A marketing-automation system’s first task is to capture anonymous website-visitor statistics. When a visitor fills out a form, those statistics can be linked to an actual person. With a marketing automation system, you can quickly build a Web form, and—if needed—an entire landing page (useful for search advertising).
When you’ve captured a new lead, the marketing automation system can score the lead based on both demographic information and website activity. For example, a vice-president gets 10 points, but a student gets minus 5 points. Multiple visits to the website add more points. The goal is to nurture leads until they reach a certain threshold score, which is when you pass them over to Sales.
Marketing automation enables fully automated email-nurturing campaigns. You send a predefined sequence of emails, but, based on the lead’s behavior you can also assign the lead to a different campaign, such as an accelerated campaign or a campaign that is focused on a different product.
The nurturing emails can contain offers, such as a whitepaper or webinar. With every form submission you can ask additional information, so you can update the lead score with new information. And with every action—website visit, email click, or registration—you can also change the lead score.
When leads reach a certain lead score, they are called “sales-ready” and passed on to the sales team. Because all information about the lead is synchronized with the CRM system, the sales rep has a wealth of information to prepare for the first call. Even more, the rep can get a real-time notification when the lead is on the website, which is a perfect time to give the lead a call.
Last but not least, the marketing-automation system provides marketers with many reports on campaign performance and funnel movement.
Marketing automation bridges the gap between lead-generation activities and follow-up by Sales. Because Sales will get better-educated leads who are ready to talk to a salesperson, it removes the main cause for tension between Sales and Marketing: low-quality leads.
Are you marketing automation ready?
Marketing automation is a tool and provides no magic by itself. You need the right people and processes to make it a success.
A big part of lead nurturing is educational content. If you don’t have content such as whitepapers or webinars available today, you should create it as part of your marketing-automation project. To be successful, you need to have also an ideal-customer profile and a good working relationship with Sales, so you can easily set up initial lead-scoring rules.
It is also useful if you know what goals you want to reach and which metrics you want to monitor.
You also need a fair amount of leads in your database and enough new leads coming in; if not, you have a lead-generation problem that should be solved first.
And, as a rule of thumb, most companies that use marketing automation already had prior experience with email marketing, CRM, and Web analytics. If you have never used any of those, marketing automation may be premature.