Cyndi Greenglass

How Marketing Automation Creates Sales

In Business-to-Business marketing, you are often dealing with long sales cycles and complex products that require multiple decision makers to be involved. In addition, almost all B2B marketing strategies include a sales funnel that supports moving contacts and prospects through a buying cycle from awareness to close. There are many kinds of buying processes, and I have provided one example below of a typical funnel.

Developing the company funnel is usually a joint effort between sales and marketing and then marketing implements campaigns and tactics that move a contact through the funnel to an ultimate sale. This has always been challenging since marketing does not have control of the sales process. Once the contact becomes a lead and is handed off to the sales team, marketing usually loses access to metrics as well. The development of advanced salesforce automation systems and marketing automation platforms completely changed the landscape. Using these systems, marketing could finally create automated campaigns based on individual behavior that cultivated engagement and was highly measureable. As a result of this technology advancement, B2B marketers now could fully automate and track their efforts all the way through the funnel.

sales funnel


In B2B marketing, we understand that only about 20% of all inquiries are actually qualified to buy the product or service in a specific time period. That means companies have 80% of their inquiries sitting in an unqualified status, but marketing has spent valuable dollars to acquire these inquiries.

To improve the performance of lead generation campaigns, marketing needs to identify the 20% that are qualified to hand off to sales, and then develop a methodology that continues the dialogue with the balance (or 80%) to ensure that they convert later on when they are ready to buy. If a company follows a disciplined process, they can capture an incremental 40% more sales from this group over time.

This disciplined process is often referred to as lead nurturing and it includes strategies that deliver relevant and targeted content with a survey capture component that continues to qualify the inquirer over time while moving them through the funnel. Establishing a robust strategy for nurturing leads until they are ready to buy and be handed off to sales is probably the most significant advancement in B2B IMC marketing in recent years. And the way to implement these strategies is with marketing automation.

Ruth Stevens, Adjunct Professor at Columbia University and consultant with eMarketing Strategy has recently published an article in Target Marketing that articulates this groundswell change much better than I can. The article is summarized below:

Marketing technology has exploded in the past three years. According to Chief Marketing Technologist, as many as 1,876 tech companies are battling it out for your dollars in 2015, nearly doubled in number from last year. The largest single category in marketing tech is marketing automation, with no fewer than 211 solutions available today.

What does this mean to marketers? Lots of good things. First, automation means faster, more accurate marketing communications. These technologies are designed with results in mind. They include data capture, metrics, analytics and dashboards—meaning that marketers can track campaign outcomes and demonstrate the return on their investments like never before.

Second, the intense competition stimulates innovation, so clever new solutions to marketing problems emerge regularly, as do continuous improvements in design, ease of use and—one hopes—cost.

Best of all, these technologies are created for nontechnical users. Often delivered via SaaS (Software as a Service) in the cloud, with intuitive interfaces, they can be acquired and installed without the involvement of an IT department. This means that marketers not only control the technology acquisition process, but they can also sidestep the lengthy—and often political—vetting process typical software purchases require.

Stevens goes on to say that technology enables marketers, increases their productivity and expands their capabilities in the firm. Marketing tech is so new, and advancing so rapidly, that trying to organize it into categories is difficult, and whatever we say today, will change by the end of the semester.

In spite of these challenges, Stevens has provided an excellent taxonomy for us to use as a guide as we look at the different technology choices.

 Marketing Automation

 Most professional refer to marketing automation as the set of tools that enable the outbound and inbound marketing communications process, including:

Campaign automation, which houses customer and prospect data and enables users to segment, select and deploy campaign messages. Vendors include Oracle Eloqua, Marketo, Yes Lifecycle Marketing, HubSpot and ActOn.

  •  Email list management and deployment, including Bronto, ClickMail, Delivra, iContact, Pinpointe, StrongView, StreamSend, EmailDirect, MailChimp and Lyris. Many email point solutions, among them Oracle Responsys; Silverpop, an IBM company; Neolane; and Exacttarget (now part of Salesforce Marketing Cloud) have been acquired and integrated into larger systems.
  •  Lead management, which handles the capture, analysis, nurture and tracking of campaign responses, is often baked into systems that focus on campaign automation, email deployment or CRM, or systems that try to do it all, like Zoho. Lead management can be found as an extension in mediaspecific campaign tools like AdTrakker or part of sales automation, like Velocify. But many dedicated leadmanagement software tools are competing for attention, among them Infusionsoft and LeadLife.


 Another large bucket belongs to contact management systems, which house a combination of customer and prospect data, while organizing the inbound and outbound contacts. This would include scheduling trigger follow up contacts or making a record of customer interactions. These systems include:

  •  Traditional salesforce automation (SFA), and Customer Relationship Management CRM systems. One of the biggest names in this category is
  •  Customer relationship management (CRM), originally viewed as automation to support the deepening of the existing customer relationship, has completely changed in recent years. As a category of marketing technology, CRM has been taken over by customer service and support for contact center infrastructure, and really is no longer tied to the marketing and sales funnel.

 Social Media Marketing

 The social media themselves, like Facebook, LinkedIn, Vine, Instagram and Twitter, offer marketers multiple ways to advertise and connect with their users. Then there are:

  •  Social media management systems, like Shoutlet, StrongView, Sprout and Hootsuite.
  •  Social media analytics and monitoring, like Viralheat, Radian6 (also now part of the Salesforce Marketing Cloud) and Brandwatch.
  •  PR automation tools, like Cision and Vocus, which recently merged under the Cision brand. Like anything PR today, PR automation has quickly adapted to cover social media messaging, analytics and listening.

 Types of Nurture Campaigns

With so many options and technologies, it is no wonder that most of us marketers are feeling a little overwhelmed these days on how to proceed. Regardless of which technology you choose, everyone agrees that nurture and marketing automation should follow a process that Marketo calls “Accelerator campaigns”. These campaigns are set up with robust business rules to react to a variety of automated triggers. By identifying specific actions, changes or updates in a company’s prospect profiles and behaviors, a marketing or sales automation system can then create a specific sets of actions and follow up communications. The triggers can even be based on implied behavioral data such as web visits, content downloads, or form completions. Once the indicators are determined, then a specific value is added to a prospect’s record and an automated trigger communication can be sent.

Marketing automation systems can also be used to create “Lifecycle campaigns.” That keep a contact in an ongoing communication strategy, even if they have completed the nurture funnel process and haven’t become a sale. The idea here is to not let leads just sit and go dormant. To ensure that leads are fully cultivated, converted or nurtured, they are usually categorized into three main areas:

  1. Handoff
  2. Recycle
  3. New Customer

The “Handoff” is where the lead has been identified as qualified and is given to sales to work and close the deal.

Leads that are not highly qualified, have been through the entire accelerator campaign process, and are still not ready to buy, are then “Recycled”. They continue to receive relevant content communications from the company on a regular and automated schedule but with less frequency. Since all leads in the accelerator campaign strategy should have a timed lead status, a process needs to be established that automatically recycled for further nurturing once the limit has expired.

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