — each with their own pros and cons. With the boom of the marketing automation industry, there’s also been quite a few smaller competitors popping up with less robust, but more affordable options.
While we don’t recommend purchasing software without any hint of a plan, you will need to purchase software before you actually get started with marketing automation, so it is clear which tools you have available to you.
Once you have a goal, your personas, content offers, and a full-time employee to execute your automation strategy, it’s a good time to invest in your automation software.
As the marketing industry grows, so will your automation options — so you’ll want to make sure you take the time to vet all of your potential providers. As you consider your marketing automation provider, be sure to inquire about the following:
- Functionality: Which of the marketing automation components are most important to your business and your strategy? Does the software do what you need it to do? Make a list of the most important traits your ideal platform has, and be sure to address those with each of your potential providers.
- Ease-of-use: Be sure to ask each of your potential vendors for a demo and sandbox access. You’ll be spending a lot of time in here, especially out of the gate, so ensuring you feel comfortable using the software is key.
- Future-proof design: “Future-proof” software isn’t something that all buyers consider — but it is vital to your investment. Because switching automation platforms should be avoided, you’ll want to be sure that you select a vendor that has a proven history of innovation and scheduled software updates. When you make a big investment, you’ll want your provider to grow as you do.
- Integrations with other products: Most marketing automation platforms will offer a variety of integrations — some, stronger than others. Make a list of the systems your company currently uses (or might plan to use in the future), and inquire about integration possibility and sophistication.
- Support: Inquire about the level of support, response times, etc. We all know that time is of the essence in the world of marketing, so getting prompt responses will be important to your sanity.
- Educational content and thought leadership: While the Internet does make plenty of content widely available, working with a provider that produces its own educational content is important because the company will be a true partner throughout the length of your relationship.
- Testimonials and case studies from similar clients: It’s not only important to hear from other clients using the platform, but you’ll want to know how clients similar to you use it. Ask for these specifics, if you can.
- Price: Don’t get hung up on the price tag. Rather, determine how it stacks up against the other options when you add in all features and compare “apples to apples.”
Comparing Marketo, HubSpot, and Pardot
In the marketing automation industry, Marketo, HubSpot, and Pardot have emerged as “the big three” although many other companies small and large exist. Each of these three platforms has some pretty standard marketing automation features, as well as its own set of differentiators.
Let’s take a close look at each one in terms of functionality, user experience, integrations, support, and pricing.
Marketo is the most expensive solution out of the three. With unique integrations and a robust email automation suite, Marketo is often at the top of the consideration list for enterprise-level organizations. Marketo’s preferred target audience of enterprise solutions is reflected in its pricing, specifically.
Functionality: Marketo is lacking a huge piece of marketing automation functionality that both Pardot and HubSpot have, which is automation beyond emails. Marketo does not allow users to automate social posts or manage a blog or website. Additionally, with Marketo your platform users will need HTML and CSS experience to create responsive emails, while with Pardot and HubSpot, those emails are automatically responsive and built in a WYSIWYG interface. Marketo offers robust reporting options, but the setup is manual, which can take a significant amount of time.
User Experience: Some users complain that the Marketo user interface is outdated, and the requirement for manual setup using HTML and CSS is cumbersome. The Marketo UX was supposed to be updated in 2018, yet there has been no formal release or announcement indicating this has occurred .
Integrations: Marketo features a strong integration with Salesforce, however, unique integrations with SugarCRM and Microsoft Dynamics CRM are what make Marketo appealing to enterprise organizations like GE and Charles Schwab. Marketo also offers more than 100 strong integrations with platforms like Vidyard, Brightcove, and others.
Support & Onboarding: Marketo’s onboarding and support scales to fit the needs of its clients, with four different packages available, depending on your implementation preferences. In general, there appears to be no poor reviews of Marketo’s customer support on review sites, which speaks to the company’s customer-centric approach to service.
Price: Marketo’s pricing is structured by “need” and also covers custom solutions. While Marketo doesn’t advertise the investment on its pricing page, a variety of sources, like below, share different pricing structures, ranging from $1,195/month to $11,995/month.
HubSpot is known for its platform’s ease of use and innovation, as it includes tools like competitor analysis and video marketing within its packages.
