The shift in consumer thinking
Buyers now discover a product or service, and select their chosen vendor in a completely different way. Sales has changed forever thanks to the Internet. Depending on which survey you read, the B2B sales cycle has nearly doubled. Higher percentages of buyers dismiss preferred vendors based on what they say via social media profiles and website content.
In response, over the last ten years marketing has moved from outbound email and banner adverts to smart inbound techniques using content, social engagement and always-on campaigns. The marketing stack has grown, and with this sales and marketing have had to rethink the way they do things.
Yet a lot of B2B marketing still operates as if it’s 2007! Blasting a generic email and then cold-calling anyone that received it in the hope of shaking down a sale, ignoring the fact that this is not how people buy any more. If you’re not adding value to the buyer experience, then why should the buyer believe your product or service will add value to them or their business?
What this means for your business
Marketing Automation platforms are used to create relevant conversations with thousands of people as they build trust and deliver useful information. At the same time they score each lead until it is deemed fit to hand over to sales. Sales can then see the entire journey the buyer has been on, what they read, which web pages they engaged with, the emails opened and so on. Sales specialists can start a conversation with a better understanding of the customer, thus making the conversation more relevant.
Once the sale is made then the customer can be added into further follow-on nurture campaigns that will ensure they are fully on-boarded, provided with the opportunity to make further upsell or cross sell purchases and are retargeted when appropriate throughout their customer lifespan. Marketing automation has simplified and removed the repetitive tasks that would have made this kind of relationship building impossible just a few years ago.
With Marketing Automation in place and optimised, 63% of brands are outgrowing their competitors. How? Because on average, companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales ready leads at 33% lower costs. Sounds very appealing doesn’t it? Implementing marketing automation properly takes knowledge and time. Be wary of vendors promising qualified leads overnight. There are key aspects of your business you will need to address before you are ready to benefit from marketing automations potential.
Let’s start with your customer
Firstly you need to understand your customers and how they buy from you. Interrogate their buyer journey, what they look at, engage with and how long it takes. Break down the buyer journey across the different identified decision makers in their organisation. What does the CIO need? The FD? The CTO? Each will have a slightly different slant on what questions they need answering.
Begin to understand what information the buyer needs to buy from you and you can then map a customer journey and match the right content to that journey. Top of funnel (awareness) content could include infographic based (data), opinions, and general insights. Middle of the funnel (evaluation stage) is a great place for case studies and other material that will help them with deeper understanding to understand if your solution is a good fit. The bottom of the funnel (purchase stage) requires testimonials and reassurances as this is the time they are working out how to become a customer.
You probably believe your business offers the best solution, but it is your customer who determines whether you are the right fit for their needs. They will do this consciously and subconsciously as they progress on their journey. In a conscious, rational way you will need to answer their questions in a format they prefer, on a channel they use, at a time that is appropriate to them.
On a subconscious level you need to be customer-centric; making a customer believe you understand their needs rather than mindlessly shouting about your products and services. You need to present consistency of message across social media for both the business and for your sales team. Its highly likely that a buyer will check the sales persons profile on a social channel so a dodgy photo, an inappropriate message or a rant will be enough for them to avoid that person and, by default, your company. Your sales team should appear on social channels in the same light as you present your business.
Getting the data ready
However you cut it, to have a meaningful on-going conversation with a buyer, at scale, you will need to understand and leverage data. If you are not grinning from ear to ear because you have all your data organised then welcome to the majority of marketing departments. Data moves like treacle in most companies, it lives in silos and is managed by a range of people who answer to different managers. That makes it tough to imagine how you might get clear data visibility and insight in one place.
But, if you consider the minimal amount of data you will need to differentiate a new customer from a repeat customer, the role they play in the buying decision and some contact details then you have enough information to start automating your marketing. The other 99% of data you have is valuable but at the start of your marketing automation efforts may well impede progress. So take the minimal data you need to hold a meaningful conversation based on the customers needs and go with that.
Preparing your staff for marketing automation adoption
Modern marketing is as exactly as it sounds: modern. Your team may currently be used to acting on a campaign to campaign process and ‘getting it out of the door on time’ as measure of success. The thought of building a relationship through sharing useful content, in a timely fashion, as a buyer moves through the funnel, is as alien as trying to have a conversation with my nan about Kim Kardashians’ pink hair. So you need to hold workshops, bring in speakers, ‘show’ not tell the team how the buyers today like to buy and how these new platforms will help them achieve higher sales. Be ready to demonstrate what the new world could look like and how they will benefit by not having to fight for budgets, and having the ability to attribute sales directly from marketing actions.
Email is looked upon by many in digital marketing as lame, old fashioned and a spammy way to communicate. You are excused if you are already thinking ‘email: no one opens emails anymore.’ But the truth is people open emails that are relevant. According to the 2017 Econsultancy/Adestra Email Marketing Industry Census email marketing has topped the digital marketing ROI charts for the third year running.
The secret to successful email is making the content relevant. Spam has forced us to assume that no-one opens emails, but you know that if your boss sends an email to you and in the subject box it says ‘pay rise for all staff’ you will be curious to see the content. Not all emails are created equal. Many are spammy, but the good ones talk to you, inform you, help you and build trust. You already have a database of customers and possibly people that have shown an interest in what you offer. This is a great place to start using automation.
You can create a useful report and email it to your list and follow up with a series of two or three emails that move them along the buyer journey. It’s not full force inbound marketing automation, but it will get everyone used to the practice of programmatic marketing. We successfully used this approach for a client with no experience of marketing automation. We created a four-page report on the state of their industry. We sent that report to their database and triggered follow up emails when they downloaded the report. Depending how they responded to the follow up emails we scored them and within two weeks we had a list of likely buyers who had requested a follow up call to discuss the offering in more detail.
The sales team could see the benefit, the board were excited at the potential and the marketing department had done something practical to demonstrate the benefits of a programmatic marketing approach. They have now matured on their marketing automation journey and benefit form the removal of repetitive tasks, being able to forecast sales and creating campaigns that are always on. The benefit to their customer is a better buying experience as they receive the information they need in a timely fashion on a channel they prefer.
The simple truth is that the way customers buy has already changed and if you don’t meet their needs today then your competitor will.
Ready to discuss how your business could move forward using marketing automation? Then let’s continue the conversation. Interested in making your automation more effective? Continue reading about how to optimise your emails, in our blog here: