These days, if you own, manage, or market a business, it seems like you can’t look anywhere online without seeing ads or blogs about the power and promise of marketing automation software.
So there are at least three questions that owners, managers, and marketers find themselves asking in these times:
- Should my company use marketing automation software at all?
- Does automation work well for both B2B and B2C companies?
- If the answers to numbers 1 and 2 above are “yes”, then how would I use it?!
*Spoiler alerts- The answers to numbers 1 and 2 are indeed “Yes!” Number 3 is a bit more complicated, but let’s table that for now.
Hopefully the spoiler above reduced some of the angst in your life- or at least alleviated some marketing strategy anxiety. Indeed, a lot of people probably already know or feel that the answer to number 1 above is “yes”. However, many of those same people get caught up on question number 2. Luckily, I have another relaxing spoiler for you:
In many ways, the distinction between B2B and B2C marketing is completely artificial!
Hopefully you’re in a state of zen-like calm after a revelation like that and can focus on the rest of this blog in total serenity.
Good? Good! So let’s focus a bit more on the underlying assumption that prompts many people to ask number 2 in the first place:
The assumption is that marketing to businesses and consumers is drastically different.
However, per the spoiler above, this simply isn’t the case. Indeed, I wince a bit whenever I see blog titles like “Savviness for the B2B Marketer” or “7 Things You Need to Know About B2C Marketing.” Why all the specialization between these two supposedly different species of buyers? Is there some magical difference between “Bs” and “Cs”? If so, what is it? Sure, we all know that “Cs” (consumers) are flesh-and-blood humans - complete with their own wills and quirks. So “Bs” (businesses) must be run by robots, artificial intelligence, or aliens, right?
Businesses are ultimately run by humans - the same species as those quirky “Cs” who get their own blog articles written for and about them. True - businesses are a complex network of humans and processes. However, the truth remains that without individual people, there are no businesses.
So what does this truth mean for businesses and marketers?
Quite a bit actually!
First of all, it gives you some license to ignore jargon-laden marketing blogs that treat “Bs” and “Cs” like creatures from different galaxies. More importantly, this truth allows you to proudly make the connection you have most likely been making all along: “Cs” and ultimately “Bs” are just “Ps”- people!
Enter the Caveats
Of course, any responsible blog on this topic has to acknowledge the inherent limitations on the connections it draws. “Bs” are made up of one or more “Ps”, along with decision-making processes and checks & balances that individual “Cs” rarely use. As such, decisions in businesses generally take longer to make. The stakes/costs are usually higher and, as such, must go through a lengthy approval process. This distinction is worth making. However, the distinction is not really a “game-changer.” In fact it’s quite helpful. More on that later.
Enter Marketing Automation (awhile ago)
If you’ve been a “C” in the last decade or so, you’ve probably noticed an influx of emails, texts, phone calls, and even voicemails from advertisers. You have also probably noticed that as time has gone by, the messaging has gotten more personalized and sophisticated. This highly targeted correspondence is rarely the product of deliberate individual human actions.
News flash- It’s marketing automation of course! With the help of marketing automation software, companies can deliver highly customized marketing material in very flexible and interactive campaigns to customers and prospects alike. And they can do it around the clock to thousands of people all across the world without needing a huge staff to tend to customer interactions.
So let’s put some facts together:
- Marketing automation works well with consumers- especially when the buying cycle is long.
- Businesses are ultimately made up of consumers whose buying cycle is typically long.
It follows naturally that marketing automation is perfect for B2B companies too!
Reaching and converting many clients/prospects of B2B companies requires a lot of attention and interaction. Consider that a buying cycle could take 12-18 months. Even at just one interaction per quarter- that’s 4-6 interactions. Multiply that number by 1,000 clients/prospects and you’re at 4000-6000 emails, phone calls, texts, and other kinds of correspondence. That takes bandwidth that most companies are short on.
August Ash Uses Marketing Automation - For Our Clients AND Ourselves!
Maybe now you’re saying to yourself “Ok, I’ve accepted that marketing automation is a smart move for my B2B, but what about my last question?! How do use it?”