Functionality: HubSpot’s functionality is certainly the most robust out of the three platforms. If you’re looking for a platform that can automate your social media and emails, and manage your blog and website, HubSpot is certainly the top choice. HubSpot and Pardot offer a virtually identical functionality set, but in general, users agree that HubSpot’s interface is easier to use. Some users criticize HubSpot for their lack of deep customization options in some modules. Also, they lack integrations with some other major software packages and CRMs.
User Experience: What sets HubSpot apart is its simple user experience. Emails, landing pages, and blogs are constructed in a straightforward WYSIWYG interface with no HTML or CSS knowledge required. Additionally, HubSpot makes it easy to optimize emails, landing pages, and social media posts with helpful tips on SEO, subject line lengths, and more. You can access all of this information right from the platform.
Integrations: HubSpot offers 220 integrations with popular platforms like GoToWebinar, SurveyMonkey, Salesforce, Slack, Wistia, and many more.
Support & Onboarding: Excellent customer support (via chat, phone, and email) and live onboarding are staples of HubSpot’s service offerings.
Price: HubSpot is actually the most affordable out of the three platforms, which comes somewhat as a surprise with its superior user experience and functionality. HubSpot offers numerous pricing packages, displayed directly on its website. For the marketing automation platform in particular, you’ll pay $800-$3,200/month for 1,000 contacts. The price goes up $50/month per $1,000 users.
If you’re already Salesforce-savvy, you might prefer Pardot, which is Salesforce’s marketing automation software. However, many marketers don’t prefer the platform due to its clunky interface and lack of functionality.
Functionality: Pardot offers all of the functionality you’d expect from a marketing automation platform, including tools for social media, landing pages, and email. However, like Marketo, HTML and CSS experience is required to make landing pages and emails responsive, which makes the platform less intuitive than HubSpot.
User Experience: The chief complaint about Pardot from its users is its dated user experience. Positioning expert David C. Baker said that Pardot is the most popular CRM with the worst interface.
Integrations: Perhaps the most appealing aspect of Pardot is its tight integration with Salesforce, its parent company. Unlike HubSpot and Marketo, Pardot does not list its integrations publicly on its website — making it difficult to get a complete picture of its integration options. One review site reports that Pardot only has 32 third-party integrations, compared to 100+ with Marketo and HubSpot.
Support: Scroll through message boards and review sites across the Internet, and you’ll likely figure out that one of Pardot’s weaknesses is its lack of support for customer success and onboarding.
Price: Pardot’s pricing is competitive with HubSpot’s, beginning at $1,000/month for 10,000 contacts. However, plan on spending at least $2,000/month to have all the same features you would with HubSpot’s base marketing package.
With the marketing automation market expected to be worth $7.63 billion by 2025, there are obviously other players besides “the big three.” Just take a look at this comparison of 20 marketing automation platforms from G2 Crowd. As a matter of fact, NG Data actually notes that there are more than 50 marketing automation tools available right now.
That’s enough research and demos to make our heads hurt.
With so many viable providers in the marketplace, we encourage you to register for demos with each marketing automation software company you’re considering and weigh the pros and cons of each one as it relates to your marketing team and process.
Use Cases for Marketing Automation
Marketing automation, while time saving, can also be a beast to set up. It requires you to establish KPIs, map content and lead scoring, and create dozens of unique and creative emails right out of the gate. Because automation happens over a series of weeks or months, it also means you don’t always get the immediate gratification of measuring the success of an email campaign. Whether you’re completely new to marketing automation, or you’re looking to improve your efforts, here are the most popular use cases for marketing automation.
Before you dive into the marketing automation methods below, you’ll want to have the following marketing automation components set up:
- Lead Scoring: Lead scoring in many cases will be the trigger that continues automation. You’ll want to be sure this is set up before implementing any automated email campaigns.
- Content Database: While content is a key component of marketing automation, ensuring you have it organized in a single location by persona and funnel stage will make it easy to pick-and-choose content for each email — saving you time and making your emails more effective.
- KPIs: In the next section of this guide we’ll discuss how to establish your KPIs and goals, as they are essential to nail down before you begin your automation strategies.
