The global marketing automation market will reach $5.5 billion by 2019. The market owes a large part of its success to growing adoption by B2B companies. In fact, there are nearly 11 times more B2B organizations using marketing automation now than in 2011. As more companies leverage the many advantages of automation, their competitors take note and follow suit. But a lack of experience can lead to ineffective strategies. Or worse: no strategy at all.
Luckily, there’s no need for your company to master B2B marketing automation through trial and error. Experts who’ve excelled in the art of automation are happy to share what they’ve learned and how they’ve grown. Ready to shape your own winning automation strategy? You’ve come to the right place.
Why Do Experts Rely on B2B Marketing Automation?
We spoke to experts in the fields of software, marketing, digital education, and more. They each had unique strategies for making the most out of B2B automation. Before we reveal their strategies, it’s important to note WHY they’ve invested time in exploring and perfecting the art of automation. We asked, “What are the benefits of B2B marketing automation?” Here’s what they had to say:
B2B Marketing Automation Is Scalable
“Marketing automation allows companies to become more personalized, proactive, and effective marketers. Most importantly though, it allows them to do it at scale” – Brent Levi, Senior Marketing Manager at Strike Social
Automation Allows B2B Marketers to Shift Focus
“The beauty of marketing automation is that it makes the science of marketing so much easier and way more accurate — predicting pipeline, scheduling an email follow-up, understanding what campaign is performing the best, etc. And, by taking away that burden, marketing technology gives us the time and mindshare to focus on the art of marketing. I’d much prefer my team use their talent to create a hilarious video or host a best practices webinar rather than calculate our email open rate.” – Joe Hyland, CMO for ON24 Inc.
B2B Marketing Automation Saves Sales Time (and Money)
“If implemented and managed properly, marketing automation platforms can reduce the need for field sales reps, who traditionally call to qualify prospects before being handed over to the sales team. Even an expensive B2B marketing automation platform can pay for itself quickly, as compared with fully-burdened salaries of a small field sales team.” – Kent Lewis, President and Founder of Anvil
Automation Shortens the Sales Cycle
“When automation is implemented well, companies see shortened sales cycles because they are identifying the right prospects and customers for their products faster.” – Lindsey Havens, Senior Marketing Manager for PhishLabs
B2B Marketing Automation Gives Leads Direction
“Marketing automation allows you to magnify the effect of your marketing team. Typically, the marketing team brings new leads in and, without marketing automation, it’s usually up to the leads to figure out what to do next. Some companies create static onboarding sequences and have dedicated resources to contact these leads, but you can’t scale that up.” – Sid Bharath, VP of Growth for Thinkific
B2B Marketing Automation Enforces Accountability Between Sales and Marketing
“Marketing automation tracks every step of the buyer’s journey, bringing leads to the sales team when they are ready to speak to someone. All of the leading marketing automation platforms integrate seamlessly with sales software such as Salesforce, giving your teams the tools to drive business and profit.” – Diana Wolff, President, LRG Marketing Communications
Profits Rise With Effective Automation
“An effective, well-implemented automated campaign can yield impressive results. We have automation journeys that have earned over $1,000,000 in business.” – Kevin Sides, CMO at ShipMonk
The Possibilities of Automation Are Endless
“Automation offers B2B marketers a level of personalization that simply wasn’t possible before. Imagine you have five customers who visit your site from your existing marketing activities. One might download a white paper and you get their information for the next email blast. With marketing automation, that user is now automatically fed nurture emails on that topic. Say you’ve implemented retargeting, now the other four are being fed display advertising reminding them about the paper on their topic of interest. One of them hits your site again, and they download a paper on a different topic. The system begins nurturing customer two with a different campaign. As time goes on, and their interactions become more complex, these campaigns run themselves and help increase your conversion rates at various stages of the funnel.” – Sean MacPhedran, Senior Content Strategist for SMITH
When it comes to marketing automation, these benefits are just the tip of the iceberg. There are plenty of other advantages to integrating automation into your marketing strategy including:
- Increased productivity for sales and marketing teams.
- Decreased risk of human error on repetitive tasks.
- The ability to implement across channels for a seamless marketing experience.
- Higher customer retention rates and stronger client relationships.
- Amplified lead nurturing: B2B marketers with successful lead-nurturing programs report a 20% increase in sales opportunities from leads nurtured with marketing automation.
