Key to B2B Success: Marketing Automation

In Market Research, Social Media Strategy, Technology by Shawn Elledge1 Comment

B2B companies are rapidly coming to the realization that marketing automation is table stakes in today’s business world. Marketing automation can deliver what marketers (and sales teams) and need most—ROI on marketing budget allocations and qualified leads in hand for sales teams. However, adopting and implementing marketing automation is rarely an easy undertaking. Let’s talk about why marketing automation is so critical for B2B businesses, and explore some of the hurdles to adoption and implementation—and how to address them.

Get the Facts About Marketing Automation

Despite the high level of interest in marketing automation, many business owners are unsure how it fits into their business strategy. While 91 percent of the most successful users agree that marketing automation is a “very important” component of their marketing strategies, only eight percent report increased revenues within six months of adoption. This disparity is due, in large part, to failure to use marketing automation platforms (MAPs) in alignment with business and marketing goals.

Currently, 58 percent of “best in class” Marketing Automation users believe the most useful metrics for measuring the system’s performance are conversion rate and revenue generated. Successful users see their numbers increase exponentially over time. While only eight percent report an increase in six months, 32 percent reported increased revenue after one year. After more than two years, this number jumps to 40 percent. Clearly, over time, marketing automation yields greater returns as B2B companies learn how best to utilize the MAP’s tools and features. Fully understanding your marketing automation platform is the key to success.

Seventy-four percent of MA users who implemented the platform for more than two years report more relevant messages as a result of automation, while only 27 percent of people new to the technology say the same. This may be one reason why we are witnessing the rather slow adoption of MA technologies. I believe there’s a marked need to educate B2B brands on successful implementation of MA. As more and more businesses begin to automate their marketing campaigns, it’s more important than ever to understand how to utilize this tool to benefit your company.

Benefit from the ROIs of Marketing Automation

It’s perplexing that some people still believe marketing automation merely serves to take away jobs, when in reality it’s the opposite—MA creates jobs, or at least balances itself out, by generating the need to implement a brand new strategy. Successful MA users dedicate at least one person (and in many cases, a whole team) to the task of managing the MAP. To see returns on investment (ROIs) from MA adoption, a business must fully understand the technology’s potential and seamlessly merge it with existing sales processes.

Automation serves to free up employee time and enable a company to allocate its energies on higher-level tasks. Any B2B enterprise can certainly benefit from freeing employees from the hassle of repetitive tasks like sending emails and posting to social media sites at the optimal times of day. The key industries currently using marketing automation are B2B companies like software and internet brands, telecommunications companies, electronics businesses, and those in the financial services industry. While B2C MA adoption is on the upswing, B2B companies are still the most likely to use this technology since they rely more on digital marketing than print to reach their audiences. Especially those companies that sell considered purchases with extended sales cycles.

With help from automation, B2B brands can segment customer data and personalize email campaigns as well as landing page experiences. They can also monitor the success of their campaigns and use data to optimize future marketing campaigns. No scare tactics are intended here, but the reality of a technology-fueled business world is clear: If you’re a B2B company that hasn’t yet embraced MA, it will soon be difficult to compete with your competitors. Brands that have adopted this technology are reporting positive returns across the board once they work out the kinks and round the adoption curve. I believe that in the next few years every top B2B brand will have implemented some form of a marketing automation platform. How do you do that successfully? Let’s explore.

Want Success? People + Processes + Technology = Success  

The goal of marketing automation is to allow companies to better nurture leads and convert prospects into loyal customers. Ideally, MA accomplishes these goals by sending highly relevant, useful, and personalized content to the right people at the right time. Marketing automation has the potential to generate significant new revenue for companies—B2B companies in particular—and has proven strong ROIs for brands that adopted this technology over a year ago.

But the only way to enjoy a positive ROI with this technology is to implement it correctly. Do your research and fully grasp the tools your MAP makes available. My best advice for brands considering MA adoption is to focus on people, processes, and technology in that order. A couple of years ago, Sirius Decisions compared companies that didn’t adopt marketing automation to companies that did, but who had no processes in place. What they found was that companies with no processes in place had a negative return on investment while companies who not only adopted marketing automaton but also adopted strict processes had a remarkable ROI.

Marketing automation can revolutionize your company, but only if you know how to make it work for and within your organization. When I was working for Eloqua (now Oracle), a leading MAP, we compared results of companies who purchased our software and managed the platform internally versus companies who purchased our software and hired an outside agency to help manage the platform. We found the companies who hired outside agencies to assist with implementation and management of the platform adopted more of the technology more rapidly and had a greater ROI. Marketing automation represents change and a disruption in business as usual. And it takes time to adapt to that disruption, and to implement and learn new processes and procedures. When you can work with a vendor partner who is experienced at these processes, and who can help guide the way, it can make a big difference in your success rate.

In summary, marketing automation can change everything about your business and how you find, connect with, nurture, and close sales leads. But buying a technology solution isn’t the answer, no matter what a marketing automation vendor might tell you. Best practices for B2B marketing automation are simple—focus on the equation I shared above: People + Processes + Technology = Success.  Remember to start with these three questions: Who is going to manage or support your technology (the people part of the equation), identify how this technology will impact your existing (the processes part of the equation), then pick the right marketing automation platform (the technology part of the equation). And if you need help, call me.

Other Resources on this Topic:

B2B Marketing Automation: The Good, The Bad, and The Reality
B2B Marketing Automation Market Trends
Best Practices for Marketing Automation from 11 Experts

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