Social Media Marketing
The simplest use case for marketing automation is social media automation. Unlike email automation or lead scoring, which requires quite a bit of setup, social media automation does not. To automate your social media marketing, all you need to do is schedule your social media posts in advance, on a weekly or monthly basis. While there are plenty of social media automation platforms out there already, like HootSuite, Buffer, and SproutSocial, some marketing automation platforms like HubSpot include a built-in social automation tool.
With social media automation, you can:
- Schedule social media posts in advance for major platforms like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram
- Monitor what your competitors are doing
- Link social media posts to campaigns to monitor overall success
- Track referral website traffic from social media
Lead nurturing is the most common use case for marketing automation. This is the process of developing relationships with buyers at all stages of the sales funnel/buyer’s journey. While lead nurturing is critical to increasing conversion rates and revenue, asking your sales team to consistently communicate with all of their leads at all stages of the funnel is a near impossible request. This is where marketing automation comes in.
Marketing automation empowers your marketing team (and/or sales team) to maintain consistent communications and successfully nurture leads, while saving time.
Lead Nurturing with Marketing Automation
Lead nurturing campaigns are essential for keeping prospective buyers engaged with your brand across their journey through the funnel. Essentially, lead nurturing is achieved by automating a series of emails that builds brand awareness, trust, and loyalty. While, of course, your sales team may have previously done this manually, automation provides you a platform and process that don’t take away a sales rep’s precious time with bottom-of-the-funnel buyers.
In general, the goals of lead nurturing with marketing automation are:
- Build brand awareness and establish trust by providing helpful content to buyers during different stages of the funnel
- Address pain points to build confidence in your brand and solutions
- Gently nurture buyers from awareness to consideration to decision
- Ultimately, earn a conversion that moves a prospect from the “lead nurturing” stage of the funnel to the bottom of the funnel to meet with a sales rep
Easy Campaigns for Getting Started
A “welcome” campaign or email is one of the simplest forms of marketing automation, but also one of the most effective. This is the first impression you get to make with a new customer, blog subscriber, newsletter subscriber, or prospective customer via email. Welcome emails provide you an opportunity to share content and special offers, and most importantly, to establish a relationship with your new contact.
Welcome campaign emails should be sent when a new contact subscribes to your blog or newsletter.
Because sending a welcome email is as simple as automating a single email, this is a great way to get started on your marketing automation journey. Your welcome email should include:
- A warm welcome and a “thanks!”
- Some expectations: How often will they hear from you now that you have their email?
- An easy way to update subscriber email preferences
Content Download Campaign
When someone downloads a piece of content on your website, they’re essentially raising their hand and saying “hi, I’m interested in this topic, but not necessarily your brand.” However, you, of course, want them to be interested in both.
Once a website visitor converts on your website, this is the prime opportunity to keep them engaged with your brand and build trust. It’s important that they are engaged at this stage in their journey so you can turn leads into MQLs. You’ll also want to automate this process because it can be extremely cumbersome (and less effective) to execute manually.
Keep in mind that you might have many different campaigns based on the type of content and subject at hand. For example, someone who downloads an eBook clearly intended for the awareness phase (such as a how-to guide) likely needs more nurturing than someone who downloads a buyer’s guide. Likewise, if your B2B technology company offers a variety of products, you may need different workflows for different products to ensure the content is most relevant.
However, regardless of the funnel stage, the process remains rather similar. When someone downloads a piece of content, you should send a series of 3-5 automated emails over 9-15 days. We recommend spacing emails about three days apart to capitalize on the momentum of the download, without being “salesy” or overbearing.
What does that campaign look like? Here’s an example of how you might automate your emails for someone who downloaded a top-of-the-funnel piece of content:
- Email 1: Send another high-level content offer, but make sure it is different than the one they already received. For example, if they downloaded an infographic on the benefits of investing in cybersecurity, three days later, you could send them a white paper or guide that speaks, again, to the importance of that investment.
- Email 2: Send a middle-of-the-funnel content offer, such as a longer eBook or case study. Again, you’ll want to be sure the topic at hand is similar to the content the prospective buyer originally downloaded.
- Email 3: Send a bottom-of-the-funnel content offer, asking them to request a demo, schedule a consultation, or meet with a rep.
You may want to send additional content offers before you get to the bottom-of-the-funnel content in order to gauge the interest of your buyers, but this will also hinge on the amount of content you have available.