- Intelligent data helps further refine B2B marketing strategies.
- Complex processes can be made easy through user-friendly automation software.
As you can see, there are plenty of rewards for B2B marketers who master the art of automation. However, simply automating tasks isn’t enough. As with all aspects of marketing, having a solid, strategic approach is key. How can you get the most out of B2B automation? Try these tips from experts to fully optimize your automation experience:
Expert Tips for Better B2B Marketing Automation
Don’t Skip Training
While Brand Marketing Centers and other automation tools are designed with user experience in mind, B2B companies shouldn’t expect employees to be expert users out of the gate. Solid training will do more than help sales and marketing team members understand their automation options—it will ensure everyone works together to make the most of their tools.
Gayathri Choda, Managing Director of Digitant, agrees. “A Survey or a workshop is a must to ensure that all stakeholders are in sync and had expressed their concerns and interests on the expected outcome of Marketing Automation tools.”
Get Social with Scheduling
“B2B companies (and all businesses for that matter) can benefit most from social media scheduling automation,” says Julie Graff, Social Content Liaison for Pole Position Marketing. “It’s nearly impossible to post as often as you should and at the right times without disrupting the rest of your work. Automation helps you plan your postings ahead of time and make sure they are posted at the optimal time for your audience.”
Which social scheduling tools are the best? That question is a bit like asking which flavor of pie is the best — everyone has a different answer. Julie shared her favorites: “There are a number of tools for scheduling social media, but we have found Buffer to be the best for our needs. It allows you to pre-select which times each day you want to post and automatically puts items you want to share in those “slots.” It’s especially helpful for us because we can set up accounts for multiple clients and allow multiple users. We also use Social Jukebox to keep evergreen content in rotation. It continues to post items at regular intervals until you tell it to stop.”
Implement Cross-Channel Retargeting
“Automation strategies can vary widely by industry and company,” says Brent Levi, Senior Marketing Manager at Strike Social. “However, an almost universal tactic is retargeting cross-channel. In other words having your web traffic connect to your display ads, social ads, emails, direct mail, and sales team. Being able to leverage behavior in one channel to inform the behavior in others will increase effectiveness and decrease wasted spend.”
Create a Targeted Experience With Customer Data
“Utilizing the data captured during the sales cycle and entered into a CRM provides marketing much more variety to get creative with their campaigns,” says Marketing Manager Conrad Magalis.
“Segmenting each customer into a specific vertical (for example, automotive customers for a point-of-sale system) allows marketing to develop specific content and promotions related to that audience. By introducing marketing automation into the segmented customer groups, there are endless possibilities to create workflows and a “ journey” that speaks directly to each customer, personally.”
“When the time comes for the customer to move forward with additional purchases or services, your brand will most likely stick with them. Consistency is key—not everyone will be excited by every offer or content piece, but if you catch your engaged customer at the right time with the messaging, your business will see repeat business grow over time.”
Maximize Efficiency With Internal Workflows
One benefit of automation that’s commonly overlooked in B2B marketing is the ability to use internal workflows. “Internal workflows typically aim to make existing processes more efficient,” explains Brian Marsh, Manager of Digital Strategy for WebStrategies.
“For instance, if someone fills out a form on your website, instead of having a salesperson check the email every couple days, you can set up a workflow to alert the salesperson immediately when that form is completed, allowing for quick responses. You can take it a step further with CRM platforms and have actions (like a form completion) move people into different stages – from cold lead to warm lead, for example.”
Educating consumers doesn’t just help them learn more about your products and services. It’s also a great way to establish your brand as a thought leader in your industry. As Hyun Lee, Growth Manager at Qminder, explains, automation can be leveraged to achieve these goals.
“Using triggers to push targeted educational videos and other educational content is a great way to stay top-of-mind and answer your clients questions before they even ask them,” says Lee. This content can also be shared via social and ad retargeting. Remember, social posts and ads don’t always need to link to landing pages: they can be perfect opportunities to share educational, informative content too!
Rescue Abandoned Carts
This automation tactic is a favorite of B2C marketers, but it can be just as useful for B2B companies. Use a trigger marketing campaign to send an email reminder to anyone who visited, but then “abandoned” a landing page. “This strategy is a perfect example of a high ROI marketing automation tactic that couldn’t be done without automation,” adds Brent Levi. “There is no way you would be able to get the level of personalization combined with right timeliness without the help of automated marketing tools.”
