B2B marketers are increasingly using marketing automation to provide value to their leads and to educate and onboard users. According to a report from Adestra, marketers say that the biggest benefits of marketing automation are time-saving (74%), increased customer engagement (68%), more timely communications (58%) and increased opportunities such as up-selling (58%).
When carried out effectively, marketing automation can generate significant results. It has been found to drive a 14.5% increase in sales productivity and a 12.2% reduction in marketing overhead. The bottom line is that B2B marketing automation generates ROI, revenue, and results.
What is B2B Marketing Automation
The term ‘marketing automation’ refers to a platform that is pre-programmed to send campaigns automatically to customers and prospects, based on rules defined by marketers.
Technology that can be provided by or integrated with marketing automation programs includes the following:
- email marketing software
- website, content management systems (CMS), or e-commerce platforms such as WordPress and Shopify
- landing page builders and form builders
- social media publishing tools
- customer relationship management (CRM) systems such as Salesforce and ZoHo
- Campaign Management tools such as Pardot and Hubspot
- analytics tools
“Customer journeys” are at the heart of marketing automation. A typical marketing automation campaign will lead the recipient through their buyer journey to sale by sending relevant communications based on their interactions with the company. These journeys typically start with a trigger, such as downloading an ebook, signing up for a newsletter, or making a purchase. The following is an example of a typical marketing automation campaign:
- A prospect downloads your business’ ebook by giving you some basic personal information including their email address
- Your automation campaign sends out an email thanking them for their download with a link to download the book
- A few days later, your system follows up with a link to a related article that contains interesting content tailored to the recipient. In another few days, you send another email with different content that is also relevant to them and so on.
- As the recipient engages with your content, they are assigned points that qualify their position as a lead.
- Once the recipient reaches a pre-defined ‘lead score’, the automation forwards their information to a member of the sales team, along with the specifics of what content they have interacted with so that the sales team can take further actions.
This type of marketing is valuable as it helps businesses have ongoing conversations with prospects and subscribers, which helps build brand loyalty. In addition, with marketing automation, buyer journeys only have to be set up once, so after the initial setup, campaigns can be left to run with minimal input from marketers.
How Marketing Automation Works For B2B
According to a survey from Campaign Monitor, 82% of marketers are using best-of-breed tools when it comes to marketing automation. This means that they are taking the time to find the best B2B marketing automation resource to meet their specific needs, whether that’s email marketing, landing pages, or social media. After choosing the ideal tool to meet their needs, B2B marketers set automated processes so that they can regularly stay in touch with contacts.
While the specifics of your marketing automation strategy will be unique, there are certain ways to segment your current list. You can start to shape your marketing automation goals and strategy around the following three groups.
- Not-Engaged Prospects: These are prospects that are on your list but have not engaged with your business for a while. The best way to design a campaign for this segment is to provide subscribers with personalised content that helps educate them about your products and services, and build trust and credibility in your brand. This is particularly relevant in B2B marketing, where the buying cycle is longer and requires more touch points.
- Engaged Leads: These subscribers are actively interested in your business and have engaged with your website, emails or social media. Your marketing automation campaign for this segment should focus on their specific point in the buyer journey and how to move them further through to sale.
- Current Customers: Marketing automation can help to keep your current customers engaged by following up with them post-purchase to maintain their loyalty, or cross-sell and upsell your business’ other products and services that are related to the ones they already use.
Why Use B2B Marketing Automation?
The #1 benefit of marketing automation, according to B2B marketers, is the ability to generate more and better quality leads. – Pepper Global, 2014
Adopting marketing automation can provide the edge a business needs to increase its B2B sales pipeline, even after prolonged periods of inactivity.
In 2015, 80% of businesses using marketing automation reported generating more leads, and more importantly, 77% saw an increased number of conversions. However, marketing automation is not a ‘silver bullet’ that will solve all of your marketing problems at the touch of a button. It takes work, but when you get it right, marketing automation is a B2B marketing strategy for long-term growth. Some of the benefits you’ll see from developing an effective marketing automation process are as follows.
Improve Prospect and Customer Experience
When someone interacts with your company, it’s important to continue to engage that person moving forward. This involves tracking individuals through the sales and marketing process to ensure a relationship is maintained. Doing this without marketing automation can be difficult.
According to CMO, 30% of consumers had a positive experience with retargeted ads. These are ads that are customised to show them specific content that is relevant to them, based on how they have interacted with the business’ digital efforts. With marketing automation, it is easier to personalise your offerings, which can lead to a higher conversion rate.
Pinpoint Flaws in the Marketing and Sales Process
Marketing automation provides access to a huge amount of data that your business can analyse to give more insight into your relationship with your customers and their buyer journey. Automation can also help you to qualify leads, which you can pass on to your sales team to close. If you are not making sales, you can look at the data to see if there is a problem with the sales team closing leads, or if the marketing team isn’t qualifying them well enough before they are being passed on. Once you fix this problem, you will likely see an increase in B2B sales.
Segmentation and Personalisation
Segmentation is vital for making B2B sales as it allows you to send personalised marketing messages that move prospects through the sales funnel. Marketing automation lets you segment your company data without a huge amount of effort. Your marketing automation platform can help you identify segments and opportunities with factors from simple demographics, to how they have interacted with your site and the calls to action that they have responded to.
Focus research reported that 75% of companies using marketing automation see ROI within 12 months, and 44% within the first 6 months. This is because marketing automation is scalable. It continues to run and doesn’t burn out, like employees do when carrying out tasks manually. In addition, as you start to analyse your data and optimise your campaign, you can increase the performance of your campaign to generate more leads and conversions.
Time & Manpower Efficiencies
Marketing automation limits the number of repetitive tasks that your employees have to carry out, such as emailing prospects according to a predefined schedule. In addition, with lead scoring functionality, your team can focus on quality leads, which increases their efficiency.
Should Your Company Consider B2B Marketing Automation?
Any task that can be carried out by a software program instead of an employee, without diminishing the quality of the work, can increase your business’ efficiency. As such, businesses of all shapes and sizes, and across industries can benefit from incorporating marketing automation into their strategy. That being said, companies that see the most success from their marketing automation campaigns already have the processes and infrastructure in place to effectively deal with their incoming sales leads. If you don’t currently have these processes in place, do that before you start your marketing automation campaign.
Once your sales processes are in place, your company is in a position to take advantage of the lead generation, nurturing, and sales performance that marketing automation offers.
When set up effectively and backed by an efficient sales team, your marketing automation strategy is likely to generate the following returns for your business.
- Time: By automating social media posts and advertisements, your company could save 6 hours a week. In addition, companies using an automated tool to set their appointments save 80% of their time.
- Benefits of Personalisation: Marketing automation helps businesses personalise emails much easier and quicker, which leads to a 6 times higher return.
- More Sales: B2B marketers reported to have 20% more opportunities from nurtured leads when using marketing automation to nurture their leads.
- Increased Conversion Rates: Once a lead has been labelled a ‘Marketing Qualified Lead’, they are reported to have a 53% higher conversion rate than initial prospects. This increases overall revenue across the business.
- Analytical Data: 65% of companies using marketing automation report having greater insights into their audience, which means that they can optimise their campaigns for improved performance.
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