Essential Automated Marketing Campaigns for B2B Technology
Once you get your feet wet with some simple marketing automation campaigns, it’s time to dive in a little deeper. Most B2B technology companies benefit from automating the following lead nurturing campaigns:
- Hot Leads Workflows: These workflows are meant to engage someone who is already deeper in the funnel and may already be an MQL. They are constantly visiting your website, downloading content, attending webinars, and even engaging with you on social media. In this case, a particular lead score should automatically trigger a series of emails to be sent. Plan to send a series of 3-5 emails, each three days apart, with bottom-of-the-funnel content offers. You’ll want to end your workflow by asking the lead to meet with a rep — only if they’re still engaging with you, of course.
- Cold Leads Workflows: Unfortunately, you’ll likely run into cold leads more often than hot leads — and this happens for a variety of reasons that are sometimes completely out of your control, even if you’ve done a great job with marketing automation. The purpose of a cold lead workflow is to re-engage a lead that “went cold” during a previous workflow. Maybe they downloaded a piece of content and then never opened your next three emails. Maybe they weren’t ready to buy three months ago, but they could be now! The best way to kick off a cold lead workflow is with a question-based email like “is there anything new with your business?” or “we just launched this new resource, and it reminded me of your business.” Because you don’t want to annoy your cold leads, keep this workflow to two emails or less, sent at least three months after their last engagement. This workflow could automatically be triggered using a field such as “months since last engagement” or manually triggered by a sales rep in your CRM.
- Dark Opportunity Recovery Workflow: Similar to a cold lead workflow, with a dark opportunity recovery workflow, your purpose is to re-engage someone that was once engaged. However, this is for recovering an opportunity, someone who was further down your pipeline. While a sales rep may typically want to nurture this opportunity on their own, creating a series of 2-3 emails they can use to see if the opportunity is still interested can save them time.
- Customer Engagement Workflows: We all know that it is cheaper to retain a current client than to obtain a new one — so you can’t forget about your existing customer base! You’ll want to set up a series of at least three emails for this group.
- The first should be a “welcome” email, similar to your original welcome campaign. Thank them for becoming a client, and let them know where they can find key resources and information that’s relevant to them.
- In a second email, 2-3 weeks later, ask them how things are going. Based on how they answer that email, you could automate a series of actions. For example, if they select an option that says they’re unhappy, maybe have an internal notification sent to your client success team. Or, if they indicate they’re very pleased, ask them to write you a review on a site like G2 Crowd.
- Finally, 2-3 months after they’ve become a client, you’ll want to promote products and/or services that are technically “upgrades” or add-ons to their original purchase. This can, again, be a single email or a series of emails.
- Closed/Lost Workflows: It’s important to engage your clients, but it is also important to engage those who didn’t become clients 6-12 months after you lost the deal. Sometimes, people are unhappy with their choices, and you can reach them at the right time. Set up a series of 1-2 emails that automatically send 6-12 months after a deal is lost. You know your buying/sales cycle better than anyone else, so choose the timing that is right for you. For example, if your product takes on average six months to deploy, you’d want to check in 9-12 months later, to ensure the lost client has had time to use the the new product. It is usually helpful to note a reason why the deal was lost, such as budget, features, etc. When someone marks a lead as “closed/lost-reason” in your CRM, this workflow can be automatically triggered.
- Workflows by Persona: All of the workflows in this list have one thing in common: while still effective in a broad sense, they become even more effective when made personalized. Creating different workflows for your top three personas will help you write more compelling content that is targeted toward each of your personas’ key wants and needs.
Utility Workflows and Automation
Marketing automation isn’t just about engaging your prospective buyers and current clients — it is about automating processes that were previously manual. We like to call these “utility workflows.”
For example, maybe your marketing team used to manually email a particular sales rep every time someone downloaded your buyer’s guide. With a marketing automation platform, you can set up a step within your workflow to notify the appropriate rep.
You may also want to set up utility workflows for automatically changing the lifecycle stage based on lead score. For example, you could create a workflow that makes it so when a contact’s lead score hits say, 85, their new lifecycle stage would automatically become MQL. Then, they’d automatically be enrolled in the appropriate workflow.