B2B Marketing Automation Mistakes to Avoid
A solid B2B marketing automation strategy isn’t just about the strategies you implement—it’s also about the mistakes you avoid. We asked our experts to share the most common missteps they see in automation. For the best results, avoid these major mistakes:
Mistake #1: Diving in Without Solid Strategies
“Too many marketers do not have solid lead generation strategies and end up focusing too much on marketing automation to try and get their small database to give them more,” says Todd Kunsman Digital Marketing Sr. Manager for EveryoneSocial. What should they do instead? “Focusing on lead generation and increasing your market share should be the stronger priority. Without this solid foundation, marketing automation won’t be able to make the impact it should.”
Mistake #2: Forgetting to Set Expectations
A well-crafted, targeted message can actually work against you if it’s sent before expectations are set. A consumer receiving an unsolicited email may ignore it, or worse—flag it as spam. To ensure automated marketing is welcome, Kevin Sides, CMO at ShipMonk recommends setting expectations first. “We don’t just drop leads into these journeys without setting expectations, so they understand they will be receiving touches from us in the form or emails, text, postcards and the occasional phone call.”
Mistake #3: Viewing Automation in a Vacuum
“By far, the biggest – and most common – mistake marketers and business owners make with automation is implementing it without considering the entire process,” says Brian Marsh, Manager of Digital Strategy for WebStrategies. “For instance, you could create the most effective email automation process known to man but if your sales process is broken then you’ll never realize the full potential of that automation.”
Kent Lewis, President and Founder of Anvil, agrees. “The most common mistakes made when implementing an B2B marketing automation program is not properly aligning the company culture (people and processes). A marketing automation program is only as good as its weakest link, which is often the lack of content, process and people.”
Mistake #4: Trying to Automate Human Interactions
It’s a big mistake to try to automate EVERYTHING,” says Julie Graff, Social Content Liaison for Pole Position Marketing. “It’s great to do things like schedule social posts, but you should never automate engagement. When someone comments on one of your posts, you should not have an automatic message go out. You should reply with a personal, real-time message. Users will know the difference!”
Mistake #5: Neglecting Segmentation
“One of the most common mistakes to avoid is failing to accurately segment your audience and deliver personalized messaging,” says Sam Warren, Manager of Marketing and Partnerships, RankPay. “Be sure to take the time necessary to segment audiences based on specific touch-points, verticals, and interactions (or lack thereof) with earlier emails in the drip. Providing meaningful and dynamic messaging at just the right moment can easily turn a lead into a sale.”
Mistake #6: Stoking the Fire With Weak Content
What’s the #1 thing you need for an effective B2B marketing automation strategy? “Ultimately, you need good content. A marketing automation system can’t function if the “meat” isn’t relevant and valuable,” says Sean MacPhedran, Senior Content Strategist for SMITH.
Capturing and correctly segmenting leads is essential. However, if you don’t reach out to them with the right content, they won’t engage and your efforts will be wasted. When trying to discern the value of your content, ask yourself these questions:
- Does the content help solve this segment’s common challenges?
- Does the content strike the right tone? Is it too formal? Too casual?
- What is the goal of each piece of content? What is the main call to action?
- How does this content serve to move the viewer to the next stage of the buyer’s journey?
- Is the content user friendly? Visually appealing?
- What does this content “bring to the table?” What does it provide that my competitors don’t?
Content for content’s sake isn’t just ineffective—it can actively damage relationships and your brand image. Don’t scrimp on strategy when it comes to content.
Creating the Best B2B Marketing Strategy for Your Company
“What’s the use of running if you are not on the right road.” ― German proverb
Your business is unique—your marketing automation strategy should be too. While the experts we spoke with definitely offer some solid insights based on their own experiences, each business and brand will face unique challenges. That’s why it’s so important to begin with a strategy that’s tailored to meet your needs and goals—and the right tools to help you get there.
BlueSky ETO creates marketing automation solutions that are engineered to order. We’ve provided solutions to Gannett, CitiFinancial, Krispy Kreme, DoubleTree by Hilton and more. Our marketing automation software has been shown to decrease campaign management time by up to 80%. Learn how BlueSky ETO can help you surpass your B2B marketing goals. Schedule your free, personalized consultation today.
by Alayna Frankenberry