The Ultimate Guide to Marketing Automation
B2B marketing efforts create a lot of repetitive tasks, but automation streamlines operations overall.
Learn what B2B marketing automation is, its types, and how to craft a strategy for success.
As you automate, learn and iterate over time, your marketing efforts will become more focused, more effective and require less bandwidth.
No marketing is ever set-it-and-forget-it, but you’ll learn to evolve your outreach with changes.
Forrester Research calls marketing automation “lead-to-revenue management”. Without a sufficient B2B marketing automation strategy in place, your brand’s money could be mismanaged.
Let’s get down to managing yours.
What is Marketing Automation
Marketing automation streamlines repetitive marketing tasks.
Take lead generation and nurturing. If you’re generating leads, you’re also nurturing at least some of them. But it’s easy to screw this up and have the leads go cold (or overwhelm them with too-aggressive automation).
The number of websites is countless that get either lots of low-quality traffic or high-quality traffic that doesn’t convert.
Marketing takes a lot more work than many business owners assume, and it’s a continuous learning process. Business conditions change, SEO conditions change, and customers generally expect more innovation over time.
This leads to many business owners getting bogged down in the day-to-day, with little time to improve their marketing efforts that are losing leads … often due to fixes that are not complex or time-consuming.
But you have to reach these prospects before you can solve their problems.
Benefits of Marketing Automation
How does automation marketing actually put more money in your pocket at the end of the day?
You get and convert more leads with the following marketing automation benefits.
By eliminating repetitive tasks, marketing automation naturally boosts engagement. Make redundant team members who don’t add much value, and watch the best blossom without so much busy work on their plate.
Say you take one piece of marketing content and break it into five different social posts auto-distributed using a software solution. This would be one easy way to save for a minimal monthly cost.
Convert More Leads
The time between lead collection and conversion is crucial. Automation lets you get the most out of each step in your sales funnel. Increase conversions, educate leads, create lead-to-brand trust, encourage free trial users to log in, drive traffic to content and collect lead preferences.
That’s a lot of value.
Build your automation strategy around your lead nurturing goal. Select trigger events or conditions based on actions taken by users: requests a product or demo, signs up for a free trial, abandons an item in their cart, subscribes to your mailing list, downloads a piece of gated content, etc.
Assign an action to each trigger: adding the lead to a direct mail list, creating an in-app message, sending a push notification, updating your CRM, sending an SMS, adding a lead to a new drip sequence, and more.
- Buyer Personas: If you assign different lead scores to different personas, you can increase the likelihood that the correct sales team routes them and successfully converts.
- Multiple Attributes: Does your team want to target multiple attributes, like fit and interest? You can create a smaller group where these two both have high scores, meaning less time is wasted on lukewarm leads.
Grow More Easily
Is there anything worse than finding a successful solution that is difficult to scale up or down with the fluctuations of your business?
Perhaps you can’t get down scalability with every solution, but you shouldn’t accept that it isn’t easy to build up.
Particularly with businesses heavily weighted towards seasonality, you should be able to adapt all marketing effort techniques relative to demand.
But what about using automation to scale your business (not scaling the automation itself)?
Businesses send the wrong data to customers or leads every day. The complete opposite of personalization, misusing data makes your marketing automation systems look unprofessional and disconnected from your customer base.
By the same token, manage a tiny bit of data wrong, and your great lead becomes an irrelevant nobody.
How incomplete are the prospect lists your sales team is relying on right now?
How accurate is your lead info?
Marketing automation prevents the human error that leads to an incalculable loss of revenue through missed sales opportunities and eroded customer confidence that upticks churn.
- Stop data handoff: When one person takes data (e.g. contact info) and enters it somewhere, then another does the same, and so on—each time data accuracy is risked. One mistake means everyone down the line makes the same mistake. You need to streamline data across channels using marketing automation.
- Complete data gaps: What do you do when your customer provides some contact detail but not all? Wish you could pull missing info from other sources and create a complete picture? Marketing automation makes this possible.
Personalized Marketing Strategy
High engagement comes from tailored content. How does marketing automation for small businesses help you personalize your outreach?
Isn’t all reporting accurate? Not at all.
From wrong data samplings to poor data governance strategies, modeling errors, data corruption, and just plain outdated or incomplete information—the pitfalls of reporting are numerous.
Marketers and salespeople then make decisions based on this data, and if it’s wrong, they will never stand a chance.
Marketing automation streamlines operations and data, leading to a proper picture of your business. Accurate reporting is a built-in benefit of a sound marketing automation strategy.
Marketing & Sales Alignment
Marketing and sales are two sides of the same coin, but they often fall out of sync. Information silos and the tendency to clique up departmentally are essentially easier than working together to truly solve challenges.
When the prep work (marketing) delivers unqualified leads to sales, or if sales don’t know the proper tact and messaging to take, it’s going to be hard to convert leads.