Depending on your automation platform and CRM integration, you may have a variety of options available to you, including:
- Sending an internal email
- Changing a contact/company property
- Clearing a contact/company property
- Enrolling a contact in a new workflow
- Removing contacts from or adding contacts to lists
While these options may be included in the workflows you’re already setting up, sometimes separate workflows are required.
Automation for Sales and Marketing Alignment
Potentially the most important use case for marketing automation is sales and marketing alignment. Marketing automation (which lies in the hands of marketing) has the power to unite the two, often disparate, departments. It helps avoid list burnout, while saving your marketing and sales teams time. Essentially, marketing automation aids sales and marketing alignment and powers a more impactful funnel because marketing handles leads until they are sales-ready and become SQLs.
In an ideal world, here’s what sales and marketing alignment looks like in your sales funnel when nurturing a new contact:
- A new contact downloads a piece of content that would qualify them to be in the “awareness” or “early consideration” stage of their journey. Immediately, a “thank you” email is sent with the downloaded piece of content.
- Two to four days later, marketing takes the reins with a series of automated emails aimed to turn this individual who “downloaded a piece of content” into an SQL to pass to the sales team. This is done using marketing automation. In most cases, the marketing team should have slightly different workflows set up based on the type of content downloaded and the prospect’s stage in the journey.
- Through the use of lead scoring, every interaction your new contact has with the series of automated emails is given a positive or negative score. For example, opening an email and downloading a relevant white paper would increase the score, while not engaging with the emails would result in a negative score.
- Once they reach the score that notes them as an SQL, the appropriate rep is automatically notified to begin the personal sales process. At this point, marketing halts communications to avoid contact burnout.
- The new contacts who received the series of marketing automation emails, but did not reach a lead score that would deem them an SQL would likely stay in the hands of the marketing team. However, this is where open dialogue becomes critical. Let’s say for example, in a given month, 100 new contacts download an eBook and 20 of them become SQLs. Your sales team now has 20 qualified leads to meet with — but what about the other 80? What if they’re almost SQLs? Your marketing team can provide your sales team with a list of contacts that seem to be on the tipping point, too. For those not really at a tipping point, your marketing team can automatically enroll them in another set of automated emails or lay off communications for a bit to avoid burnout.
Within the funnel, it is important to note that there is an obvious hand-off from marketing to sales based on lead score, where marketing stops communication and sales begins communication. Make sure your marketing and sales teams are aware of where this hand-off lies in your funnel and are appropriately trained to facilitate this.
Marketing automation simplifies numerous marketing processes for B2B tech companies. Start small, and don’t try to automate everything at once. As a company, decide which workflows are most important for reaching your end goal. This will provide you a good base and starting point, as the number of processes and emails you can automate can quickly become overwhelming.
A key component of understanding the success of your marketing automation campaigns will be appropriately reviewing metrics and KPIs. All marketing automation platforms offer different reporting functionality, and you’ll want to use this functionality to track the success of your campaigns frequently.
Setting Attainable KPIs
When you set a goal, you are clearly defining an objective. A KPI is the numeric value assigned to determine if you are on track for a goal. If you want clear and understandable goals, an accompanying KPI is essential.
A KPI is the ruler by which you measure your progress; you can set multiple KPIs per goal. Setting KPIs for your goals is a matter of asking good questions. Keep asking the questions until you hit clarity and a measurement that works.
How to Set Your KPIs for Marketing Automation
1. Identify your primary goal. What is the most critical thing you must accomplish in the next fiscal year? How can marketing automation help you achieve this primary goal?
2. Highlight the critical step to reach the goal. Of all the factors that contribute to that goal, how does marketing automation help?
3. Research the right key indicators and statistics. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by all of the data available to you. Do you know your numbers? Are they the right ones? For marketing automation, it is likely open, click-through, and conversion rates.
4. Map indicators and statistics to your funnel. Your marketing and sales funnel should lead from one stage to the next.
5. Determine your focus areas for future growth. At this point, you know your past. Now, what will your future look like? What areas are performing well and need more fuel? What areas are hurting and need repair?
6. Outline your marketing plays for each focus area. How can marketing automation make a difference? How will you deploy your automation strategies? Who will be held accountable for the work?
7. For each play, create the metric—KPI. It becomes the best warning light for that issue.
8. Set up a scorecard to track all of your KPIs. This is your daily and weekly dashboard telling you how things are going, where to apply more effort, and when to celebrate.
