Despite the name, marketing automation was never intended to be a marketing technology, even though about 80% of investments in marketing automation are driven exclusively by the marketing department. The expectation was – and is – that the system would be embraced by both marketing and sales because, after all, it’s a tool for educating prospects to action and optimizing conversion along each stage of the buying cycle.
Marketing automation isn’t just a glorified campaign engine for marketing. Sure, it replaces disparate marketing tools like email marketing, web analytics, landing page hosting, and social media marketing. But the real benefit comes from lead scoring and integration with CRM, because it allows marketing and sales to dynamically adjust messaging based on individual prospect behavior. It’s about optimizing how leads flow through the customer lifecycle, all the way from inquiry to loyal customer.
Marketing automation allows Top Performing organizations to determine the best possible way to engage a prospect and automatically route them to sales at just the right time. That should occasion a double-take from even the most skeptical sales leader.
Sales still resists marketing automation
But sales still tends to resist marketing automation. Sometimes reps are reluctant because they don’t know (or aren’t consulted about) what’s going into lead scores. Sometimes changes in sales processes and CRM layouts disrupt the norm. Sometimes ignorance is bliss.
Figure 1 shows top reasons organizations struggle to embrace marketing automation in sales:
Figure 1: The percentage of companies indicating challenges with marketing automation;
respondents were asked to select all that apply.
(Q4 2013 B2B Marketing Survey, Using Marketing Automation n=67)
What sales leaders should expect from marketing automation
What bubbles to the surface is a general lack of education about what sales leaders should actually expect from marketing automation. Indeed, there are more than a handful of reasons sales should be excited about marketing automation. As an example, 94% of Top Performers that had been using marketing automation for over 2 years reported that they beat their year-over-year revenue targets by 20% in 2013. When such a large majority experiences the same result, it becomes predictable that the same approach and process will produce similar results for others; in other words, it becomes legitimately expectable.
When we talk to sales reps at Top Performing companies, here’s what we generally hear about the benefits of marketing automation in the context of sales:
1. Accountability for marketing performance.
Sales lives and breathes in a performance-driven environment. If you don’t make your quota, it’s hero to goat overnight. To sales, it can seem like marketing gets a free pass when it comes to performance accountability because they spend big bucks and often can’t quantify the return..
It’s still quite common for marketing and sales to squabble over the quality of leads that are passed by marketing. Marketing automation allows marketing and sales leaders to work together to pre-define business rules that essentially gate the quality of those leads. The result: leads that are passed from marketing to sales based on their propensity to purchase.
Marketing can in turn take ownership of generating a sufficient volume of leads that actually meet sales qualification expectations. That means the entire lead lifecycle – from inquiry to customer – can be measured and tracked. Over time, organizations can benchmark conversion in each stage, including estimating the number of qualified leads marketing needs to source and how much it costs to drive that volume based on expected revenue targets.
2. Reps have more reasons to reach out and engage prospects.
It sure would be nice if CRM was more than a management tool. By integrating CRM with marketing automation, multi-channel prospect activity is effectively – and automatically –pushed into contact records, with the honey pot of information being fully accessible from the CRM.
That gives reps expanded context about when to reach out, why they are reaching out, and what to talk about with the prospect. “I’m reaching out because you briefly visited our website today and I wanted to see if I could answer any questions about [Widget B].”
CRM-marketing automation integration turns CRM into a strategic source of insight for reps who become more likely to log in and use their CRM the way it was intended to be used. Naturally, this means marketing automation can also increase CRM adoption among sales reps.
3. Sales doesn’t have to qualify as many leads.
According to research, 7 out of 10 B2B marketers report that sales reps are actively qualifying opportunities that are not ready to purchase and should be engaged by marketing instead. That’s a waste of time for sales reps who should be focused on, high priority, short-term opportunities.
Marketers do the best they can to source quality leads, but without the rigor of a multi-channel campaign platform that can track prospect behavior and employ automated tactics such as lead scoring , it’s arduous (if not impossible) to estimate where a lead might be in the sales cycle. For Top Performing organizations that use marketing automation, lead qualification happens in marketing and opportunity qualification happens in sales.
4. Best practices in sales become scalable.
In any given sales environment there’s a handful of reps who are really, really good. This is typically referenced as the 80/20 rule of sales, which dictates that 80% of the sales are made by 20% of the sales force.
The thing is, the most successful reps always have tricks they rely on to drive the sale. (If only there was an easy way to teach those tricks to other reps.)
Generally the best reps look for buying triggers, profile the prospect, and adjust the message to resonate and spur the prospect to action. Marketing automation can streamline a majority of those activities because the technology allows reps to set up repeatable processes and tasks, and run them automatically.
For example, if your best reps are targeting specific roles in certain industries and using certain content to engage prospects (e.g., datasheets, white papers, videos), you can use marketing automation to replicate these efforts and scale painlessly.
Marketing automation makes targeting buyers scalable because you can set up campaigns to run on autopilot. New prospects enter the correct nurturing campaigns automatically, receiving the right message at the right time, whether you have one or one thousand prospects in the pipeline.
Additionally, marketing automation also disseminates the leads that flow into the system to sales reps at just the right time. In a sense, you can actually replicate the best practices in sales for other reps to benefit from them. Sure, it’s not going to make every rep a rock star, but it could help replicate best practices and give the entire sales organization a leg up. Typically, when marketing automation is well implanted, more reps make quota.
5. Marketing automation helps reps stay in touch with prospects that aren’t ready to buy.
It’s very common for qualified opportunities to fall through the cracks and, for whatever reason, choose not to purchase in the short term. Most of the time, reps make a note to follow up later … and that may or may not happen.
Marketing automation allows reps to actively monitor leads they have engaged, including flagging their activity and alerting reps of buying signals. Nurturing a prospect who has already engaged with sales requires entirely different messaging than nurturing a prospect who was just introduced to your brand. Marketers can set up campaigns into which sales reps can drop contact records in order to keep in touch with them over time. If and when a prospect engages with one of those campaigns, the rep can reach out and re-engage at just the right time.
Want More – and More In-Depth – Information?
For more information about how marketing automation can shift salespeople into higher gear with less effort, take a peek at the following resources:
"The Resistance Army" by veganstraightedge, used under Creative Commons license.