Absolute essentials of B2B marketing automation

You might have a marketing automation platform in place, might be reviewing what you do, or you might be considering investing in such technology. Regardless of where you are right now – if you are looking to use marketing automation for B2B lead generation, here are some key areas to consider and spend some of your time on, as part of the planning.

Data

This is where it should all begin. Before you try and implement a clever, automated marketing program, you must ensure that the data you are feeding in (and/or collecting as part of the program) is fit-for-purpose. This is often neglected as part of the set-up so make sure you budget some real time and effort in this vital area – it will make a huge difference to the overall success of the program, and after all results is what it’s all about.

Area of quick-win for data:

- Cleanse/dedupe/enhance
A relatively straightforward task – make sure your existing data is cleaned and made ready  for use – the more clean data you have, the more contacts you will have to target and start to entice through your new automation program.

- Penetration analysis
Organisations assume they know their ideal customers, but in our experience, are often way off the mark when the data is analysed. By analysing your existing customer database, not only can you start to build personas and segmentation (vital for 'content” below) but you  also start to understand target areas for acquiring new prospects – be that via data acquisition and/or helping you decide upon your media plan by promoting your brand in places (websites) that you know your target audience is likely to be found.

Content

It’s all very well and good having a clever system that sends out timely messages to your prospects, but it’s all about the content and how compelling and relevant it is.

Creating personas will help you greatly – to try and break down each likely target group and create or find content that is likely to appeal to them.

The other key area to map content to is the sales cycle – light, interesting content is vital at the start of the program (or high up in the sales funnel). Resist the urge to just churn out heavyweight whitepapers or case studies too early on – you need to build their awareness and interest before they will commit to such hefty content.

Lead scoring threshold

A lot of marketing automation systems will have a default score, which is an excellent starting point, but too often is it just left as the defacto standard without evidence as to whether it is the right number.

In reality we often find that this score can either be too low (and you’re passing over leads to sales far too early and they are not converting and are likely causing a sales/marketing dissatisfaction) or they may be too high and you are not talking to opportunities early enough.

There is no silver bullet on this and the only way to achieve the optimum score is to test and refine. Start with a number and monitor it on a regular basis to test the difference to the quality of and quantity of, sales-accepted leads when you adjust up or down.

Think internationally

If you’re running programs across multiple territories (EMEA for example) then the importance of understanding the lead score threshold is even more critical.

You will likely find stark differences in two different territories that affect the amount of content a prospect consumes before they warrant a sales call. For example we discovered for a client recently that the lead score threshold for Germany compared to that needed for Russia was very different. Germany is a mature market for this client and they needed a lot more content and time before being ready to be qualified and converted to a sales lead. In Russia, an emerging and less mature market, the lead score could be brought right down. In fact, it was a case of trying to call as many prospects as we could to get great results; the need for a clever nurture program was not so important as just getting in touch. Be careful therefore that you don’t overcomplicate the process – consider the needs of the market.

Workflows mapped to sales cycle

Once you have defined your targets, created your content and set a lead score threshold, then you begin.

But one vital area of consideration with such a program is how the length of the program maps to your typical sales cycle. If you sell a product or service that you know normally takes 6-12 months to deliver a lead to a customer, then make sure your content timing tries to map to this.

Although you may find some prospects who happen to be “in market” straight away, this is more luck than judgement, so build your content plan to talk to the prospects inside your automation program on a regular basis, but over months not days or weeks.

Too often we find that really good content is fired out on too frequent a basis and it is simply not consumed by the target prospects. Not because the content isn’t relevant, but because the timing of the delivery of the content is not relevant.

Your ultimate aim with a marketing automation program is to deliver a regular stream of good quality sales-ready leads – this may take weeks or months to get up to optimum speed, so don’t lose your nerve during the get-go. Make sure you have set any stakeholders’ expectations on the likely lead curve and as long as you are taking into account the areas above, you are giving yourself the best chance to build a long-term marketing “machine”.


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