Imagine a colleague contacting you and suggesting you introduce yourself to a potential client – one that you had never met before.
Imagine that they told you this potential client is late in the buying process and is interested in working with your firm.
Imagine that your colleague explained that this potential client had seen your pricing information and their behavior suggested that they found it acceptable.
Now imagine that this colleague was really a piece of software monitoring visitors to your website.
Marketing automation is a process that integrates your CRM (client database), your website, and an external software service that converts visitors to your website from being unknown and anonymous to being identified and known. That information, along with your unique behaviour scoring system can then predict where they are in the buying process.
For example, as they interact with your site you can assess their readiness to purchase by “scoring” their behavior on your site. So downloading an e-book, or white paper, visiting a page on pricing, or completing a brief assessment, could add up to a “score” that triggers a notification to you about a potential client along with a summary of their behavior.
It’s likely that over the years your website has generated some leads and clients for you but what impact would it have on your business if those numbers doubled or tripled and closed more often?
More content is just one of the fuels that helps marketing automation do just that.
The real power of the machine is in the consistency and regularity of early stage buyer nurturing that all too often happens sporadically – if at all – in a busy practice or marketing department. Marketing automation takes George Foreman’s advice with a “set it and forget it” perspective (I am oversimplifying but you get the idea).
The reason it does yield so many more leads is quite simply because marketing automation systems take care of nurturing your early stage website visitors, and identifying your late stage visitors better than you can because marketing automation is always there and ready to respond in real time.
So what are the technical elements of software automation? There are several perspectives on this but all come down to one common element.
Marketing automation is the use of software to integrate and automate online marketing processes including the following according to The Definitive Guide to Marketing Automation by Marketo, a marketing automation platform provider.
To implement marketing automation and execute all the activities above you need a CRM, a website, and a third-party software service such as Eloqua, Infusionsoft, Vocus, HubSpot or one of many others. You can see Capterra’s 2014 list of the most popular marketing automation providers here.
Pricing for these services can range quite a bit and none are cheap. Expect to pay hundreds or low thousands of dollars per month depending on contact volumes, number of users, features, etc.
As well, one time integration and set up costs can run in the thousands or tens of thousands of dollars.
Buying marketing automation is pretty straightforward, just sign up and start paying.
Making it work however is a different story. The word I hear on the street is that more than half of marketing automations fail.
The first challenge is to integrate your existing CRM and website systems with the marketing automation software and there are experts that can help you with that. You will likely need more than just the support phone number of the marketing automation software provider for this.
The other and possibly more significant challenge is to make sure your firm is prepared to use marketing automation. Here are four key things to consider.
Has your firm already clearly defined, communicated and proven your expertise with case studies, publications, articles, speeches, research and/or data?
If you are a generalist firm there are other things you should be doing before you consider marketing automation. In addition, generalist firms always find the next key element very difficult to produce.
How many words per month of new expert-based content does your firm publish to your blog? You will need 3,000-5,000 words per month of new, good content. If you don’t currently have a blog or publish anything anywhere you are probably not ready for marketing automation.
Marketing automation is not something you can just add to the work load of your practitioners or your existing marketing staff. Plan for some training time as well as increased staffing costs or reductions in other activities to make new time available. And don’t forget you need lots of expert content which means you need writers that can reflect the functional and category expertise of your firm.
In terms of budget anticipate $10,000-$50,000 of consulting and set up time over the first few months with $1,000-$5,000 of ongoing monthly consulting and licensing costs.
Do you know how many new leads you need to generate in order to close one new client? And how many new clients and at what fee level do you need from marketing automation in the next 12 months? Until you know this you won’t be able to determine if a marketing automation expenditure makes sense for your firm.
If we use Roger’s Innovation Adoption Curve to explain how deep marketing adoption has penetrated the B2B marketing community, my subjective observation is that in Canada it is somewhere in the Early Adopters Stage. To ballpark some numbers my estimation is that in Canada MAYBE 10% of B2B marketers are using marketing automation, but it’s probably more like 5%.
(Surprising to most folks in the professional services sector is that marketing automation has been more popular in B2B selling than in B2C but that is changing as B2C begins to adopt the technology at an increasingly speedy rate.)
In the US marketing automation is significantly more common in the B2B marketing world but there remains confusion over just how many B2B firms are using it.
According to a 2014 study by ResearchCorp B2B marketing automation adoption is at 53% in the US – up from less than 8% five years earlier.
However a 2015 study by Autopilot a marketing automation startup found that in the US “while 60% of marketers said they were using mass e-mail blasts to reach customers, only 13% were using automation. And of those 87% who were not using automation, almost half claimed they had never heard of the term.”
One possible explanation for the disparity in numbers is that there still exists some confusion of what “marketing automation” really means. While some would consider social media consolidators like HootSuite, and scheduled email blasts from providers like MailChimp to be marketing automation, our intent here was to describe a complete marketing automation environment that includes all the elements of digital marketing including predictive scoring and early stage nurturing.
I am actually quite surprised that marketing automation has not achieved greater adoption in Canada and the US but I believe that 2015 will be the year that it starts to become more mainstream.
The question is – Do you think your firm will adopt marketing automation in 2015?
Want to learn more? Mark O’Brien, CEO of Newfangled in Chapel Hill North Carolina, and one of North America’s leading experts in B2B marketing automation is coming to Winnipeg Wednesday June 3rd from 8:30-5:00 for Marketing Automation for In-House and Agency Marketers. Register before May 8th for early-bird pricing.
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"This should be required reading for consultants AND their clients - especially the part about RFPs." - Blair Enns, Win Without Pitching