What the heck is Marketing Automation and why should you care?

What the heck is Marketing Automation and why should you care?

Marketing Automation is software that automates your marketing for you. It is made up of a set of tools and processes that attract, engage, service, track, and analyze your customers and their behavior. Marketing Automation assumes that the goal of your business is to earn more revenue and to make the customer experience as seamless as possible. This means having data at your fingertips. Knowing what a customer wants, when they want it, and at what price is said to be Marketing's holy grail. Marketing Automation aims to lead us closer to it.

Who should use Marketing Automation?

Marketing Automation is for any business and can be as simple or as complex as you'd like. Ten years ago Dr. Simmons got most of his patients through referrals. If you were looking for a doctor you'd ask anyone in town because they were likely to have been one of his patients. The Internet made it easier for the good doctor to multiply those referrals. People go to Google looking for a local doctor, they find his website, read the patient reviews, and get directions and contact details there. On his website, there is a calendar where patients select an available time for an appointment. Marketing Automation software generates a confirmation, sends it to the patient's email, while sending the doctor an alert saying someone just booked an appointment. On the day of the appointment, the patient gets an automated text reminder and all the doctor has to do is wait for the patient to show up. When the appointment is over, the patient gets an email inviting her to leave a review, which is then posted on Google. Pretty straightforward.

On the other hand, Dr. Simmons' daughter Amanda, is a Medical Inventor. She sells her inventions to private hospitals and medical practices through the family-owned company. Amanda discovers early that closing a sale is a lot of work. She has to build relationships through various touchpoints. She has to find leads, nurture them, and turn them into customers. She brings on a team to help her with marketing. They go to conferences, and seminars, and workshops together. They set up booths, do social media, run a blog, and do press releases to create excitement around the founder and her inventions. Between Board Meetings, R&D meetings, sales meetings, and zig-zagging the country to meet with potential clients, it becomes clear that she has to find qualified leads and close high-quality clients in more a sustained way.

Amanda understands that to be successful she has to align her marketing organization and processes with technology. Lead Generation, Segmentation, Nurturing and Scoring, Cross-sell, Up-sell, Retention, Lifecycle Marketing, and ROI measurement all need to align. Marketing Automation will help Amanda to connect these dots in a logical, seamless, and automated series of workflows that enable her organization to become more efficient.

When done right, marketing automation is a money-maker. The key is understanding what and how many Marketing actions it takes to make a sale. Software can handle much of the complex, grueling, time-consuming work involved, but it is important to know what you want the software to do and how to make the software do it. Depending on your industry, your brand, and your stage of growth, your needs may differ.

Due to the variation in buyer journeys across sectors, marketing automation software must be tailor-fitted to the unique needs of your customers, and the distinct use cases within your marketing team. While the data inputs might be similar, they often have to be organized around the peculiarities of your industry.

How to get started with Marketing Automation

Salesforce's State of Marketing Report, says that 67% of marketing leaders are already using at least one marketing automation platform and a further 21% planned to start using one in 2019. According to Performance Marketer, the most commonly used marketing automation features are email marketing (89%), lead nurturing (84%), integrations with other software (CRM, mobile, social media, etc.) for centralizing customer intelligence (80%), and cross-channel campaign management (82%). Where the goal is to attract and engage customers in a more sustained way  Marketing Automation software offers some big advantages. But knowing how to get started is where most folks get stuck. If you are one of those folks, here are five tips that you might find helpful:

1 - Document your Marketing Process.

For Marketing Automation to work, you must know the stages involved in making a sale. In the case of Amanda's Medical Company, she sells her widgets to private practices and public hospitals. She has to influence the Doctor who will be her end user and the person who will eventually sign the check. She meets her prospects mostly at conferences where she collects emails and phone numbers. She typically follows up with a series of emails to introduce herself and her products, and request a meeting for a demo. Once she demos her widgets, she receives feedback, and an invitation to submit a cost proposal. When a quantity is agreed, she signs the contract, then sends her first shipment. Afterward, she has to service the parts, replace any widgets that go bad, and upsell add-ons and enhancements. Closing an account may take up to six months. But by documenting her process, Amanda understands how many steps it takes to make a sale, and how much customer data she needs to make the transaction go smoothly.