9. Faithfully track every KPI every week. Your business isn’t a crock-pot you set and forget; it’s a finely-tuned, high-tech spacecraft that needs constant vigilance.
Because most of your automated campaigns will be email-focused, keeping an eye on open rates will be a key indicator as to what’s working and what’s not. Of course, because automated emails aren’t usually sent to a list of hundreds or thousands at once, you’ll want to measure performance over a few months to get a true indication of which subject lines perform well, and which ones don’t.
A low open rate may mean that your subject line wasn’t compelling enough, the sender’s name was unfamiliar, or somehow, your email ended up in spam. After a couple of months, compare your actual open rate to your target open rate, and make changes as necessary.
Click-through rates are often more telling than open rates, simply because sometimes people open emails by accident. A “click” is an intentional engagement that can tell businesses a lot about the success of the written content and offers in their emails.
Typically, a low click-through rate, when associated with a high open rate, means that the written content or content offer did not resonate for one reason or another.
As with open rates, you’ll want to let your automated campaigns run for a couple of months before analyzing data to ensure you have enough to draw meaningful conclusions around click-through rates.
A conversion rate is the percentage of leads in your funnel who convert on a particular content offer, demo form, etc. Conversion rates are essential to track because they tell you the percent of individuals who reached the goal of a particular email or automation campaign. For example, say in your “welcome” campaign email, you provide a link to your most popular eBook download. You could measure the number of individuals who receive that email and then download the eBook. The downloads would be your conversion rate.
Another important conversion rate you will want to track is your conversions from lead to MQL and MQL to SQL. Tracking how many leads make it through your funnel will be a large indicator as to whether or not your automation campaigns are successful.
As with all components of sales and marketing, setting goals and tracking your success is key. Because marketing automation is always running in the background, it is essential to constantly check in and monitor the success of your campaigns. Start by setting your main goal, your KPIs, and a cadence at which you will “check in” on your campaigns. Then, based on the success (or lack of success), make the necessary changes.
Should You Hire an Agency to Help with Marketing Automation?
While marketing automation has a history that dates back more than a decade, many B2B technology companies are still rookies — in part, because new B2B technology companies pop up every quarter, and in part because the strategy can be complicated, especially during the initial implementation. Marketing automation can easily become a full-time job, and shouldn’t be just added to the to-do list of your marketing and/or sales team members. For this reason, working with an agency is often an ideal solution.
Why Work with an Agency?
While every company’s automated campaigns will be different, many of the same strategies for success do remain the same — which is why working with an agency can often be extremely beneficial, especially during the initial setup. An agency can help you set goals, prioritize your workflows, and build effective workflows in your automation tool based on its team’s knowledge and experience.
Because it often takes weeks or months to determine if a marketing automation campaign is effective, you’ll want to get the most ROI and make the biggest impact right out of the gate. With an agency’s expertise, the workflows you want to build will likely be more effective to start.
We usually don’t like to bring cost into the equation, but marketing automation is definitely a situation where it counts. You’ve already invested dollars into an automation platform and CRM, and likely some talented employees. An agency can offer your B2B tech company more support and expertise at a lower cost than hiring an in-house marketing automation specialist.
The Golden Spiral Advantage
We are an integrated marketing agency. Our diversified team of experts works daily to sharpen each other in every area. We have all-stars at every position—strategists, SEO experts, public relations professionals, graphic designers, web developers, and writers. You will be hard-pressed to find all of these disciplines on one team elsewhere. Some agencies may have a specialty but will hire subcontractors and consultants for the tasks outside their core. Our team can supply all of the marketing strategies and tools from under our own roof and work as a team to bring your solutions to market.
Our integrated nature also gives us flexibility. Some clients hire us to be their marketing department. We help them with strategy and provide all of their services. Others come to us because their team is missing automation as a specialty. We plug in right where they need us. Plus, these clients also benefit from our integrated behavior and our industrywide knowledge.
Our clients appreciate that we are very focused as a company, concentrating our efforts on the B2B technology space. We don’t take every potential opportunity that walks in our digital door. Marketing automation — and marketing as a whole — isn’t a short game. It’s a commitment. We’re ready to help you accomplish your goals. Discover the Golden Spiral advantage for yourself.
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