Are Your Marketing Automation Tools Ready for Bikini Season?

Ah summer. Have you seen those commercials with relaxed ladies hanging out poolside, ice tea glass in hand with their big sunglasses and pedicured toe dipping in the pool.

I wish. There is no lazy day in demand generation - ever - but activity does slow down a bit with all the summer vacations. With fewer webinars and events going on, it's a great time to get your marketing automation tools into shape.

Marketing automation & demand generation groups follow these common adoption arcs. Your group may or may not have all of these in place - but if anything is missing or needs improvement, consider adding that to the shape up program.

  1. Getting marketing automation: If you are are considering replacing your email service provider and CMS platform, start by making a list of the key service you expect it to provide, and the results you want to attain. The more you want to get out of it, the more (people time) you will need to put into it, so plan for that too. The most robust marketing automation systems require a minimum of 1.5 trained people to run them and set up takes more people and time. Expertise makes everything down the road run more smoothly, consider hiring a consultant group when you start up.
  2. Cleaning up legacy data** The majority of marketing automation pros will say that cleaning up your data is the first step needed when acquiring marketing automation. Why? Marketing Sherpas research shows that B2B data decays at a rate of 2.1% per month, so if your database is full of legacy information and has never been cleaned, 50% of your file is junk that is depressing your results and potentially making you look like a spammer. Cleaning out leads that have been unresponsive for over 2 years and anything with a bad email address is normal best practice. ** ReachForce can help with this.
  3. Enriching legacy data** It sometimes feels like marketing automation is a point to point scavenger hunt for data, culminating in a delivered MQL. What if you could start the hunt with 15 of the 20 required items already in the bag? That's what data enrichment does for your leads. taking legacy data and enriching these additional data points (another solution ReachForce offers) will make it easier to segment messages and nurture leads to sales faster. 
  4. Building out strategy. Ready, FIRE, Aim is just going to hit something random, the same with marketing automation tools, which runs on planning and data elements. You will waste an enormous amount of money and see terrible results if you try to do the planning after you build out your programs. So if you're still batch blasting (it's ok, we've all been there), take some time to plan something so as you continue to build, new emails and programs map in - somehow. If you don't have all the data points necessary in your existing information to complete all that's needed to know about a prospect, you can start to acquire it through inbound progressive profiling, inline data enrichment or data enriched web forms.
  5. Identifying, researching and defining buyer personas. This is the concept of defining what your buyer looks like (male or female, age, interests) combined with their role in the organization, why they care about the solutions you offer or what they are looking to achieve. This allows your plan to target the C-level buyer differently than the Director or the Coordinator and with many marketing automation tools you can then dynamically change the subject line, email copy, any images, even sender name based on this. One ReachForce Customer measures a 300% increase in speed from marketing qualified to sales ready by using a persona tailored nurture approach - it's worth the time and investment to build this out. You can start with gut feelings, but for the best and most accurate understanding, research is necessary by someone trained in developing buyer personas.
  6. Defining the complete list of questions needed to qualify marketing prospects for sales. Depending on your starting point, this may be a few open response fields in your CRM - wrong move for marketing automation. For each question, define all the answer values, and limit open response to areas where you are planning to manually review to gather information, like job title (with Ninjas and Rockstars, this is a moving target, but others use a fixed pick list). If a critical question is what blogging platform the user has, make it a picklist. Then, for all, these, map them 
  7. Defining lead stages for Marketing and Sales, typically MQL, SAL, SQL. Ok - this is a hairball. If you are tasked with delivering a certain lead volume, make sure you have an agreement as to exactly what that means. Also, defining the follow-up stages and disposition are critical to tracking the successes (and failures) of your marketing automation programs. 
  8. Mapping buyer stages to marketing content. There's two issues here: 1. you need to defined the buyer journey from top of the funnel engagement items through to consideration of your exact solution and 2. that you have content assets necessary for all this. Work on both of these to improve the nurture to sales process. 
  9. Syncing marketing automation and CRM. Your marketing automation system should be able to see follow-up behavior in your CRM to track and understand sales generated by marketing programs. If you're not synced, you can do this, but there are myriad issues at play.
  10. Planning email strategy (outbound) As obvious as this sounds, when you are batch blasting, you may also be writing the email on Monday and sending on Wednesday. Planning the why and when of emails (especially as part of a nurture path) and incorporating segments and personas will drive leads to sales faster (and with higher response at every step of the way). 
  11. Planning inbound content strategy and Calls to Action (CTAs) Your content assets need to map to your version of the buyer funnel, from prospect to lead who is actively considering a solution. Plan your content out, or review existing, and see if your content is complete enough to meet all your demand gen needs by product line and buying stage.
  12. Building landing pages with lead collector forms "Gated" pages are those with a lead form to complete in order to get the downloadable asset or webinar sign up completed. With marketing automation, all this is tied to your emails, your web pages, your social and any other programs you define. By working within the marketing automation system, you will get greater insight into both conversion metrics and what efforts contributed to new business.
  13. Writing emails tailoring messaging by persona, segment, buying stage.  The evolutionary step beyond batch blasting with mail merge elements, is tailoring messages by specific buyer archtypes or what are known as buyer personas. If you see clean room monitoring software, you have multiple people influencing the purchase decision, and having a series of messages tailored to their pain or need for gain, will vastly accelerate your leads to sales ready. For example, the clean room director needs something easy on staff to interact with and that won't be difficult to implement. The director of the facility or operations, may be concerned about downtime or quality improvements. Changing the message by persona to map to these unique drivers improves your response and engagement.
  14. Tying marketing results to pipeline and won business value It's rewarding to see great open rates or landing page conversions but are these actually driving leads down the path to revenue? In order to find out, you need to make sure your CRM and marketing automation are talking to each other, and your sales people have the right instructions to make this work. A classic problem is sales people not adding a contact to the new opportunities they open, thus obscuring the connection between marketing programs and sales. If you have this common problem, to avoid being a nag on this subject, enlist the support of your sales leader, and confirm periodically that this process continues.

Whoa. That's a lot, and it's not an exhaustive list. If you are taking step 1, and getting marketing automation, you may be like most folks who basically turn it on and send an email. Batch blasting is still the most common use of the tool, but moving to granular targeting and segmentation are critical to unleashing the real gains available.

No matter where your program is currently, every incremental step is proven to have a significant positive impact on marketing response and conversion to sales lead. So look good at the marketing beach this summer -  look at the list, and see what you're ready to focus on, and get to work.  Some of these items can be largely automated with tools from ReachForce.

Marketing Operations data management data quality Lead Scoring and Segmentation

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