Marketing automation (MA) refers to software platforms that help companies streamline and automate their marketing and sales processes. Marketo further defines marketing automation as “a category of technology that allows companies to streamline, automate, and measure marketing tasks and workflows, so they can increase operational efficiency and grow revenue faster.”

When done right, adopting MA is a bottom-line-friendly move: 80 percent of the companies using MA generate more leads, convert more leads to sales, and optimize ROI

MA allows your company to automate those necessary but repetitive tasks like tracking website touches, sending an email, and managing social media. An MA platform should integrate with all your company’s sales and marketing tools, such as CRMs and meeting software, to provide a centralized platform for data management, analysis, and ultimately action.

What is NOT Marketing Automation?

Irrelevant emails. Sending out disruptive emails that border on spam undermines all your marketing efforts, so this is definitely not a part of MA. Instead, MA helps you send out personalized, relevant content.

A one-trick pony. Although email is an important, cost-effective tool to communicate with your present and future customers, MA includes a host of other tools. For starters, there are landing page builders, CRM, social media optimization, and reports

A “one-and-done” solution. Yes, marketing automation can help you hit your targets with greater accuracy, but you’ve got to help it take aim by setting up the right processes and strategies. Don’t rest on your laurels and expect MA to magically achieve goals without you.

Is Marketing Automation Valuable for Manufacturing Companies?

If you’re a manufacturer, especially one who offers specialized, big-ticket items, you may feel that you can do without MA.

Recently August Ash worked with an industry-leading injection molding-based contract manufacturer that specializes in technical applications of fluid path, critical shutoffs, and disciplined manufacturing. The company excelled at producing cutting-edge molded components and medical devices, but they wanted to better communicate and validate this to their present and prospective customers.

Before embarking on its MA journey, they completely redefined their marketing position and tweaked its culture. In consultation with an marketing automation firm, they then launched a brand-new website that better reflected its message and increased its business.

The company was pleased with the direct results of its new marketing automation: after just two months, it had generated four new website leads versus just one in the preceding years. Conversions and session duration also increased dramatically. In addition, they reaped an unexpected benefit: its employees achieved a better understanding of the company’s marketplace positioning and were proud to pass that knowledge along.

Is the Timing Right for My Company to Invest in MA?

Although marketing automation works for all stripes and sizes of businesses, it may seem like it requires a daunting outlay of time and money, especially at the outset. (Remember, of course, that properly executed MA quickly earns its keep.) If you’re having these issues, it’s a clear sign you should sign on for marketing automation now rather than later:

•    The sales team is having trouble keeping track of leads.
•    There’s a disconnect between the sales and marketing teams.
•    It’s a challenge to discover hot prospects and quality leads.
•    You don’t see clearly how effective your sales and marketing strategies are.
•    You’re using a disjointed collection of apps and software to help attain sales and marketing goals. 
•    You could benefit from driving more leads, converting more leads to sales, and optimizing your spend.

Your company may not have experienced all or even most of these issues, but couldn't you use more leads, sales, and optimized spend? If so, read on!

How Can You Maximize Marketing Automation Success?

As illustrated by the Advanced Molding Technologies story, MA doesn’t achieve success in a vacuum. Here are some concepts you need to keep at the forefront of your consciousness before and after you adopt MA:

Strategy: MA without a strategy is a recipe for failure. But supporting your marketing strategy with MA is a recipe for results.

Personalization: In the absence of personalized messaging, you'll miss out on a surprisingly large number of conversions. Capitalize on marketing automation’s tracking capabilities to personalize your conversations with your contacts. People love being addressed by name. In fact, 88% of U.S. marketers reported measurable gains due to personalization, with more than half reporting an uptick greater than 10%.

Adaptation: Marketing automation lets you know what's achieving results and what's not. If you ignore this data, you won't reap many benefits from MA. Make MA work for you by taking action based on the data you collect. That way, you can hone in on the marketing tactics that are working and tweak or discard those that aren’t.

Laying the Foundation for B2B Marketing Automation

Marketing automation will help you scale and streamline your marketing, but you need to provide a firm foundation. Here are five steps you need to take to ensure your company’s MA success:

1. Define Your Ideal Customer

Otherwise known as buyer personas, ideal customers are fictitious-but-based-on-fact compilations of your present and potential customers and influencers. Knowing what makes your customers tick is crucial to implementing any marketing program.

Most companies think in terms of the sales funnel, which steers prospects into the top of the funnel and spits out a smaller number of people at the bottom as customers. The new paradigm, however, is the flywheel, because the sales funnel considers customers as an afterthought. The customer-centered flywheel features clients as the core of your sales, support, and marketing efforts, which set customers up to act as your business’s promoters.

So how do you find out about these all-important customers? Ask! Interview your customers, conduct focus groups and surveys, and solicit feedback and your product and service. Find out as much as you can about your buyers’ education, skills, industry, job titles, and goals. Looking at your analytics dashboard will also help you understand your ideal customers.

2. Build Your Workflow Based on the Customer’s Journey

Recognize that no two customers are identical, and neither are their journeys. Different buyer personas will approach your product in different ways. For example, a doctor and an accountant may use different terms to search for a medical device.

Someone who is just beginning to interact with your company will also behave differently than a prospect in the decision stage. When you map your content towards different stages of the customer journey, you can deliver appropriate content at the appropriate time to the appropriate audience.

3. Capture Necessary Lead Information

Information about your prospects helps you convert them into customers, but how much information should you collect from the visitors? If you ask for too much when they’re just dipping their toes into your water, you’re likely to scare or annoy them away. Besides, you don’t need that much information until they’ve given more indication that they’re interested in buying. For instance, you don’t need to know much more than a name and an email address for an introductory ebook. On the other hand, if your client wants a detailed guide with a high perceived value that you only offer to prospects who have navigated a number of touchpoints, you can and should require information such as phone number, location, company size, and revenue. That ripe lead may well become a customer with a well-timed nudge.

4. Offer Solid Content to Generate Leads

Break through the clutter and pull in leads by providing unique, high-value content. Since you’ve already done a deep dive into your customer’s life in creating ideal customer profiles, you can create compelling content—blog posts, ebooks, webinars, videos, infographics, etc.—based on that understanding. Of course, you have to target different stages of the customer journey to address problems peculiar to each stage.

5. Build a Lead Scoring Model

Some leads are worth more than others. You shouldn’t spend as much time and effort on a tire-kicker who quickly wanders off your site as you would on a prospect who’s poised to purchase. Lead scoring, a methodology that ranks leads based on their sales readiness, recognizes the value of primed-to-buy prospects.

The lead scoring model assigns a number to each lead based their activities to help the sales team decide how much effort to put into a particular prospect. The methodology also helps marketers send out personalized content based on the score.

Is the Time Right to Invest In Marketing Automation for Your Business?

Marketing automation may come across as spammy, impersonal, or cold, but that’s the exact opposite of what it should be. Done correctly—which means building a firm foundation and continuing to adapt as necessary—MA gives you and your company enhanced ability to connect with your current and prospective customers, generate more leads and conversions, and drive more revenue.

Contact August Ash today to learn how we can implement marketing automation in your manufacturing business.