Step 2 - Know your resources

Before you acquire Marketing Automation software, you have to figure out what and whom you'll need to make it work properly. You'll probably need someone to take the lead with the software, who knows their way around technology, who understands workflows and how to analyze customer data. You'll need someone who can write emails and other content, and deliver presentations. You'll also need product champion who can take the sale to the last mile over the phone or in person. Knowing who and what you have prepares you for the inevitable teething pains you'll experience when you first introduce marketing automation software into your organization.

Step 3 - Evaluate your Options

You'll find there are many software options to consider. The folks you'll meet at Marketing Automation Software companies are some of the nicest people you could ever meet, but they are aggressive salespeople. Luckily, you would have understood and documented your process so you'll be less overwhelmed by choices or enamored by hype. You'll know exactly what you need. It will take about 3 months to get familiar with any Marketing Automation software, and a full six months to start seeing any real benefits. Just remember, once you commit to one software, it will be difficult to get a divorce because your data, your processes, and your staff will have become entrenched. You must be comfortable with the software before making a decision. There are many resources online to help you see and compare what is available. This is a pretty good one.

Step 4 - Be Patient

For marketing automation software to deliver it needs data, and lots of it. If you're just starting out, it will take a while for sustained organic traffic to pass through your website, or for folks to click on your Google or LinkedIn Ads. It will take time to discover customer behavior patterns in your data, and time to understand what a qualified sales lead looks like. It will also take time for search engines to notice your industry blog posts and other SEO optimization tactics. Whether it's your marketing processes, your lead flows, your content pipeline, or your promotional campaigns. It will take time, usually a year, to establish a benchmark for your company. Once you've established a performance baseline for your software, it will be easier to measure your progress and grow over time.

Step 5 - Consider Outside Help

Running a business is complex. Especially if you have multiple moving parts. Marketing Automation will make your life easier, but will still require time and talent. If economies of scale are in your favor it would suit you to build your own marketing automation team inside. Likely you'll have lots of legacy data that you'll need to harmonize. You'll have multiple lines of business, multiple sales teams, and multiple decision points to consider. If you're an up and comer like our friend Amanda, and you're trying to move large units of product quickly, then you could probably use some outside help. You may need someone to help with the technical setup and maintenance of the platform. You may need someone to design your assets, write your brand copy and your call scripts, someone to design and set up your workflows, manage your website and SEO. As your business grows, you'll either need more people or better processes. There are several good Content Marketing agencies out there including this one.

Why you should care about Marketing Automation

According to Google Insights, 90% of all B2B customer research in the US begins online, and it is reasonable for that to be the case in most developed markets. Frankly, this is reason enough to care about Marketing Automation. But more precisely, here's why; Marketing Automation Software doesn't only allow you to " automate marketing actions" , it allows you to automate the entire customer journey from prospecting to closing. This is a big deal. Imagine your target customer in the wild, surveying the internet jungle to find what he needs to grow his business. He travels through a search portal and discovers a headline describing your piece of content. It is exactly what he's been searching for. He clicks the link and takes in the information. But he wants more. Luckily, there's an option for him to get more by leaving his name, email, company, and telephone number- so he does.

He gets an automated email response with a link to learn more about the product, the company, and how his needs can be satisfied. By this time all his data is in a CRM, and you begin gathering intelligence about him. You know based on previous experience (in your data), that he fits a specific profile, and that you can assign him a score that says whether or not he'll become a customer. A couple of days later you feed him another piece of useful information, and he loves it. Then you send him another automated email to request a meeting. He's eager to meet. You show him what you have, tell him what it costs, and by this time he's happy to write a check because he sees how you can solve his problem. It's called Inbound Marketing - where your customer comes to you instead of the other way around. If you apply this methodology at scale in your company, can you imagine what will happen?