Marketing is the pitcher for most of the game, but salespeople close it out (quite literally).
So how does marketing automation keep its department and the sales department in unison?
It allows marketing and sales to free up time, which they need to fill with efforts to align strategy and optimize execution.
Types of Marketing Automation
Below are just a few of the popular types of marketing automation.
Most of your customers won’t convert off the bat, so you need to nurture, and email drip campaigns are an excellent tool. It’s really just another form of remarketing (think boilerplate trigger emails like “you forgot something in your cart!”). Email campaigns and email marketing automation get a bad rap as pumped content, but they perform again and again (and with increased personalization the quality is going up all the time). 89% of marketers say emails are their main source of lead generation. Why?
- Timing: When a message is read is as critical as its content. Other forms of outreach (like PPC ads) can be set to certain times, but opt-in emails are much more engaging.
- Personalization: It’s clear customers want more personalization. Imagine companies getting enough data to deliver what you want as you want it. No more scrolling Amazon for that favorite item—it’s served up. Recommendations could get so good someday that customers could toggle on auto-purchasing.
- Versatility: Customers are all over the sales funnel, but email marketing can move all of them forward. Get better awareness, retention, acquisition and conversion.
- Engagement: People check emails compulsively, roughly at least once per waking hour. They check texts within 3 minutes.
- Components: Subscriber data, triggers, workflows (a series of auto tasks and events that trigger when a lead performs actions aligned with your criteria).
Who hasn’t been exposed to automated text messages, unable to type STOP fast enough?
This means your texts are irrelevant. If relevant, they become content. For example, Glossier has an incredible SMS (and email) campaign. They don’t just promote deals and new products, they use voice and jokes and fun to keep you entertained.
- Personalization: Develop texting campaigns for each customer segment.
- Productivity: Engaging where users live (in this case SMS) makes your outreach that much more effective per hour put in.
- Scalable: Automatically add new phone numbers as contact lists grow.
Ultimately site visitors need to give some sort of contact info away. At first, you can ask for the least (an email) and then move towards the most (credit card info and shipping address for example).
Web form builders let you design your forms as needs change, including custom data point fields. Pre-designed templates will probably need some tweaking to get the most submissions possible.
Social Media Posting
Automated posts can make B2B marketing trends on social media sound like a content farm, but that misses the point, which is: scheduling and planning content that goes out on times/days it’s received the best results in the past. B2B social media marketing automation requires a strategy and consistent execution that marketing automation delivers.
Customer Relations Management
CRMs are data dump organizers. Put all your info in one place and generate reports about each part of your process so that you can more quickly improve and grow.
A lot of businesses have a CRM but don’t know how to get the most out of them. It’s better to have one employee who knows a lot about your software than 10 who know a little. Combined with marketing automation, CRM and marketing automation enables greater personalization for your sales team, leading to more closed deals.
Marketing automation produces more data, organizes it, then mines more insight from it.
Three principles apply to the best use of analytics:
- Metrics: Only focus on the metrics that matter for your organization.
- Frequency: Check in often with your data.
- Sharing: Share your data with all executive team members to maximize input and keep everyone on the same page.
Marketing Automation in B2B
Score your leads, treat them well until they’re ready to buy, and apply your insight across marketing channels. This is the basic three-step process to successful B2B marketing automation.
You can’t focus all your small business marketing automation attention across the board on leads. Scoring lets you assign a value and focus on the value range you want. Most leads sit on the fence or never buy anyway, no matter the industry, so it’s important to nurture but nurture proven potential.
Every business will have a different scoring system based on its goals. But the common link will be identifying what factors have value and rewarding those leads with a higher score.
Normally it would take a long time to evaluate and sort leads (or you simply would blanket market to all of them), but this leads to inefficient conversions.
- Assigning value to actions: Just like a certain action requires a certain trigger in automated marketing, value can be assigned to certain actions a site visitor takes. Downloading a coupon (engagement) or consistently liking posts on social media (loyalty) are just a couple ways to bump up ranking.
Once you’ve scored and selected your leads, it’s time to nurture. Think of all the things you’ve added to carts and abandoned; or, maybe a better example: all the products and services you’ve considered but never paid for.
Maybe it was the price, feature confusion, or poor timing, but something was wrong. The lack of lead nurturing is apparent in the fact that most businesses have weak onboarding emails once they get a signup.
But rest assured that your efforts in nurturing will be better ROI-wise than blanket marketing.
But what if you don’t know what data to focus on?
This is a symptom of not doing enough research. Talk to your sales team and customers, then combine their insight with analytics, and a solution will reveal itself.
You need to find patterns leading to suboptimal performance; maybe you can’t solve the problems, but you should at least discover them and learn to speak to customer pain points in a real way.
Segmentation & Customer Profiling
Even if you haven’t separated your customers, you probably have a rough idea of the various types.
