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Delfino Marketing Communications, Inc.

Technology, Data and ROI: How Marketing Automation Made B2B Marketing Sexy

by PD   |   Posted Sept. 29, 2016   |  marketing automation

The creator of the TV series "Mad Men," Matt Weiner, did more to make advertising cool than anyone since Ridley Scott directed the famous "1984" Super Bowl ad for Apple. Television advertising has always been the glamorous side of the agency business; agencies handling the B2B world were sometimes snickered at within the industry, viewed as having some skills, but not talented enough to handle "real" accounts (the big brands). But it's now being said that there's a new area of sexy in the marketing world, and it's B2B. Why? Because marketing automation has done what was long considered impossible: deliver marketing ROI accurately. So what is marketing automation? Why is it important for you, the B2B marketer, to understand it? And most importantly, if you're not already in it, should you be? Let's take a deeper look…

The days of measuring effectiveness of industrial marketing campaigns via awareness studies and image surveys are dying, if not dead already. While those tools certainly have value, they are opinion-driven and not action-driven. Using the appropriate tools it is now possible to track, measure and score interactions with clients and prospects at every touch point. Let’s start with a definition:

Marketing Automation is a subset of CRM that has a focus on moving leads from the top of the marketing funnel through to becoming sales-ready leads at the bottom of the funnel. It uses targeted, automated marketing programs to drive awareness and interest in a company's products and/or services and nurture leads from first interest through to sale. Commonly used in business-to-business (B2B), business-to-government (B2G), or longer sales cycle business-to-consumer (B2C) sales cycles, Marketing Automation involves multiple areas of marketing and can be described as the marriage of digital marketing technology with a structured sales process as delineated by a CRM program.

I’d enhance that definition to say that marketing automation goes beyond lead generation and into lead qualification. A term we use often is “marketing qualified lead” or MQL, meaning a lead that has had sufficient personal interaction with the brand to qualify as a serious potential customer who is worthy of follow up via the sales organization. The way the marketing automation/MQL process works sounds complicated, but it is relatively simple:

  • digital campaigns are created for inbound and outbound programs including emails, website traffic, SEO, digital ads and social media;
  • automated activities are assigned in response to subsequent prospect actions;
  • tracking codes measure campaign activity as prospects move through the funnel;
  • all prospect actions are scored and reaching a predetermined point total signifies MQL status

To provide a complete picture of activity, non-digital campaigns like trade shows can be incorporated into the system manually. CRM programs like and Microsoft Dynamics can link their CRM databases to the automation system for full reporting to the sales & marketing teams.

OK, maybe that does sound a little complicated…so let’s look at it simply: the idea is, you start with a database of clients and prospects; you use outbound marketing tools to contact them directly and track their responses; you track the times they contact you indirectly via inbound programs like your website or blog; you automatically respond when they interact with any of your communications; you track all of this information so that you know when they are interested enough to warrant a sales call; you add more leads to the system as you gain them from your campaigns; you measure the effectiveness of all these elements so you know what’s working and what isn’t.

The most popular software solutions for marketing automation are Marketo and Hubspot. There are many others as well, including Pardot (a affiliate) and SharpSpring. We’ve had some experience with them all for various clients but we settled on SharpSpring for our agency for a number of reasons. Most importantly, it’s designed for agencies so it works best for the work we do for our clients. We’ve found that some of the other tools are cumbersome; with features that are not necessary for the campaigns our clients are running. They are basically enterprise software systems designed for large companies with big IT and marketing departments and contact lists that go into the tens of thousands. For our clients, a system that is more personal in scope while providing all the functionality we need is just a better fit.

That’s a quick look at automation. I have a couple of slide decks that go into this at a much deeper level, including examples of how scoring and nurturing work across the kinds of B2B campaigns our customers are using. Reach out to me if you’re interested in seeing those.

Thanks for your time and happy marketing!