Marketing automation is certainly becoming a necessity among B2B marketers—a recent study found that 53% of companies are applying the technology and 17% more are considering it. There’s the illusion that MAP is a lead generation panacea. Indeed, push-button convenience is a hot topic surrounding 21st-century technology, such as the self-driving cars. But just as the name “self-driving” cars misleads consumers to think they can abandon the stirring wheel and let the car do the driving, “marketing automation” creates the same misconception.
Marketing automation isn’t something you can set up and neglect. Tools that automate marketing efforts serve more as a rearview backup camera, with the B2B marketer in the front seat.
When “driving” your company’s customer acquisition strategy and integrating it across all channels – including social media– for a sharp and consistent brand message, MAPs can help you draw the right prospects into your sales funnel with the highest level of efficiency. By integrating your MAP with a social media management platform you can sync all of the lead data for a seamless marketing picture.
Here’s how to make the most of MAP for your enterprise, with some key insights on how social media fits into the picture.
Solidify Your Sales Funnel and Lead Nurturing Strategy
The first step in preparing for marketing automation is to take a close look at the marketing intelligence you’ve already acquired. Review your market segmentation and buyer personas respectively, to understand the kind of companies you do business with, and what motivates point-persons to purchase your solutions. That involves conducting market research with the goal of discovering the best aspects of past customer relationships, so you can repeat what already works.
With 79% of inbound leads never converting unless nurtured, revising your nurturing strategy with these common approaches is sure to pay dividends in the long run:
- Refer to your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform. The valuable customer data, insights, and quirks recorded in your CRM can help inspire future marketing efforts towards similar customers. Analyze your customer relationship trends to see what “tone” of voice, which content pieces, and other variables convinced a company to become a long term customer.
- Approach your customer advocates for insights. The customers who truly like your brand—and have proven so by becoming brand ambassadors—are positioned to tell you what the company is doing right.
- Put together a focus group. Based on your market segmentation, arrange a focus group of potential prospects in which you offer value and become knowledgeable about what your customers might be looking for in products and services like yours.
- Jump into your industry’s social scene. You might have a presence on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, but are you being social? Using a social media marketing management platform can help you identify important market changes on a day-to-day basis, as well as provide unique opportunities to boost brand awareness.
Once you’ve nailed down what your customers want—in excruciating detail, if necessary—you’re prepared to build marketing automation workflows that show exactly how your brand story will unfold.
When building the “logic” behind your marketing automation, it’s important not to leave any stone unturned. Since it will be the backbone of your lead gen efforts, all relevant parties in the company should be on the same page and ready to implement the plan from day one.
Establish a Plan to Track Campaign Progress and Performance
You’ll need to track everything you do—both quantitatively and qualitatively—as you drive the marketing “car.” Even if you counter errors while using marketing automation, you’ll be able to see exactly where and how you can improve the experience for your audience, leading them to like (and consider purchasing from) your brand even more. You’ll also save precious time by identifying weak spots in your campaign.
Here’s what you can do to qualitatively assess campaign performance:
- Look at brand sentiment. As an enterprise-level company, you have an established market presence already. That means there’s already some sentiment in your industry towards your brand, products, and customer service, and that knowledge is essential for spot-on marketing messaging. With careful content planning, positive sentiment can be built upon, and existing negative sentiment can be extinguished. Social listening will clarify your view on what people think of your company.
- Review audience feedback on past marketing collateral. Which whitepapers, email newsletters, blog posts, webinars, and other content pieces have generated the most positive interactions and general buzz? The qualities that made those pieces successful might be important to take note of as you create future content for automation.
Of course, quantitative measures are critical as well:
- Establish important KPIs. You’ll want to look specifically at conversion rates per channel (including all outposts of your marketing messages, such as individual social networks, blogs, and other outlets), customer acquisition cost, and other metrics that are specifically relevant to your brand and industry buying cycle. It’s also critical to have across-the-board agreement on what “conversions” mean at various points in your sales funnel.
- Commit to testing every aspect of your campaign. You might choose to run both A/B and multivariate testing on marketing tactics to ensure you’re constantly improving their performance.
For every successful implementation of marketing automation, there’s a B2B marketer behind it who’s focused on refining the campaign on a small and large scale.
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Launch Your Campaigns
If you’ve laid all the groundwork—cementing a specific strategy for drawing leads into your sales funnel, committing to testing every part of your campaigns, and making sure sales and marketing are all on board with the plans—it’s time to let the “rear-view camera” of marketing automation do its job for you.
Of course, you’ll remain in the driver’s seat, collecting feedback from your audience and leveraging real-time dialogue across sales and marketing teams to refine the campaign along the way. In particular, you might look for new “entry points” into developing or changing segments of the market, since B2B markets are constantly changing. Involving your marketing team and employee advocates in social media communities is a great way to stay relevant at all times.
Just like the basic accessories of a car are useful if used adeptly and thoughtfully, marketing automation can only benefit lead acquisition and brand messaging efforts when marketing is fully involved in planning, testing, and tracking campaigns. By keeping those things in mind, you’ll be able to set up your marketing automation efforts for the success that the most prominent brands are experiencing right now.