That's the promise of Marketing Automation. And why you should care.

About the Author: Paul G. Thompson is a Professional Copywriter, Marketing Strategist, and CEO of Peak Writing Services LLC, a Certified Content Marketing Agency & Writing Consultancy.

Sources:

The Changing Face of B2B Marketing - https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/consumer-insights/the-changing-face-b2b-marketing/

A Beginner’s Guide to Getting Started with Marketing Automation -https://performancemarketer.com/marketing-automation/

The 7 Best Marketing Automation Tools & Platforms in 2019 - https://www.ventureharbour.com/best-marketing-automation-software-infusionsoft-vs-ontraport-vs-marketo/

 

How to Crack the Content Marketing code using ‘Elements of Value’​.

How to Crack the Content Marketing code using ‘Elements of Value’​.

As B2B offers become more commoditized, the personal considerations of the business customer have become more central to their decision-making. This is according to Bain & Company’s “Elements of Value” Pyramid, which provides a useful way of understanding what exactly B2B customers value and gives useful hints on how to ensure your product and marketing meets these requirements.

The Firm reviewed and analyzed three decades worth of B2B Customer Studies, and identified what matters most to buyers. They identified 40 fundamental ‘elements of value’ which fall into five distinct but interrelated categories; table stakes, functional, ease of doing business, individual, and inspirational. See the March/April 2018 issue of The Harvard Business Review for the full report. You can think of the pyramid like the Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs for B2B Buyers.

It provides a framework to help companies deal with the broader challenge of intangibles, and can be applied across any area of the enterprise from product development and operations to marketing and sales. In this article, I take the view that this model can also be applied at the tactical level where Marketing is concerned, and each stage of the pyramid offers several opportunities to use content to attract, engage and delight your prospective B2B customer.

We’ll start by looking at each level of the pyramid in brief:

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Table Stakes

As the name suggests, Table Stakes are those elements of value which qualify you to sit at the table, or more precisely, enter into the customer’s consideration set. Your product or service must meet the client’s need, have an acceptable price, and comply with regulations and/or ethical standards.

Functional Value

The functional elements of value are the actual benefits you provide. Does your product or service increase revenue or reduce cost? Is your solution of the kind and quality that will help your customer to scale their business or add a new dimension to what they currently do? For most B2B sellers, this is where the rubber hits the road. But as it turns out, there’s more involved in closing the sale.

Ease of Doing Business Value

If your product or service meets the need, is acceptably priced, and delivers a tangible advantage, the next question is how much easier do you make it for your prospect to do business? Typically, it is within this category that you establish what makes you different.

  • Does your product or service simplify, organize, connect or integrate aspects of their business?
  • Does your product or service reduce their risk, improve compliance or improve their reach and flexibility.
  • Does your product or service increase productivity, save time, reduce effort or improve capacity?
  • Finally - and this is subjective – are you a good fit? Are you responsive, committed, stable, do you bring added expertise or extra value to their business?

Individual Value

At the individual level, you’re not only contemplating what your product or service can do for the business overall but what it can do at a personal level for the humans within that business. Will your product or service help them to become better at their jobs? Will it reduce their workload, increase the quality of their output, improve their reputation, decrease their anxiety, increase the size of their network, or expand their marketability?

Inspirational Value

Written somewhere in the vision or mission statement of most businesses is what they want to be when they grow up. A vision for the future. Does your product or service help them to improve their vision of the future or at least help them see it more clearly? For example, will it help them to become more socially responsible, adapt easily and affordably to shifts in technology, or enable them to become more sustainable?

How do you position your firm within this B2B Hierarchy of needs? What elements do you see as your strong points? What should you improve? How should you communicate your elements of value to the market, and what kind of content would assist you in doing so?

Here I propose some Content Marketing tactics that you may find useful in communicating your elements of value. It is always important to remember that purchasing decisions are usually the domain of several individuals or departments. The larger the enterprise, the more this will be the case. In fact, the person who determines whether you meet the table stakes may not be responsible for deciding whether you are a good fit.

