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Marketing Automation

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Note: this blog is a top level, first approach look at the world of marketing automation solutions, for marketing folks who haven’t implemented something like this yet.

What is Marketing Automation?

Marketing Automation is a way for us marketers to design, implement and manage multi-channel campaigns with a lot less effort than trying to do it manually. It’s a power tool that leverages technology to allow us to guide leads through a marketing funnel to the point that they are ripe for a contact from a salesperson.

Marketing AutomationWhy we need it.

Marketing campaigns are just getting too complex to manage manually. We live in a digital age. Leads come from all over the place – organic searches that lead to your website, pay-per-click advertising, blast email campaigns, direct mail, social media, not to mention old school methods like print advertising and shaking hands at trade shows. We need a tool that automates:

  • Segmenting leads.
  • Creating targeted, multichannel campaigns for those leads.
  • Tracking every interaction leads have with our marketing at every touch point.
  • Guiding those leads to take desired actions (a.k.a. “lead nurturing” and “drip marketing”) with automatic contacts triggered by pre-defined events (a.k.a. campaign workflow).
  • Scoring those leads based on the frequency and kind of interaction those leads have with your marketing, such as visits to particular web pages, downloads of white papers, online demos, webinar participation, etc.
  • Sending those leads to your CRM (Customer Relationship Management – like Salesforce.com) once they’ve reached a certain lead score for a salesperson to contact.

Functionality of Marketing Automation solutions.

By and large, pretty much every Marketing Automation tool promises to do the following for you (adapted from B2B Lead Management Automation Market Overview, a Forrester report, by Laura Ramos, September, 22, 2009):

  • Import, create and segment lead lists according to target criteria.
  • Design campaign elements like email templates, web forms (such as for downloading “free” whitepapers and signing up for demos and webinars) and landing pages. Build and implement them from within the tool (outbound marketing).
  • Capture leads through visitors to your website from searches, pay-per-click, social media and other promotions (inbound marketing).
  • Track your leads’ every interaction with your email blasts and web pages.
  • Create reports and dashboards to track campaign effectiveness and assess ROI.
  • Create workflows for campaign execution, including event-triggered communications to leads. Many of today’s solutions feature drag-and-drop workflow building.
  • Score leads based on quantitative data gathering and lead interaction.
  • Lead nurturing – communications to leads triggered by the passage of time or specific events, designed to motivate the lead through your marketing funnel. Also called drip marketing.
  • Integration and lead routing to CRM (a.k.a. SFA – Sales Force Automation – gotta love all these acronyms we use).

Who are the vendors?

Nowadays, pretty much every Marketing Automation solution out there is available as SaaS (software as a service, or “cloud” service), accessible 24/7 online with any web browser. The number of vendors out there is dizzying. Their offerings range from fairly simple and intuitive to so complex you practically need a degree to implement and use them. Pricing is also widely spread, from free trials (LoopFuse, Genius) to thousands of dollars per month (Marketo, Eloqua). Some also do a lot more than just Marketing Automation (Aprimo, IBM Unica). Here is a comprehensive (though by no means exhaustive) list of current vendors, all with links to so you can visit them to get a flavor:

What to do next.

We recommend the following first steps:

  1. Get educated. Visit all of the above sites. Download their free whitepapers, take their demos, watch their videos, read their product literature. Run Google/Bing searches on the subject.
  2. Define your target segments. Build “buyer personas” for your key prospect types (we’ll talk more about this in an upcoming blog post, coming soon). This will help you choose your segmentation criteria and build campaign workflows that properly guide your prospects through your marketing funnel – which you must also define. The funnel includes capturing leads at widest point, nurturing leads in the middle, and passing leads to sales at the end.
  3. Get a good source of leads to start with. Subscribe to an online sales lead database like Hoovers, Salesgenie, ZoomInfo and Data.com and build lists based on your segmentation criteria.
  4. Build compelling content to attract new leads. Write whitepapers, host webinars (see our blog post), write a good blog (see our blog post), have an online demo, etc.
  5. Build and maintain an active social media presence. Post relevant content frequently on your pages in Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+. Be sure to quickly respond to people who engage with you on these pages. This will help drive traffic to your website.
  6. Consider pay-per-click advertising. Buying keywords in Google and Bing can help drive traffic to your website.
  7. Evaluate the complexity of your multichannel campaigns. If you’re ready to market to a significant volume of prospects with multiple online and offline media, then you’ll most likely get a good ROI on a Marketing Automation tool – provided you’ve followed the preceding steps first. After all, you need something to automate first.
  8. Carefully evaluate the vendors out there and make your selection.
  9. USE IT. You’ll be paying good money for your Marketing Automation solution. Make sure you squeeze every opportunity out of it. You’ll be amazed at the scale of campaigns you’ll be able to conduct and measure with automation. But you’ll have to remain vigilant. Make marketing your religion. Use the time you free up with automation to create and test new campaigns on an ongoing basis.

We’ve only scratched the surface here and we at ZUZA are digging deeper into these solutions ourselves. As we gather more information, we’ll share our findings with you in subsequent posts.

Here’s to being a marketing champion. See you in the next post.