Identifying customer types (segments, profiles, etc.) in detail improves customer experience, increases campaign efficiency, and builds a greater emotional connection with customers.
Customers are spread out, but you still need to capture and convert as many as possible. That’s where multi-channel campaigns come in.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t identify and focus on the channels that matter most to your bottom line.
You can segment customers by any criteria you deem valuable. Basic demographics like birth date, gender, and age are a starting point.
If your campaign clicks with customer pain points correctly, you’ll notice how much customers interact. Once you have campaigns that stick out (maybe none do and you have to run more), you need to find out what worked.
It’s not so clear, but you should survey visitors to find out. Discovering the right questions to ask is a unique challenge in itself.
Below are a few example questions.
- How many campaign coupon codes have been used?
- Do customers prefer text or email?
- On which days and at which times are customers engaged most?
Account & Behavioral Data
With more membership plans than ever, there’s a wealth of data to be had based on account activity.
- Have they renewed their membership?
- When did they visit last?
- How frequently did they pay?
- How long have they been a member?
- What membership plan are they on?
As they say, you can’t manage what you don’t measure. Fortunately, today you can track a ton of data points on your website and across the web.
Many site platforms, like Squarespace, have built-in analytics. Google’s Search Console, Analytics and Optimize tools provide a huge amount of insight for free.
But what about when you want to dig deeper than the usual traffic data? Tools break down into these broad categories:
Metrics tracked include:
- Bounce rate
- Page views
- User source
- Visitor location
- Device type
- Goal Conversions
- Event Tracking
CRMs vs. Marketing Automations
Can’t a CRM just do all the marketing automation you need? No, they both perform distinct functions.
Integrating a CRM into your marketing automation efforts is key.
If you’re unfamiliar, Customer Relationship Management software allows you to deliver a personalized experience that drives engagement and loyalty (revenue follows).
CRMs focus on sales reps and MA focuses on marketing reps, so their audiences are team members who rely on each other. The better marketing can deliver leads, the easier it will be for sales reps to close.
Here is a breakdown of functions completed by each solution type:
- audience: sales reps
- improve sales performance
- assign tasks to sales reps
- manage sales
- positive customer relationships
- organized databases
- audience: marketing reps
- enhance sales/marketing workflows
- automate marketing campaigns
- generate and nurture quality leads
- short purchase cycle optimization
Leveraging Marketing Automations for B2B Sales
The common term across growth metrics for marketing automation is clear: increase.
More sales with less work because you give leads what they need to move towards a buying decision.
- Increased conversions
- Customer engagement
- Increased sales
- Increased efficiency
But how do you achieve these benefits for B2B sales using marketing automation? By using advanced B2B marketing automation techniques to maintain (and improve) your pipeline.
It’s important to remember that automation can work in every area of your business, not just lead generation, nurturing, conversion and retention.
A lot of the time email will be the method for communicating automatically with your customers.
- Referral programs: When a customer refers a friend, auto communication and distribution of rewards
- Upselling and cross-selling campaigns: Upselling and cross-selling isn’t a technique only to tack onto sales calls. Automated campaigns can push these functions when it’s most relevant, and repeatedly, until conversion occurs.
- Onboarding: The onboarding experience affects the quality of work you get out of employees; lack of training is a common employee complaint to the point of cliché. Provide consistent guidance through effective communication, leading to shallower learning curves.
Forms of Automation to Consider
Forms of marketing automation B2B break into internal and external types.
- Marketing analytics: Analytics and reporting are great so long as they don’t take a bunch of work to create or interpret. Marketing analytics automation allows you to track ads, blog posts, social media, email, and essentially any campaign you set up. A lot of built-in analytics already exist; take, for example, Google and Facebook’s ad builders, which A/B test copy and images.
- Blog: You could use AI copy to fill a drag-and-drop blog generator and create passable posts in very little time. You’d be better served by creating unique content based on your expertise, then plugging that into a good blog builder synced with an index library of pre-designed blog templates. Customizing your blog, swapping text and images fast—put all your effort into content quality instead of content busywork.
- Social media: Social media tasks are a huge drain on time, which is why solutions handle tasks like publishing, scheduling, tracking, conversations, and cross-posting. Taking one big blog post and breaking it into content across platforms with one-click distribution is a game changer for struggling content creators.
- Landing page: Where your buyer personas land determines largely how well they convert. Obviously, they want targeted, personalized info that quickly gets to the heart of their pain points and addresses them in a convenient and affordable manner. The great news is that landing page builders can help you optimize your pages for each segment without being overly complex.
Try B2B Marketing Automation in Your Business
Every process has time-wasting aspects that need streamlining. Most businesses lose leads because of weak spots in their pipeline.
B2B marketing automation platforms help you focus on quality marketing efforts, such as content creation, instead of non-essential duties.
There will be a learning curve to find the best digital marketing automation solutions for you and then implement, but this time will be repaid quickly in the form of increased business and overall efficiency.