Depending on where your product or service fits into the pyramid, you may face different adjudicators the farther up the pyramid you go. So let us look at the kinds of content that might be useful in helping you to convince the decision makers at each stage. I use the example of a fictional Service Firm, IT Hawk, that provides IT Security Services, and positions its total offering on each level of the pyramid. What Content Marketing tactics should IT Hawk use to communicate its value?

Getting Started

IT Hawk first has to decide whose boardroom they want to enter, and how to find that decision maker. So first they create a Buyer Persona. This is an archetype of the individual whom they wish to target. Among other things, this buyer persona dictates how IT Hawk will structure their communication. IT Hawk did their research, identified their ideal target, put together a Marketing Strategy, and must now decide which combination of tactics will be most relevant to their market. IT Hawk has chosen to use Inbound Marketing given that most of their prospects are likely to find them online. Inbound Marketing is the application of marketing technology that combines the use of content with the power of email, chat, search engines, advertising, and social media to attract, engage, and delight customers in a frictionless, never-ending cycle called a Flywheel.

Here are some ideas of the kinds of content that might be appropriate at each level of the pyramid.

Table Stakes Communication

IT Hawk, being an IT Security Firm must, at a minimum, have an online presence that fully describes the need they fulfill for their persona, along with any qualifications, experience, certifications, expertise, or training that prove their ability to do the work and their compliance with any regulation and ethical standards necessary to do the job. Therefore, the first tool in its content arsenal is their website. Clear, consistent, targeted Website Copy and Branding are the price of entry.

Communicating Functional Value

In addition to having a website that describes what they do, IT Hawk needs to go a little further in describing the functional value they bring to the table. Case Studies are usually a good way to do this. In a client’s mind, if IT Hawk has helped customers to reduce their IT Security costs before, chances are they can do it again. For the person doing the evaluation, a case study provides proof of due diligence, thus making it easier to include IT Hawk in conversations with other decision makers.

Communicating Ease of Doing Business

The prospect must feel that doing business with IT Hawk will make their lives easier. And there’s no other better way to communicate ‘ease of doing business’ that through a demonstration of the product or service. This may be in the form of client testimonials, a Webinar, or a Demo. Having someone vouch on their behalf is good to start with, but actually showing how they make life easier is even better. Obviously, the nature of business will determine the form of content you use, but showing is often better than telling.

Communicating Individual Value

IT Hawk must say how their solution will benefit their prospect and its employees at an individual level. This means driving home points around increased productivity, increased access to useful information, and ensuring employees have convenient, secure access to company resources from anywhere, thus making communication easier. The key is that whatever benefit your solution offers at a personal level should be relatable. Videos, Blogs, and Infographics are an easy way to use content to get this message across. So is posting on LinkedIn, or creating an email newsletter.

Communicating Inspirational Value 

Typically, CEOs, Investors, and Board members face the perpetual question, what will the company look like in x number of years? If they envision a future where they are still around, chances are they are thinking of how to adapt their tools, processes and technologies to these new environments. IT Hawk must demonstrate their understanding of the current IT Landscape, the trends which are shaping the future, and the technologies that their client will need to adapt in order to succeed. IT Hawk needs to demonstrate that they too are visionary. Producing a White-Paper or an E-Book that outlines this future signals their understanding of these challenges, and how their solution fits the future needs of their client.

These content tactics only scratch the surface of what's possible when looking through the prism of the B2B Value Pyramid. Whatever product or service you sell, it is useful to explore what elements of value you offer to your customer, and the ways in which content can assist you in communicating these values.

Sources:

  1. The B2B Elements of Value: Harvard Business Review
  2. Our Hierarchy of Needs : Psychology Today

About the Author: Paul Thompson is a Professional Copywriter, Marketing Strategist, and CEO of Peak Writing Services LLC, a Hubspot Certified Content Marketing Agency & Writing Consultancy.