New fashionable terms are constantly popping up in sales and marketing. One of the terms that has gotten the most attention in recent years is marketing automation. Just as the term sounds it involves automating parts of the marketing process. Marketing automation focuses on website visitors and how one can better map and reach them individually. This can be compared to other analysis tools, such as Google Analytics, that provide statistics on how anonymous visitors behave collectively.
Instead of manually analyzing visitor logs and contacting customers, one can use marketing automation to create a programmed system that automatically manages repetitive tasks such as sending email. The basic idea is that one can create a tailored customer dialogue based on each website visitor’s behavior. Site-visit histories can be linked to specific people, which makes it possible to automatically generate tailored information for everyone. In this way, the relationship can be built up step by step, while at the same time continuously evaluating it so that the sales rep knows when the lead is hot enough to pick up the phone. Thus, marketing automation becomes a way to both develop customer relationships and evaluate their strength.
Marketing automation gave marketers a way to measure their performance. Now I can go to sales reps and say – we have created X dollars in revenue. That is really powerful, and has earned us a place at the sales table. | Amanda Hall Bates, Demand Generation Manager at LinkedIn
The opportunity to offer more relevant and personal communication, instead of mass-marketing with unclear addresses, is a strong motivation for this. A system that makes processes more effective and saves time while at the same time creating a more tailored customer experience is certainly attractive. Marketing automation is something that, when managed properly, should benefit both sales reps and customers.
According to a survey of 350 American and European companies in the B2B segment, 53 percent use marketing automation, and a large percentage say that they are in the process of introducing it.1 There are lots of companies today that offer marketing-automation tools, such as Marketo, Eloqua and Hubspot. Most of the systems are based on email as the communication channel, but also support messages to apps and connections to social media. Many even offer integration with other software and connections to existing CRM systems.
Let’s see how this can work in practical terms. With a tool for marketing automation installed, all visitor moves on a website are stored. The goal is to get them to leave information about themselves. Initially this includes things like their email address, name, title and place of employment. This is often achieved through forms that are used for downloading articles and registering for events and webinars. Later, perhaps they will be willing to provide more information about their company’s challenges or how they work today. The more information that is stored about a contact, the more complete a customer profile can be built, and the more tailored the communication can be made.
If, for example, a company’s CEO visits a website multiple times, downloads different articles and reads up on prices, this can be an indication of a strong purchasing interest. If a service technician visits a website once to download a manual, this is likely a less-relevant contact for a sales rep but can be an indication of a need for after-market services and replacement parts. With marketing automation, managing leads can be adapted and categorized by relevance.
Based on specific profiles, a number of auto-generated interactions can be created – this is the actual automation. In the coming weeks, the CEO from the example above can receive tailored communication specifically for CEOs. This pre-programmed chain of events can include things like follow-up emails with tips about interesting blog posts, links to product videos, webinar suggestions or information about other relevant documentation. The chain of events is tailored to the specific profile, which makes marketing customer-oriented. Even if the process is entirely automated, the sender can be an employee to make it seem more personal. On the whole, one can say that the customer journey becomes a bit like a self-playing piano where the customer becomes ready to make a purchase on their own.
All visitor activity is registered and can even be rated. This phenomenon is called lead scoring. For example, someone who downloads an article gets five points. If the person downloads another article, ten points are added. Opening an email gives one point, clicking on a link to a blog post gives three points, and so on. The points can be set arbitrarily, but every lead gets a point total – a lead score – that indicates how ready they are to make a purchase. Particularly high points can be given for visits to the website’s tabs about customer cases and price lists. And of course the contact page. By working with lead scoring one can get a sense of where each lead is in the purchasing journey: which are still just orienting themselves and which are ready to be contacted. When the lead score exceeds a given breaking point, an automatic email can be sent to sales reps containing all relevant information so that they can make a personal contact. Not a “cold call” but a much better possibility to make contact at the right moment.
Marketing automation strategies and lead scoring are based on having a relevant website with attractive content. Having niched content that attracts visitors and that they can delve into is also a way to determine their interests and build up their profiles. Therefore, marketing automation is sometimes called inbound marketing, to emphasize that it involves attracting customers rather than pushing a message. The content that becomes accessible in exchange for email addresses is often a key to success.
Marketing automation is limited by the possibility of reaching people in the enormous volume of mail that many customers receive every day. There is also a risk that with this form of detailed personal profiles, the customer can perceive a breach of their integrity. That a sales rep calls precisely when one clicks on a certain link on a website can be a bit creepy. This illustrates the importance of being careful with customer information and always adding value for the customer, so that you don’t scare away prospective clients. Managed properly, marketing automation can transform potential customers into paying customers.