In order to illustrate the possibilities that marketing automation provides, let’s take a closer (albeit anonymous) look at one of August Ash’s favorite clients- an international hi-tech B2B manufacturer. This client (let’s call them HTM), has recently embraced the power and promise of marketing automation. Now August Ash has the formidable task of fleshing out and implementing HTM’s marketing automation strategy.
Admittedly, specific tactics and functionality can and will vary depending on the marketing automation software used. For a great look at higher level, strategic insight, check out Marketing Automation for Manufacturing Companies. At August Ash we currently use SharpSpring as the main tool for our own marketing. However, with clients we take as much of a “platform-agnostic” initial approach to marketing automation that we can. This approach allows us to suggest or adapt to different platforms depending on our clients’ needs, organization, and preferences.
How August Ash Uses Tracking in Marketing Automation for B2B Clients
Once automation tracking code has been added to HTM’s website, we must figure out how exactly we will track contacts. But first, let’s clarify what we mean by “track.” In this case, to track means to gain detailed visibility on how specific people interact with digital assets like websites, emails, and other specified content. At the most basic level, in order to be tracked as a “contact” in most marketing automation software, people must:
1. Submit a form on a tracked website - or
2. Click a link in an email that goes to a tracked website
In addition to these methods, contacts from other data sources generally can be uploaded. However, it is important to note that this type of contact will not always be automatically tracked. Such contacts may need to do one of the two steps listed above in order to be tracked.
Since HTM is a mature business with thousands of contacts and customers already in its database, we will naturally choose a hybrid approach. Existing contacts will be uploaded, and new contacts will enter the system when they submit forms on HTM’s tracked website. Furthermore, we will send out a special email campaign to existing contacts in an effort to gain tracking via the second method listed above.
One amazing part about many platforms is that once contacts are tracked, their past activity on your site can be retroactively attributed to them- per device! So let’s say a prospect was on HTM’s tracked website seven times on the same device in the past two months. On the eighth visit he decides to fill out a form. HTM can see all of his previous website activity- including pages visited as well as the time spent on a page!
To be sure, this information is extremely valuable for both marketing AND sales teams. Knowing how your prospects and/or customers interact with your digital assets provides insight into their mindset and disposition. As you may or may not know, most analytics platforms (such as Google Analytics) generally allow you to view data about website users’ behavior in an extremely anonymous and aggregated fashion.
Marketing automation software can give you the ability to see a more complete picture of SPECIFIC people’s behavior before and after converting. The power of this insight cannot be overstated. It is the long-desired “missing link” between marketing and sales that has, until now, been out of reach for most companies. HTM is now relishing in the sheer number of opportunities to put this insight to good use.
Managing Contact Lists through Marketing Automation
So once all of HTMs existing contacts have been uploaded, and new contacts are entering the platform via forms on their website- we still have to organize them all. Contact list building in most platforms can be done in at least two ways: manually or automatically. Since this blog is about the power of automation, let’s focus on the latter.
You can automatically assign people to lists based on a number of user-defined criteria. Here are just a few:
- Campaign (how the contact came into the system)
- Pages visited
- Forms filled out
- Specific form field data
- Social media interaction
- Email interaction
- So many more!
To be sure, with certain list-building rules in place, you can combine criteria to create an extremely well-defined list. The permutations are near endless!
In an effort to keep things simple for HTM’s first lists, we will start with very basic criteria: specific form fill data. HTM has a form on their website that asks which product the user is interested in. Based on users’ answers, we will immediately assign them to lists called “Interested in Product X”, “Interested in Product Y”, etc.
Et voilà ! We have our first lists!
Wait! That’s can’t be it! Don’t worry- it’s not. We’ve taken just our first look at the power of marketing automation. There is still much to explore: content writing, template design, work flows, drip campaigns, connecting with different apps, and so much more.
But let’s revisit the question that got us going in the first place: “Should my company use marketing automation software?”
Hopefully some of the ideas in this blog have answered that question with a resounding “YES!” By looking at HTM’s case, we’ve glimpsed just a few of the ways automation will help its marketing and sales teams gain insight into prospects’ and customers’ behavior. We’ve also seen how automation can make quick work of it. And in the blogs to come, you will see how we help HTM increase leads, conversions, sales, and ultimately their ROI through marketing automation.
Want to start diving into the power of marketing automation in your business? Contact August Ash today to schedule your 4 pillars framework meeting with our Strategic Account Managers!